The Cutie Mark Crusaders had made up their minds. Tomorrow, they were going to cut school and travel to the Smokey Mountains, west of Ponyville. Rumor had it that a dragon had taken shelter there, and if it wasn't moved soon, it could recreate the smokey nightmare of the year before. While the bureaucrats were busy deciding who they would send on the expedition to clear out the beast, as they thought Twilight and her friends had become too valuable to send out on such a duty, the three fillies would make the journey themselves and save Equestria on their own.
"So how are we gonna skip school without gettin' caught?" asked Applebloom as they sat around their clubhouse. Scootaloo was in one corner, trying to fix a squeaky wheel on her scooter, while Sweetie Belle was looking over a list of basic defensive spells she had borrowed from Twilight the day prior.
"Well, we could always fake a stomach ache," suggested Scootaloo.
"That would work if we hadn't already used that excuse five times this quarter," countered Sweetie Belle as she scrutinized a basic shield spell.
"Yeah, Scoots. That might be a little too obvious this time," added Applebloom.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, the calm broken only by the slow turn of pages and Scootaloo's damaged wheel. Eventually, Applebloom said, "We could drink a bunch of lemon juice until we lose our voices. Then we wouldn't be able to talk at school, so we'd have to stay home!"
"No way!" shouted Sweetie Belle. "I need my voice!"
"Okay, okay," said Applebloom as she backed away. "What do you think we should do?"
"We could always just forge our parents' signatures on a sick note," said Sweetie Belle.
"But we all suck at writing," said Scootaloo. She stood up and approached the other two girls. "I can't write in a straight line. How am I gonna copy my dad's signature?"
"Simple. Magic," said Sweetie Belle. "I'll just go ask Twilight for some books on the evolution of calligraphy in modern society."
"What?" asked Applebloom with a puzzled look on her face, one Scootaloo mirrored perfectly.
Sweetie Belle sighed and added, "I'm going to ask Twilight for a writing book." Applebloom and Scootaloo's mouths contorted into perfect 'O' shapes as they understood.
"Are you sure you can do it?" asked Scootaloo. "What if you get it wrong?"
"Of course I can do it, and I'm not gonna get it wrong," said Sweetie Belle. "When do grown-ups' signatures ever look the same?"
"Well, cali-whatever is a thing, so..." said Applebloom. She earned a glare from Sweetie Belle, and the white filly gathered her spells and made for the door.
"I'll be back later tonight," she said. "Then, we'll make the notes."
"Got it," said Scootaloo. "We'll meet back here after dinner."
The three fillies gathered back in the center of the room, put their hooves together and shouted, "Break!"
What was supposed to be a five minute request of Twilight to get her calligraphy book quickly turned into a two-hour long speech about how historically significant the art was, and how penmanship had evolved over the last three centuries. By the time Sweetie Belle escaped the mad librarian, she was late getting home for dinner and received a lengthy lecture from Rarity about punctuality.
She returned to the club house later that night exhausted, carrying both the calligraphy book and her defense spells in her magic on the way there. She stumbled into the club house where she was met with Applebloom and Scootaloo trying to fix the latter's scooter.
"Okay," breathed Sweetie Belle. "I got the book."
"Great," said Applebloom. "But why are you out of breath?"
Sweetie Belle just rolled her eyes and dropped the hefty tome on the clubhouse floor, making the floorboards creek under its leather-bound weight. All three fillies gathered around the slightly yellowed pages as Sweetie Belle opened the book with her magic.
A few minutes of searching later, and Sweetie Belle found what she was looking for; a spell to replicate words from memory. "How is a spell like that gonna help us?" asked Applebloom.
"I just need to see what Rarity's, Applejack's, and Rainbow Dash's signatures look like. Then, I can copy them and write them on sticky notes.
"Rainbow Dash?" asked Scootaloo. "Wouldn't we need my dad's signature?"
"Nah," said Sweetie Belle with a wave of her hoof. "Rainbow Dash has covered for you in the past before, right? Just ask her to autograph something for you. She'll be all over it. Applebloom, I'll look through Rarity's stuff for a receipt or something. Applejack bought a dress from Rarity the other week, right?"
"Then Applejack probably had to sign a receipt. I'll get our sister's signatures that way. You'll be in charge of supplies. We need food for the road and some climbing rope. That mountain isn't gonna be easy to scale. Tomorrow, meet back here. I'll go give the notes to Cheerilee," said Sweetie Belle.
"But won't she ask why yer at school givin' her the notes if you're sick?" asked Applebloom.
"I'll just tell her Rarity was too busy filling an order to stop by herself," said Sweetie Belle. "Don't worry about it."
When the CMC were finally in agreement, they gathered their things and went home, each completing their part of the plan. Things went exactly as Sweetie Belle had said. She got a hold of Rarity and Applejack's signatures off of a receipt, and Scootaloo gathered Rainbow Dash's signature on a photograph of the pegasus. She forged the notes and managed to convince Cheerilee that the girls' sisters couldn't make it to the school for various reasons. Before long, they were back at the club house.
Applebloom had gathered as many apple-related foods into a large knapsack as she could, ranging from apple cider to apple muffins to mini apple pies to just plain apples. She also managed to steal some rope from the barn, and she grabbed the map of Equestria from the picture frame in her house just in case they got lost.
"Is everyone ready?" asked Sweetie Belle.
"Good," she said. "Then let's find that dragon!"
"Hooray!" cheered the others.
The girls set off with their supplies in tow. They took turns carrying everything to make sure none of them got tired out, and the trip was fairly straight forward. A long road led straight to the base of the mountain, though the walk itself took a few hours. Every now and again, they would come across a pony coming away from the mountain, some carrying large hiking bags and others, camping equipment.
When they finally reached the mountain, the fillies tethered themselves together with the rope and began their climb. While it was mostly up a steep hill, there were a few small cliffs they had to climb, making the rope useful to support each other and their supplies.
Finally, after a rough climb up and exhaustion weighing heavily in their bones, the fillies reached the top.
"That... was... steeeeeeeeep," moaned Applebloom.
"Yeah," wheezed Sweetie Belle. "I wish I knew a spell to make those apples weigh less!"
"If only I could hover for more than a couple seconds," coughed Scootaloo. After taking a 10 minute breather, they all stood up together and gathered their courage. Before them arched the broad entrance to the mountain's cave. A strange heat radiated from inside, warming what should have been incredibly cold air and producing a large amount of steam.
"Is that comin' from the dragon?" asked Applebloom.
"Probably," said Sweetie Belle. "Scootaloo, do you remember the plan?"
"We had a plan?" she asked dumbly.
"What?!" Sweetie Belle half screamed at her friend. "You don't remember? We spent the whole climb up here coming up with it!"
"To be honest, I don't really remember it neither," said Applebloom as she rubbed the back of her head in embarrassment.
"Did either of you pay attention?" asked Sweetie Belle.
"Well excuse me, but this is a steep mountain!" she said. "If I could, I would have just flown up!"
"Stop," commanded Sweetie Belle. She sighed in frustration and said, "Look. I'll just have to repeat it, so pay attention this time."
"Okay," said Scootaloo, lightly scuffing the dirt in front of her with her hoof.
"Good. So here's what we do," began Sweetie Belle. "Scootaloo, you come with me. You're gonna intimidate the dragon."
"How?" asked Scootaloo, taken aback by her friend's suggestion. "I'm a filly. We don't know how big that dragon is. It could eat me, or set me on fire!"
"Why do you think I've been studying defensive spells for the past week?" said Sweetie Belle. "Did you think I was just gonna let you try talking down a dragon without any backup?"
"Are you sure you know what yer doin'?" asked Applebloom. "Can you really do all those spells?"
"Of course. I can make a missile out of magic and almost keep it under control," she said proudly.
"That's reassuring," said Scootaloo.
Sweetie Belle ignored her and continued. "Applebloom, you stay out here. Remember how Applejack told us about using apples as weapons against dragons?"
"Well, she kinda suggested it, but... these are apples, and that's a dragon," she said. "I think my big sister was exaggeratin' a little."
"Well they're our last line of defense if Scootaloo and I fail," said Sweetie Belle. "Be ready, okay?"
"I feel like this plan has a few holes," said Scootaloo. Again, Sweetie Belle ignored her comment.
"Ready?" asked Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo and Applebloom had no other choice but to say, "Yes," in unison.
"Good. Then here we go," she said. Applebloom stepped away from the mouth of the cave and gathered a few apples in front of her as Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo walked through the fog.
They struggled through it, almost as if the fog had a mind of its own and was trying to hold them back. "I can't see a thing," said Scootaloo.
"Me either," said Sweetie Belle. "How thick is this stuff?"
Suddenly, they came out into a clear cave. It was as if the fog they had just passed through was just a thick wall. Sweetie Belle lost her bravado after seeing what was on the other side.
Laying on the far end of the cave, illuminated by torches, lay a long, blue dragon with broad wings branching far above them in the cavern. It was bent over a small blue shape on the ground, nuzzling its limp form gently.
Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo quickly hid behind a large rock and caught breaths they didn't realize they were holding.
"That thing's huge!" hissed Scootaloo. "How are we gonna get that out of this cave? It'll eat us!"
"I don't know," said Sweetie Belle. "I've only ever seen dragons in books. And Spike, of course."
"Then what are we gonna do?" asked Scootaloo. "This was your brilliant plan, remember?"
"Shh!" commanded Sweetie Belle. "Do you want it to hear us?!"
"It's a little late for that," came a feminine voice from the other end of the cave. Sweetie Belle would have been scared stiff, but there was a vulnerability and sadness in the voice that immediately disarmed the filly.
She began to step out from behind the rock, and Scootaloo quickly pulled her back. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"Didn't you hear that?" asked Sweetie Belle.
"Yeah, I did," said Scootaloo. "So?"
"Our cover's blown. Besides, that didn't sound like a bloodthirsty monster to me." Sweetie Belle shook free from Scootaloo and stepped into view of the beast at the end.
"H-hello," stuttered Sweetie Belle. She struggled to build up even a small attack spell in her horn at the sight of the dragon staring at her from across the cave. "We've c-come from P-p-ponyville to... to get you to leave."
"Why?" asked the dragon, her tail flicking from left to right. The deep sadness in her voice from before distracted Sweetie Belle long enough to disarm her.
"What's wrong?" she asked, immediately regretting what had come out of her mouth moments later.
The dragon turned her attention back to the still form on the floor of the cave in front of her. "It's my son," she said sorrowfully. "He's starving to death. We haven't had anything to eat for weeks. He's still just a baby. If he doesn't eat soon, he'll..."
Sweetie Belle took notice of the dragon's surprisingly thin body, spotting the places where her rib cage showed under her scales. What she imagined to be a magnificent, muscular, glowing beast full of power suddenly seemed more like a shriveled up lizard.
The white filly gathered her thoughts for a moment before saying, "Hold on. I'll be right back." She turned around and ran to the exit of the cave, jumping into the fog and sprinting through it.
When she came running out from the fog wearing a worried expression, Applebloom thought her friend was being chased. She quickly tossed an apple into the air, but just when she was about to fire it, Sweetie Belle said, "Wait!"
Applebloom let the apple drop to the floor, breaking the skin of the fruit a little bit. "What's wrong? Where's Scootaloo?" she asked worriedly.
"She's still inside," said Sweetie Belle. "Quick, gather up the apples and the other food. Bring it inside the cave right away."
"Just do it, Applebloom!" commanded Sweetie Belle. Applebloom flinched at her friend's harshness, but she followed her instructions. She quickly packed the apples she was going to use for ammo into the knapsack and Sweetie Belle used her magic to carry it back into the cave. Applebloom followed her, desperate not to be left outside alone.
They plunged through the fog, coming out the other side even faster than before. Applebloom froze in place when she saw Scootaloo at the other end of the cave with the dragon.
"Hurry, Applebloom," said Sweetie Belle. Scootaloo had come out from her 'hiding place' after Sweetie Belle had left, going to the dragon to help her.
"Okay," said Applebloom. She carried the napsack full of food to the end of the cave and dumped it out in front of the dragons.
"Eat up," Sweetie Belle as soon as the fruit hit the floor.
The dragon stared at her in disbelief for a few seconds before turning to the child below her. "Morenth? Morenth, wake up," she urged as she nudged him.
"Mommy?" said the baby dragon weakly.
"Here, honey. Eat," she said. The dragon held a pie in front of her son, and the small dragon immediately grabbed it and dug into it ravenously. Bit by bit, the dragon named Morenth ate through the various apple foods. He saved one pie though.
"Here, mommy. You have this one," he said as he lifted the pie up. The larger dragon paused for a moment before gingerly taking the pie from her son and eating it herself.
She gulped loudly and laid back, saying, "Thank you. Thank you so much." She hugged her son tightly, and the fillies hearts melted at the sight.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders stepped away for a moment. "What are we gonna do?" asked Scootaloo. "We came up here to kick her off the mountain."
"Look at 'er," said Applebloom. "She's so thin. I bet she can't even fly anymore. And what about her kid?"
Sweetie Belle was silent for a minute before she said, "I guess... as long as they aren't causing any problems, no one has to know they're here."
"But what about Ponyville?" asked Scootaloo. "They're bound to come up here soon. If they think there's a dragon up here, they're gonna want to kick it out like we were going to."
"Then we tell them we didn't find anything," said Sweetie Belle.
"But we'll get caught if we say we came up here!" protested Applebloom.
"Probably. But I think it's worth it," said Sweetie Belle.
"I guess you're right," said Scootaloo.
"Thank you, fillies," said the dragon. She had been listening to their conversation, and she nodded approvingly at them.
"Just don't cause any trouble, okay?" said Sweetie Belle as her friends turned to leave.
"We won't, I can assure you," said the dragon. "Say thank you, Morenth," she told her son. The baby dragon jumped up, filled with the strength the apple treats gave him.
"Thank you!" he cheered as he ran up to Sweetie Belle. He shook her hoof and then ran back to his mother, snuggling up next to her as Sweetie Belle made for the mouth of the cave as well.
Needless to say, the CMC got quite the scolding from their sisters when they got home that night. However, they kept the dragon's place in the cave a secret, and told everyone that it was empty. Not tooth nor scale could be found. It was a story that the fillies held onto for nearly 15 years.
Twilight and her friends served the Friendship Counsel for a long time. Near the end of their reign, they were met with one final monster attack. This one was from an ancient evil sealed away 2,000 years ago, so clearly, it was more serious than the other 20-some major threats that had attacked Equestria over the years.
The CMC aided them in this fight, Scootaloo helping Rainbow Dash coordinate lightning strikes to bring down the five-headed, eight-tailed beast, while Applebloom and Applejack spent their time trying to buck it into submission.
Sweetie Belle was helping Twilight and Rarity fight the monster from far away with various spells. Rarity tried to contain it with a barrier spell she had fashioned in the shape of a giant diamond, but the creature fought hard to get out. As her spell broke, the shockwave knocked the rest of the ponies off their hooves, demolishing a few houses at the edge of Ponyville as well.
The collosal beast closed in on the group of ponies, its heads all chomping in mid air, drool dripping from its great mouths as it stomped houses and debris on its way to kill the friendship council. It towered over Sweetie Belle, Twilight, and Rarity, hungrily eyeballing them and trying to pick out which one to devour first.
Just when Sweetie Belle was sure all hope was lost, a thunderous roar echoed from the Smokey Mountains. "Was that... a dragon's roar?" asked Twilight. Another one soon followed, and from the clouds descended two giant, blue dragons. They began circling the monster, shooting balls of fire at it and knocking it into the earth.
One of the dragons paused and landed in front of the the two unicorns and alicorn, blasting fire straight into the throats of two of the heads and sending the beast tumbling backward. "Hey, fillies!" said the dragon in a booming voice.
"No way," said Sweetie Belle breathlessly.
Twilight saw her opportunity and jumped up, building magic into her horn. "Now, Sweetie Belle!"
"Right," said the unicorn. She jumped up and joined Twilight in powering a dual spell. Together, they combined their magic with the two dragons' fire, creating a giant twisting beam of light. It tore a hole straight through the creature and sent it staggering futher backward, but it didn't stop there.
The light kept flairing, brighter and brighter, until it engulfted the giant beast entirely, burning it down to nothing but a few smoldering cinders. When the light finally died and the dragons stopped their fire breathing, they both landed in front of Sweetie Belle. The other CMC joined her to greet the dragons.
"Do you recognize me?" asked the one that had landed in front of them.
"I think so," said Sweetie Belle. "Are you... Morenth?"
"In the flesh," the dragon said proudly, raising a hand to his chest and lifting his head proudly.
"Thank you," said Twilight, almost bowing to the two dragons. "Thank you for saving us."
"We're just returning a favor," said the second. Her wings folded to her side as she smiled at the CMC.
"Huh?" asked the other ponies in unison.
"If it weren't for these three ponies, my son would have died. That was... 15 years ago, I believe," she said.
The older sisters all gave their younger siblings shocked looks. "Sweetie Belle," began Rarity, "you know these dragons?"
"Um, yes," she said plainly. "Remember when we climbed that mountain to hunt down that dragon all those years ago?"
"Yes?" said Rarity, phrasing it more like a question.
"Well..." Sweetie Belle proceeded to tell the other ponies about their trip and what they really found. They told them about their plan to deal with the dragon, and how it had been flipped completely on its head.
"I never expected to see you both again," said Scootaloo.
"When we heard the roars of the monster, we came as fast as we could," said the mother. "My son here thought you might all be in danger, and I decided he was finally old enough for us to come and help."
"How'd I do?" asked Morenth as he bent down to get a closer look at the ponies. They all instinctively recoiled from him.
"You did fantastically," said Twilight. "You saved us."
"Like I said, we were just returning the favor," said the mother. "Let's go, Morenth."
"Coming, Mom!" said Morenth, straightening up and spreading his wings. Together, he and the other dragon took off with a huge gust of wind and flew off toward the Smokey Mountains again. "Bye, guys!" he yelled, waving to them.
The CMC waved back, eagerly looking forward to the next time they would meet the dragons.