“I’m goin’ in,” Twilight said, walking into the cave at the top of the mountain. “He…probably just doesn’t realize what he’s doing. Right?”
A chorus of reassurance rose up from her friends peeking around the cave’s entrance. “Uh, s-sure.” “Yeah. Uhhh-of course.” “Easy peasy.” “If you say so.” “Ha-he-he-he-he.”
Not very reassured, Twilight continued forward. A thick river of smoke flowed along the cave’s ceiling towards the entrance. Stopping that flow of smoke was the reason they were here.
“Mr. Dragon?” she nervously whispered into the darkness. Suddenly her hoof caught on something. Holding back a gasp, she froze. Slowly, cautiously, she looked down to see…what was this? A black cable was running along the cave’s floor, and one end of it led in the direction of the source of the smoke farther in the cave. Twilight followed it until she found the spot on the floor where the smoke was rising from, the cable leading right into the middle of the cloud. She raised an eyebrow. This isn’t what she was told she would find. There was supposed to be a dragon in here. Walking over to the seeming foot-wide geyser on the floor, she waved her hoof to clear away the base of the smoke column. Hidden inside the column, she found a white plastic toaster holding a pair of blackened charcoal slices that probably used to be bread, the smoke coming pouring out of them. Printed on a decal on the side of the toaster were the words “Piff’s Magic Box”. Her eyebrow had raised an extra step with each of these sequential discoveries. Could this be the wrong cave? She turned to look around the rest of the cave. She saw piles of gold and gems reaching halfway to the ceiling, and a few random playing cards scattered all over the place. No, this seemed like the right—
Suddenly she heard a shuffling in the darkness just a bit farther into the cave. A feeling of anxiety overtook her. It was the dragon, it had to be. And it was coming closer. She tried steadying her nerves, but settled with just standing as still as possible. This was it. It stepped into view. The dragon!
“A” dragon, at least. She’d been expecting a giant monstrous dragon, with claws and teeth and spikes, maybe with wings, and probably red to be extra scary. Instead, he stood not even half over again as tall as Twilight and looked, well…he looked like this.
“Hello,” he said, giving a wave, “I’m Piff the Magic Dragon. I’m a Magic Dragon. Welcome to my lair.”
Twilight didn’t know how to respond to this. So she didn’t. She just stood there, staring at Piff the Magic Dragon with shocked confusion.
“What?” Piff said when he noticed Twilight’s staring, setting down the red case he was carrying. “You’ve never seen a Magic Dragon before?”
“Um, well, not exactly,” Twilight said, mentally shaking off the confusion and deciding to adopt as best a just-go-with-it attitude as she could. Such a thing wasn’t a specialty of hers, though. “Anyway…Piff?”
“Mr. Piff works,” said the Magic Dragon.
“Mr. Piff,” Twilight restarted, “I’m Twilight Sparkle. My friends and I”—the ReMane 5 minus Fluttershy waved in through the cave’s entrance—“are residents here in Equestria.” She paused again. This new situation had destroyed the script she’d prepared for. “Actually, we were under the impression that all this smoke was coming directly from a dragon’s breath.”
“What, smoke from me?” Piff said with a hint of indignity. “No, I don’t…hang on, I think I’m gonna sneeze.” He raised a hand to his face and turned his head as he breathed in. “Pff,” he sneezed. A small burst of sparks shot out and quickly dissipated. “There you go, that’s what’s from me,” Piff said, waving a hand at where the sparks had flown. “The rest of it is from Piff’s Magic Box.” He pointed over to the toaster. “Connected, of course, to Piff’s Magic Electricity Supply. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any magic.”
“Speaking of which, how is—?”
“It’s Magic Bread, it can keep being toasted for ages,” Piff said. “Which reminds me, it might be a good idea to change them anyway, they can still be salvaged for a decent sandwich if you can catch them soon enough.”
“That’s actually why I’m here,” said Twilight. “The smoke being released from your…Magic Box…is covering over all of Equestria, and if it were to continue…” She trailed off to a pause to try and coerce sympathy. “Equestria can’t handle being covered in a blanket of smoke. Could you maybe…turn the smoke off?”
“What, are you kidding me?” Piff said as if it were common knowledge why such a suggestion was ludicrous. “I’m the only Magic Dragon, I’m the last of my species. Can’t let everyone know where the last Magic Dragon is hiding, can I? I’ve got to disguise my location. Make it just look like the lair of some regular dragon. Clouds of smoke is what regular dragons do, not Magic Dragons. It’s a dead giveaway that a cave with no smoke pouring out of it is the lair of a Magic Dragon.”
Twilight blinked. What was logic, again? “I don’t mean to sound rude, but, why are you here? I mean, why Equestria, why this cave?”
“Well it was either here or Westeros,” said Piff, “and quite frankly, I feel a bit safer ticking off you guys than I would them.”
As trying to mentally shake it off clearly wasn’t working, Twilight physically shook her head for a second. “So let me see if I’m guessing this right, given how accurate the rest of my information has been,” she said, “you’re not just going to be sleeping here for a hundred years, are you?”
“Are you kidding? A hundred years without snacks? What kind of existence is that?”
“So, what exactly would you be doing up here?”
“I’m a—what do you mean, ‘what would I do?’, I’m a Magic Dragon,” Piff said. “As a Magic Dragon, doing magic…it’s sort of my reason to be.”
“You can do magic?” Twilight’s interest was piqued.
“Of course I do magic, I’ve got my own show, Piff-tacular,” Piff said, reaching down and picking up the red case sitting by his feet. “I’m Piff,” he patted the case with a grin, “this is my Tacular.” Then he turned it frontside up, and a tall stand sprung out and unfolded underneath it. “Whapbsshhh,” he said, adding his own sound effects and standing it on the ground. “It just got real!” he said excitedly.
“This is your magic?” Twilight said flatly, her interest now unpiqued.
“Oh, this is only the beginning,” said Piff, opening up the the case like a briefcase. “Just wait until I show you my true love, card magic. You know why I like it? Because card magic is the purest kind of magic.”
“I’m sure,” said Twilight, giving a brief thought to the Elements of Harmony.
“You want to see a card trick?” asked Piff. “Let’s do a card trick. Have you got any cards?”
“Abppfffff,” Piff sounded, taking a pack of cards from the case and holding it up. “Whabppffff.” He opened the pack and flipped it upside down into his hand. “Whappffff.” He slid the deck of cards out of the pack. “Bpfpfbpfbpfbpf.” He fanned out the cards in his hand.
“Is this really necessary?” Twilight asked.
“You do want me to turn the smoke off, right?” Piff replied. He tossed the empty card pack over his shoulder towards the open case with a, “Ppfff.” It missed. “Oh,” he whispered. “Now,” he presented the spread of cards facedown to Twilight, “you’re gonna touch the back of any one of these cards, any one”—Twilight rolled her eyes and pulled out a random card with her magic—“just touch the back of…” Piff stared at Twilight. “Okay then, do it your way. Nice parlor trick, by the way.” He grabbed Twilight’s card from midair and put the rest of the deck into his pocket. “Now,” he reached into the case and pulled out a playing card that was four times the size of a regular one, “earlier, I made a prediction.”
Twilight sighed, “How did you even—”
“Your card,” he flipped her card around, “is the Ten of Diamonds. My prediction…,” he flipped the huge card around, “the Eight of Clubs.” Twilight sighed and rolled her eyes again. Then Piff added, “So basically you were wrong.” Twilight facehoofed. “Don’t worry,” Piff continued, “it happens, Twilight. Look, little card trick to cheer you up.” He flicked her card into the air arcing over to his other hand where he tried to catch it, but if flew right past his hand and down to the ground. “Pfff,” he said, whispering, “vanish.”
“Okay, I played along with your card trick,” moaned Twilight, “so when will you turn off the smoke box?”
Piff looked over in confusion. “Oh, you actually thought those two were connected?”
Twilight stopped. “What?” she snapped. “But you said—”
“No, that was just a rhetorical question I was asking before,” Piff said. “Piff’s Magic Box is staying on, I’ve got my own skin to worry about, here. That’s what they do with Magic Dragons, they take our skins. Make briefcases. Or if you’re really unlucky, shoes.”
Twilight trotted out of the cave to the rest of the ponies.
“So, apparently rational thought doesn’t work,” she said, giving a glance back. She described the situation to the others, who mostly seemed just as confused as she was. “Any other ideas?”
“Ah-hem,” Rarity spoke up, “what this situation obviously needs is a bit of pony charm.”
“Are you sure about that?” Twilight asked.
“Oh-ho-ho,” laughed Rarity, “now dear, what could possibly go wrong?”
Rarity cantered into the cave, following the black cord to find Piff poking a stick at the overtoasted charcoal blocks sitting in Piff’s Magic Box to determine if they were yet a lost cause or not.
“I’m so sorry to interru-hupt,” Rarity interrupted with a flourish.
“Oh, look, it’s another one,” Piff said, looking up. “Oh, look at you. I’m Piff the Magic Dragon, what’s your name?”
“Rarity,” Piff repeated. “That’s a nice name. Funny thing, my girlfriend is actually named Rarity.”
“Oh?” Rarity said, caught off guard. “That’s…interesting. What-what’s she like?”
“Not really sure,” Piff said. Then he reached into his pocket and whipped out a bouquet of paper flowers. “We’ve only just met.”
Rarity took a step back. Not exactly what she’d been going for.
“Here, it’s a present,” Piff said, holding the bouquet towards her, “it’s just 8 bits.”
“Act fast or it’s 12 bits.”
Other than explaining in no uncertain terms why it wasn’t polite or proper to demand that a lady pay for a gift meant for her, which would have unceremoniously derailed her attempted charm, she was just too surprised to know what else to do but stand there. After a few seconds, Piff apparently got tired of waiting for a response.
“Whabshhh,” he said as he threw the bouquet off to the side, where it fell behind a pile of treasure. “Vanish,” he whispered. “I was only kidding, you haven’t got a chance,” he added, returning to a normal voice. “My bar is necessarily set too high for you. You see, my dream is simple, really. Big pile of gold, big pile of princesses, me in the middle. As you can see, I’m not doing so well on one of those, so if you happen to know any princesses, if you can just point one of us towards the other…”
“Well, that’s…,” Rarity started to hesitantly say, but her attention diverted to a takeout delivery pegasus flying into the cave towards them. Yeah, she decided not to think about it.
The pegasus looked at a paper slip it was carrying, reading from it, “Is this, uh, Piff the Magic Dragon’s…”
“Lair,” Piff said. “Piff the Magic Dragon’s lair, sorry if it’s not a street address.”
The pegasus flew past Rarity and handed Piff the paper bag it was carrying. “That’ll be 24 bits.”
“24?” Piff reached into his pocket and took out a handful of bits. “Okay, um, I’m 8 bits short. Rarity, do you have 8 bits?”
“I…” Rarity looked around at the cave full of treasure.
“Okay, take this,” Piff handed over the bits in his hand, “Rarity’s gonna sort you out later. Go on now,” he said, waving the pegasus away, “she’ll give you a tip as well.”
Stunned at being stuck with a bill she had no part in, and realizing he’d basically just made her pay for the bouquet of paper flowers anyway, Rarity didn’t know how to respond as the pegasus turned and flew back out of the cave. Piff opened the bag and pulled out a sandwich, taking a bite from it.
“Mmm,” he mumbled, “mmm, that’s the stuff. So,” he looked back over at Rarity, “where were we?”
Rarity slowly backed out of cave, not letting her eyes waver from looking directly in front of her, as if Piff wouldn’t move if he was being watched.
“Rarity?” said Twilight.
“Maaaaybe charm isn’t always the best strategy when it’s meant as a means to an end,” Rarity responded.
Twilight nodded. There was a pause. “What was with that pegasus who—”
“I don’t know either.”
“My turn!” Pinkie said excitedly.
“Your turn?” Twilight said, turning to Pinkie. “What’s your strateg—.”
“What in tarnation?” Applejack said.
“What. Is that for?” asked Twilight.
Pinkie stood before them wearing a wrapped gift with a large bow, swimming flippers, giant red sunglasses, and with balloons of all shapes tied around her head and to her tail. She blew on a party horn.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Pinkie said. “This guy sounds like a hoot! I’m sure us comedians will get along great. Sharing a laugh is a surefire way to get someone on your side!”
Pinkie turned and waddled into the cave. She quickly found the Magic Dragon finishing up his sandwich.
“Hi!” she said, walking up to him. “I’m Pinkie Pie!”
“Uh-oh,” Piff said, looking up at her, “looks like I’ve got the weird one now. If I’m gonna fend this off, I’ll need my secret weapon.” Pinkie stopped. This could either be something really good or really bad. Piff faced farther into the cave and called, “Come on out, Mr. Piffles! Come on.”
Moving towards them from deeper in the cave came the sound of small jingling bells and a clatter of tiny claws on the stone floor, and out of the darkness ran, well…this thing.
“Aww, he’s so cuuuute!” Pinkie said, crouching down to look at Mr. Piffles face-to-face and scratching his ears. “Is he a baby dragon?”
“No, he’s a dog,” Piff said flatly. “In a dragon outfit.” He slowly waved his hand overhead in a dramatic flourish. “The World’s First Magic Performing Chihuahua…trademark. Mr. Piffles is going to help us out with our next trick.”
“Neat,” Pinkie said, standing back up. “How?”
“Are you having a good day, Pinkie?” Piff asked, ignoring her question.
“Yes indeedily,” she responded with a smile.
“Let’s change that!” Piff announced, turning towards a setup suddenly hanging from the cave ceiling. Pinkie paused, and her smile slowly began melting away as she looked up at the props set up for the trick. “Round One…”
Twilight was pacing back and forth outside the cave entrance. Succumbing to curiosity, she walked over to the entrance and leaned her head in to listen.
“Don’t be nervous,” she heard Piff say, “it’s just the life of my only friend and sole source of income completely in your hooves. So tell me, you’ve got boxes 1 through 4. What do you think, dog or no dog?”
“Um…not 4?” came Pinkie’s hesitant response.
“Box number 4? Let’s see…,” Piff said, followed shortly by a loud crunch of cardboard. “No dog! Probably…”
Pinkie waddled back out of the cave with a “just saw a ghost” look.
“What happened in there?” Twilight asked.
Pinkie stopped. “I will never look at boxes the same way again,” she stated. Then she looked down and saw that her outfit included her wearing a box. “Gaah!” She zipped to the other side of the ledge, leaving her accessories behind to fall to the ground in a pile where she’d stood.
“Alright, that’s it,” snapped Rainbow Dash, hovering in the air. “We’ve tried persuasion,” she motioned at Twilight, “charm,” she motioned at Rarity, then motioned at Pinkie but paused, “…whatever it is Pinkie Pie does. I mean, what else is left? Letting Fluttershy try her talent of caving in? I say it’s time for action! Come on, Applejack,” Rainbow Dash turned towards the cave entrance and prepared for a burst of speed, “let’s get this guy to hit the road!”
Everypony froze, slowly turning to the source of the shout. Fluttershy? She seemed just as surprised as the others did.
“Um, what I meant to say is,” she said in her natural timid voice, “maybe my talent of ‘caving in’ is just what we need here.” The others looked around among themselves. “I mean, we’ve all been trying to make him see things our way, trying to convince him to do what’s best for us, but none of us have bothered considering what he’s trying to get out of this. If we could convince him of the ways he might benefit from stopping the smoke—”
“You mean bribe ’im, right?” Rainbow Dash out and said.
“Um,” Fluttershy mumbled. She turned her eyes to look around the group. “…Maybe?”
* * *
Teams of pegasi were using their wings to clear the remaining smoke clouds from the sky over Ponyville. Twilight sat in her room above the library, silently writing her weekly friendship report on recent events.
Dear Princess Celestia,
Today I leaned that the best way to appease a Magic Dragon is apparently to feed him with sandwiches and give him a gig performing his own show in town. Who’d have guessed?
Twilight looked over to her window, through which she could hear Piff doing his magic show in front of the library for a group of townsfoals.
“Inside the can of dog food,” Piff was saying, “down in the dog food, your card, with your signature. Round of applause, everyone.” No response. “Pff, wow. Brutal. Oh, hey look, it’s Mr. Piffles. Everyone likes dogs, right? Kids like dogs? Now, no biting, Mr. Piffles. Not in the face again. Okay, who wants to pet Mr. Piffles? That’ll be 8 bits per stroke. Any takers?” Still nothing. Piff sighed. “This is why we don’t do children’s parties.”
Princess Celestia sat in her chambers on a cushion, staring at Twilight’s letter after rereading it.
She used magic to pull up a new scroll and quill.
My Dearest Twilight,
No, seriously, what really happened?