• Published 22nd Feb 2015
  • 10,213 Views, 192 Comments

Dying Flame - Kaptein

After sending reports to Celestia, Spike falls into a coma. Fearing it's her own fault, Twilight goes to the Princesses and eventually ends up before an Elder dragon and realises she may have failed as a caretaker, a friend and as an older siste

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Your Best Isn't Good Enough

The arcane energies surrounding them faded, the blinding light subsiding. On opening her eyes, Twilight found herself perched on a ledge, the sun an orange glow in the horizon. The Badlands stretched for miles, no signs of civilisation as far as the eye could see. The actual mountain itself was truly massive, towering several miles over the desolate landscape below.

Twilight took a few steps to the edge and looked over, recoiling back from the edge with sudden vertigo. They were well and truly far from any life or civilisation.

She levitated the basket off from her back, holding it next to her. She turned to the midnight blue alicorn who had teleported with her, a mask of worry on her face. “Princess Luna, what if he says no?”

Luna sighed, hanging her head slightly. “We do not know, Twilight Sparkle. We can only hope he is able to see past our unfortunate past together.”

The two turned towards the actual mountain, a massive spire of rock and snow. The afternoon sun provided enough light to keep them warm, but Twilight speculated that during the night it must have reached below freezing.

Ahead lay a large cave entrance that would have dwarfed Twilight’s old tree-home. The craggy edges sent an ominous shiver up her spine. Jagged rocks extended outwards, giving the impression of a vicious beast, maw open wide and ready to swallow any who trespassed.

“How - how do I greet him?” Twilight asked Luna. “I mean, how do I start?”

Luna’s eyebrows furrowed slightly, her eyes looking into the distance as she thought. “Dragons have great egos that oft require stroking. We suggest that thou attempt a humble approach.”

Twilight swallowed, nodding, before turning towards the cave entrance. Standing in the dizzying maw, she bent down and bowed in submission.

“Please, great dragon, I come before you humbled and awed. I come asking for advice and for help. I have a baby dragon under my care, but he has become ill. His body grows cold and he refuses to wake no matter how much I try to keep him warm.”

Twilight’s plea was answered by a painful silence for a solid minute, before a powerful wave of heat blasted out of the entrance followed by smoke and soot. A deep rumble echoed from within. “I have not heard such flattery since many centuries ago…”

Twilight glanced at Luna who nodded back. She turned back to the cave. “I beseech you, O dragon -,” she began again but the voice from within cut her off.

“Enough!” it roared. “I will not be insulted by your false flattery.”

Twilight cringed, but she was really running out of options. Spike’s life hung in the balance and if she didn’t do anything it would be all her fault. She cleared her throat, trying a more normal approach. “I’m sorry to wake you, good dragon, but...Spike - my adoptive brother - has grown cold,” she said, her throat growing tight with the thought. “I don’t know who to turn to anymore and I don’t want to lose him…”

There was another moment of silence before the ground violently quaked beneath their hooves. Twilight checked and saw Luna had secured Spike with her magic, taking wing to avoid the earthquake.

Looking back at the cavernous entrance, her jaw dropped. A scaly mass of sinew, horns and scales emerged from the den. Fire-bronze eyes blinked open as the dragon’s head twisted, several loud and painful pops and cracks sounding as it cricked its neck. “Ahh...an honest plea. That is something I haven’t heard in far longer…”

The ancient dragon blinked a few times in the sunlight before his eyes finally settled on Twilight. Only his head had emerged, and even then it dwarfed the two alicorns present. Twilight was caught up in her awe of the creature, almost forgetting why she was here in the first place.

“Al’Mal’Gorath.” It was Princess Luna who had broken the silence. The dragon’s head tilted slightly to face the blue alicorn, his eyes narrowing at the sight of her.

“Lunarius,” the dragon greeted. “Our previous meeting was brief.”

Luna nodded, a stiff and cold expression on her face. “You were about to enter your fourth slumber. We could not interrupt it for what would amount to mere pleasantries.”

Twilight was very confused but she held her tongue. It was Luna who had recommended the dragon, despite hinting at their bad past together. Right now she had no other options left.

The dragon snorted a wave of heat at Luna, who made no sign of even noticing her flowing mane being blown back. She still held an icy glare at the beast as he spoke. “I am to assume you are a Nightmare no longer.”

Luna nodded in response. “That is correct, Mal’Gorath. We owe a debt to Twilight Sparkle here for cleansing us of the abomination.”

Mal’Gorath paused for a moment, his eyes giving a calculating glint. “Sarengosa was my life-mate.”

Luna’s head bowed low as her voice grew into a quiet whisper. “We - I know...I am truly sorry, Mal’Gorath,” she said. Twilight felt a lump grow in her throat, even if she didn’t know why. “I know nothing I say will bring her back. All I can ask is that you please hear Twilight Sparkle’s plea and consider her with a fair heart.”

The dragon nodded slightly, the motion wide and sweeping in comparison to the ponies. “You are not to be a part of this conversation. I will hear the plea of this Twilight Sparkle only.”

Luna nodded, using her magic to pick up Spike, moving to the landing perch several yards away. With the source of his apparent ire gone, Mal’Gorath turned to regard Twilight as she stood like a deer in the spotlights.”State your plea, now that I am awake, youngling.”

Twilight took a deep breath. “I am taking care of a baby dragon, Spike,” she began, her voice steady and resolute. “He has become ill recently and he is growing cold. I’ve already tried to use magic to keep him warm and I have even come to the Princesses in search for help. I - I do not want to lose him…” Her voice grew tight as she spoke, tears welling up in her eyes.

“What is he, to you?” Mal’Gorath asked. His head was completely still, no emotion at all.

Twilight blinked away the tears, trying to keep a firm stance. “He is my little brother,” she said, her voice wavering slightly. “Please...I don’t know what’s wrong.”

“How did Spike come into your care, youngling?”

“When I was little I hatched him after a powerful magic-surge. Princess Celestia was impressed with my display enough to take me on as her personal student and giving responsibility of Spike’s care to me.”

The dragon’s eyes widened slightly at her story, busy looking at her with a renewed curiosity. “So you are the young prodigy Celestia speaks so highly of?” he asked. Twilight felt a blush come over her cheeks but only responded with a meek nod. “I knew of Telmerissa’s unhatched egg, but I never knew I’d meet the pony responsible for hatching it.”

Twilight cocked her head in confusion. “I’m sorry, Mal’Gorath?” she began, trying to work her tongue around the dragon’s name. After not receiving a rebuttal, she continued. “I’m not sure I’m following - who is Telmerissa?”

“She is Spike’s mother. Afflicted with a curse by a powerful archmage, her eggs were infertile. The grief had all but destroyed the dragoness, and in her final days she gave her last egg to the Sun Princess.” Mal’Gorath turned his head up, gazing at the sun sitting lazily on the horizon. “It is good to see her line continued.” He turned to look back Twilight. “What events led up to him falling ill?”

“I had been sending various reports to Princess Celestia, using his dragonfire to -,” Twilight began but was cut off by an intense wave of heat bursting from the dragon’s nostrils.

“Dragonfire?” His voice sounded incredulous. He pressed his snout forward, Twilight shivering under the gaze of his narrowing eyes. “The hatchling could wield dragon magic at such a young age?”

“Y - Yes, he could,” Twilight stammered a reply. “Why? What’s so special about that?”

“Very few dragons live to an age where they can learn our magic, youngling,” he snorted, the sudden anger in his voice making Twilight flinch and her ears flatten against her head. “The fact a mere hatchling was gifted with such magic makes him a curious case for me.”

Twilight’s ears perked up as she tilted her head. “What? Curious how?” she asked.

She swore she could see the faint hint of a smile flash across the dragon’s maw, but it was so brief she figured she’d imagined it. “Dragons are naturally resilient to almost all forms of magic. Your test, as the Sun Princess had informed me, was to simply manipulate Spike’s egg.” Mal’Gorath puffed a stream of smoke from his nostrils, engulfing Twilight for a moment. When it cleared his eyes glowed with a burning fury, forcing Twilight to instinctually step back against the withering glare. “You took an egg, cold and infertile, and through sheer power of will had hatched it. Spike is the first and only of his kind.”

Shaking off the growing uneasy feeling, Twilight took a step forward again. “Mal’Gorath...I - I still don’t understand. Spike is dying and none of this is helping me understand why,” said, her voice growing into a desperate sob near the end.

Mal’Gorath didn’t say anything, simply regarding the alicorn in front of him. He shook his head, finally speaking. “In all your years of caring for the hatchling, did you ever think to seek knowledge about his anatomy?”

“...what?” Twilight blurted out. Her eyes went wide.

“Where do you think dragonfire comes from?” he asked.

“Magic?” Twilight immediately felt stupid the moment the word left her mouth. She was about to say something else when Mal’Gorath started speaking.

“Tell me, what do you see, youngling?” Mal’Gorath asked, not giving Twilight any time to stew in her confusion. The dragon’s maw parted wide, thousands upon thousands of teeth lining his jawline. For a brief, terrified moment Twilight clenched her eyes, bracing herself for the teeth to clamp down and ending her life in a bloody mess.

When nothing happened, she hesitated a glance at Mal’Gorath only to see the cavernous depths of his throat. Waves of heat pulsated with each breath, an odd smell of sulfur and burning.

“I don’t see…” she began, squinting her eyes as she peered into the endless maw. “Wait…” Against her better judgement, she took a few steps right to the edge of Mal’Gorath’s jaw, peering into the depths. A faint flicker of light deep inside his throat.

The dragon drew in a deep breath, the flickering light suddenly flaring up into a powerful blaze before he pulled his head back, snapping his jaws shut. “Do you know what I showed you, Twilight Sparkle?”

“It looked like a fire burning inside?” she said, hazarding a guess.

“Dragons are cold-blooded creatures,” Mal’Gorath started, “Our mass and resilience is such that we cannot keep our bodies warm like your common reptile.” A low rumble sounded inside the chamber, before he spat out sizable ruby. Flames licked the edge of it, seemingly eating away at its edges. “Within our chests burns a powerful furnace.”

Twilight took a moment to absorb this new information. A part of her wished she had brought a notepad and quill - this sort of information could secure any scientist’s place in the history books. “A furnace? Do you mean like a heatsource, or…?”

“A living flame burns within each dragon’s chest, Twilight,” he answered. “A powerful chamber with an ever-burning flame lives in the chest of each dragon. So I ask the question again: where do you think dragonfire comes from?”

“From...the furnace inside your chest?” Twilight guessed.

Mal’Gorath took the still-burning ruby with his snake-like tongue and swallowed it again. “And where do you think the fuel for this furnace comes from?”

Twilight almost answered ‘magic’ again but she bit her tongue very quickly, instead shaking her head.

“Gemstones.” His answer was simple and short. Twilight blinked a few times in confusion. “Diamonds, rubies, emeralds and many other precious stones,” he continued. A deep rumbling formed in his throat before a powerful but precise and directed jet of flame spewed forth between pursed lips, scorching the ground in front of Twilight.

“Each jet of flame,” he continued, “draws on the fires of a dragon’s furnace and depletes it so. Many young drakes burn themselves out in their petty competitions and initiation rites, leaving a cold husk behind. Few, if any, make it to their second slumber.”

“But I thought Spike would be fine!” Twilight cried out, realisation slowly creeping up inside her. “He’s never had any problems with his dragonfire before! None of my books or even Princess Celestia ever mentioned anything bad would happen!”

Mal’Gorath stared at Twilight, the ancient dragon’s eyes shimmering with an unknown light. “You utilized Spike’s unique ability as a messenger service?” his voice rumbled, his impossibly large snout inching closer to her. Twilight’s first instinct was to recoil from the colossal creature but she held her position.

“Wh - what?” Twilight stammered. “I mean - yes. I...I did use Spike to deliver messages to Princess Celestia,” she admitted, ears flattening against her head.

The dragon’s head pulled back slightly into his lair as it raised up. His large claws emerged from the cave to scratch at his chin thoughtfully for a few moments.

“Mal’Gorath, can you please save him?” Twilight pleaded. “Can you please save Spike? I don’t want to lose him…”

His position unchanging, Mal’Gorath’s eyes darted down and bore down at Twilight. His jaw opened for a moment, a single word being uttered. “Dodge.”

Twilight didn’t even have a chance to question the statement when the dragon’s fist came plummeting down at a near impossible speed towards her. A thunderous crack and it impacted, a massive crater left behind as the dragon slowly lifted it up to inspect the damage.

A faint pop behind his left ear told him all he needed to know.

“Are you trying to KILL me?” Twilight screamed, busy flying down from her recent teleportation. “What has gotten into your bucking mind?!”

“You can teleport,” Mal’Gorath stated.

“What has that got to do with anything?” Twilight asked, landing next to the fist-shaped crater. A brief image flashed in her mind of what might have happened had she not reacted and cast the teleport in time. She shuddered, picturing the red stain that could have been.

“You are a creature with the untold arcane at your disposal - and are capable of instantaneous teleportation - and yet it never occurred to you that you could simply teleport your pathetic scraps of parchment to their destinations?” The dragon’s voice was cold and rang deep with hatred as his snout pulled dangerously close to Twilight. A plume of soot billowed out from his nostrils, engulfing the young alicorn.

Twilight’s brain halted for a moment. Her special talent was magic, and not once had she thought she could just teleport her friendship reports to Celestia, or do all of the archiving with one mass-transposition spell to send all of the court’s reports. Her ears flattened even further as the chilling realisations drilled deeper and deeper into her chest.

“Do you see it, youngling?” the elder dragon said, the once proud and furious voice now a low rumble. “Your ignorance and pride has damaged the closest thing to you.” The dragon drew his head away, looking beyond the cove of his lair to the lunar princess and the young hatchling near the cliff edge. “And now he will die because of you.”

Twilight couldn’t hold it in anymore. Tears sprung from her eyes as she cried out in desperation. “Is - is there nothing you can do?” she sobbed, falling to her knees as they gave in. “P - please! He’s m - my baby brother! I don’t want to lose him!”

Mal’Gorath turned to face Twilight. His voice was stone cold as he whispered in a low rumble. “And why should I?”

“I’ll do anything!” Twilight begged. She couldn’t come up with any reasonable reason that could ever hope to appease the dragon. “I’ll give you anything!”

The dragon paused for a moment. “Anything…?” he mused. Twilight was able to give a nod through her sobs and cries. “I can save the hatchling’s life.” The alicorn’s eyes went wide, a flicker of hope lighting up inside them.

“Y - you can?” she asked weakly.

“I can make an attempt,” he replied, straining his emphasis on the last word. “But only on one condition, youngling.”

“Name it! I’ll do anything!”

The ground shook and the dragon heaved. The faint jingle of a shower of millions of gems echoed out of the mouth of the cave. Twilight took a few hurried steps back as the full enormous size of the elder dragon emerged.

Twilight couldn’t help but gape in awe. Under different circumstances she would have regarded him as magnificent. The deep red scales continued the length of his body, his leathery underbelly a pale yellow. Various scars adorned his hide, marks of battles fought and won centuries ago. The powerful wings pulled out from behind him, spreading to their full magnificence, blotted out the sun.

She was nothing more than a speck compared Mal’Gorath. Twilight had felt small in the past, truly small, in comparison to the regal might and beauty of others like Princess Celestia. But in the presence of the dragon she felt insignificant.

Al’Mal’Gorath declared his price in a powerful booming voice. “I am to take custody of the hatchling for a full year.” He waited a few seconds before continuing. “You are to leave this place and return in one full year.”

The flow of tears did not stem, but Twilight spoke with a new hope in her voice. “You can save him…?” she almost whispered.

“I can attempt.” The dragon’s words were cold but not filled with malice. “On the condition that he remains with me. Should he survive I will take him on as my student and show him the true worth of his dragon’s blood.”

Princess Luna trotted briskly up next to Twilight. She looked up Mal’Gorath, the look of worry on her face driving a cold lance of fear into Twilight’s chest. “Spike has stopped breathing,” she said, her voice wavering slightly.

Mal’Gorath’s gazed rested on Twilight. The fire-bronze eyes betrayed no emotion. “He has minutes left, Twilight Sparkle. You are left with two choices - to let him fall into that eternal slumber. You can let him die and bury your brother tonight if you so wish.”

Twilight made an odd choking noise, a new wave of tears matting the fur on her cheeks. She tried speaking but only a strangled noise came out.

“Or you can leave him here, where you will bear the burden of never knowing the fate of young Spike. I will keep him, as a student or as a corpse for the next year and you will be forbidden from knowing until I deem fit.”

The purple alicorn glanced at the small figure huddled in the basket. The blankets wrapped around him almost gave the illusion like he was just sleeping.

In a way, Spike really was just asleep. Just one that he may never wake from.

“Th - the last thing I told him before he became comatose was to ‘grow up, Spike’,” Twilight said in an eerily calm voice. Her head hung low in utter shame. “He went to sleep thinking I was -,” her voice hitched as a loud sob shook the mare, “ - thinking I was a horrible big sister. I guess I really am.”

Luna reached out with her wing to try and console Twilight, but Mal’Gorath interrupted her with a powerful snort from his nostrils. “Do not comfort her. She is to bear the blame of her actions.” The mighty wings folded in as the elder dragon leaned forward, bringing his snout closer to the two alicorns. “His time is running out, what is your choice?”

Twilight’s eyes had become red and puffy from the crying. They looked up, the tears having finally dried out. “Please save him,” she begged, her voice croaking. “Y - you...you can take Spike for a year.”

Mal’Gorath recoiled backwards, his wings flaring outwards again. He nodded at Twilight. “Then leave, and only return when I send for you.”

Twilight nodded. “Thank you…” she breathed, no energy left. She dragged her hooves towards the basket the dying Spike lay in. She moved to say goodbye when a giant claw gently clasped it and pulled it away. “What? No! At least let me say goodbye!” Twilight sobbed, wheeling around in time to see the dragon begin to shuffle back into his cavern.

“You will not even be granted that privilege,” Mal’Gorath snarled, baring his fangs. “Your last words while he was awake are all you will get.” A low grumble resonated as his throat began to vibrate. Twilight’s eyes widened as she realised he was preparing a jet of flame inside his furnace. “Now get out of my sight before I incinerate the both of you.”

Twilight flinched as she felt Luna’s wing slip over her back. “Come, Twilight,” she said soothingly. “Let us go before it is too late. Before he changes his mind.”

Twilight stole one last glance back at the dragon before a teleport spell engulfed the two alicorns.

*** ***

Al’Mal’Gorath watched as the arcane swirls began to fade. Where once stood the Lunar Princess and the Arcane Princess were nothing more than a few leftover tendrils of energy from their lingering teleport spell. He snorted at the spot, covering it with leftover soot that didn’t burn away from his last slumber.

He pulled deeper into his cave, allowing the nocturnal abilities of reptilian eyes to take over. Little Spike, the hatchling, was grasped gently between two of has claws.

The hatchling was cold and all but a corpse before him. Sarengosa had died a similar fate - the flames had been ripped from her furnace and there was naught that he could do except watch her die.

But the hatchling…

A deep rumbling began to thunder inside Mal’Gorath’s chest. His hoard, millions upon millions of gems, began to shimmer and glow faintly. Wisps of magic permeated the air as they slowly formed and swirled around the elder dragon.

A year was naught but an inconvenience to a dragon his age - but to a pony it could be as swift or as long as they made it out to be.

He spat out a gem, flames still eating it away. The magic coalesced around the emerald.

A year would be enough for the elder dragon. Bringing the hatchling closer, he began to work.

Author's Note:

This has been a project I've been slowly working on for quite a long time.

I do plan on writing a sequel - I just wanted to gauge the reaction of everyone first. I do hope you enjoyed it! Okay, okay! I got the point: You guys want me to properly finish this, first. I'll work on that right away and I hope I won't take too long getting something worth while for you guys :pinkiehappy:

Many thanks to Cormac McCloppy, ward282, Commander117 and metallusionsismagic for proof-reading and editing the story.

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