• Published 26th Dec 2016
  • 5,982 Views, 163 Comments

The Secrets We Keep - BlazzingInferno



Spike and Rarity each have their secrets. Sharing them might be the best decision they've ever made.

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Yak Politics

For a moment Spike thought he’d gone to sleep in a rocking chair, at least until the gentle shaking turned into a full-blown earthquake. He groaned and shifted in his sleeping bag, unable to escape whomever or whatever wanted him awake. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was Rarity, if she was waking him up to make his dreams a reality.

“Wake up already, Spike!” Ember muttered.

Spike sighed and buried his head in the pillow. “What do you want?”

He could hear Ember tapping her claws impatiently. “Look, I’m sorry I’m waking you up and everything, but it’s important!”

“What is it?”

“Can you at least look at me?”

Spike threw off the blanket and glared at her. “What?”

Ember’s lips trembled through her smile. “So… um… how did you sleep?”

“Good until a second ago.”

She shut her eyes and turned away. “Sorry. Sorry if you didn’t have fun at the party either. I sure didn’t.”

He crossed his arms. “Why? Not enough real dragons there?”

“Just the opposite.” she threw up her hands. “I hate this job, Spike! I wish you’d never given me that dumb scepter. You’d be a way better dragon lord than me.”

Spike’s jaw dropped. “B-but you wanted to be in charge… you said you wanted to show how being big and strong isn’t what being a dragon is all about… you said you wanted to change things.”

“Well it’s a way bigger job than I thought!” her shout echoed through the room. “I was so confident and excited at the beginning, but there’s so much to do! This palace is ugly and cold, the dragon lands are practically barren… I had some great ideas about fixing the easy stuff, but then I figured I should actually go and meet my subjects and see where they live. I figured that’d make for a better first impression than just summoning everyone…”

Spike looked on while Ember grimaced. “And? What’d you find out?”

“That half the dragons are idiots that only care about hoarding treasure and sleeping on top of it. I’ve only been dragon lord for a month, but I’m so tired… I’m so tired of doing this all by myself… half the time I don’t even know what I should do or say. And now I… ugh…”

“You… um… you didn’t start another war with the yaks, right?”

She sat next to his sleeping bag, her tail lying limp across him. “Worse. Prince Rutherford just woke up and said he had a great time… moron… He’s a dragon covered in fur…”

Spike shook his head, not believing how quickly his own anger could subside. This was the same Ember that said he was nothing, and here he was trying to help her all over again. “I guess that means you did something right, if the yaks are happy.”

“Not me, you. You did it all… you and your pony friend. It's just like how things were when my dad was in charge: I just have to look nice and smile.”

He stood, stretched, and sat next to Ember. “Hey, I know being in charge is tough, but… but you’re the dragon for the job, not me. I know how to help sometimes, but you’re the one who had the great idea to go visit all your subjects, and you kept the yaks happy last night. There’s got to be some dragons out there that think like you do, and even if there isn’t… that’s why you need to be dragon lord. That’s the only way you can make things better.”

Ember sat there, head bowed and unmoving.

“Ember?”

She shuddered, as if she’d been asleep. “You’re wrong. I… I messed things up again already.”

“What happened?”

“Remember when we all met Prince Rutherford?” Ember grunted out words like a yak. “Yaks come to dragon palace, have party, meet royalty!”

Spike nodded. “We did all that stuff already.”

“Nope. I should’ve asked what he meant by meeting royalty… I figured he meant his meeting me.”

“Then what—”

“His dad’s coming here, the yak emperor. Prince Rutherford said he sent word to him way back when we arranged the party. He’ll be here by noon to meet with me and my ‘royal court.’ ”

Spike fell backwards onto his sleeping bag. “Let me guess…”

“Yep, that’s you and Rarity.”

“This is—”

“Completely insane!” Ember reclined next to him. “Do you see why I’m going crazy now? This just doesn’t stop. Even after the yaks go home, it’ll be some other nosy kingdom that’s hard to please and harder to understand, or the other dragons will realize I’m way too small and nice to be in charge. You know why the dragons have been at peace for a thousand years? You know how many little ‘conflicts’ my dad resolved diplomatically?”

She held up her hand and formed a zero with her claws. “Zip. None. We’ve been at peace for so long because he and every dragon lord before him was the biggest, toughest dragon around that nobody wanted to mess with… then I had to go and grab the scepter…”

Spike glanced over at her. “But if it wasn’t you, it’d be me, and I’m way smaller and… if it wasn’t me, it’d be somebody way worse. The dragons need you, Ember, they really do.”

“What about the yak emperor? What if he’s even more of a hothead than the prince?”

“Then… Then I don’t know. But—” he gulped “—I’ll help you out. We made the yaks happy before, maybe we can do it again.”

Ember released a deep breath and sat up. “I don’t know if it’ll work, but… thanks, Spike. You're an amazing friend. I wish… never mind. I know you’ve got a life with the ponies and everything. I guess I’m just lonely with nobody to talk to… nobody to ask if my ideas are any good.”

Spike stood and, after a moment’s hesitation, hugged her. “I’m sure they’re good ideas. You just need some practice.”

She patted his back. “Thanks, Spike. I guess we’ll find out. I’ll… um… I’ll go get the throne room ready. Those yaks and dragons will probably sleep all day if I don’t wake ‘em up.”

He watched her leave the room, including a glance back over her shoulder to smile at him. Only once she’d left did he dare speak. “What’d I do now?”

Rarity sighed. “Fulfilled your special talent, I’m afraid.”

Spike blushed as he looked over. Rarity stood in her tent’s doorway, sleep mask still perched on her forehead. “H-hi, Rarity. Sleep well?”

Her eyelids drooped, and she stifled a yawn with her hoof. “Far from it. Nevertheless, it appears we’re not leaving first thing in the morning as planned.”

“I-I’m sorry, I just couldn’t—”

“Nor did I expect anything less from you, regardless of what I might have told Ember to do with her precious scepter after how she spoke of you last night.”

“She’s just scared, Rarity, just like Twilight was when she became a Princess.”

Rarity nodded. “Indeed. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find some way to get presentable for an emperor. As if dealing with lords and princes wasn’t enough.”

Spike ran toward the tent door. “Can I help?”

The tent’s curtain door slid shut.

“That won’t be necessary.”

“Oh… Well… Want me to bring you some breakfast?”

“No thank you,” she replied in a dry, matter-of-fact voice, “go on without me. I’ll find something on my own.”

Spike frowned and scratched his head. “Oh… I could just wait right—”

“Please, just go on and I’ll meet you later. I need a little time to myself this morning.”

His face fell, and he sagged forward under an invisible weight. He held up a hand, as if to make one last objection, and decided against it. “Okay… I’ll see you in the throne room, I guess.”

---

Once again, the throne room was unrecognizable. In place of the wall-to-wall crowd stood a near-empty room, polished to the point of glistening in the dim light its windows admitted. No surface, not even the floor under Spike’s feet, had been left unscathed. A few dragons, some still yawning after their late night revelry, leaned against the left wall. The contingent of visiting yaks stood at the right, looking every bit as tired as their hosts.

Spike sat on the dais, staring down at his reflection as well as those of his friends. Ember, seated on the throne, looked surprisingly regal with her robe and scepter. Rarity, sitting on the other side of the dais, wasn’t the same pony he’d talked to yesterday. Her hair and makeup were stunning as always, but her beauty just wasn’t complete without a smile. The happy expression she’d worn almost constantly since they’d first left Ponyville was gone. Instead she sat there, staring off into space while her lips formed the slightest of frowns.

Could she just be tired? She said she hadn’t slept well last night. Spike cleared his throat. “Are you okay, Rarity?”

She didn’t even look at him. “I’m fine, Spike. You don’t need to keep asking.”

Spike wasn’t so sure. “Okay… You’ve just been so quiet all morning and—”

“Surely that’s not a crime. Let’s just focus on getting through this royal visit. I have a great many dress orders at home that I need to see to.”

Ember tapped her scepter against the throne. “When’s this emperor showing up? What do we do when he does?”

Prince Rutherford shambled out of his spot amongst the yaks. Somehow he still managed to shout despite his voice being hoarse. “Emperor arrive very soon. All must bow in his presence!”

Ember nodded. “Right, right. We’ll all bow, but what else is going to—”

The doors creaked open. Spike jumped to his feet as Rarity did the same. “I guess it’ll be a surprise.”

Sunlight flooded the throne room, casting long, horned shadows. Two lines of Yaks clad in golden robes marched in at a trot with a wooden litter suspended between them. The shadow of an enormous pair of horns, easily twice the height of any other yak’s, surged across the floor as the emperor entered. The shape of a crown, a head, and finally a body the size of a pony’s followed. The guards shut the doors behind the procession, finally revealing the emperor in all his glory.

“Behold Yak Emperor,” Prince Rutherford shouted, “all bow!”

Spike bowed, stealing a glance at Rarity as he did. Somehow her bad mood had to be his fault. Was she mad that he’d agreed to help Ember? That didn’t sound like the Rarity he knew. Then again, maybe that was the real problem: maybe he’d misjudged her completely. Maybe they weren’t really getting closer like he thought. Maybe this whole time she’d been trying to figure out how to tell him no, how to let him down gently so he’d stop bothering her.

Ember rose from her bow. “Welcome to the dragon lands, your majesty.”

All eyes turned to the emperor, still seated on the litter that now rested on the floor. The emperor’s horns were at least as tall as he was, which only made his short stature, not to mention his tiny jeweled crown, all the more surreal. Golden robes hid most of his small frame, and flowing brown hair did the same to his face. Was he smiling? Was he even awake?

Prince Rutherford ran to his father’s side and leaned his ear towards him. Unintelligible whispering could be heard as the emperor’s barely-visible jaw worked up and down.

Prince Rutherford looked at Ember next and spoke in his normal shout. “Yak Emperor pleased to meet new dragon lord, will now begin royal meeting.”

The emperor’s guard sprang into action. Wooden slats and poles were pulled from the back of the litter and assembled into a small table just in front of the emperor. Next, two porcelain bowls were set out: one red, and one yellow.

Ember brought her hand to her mouth, quieting a gasp. “Oh no, not this again!”

Spike glanced at her. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“This is exactly what Prince Rutherford was doing when we first met… something about a ceremonial yak dish for inaugurating new rulers. One bite nearly made me cough up a lung!”

Rarity shut her eyes and groaned. “And so began all our troubles with the yaks.”

“Dragon Lord and royal court will now meet with Yak Emperor, talk, eat, make good impression!” Prince Rutherford shouted.

Spike took a deep breath. “Just… talk, Ember. You do that, I’ll eat.”

Ember’s eyebrows shot up. “What?”

“I survived Rainbow’s ‘Sonic Rain-Doom’ chili, I’ll be okay.”

He marched toward the table as Ember flew overhead. Rarity came up beside him and whispered in his ear. “Are you sure this is a good idea, Spike? We don’t know if that food is even edible, considering the trouble it’s caused thus far.”

“What else am I supposed to do, watch Ember fail? We’re going home right after this like you want, Rarity, but I’m not going to just turn my back on a friend… even if you kind of don’t like her.”

“Spike, I never said that. Ember and I might have our disagreements, but—”

“Then how come you’re so mad at me? If it’s not Ember, then… I’m afraid to ask what it is… or what I did.”

“My present mood has nothing to do with Ember, but explaining it is rather… I mean… perhaps when we have a moment to oursel—” her whispers dissolved into a fit of coughing.

As soon as Spike opened his mouth to ask what was wrong, he found out for himself. A breath-stealing aroma dried his throat and watered his eyes. Whatever lurked in those bowls was lethal at ten paces.

Ember landed just in front of them and wheezed out a few words. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, your highness. I’m Ember, this is Spike, and this is Rarity.”

Prince Rutherford once again served as the emperor’s mouthpiece. “Yak Emperor surprised to see pony in dragon court.”

Rarity stifled her coughing and gave a small bow. “I-I’m merely a guest of the gracious Dragon Lord Ember, and might I add that relations between dragons and ponies have never been stronger than under her rule. In fact, my friend Spike lives among the ponies of Equestria.”

“Y-yeah,” Spike replied, “dragons and ponies are really good friends. I-I bet dragons and yaks can be, too.”

Ember nodded. “So… we’re all here, what do we talk about?”

Prince Rutherford gestured to the red bowl, the one closest to Ember. “First dragons must begin ceremonial feast. Great honor to eat with Yak Emperor.”

The emperor himself gave a nod.

Spike stood on his tiptoes and reached into the bowl. His claws closed around something squishy and he gave the yaks a watery-eyed smile. “I’m… uh… the royal food taster. Dragon lords have those.”

Ember nodded emphatically. “Yeah! I wouldn’t want my… uh… my sensitive stomach to interrupt our conversation.”

Spike took a brief look at the morsel he’d grabbed, some sort of shriveled bell pepper, and tossed it in his mouth. It couldn’t possibly be as spicy as the smell suggested. He’d just down a few of these to keep up appearances and let Ember and the Yaks do their thing.

And then he bit down. What felt like molten lava oozed through his mouth, setting every tastebud it touched on fire.

The emperor dipped his snout into his own bowl and came up chewing. Somehow he still looked serene, as if his bowl contained only grass.

Ember and Prince Rutherford kept talking, but Spike couldn’t hear a thing over the fire alarms ringing between his ears. Sweat poured down his forehead as he forced his teeth to grind up the pepper into something small enough to swallow. It wouldn’t be so bad once it left his mouth. His stomach wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a spicy pepper and an ice cream cone, right?

The emperor dipped down for a second helping, and Prince Rutherford shot Spike an expectant look. Spike swallowed his mouthful and grabbed a second pepper. The burning sensation he’d expected to fade traveled down his throat, making his stomach rumble and all-but demanding that he cough and gag. He’d belched up cooler fireballs, and if he dared try to clear his throat now he’d prove it.

He rocked back on his heels. Was the room spinning, or was that just the tears in his eyes? Raising a hand to clear his vision was enough to upset his balance; he teetered on one foot for a moment before a foreleg righted him. Spike looked up and saw Rarity next to him, smiling a strained smile as she helped him stay upright. You can do it, Spikey is what he imagined her saying. Whatever he’d done to make her mad, at least she still liked him enough to keep him from falling over. At least they were still friends. The mere thought of losing her friendship completely burned worse than the yak peppers.

With all the finesse of a falling tree, he leaned against her side as he chewed and swallowed his second pepper, and then his third. How long could they keep talking? What if he ate the whole bowl? Would they just bring out another one? If his stomach didn’t explode, maybe they’d knight him. He’d rather have a glass of milk, or possibly a barrel of it.

Suddenly Rarity’s voice reverberated through him. “And it was a pleasure to meet you as well! Travel safely! I’m sure this is the start of a wonderful friendship.”

Prince Rutherford’s booming voice came next. “Yaks and dragons friends for a thousand moons!”

Cheering filled the hall. Spike smiled; cheering had to be a good sign. He knew Ember could do it. Now he could die in peace.

Rarity started shaking him before he got the chance. “Breathe, Spikey, breathe! The yaks are gone!”

All Spike had to do was open his mouth. Red hot fire poured out of him, as if his body was replaying the last twenty minutes in reverse. The fire stopped as suddenly as it started, leaving him staring at a molten, bubbling spot on the throne room floor and his friends crouched behind the thankfully fireproof robe. “Whoa… I… I—”

His stomach seized up again, this time for a pedestrian belch instead of another torrent of fire or worse. A letter materialized out of the plumes of smoke, and Spike collapsed on the floor.

He felt Rarity’s hoof on his forehead a moment later. “Spikey-Wikey! Speak to me!”

“Never… ever… eating yak food again. Ever.”

Ember peered down at him, eyebrows raised and mouth wide open. “You… You did it! I can’t believe you did that for me. I’m… friends with the yaks now!”

Rarity batted her hoof and smiled. “Friends truly are magical, and you couldn't ask for a better one than Spike.”

Spike smiled weakly. “Thanks Rarity, Ember…”

Rarity’s eyes darted to the side. “Oh, what’s this letter you’ve delivered… It appears to be addressed to Dragon Lord Ember?”

He gasped. “Oh… Yeah, I forgot. It’s from—”

Ember already had the envelope open and the letter unfolded. “Dear Princess Ember, congratulations on becoming the dragon lord. My friend Spike told me about all the wonderful ideas you have for your kingdom, as well as your misgivings about being an effective ruler. It would be my honor and pleasure to meet with you on a regular basis to discuss your concerns and to deepen the friendship between our kingdoms. Your fellow ruler and friend, Princess Celestia.”

She lowered the paper, wide-eyed with fear. “Y-you told the pony sun princess how much I’m screwing everything up?”

Spike shook his head, which brought on a fresh wave of nausea. “No! I said you were doing great, but you were lonely here by yourself and could really use a friend who’s had experience being a ruler. She’s super-nice, and she knows everything.”

Rarity nodded. “Spike is absolutely right. If anyone in the world could explain the intricacies of running a kingdom, it’s Princess Celestia.”

Ember groaned. “Did you put him up to this?”

“Not at all. I had no idea Spike even sent a letter, but I for one can’t think of a better solution: we get to go home, and you get unparalleled leadership advice.”

Ember stared down at Spike, her cheeks reddening. “I really wish you’d stay. There’s so much that I—”

Spike belched again and rubbed his belly. “Sorry, Ember. I know you like having me here and everything, but this just isn’t where I belong.”

She shut her eyes and gave a pained nod. “I-I know. It's just… I’ll miss you.”

Before Spike could protest, Ember pulled him into a hug. “Come and visit, okay?”

Another belch was his reply.