• Published 8th Jul 2012
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King of Diamonds - Midnightshadow

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Hoofsteps Through History


♠♣♥King of
Diamonds

The Ambassador's Son - Book 2
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Chapter 2
Hoofsteps Through History
An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Midnight Shadow


The dragon lay sleeping as the pony watched. He was tired from his ordeal and had curled up, nestled in her forehooves. Faint snores could be heard.

"Shimmer my love, is this the right thing to do?" Rainy asked his mate. Thunder rolled in the distance and both looked apprehensively at the sky. The river had burst in and was now wending a new path through the once-dry cave. Two small piles of eggshells lay carefully out of reach of the cold waters; one was small, the other was very small.

Shimmer smiled, flicking her husband with her tail, "What would you have us do, dear? We cannot run, even if I would leave little Sharptooth here to the elements, which I won't. That dragon owns us, just as surely as if we'd pledged our lives to him. And we have his offspring, at least I think this hatchling is his."

"I meant, silly mare, heading back to civilisation with a dragon in tow. Who knows what that creature will get up to! He could end up killing us all!"

Shimmer swatted her husband again, who jumped out of range of her tail, sticking a tongue out. "He won't, don't be silly. Dragons aren't vicious beasts." The unicorn mare eyed the devastation, and added, "Not all of them."

The beating of heavy, bat-like wings drove them to silence. The thump as the black dragon landed not far off spread ripples even in the trickling stream. A snout peered into the hollow, hot breath bathing the trio in sulphuric fumes. "Good evening, ponies. I thank you for your diligence. But one task remains before we may leave: you will place the eggshells into these chests." The dragon didn't even blink as two small chests appeared in the middle of the scooped-out cave with a bright flash of magic.

With a questioning look on her muzzle, Shimmer exerted her magic and collected the two piles, depositing them as asked. Rainy pushed the tops closed with a hoof. There was no visible lock, but they snapped shut with a finality that informed they would not soon open again.

Nodding, the black dragon stepped cleanly over the top of the blasted cave and circled downstream. The chests disappeared from whence they came, and the dragon beckoned to the ponies. "Come. You have fulfilled your part of the bargain, it is time I fulfilled mine."

"What do we call you, Lord? I mean," Rainy hesitated, "we can keep calling you 'sir', but..."

"Onyxious will suffice, and I am no dragon lord. I have no patience for such petty titles. We will travel by land where possible, air when not. It will be many days to the nearest settlement, which will give me time to properly instruct you. Come."

"Instruct us? A-and... my mate is ill. Diamond dog poison. She can't-"

"Hush, Rainy, I'm perfectly well able to-!"

Onyxious rolled his eyes, "And here I was informed that ponies will gladly ask for help."

"From ponies." Shimmer glared at the dragon, who chuckled.

"Point." The dragon breathed in, and then let out his breath in a long slow stream. It passed over the two ponies in a warm breeze that felt warm and comforting. Little Sharptooth twitched, dreaming, and Shimmer nuzzled him before getting to her hooves in a sudden burst of energy.

"Oh, oh my, sir, Onyxious..."

"It is nothing you would not do for me were you able, is that not so?"

Shimmer blushed and looked down, "Sir, you... scare us."

"But you would help?"

Shimmer lifted the sleeping Sharptooth into the air with a flick of her horn, placing him on her back. He didn't wake. "I would give my life for a friend, whatever the species."

The dragon nodded. "That is why we dragons uphold the Pax Equestrus, little one, even against our own kind. Not all dragons are as you see me. Some are wild and dangerous, caring little for thought and instead glorifying action and power."

"Why, what happens to them?"

"They usually grow out of it." Onyxious laughed, wiping his eyes with a claw. When he saw the bemused expressions of the ponies, he laughed even harder. He started walking, great wings folded. The ponies realized that was their cue, and quickly trotted to catch up.

"There are many sorts of dragons, more types than there are ponies, though the analogy is apt. Some dragons are small, smaller than you ponies even. Other dragons are larger, and these often go through a stage of maturation. They must choose, you see, lest the choice be made for them."

"Choose?" Rainy ran to catch up, trotting quickly to stare up at the great black dragon with the baleful red eyes.

"The magic of a dragon is wild and free, and to tame it requires an exercise of will. You ponies call it wild magic, appropriately enough. For some, it comes naturally. Their mind is strong and determined, and the magic becomes their tool. Others are..." the dragon paused momentarily, "weak is the wrong word. Taken by it. They become like beasts, all fury and want. Others master it, and become great and powerful in the ways of magic."

"Our legends tell of a time before Celestia and Luna, there was a... a great part-dragon monster called Discord. His powers are legendary, terrifying and immense." Shimmer's ears flattened against her skull as she spoke, hoping the dragon did not take offense.

Onyxious turned to look at the pony, and nodded. "Indeed. He mastered the wild magics like few before him. An Avatar like Discord is rare."

"An Avatar?"

"Patience, little ponies, I am getting ahead of myself. For the young dragon, a mere few centuries old, the temptation is there to revel in the baser aspects of their draconic heritage. Are we not powerful, bold, majestic and awe-inspiring?"

"Y-yes, sir!"

Onyxious laughed again, "Such self-pride leads to self-delusion. It is easy for the young of the larger broods to fall to the temptation to be one with their animal natures. As I said, they usually grow out of it in a few centuries. If not, then you ponies and griffons needs must be protected from them as best we can."

"S-so Sharptooth..."

"His fate is unknowable at this time." The black dragon strode onwards through the forest, shouldering aside trees and shattering boulders as necessary. The ponies were silent for a good long time, aware they had trod on shaky ground. Finally, Shimmer Star spoke up.

"Where are we going, Onyxious?"

"A small town with an interesting past. Tacksworn, I believe it is called."

♠♣

Spike kicked the rock with a hind foot. It bounced off the dusty ground a few times and then came to rest in the shade of a large building. "Stupid buttbreath ponies and their stupid dumb girlfriends." Spike picked the rock up, it was a local igneous feldspar. He chewed it resentfully and glared at the building. It was the town library.

Poking his head in, Spike immediately noticed that it had a certain look of being Twilighted, though gathering the kind of dust-up the town had been through the previous night, it was unlikely to be down to his lavender unicorn friend.

It was early afternoon, and the library was all but deserted. It had only one occupant, a small diamond dog who was lying prostrate on his stomach, kicking his hind legs in the air and poring over a comic book. At the sounds of the dragon's entrance, the diamond dog hurried to hide the comic under his belly.

"Wotcha got there?" Spike asked nonchalantly.

"Nuffin'," the dog-troll answered, suddenly finding his claws immensely interesting.

Spike peered closer, much to the embarrassment of the troll. He turned his head left and right, and then grinned widely. "Oh, wow! Daring Do! I have to hide mine under my blankie, Twilight thinks they're not 'educational enough'."

"Y-you like Daring Do?" The diamond dog looked up at the small purple dragon hopefully, before peering around the library in a conspiratorial fashion. Slowly, he pulled the comic out and straightened it.

"Yeah! I do. Name's Spike. I'm a dragon."

"Ruff!"

"No, it's pretty cool actually."

"I mean my name's Ruff! I love Daring Do, but... lots of diamond dogs think reading's silly. Especially about ponies."

"Pfft, ignore them. Daring Do's awesome! I'd love to go on an adventures like she does! Just a tip though, don't buy any couches. You can get in a lot of trouble for that."

"Couches?"

Spike nodded sagely, "It'll get you grounded for weeks!"

Ruff gasped, "I had no idea couches were such big deals."

"Tell me about it. It's always 'Spike, clean your room' or 'Spike, wash your claws before lunch' and 'Spike, don't you dare buy another couch'."

Ruff turned back to the beginning of the comic as Spike lay down next to him, "Does that happen often?"

"I hope not. Once was enough."

Kicking their legs in tandem, the two began to read together about the latest adventures of Daring Do.

♠♣♥

Tea; it had an aroma which Chip could only describe as 'comfortingly familiar'. The early afternoon sun was warm through the windows even though it was late in the year. It was part of the benefits of living in the desert. The fire was hot, the den cleaned, and the little cottage in the mountainside was finally in some semblance of peace. A pot of Sharptooth's favourite tea lay cooling on a little metal stand in the middle of the room. The table it would normally have stood upon had been destroyed in the fight the previous night. Most of the rest of the furniture had been returned to its usual locations. It would, however, take time for things to truly get back to normal. Sharptooth had apologetically informed Chip that Twilight Sparkle, the unicorn from Ponyville, had fled the house when she had first teleported them up. She had refused to re-enter until Sharptooth had finished cleaning up the worst of the previous night's struggle. Her nostrils were still flaring at the metallic odour of dried blood, but the aroma of tea and an open window was helping.

Chip had hurried home to check up on Sharptooth, and had found the dragon doing his best to be hospitable to Twilight, with the former being unable to open doors or lift things and the latter being more or less in the way as she tried to both help and see to the dragon's injuries.

Chip had arrived full of questions, but had been set to assisting. Chip now sat on his haunches, sipping at his cup experimentally. He had collected the tea leaves, added the water, and without a second thought had expended the last of his fire to boil the brew. Twilight's muzzle had drained of colour, not quite able to come to terms with a pony-shaped dragon, and he could tell she was bursting with questions too. The first cup had gone to her. The second was gratefully accepted by Sharptooth, and the remains of the final cup was now cooling in front of Chip.

Sharptooth breathed in the vapours and sighed. He twirled the cup in his talons and took a sip. "You know," he called out suddenly, his voice loud in the confines of the room, "you don't have to hover around outside, Tia. Come in. I trust you've not been bothering my son's pets too much?"

Chip splayed his ears back and ducked. Celestia had thankfully been nowhere to be found as he made his way through Tacksworn, but having the monarch was hovering outside the front door made him nervous.

The door creaked open as it glowed slightly, and the regal alicorn walked stiffly in. She sniffed, "I would do no such thing. One does not bother. One teaches and enlightens."

"She has made her decision, your majesty. Tea?"

"Why does everybody assume I adore tea?" Celestia sat on the floor next to Twilight, still scowling. The lavender mare was doing her best not to choke.

"I believe it was one Celestia of Equestria a few hundred years ago who persuaded me to take up the custom. Since then, I have discovered that it is prevalent amongst my own kind. Sit, share a cup. We have much to talk about."

After fetching another cup and pouring it out for the princess, Chip excused himself and fetched more red cushions for their new guest. Returning to the circle, he rolled his eyes when he spied another mare hesitantly peering in the window. "Hairpin?" he called, exasperated. "Come in. What in Equestria are you doing outside?" Chip held the door open, pointing with his hoof at the fireplace and scowling.

Hairpin ducked in and slinked over to the fire. "I don't think Celestia likes me very much," the pony whispered, "she asked me to escort her to your home and gave me a lecture on freedom and responsibility."

"Well," Chip rubbed his head awkwardly with a hoof. "What are you so upset about? Has she been mean to you?"

Hairpin shook her head, "N-no, she's just..."

"You've stared down dragons, you charged into a train that fell off a viaduct and you teased Pig Iron mercilessly. Why would-"

"I do not appreciate being talked about as if I'm not here," Celestia snorted loudly, standing. "What is it you've done to make that poor pegasus so flighty?"

Chip turned to stare at Celestia. "Nothing!"

"Then why-"

"It is because, my dear Celestia, you are doing that thing again where you positively exude annoyance. You're scaring the poor girl."

Celestia sniffed, "I don't seem to be scaring your foal, why would I scare a fully grown-"

"It is because Chip is a dragon, my dear." Sharptooth interjected, raising a claw and placing it lightly upon the princess' withers. "Hairpin Turn there is a fine young specimen of a mare and you are scaring her witless. Please, let us be cordial in my home."

Celestia sat down again, easing herself onto the red cushions. She sighed as she contemplated the designs on the cup and sauer. "You are quite correct. I am just... incensed. I have sought for centuries to have such practices eradicated, and now I find your own son is enslaving his family, collecting pets and amassing an army. You must admit," the monarch chuckled, covering her muzzle with a wing, "at first glance it is rather preposterous."

Sharptooth laughed too, "We do have plenty to sort out, it could have been a major diplomatic incident if not for the actions of my son."

Celestia face-hoofed, "As if it isn't a big enough one as it is thanks to the lad."

Chip cleared his throat and stepped closer, his hooves echoing dully on the exposed rock floor of the living room, "Princess Celestia? Your highness, I-I'm worried..."

"What is it, Chip?" Celestia looked over at the foal, her expression neutral but sliding towards compassion. Whatever it was, something was bothering the child.

"A-all of this, your highness. Do you know what it's about? I mean I know it's about... some map, but to what? If it's not their home realm, I don't understand what it could be."

"Well I have my suspicions, young Lordling. Are you telling me that this business is not ended, not even with the death of the main conspirator?"

Chip furrowed his brow as he sat up straighter, "Swiftwing was after something. He thought he had found it, but when I showed it to him..."

"The map from the school, you mean." stated Sharptooth levelly. Chip nodded. "Remember, Celestia? When I set off to map the world? Ah, the arrogance of youth."

"Oh, my. That map, the one my cartographers are always on about me 'reclaiming' for the honour of Equestria?" The alicorn princess snorted, laughing into her cup.

"Indeed. Do you not teach them who made that map?"

Celestia chuckled, "I tell them it was one of the original teachers in my School for Gifted Unicorns, a son of the famed Shimmer Star. I leave out the part about your unique heredity."

Sharptooth scowled, but the alicorn grinned. "If I should tell them you are not only a dragon, but are therefore still alive, they would work out where it was eventually, and then petition you directly. I can arrange for that, if you would like."

"Touche, princess. The question still stands, though. If the Tacksworn map is not what Swiftwing sought, then what was it? Somebody thought it important enough to kill over... many thought it important enough to kill over."

"The one person who could have told us," Celestia drained her cup, "lies dead. I suggest you let his quest die with him." The cup floated to the ground, making barely the slightest noise as it was placed delicately upon the saucer.

"I only hope it stays dead, your highness, but seeing as whatever they seek is roughly as ancient as I am, then I fear my son is correct. We may yet hear of it again. Swiftwing spoke of power enough to enslave a nation, perhaps the entire realm. Mere rumours seem too insubstantial to cause such a commotion."

Celestia paused, "The last pony to threaten my rule with such speech was my sister, Luna. That was no idle threat, and Equestria paid for our familial dispute rather heavily. I spent a good few centuries stamping out those who would blindly follow the harsh words of my sister spoken in the heat of the moment.

"I am not surprised that some ancient tales - whatever their source - could open old wounds, but I am pleasantly surprised that the Pact was honoured so swiftly and without delay."

Sharptooth grinned at that, "No mere squabble amongst siblings could break the bond of the Draconic Hegemony, dear Tia, nor will time wear it away. Dragons will fight for what they believe in, and you know well the fate of those who would cross us."

Celestia sniffed, "You speak of war and strife so callously."

"It was our way, back then. You ponies have tempered our mettle some since those days, but you do not change a civilisation such as Leviathania overnight."

"Quite. Dealing with dragons has often given me a headache, but not quite so many as recently. Speaking of such, If we can agree on your paying the bill from Donut Joe's, then-"

"Now see here, Celestia. My son is in need of a suitable bed, and that sofa-" Sharptooth waggled a claw, glaring at the alicorn.

"Is not a bed," Celestia retorted, glaring straight back.

"I fail to see why I should be left with a bill, and your student gets a sofa she doesn't need in her already-lushly furnished library. Full of books donated by the state, I hasten to add."

Celestia scowled, "A sofa? We would come to harsh words over a sofa?"

"I am not the one withholding property of the Draconic Hegemony."

"A sofa," Celestia raised an eyebrow, delicately.

"The Comfortable Reclining Seat of the Lord of the Sapphire Reaches, yes."

"Now see here-"

Chip got up, troubled, as Celestia and Sharptooth began to argue in their strangely amiable fashion. He wandered to the kitchen to make an afternoon snack, not entirely sure what was left in the pantry but figuring the motion and task might get his thoughts moving too. Hairpin followed him, eager to get away from the arguing couple.

"Pin?" Chip called as he rummaged around, his ears perking up at her hoofsteps.

"Yes, master?"

Chip snorted, "Just call me Chip."

"Sorry master."

Chip rolled his eyes and backed out of the walk-in pantry with a collection of edibles on a tray. He put them down on the counter and eyed them suspiciously. "Pin, I'm not sure if you can eat any of these." Chip sighed. "I think we might have to go back to town. Things are a lot easier when dad can fly."

"I could fly you, I think, if you don't mind riding on my back again. But that's not what's bothering you, is it?" The mare stretched her neck out, nuzzling Chip's mane out of his eyes.

Chip shook his head, "No, no it isn't. Dad and Celestia think it's all over..."

"Isn't it?" Hairpin asked, one eye-ridge rising.

"I don't know!" Chip paced around the kitchen. Built for a dragon, it was more than spacious enough for the pair of them. "I mean, Swiftwing was after this map... only it wasn't the map he thought it was, but there's something strange about it anyway, and Dad made it years ago, and what if it is to do with that map? What if it's big enough to break this... this 'Pax Equestrus' they're talking about? I mean you worked for Pig Iron, do you have any ideas?"

"Why would he know about this?"

Chip shrugged, "Lots of dragons come through his place, you worked for him-"

"I wasn't working in the bar, I mostly deliver stuff."

"Like what?" Chip lifted his head, muzzle full of rock-shards. He chewed them noisily, oblivious.

"I... don't know. I never asked. Not my place." Hairpin took a bite out of a bowl of something that smelled like dried fruits. Much to her relief, that's what it seemed to be. "Not sure what a dragon could offer a diamond dog though. They usually hate each other."

Chip looked up from devouring a rock-cake, "Huh?" he asked, spraying chips of rock as he spoke.

Hairpin giggled, wiping herself down, "Well, those diamond dogs aren't... slaves. I can tell you that. So, what did Swiftwing offer them?"

"Something... lost? Something that a map could lead the way to? If it's not their home realm, what is it?"

Hairpin shrugged, "Maybe if you could get to their home realm, you could find out?"

"Now that I have a map to! ...If it still exists, which dad says it doesn't. The Way there, I mean. Their realm does, I guess, but we can't get there." Chip stuck his tongue out, his overly complicated reasonings confusing him more than it did Hairpin.

"So you need to get to a place you can't get to, to find out about something you don't know about? That's deep, kid, real deep."

"I thought you were supposed to be on my side?" Chip flicked her with his tail. Hairpin laughed lightly and trotted across the delicately tiled floor.

"I'm sorry, master."

The sudden sound of hooves made them both turn, it was Twilight Sparkle as she trotted into the kitchen. She blushed at the attention. "Er, hi everypony! ...Oh, I mean one, everyone. Sorry, I keep forgetting."

Chip just shrugged, smiling, "Still getting used to it myself."

"So what are you all doing in here?" the unicorn asked brightly.

"Chip's thinking about a trip to a place he can't get to, to find out about something he doesn't know about." Hairpin grinned, dancing out of the way of Chip's tail-swat. "Do you know anything about diamond dogs, Miss Sparkle?"

Twilight tapped her muzzle with a hoof as Chip placed a wooden bowl of mixed grains on the counter in front of her, and filled a cup with water for the mare to drink. "Not much. They like gems, they can burrow through solid rock with incredible ease, and they usually like living underground. They live and work in packs, I think that's why Lord Sapphire managed to convince them to work for him. He must have dealt with the Pack Alphas. With his death, they'll either fall behind Chip, or... well, I'm not sure how dragon-diamond dog interrelations goes but you can't just undo a contract like that. There could theoretically be dominance fights, then again the diamond dog nations live by a relatively stringent hierarchical code-"

Chip's eyes glazed over as Twilight continued to speak. Hairpin interrupted her, "You're saying the diamond dogs will follow Chip, unless somepony replaces him?"

"Can't I just let them go? Or give them to Celestia?"

"Ohhh no, no, don't give them to Celestia. It'll lead to a declaration of war if you do that."

"War?" Chip almost choked on his rock-muffin, and had to be bucked in the side by Hairpin until he recovered.

"Oh yes, as ruler of Equestria, she is forbidden from exercising such ownership and control over any other nation under the Pact. This is true for all signatories to the Pax Equestrus. Haven't you been taught this in school? Never read The Foals Guide to the Collected Histories of Ancient Equestria? No? ...Just me then." Twilight looked eagerly from one muzzle to the other, and then sighed.

"You didn't get out much, did you?" Hairpin asked, giggling. Twilight just blushed.

"Great," Chip grumbled. "I'm stuck with them."

"Well... I guess you can just order them to act as they would without orders, if you can't just set them free, right?" Hairpin paused in chewing her wing. "What?"

"Would that work?" Chip raised an eye-ridge.

Twilight, mid-chew through a modest bowl of grains, almost spat the mouthful back out again. "That's... a remarkably clever idea."

Hairpin returned preening, in more ways than one, "Well, I do pride myself on thinking outside the box."

"Let's get back down to Tacksworn then, see how it works. It'll be one less problem to deal with. I'll ask dad about that map again first though. Celestia thinks I should let it drop."

"Shouldn't you?" Twilight asked. "Trust me, I know all about getting worked up over things that aren't worth it, and you do not want to see her angry."

"Already seen that," Chip said. "She doesn't approve of my choice of pets."

"So I gathered," Twilight replied. She eyed Hairpin, who grinned widely. "How does that work, anyway?"

"Show her your cutie-mark, Pin." Chip pointed with a hoof as the pegasus showed off her butt instead. "It's draconic magic. I told Celestia, and I'll tell you: I tried to set Pin free, but she wouldn't let me. So I own her."

"Fascinating! It's even changed her cutie-mark and everything! Oh I have to find out more about this-"

"Easy, Miss Sparkle. Look but don't touch. You've got to ask my owner first." Hairpin wriggled her backside in just the right way to cause both Chip and Twilight to blush.

"Pin, if you... would you like? I mean..." the draconic stallion cleared his throat, heat rising from his cheeks, "I'm not sure what you need to do, and... uh..." Chip found himself stammering and unable to answer.

"All expenses paid?" Hairpin fluttered her eyelids at Chip, who grimaced.

"I'm not sure what my allowance is..." Chip's heart sank.

"Oh, I'm sure I can put you up for a few days-"

"That's even worse!" Chip moaned, "I mean I'm still completely grounded over Donut Joe's! Not to mention the sofa! You're gonna get me in so much trouble!"

"I think I see why you like this 'pet' deal," Twilight giggled, "when you get in trouble, he pays for it. Don't worry kid, it'll all work out. I mean, Spike's destroyed most of Ponyville more than once. And then there was that time I started a riot over my old Smarty Pants doll... or that time when I accidentally released a hound of Tartarus..."

"You?" Hairpin asked, smiling, as she and Twilight trotted out of the kitchen together, "Starting a riot? I like your style. Tell me more!"

Chip followed gloomily. "I'm doomed! Doomed!"

Sharptooth eyed Chip as the dragon reclined in his easy chair. He stretched his one good wing and idly scratched at the eyepatch. "I have to agree, Celestia, the boy has a point. I don't want to stir up more trouble, but perhaps we should keep an eye out. Your pupil has that excellently stocked library, she can surely research diamond dogs for us. And besides, Miss Hairpin, you are needed. Chip has businesses to attend to in Neighvada."

"I thought he gave them up?" Hairpin answered, peering out from behind Chip.

"Those of the Irontail Estate, yes, but there are additional holdings from his mother's side. If they are to be reallocated to the Irontail Estate, there must be a bill of sale, and in any event they require administration unless or until such a sale is performed. Not to mention half the land holdings held in trust which must similarly be purchased if full title is to be ceded. My son has good intentions, ones I intend to honour if those are his wishes, but they are anything but simple.

"Hairpin, as of now you are a full employee of the Irontail-Leatherback Consortium. You will be required to liaison between Tacksworn, Neighvada and Stalliongrad. I trust you can keep your stop-off's in Ponyville confidential? My son and I would appreciate it, as would Princess Celestia. Wouldn't you, Tia?"

Sharptooth looked pointedly at the alicorn princess, who scowled but nodded.

"Great!" Twilight trotted over to the front door, straining to push it open. "Then it's time to head back down to Tacksworn. I've got to find out what Spike's up to, the poor thing gets lonely without me."

♠♣

Tacksworn was spread out before them, a large collection of huts and muddy walkways. Onyxious furled his wings carefully as they strode into the town square. The large black dragon peered down at Shimmer, who was scrawling notes into a scroll with a fine piece of charcoal. "You made a map with the writing supplies you requested from me?"

"And a journal, sir. Everything about what little Sharptooth needs, everywhere we've been, and everything you told us about dragons. It's fascinating! When Celestia sent us out to collect medicines and new materials, I never thought I'd come back with so much... more. If only Flutter Fire could have seen it."

The dragon rumbled in agreement, "Knowledge is power, little pony, and ignorance is fear. Maybe some greater good will come from our joint hardship."

"Wise words," murmured Rainy Days as he trotted forwards ahead of the dragon and the mare. The town was empty of other ponies, but the stallion could tell it was because they were hiding. "Dragons are our allies, and yet not one of these villagers will present themselves."

"Were you so different?" Onyxious chided gently.

Rainy laughed as his hooves splashed through the mud, "I guess not. If I've learned anything, unlike my wife with her spells and journals, it's that we ponies should be more open to friendship. That's what the pact is about, sir."

"And again, well said. For creatures who live such short lives, you grow wise with a speed which I am envious of." The dragon sat back on his haunches, looking towards the sky. "From here, go North. We are now in Greater Equestria, and you are in relative safety. If you have need of me, use the summoning horns in any village you pass. I will find you."

Onyxious turned to Shimmer Star, looking her in the eyes, "Take care of your new... foal, little pony. When you are ready, bring him before me. For you, it will be a lifetime before he is ready to rejoin his own kind. For him, it will be a brief part of his childhood. Teach him well."

"What was that about?" Rainy watched the huge black dragon disappear into the sky, great wings beating hard.

"For all their anger is fearful to behold, Rainy my dear, dragons love just as hard. Our son... I don't know if Sharptooth was his, but he is now ours. Onyxious loves him, and it hurts to be apart."

"Dragons have a soft spot, hmm?"

Shimmer kissed her husband, "Right under the heart, where it is with everypony."