Night peered into the silver ornate mirror. He turned his head right, then left. The brass scissors orbiting near his left ear, aloft by a teal magic emanating from the horn that pierced through the midnight blue coif on his forehead. With a small nod he rotated the scissors slightly, and with a snip and a snap left a small lock of hair floating into the garbage bin nearby. He grunted with approval, shaking his head briskly so his mane fell into place. It was perfect.
Just like everything else about him, his life, his family, and wife. Everything was just so perfectly adjusted. And not simply by magic, but by hard work. The Light family were a respected group, even amongst the elite of Canterlot. He gently cantered from the bathroom, holding his head high. Downstairs he could hear his son, Shining Light, practicing defensive-minded spells and abilities. That boy had always been so protective of those he loved, and soon he would apply be a royal guard for the Princess herself. He would be bestowed with his grandfather's title of "Armor" and join the ranks of other proud unicorn's who served in her majesty's service. But for now he was merely a boy, scarcely old enough to be outside past curfew, not that he ever would be. Shining was a well-mannered and well-spoken young colt who would never be caught gallivanting around town in the twilight hours like some ruffian.
Passing by the foyer, Night could hear the quiet snoring of his father, Iron, as the ancient unicorn slept on the couch, his radio program having long since ended. The polished bascinet he once wore to help protect the countryside, laying upturned on the floor. There were few as respected for having served as Iron Armor, and few with as many good war stories. The only thing that made him happier than going out in his tunic with all his badges was watching his grandchildren excel in their studies. He adored them with all his heart, often spoiling them with sweets when their parents weren't watching. Night liked to pretend not to notice.
But every family had it's imperfections, and as Night cleared the hallway into the living room to make his way to the stairs, he felt his smile falter as he stared at the very obvious imperfection that had recently arrived in his home. It was cute, surely, as it rolled around near Twilight as she tried to study. His daughter simply adored it....the thing. He couldn't be sure what gender it was. A small purple ball of rough scales and green spines, with four short blunt legs, each ending in a clawed foot. It giggled and gurgled, as infants often do, as it saw Night pass by. His daughter Twilight had hatched this tiny dragon purely by accident, when she had passed the entrance exam to be included in Princess Celestia's class for gifted unicorns. Night wasn't happy when his wife and daughter had both decided to bring the small bundle home. Twilight had loved the creature immediately, playing with it, bathing it and feeding it any food left on her dinner plate. There had already been one accident where the girl had pricked her tender hoof on one of the creature's sharp short quills, making Night and Velvet decide to file the quills along its spine down a bit so it couldn't harm the children.
The creature didn't mean to be dangerous. But that was simply the nature of hatchling dragons. They had no way to defend themselves outside of what they were born with. Sharp spiny scales, tough skin, and blood that was supposedly toxic. Night wanted greatly to dislike the new arrival in the home. But he had to admit it was...cute. Knowledge of dragons, even by educated families such as the Lights, was rare. He had never seen an infant dragon until this one had arrived, and slowly he had grown to be at peace with it. Twilight had been teaching the creature to walk as of late, and even gave the baby a name: Spike. A fitting name for a creature with so many bright green spikes going down it's backside. Her efforts to teach the baby to walk seemed to be going well. With a very wobbly gait, the dragon had pulled himself up on all 4's and was plodding his way toward Night, his large green eyes blinking with happiness as drool dribbled from it's mouth.
"Aww, he likes you, Dad!" Twilight giggled, looking up from her book as Spike toppled over near Night's hooves burbling with glee.
"Hmmph." Night tried to hide a grin. "Just make sure it doesn't chew up the tile floor again, Twilight. And please try to get to bed at a...sane hour. I know you like studying but 2 in the morning is pushing it for a filly."
Night gave his daughter a small kiss on the forehead, just below her short horn, and made his way upstairs. His wife, Twilight Velvet was sitting upright in bed, her horn glowing with a bright blue shine. A peacock feather waggled busily, as she used the quill to write on the parchment sitting on her lap. The mare hadn't even noticed her husband quietly enter the room. Night grinned as he watched his wife write, her white and lavender bangs nearly obscuring her face as she concentrated on her work. Her work came to an end as she noticed her husband staring up at the ceiling, his face etched with concern. Her story folded itself up, delicately flying into the nearby dresser with the ridiculous quill she liked to use, a small trail of magical particles left in it's wake.
"So what's wrong tonight, dear?" Velvet asked sweetly, knowing very well it probably had to do with their daughter.
"She's very nearly taught that thing to walk." Night muttered. "It can nearly cross the living room on it's own."
"Oh?" Velvet feigned surprise, having seen the dragon attempt to walk several times. "How is that such an issue?"
"It's the danger, Velvet. Have you seen the fangs it's grown over the last month?"
"You mean it's little baby teeth?" Velvet tried not to snort with laughter. "The ones that are barely a centimeter long?"
"They'll get bigger. And it will use them to eat all the stone and brick foundations of the house."
Velvet rolled her eyes. "Oh, Night. You know he wont do that if Twilight tells him not to."
"And what happens when it grows tired of eating stone? What happens when it wants meat, Velvet? Are we just going to be okay with having that little monster live alongside our daughter? Our child? While it craves the flesh of equines?"
"First of all, his name is Spike." Velvet leaned over and gave her husband a kiss. "Do you really think Princess Celestia would have allowed our daughter to keep him as a pet if she had even the slightest notion he could harm her?"
Night let out a long sigh, feeling defeated. "No, I suppose not."
A small spark of white magic flew out of Velvet's horn, dancing across the room and touching the tips of all the candles. Their fires dimmed and went out, leaving the room dark save for the light of the moon. Velvet put her arms around her husband, able to sense he was still tense and distressed. She exhaled a warm breath into his neatly trimmed mane, holding him close.
"You know I think you're looking at this all wrong. I think Celestia let Twilight keep that little dragon because she knows that Spike can provide something to Twilight she needs more than anything. Something even more important than her education."
Night turned, his amber eyes gleaming in the dark as they settled upon his beloved wife. "And what would that be?"
"A friend." Velvet answered with a smile.
That seemed to do the trick, as she felt her husband relax into his pillow and her embrace. No truer statement had been spoken. Twilight lacked friends. She didn't enjoy hanging out with other fillies her age, and thirsted for knowledge more than anything. As she continued to get into more prestigious programs for bright scholars, Night and Velvet had hoped maybe she'd find another studious young colt or filly who would be her friend. But thus far it hadn't happened. And while a baby dragon who could barely function on its own and needed almost constant care was a strange creature to call a friend, Night couldn't a remember a time where Twilight had seemed so happy. Iron Armor had dismissed the dragon, thinking of it as a short term pet like a goldfish. But Shining had slowly grown curious of the creature as well, finding its natural dangerous offensive capabilities to be fascinating, as little boys often do with potentially dangerous animals. More than once when Spike had let out a fiery belch after eating, the young colt would shout about how "cool" it was to see green fire. While Spike's arrival hadn't brightened their lives entirely, it did seem to be a positive event overall for the family, and for their quiet introverted daughter. And with that thought, Night felt himself slowly drift off, his eyelids starting to droop.
It would not last long. There was a shout downstairs and the thunderous sound of hooves pounding as a pony came bounding up the stairwell and through the walls. The door was quickly pushed open, the unmistakable silhouette of Shining against the hallway light. Night and Velvet quickly sat upright as Shining stared forward, his blue eyes wide with wonder.
"What's the matter, son?" Night asked.
"Mom! Dad!" Shining began, nearly out of breath. "It....Spike....he just.....TALKED!"
Twilight braced herself against the window as she backed away from her telescope, her rump hitting the window. She felt cold and empty at what she had just witnessed. A massive black and red figure loomed in the distance. Tirek, a powerful centaur who easily stood a few hundred meters tall, with a long powerful hatred of ponies. She knew he was dangerous, she knew he was powerful, but she didn't realize just how much. Everyone who had encountered Tirek had underestimated him, even the Gods themselves. Even now she could feel the temperature rising in the atmosphere, the great charge of fire and pitch that Tirek had conjured out of his malice, hurtling towards her small home in the center of town. A chill ran down her back as she attempted to get her thoughts in order in the very brief time she had to think.
Tirek had just fired the ball of flames at her house. One second had passed since then. Tirek was standing roughly a quarter mile from the edge of Ponyville. Wind was flowing in a northeastern direction. With the speed the fire was traveling, Twilight estimated she had 5 seconds from the moment this thought entered her mind to take action. The coriolis effect, combined with the speed of the fireball which was moving at about 200 kilometers per hour at the moment, meant Twilight had maybe one extra second before the salvo hit. The thatched hay roofing of the cottages on the far end of Ponyville, nearest to Tirek were starting to burn ever so slightly from the fire. It would be here soon. Twilight took a breath. In the next six seconds she would need to teleport off the balcony. The first place she would materialize was the downstairs living room where the books were kept. From there she would try to grab her pet owl, Owlowiscious. According to her estimations this would take her exactly 2.5 seconds. From there Twilight would need to cast a far more powerful teleportation spell to take both her and the owl out of the room and into her upstairs bedroom. From there Twilight would grab Spike, the very young dragon who lived with her. Assuming Spike was sitting in the small basket bed she kept him in, Twilight could grab him and teleport out. She, Spike, and the owl would then materialize on the front lawn of the house, just in time to flee before the sphere of Tirek's fire hit the domicile. With the speed it was moving there was little doubt in Twilight's mind that it would obliterate a large portion of the tree she lived in, possibly also causing irreparable damage to nearby cottages.
If Spike was not in his basket, Twilight realized she might not have time to grab him AND Owlowiscious. For safety precautions she would need to find Spike first. From there she could grab the owl if certain conditions were met. Spike tended to wander inside the house, meaning he could be anywhere. Owlowiscious generally stayed on his perch, but finding Spike would be far more difficult with the owl tucked under her foreleg. The only option was to find Spike, cast the more powerful teleport spell, grab Owlowiscious, and materialize the 3 of them outside of the Golden Oaks Library that Twilight called home within the next 6 seconds.
All this Twilight calculated in less than a third of a second, as her violet eyes grew wide in terror, the unholy sphere of hellish fire and magic hurtling toward the town at unnatural speeds. She didn't need to think about casting the spell. It was being cast the moment she had stepped back from her telescope, aware of the danger and death Tirek was willing to try to cause. Any frightened onlookers who thought they might have seen the Princess of Magic spying out from her own balcony, who turned to confirm their thoughts, would find she'd already vanished.
For just a moment, everything went white. Color and shadow vanished, absorbed by the end that had come into town. Ears were deafened and eyes were blinded as the entire town shook. Plants caught aflame and steam rose from the ponds as, for the briefest of moments, the world became nothing but white pure fire. For the briefest of moments, everything burned. Then came the sound, a grating cacophony of crunching stone, splintering wood, and dark magic radiating outward in an explosion the likes of which none of the citizens of Ponyville had seen before. Their eyes reddened and sore, their mouths dry from the heat, stood hanging open as the ponies watched the Golden Oaks Library, a national landmark and home of Princess Twilight Sparkle, fracture and split, coming apart in thousands of ways as a bright light burst from within. It took only moments for the explosion to run its course, leaving behind a smouldering stump that was once a proud old oak tree. Books, papers, quills, parchment, and all manner of burnt lab supplies rained from the sky as the ash and smoke billowed through the streets of the town. A small scorched trail led a few yards from the front of the house where Twilight had landed, her mane and lavender fur filthy with dirt and ash. Shakily she stood and inspected her cargo.
Owlowiscious peered his face out from under her right foreleg, looking frightened and wriggling from her grip, as frightened birds often do. A few sizzled feathers dropped from his wings as he took to the air in a panic. Twilight turned to her left foreleg, and felt time stop. Spike's basket was there, his bed for all years Twilight had cared for him. His blanket was there, a special wool piece of cloth that had been knitted for Spike by Twilight Velvet when he was merely an infant.
But Spike was not there. The air was burning, the library was gone, and Tirek was approaching. But Spike was not there. Twilight felt ice in her blood as she turned towards the flaming ruin of what was once her home. Spike had been inside and she had been unable to save him. Dragons were tough, sure. But nothing could have survived dark magic of that magnitude. And much like the library itself, Spike had been incinerated in a blooming sphere of light, composed of hatred and fire. What strength Twilight had harbored to gather the magic from other princesses, what strength Twilight had held onto to continue to fight for her friends against seemingly impossible odds, all left her as she fell to the ground. Her number one assistant, her best friend, her child, was gone. A silent scream flared from the battered lavender alicorn as she curled up on the ashen cobblestone of the pathway. Hot tears flowing from her eyes as she curled into a ball, losing herself in her grief, not even noticing the pebbles on the ground quiver and quake as the centaur, Tirek, made his way towards her, eager to finish what he'd started only days prior.
And then Twilight woke up.