The Fire of Friendship

by Azarune

Smoke and Zebras

Cinder slept through the afternoon, waking up just when Celestia started raising her starry night and moon, he remembered his grandfather told him about Celestia. She was the goddess of the sun, but she had to control both the sun and the moon. Princess Luna, Celestia’s sister controlled the movement of the moon, but hundreds of years ago Luna betrayed Celestia, which led to her banishment. As Cinder became more awake he needed to take stock of where he was, and what he was doing. Seeing that he was in the middle of the still dry road everything came galloping back.
That grey mare, yes, with the eyes. Hopefully she made it to Mexicolt City in time. He nodded and began to stretch. With a sigh of relief he arches his back and spreads his wings to their limits. Cinder strains his muscles to see if he could just extend his body a few more centimeters, imagining he could simply just let his joints fall apart for perfect relaxation. Once satisfied he began crouching down, furled his wings, and began running along the road. After reaching a speed that suited him, he leapt into the air, unfurled his wings and began the most strenuous part of flying for a dragon at ground level: the take off. Slowly but surely he began to leave the ground, flapping faster and faster until he reached a suitable distance from the ground. Once off the ground, Cinder only needed to keep his wings spread and do the occasional flap to maintain his altitude. The night sky was beautiful to behold, the moon was full and bright allowing Cinder could notice anything interesting. As the moments passed his mind began to wander back to Ditzy Doo.
First encounter with anyone I've had in months, he snorted. Still, she confronted a sleeping dragon by lying on his head. That smile crept back into his face, amazed at the spunk that little pony had. Then his thoughts brought him back to the little smile, the one he had after when she hoped they would meet again. "Hopefully we will" that was his mental response. Shaking his head annoyance, Cinder could only ponder why he even thought that, for years he kept himself away from others. Whatever effect Ditzy had on him, it shook his entire set of principals.
Was it that spirit he mentioned earlier? Perhaps.
What about her innocence? No, any encounters he’d had previously had always put ponies in a good light. The check list continued.
Was it her eyes? No.
Her voice? No.
The possible traits that made Cinder desire to meet up with Ditzy were checked and dismissed. He began to ponder actually trying to find her, to see if a second encounter will shed more light. Cinder groaned and breathed a burst of flame into the air, he let himself fly through the embers and the heat helped clear his mind. He couldn't deal with this, he made a vow long ago that he wouldn't make friends with ponies. It wasn't out of contempt, but out of fear. Ponies lived barely a fraction of his lifespan and making friends with other dragons was a dangerous affair.
Though the everyday pony thinks that all dragons are solitary creatures, there are some dragons that prefer to stay with their families. Some are even raised by ponies. It was actually heavily debated among the more scholarly drakes on how the ponies even get the eggs, but it has been widely accepted as just something that is and tolerated because most pony born dragons became happy and strong individuals that don’t cause any problems to the species, and no dragon mother has ever been reported to have an egg stolen.. Between the dragon clans and pony born, there were the solitary dragons scattered about and the chances of finding a civil one who just likes being alone, instead of one who would rather fight than talk, is only known to Celestia.
Friends will lead to heartbreak... Or bursting into flame... Trying focus his mind on something else, Cinder spread his gaze over the land. The evidence of a town was beginning to reveal itself. To his left, he could see a massive castle nestled on the side of a mountain, surrounded by buildings. The fields by this town were green and welcoming, obviously cleared by the ponies. With a quick acknowledgement, Cinder continued flying. Soon he began to live in the moment, enjoying sensation of flying. He began darting through the air, doing corkscrews and barrel rolls. This trick flying went on for an hour before Cinder got bored. As began gauge his bearings, Cinder began to see another town in the distance. Once again, the fields were clear, but instead of a castle, it was just a collection of colorful houses with some buildings looking more elegant than the other. The small village had a certain simple charm compared to the elegant city that appealed to Cinder who just liked the more simple things in life.
Great more towns, I can never fly past a dried riverbed, or deserted quarry can I? Cinder spewed a stream of flame in frustration, not caring if anyone noticed a flying dragon. However, one thing caught his eye, a forest to the left of the small town, still covered in snow. Flying lower to get a better look, he confirmed that the ponies had skipped over this forest. Cinder's curiosity about this strange forest grew, as he could see the ruins of a castle. As he flew over the canopy, he could feel the air get colder. Even the sky felt different in this forest. No longer clear and bright, but clouds only stationed in the forest just added to the sense of mystery the forest gave Cinder.
As he flew closer to the castle he saw purple banners and a massive ravine in front of the castle. Most of the building was still intact, though there were some holes in the roof, nothing made it seem to be unlivable for a dragon. Even the surrounding area seemed to have less snow. Whether the open sky helped it melt, or former enchantments caused this, Cinder didn't care. If the forest keep ponies away from clearing up the snow, then this weird castle will. As that went into his head, an idea sprung from it. This place seems nice and cozy for a dragon... better than any cave I've slept in. What are the odds of me finding a place like this one? It is probably just deserted, and I bet I can handle anything in this forest. Cinder started to nod to his idea-


Cinder quickly went on all fours and tried to make himself look as intimidating as he could, raising his spines and wings to try and look like the picture perfect dragon. He started circling until he ended up facing the castle. A low hiss could be heard emanating from his throat. Then he felt a sharp pain in his stomach, his pulse quickened, and for a moment he thought he was attacked. It was only until the second time he heard the sound, before Cinder could determine where it came from. It was coming from his stomach, immediately he was blushing in embarrassment.
Of course I would forget that I haven't eaten since yesterdayhe thought allowing himself to relax again.

"I thought I saw a dragon in the sky,

That was all the voice could say, because Cinder not only jumped a few feet in the air, he but gave a high pitched yelp in shock. As he scrambled to turn around he heard the voice laughing. Preparing to pounce on the intruder, Cinder backed down when he saw who the intruder was. It was a pony, Cinder couldn't tell what type of pony because she wore a brown robe that masked her features. Still, he was able to notice that her legs were colored strangely; they were white with black stripes (or black with white stripes.) Even with questions in his mind, Cinder knew that he had to do something to make it known that he wasn't afraid. So he put on his best poker face (which he thought was pretty good, but was, in reality, fairly average) and directed a small puff of flame towards the stranger. Not enough to burn her, but enough to make her back away, or flee in terror, it could go either way.
The stranger held her ground, and didn't even whimper. As the flames died she began to speak, in an irritated tone.
"Now I understand why you’re jumpy
But that's no reason to be grumpy
I was wondering why the sky glowed bright
Though I never expected it from a dragon in flight."

Cinder's spines started to droop at her tone. Feeling pretty lousy at how rude it was of him to do that. Stupid dragon pride, I swear it's going to be the downfall of my race. Looking at the ground Cinder swallowed what pride he had, and apologized.
"My apologies, you caught me by surprise, and I was trying to-um-” Cinder began to blush, "you know, prove that I wasn't afraid..." He rubbed his right arm in embarrassment, "it's a dragon thing, we like to have the upper hand..." Cinder looked up briefly to see that the stranger was nodding her head. She once again spoke in rhyme, but with a softer tone this time.
"Apology accepted
though this was to be expected.
I've seen a dragon here once or twice
though much bigger and with much more vice."

"I would like to know something though. I can understand you noticing me in the sky, but why didn't you run when I breathed fire?" Cinder quickly stuttered trying to make the question seem less, insinuating. "Uh, what I mean is dragons aren't the most sociable creatures in Equestria so why risk being attacked?"

"Well for having such good intuition
I'll inform you on what was my mission.
I use herbs and potions to augment myself
so a fire retardant elixir would be beneficial to my health.

"Now for the question you've given
I'll tell what why I was driven,
on why did I come
So be still your tongue." Cinder quickly shut his mouth and let her finish.

"Though I know very little
about your cold-blooded race.
But I know dragons will fight
to lay claim to space.
I was worried the fight
would be too big a risk
to let it even begin,
so I came up with this:
To warn you about the forest I live in
The strangeness and foreboding that you must have been feelin’.
That this place is cursed and dangerous for all
unless you have magic to keep it forestalled.
But you settled quite far
from where the drake's sleeping
so instead of a warning
I came bearing a greeting."

"Oh, well, ummm... Hi. Thanks for welcoming me to... uuuuh,” Cinder could only scratch the back of his head, and give her an awkward smile.

"Oh, the forest you see
is known as Everfree.
And I wasn't lying
about the forest conspiring.
It goes on its own
For long it has grown
the lives in here as well
are also under it's spell.
They take care of themselves
no matter how hard ponies delve."

"I see, well, thank you again and-" once again Cinder's stomach began rumbling again, causing the stranger to laugh. Cinder could only give a sigh before looking at her. "I should probably get going to find something to eat. Pleasure meeting you Miss?"

"Oh, no need to call me Miss
if anything it will make me remiss
Ponies call me Zecora
I live with the flora
of the forest you see
under the Trees of Everfree"

Zecora then pulled off her hood and gave Cinder quite a shock. Zecora didn't look like anypony he has ever seen. Instead of a coat with one color, it was white with black stripes, or was it black with white stripes? Cinder would ask her that later. Everything about her was foreign and mysterious, from the earrings she wore, to her mannerisms, her eyes.

"But now I've shown my indentity
may I ask what you call thee?"

"Uh, I call myself Cinder...?" Again his stomach growled, and again Zecora laughed.

"Have you eaten at all?
Before you answered my call?
What do you eat?
Is it gems? Flowers? Meats?"

In his head Cinder was absolutely livid with himself. For years he kept away from talking, and now here he is; talking his mouth off with some new type of pony. What did Ditzy do to him and more importantly how was he going to get out of this situation? But first he had to answer Zecora's question; "I eat what I can find," Cinder said, and then realized he found his method of escape.
"Speaking of food, I got to go find something to eat. So I bid you a good day Zecora, or night as the case may be," but before he could even begin taking off Zecora shook her head at him and bid him to stay.

"If apples are what you can eat
I have some at home that none can beat.
So let’s get you something
before your stomach shrinks to nothing"

She began to walk over the bridge, but Cinder stayed where he was. Halfway across the bridge she looked behind her.
"Is something the matter Cinder?" Zecora gave him a curious look.
Cinder only gave her a brief glance and began walking towards the bridge. Only to walk towards the edge of the ravine and jump off. As he reached the bottom, he spread out his wings, and began making his ascent back towards the bridge. Zecora had a look of confusion, and Cinder could only give nod to her.
"Thank you for the offer Zecora, but I need to keep going." Trying to think of a reason, he remembered her mentioning another dragon. "Dragons have very large territories; I don't want to risk the forests safety." Hopefully that will satisfy her curiosity. This was actually, not entirely fabricated by Cinder, most dragons will let another dragon intrude on a small portion of “their space” as long as the intruder does not present itself as a threat. Zecora raised an eyebrow, and Cinder could already feel the sweat began to form on his brow. But instead of Zecora calling his bluff, she gave a made a small nod.
"I see, I see
I guess the visit mustn't be
But I hope you come visit me
One day, right here in Everfree.
Just call my name
I'll do the same
So we can become acquainted.
But now you should go, and get some food
so your strength will be unabated"

As she walked over the bridge back into the forest, Cinder began flying aimlessly, hoping to find someplace where he could rest and eat.