Love in a Time of Dragons

by Orkus

A Prominent Individual

Prominence flew a fair ways above the cluster of dragons on the ground below, and swiftly passed by those that were also soaring around in the sky. She was a thin-framed dragoness who bore a pinkish complexion to her scales, long ears on either side of her head, and wiry limbs that ended in more muscular and thick forearms and forelegs; both as powerful as any other dragon's. On the crown of her head, growing through the tuft of purple hair-like spines, were a pair of small horns that pointed upward.

Tapping her index claws together and with a face that constantly swiveled to and fro with prying eyes, she looked, and she looked, and she looked for who it was whom she wished to seek out. Yet, in spite of her efforts, she couldn't seem to find any drakes who matched the large, red, bulky description she had formulated within her mind.

There was quite a bit of pent-up emotion that she was longing to express, and her body trembled with excitement as she flew. Oh, how she had been looking forward to this day! Ever since her parents told her as a hatchling that a moment would come in her life, where another dragon would become destined to be hers, she simply could not wait for this time to come, yet here it was!

And her sights, still scanning about the ground intensely, were set on the drake known only as Garble.

Garble may be a bit of a blustering bully and an intimidating figure altogether, but those were only a couple of traits he was known for well in the vast dragon community. Not to mention just how attractively strong he was famed for being. If Prominence wanted a drake all to her own, a big, strong, powerful dragon who could easily fend off other dragons from a hoard of treasure or a clutch of eggs was the kind to search for.

A few minutes more whizzed by, and then, to her relief and pure joy, Prominence finally saw him. He was casually relaxing on a rock beside a large and wide crater on the ground, the contents of which was filled with a pool of lava deep within. Several other male dragons - clearly his friends - were hanging around him and doing a similar activity.

Being the first day of the Time of the Heartscale, most all dragons were merely getting acquainted with one another. The small group of eager female dragons surrounding Garble and his friends were no different. All of them were attempting to speak to him or his cohorts if they caught their raw fancy, and when it appeared as though all their attempts to talk all at once was in bad taste, they each started to line up and take their turns. Garble himself didn't seem that interested in what the crowd had to share though, as his eyes were lazily focused over to the snow-capped mountains far away from the Dragon Lands in the horizon, and his laid-back demeanor held as it was.

Oh, but the second he saw her, surely he would be brought to attention! Prominence kept this very idea lively and fresh in her head, and landed on the coarse ground gracefully. Wiping herself of any dust that had the slim chance of sticking to her scales, she readied herself until she felt fully prepared, and hurriedly rushed into the small horde of female dragons, joining them.

Spike wandered through the crowd for what felt like hours before he broke out of it. There was still no sign of Ember, and this fact was beginning to weigh heavy on his mind. He did not despair however, and inhaled a long, calming breath as he remembered that the day was not yet over, and there were still four left after this one.

His claws scraped over the ground as he strolled forward. There were greatly fewer dragons away from the horde, many of whom were in pairs that he could tell were blissfully entwined. Spike walked past most of them, before a few shapes of a greater magnitude in their number snatched away his prowling gaze. He saw quite a few dragons in a group that was still paltry compared to the crowd he had recently escaped from; a large, bright crimson shape in particular being the one to really distract him. His eyes focused on the medium-sized group, and then, to his minor surprise, he saw that it was Garble who was amidst them.

Just seeing the older dragon's larger burly form provoked a feeling of discomfort within Spike, but still he found himself curious at just what it was that was going on over there. Getting closer, he could then clearly see what it was they were doing.

They were just lurking beside a lava pool. As the molten rock bubbled in the deep pit behind them, their eyes, Garble's in particular, seemed to rove about and scan over the area. There were many dragonesses surrounding them; at least twenty, and all were looking to the males and vying for their attention with words expressing desires to know if they felt interested in them, some of whom did indeed receive it with frabjous and gleeful grins adorning their beaked faces.

But not Garble. All he did was look off into either the lava pool, the sky, or the crowd, blatantly ignoring the vocal advances of the female dragons. Spike was a perceptive individual, and he sensed something very fishy was up with this behavior from the usually boisterously swank and loud individual he knew. Garble continued to sit there for a time longer, and just as the current female's turn talking to him was finished and a certain pink-scaled one strode forward, Garble caught Spike's shape from the corner of his eye.

"Well, well. Hello again, Spike!" he greeted with an arrogant tone, sitting up a little straighter on his perch and turning fully away from the pink dragoness before she could even start talking. "Any luck on finding someone who actually likes you? Or have you already given up?"

"I'm still looking, Garble," Spike responded in as much of a passive tone as he could give. "Why aren't you?"

"Pssh. I don't need to look..." he chuckled, waving a claw in a dismissing motion. "Look at all these dragons that already think I'm worthy. They know the reputation I've been building up in the past few years. Besides, I only have one particular dragon really in mind, and I just have to wait to fight for her and win. Which I'll easily do."

"Oh, and who is that, might I ask?" Spike inquired, folding his arms.

Garble smirked; his grin expressing his large, knife-like teeth in their full, horrible glory. "Ember."

The second he heard the name, Spike's arms fell from his chest and his eyes widened. Without realizing it, a small, quiet, but very much malevolent growl began to reverberate from the back of his throat as his teeth ground together from behind his lips. "Why?" That was the only word he was able to ask and form when his brows lowered into a glare.

"Because if I win her over, it will make me the most powerful dragon in all of the Dragon Lands," Garble replied, sneering foully. "By dragon law, if a dragon becomes life-mates with the Dragon Lord, it will give that dragon just as much power over the Dragon Lands as them."

"What are you... saying?" Spike's voice began to deepen as the crisp, searing feeling of rage began to spark in his chest and fill his blood with molten flames of what he could not deny as boiling hatred.

"What I'm saying is that I'm going to become Ember's life-mate," he nastily repeated, poking his chest with a thumb. "And when I do, I'll become the most feared and dominant dragon in all of Equestria itself."

"You... you shouldn't become life-mates with a dragon for the sake of power!" Spike argued, stomping closer to him. Garble didn't seem phased in the slightest by his noisy advance, and kept the calm visage even after he went on. "If you want to spend your entire life with another dragon, it's because you care for them! It's because you like them for who they are as a person!"

Garble huffed. "Well, clearly you still haven't got a grasp on how a dragon's supposed to act and what they're supposed to want when this time comes around. But what can I say, I didn't expect any less from a pony-raised dragon like you."

"Um... I think that what he said sounds rather appropriate," the pink dragoness voiced up from just behind Garble with a raised claw and a small smile, agreeing with Spike's words.

Garble rolled his eyes and looked at her dryly. "Quiet, you," he ordered. Hesitantly obeying his words, she did as he said and lowered her snout with a sigh.

"I may have been raised by ponies, but I've learned what the Time of the Heartscale is and what it means in dragon society," Spike went on after his rival returned his attention back onto him. "What you want is not about love. It's greed and selfish ambition, plain and simple."

"So what if it is?" Garble's voice was downright mirthful as he agreed. "That's not something to be ashamed of."

Small streams of gray smoke left Spike's nostrils as he heard these simple words, becoming infuriated beyond measure by them, and barely clinging onto his rage in sudden realization of what could happen if he were to give into it. "You don't even sound like you want to be Ember's life-mate for her! Just for what she is!"

"And that's basically the truth," Garble nonchalantly responded. "Ember herself is just a bonus."

The smoke cloud forming from the tip of Spike's snout grew in size and darkness, but then, no sooner had it done so, it ceased and soon vanished. Seeing now that arguing with Garble was a foolish and vain endeavor to begin with, and one that could only end in him losing to his temper at a time where it was not allowed, Spike took in an immensely deep breath to calm himself and coldly looked at him a final time. "Garble, unlike you, when I find my life-mate, whoever she may be, I'm going to treat her better and more respectfully than any treasure I'll ever collect in my lifetime. I'm going to cherish her because of who she is, what she means to me, and never stop loving her until my heart stops beating."

"Oh..." the pink dragoness from before delightfully sighed, prompting Garble to turn to her with an annoyed snarl on his face. "That sounds like such a wonderful thing one would do. Don't you think so, Garble?"

"I said quiet!" Garble roared instead. Jumping to his feet and reeling his mighty arms back, he pushed the dragoness away. She was unprepared to receive such a blow and was sent to the edge of the lava-crater, where her heels tripped on the stone lining it. Unable to keep her balance, she fell into the pit with a startled cry; her wings flapping uselessly in a vain effort to catch air until she had plopped completely into the lava.

Spike's jaw opened slightly in horror at Garble's action, as Garble in turn unleashed a bellowing laugh. "I did warn her," the drake shrugged with a satisfied grin, sitting back down on his rock as everyone, turning their heads back to their own businesses, began to act as though the incident hadn't happened in the first place. Instead of doing as they had, Spike immediately ran up to the pool's corner and peered into it.

At first seeing nothing, the female dragon's head suddenly broke through the surface of the lava with a gasp, splashing about until she was floating stably. From what Spike could see of her current expression, she looked very much shocked and upset by this horrid turn of events.

Without a thought against it, Spike opened his wings and glided down to where she was, intent on helping her. Upon noticing a shadow lurking out of the corner of her eye, the female looked up and saw Spike's shape flapping above her own with a look on her face conveying only frustration mixed with newfound confusion.

"Take my claw," he spoke, extending his arm to her. Her jaw still hanging loosely, she was quite shocked at this form of kindness a fellow dragon expressed toward her, and only hesitantly lifted her own limb after a few seconds had passed.

"Uh... thank you," she spoke lightly. Accepting his claw, she was lifted from the lava, holding onto his appendage for balance in the air until she was able to properly fly on her own. Smiling at him, together the two left the pool and landed on the rocky ground just on the surface of the crater; opposite of Garble and the other dragons there.

The dragoness wiped the remaining molten liquid from her scales and shook her horned head free of the final specks of it before turning to her savior. "You pulled me out of there," she began. "That was very... nice of you."

"After seeing you getting knocked in there, how could I not help you out?" Spike replied.

"Dragons never stick up for each other, much less help each other from... embarrassing moments," she spoke, rubbing her shoulder sheepishly with a claw. "Th-thanks again, I guess."

"Don't mention it," he smiled back. The female dragon mumbled something to herself and turned slightly before continuing on.

"All I was trying to do was get Garble's attention. I've been waiting to do it for almost three years." She paced off a few feet before finding a rock and sitting down on it. "I guess, judging from how he pushed me into that lava, he doesn't find me as appealing as I thought he would. Oh... phooey."

"Don't say that. I think you certainly looked... 'hot' in there," Spike joked, then regretting the awful pun the moment it left his mouth, which then wrinkled as though he had just sucked on a particularly sour lemon.

Tittering slightly in well-found amusement before putting a claw to her mouth to stop it, the dragoness thought of the obvious thing to say next to her kindly rescuer. "Um... I don't think I've ever met you before. My name's Prominence. And... yours?"

"Spike," Spike answered. "In case you didn't catch it from Garble, I'm not from the Dragon Lands, so I wouldn't expect you to recognize me as you would another dragon."

Prominence hummed as the name struck a chord in her mind. "Wait a fire-breathing second... you're that small dragon from back during the Gauntlet of fire! The small purple one!" she accused, pointing to him in astonishment at just how much he visibly changed since last seeing him. "I remember you! You and Dragon Lord Ember worked together to get past all of the challenges! That was very... clever."

"And... weren't you the one who wanted to make burps an official greeting or something?" the drake inquired back as the memory returned to him.

She chuckled and shrugged. "Guilty as charged."

"Well..." Spike coughed into his claw and started to look away. "If you'll excuse me Miss Prominence, I need to go find somebody. Goodbye, I guess. I hope you find your life-mate in the days to come."

"Goodbye to you too, and I... hope you find yours... Spike." The way she spoke his name possessed a dreaminess she simply could not hide. Spike didn't seem to take notice of this fact though, as he had already quickly scampered off, back into the crowd of other roving dragons in his ceaseless search for Ember. Prominence watched him disappear into the horde of scaly bodies, the gears in her mind shifting about until they had snapped together in wonderful comprehension.

To Tartarus with that ignorant Garble! she thought, rubbing her claws together with vigorous glee as a wide and sharp-toothed grin curled over her snout. Now that's a drake worthy of somedragon's attention...