• Published 7th Apr 2012
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Then Tomorrow Came - PonyAmorous



Twilight falls for Rainbow Dash but finds herself on the wrong end of a love triangle.

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Chapter 12

Chapter 12

Dragon. Big, angry looking dragon. So this is apparently happening now. Wonderful. Fan-bucking-tastic! Because I was just thinking about how boring my day had been, and how much it would be improved by the addition of several tons of irritable, fire breathing reptile!

Twilight stared up at the green dragon that was slowly pulling itself up from a sleeping position to look at the intruder who had so rudely interrupted its nap. Something about the dragon looked oddly familiar.

Wait a second...Is that?...oh crap, it is the same dragon!

Twilight remembered the time that Spike had run away. He had inadvertently wandered into this cave and helped himself to the hoard of gems. She and Owlowiscious had come to his rescue, and the three of them had narrowly escaped. She doubted things would go well if this dragon recognized her.

Maybe he won't recognize me. Maybe we can talk this out.

It was a reasonable possibility. After all, dragons were at least capable of conversation. It was at least worth a shot. Twilight cautiously backed up into the center of the cave, before swallowing audibly.

Or maybe he's hungry after waking up.

"So sorry about barging in like this. I didn't know this cave was occupied. Funny story about that actually, you see I-"

As the dragon's eyes focused on the small unicorn in front of him, they suddenly widened in what Twilight assumed to be surprise, then quickly narrowed in anger. The dragon's large head pulled back, and there was a loud rush of air, its gigantic chest expanding as it inhaled in preparation. Twilight barely had time to react before a wave of fire raced towards her. Directing her magic to the stone floor of the cave, a large slab of rock, several feet thick, quickly shot up from the ground in front of her, shielding her at the last second from being burned to ashes.

Okay, so he did recognize me, and apparently wild dragons hold grudges.

The dragon, seeing that his flames had not hit their target, started to shift to the left in an attempt to burn her from the side. Twilight quickly extended her stone barrier until she was in the center of a tight semicircle, her back to the cave wall. The dragon continued to spray wave after wave of fire at her, undeterred. Though the walls of rock kept the flames at bay, she still felt the hairs of her coat and mane starting to curl from the heat. It may have been holding up for now, but dragon fire burned much hotter than any ordinary flame. Even now, it was only a secondary shield spell and some redirection of air currents that kept convection from roasting her. Given how much fire the dragon could let loose before pausing for another breath, it was only a matter of time before even something as insulated as several feet of solid rock became hot enough to bake her in a little crescent shaped oven. She needed to think of something fast.

Chancing a quick glance above her barricade while the dragon paused for another breath, she spotted the hoard in the back of the cave. It was a mountain of shining metals and glittering gems. Rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and of course...diamonds. An idea began to form in her mind. Using the gem finding spell she had learned from Rarity, Twilight focused on tagging as many diamonds as she could before pulling them towards herself. The stream of fire intensified as the dragon became enraged at the apparent theft of his jewels.

With the use of a temporary transmutation spell, she changed the diamond into graphite. It was a spell she had developed with Rarity to help with her dress designing. Jewels, especially diamonds, were difficult to shape and manipulate. By temporarily changing the allotropic structure, thin, intricate designs could be inlaid before they returned to their crystalline state. Taking advantage of this much more malleable form, Twilight laced thick veins of graphite throughout her stone barrier, Building fanned ridges along the strips that protruded out into the air. Connected to these strips, she drew long branching lines that spread across the ground and cavern walls, including one that trailed back to the pile of treasure. Her shaping complete, she let the transmutation expire. Overlapping sheets fused together into a large spider web of thermally conductive diamond that safely transmitted the heat away from her shield, using everything it touched as a giant heat sink.

The dragon continued to blast away at her wall, unaware of what she had done. Though she was no longer in immediate danger of being cooked, she was still far from safe as long as she stayed here. Eventually, even the diamond would start combusting at these temperatures, and no matter how stupid that dragon might be, any minute it could decide to switch tactics and just walk over and crush her. Manticores and timber wolves were one thing, but single hoofedly fighting an adult dragon was crazy, even without considering that their magical resistance would essentially render most direct attacks useless. Sure she could still levitate Spike around with only a modest amount of extra effort, but he was just a baby. A fully grown dragon was something else entirely. She needed to get out of here.

Unfortunately, she was currently pinned against a wall. Reaching the exit would require breaking from her cover and running about thirty meters past a very angry dragon. Despite the distance, this normally wouldn't be a problem. She could easily teleport herself directly outside, then sneak away before the dragon even knew she was gone. Something kept her here however. Her saddlebags sat directly across the cave, right where the dragon was standing. It even looked as if one of the straps was pinned underneath one of his front claws.

Really?! You're gonna die for that? Leave it. You can get more Heart's Desire later.

I definitely do not want to come back into this forest for a second trip. I'm also not leaving that bag behind. It's got my cutie mark on it. What if somepony finds it and learns I was here?

Who is going to go poke around in a dragon's den?!

I don't know. I didn't realize there was a dragon here. There's still a chance somepony could see it. I'm not leaving without that bag.

Well have fun with your gruesome death.

Twilight wracked her brain for a solution, but came up empty. She wouldn't even be in here if she hadn't started that forest fire. If she had managed a little restraint during her little rampage. Restraint....that was it! It was a bold and somewhat crazy plan, but it was all she had at the moment. It would involve some complicated multi-casting, so she needed to focus.

First, she would turn once again to the giant treasure hoard. Generating as strong a magnetic field as she could manage, Twilight pulled together as much steel as she could find. Ornate helmets and armor, cutlery, girders, and other bits of metal came together in a giant ball. Next, she levitated the mass of steel directly into the path of the dragon's breath and held it there until it started to melt. Soon she had a floating sphere of densely packed, molten metal.

Now came the difficult part. Twilight split the large sphere into five smaller spheres of equal size, holding each suspended in a bubble of magic. She then cast a spell to temporarily make the ground on the dragon's side of the cave nearly frictionless. Finally, she telekinetically grabbed at one of the dragon's claws and pulled sideways as hard as she could. The claws were slightly less resistant to magic than the scales that covered the rest of a dragon's body, but her efforts still barely resulted in more than a slight irritation. Fortunately, that was all she needed.

Though unable to physically move the dragon's foot herself, her action caused the towering beast to shift his own weight slightly in response. On the now nearly frictionless surface, this was enough to provoke a cascade of slipping and mad scrabbling as the dragon attempted to find his balance again. Twilight slid her bag away from the flailing dragon to keep it from being stepped on. The flailing soon ended as the dragon fell flat on his back. Twilight lashed out and knocked down a nearby stalactite, dropping it on his head, and leaving the beast temporarily stunned.

Now for the most difficult part of her plan. Using the narrow window provided, Twilight sent a ball of molten steel to the wrist and ankle of each limb, and one to the neck. The balls curved themselves over each spot, forming thick manacles at each point, and sending down deep spikes on each side that met underground. She quickly got to work, cooling the metal as fast as she could. She forced air currents over it, helped somewhat by the occasional flap of the dazed dragon's wings. She threw minor frost spells at all five locations, anything she could possibly think of to rapidly cool and harden the metal. As the dragon recovered from being stunned, the glow faded from the newly tempered steel restraints that bound him to the ground. He thrashed wildly, but with his limbs and neck immobilized, he had difficulty getting any leverage or turning his head to attempt to melt his bindings away.

Twilight quickly darted out from her fortification and ran over to her saddlebags. She had done it! She had incapacitated a dragon! She guessed that he would eventually break free. Probably manage to rip the stone behind him out of the ground after several hours, but by then she would be long gone. Turning to leave, she paused a second as a wild idea struck her. Maybe this little detour didn't have to be fruitless after all. Still high on her unexpected victory, Twilight galloped straight toward the prone dragon, jumped up onto his stomach, and tore off a scale with her teeth. The dragon gave a roar of minor pain and much greater offense as Twilight tucked the large scale into her bag. Hopping down, she gave the dragon a casual parting kick in the side with a back leg before trotting out of the cave.

Her heart continued to thunder loudly in her chest as she left. She didn't have time to stand around and relish her victory. The forest was still on fire, and she needed to leave the area before anypony arrived. Fortunately, now that she knew this cave was the one she had been to before, she knew roughly where she was in the forest, and the quickest direction out. Sticking underneath thick tree cover to avoid possible detection from the air, Twilight slowly made her way toward the edge of the forest. She kept eyes, ears, and nose attentive to her surroundings, in case the murderous forest wanted to try again for a third time.

At least her brushes with death had awarded her a valuable trophy. A scale from a fully grown dragon would be much more powerful, and much more effective than using one from Spike. She might have needed to use more than one scale from her assistant to get the full effect, and would have had to come up with some excuse for it. This new scale would comfort her paranoia, and give her much more leeway in tinkering with the power input of her spell.

She also wouldn't have to wait another week until Spike got back from his trip to Canterlot. He had been asked to appear at the academy to help with a series of lectures one of the faculty was giving on the physiology and behavior of dragons. Twilight had been surprised to find that very little had actually been written about the subject. It was difficult to get close enough to observe, much less interview a dragon in the wild, making Spike an invaluable aide to research. She had been surprised to find that her time with Spike, along with the few encounters she had had with her friends, had made her one of the few leading authorities on the subject, which had resulted in the request for notes by the unicorn professor. Twilight chuckled to herself at the amusing thought. I guess I have even more experience now. He had been ecstatic when she wrote back that Spike would be happy to visit and answer all his questions in person.

Twilight paused as she reached the edge of the forest. It was getting close to noon. Ponies would be out and about town, and she still looked a mess. She could see teams of pegasi in the distance pushing storm clouds towards the forest, responding to the smoke that had finally been noticed. She couldn't just walk out of the forest, covered in blood and dirt, and stroll through town. Glancing around at the landscape, Twilight made a note of local landmarks and began to construct a map of Ponyville in her head. Narrowing in on her location, she focused on the distance and direction to the library and teleported herself to her doorstep. Stepping quickly inside, she dropped her bags and collapsed onto the couch. She was exhausted. The loud rumbling of her stomach filled the room. Exhausted and starving.

Pulling herself to the kitchen, she made herself some lunch. Her stomach placated, she went upstairs to the bathroom to try and get herself cleaned up. After cleaning the sweat and dirt out of her coat, and washing the dried blood out of her mane, she made a more thorough inspection of her injuries. Nothing serious, just some scattered scrapes and bruises. The blow to the head had bled quite a bit, but she had managed to close it without any problem and it would be fine. She made a more detailed pass with healing magic, and covered up what was left with the little cosmetic magic she knew. At least her purple coat made fading the bruises slightly easier. With the newly acquired dragon scale putting her far ahead of schedule, she settled down for a well deserved nap.

***

Late afternoon had just become early evening when Twilight awoke from her nap feeling refreshed. After a quick meal, she glanced back to where she had left her bags by the door. Since it was summer, there were still a couple of hours of daylight left. She was feeling much better now. Maybe she could finish off the day by working on the last ingredient. Ponies would be heading inside for dinner soon, so she could move about unseen with relative ease. She would normally wait until nightfall, but this task would require her to see what she was doing. With a nod of determination, she grabbed her saddlebags and set out the door once again, taking the scenic route around town, and making her way to Froggy Bottom Bog.

She needed acidic venom to reduce the dragon scale to its essence. The safest method she could think of for obtaining it involved catching a certain species of toad that lived in the bog, and extracting the venom they excreted from their skin. It wasn't very concentrated, so she would need to catch a good number of them. The new dragon scale she had acquired was more potent, but also more resistant to break down, meaning she would have to catch a lot of toads. Unless she was lucky, she would probably have to come back again tomorrow to catch more. As she reached her destination, she pulled out her net and waded into the slimy muck.

A few hours later, and Twilight was beginning to become frustrated. She hadn't been able to catch a single one of these blasted toads! It was simply impossible to see anything in this disgusting, muddy slime. The few times when she thought she saw some kind of dark, shadowy shape moving under the water, her net had turned up nothing but twigs and aquatic plant life that she then had to disentangle.

The foul stink of the place was doing nothing to improve her mood. The sun was starting to go down, and she would soon be flailing around in the dark. She was just about to give up and go home for the day when she heard the loud sucking noise of something pushing its way up through the mud. A small wave of displaced water rushed past her legs, and a large shadow passed over the area as something blocked out the sun.

So help me Celestia, that had better not be what I think it is.

Twilight turned around to see a gigantic four headed hydra staring at her, all four heads licking their lips.

OH COME ON!

One of the heads lurched out to snap at her. Unable to move at any speed through the thick muck that gripped at her legs, Twilight teleported a few feet to the side, leaving the head with a mouth full of mud.

DAMMIT!

A second head struck at her and she teleported again.

WHY DOES EVERYTHING WANT TO KILL ME TODAY?!

She used a small barrier to deflect one striking head into the path of another, interrupting the latter's strike as well, before teleporting several meters back. She was stuck doing short range, line of sight jumps, as she didn't have the time to focus on mapping out a proper long range teleportation to safety. In all this mud, she didn't stand a chance of outrunning the monster. She needed to buy herself a few seconds to think. Lashing out at the surface with her telekinesis, she sent a spray of muddy water up into the eyes of all four heads at once, then teleported herself directly underneath the hydra's stomach. She remained hidden from view as the heads shook the mud out of their eyes and searched around to see where their target had gone.

Okay. Hydra. Multiple heads, each capable of individual thought and action. Loss of heads results in rapid regeneration and multiplication. One set of shared internal organs, so damage to the heart or lungs would be effective. Thick and durable hide makes that difficult though. Direct confrontation not advised. Flee.

If she could remain undetected for just a little while longer, she could get her bearings and teleport herself out of here. Twilight began to focus, trying to figure out which direction she was facing in relation to Ponyville. Her horn had just begun to glow when the hydra shifted its weight, bumping its stomach against her horn. A head leaned down to look, and there was brief pause and uncomfortable silence as she stared back into the upside down eyes for a few moments. The head let loose a loud roar, and Twilight discharged her built up magic in a bright flash of sparks, blinding it as she jumped away again.

Well that's off the table now she thought as she continued to frantically dodge attacks. Time for a plan B. Her inventory consisted of a pencil, some specimen jars, a small scraping tool, and a net designed for catching small frogs. The surrounding environment didn't offer much in the way of additional resources. The choking swamp gas that seemed to follow the hydra wherever it went was making it hard to think clearly as well. She wondered how the hydra could stand to breathe through it all the time. Suddenly she had an idea. A creature with that many active brains must need a lot of oxygen. If she could somehow disrupt that oxygen supply, it should quickly pass out. Of course, that would be much easier said than done. She would have to handle all four heads at once. With a shared set of lungs, one head that remained breathing could supply oxygen for the others.

Twilight teleported herself directly onto the hydra's back. She carefully provoked specific heads into striking, harrassing them with sparks, before jumping to a new location. She distracted the others with flashes of light and telekinetic prods. After some controlled maneuvering, she finally had all four heads in a tangled knot. Casting a large bubble shield around the cluster of heads, she used a simple spell she had used many times before in her laboratory. A basic pump spell pulled the oxygen out of the contained area while pumping in the noxious gas to take its place. The heads attempted to thrash about, but with their limited range of motion, she was easily able to keep the shield intact and centered on them. Her theory about the increased oxygen demand of multiple heads was proved correct, as it only took about ten seconds for the hydra to lose consciousness and fall over on its side. Twilight dispelled the shield and released her own breath that she had been holding.

"What next?!" She shouted into the empty air. "Windigos?! An ursa?! Maybe the whole changeling swarm wants another shot at me?! Why not just swing open the gates of Tartarus and form a nice orderly line of horrific monsters that want a piece of me!"

Her throat sore from shouting at nothing, she kicked a hoof into the muddy water. She would have to find a new place to search. This area wasn't safe as long as this hydra still hunted here. Maybe she could finish it off, but then what was she going to do with a giant hydra carcass? Even if she managed to chop it up into little pieces somehow, there would be hydra blood all over the place. There was no way she was going near that stuff. It was one of the most toxic venomous substances known, and could eat through flesh in a matter of seconds.

Twilight facehoofed as she realized the obvious solution. Approaching the unconscious hydra, she levitated a jar and a pencil out of her bag. Using her transmutation spell for the second time that day, she turned the pencil into a diamond edged cutting tool and made a small cut across the monster's side. Moving her jar into place, she carefully collected the trickle of blood and screwed the lid on tight. This was far better than catching a hundred toads. Before, she would have had to soak the dragon scale in venom for days, maybe even a week or more for full effect. Hydra blood was one of the few things that could completely eat through dragon scales in under a minute, and would fully dissolve it like tissue paper.

Tucking away her prize, Twilight headed home as the sun finished dipping below the horizon. Now that she had all three ingredients, her timetable had moved up significantly. With waiting for Spike and the long process of soaking the scales, she hadn't expected to be ready to go for at least three or four weeks. Now, with her new and unexpected acquisition of superior ingredients, she could move forward as early as tomorrow night. Dash would actually be hers. She gave a small shudder of excitement. It was seeming a lot less like some harebrained scheme, and a lot more like reality. Twilight continued home, eagerly anticipating another bath and the warm comfort of her bed.

Author's Note:

So plenty of action this chapter. You have no idea how hard it was not to have her shout "I'm Twilight Sparkle Bitch!" after one of those fights. Story's coming up on the end soon. I may be reading back through the earlier chapters and making small technical edits. Basic grammar, punctuation, a few choice word replacements, etc. You've all swelled my head enough to make me consider submitting this story to EQD. Want to make sure it's freshly polished. It'll be fun reading my early chapters and seeing how much my writing has improved since then. I know some people thought the first chapter needed to be expanded upon a bit as it seemed a bit rushed with exposition, that it needed a bit more buildup before the reveal. The main story was always supposed to be after that reveal, but now that it's been mostly written, let me know if you think the first chapter should be rewritten/expanded.