The Guardian of the Elements

by Whateverdudezb

The Guardian

Thunder rumbled above, the artificial storm all the way up at the top of the storm facility's tower seething with unnatural and barely-restrained rage as it slowly swirled about against the sky.

But for Kindle, that possessed storm was high and away from her—far from her concern. Instead, for the ivory dragoness lying prone and vulnerable on the ground, her immediate attention was not focused on the distant rumbling of the storm high above her, but rather the rumblings of the deep, guttural growls that stood just over her.

Draped again in that same foreboding shadow from before in the demolished warehouse, Kindle, for the briefest of moments, could only hear her own deep breathing as she laid there in the middle of that deafening courtyard, staring at the talon foot in front of her.

Slowly, Kindle's sapphire eyes began to steadily climb up the massive foot, finding its leg both thick with muscle and absolutely covered in dark, violet scales. Following up this limb, she found a greenish-yellow underbelly; not of a softer hide as most dragon bellies were, but instead like one that was composed from rows of naturally-armored plates. Behind this bulk form of toughened scales and hardened plates, her eyes glanced a large tail—fat with muscle, yet long enough to end in prehensile capabilities—that swished and wagged about on the ground like a heavy whip eager to ricochet the end of its arrowhead tip with dangerous intent. From the end of this tail began green spikes that pierced out of the violet scales. These spikes though were not spindly like her own golden ones that were the norm for dragons, but rather they were large and stocky, like jagged hatchets that could equally tear and bludgeon with enough force; and the further they traveled away from the tail and up along the violet scales, the bigger they became, until they resembled the curved, point-ended cleavers that sat at the top of the head, where under green irises seemed to radiate with a fiery glow as they stared down at Kindle.

Her sapphire eyes locked with those radiating irises, and that was when she knew.

The scales, the spikes; at first glance, Kindle had assumed that the resemblance meant that she was dealing with a protective parent of some kind.

But no, those eyes spoke everything.

And what those eyes told her was that this massive drake was the very same snarky, little, purple dragon that she had spoken to not barely a moment ago.

It was hard to believe. Most mature dragons had some decent control over their stature through their hoarding and greeding, with most tending to be able to shrink to the size of a cottage when they were feeling charitable—which was about as often as one would imagine it to be, though it does happen—to being able to grow back to their original giant forms just as easily.

But never from such a small stature, and never so quickly.

He was taller than her now. Standing upright, he had the length of a head over her even if she were to stand on her own hind-legs. Despite this though, his neck was shorter than what was usual for a dragon, although it was also slightly more bulky in width. In fact, everything about him could be described as if all of the physical features that had given a dragon some sense of agility had been traded away in favor of bulk and muscle. His body, his tail, his arms and legs: they were all thicker with lean muscle than what the average dragon was expected to have. Even his snout, which was currently snarling and showing off glistening rows of white teeth the size of swords, was broader from his powerful jaws that looked like they were ready to crunch on something besides gems and crystals.

...Something like her.

Quickly realizing the vulnerable position she was in, Kindle, with a single flap of her large wings, immediately jumped back away from the larger dragon and landed on the opposite side of the courtyard. It was through this distancing of herself from him that she was better able to see his entirety at once, and because of this, as she growled threateningly at him with a defensive glare, she took notice of his most prominent feature.

His complete and utter lack of any large, leathery wings that were so complete of a dragon.

Kindle froze, her aggressive growls cutting short as her glaring eyes widened at what she saw, or rather at what she didn't. How she had missed such an obvious trait until now, she did not know. But what she did know was that she needed to be much more wary now.

Because there was only one wingless-drake she knew of, and it was the same one that every dragon knew of.

For among the multitude number of tales about Mantle, Smog, and the other legendary drakes that older dragons told young hatchlings when they wanted to frighten them and warn them about the dangers of stealing from another dragon's hoard through horrible tales that had such wrathful retributions contained within them, his were some of the most frequently spoken. A fact Kindle herself learned very early, during her first few involvements with dragon migratory groups.

Of course, when one was known by all of dragon-kind and all other kinds as the Guardian, it's no surprise that one tends to be very famously ferocious and successful at what he hoards.

The display of surprise and wariness upon Kindle's face seemed to bring amusement to the purple dragon, as he began chuckling a deep chuckle befitting of his size, "Well now," he said with a much deeper tone from before and a grin full of large teeth, "it looks like you've finally gotten a clue as to who I am," raising a claw, he began rubbing his knuckles against his chest in a pompous manner that was most usual for male dragons, "gotta say: it took you long enough. I mean, did the lack of wings seriously not tip you off?" he finished off with another chuckle.

Narrowing her eyes at him for that slight, Kindle steadily raised herself up on her hind-legs as she kept her gaze locked on the dragon before her, wary of not coming off as too aggressive. She knew she was out-matched here. Her size and strength would be of no use to her in a straight-up brawl with this famously more experienced dragon. It would have been pointless anyways. His show of dominance was already established when he easily threw her across the facility.

But that was alright. After all, it wasn't a fight that Kindle was here for anyways.

"So... you are the one that they call the Guardian?" she began smoothly, her tone equally inquisitive and cheshire, "The one that has so many other dragons too fearful to cross you lest they get their skulls crushed under your heel?" her sapphire eyes trailed up and down him, giving him an obvious once over before again facing him, a sharp smirk on her features, "No offence, but from all the stories I have heard associated with the 'largest of all dragons,' I had expected you to be much ...bigger."

The Guardian's grin faltered for a brief second as he stared incredulously at the ivory dragoness before him brazen with charisma, before rearing his head back and letting out bellowing laughter that echoed across the courtyard and facility grounds, "Well, sorry to disappoint!" he shouted humorously between his bouts of laughter, "Bigger... hah!" he admonished. When his laughs lessened and he finally began to calm down, he looked back at Kindle with an amused smirk on his maw and told her, "And don't worry about that whole 'skull crushing' thing or whatever, that's mostly just an exaggeration on the part of all those stories you hear about me."

A slight tilt of her head with an inquisitive expression, Kindle showed off an amused smile, "Mostly?" she replied in a cool tone as her tail steadily swished about on the ground.

A deep hum echoed from inside the larger drake's throat as his smirk drooped just a bit and his face took on a more serious expression, "Well, you know what they say: every story s'got a grain of truth to it," he replied in an almost somber tone, "and besides, you should know how it is with us dragons when someone threatens our hoard."

"Oh? I did not know these factory-produced crystals were apart of the illustrious Guardian's most-valued hoard?" said Kindle in an off-claw manner, her sapphire eyes distractedly trailing across the ground around her.

"They're not, but you were making quite the racket near where mine is," answered the Guardian, "what with your thieving and all."

An ivory tail swept along the dirt and brick surface of the courtyard, sweeping up the scattered energy crystals and collecting them in one spot, which just so happened to be located right under Kindle. She quickly seized them and added them to her paltry collection that had still remained stuck to her scaly coat even after she had been thrown across the facility. Though it still wasn't as much as what she had previously, it was enough, and she doubted she could risk getting any more.

Eyeing the Guardian before her, Kindle showed off a pointed smile, "I prefer to call it liberating," she replied coyly, "and if you'll excuse me, I have my own hoard to attend to. So if you don't mind..." Before the Guardian could react, she dropped back to all fours and immediately turned and sprinted as fast as she could towards the towering spire that contained the storm facility's generator. She leapt onto the spire, her claws sinking into its bricks as cracks formed from their punctures, before taking another leap higher up the spire. Then, with a final bound, she launched herself away from the spire and flared her wings open, flapping them hard as she flew up higher and away from the ground.

It was at this time, when she felt the wind under her wings and the shade of the facility's stormy sky against her scales, that Kindle chanced a look back down at the Guardian.

Where she was just in time to see the rising torrent of emerald flames consume her.

Like all dragons descended from those first that were hatched out of the fiery wombs of Mother's volcanoes, Kindle was incredibly resistant to the burning lashes of fire. But these green flames were not like usual flames, nor even like dragonfire; there was very little scorch to them. For it was that the emerald flames were too laced with pure magic to have the lethality that was so eternally kindred to fire. Instead, when the torrent of green flames struck her in her side like a jet stream of water, its impact momentarily pushing her just a bit higher into the sky, she felt like the flames were numbly barbing into her and pulling her apart as they enveloped her body.

Soon, all of Kindle's sight was obscured by the emerald flames, and for a seemingly indeterminate amount of time she experienced the strangest sensation of feeling like she was both floating and being tossed around like a rag doll at the same time. It was akin to being a leaf in the wind, if the wind was made out of fire.

Suddenly, the flames were gone, as was the weightlessness, and Kindle quickly found herself on the ground again as she felt her back impact against it. Opening her eyes, she saw the Guardian standing over her as he looked down at her prone form in the middle of the storm facility's courtyard with an unimpressed, bored stare.

"Oh, wow," he deadpanned so monotonously, sarcasm dripping from his tone like how venom drips from a serpent's fangs, "you tried to fly away. It's not like I've never had to deal with something like that before in my entire life."

Kindle glared up from her position, a low growl escaping her throat in response to the Guardian's words.

Seeing her behavior, a flash of irritation streaked across the Guardian's face and, before Kindle had the chance to do anything, the Guardian raised his large foot and pressed it down on top of her head, eliciting out a pained yelp from the dragoness as she quickly brought her claws up and attempted to lift the offending foot off of her skull, to no avail.

"Now, if you're done pretending that you actually have a shot at beating me, outwitting me, or whatever it is that you think you could do to gain the upper claw in this situation, may I suggest that you instead tone back whatever aggression you have directed at this city and approach this a bit a more... politely," the Guardian offered in as pleasant a tone as one could manage when keeping a foot poised over a vulnerable skull, "because considering you're trying to threaten a millennium-old drake that has to personally deal with whatever cataclysmic shenanigans that these ponies get involved with every other century or so, I don't think the aggressive route is going to work out for you," he shrugged indifferently, "but hey, if you think you can do better than that giant war golem that that crazy minotaur warlock was using to—of course—take over the world a couple centuries ago, then please, be my guest and show me what you've got."

The dragoness continued to struggle under the Guardian's heel, her claws tirelessly scraping against his thick, purple scales, "What in Mother's name are you talking about?" she growled out painfully, "I've done nothing aggressive towards this city!"

Not budging his foot an inch at the forceful ministrations attempted on it by the struggling dragoness below him, the Guardian absentmindedly checked his claws for dirt in a most casual manner, "Uh huh," he replied distractedly, "and I guess I only imagined the terrified screams of innocent ponies and the destruction of that warehouse back there."

"The ponies were not harmed," insisted Kindle between her strenuous grunts, "and I only did what I did to the warehouse so I could save the energy crystals before they got destroyed!"

"Destroyed from what?" asked the Guardian, his voice filled with accusatory skepticism, "From your goal of turning this place into a pile of rubble and broken bodies as you so eloquently put it?"

The incessant scraping against the Guardian's leg immediately stopped, the claws upon the thick-scaled limb stilling as the dragoness under him ceased her struggling and stared up at him with frozen disbelief.

"W-What? No!" she shouted with a slight stutter, confused, "I mean before they get destroyed by the titan!"

Around them, nay for the facility's rumbling storm thundering high above them and the muffled moans of the raging generator entrapped within the tower, the courtyard had become eerily silent as both dragons stared into each other.

Then the Guardian blinked once, blankly, "...What?"

Immediately, fans of fiery, red fire escaped from between Kindle's clenched teeth in agonized frustration as she resumed her tirade against the Guardian's leg in increased fervor.

The Guardian, for his part, only raised a scaly eyebrow as he watched the dragoness snarl through her tantrum.

Finally, when the dragoness ceased once more, she had her eye closed tight before breathing in deeply. Steadily releasing that breath, she opened her eyes and stared back up at the Guardian, obvious annoyance and anger being barely restrained.

"Look towards those mountains in the distance," she uttered through clenched teeth.

The Guardian did so, turning his gaze away from the dragoness under him and directing it out towards the view of the city that was provided to him from the storm facility's higher elevation on the mountain. His radiant irises traversed across the urban coverings of the city, past the larger valley of green hills and rivers that followed after, until finally settling his eyes on another small mountain range—a thick, yet paltry range that only added up to four peaks—that laid opposite of the one he currently situated himself on.

It was only when he strained his eyes further and looked past those mountains that he took notice of the massive cloud of dirt and dust rising high into the sky some farther distance away.

At the sight of it, the Guardian's eyes widened in realization, familiarity flashing before his bright green irises as memories of where that cloudy tower of ruin and destruction had originated from were called back to him.

Now, the Guardian was well-known among his own kind as one of the greediest and most fiercest drakes that there ever was when it came to one's hoard. Indeed, in terms of lethal aggressiveness, he was perhaps second only to Smog the Golden when it came to protecting his hoard. As such, Kindle had spent many a gathering with her fellow kin hearing stories of the Guardian's ruthlessness being practiced: tales of thieves being chased across the ends of the world before being crushed underfoot, and of fully-grown dragons having their entire heads bitten off for just attempting to eat a single gem of his hoard.

And while tales such as those enthralled her in her younger years, by the Guardian's next actions, it was clear to Kindle that those tales detailing the Guardian's ruthlessness may have been slightly ...embellished.

"MANTLE'S MOLTEN BLOOD!!" cursed out the Guardian loudly, his claws at his head and eyes wide with shock and fright.

Suddenly, realization struck and he twisted his gaze back down to the dragoness struggling under his heel. He then immediately leapt off of her, the ground rumbling from his bounce, before reaching down for her.

"Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! I am so, so sorry!" repeated the Guardian frantically as he hurriedly helped Kindle to her feet, his claws surprisingly gentle on her scales as he lifted her up by her shoulders, "I really, really do apologize for throwing you across the facility and almost crushing your... um... skull," he continued awkwardly, showing off a big, innocent, pleading-for-forgiveness smile as he, of all things, began brushing off the residue dirt on Kindle's scales, "It's just... the way you worded your advice earlier was very easy to misconstrue as a threat and I don't usually take those lightly, so I may have jumped the party cannon on that one..."

Kindle quickly batted the Guardian's dusting claws off of her, interrupting his rambling apology, "It's fine," she replied tersely, her pride just a little bit wounded before she began rubbing the underside of her jaw to relieve whatever remaining pain the Guardian's foot inflicted, "it's not like this is the first time I've come to blows over a misunderstanding. We're dragons. It happens."

"Er, yeah..." said the Guardian awkwardly as he rubbed the back of his neck, his claws interlocking with his large, stocky spikes, "but I try to make it a point to not act like the stereotypical brutish dragon, you know?"

"Well you're doing a fantastic job of it," commented Kindle, explicitly attaining the same venomous sarcasm that the Guardian had previously wielded, "what with you trying to crush my skull in. And here I thought you said those 'skull-crushing' stories were exaggerated."

"I said they were mostly exaggerated, and I was only being so rough with you because I thought you were going to attack the city," defended the Guardian before his green eyes widened in realization and his claws returned to the sides of his head in fright, "Oh, Celestia and Luna! The city!" cried out the large drake as he began frantically pacing back and forth in a distressed manner.

Kindle, once again treated to the unusual sight of one of the most legendarily feared and respected dragons among her ilk go through another panic attack, could only stare in befuddlement as the Guardian acted like a headless cockatrice.

"What do I do? What do I do? What do I do!?" repeatedly panicked the purple drake in his frantic pacing, the ground rumbling at the giant dragon's rapid movement, "Wait!" he shouted, suddenly coming to a dead stop in his pacing, "Calm down. Just calm down. I've gone through this kind of stuff plenty of times before," he told himself before slowly taking a calming breath, "okay... I need to warn the city. The Mountain Bull isn't here yet, so there should still be time for a proper evacuation if I hurry."

And that's when they felt it...

The shaking.

It wasn't anything overly spectacular. There was no Tartarus-deep fissures being torn open around them. None of the buildings were collapsing from some mighty tectonic shifting. Heck, the two dragons didn't even so much as stumble when they felt the ground shake. It wasn't even so much as shaking as it was just simply vibrating. The only unusual aspect about it at all was that it didn't seem to end; it just kept going.

It was as if the very earth was trembling in fear at what was approaching.