Miley Hooves—my grizzled, experienced sergeant—kept her professional demeanor until we were alone in my office. As soon as the door closed, she then bounced around me in a circle and chanted, “You’re getting maaarried. You’re getting maaarried.” The bouncing shifted to a trotting circle. “Silent Knight and Crystal Wishes sitting in a tree K, I—WOAH!” The little mare tripped over her own hoof and face planted.
For the sake of her pride, I stifled my laugh and helped her up. “You okay?”
“—S, S, I, N, G!” she sang.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Miley hugged me. “Congratulations! I’m so happy for you!”
“Thanks, Miley. We’re just engaged, though. Eventually we’ll get married. Now, did you do the thing where you forgot to lead with the official business first?”
“Yes, sir!” she chimed happily.
I waited. She just smiled. Finally, I prompted, “And?”
“You have a meeting with Guard Intelligence.”
My ear flicked and I peered at her. “About what?”
“The dragons, sir.”
The report Sunny had given me was sitting on my desk. I picked it up and started to flip through it. “This is real?”
“Seem so, sir. Word around the palace is that you’re the pony that is going to fix it. You have a meeting to discuss how or maybe why. I don’t know, I was planning my kissing song. I hope you have a plan!”
Great. I was going to need to have a word with my sergeant about her priorities. Speaking of priorities… “Miley?”
“Yes, sir?” she asked.
“Please send Sunny a bouquet of yellow lilies,” I said with a serious expression.
Her head tilted. “But, sir, she’s allergic to them. They make her sneeze.”
With the report under my wing, I patted her on the helmet. “Follow my orders.”
She stiffened to attention. “Yes, sir!”
I left my office and the palace proper to head over to the Royal Guard Central Command building. This was the first time in a while I’d done so with a legitimate appointment. With all my exposure to the intelligence section, I’d gotten to know the place pretty well.
The pony at the reception desk stiffened to attention when I approached. “May I help you, sir? I haven’t seen you in a while.”
I shook my head. “I haven’t had a reason. Evidently, I have a meeting about the dragons.”
“Yes, sir. Third floor, office six alpha. The colonel is expecting you.”
My ear cocked. “Colonel?”
“Yes, sir. He’s expecting you.”
“I best not keep him waiting then,” I replied before heading up the stairs and through the halls. The designated office was closed so I knocked and waited.
“Come in,” called an unfamiliar, masculine voice.
The door opened into an office that felt more constrained than it actually was. The illusion of its seemingly small size was created by the fact that each wall was flanked by rows of high-security filing cabinets. The kind with combination locks that are capable of surviving hours in a fire.
There was little room to maneuver left or right, so I had to imagine the pony inside went over the chairs and desk as necessary. Which wouldn’t be too hard, considering he was a pegasus. A lavender pegasus with orange eyes and a dark mane.
A mane I noted that was well kept but not strictly to Royal Guard standards. He also wasn’t wearing armor, but instead a flight suit somewhat similar to the ones the Wonderbolts used. “Apologies, I was looking for the colonel. I must have the wrong office.”
The lavender stallion shook his head and waved me in. “No, you’re in the right place, Lieutenant. You’ll forgive me. We do things a little different here in guard intelligence. I’m Colonel Wing. You must be Silent Knight?”
“Yes, sir,” I replied before flapping my wings to hover over the back of the chair in front of his desk.
“You’ll be tackling the dragon problem. How up to speed are you on it?” he asked.
I held up the report. “Just returned from leave and received this. Before I left, however, I was briefed in most of the meetings. Back then it seemed almost like a passing joke. How did this end up in your lap?”
The colonel tapped his desk. “There was some concern that perhaps the dragons were enticed into moving our way and that this may be a plot that threatens all of Equestria.”
My body went a bit rigid and I almost dropped into the chair below me. “Sir? Is it?”
Colonel Wing shook his head and snorted. “No, not in the least. They just like the mountain and made themselves at home.” He picked up a smaller report and tossed it to me. “My findings and all of the information in that report distilled down into a more usable format.”
I half-caught it, bobbled it, and then actually caught it. What can I say? I was an offensive linepony in school, we never had to catch the ball. After flipping through it briefly I replied, “This is very thorough.”
“Thank you,” he said, nodding. “How’re you going to relocate them?”
I looked up and our eyes met briefly. “I’m going to politely ask them to leave, sir.”
The colonel cleared his throat and then nodded. “Alright, that is one tactic. Is there any more to your plan?”
“Not yet. Fly in, get a feel for the situation, adapt from there. I hear that worked in Ponyville.”
“Yes, well, if you’ll look at my report, you’ll see that this isn’t one dragon. It’s several. Some older, some younger. They seem to be nesting. You might want to leave sooner than later.”
My wings started flapping to move me back behind the chair. “Yes, sir, thank you. Should I be concerned that they’re going to eat me on sight?”
He shook his head. “There isn’t a high probability of that happening.”
Which meant that there was some probability of it happening. I saluted, which he returned, and made my way out. I settled onto the yard outside of the command building and started to flip through the colonel’s report. It was extremely concise and contained only what a pony would need to know.
“Well, there’s no time like the present,” I said to myself before leaping into the air. The dragons were getting set up in the caves of Alicorn Spire on the opposite side from where Canterlot was built.
Alicorn Spire was the largest mountain in Equestria. Possibly the world for all I knew. Considering an entire city was built on it, it had to be at least a contender for the top ten. The summit was so high that even pegasi like me had trouble breathing up there.
What most ponies didn’t know is that the mountain was home to all sorts of creatures besides ponies. They live on the surface, in the caves, and deep below the ground. These dragons, however, were a new feature.
I tapped my breastplate to activate the dark vision enchantment and proceeded deeper into the mountain’s interior. My path was based very loosely on the original report I’d glanced through before I realized how serious ponies were about this situation. Thankfully, I received some help. There was the scent of smoke… or something like smoke, so I just followed it.
Eventually, the cave expanded into a large cavern. It occasionally echoed with the sounds of… wrestling? Most of the growls and such were tiny and originated from small dragons. The larger ones merely watched.
“Pardon me, which dragon is in charge?” I called loudly.
Several sets of glowing eyes shifted in my direction and all of the activity stopped.
From the crowd, a large, black scaled-dragon approached. She—or possibly he—drew up to loom over me. “You are trespassing, little pony.” The voice sounded feminine. At least for a dragon.
This dragon was an amazing creature. Her belly had lighter purple scales that contrasted heavily against the thick black ones that covered her sides and back. The belly was one of the weak points. So were the eyes and mouth, at least according to the Knights of the Moon. In either event, they had talked about the aura of intimidation that adult dragons possess but, until you’re in it, you can’t describe it.
I was intimidated. Thoroughly.
But I still had a job to do, and these dragons had not been hostile. Clearing my throat to cover the fact I was having a hard time finding my voice, I finally said, “Forgive the intrusion, but I am not a trespasser. I am an emissary as outlined in the Treaty of the Three Princesses.”
The dragon’s eyes grew larger. “That treaty is over fifteen hundred years old.”
“There was no expiration date, as it was signed by three ageless rulers. I am an emissary and must be heard, else you will be in violation of the treaty agreed upon by Princess Tanit, Speaker of Dragons.”
A frustrated huff shot warm air all around me. “Speak, pony.”
Thank you, Moonlit Star, for giving me access to the Haven library! “I am Lieutenant Silent Knight, Commander of Princess Luna’s House Guard. Who do I have the honor of addressing?”
Per the Knights of the Moon, it was not always necessary to fight and kill a dragon. Most were reasonable and preferred to remain alive. Negotiating with them was usually possible, but strict rules had to be followed. A deviation could be viewed as insulting or leave the dragon a loophole.
“You address Ragnhild, Matron of the Obsidian.”
I bowed deeply. “Matron Ragnhild, the common ponies of the city of Canterlot are wisely impressed by the presence of you and your brood. They, however, fear that living in such close proximity may lead to misunderstandings.”
Ragnhild settled into what I could only guess was meant to be a regal pose. Her head rose high, she squared her shoulders, and she settled back onto her hind end. “You are correct. Ponies are wise to be impressed by us. We are mighty, one and all. You should remind your ponies that this spire was home to dragons before it was home to ponies. We have decided to return and plan to rear our young here.”
“Our princesses know you are mighty and have deep respect for this. They too are mighty, and know that the mighty should resolve their differences with words instead of actions. Are you set upon this place, or do you simply seek a place where your young will be more easily protected?”
The dragon stiffened and her nostrils flared. “Our young are mighty! They are not helpless or in need of protection. We claim these caves because they are our home. In ancient times we lived here and choose to do so again. You will not find us so easily moved. Perhaps it is you and your ponies that should move to a more easily protected place?”
I’d made a mistake in suggesting that a dragon---any dragon—needed protection… even though that was likely exactly why this mountain was selected.
My mind raced with how to salvage this. “I recognize your claim,” I said and then wished I hadn’t. Another mistake. A huge one.
“You do?” Ragnhild replied, a toothy grin crossing her maw.
Come on, Silent Knight, there has to be a way out of this one. I quickly thought through a few things and decided correcting myself would be unwise. When it doubt, turn to flattery.
“Out of respect to you, Matron of the Obsidian, I take you at your word that the claim exists. Thus, I recognize it and do not refute it. To move my ponies would create a need to provide evidence prior to a formal agreement, if and only if that is what we agree upon.
“I would prefer, however, to negotiate a more amiable outcome for us all. You have only recently returned and have not settled in just yet. My ponies have built a great city and collected there in large numbers. It would take us quite a while to move, and would likely be disruptive to you.”
Ragnhild’s grin disappeared. I’d managed to talk my way out of that one but, at best, I was back to even on the scale that measured this conversation.
“You would propose that we just leave, because that would be easier than move your city?”
My head shook. “No, Matron Ragnhild. That would be disrespectful and unfair for me to suggest such. Our princesses would never stand for you to be treated inequitably. They, like I, have a great respect for you and all dragons. Thus, I wish to negotiate and provide you something of equal value for this land.”
The dragon returned to her regal pose and asked, “What, little pony, could you possibly offer that is equal to the value of our ancestral home? A mountain so tall that we can see all the world. An ancient home filled with the history of our kind. What do you ponies value as much as we value this?”
Yes, Silent Knight, what could you possibly offer a dragon matron? Dragons liked gold. The ponies of Canterlot might be willing to open their coffers if it made the problem go away. Gems, too. That was important.
Buying them off seemed unlikely, though. This felt like it was more about honor and respect. She’d asked a specific question: what did we value? Not what would we pay. What could be worth leaving here?
“Well, little pony?” Ragnhild angled her head to peer at me with one keen eye.
I had nothing. There was nothing to give the dragons. They wanted a place of honor. A mountain worthy of calling home. A safe place to raise their young. A place important to ponies that had history. If they were to give up their ancient home, we would have to give up something equally dear to us. Unfortunately, we didn’t have anything like that… except—
My mind started to race as the obvious option presented itself. Princess Luna would be deeply displeased with me, but she wasn’t around right then. I was the pony sent to complete this task. Alone. I needed to get the dragons out of Alicorn Spire without any trouble. No risk, no reward.
“I will offer you the seat from which Nocturna ruled. A mountain as glorious as this, as strong as this, and far deeper. A place where your young can grow and become even more mighty. Most important of all, a home free of ponies and their intrusions. I will offer it to you in trade for this location and one condition.”
Ragnhild’s breath caught and she paused to quickly regain her composure. Evidently, such a place was indeed valuable to the dragons. “What is your condition?”
“Nocturna’s keep must be kept intact and cared for. It is a precious site to the House of the Night and must be respected as such. And, on occasion, we must be allowed to visit it. The rest of the mountain, however, will be yours. Will you agree to this?”
“Do you speak for both Alicorn Houses?” the dragon asked, eyes focused and intense.
“Both will be satisfied with this, yes. Do you speak for all dragons?”
“I speak for all of the Obsidian, and the others will recognize this bargain out of respect. Silent Knight, Commander of Princess Luna’s House Guard, I accept your proposal.”
Once more, I bowed deeply to her. “Then it is agreed. Please prepare your brood to move. I shall return with the document and personally convey you to the location following the signing. If that is agreeable to you.”
“It is agreeable.”
“Then, with your leave, I shall inform the alicorns of the successful outcome of this negotiation and tell them of the wisdom and power of the Matron of the Obsidian.”
Ragnhild’s head bobbed and she replied, “You have my leave.”
Carefully, I backed away before turning and heading back to the palace. It was probably time I let Princess Celestia know I just gave away part of the nation.
Princess Celestia was staring at me. She’d been doing only that for at least two minutes. Just staring.
I stared back. She looked nice. She’d recently done something different with her mane. It had more pink in it than usual. That wasn’t important, though. What was important was that I’d just told her what I’d done and she hadn’t said a word yet.
Finally, her head tilted and she asked, “You just flew in there and negotiated with the dragons? And not just a small group of dragons, but the Matron of the Obsidian?”
“Yes, Princess. Command said to get rid of the dragons.”
Princess Celestia lifted a hoof and waved it, mimicking a flight. “Just flew right into a dragons’ roost.”
“And negotiated with dragons for ownership of this mountain.”
“Royal Guard Command says get rid of the dragons and you just fly in, by yourself, and get rid of the dragons,” she said, again.
“Yes, Princess.” I was so fired. Career over.
Raven, who was off to the side and looking rather pale, replied, “Princess?”
“Please send a letter to Twilight Sparkle and tell her not to bother coming.”
“Of course, Princess.”
Princess Celestia shifted her attention back on me. “Silent Knight.”
Not Lieutenant? “Yes, Princess?”
“I’m surprised and have no idea what to say,” she stated flatly.
“Would you like my resignation, Princess?” I asked. “Would that make this easier for you?”
“Resignation? You think I’m going to sack you?” the princess asked in surprise. She laughed and shook her head. “No, I’m fairly certain you are going to get some kind of medal for this stunt. I have no idea what kind of medal, but I’m sure the Royal Guard will come up with something.
“I just didn’t know you were the negotiating type. If I’d wanted the place stormed I’d have sent for you. Negotiation? Not so much. Although, I will rethink that position in the future.”
The princess wasn’t going to fire me? That was a relief. “My understanding is that dragons are reasonable when dealt with in the appropriate fashion. Storming the place just seemed like the wrong strategy.”
“And how did you know how to deal with dragons?” she asked, one brow raised.
“I read a book,” I replied cheerfully.
Princess Celestia stood and chuckled at that. “I see. Well, why don’t we go make this official? We’ll sign the agreement and you can lead the dragons to their new home. Then you get to go pick up my sister from Haven and explain all this to her.”
Ah, so there it was. Sure, get a medal, but explain to the current ruling Alicorn of the Night that I’d given away her mentor’s home. Clever princess. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather do that yourself, Princess?”
“Nope!” she replied before illuminating the door handle with her magic and pushing it open.
Sunny Day squawked in surprise and jumped back. Evidently, she had been trying to listen in. Without a word, she bowed to the princess, flushed all over. Including her eyes. Except that was probably due to her lily allergy.
Princess Celestia strode by and nodded. “Lieutenant.”
I raced after her. At least until my back hoof was caught in Sunny’s magic. She tugged me to her and whispered, “What did you do?”
Quickly, I squirmed out of her magical grasp and started hopping in the direction the princess was going.
“I got rid of the dragons like you asked,” I whispered back before hurrying after the alicorn.
“You did what?!” Sunny yelled at me as I rushed off down the hall.