• Published 27th Dec 2014
  • 2,817 Views, 87 Comments

Antaboga. - Reptilicus



Spike struggles to adjust to a new home and a new life.

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Against the child in your face.

If one were to turn south from the center of Ponyville and begin to walk, one would eventually come across a very calm and lazy stream which flowed out to the ocean in the west. A few pink wooden bridges were in place to allow ponies to cross the stream, but few took advantage of them. There were ferries and a train to get ponies where they needed to be for travel, and very few ponies lived south of the river. Fluttershy's cottage sat right on the riverbank, her backyard vegetable garden emptying out into the imposing Everfree Forest. Outside of the occasional brave explorer or nature photographer, most of the townsfolk didn't go into the woods.

There were many superstitious tales about the forest, many of which the locals believed to be true which kept them well away. The smarter ones didn't enter because, beyond the folk tales, the Forest of Everfree was simply a dangerous place for a pony to be. Clouds and storms could not be controlled there, having lives of their own seemingly, striking the trees with harsh lightning. Quicksand was common, and a few unfortunate ponies in the past had met their end around the bogs and marshes. Timberwolves, great canine predators made of dried foliage and long dead trees, prowled the forest in packs, eager to hunt down tasty ponies for a meal. And they weren't alone. Giant serpents, basilisks, cockatrices, manticores, wisps, and giant bees that migrated from Flutter Valley, all lived in the wood, having their own strange little ecosystem. But beyond these beasts, the Everfree also had a strange sort of beauty to it, with it's very alien plants sending spores into the atmosphere and swampy foggy nature. Herbs and fungi grew here that lived nowhere else in all of Equestria, and a pony intelligent enough to stave off the dangers of the wood, could find themselves making a good living as a potionmaker or alchemist.

One such equine was Zecora, a middle aged zebra from a far off land, who had settled in the forest near Ponyville. She loved the little town, and all its pleasures, even if the townsfolk found her striped and gaunt appearance frightening. But fear or not, Zecora was known amongst the ponies as a great healer and shaman, being able to perform strange thaumaturgical magics that not even the unicorns or alicorns of Equestria quite understood. Ponies brave enough to get to know the zebra, quickly learned she was a generous fun-loving soul with a great appreciation for nature and the strange often deadly magic it possessed. But she lived far from the town, experimenting in her home, away from where the fruit of her efforts might cause harm to any visitors. Only a few ponies in the village knew the way directly to her hut, one of whom was the tiny filly Applebloom who was currently leading the way for Spike and two others through dense shrubbery on the outskirts of the woods.

"So why are we goin' to Zecora's again, Spike?" Applebloom inquired, merrily skipping over a cobra that was slithering in the path through the jungle. "Seems like it's usually Twilight who visits her."

"Cause I think, OUCH!" Spike swatted a hungry bat out of his face, only to find a super-sized mosquito replacing it. "Cause I think Zecora might have a potion or spell I could use."

Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo toddled in the back of the group, the latter of whom was glaring at the tiny white unicorn with the sort of hatred one might see with a puppy near a vacuum cleaner. Upon hearing Spike talk about needing a spell, Scootaloo's ears pricked up as she looked at the waddling pale dragon ahead, who was slowly loping along on all fours due to feeling tired.

"Spike... you aren't thinking of asking Zecora to turn you into a pony are you?"

"Wait what? WHAT!?" Sweetie squeaked, tripping over a twig and landing on her small blunt horn.

"What's all this now?" Applebloom turned to look at Spike as well.

"Ugh. Yes I am." Spike groaned, rolling his eyes. "You didn't have to blurt it out, Scootaloo!"

"But why?" Sweetie's pupils dilated as she looked at Spike with a forlorn expression. "I like you as a dragon! And Rarity likes you as a dragon! And I'm sure everyone else does, too!"

"Well I don't." Spike grumbled, turning back to Applebloom. "Please can we just go?"

"I... um... I dunno... " Applebloom looked hesitant. "I like yah as a dragon too, Spike. And plus I mean... I ain't sure how reliable Zecora's spells are. Last time I took one of her potions I was tap-dancin' for hours. I had to walk with a limp for a month. Yah remember that!"

"Yeah and you spoke the language of ponies from Prance for a bit, too. Tap-dancing and xenoglossy fancy talk is a risk I'm willing to take. Lead on, please." Spike came to a stop as the three little ponies slowed to a halt.

For an awkward minute the three fillies exchanged looks of worry as they weighed their options with the crumpled pale ghostly dragon that sat between them.

"Don't do it, Applebloom!" Scootaloo shouted, stepping forward. "This is a mistake! I know it is!"

"Oh and now yer talkin' to me again?" Applebloom frowned. "I thought we weren't friends yer friends no more."

"We aren't friends because you both have big dumb butts for faces!" Scootaloo shot back, with what she believed to be a scathing insult. "But this is a bad idea taking Spike to Zecora! He's sad and not thinking straight!"

"It was a bad idea to take Spike to the old library and you both went there!" Sweetie retorted, sticking her snout in the air the way her sister often did when proving a point.

"How do you know about that?"

"Everypony knows about that you big grump!"

"I didn't take Spike there! He went there on his own and I wanted to help cause I was bored!"

"Y'all wouldn't be bored if ya hadn't dropped me n' Sweetie like sacks of old potatoes." Applebloom shouted.

"I wouldn't have dropped you like vegetable whatevers if you two weren't the biggest traitors in Ponyville! Not even Discord is as big of a traitor as you two!"

"We ain't traitors!"

"Are too!"

"Are not!"

"OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!" Spike bellowed, rising up onto his hind legs, a cloud of smoke erupting from his nostrils as he pulled on his finny ears in frustration.

The three fillies cowered as the smoke dissipated. Spike may have been tiny and harmless, but he could look pretty intimidating when he was upset.

"You three bicker more than Rarity and Applejack." Spike huffed and rested his face on one hand, deep in thought. "Look I wasn't there during this incident that broke up your club, and all I know is what Scootaloo and rumors have told me but the way I see it..."

Spike turned to Applebloom and Sweetie Belle.

"You two told on Scootaloo to the teacher. You did the right thing. You should always tell a grown-up if someone is hurt. But at no point in the story I've heard from Scootaloo or anyone else, did she mention either of you trying to help her when she needed you most. Were either of you brave enough to help your friend when she was being bullied? Or fell off the school? Part of being a good friend is defending and protecting your friends when they need you the most. Being Humdrum taught me that."

The two fillies looked down in shame, as Spike turned to the orange pegasus.

"And you.... you told me last night that Fluttershy says that it's bad for a pony to keep their bad feelings inside. And she's right! If you really believe that Scootaloo, then do you really want to hold onto this grudge?" Scootaloo's look of sadness was all the answer he needed. "Do you really want to stay angry at two of your only friends for the rest of your life? Do you think Rainbow likes seeing you like this?"

"No..."

"Alright then." Spike crossed his arms. "So what are you three gonna do about it?"

Despite feeling frustrated and weary at all that had happened this morning so far, Spike couldn't help but smile at what he saw before him. Awkwardly the three little fillies huddled together, and mumbled some apologies. Applebloom gave Scootaloo a hug, while Sweetie gave the pegasus an affectionate nuzzle. On most days Scootaloo would probably have recoiled from such gestures, but today she hugged back, sniffling quietly as her best friends held her tightly. Eventually the fledgeling pegasus ran out of tears to shed and the three children slowly separated, looking at Spike who was giving them an approving impatient nod.

"Good. Does this mean the Cutie Mark Crusaders are back together?" Spike asked, warily.

"I guess it does." Scootaloo mumbled sheepishly, wiping her cheek with a foreleg.

"O'course it does." Applebloom said with an affirmative whinny and another hug for her pegasus pal. "We just ain't the Crusaders without you, Scootaloo. We're more like the uh... twosaders."

"That's less than three." Sweetie informed everyone. "Also what's a Humdrum, Spike?"

"Spike fixed our friendship in moments." Scootaloo observed, the other two fillies nodding happily in response.

"I told y'all he was wise!" Applebloom seconded. "I bet he's wiser than Gran!"

"See this is why you should stay a dragon!" Sweetie added. "If you get turned into a pony some of your brains might fall out and then you won't be as smart!"

Spike shook his head. "Being smart hasn't gotten me what I wanted. Please just... show me where Zecora lives. Please."

The three fillies glanced at each other as Spike fell to his knees.

"I need this!"

"Well.... " Applebloom began, glancing at Scootaloo who simply nodded. "Alright then, Spike."

"Cutie Mark Crusader pathfinders yay!" Sweetie squealed clapping her tiny hooves together.

Applebloom marched ahead kicking up a small trail of dirt and spores, following the path she knew to get to Zecora's hut. Sweetie followed next, her large green eyes searching the trees in wonder and fright, followed by Scootaloo who looked happier than she'd been since Dash had left, and finally by Spike who was still out of breath from his rant and scuttling on all 4 legs yet again. He looked even paler than before, almost glossy white at this point, and the fillies grew agitated that he looked so sick. But he had asked so politely to continue on this quest, it would feel wrong not to oblige, even with the quiet wheezing. And so the four made their way deeper into the Forest of Everfree.

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Zecora lit a few of the ceremonial candles she kept in her hut, which was really just a hollowed out cypress tree. For Zebras, every day was considered sacred, and every day different candles should be lit, to honor the sky, the sun, the moon, and earth itself. Today was the earth's turn, so all the green and brown pots and urns that sat on the myriad of shelves in her hut needed to be lit. Many Zebras in her homeland of Zebrica had enchanted candles that would simply light themselves on the appropriate days. But Zecora had always felt it cheapened the sacred nature of the celebration. So from candle to candle she went with a thin reed dipped in oil, lighting the wicks and keeping her eyes firmly locked on the cauldron in the middle of her hut. Though it was early, she knew the potion she was making could only brew properly if made before the sun reached its zenith. It was important to douse the fire once the frothing bubbles turned green, lest the brew overcook and the potion be spoiled. A group of oddly shaped decanters sat on a chair, flickering in the glow from the candles, each with a small amount of bark from a buffalo thorn tree resting at the bottom, ready to be filled with the broiling entheogen.

The various poppets and witch's ladders that were tied to the ceiling beams began to sway to the east. This meant friendly company was coming. Zecora loved company, as it distracted her from her work and gave her someone to talk to. She quickly lit the rest of her candles and tossed some wood into her clay oven. Two stomps of a powerful black hoof and the wood was lit. A crude ancient teapot was placed on the grate, and filled with river water on its own at a wave of her hoof. A few cloves, a few leaves from a bergamot fruit tree, and a single tiny leaf of henbane, and she soon had a nice pot of tea steaming. A perfect way to welcome a guest she thought, as she brought out several clay cups and quickly checked her mirror to be sure her usual jewelry was on properly. A glance at the cauldron showed the formation of small green and purple bubbles. Just in time, too. The fire was doused with a click of her tongue, and she sat happily on her favorite chair, ready to answer the door.

Dook. Dook. Dook. Three knocks, and very light ones at that. Most likely a child, possibly lost in the woods. Or perhaps it was her little friend Applebloom, who always seemed happy to learn from the shaman. Zecora's smile brightened as she swung the door open with a wink, seeing not only Applebloom, but her two closest friends and Spike, the little dragon who accompanied Twilight Sparkle most everywhere she went.

"Welcome to my hut, my little ones. I was making sweet tea, would you like some? The day is still early, and I am quite free. For a visit I ask you, please enter my tree." Zecora bowed respectfully as the children entered.

"Thanks, miss Zecora!" Sweetie squeaked, bumping her snout into the cauldron with a loud clang.

"Hey uh... Zecora?" Spike began, looking up at the large striped mare. "I kind of wanted to ask you a favor."

"Is it magic you seek, my wee drake? A potion perhaps, that I can make? Or perhaps tea, for a thirst you must slake? Maybe something to cure your skin most pale, and bring back color to your flesh of scales?"

"No... nothing like that." Spike mumbled, ignoring the fillies who were nodding, hoping to encourage him to say yes to the offer. "It's something more complex. And maybe a bit dangerous."

"Something with danger is what you seek? An odd request for one so meek." Zecora clicked her tongue, causing the window drapes to flow down and dim the room.

"I wanted to know if you knew anything about... forced metamorphosis." Spike asked shyly, drawing circles on the dirty floor with a claw. "Or if you could maybe perform any kind of shape-shifting spells."

Zecora nodded. "Changing my form, is a trick I can do. I learned from skin-walkers when I was but two. The curse of a druid, a rare gift in truth. I enjoyed it much, when I was a youth. It is a long process, and it pains me to perform. I would much rather stay in my zebra form."

"Could you perform it on someone else?"

"And who might I ask would be the one to be changed?" Zecora leaned down, giving Spike a suspicious glance. "It is not every day I hear requests so strange."

"Spike wants to be a pony!" Applebloom shouted, indignantly.

"Is this true, my little Spike? Is a beast of the flame a form you dislike?" Zecora asked, looking worried.

"I just want to feel normal. And have Twilight want me around." Spike mumbled, scratching at his face.

"Has your young master turned you away? Do you no longer have a warm place to stay? I find it most odd, if Twilight let that slip. Considering she is the Princess of Friendship. Does her friendship have limits on what it can do? Are you certain she no longer has need of you?"

Spike nodded glumly, as Zecora looked down in a mixture of pity and horror. She could not believe what she was hearing. Twilight was one of the kindest mares Zecora had met in Ponyville. And one of the most knowledgeable. Had she really asked her scribe to leave? They seemed so close. The zebra thought for a moment, before closing the rest of the blinds, the room becoming only lit by the traditional candles. Spike was young, and such spells were difficult, so she hoped to change his mind with her offer.

"I warn you young Spike, a warning most dear. A spell like this is one most ponies fear. There's no going back, once it's finished it's done. You'll never be a dragon again, my young one. It is Alicorn magic, both sacred and pure, but I am no Alicorn, safety I can't assure. This spell brings much pain, as you'll twist and you'll choke. It comes at great price, which you cannot revoke." Zecora stomped her hoof once, causing a cloud of dust to rise into the air, enveloping her, arcane wind blowing through the hut. "Your mind may be lost, your memories could break, are you certain this path is the one you must take?"

"Y... yeah." Spike mumbled, feeling frightened.

"THINK before answering, do not be so rash! Your soul may be shattered, reborn into ash! The creature known as Spike could cease to exist! Think deep of my warnings that you have dismissed!" Zecora shouted, the smoke swirling around, making the three fillies quake in fear.

She saw uncertainty in the dragon's eyes as he slowly backed away. The uncertainty that came of a child making an important decision that would affect the rest of his long life. And there was so much doubt; she could sense the wheels turning in his head. She smiled as the dust settled. She would not be performing such a spell today. If Spike said no she would offer him tea and send the child on his way. If he said yes, after being so uncertain, she would simply brew a potion that would hopefully bring color back to his scales. Assuming that such a spell, usually reserved for chameleons that found themselves stuck, could even work on a baby dragon. She would mix the concoction with a bit of a special confidence-boosting elixir and give it to him under the lie that it would give him what he wanted, sending him home with it in a bottle. She felt good about her clever plan.

Then Spike tripped backwards over a small groove in one of the planks of wood, landing flat on his back. Zecora glanced around, making a quick note that she would have the ingredients she needed, only to be distracted by Spike letting out a horrified scream. She turned back to see the little dragon lying on his back clutching his face.

"Oh no! Spike!" Scootaloo shouted in dismay.

"What has happened to make Spike wail? When he tripped and fell, did he land on his tail?" Zecora bounded forward to inspect the shouting bundle on the floor.

"I can't see! I CAN'T SEE!" Spike screeched as he rolled around, the other three fillies trying to hold him still as he flailed and squealed in panic.

Zecora felt her heart skip a beat as she saw Spike's crying face. The large green innocent eyes that defined his reptilian visage had gone pure white, the slitted pupils and irises vanishing. What had once been the eyes of a young healthy dragon were now orbs of void, staring out in fear and terror at absolutely nothing at all.