• Published 4th Dec 2018
  • 7,273 Views, 154 Comments

Love Sickness - XenoPony



Dragons are not hot! Or at least Twilight keeps telling herself.

  • ...
27
 154
 7,273

Chapter Seven: There is no Bright Side!

If one was to believe that the fabled Everfree forest would lose any of its fangs should they become some kind of monster themselves, they'd be mistaken. For one who still retained most of the mind of her former self, the dark trees of the thick and haunted forest were no less daunting.

For a moment on Twilight's long, grueling trek through the mud, she almost wished her curse had turned her into a far bigger and scarier dragoness. At least then she would not have to worry about some of the eyes staring back at her from the gloom while she had no magic to defend herself like she was used to.

Learning how to use these stupid wings would be nice! Learning how to fly was hard enough the first time, why are dragon wings so different? she thought, knowing full well that the lack of feathers and innate pegasus magic were a massive factor. Wonder if I can still walk on clouds like this?

Her head drooped, eyes downcast to the squelching mire at her claws as she placed one before the other along the long, unending pathway through the dense forest. How could she have been so stupid as to think coming out of the castle in her state had been a good idea, Rainbow and Applejack's anniversary or not? She'd failed to consider just how dangerous she was, the fire in her belly was like a furnace, building, and building until it had to break free. In the past hour alone she'd had to snort flames multiple times just to keep it in check.

Now I understand why Spike was spitting the stuff so casually all the time, she recalled, admitting to herself that in the past night, yes she had really seen a dragon sneeze, and way, way too much. Look on the bright side, you still have...

Her mind's reassuring suggestions were lost as she almost collided head first with a mossy cliff. Looking up just in time to see the jagged gray wall advance towards her, she halted her now far greater momentum and wobbled, eventually ending up with her scaly butt in the mud once again. Sniffling and wiping her muzzle with a wingtip, she looked around, seeing the road abruptly end and the cliff stretch on to both the left and right.

And this is just great, isn't it? Where's a damn cave when you need one? she internally grumbled, only for her new draconic ears to perk at the sounds of creatures moving through the thick undergrowth. Of course, you know those caves would have to be empty for you to move in, right, Twilight?

She imagined she must look like the strangest dragoness in Equestrian history as she pressed against the cliff face, cowering at every shadow. With no magic, no friends, even the mightiest draconic additions in the world would have been useless, let alone the weak lizard she'd actually become. Even so, with little trust for her mind's overly eager urge to spew fire at everything that moved, she suppressed her instincts as much as she could. A mindset similar to a timid filly took its place, and knowing full well she had no magic to defend herself, she could not shake the fear.

Get a grip, Twilight, you'll be eaten out here unless you get your head on straight! her more draconic side declared. Yeah, but what if I don't want a head with more than one stupid horn on it! her little imaginary alicorn snapped back valiantly.

Two foreclaws clutching her forehead, Twilight growled, another uncontrollable burst of flames flickering between her fangs as they ground together.

"I... I just don't want this!" she cried, wings flaring as she reactively opened her mouth, and without thought, set fire to a tree at the roadside.

Her eyes went wide and she flinched back as the tree went up like an amethyst pyre, smoldering as the dampness of the forest began to consume it. The purple embers flittered by her on the breeze as she clamped a muddy foreclaw over her muzzle and once again tried to hold back frightened tears. With a dry crunch and a scattering of charred wood, the tree fell into the road at her feet, causing her to jump away with an eep. With her mind in the state it was, however, it hardly took more than an animalistic caw from the forest to send her running again.

The flight response of a terrified pony took over, blocking out her suppressed draconic thoughts as she barreled through the thick undergrowth, smashing aside trees and vines in a trail of destruction. Fresh mud was thrown up over her scales by her racing claws as both twigs and whole branches alike became entangled in her ragged mane. She was like a purple missile carving its way through the undergrowth. She did not stop until finally, her lungs begged for far more air then even her newly large and flared draconic nostrils could draw from the surrounding dampness. Smashing through one last wall of broad green leaves, she skidded to a halt beside a small rocky pool, disturbing a flock of odd, luminously feathered birds as she gasped and panted.

The birds took to the air, scattering like roaches into the canopy as Twilight flopped forward. Her aching muscles burned despite their increased size and her heart pounded along with the gasping of her newly bellow-like lungs. Only when the strain of exhaustion began to fade, and she recovered from her horns first charge through the trees, did some common sense finally find a way to creep to the forefront of her turbulent mind. She lifted her head, twigs, and vines falling across her face as her frazzled mane drooped. Sweat and moisture in the air turned the trail of brisk lavender fur into a mangy mess akin to a purple mop atop her head, neck and back as she finally managed to collect herself somewhat and take in her surroundings.

It's okay, Twilight... Just don't think about fire, your claws, how dangerous they are or... She shook her head vigorously, stomping a foreclaw before inhaling through gritted fangs. Just think... erm, pony thoughts?

Swallowing her fear and suppressing the storm of emotion in her head again, Twilight dug up the logical reasoning she'd used to keep her calm throughout her life and desperately tied to apply it to her dire situation. She was in a small clearing, the trees like walls hemming her in on every side, and in the center, a small pool surrounded by a border of mossy rocks. The dark green canopy loomed over her like storm clouds, blocking out most of Luna's starry night.

Claustrophobia, it seemed, was a thing a large wing creature like a dragon could be subjected to in such situations, Twilight noted as she folded her wings close and really forced herself to think like her old self and not the creature she had become. She took another deep breath and staggered to her feet, claws squelching in the thick mass of mud, tree roots, fallen leaves, and branches under her.

Biting back the last of the wild emotions, she took a step forward, only to come to a complete standstill once again as she caught her full reflection in the water. Dappled moonlight shimmered on the pool where it pierced holes in the canopy, and a pattern of lily pads dotted the surface. Yet as if framing her reflected appearance like some kind of twisted portrait, the floating flora outlined the image perfectly.

The panicked mare that had been looking back at her from her bathroom mirror just this morning was completely gone. In her place a pair of bloodshot, puffy draconic eyes stared back, her face a narrow snout of lavender scales and body a sharp-featured, lean and fearsome predatory form. It also looked like she had at least a whole tree's worth of debris tangled in her mane, and the forest had left its many scratches and scrapes on her wings and scales. She rubbed a claw to her chest, wings closing even tighter around her as she fought to keep the tears back.

"What did I do to myself?" she asked nopony in particular, hoping that somehow her reflection would be the one to answer.

When it failed to do anything more than stare at her, mocking her with its twisted appearance, she gritted her fangs and swiped a claw across the water, scattering the image into oblivion.

"Some use you are anyway, you're the one who got me into this mess!" she accused, only for the defiant reflection to reform as the water settled. "Just go away... I... I don't want to look at myself!"

She fell to the floor again, muddy foreclaws cupped over her eyes as she sniffled. In that dreary darkness beneath her claws, she found about as much solace as she could while trapped in the middle of the most dangerous place in Equestria with a completely alien body. That silence lasted for a good few minutes before the crunching of the brush once again caught her attention. Her head shot up, eyes scanning the clearing half expecting to see a fearsome manticore or chimera come charging out to attack her.

Instead, her gaze fixed upon what appeared to be a common deer, exactly like the kind she'd seen many a time at Fluttershy's cottage. Either her mud coated body rendered her invisible to the senses of the timid creature or it simply didn't care she was there as it tentatively stepped out and moved over to the pool to take a drink.

See, you're not even dragon enough for a deer to take you seriously, Twilight, the draconic side of her snapped, spiteful to be under the control of a mind that would not let it go. Stuff it up your tail, I'm not a stupid dragon!

Twilight shifted, air escaping her lungs in a low and involuntary growl as she did so. The deer lifted its head, ears tall. That latter action made the dragoness wince, it had only been a few hours and there was little she would not give to have ears like that again. Moving slowly, she sat up, long tail coiling over her talons as she remained sitting across the water from the animal like some kind of giant, purple hound.

The deer locked eyes with her for a split second then went right back to drinking. See, you must still have some pony in you if it's willing to get this close, her mind offered as she glanced back at her cutie mark.

Yet the other side of her was not so easily suppressed, and one grumble from her stomach was its chance to grab dominance over her mind. Perplexed, Twilight looked down at her belly.

Seriously? I just ate a whole dress of gems a few hours ago! she told herself, the niggling sensation of draconic thoughts eating at her consciousness. Well, you can stuff that too, dragon Twi. There are no gems around here so tough!

The little alicorn in her head wiped her hooves of the matter, confident in her victory. Yet, humiliated by the way it was being shunned, her dragon side was not so swift to be defeated. It slithered out from the caves of her thoughts like a wicked serpent, glaring at the small, imaginary princess.

You know dragons can eat more than just gems, right? Twilight's eyes became far more fixed on the deer, enhancing the image like binoculars as a forked tongue began to lick her scaly lips. You ever tried meat before?

Disgusted with herself, the little mental princess spat out her tongue and gagged. If only the real Twilight could have forced herself to do the same, yet as her gut rumbled again it was hard to deny that she was hungry. True, the princess had never eaten meat, that was the diet of dragons and griffins. Yet her mind's only reasoning was that she really was one of those two creatures now.

Oh, by Celestia, why does it have to turn logic against me too! she groaned internally as she instinctively placed a claw forward and lowered herself like a predatory feline, ready to pounce. Oh, what's Fluttershy going to think… She looks after carnivores, right? I... I can't seriously be doing this can I?

Like a prisoner in her own mind, Twilight could do little to resist her new instincts as she flexed her claws in the mud. They felt so powerful, so sharp. Each of her muscles was like a thick rope and her bones were like a hefty skeleton of diamond. Her wings felt like they could blow away a whole cottage and her teeth were like daggers in her death trap of a mouth. Everything about her new body felt like it was built for strength, longevity, and more than a few headlong dives into a pool of molten rock. Only when it asserted itself over her did she feel that power, and for a split second, she was terrified at how much she liked it.

No, no, that's not you talking, Twilight. Don't let this thing take your mind away from you too! her mental avatar screamed as she tried to rip her draconic instincts away.

The deer once again looked up, an odd, calm 'are you serious' kind of look on its face. Unfortunately for the forest denizen, Twilight's draconic self was very serious about taking her new body out for a spin. With a coil of her hind legs and tail, and folding over her wings, she launched herself like a scaly rocket over the pool. Her talons outstretched, fangs flashing and fire smoldering at the edges of her mouth, Twilight flared her wings and dove right for her chosen prey.

The deer's eyes moved to follow her decent, and with an experience gained from countless situations just like this, it darted back, kicking up dirt as it elegantly pranced off into the trees. Spying a moment of weakness as her draconic mind recalibrated its intention to land and pursue the prey, Twilight took the chance to rip the controls back from herself and reasserted her equine thoughts. That resulted in a cry of panic from the mare turned dragoness as she found herself floundering in midair, wings, and legs wobbling in a futile effort to find solid ground. Unfortunately, there was a splash, a crack, and a thud, followed by a torrent of water as she slammed into the rock bank on the opposite side of the pool and her body came slumping down into the water behind her.

Water filled her mouth and once again her head was up in a flash, smoke, and liquid spitting from her muzzle as she coughed and spluttered before gasping. Her sloppy, wet mane fell over her face, twigs still scraping at her scales as she let out one exasperated huff.

Well, at least there's a bright side now. You didn't rip apart a defenseless deer, right? her mind offered, even as the bitter dragon side of her mumbled about how 'defenseless' the thing really was. I bet a real dragon wouldn't have had an issue with that!

"Shame I'm not a real dragon then!" Twilight snapped at herself, before looking around awkwardly.

All this talking to yourself, you're cracking up more than I thought, that other side of her sneered as she heaved her soaked body out of the water and trudged onto the bank. I'm not the one cracking up, you're the one who invaded my mind!

She shook her head, once again planting her butt down on the edge of the pool and looking herself over. As far as she could tell, slamming into a rock horns first did almost no damage to her now, at least compared to the almost certain concussion it would have caused if she were still a pony.

Celestia knows you're already brain damaged. Twilight ground her sharp teeth, fire flickering at the edges of her muzzle as she sank low and let out a growl.

She really wished she could rip the new, irritating and outright dangerous side of her mind out. Yet she only found herself clenching a claw in frustration as its hold over her grew. She was not about to lose herself to the transformation completely, Celestia as her witness, she'd fight to keep her mind.

If only I had my friends to help me this time... like the good old days, she thought, flicking a rock aside with a claw as she drooped. My magic alone would be nice, thanks! Argh, this can't get any worse.

Just like that, the universe was happy to oblige. She felt a drop on the end of her muzzle, then another on each of her ears until her whole face was bombarded by raindrops. The almighty boom of thunder that echoed seconds later caused her to leap to her claws like a terrified filly.

Okay, are you sure this is not still a really long and elaborate nightmare? She'd considered pinching herself to wake up, that was if her claws could cut her diamond hard scales.

One thing was for sure, if it was a dream a certain night princess had better learn to watch her back. Yet thinking about Luna only made Twilight wish more than ever that it all somehow was still a dream. If not, then at least think about what the dark alicorn had offered last night.

Twilight's head sank back, wings folding around her like a blanket as the rain started to pour. Oh, I should have just let her help me.

********

"Hello!" Twilight's deep voice echoed back to her ears from the depths of the cave, forcing her to wince as she recoiled from the alien sound. "Oh, I can't really sound like that."

She clutched her throat with a claw, gently squeezing. The thick muscles that pushed back were just another reminder that her equinity had been completely stolen away as she sighed. Her head drooped again as she grumbled, tail curling up against her rear claws and wings ruffling like a leather umbrella to shake off the raindrops. She hadn't thought a dragon could shiver, yet the amount of trembling her body was doing after hours spent out in the cold rain said otherwise.

Well, at least the thunder is not so bad now, right? her mind reassured, trying not to remind her that the last three times the storm had boomed out she'd bolted more than the deer she'd tried to eat. If you were a real dragon, you'd be wanting to fly through the storm, not hide!

She shook her head with a snort, glancing back at the ledge outside as rain battered down upon the sharp gray rocks. The rocky plateau was just about level with the tree line, allowing a look into the dark, storm marred sky above. She'd glimpsed the spire of rock jutting up through the trees only an hour ago and swiftly made it her destination. Upon finding out that she was still so susceptible to the elements, she'd hoped that the cliffs had at least one cave. It had seemed like the only logical choice she had left. Prior to that, a part of her had considered trying to find her way to the Castle of the Two Sisters. Yet after multiple frightened charges through the forest, and a crawl through some particularly thick vines just outside, she'd become far too disoriented to remember the way.

Just keep looking on the bright side Twilight. You've got a cave now at least, her mind suggested as she looked away from the storm outside and into the dark gloom leading off under the mountain. More like a shabby hole in the ground, this really is not up to dragon standards.

"H–hello!" she called out again, still clutching at her throat in an attempt to gain some semblance of her former voice.

No response came from the darkness other than the ghostly howl of the wind as it blew between the mountain's many cracks and crevices. That alone made her shudder, folding further into her wings as she took a tentative step forward. The cave floor sloped downwards, the dripping of water audible as Twilight's eyes spanned across a field of stalagmites.

Then there was a shuffling in the gloom and the dragoness froze, eyes darting around much to the chagrin of her draconic side. Come on, you're a damn dragoness, not Fluttershy! Stop flinching at every shadow!

Her brow furrowed as she took another step, really hoping that her hypothesis about caves in the wild seldom being empty wasn't true. You don't need logic anymore, Twilight. You are big and scary enough to get what you want!

"Okay, I've been civil and said hello, so if anypony is in here come out now!" she called into the cave, voice echoing back and once again forcing her to wince before squeaking out a final. "Please?"

Her dragon self rolled its slitted eyes, face-clawing in the back of her mind as the cave gave another skittering sound. Twilight then had about all of a second before the darkness came alive and surged right at her. The princess screamed, all aggressive thoughts forgotten. Seemingly out of pure spite, her draconic side left her to fall to the floor, claws, and wings pressed over her head as the largest swarm of bats she'd ever seen escaped into the night above her.

Beaten by bats, you're pathetic, her mind sneered, yet with no friends, no magic, nothing, she had no idea what else to do. You're not the one who's lost everything... erm... stupid dragon Twilight! Like an angel on her opposite shoulder, the little imaginary princess was there to defend her in a flash.

One of Twilight's eyes hinged open, her wings folding back as the thundering of a thousand tiny wings disappeared into the roar of the storm outside. She sat up, looking around to see if the cave had any more surprises for her. A small trickle of stragglers from the bats was all that greeted her gaze as she finally flopped onto her side with a huff.

Who knew turning into a dragoness on an empty stomach and plowing through the forest head first could be so tiring? She glanced over herself, head sliding across the damp cave floor as she flexed each claw in one final attempt to see if this was somehow a dream.

Once again, there was nothing to suggest that was the case. Twilight folded a wing over her body in a small effort to remove the reminder from sight. With nothing but the dreary cave wall to stare at, she felt the weight of her exhaustion pressing down, she sighed. Tendrils of darkness were already seeping into her vision from the oblivion in the corner of her eye and even her new, far stronger muscles were now begging for a reprieve.

So much for the princess of friendship, the hardened dragon part of her mind sneered as she closed her eyes.

Even the little imaginary alicorn that had been so valiant in her defense wilted at that observation, and for a brief moment, there was a sensation of utter defeat as the thought of giving up flashed through the former mare's mind. Her dragon self chuckled, echoing as exhaustion finally claimed her. All she could think as she was dragged into the darkness of unconsciousness was that when she woke up, there may be nothing other than that cruel, instinctive voice left in her mind.