• Published 4th Dec 2018
  • 8,128 Views, 154 Comments

Love Sickness - XenoPony

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

  • ...

Chapter Nine: Unleash the Dragon

"S–Starlight... You... I... How did in Equestria did you find me?" Twilight blurted, and Starlight shrugged, flicking a strand of her singed mane with a forehoof.

"Oh, you know, I may or may not have put a tracking spell on you years ago and never got the chance to take it off," she admitted, offering a look that kindly asked that the dragoness not set her on fire.

"You what? You've been tracking me all this time?" Twilight exclaimed, wings ruffling.

Oh, because that sounds so innocent. Zecora and your dreams are right, she's trying to replace you! The more blunt part of her mind screamed, before once again her valiant little mental alicorn leaped up. No, I've known her for years, it can't be true!

"What? You and I both know we were different mares back then. Plus, I was going to tell you, but it would be super awkward to have to take it off," Starlight protested.

"Awkward, Starlight you did a detailed scrying spell on me yesterday for Celestia's sake!" Twilight countered, and one little awkward snort from Zecora made both mare and dragoness blush.

"It's not what it sounds like, I swear!" the pair exclaimed in union, forehooves, and claws waving as Zecora took a wary step back.

Starlight was first to shake the awkward idea from her mind, smacking a forehoof to her forehead as she turned back to Twilight. "Look, Twilight, after last night the game is up, everypony knows something's going on and I was the only one who could teleport right to you."

"Yeah, because you put a stalking spell on me," the dragoness snorted, smoke hissing from her nostrils as, within the depths of her thoughts, her dragon self rubbed her imagnary foreclaws together.

That's right, Twilight. She wants to know where you are at all times. Waiting for the moment to strike. It grumbled before the more logical side countered. Well, if that's true then she would have done it years ago!

"What, no, I've never been stalking you, Twilight. Not since that whole time travel thing, anyway," Starlight declared, yet Twilight merely crossed her forelegs and huffed as she folded into her wings.

"Oh, because knowing that makes me feel so much better," she huffed, claws scraping at rock and smoke simmering from her mouth as she resisted the urge to let herself shout again.

Maybe it's just because she really does think you're dangerous. How do you know that fire didn't spread throughout Ponyville? the dragon in her suggested, inner fire swelling at its prompts as the other side of her mind countered. You know that's not true, even if they did hate me, no way would they have let that fire spread.

"Twilight, you should be glad that I did have that spell. Spike spent most of the night flying around looking for you. Rainbow's got all of her old weather team scouring the forest this morning too. I'm supposed to send up a magic beacon as soon as I find you because no pony else can," Starlight started, hardly noticing as Zecora shot an ungrateful look.

"Yeah... W–well did any of you ever consider that I may want it to be that way, hum?" Twilight snapped over one of her wings as she turned away from the lilac mare. "I didn't come into one of the most dangerous places in Equestria for sunshine and rainbows, Starlight."

At the dragoness's words, Starlight frowned. "Twilight, what in Equestria has gotten into you? Last night you wanted to do whatever you could to be there for your friends now you're what... some crazy mare in the forest?"

"Oh, I have no idea what's gotten into me... Wait, no, try the mind of a big, scary dragon!" Twilight growled, her restraint slipping as she shifted to face her former student.

Starlight narrowed her eyes, yet didn't even budge as her gaze locked with Twilight's.

"If I may intrude in this conversation, I would have to agree that the mind of the mare you know has suffered some enervation," Zecora chimed, glancing at Starlight before looking up and addressing Twilight. "Yet, for you to think as if your ability to reason dies, I assure you, it is most unwise."

Seriously, she makes no sense, Twilight. Why is it the only pony I can find with any answers is one that talks in riddles!

"Oh, I'm the one who's unwise? How about you two... I almost set fire to Ponyville and you're here goading me like I'm some lost puppy!" Twilight declared, only to recoil and grit her teeth, wincing.

No, don't let it out Twilight. Keep it together, you're not a dragon! the little alicorn in her head reassured.

"So it has seeped into your mind. Here I thought it would have just been the feeding and sexual instincts," Starlight observed, seeming to think for a moment.

She took one glance at Zecora and the striped mare nodded. "That her mind is fading, yes I fear, and that only means more that she cannot stay out here."

"I'm still sitting right here you know, stop talking like I'm not... I... I" Twilight's words trailed off as her mind soothed her worries.

Your mind's going nowhere, Twilight. These feelings right now, that's the new you. She clutched her head in her foreclaws, talons scraping at scales.

"I'm like this... There's nothing wrong with me, damn it." There was a break in the dragonesses' voice, and from under her old tone, the new, deep draconic voice broke free. Her eyes went wide as she looked between her claws at Starlight. "I don't know what's happening to me!"

"Twilight, it's okay... Just calm down, we can still fix this," her former student assured, slowly taking a step forward and waving a forehoof in a downwards motion. "We can still find a way to reverse it, I promise."

No, you know that's not what she wants. She really does want to replace you, steal the treasure of a life you've been living for herself! That serpent amidst her thoughts growled as more smoke began to bellow from Twilight's nostrils. No... no, she's my friend, she'd never!

"S¬Starlight... don't... get away from me, I can't keep my head on straight anymore," Twilight whimpered, scooting away from the advancing mare. "I'm dangerous!"

No, no, you're not. You're powerful, you're free. You can do whatever you want now, no restraints, no limits, no morals to hold you back. You're a dragon, Twilight, and dragons don't do anything other than dangerous!

Starlight paused as Twilight shuffled right back to the edge of the cave wall, back pressed to the stone and wings coiled around her like a protective cocoon. Who are you trying to protect, Twilight? Yourself, or her. Drop this stupid pony facade and live as the creature you've become!

"Twilight, just look at me, focus on me. I know we have had some rough patches, but I'm here to..."

"Replace me!" Twilight suddenly declared, cutting Starlight off as she lunged at the mare. "You just want to take everything from me, my treasure, my life!"

Starlight didn't even get a chance to call out before the dragoness was on top of her, smoke billowing from between her formidable fangs as fire welled up in her throat. Zecora was the one to call out, yet with one slashing motion of a wing, the zebra was knocked aside. Her vision consumed by red, Twilight reared up and opened her fire filled mouth wide.

Starlight acted on pure survival instinct of her own, eyes closing tight as her horn flashed to life. An orb of cyan light formed around the pinned mare before it began to rppidly expand with a flash, blasting outwards in all directions. Twilight was cast back by the wall of magic, thrown back across the cave before slamming back first into the wall and slumping to the ground at the base. The magic faded, leaving only blackened stone singed by arcane smoke, and all three mares sat sprawled out over the cave.

"Twilight!" Starlight was the first to recover, shooting to her hooves and darting over to the fallen dragoness. "I–I, I'm sorry... I..."

The mare froze as she found Twilight utterly broken. Her scales where bruised and dented, her wings ruffled and slightly torn. Several of her dorsal spines were snapped and her left horn was crooked. Yet for Twilight, what was most crippling of all was not her physical pain. She'd hared ponies say that crying was vomiting for the soul, and right now her soul was filled to the brim. Tears streamed from the dragonesses' eyes, a claw pressed over her muzzle as she wept

Starlight tentatively reached out a forehoof. "T–Twilight... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..."

"Stop it, Starlight!" Twilight declared through her weeping, hoarse voice strained as she shifted her drooped head to look up at the mare. "Stop making excuses for me... I turned myself into a monster, okay. I did something wrong!"

Starlight pulled back her hoof and took a step back. "Twilight, this isn't your fault, you're brilliant at magic, I know you'd never have done this to yourself."

"Explain it then, Starlight! Admit it, I messed up, I let my ego get the best of me and messed with things I didn't fully understand..." Twilight trailed off as her head drooped. "Now I have to pay the universe's price."

"No... Twilight, you..."

"Just go, Starlight." Twilight's tear-filled eyes locked with her former student's. "Both of you, just go. I don't want to hurt anypony, so just leave me here."

Starlight and Zecora exchanged glances as the latter mare, looking a little battered herself, trotted up.

"Twilight, I'm not just leaving you out here," Starlight insisted, yet Twilight fixed her with a dangerous glare.

"Perhaps, for now, this is the best course of action, you and I have both just seen how bad the dragon in her can have a reaction," Zecora suggested reluctantly, placing a hoof on Starlight's shoulder.

Starlight let out a growl, glaring right back at the teary-eyed dragoness cowering in the corner before her. "The Twilight I know would never give up like this!" she declared, stamping a hoof.

If only you were still that mare, hm? Accept it, you're better off now. Twilight's head fell to the floor, muzzle in the damp dust.

"If only I were still mostly that mare, Starlight." She didn't even glance at her former student as the words left her muzzle, not even when Starlight gave an indignant huff.

"I can't believe what I'm hearing... I... I don't know you anymore," she muttered, yet without a response from the dragoness, she swiftly turned, flicking her tail as she added. "Well, unlike you, I've not given up. So when my friend decides to come back and talk to me, I'll be waiting outside."

The sound of her hoofsteps retreating was followed by a small bow from Zecora, who followed after Starlight, leaving Twilight alone in the dark, dank corner of the cave. Water dripped down rhythmicaly around her, and the wind howled between the damp stones. Twilight gave a wet sniff, even her inner fire feeling subdued by sorrow.

Dragons don't do moping. One side of her grumbled, crossing her clawed forelimbs. Yet for once it was shoved aside by the miniature mental image of her former self. Twilight, please... Is this really what you want?

What does it matter what I want anymore, the sooner I realize what I am the sooner I just take whatever I want! The mental dragonesses sneered.

"Just get out of my head, everything," she openly whimpered, a foreclaw pressed flat over her muzzle as she closed her eyes

You can't just run from your thoughts, Twilight. You're a dragoness now, I'm starting to get sick of you not acting like one. The mental argument persisted, before one half of her shot back. No, I'm not! This is some stupid disease.

You can't cure being a dragon! Why would you even want to? Twilight opened one eye and glanced out towards the dull light of dawn beyond the cave. So what if I can't cure myself physically, I can still try to get rid of you!

Her dragons side recoiled, a claw to her imaginary chest as she snorted. You can't get rid of me, you are me!

"No, I'm not!" Twilight shot to her feet, calling out with a burst of fire. "You're nothing but words in my head. I'm still myself and there's no way I'm going to become what you want me to be!"

Such a glorious mare who's abandoned her friends then, aren't you? Her mind spat and she winced, head bowed as she looked down at one claw. It's wrong about me. Prove it's wrong. I know what the real Twilight would do right now. I still am the real Twilight!

The dragonesses' jaw clenched, her brows furrowed as she looked up to the cave mouth. You do this and it will end in fire, you can't hide from that.

Maybe if I try to stop myself alone, but I have my friends, what do you have? she declared inwardly. We'll just see how well that goes.

The dragoness amidst her thoughts hissed, skulking back into the shadows at the back of her mind as Twilight finally swallowed her doubt and took a step towards the edge of the cave.

"Starlight!" she called, wincing slightly as she emerged from the cave and the dawn sun hit her eyes.

Recovering, she could make out in the new light that the sleek, wet ledge of rock was empty save for a few puddles and lingering shrubs. Glancing both left and right she saw only dense trees with no sign of either of her friends anywhere?

"Starlight, Zecora?" she called again, taking a step down the ledge towards the tree line. "I'm, sorry about what I said... You're right about this."

Maybe they really have left you. See, she's not your friend, she doesn't care, neither does Zecora. You almost killed them, so why would they? her draconic mind offered, but she shook her head. No, that doesn't make sense.

"Starlight, look I'm sorry, okay. Please, can we just try and fix this?" she called into the darkness amidst the trees as she stepped down from the ledge. "I promise I won't try and set you on fire again!"

There was nothing from the trees save for the sound of the local wildlife and the rustle of leaves as the canopy swayed in the breeze. Twilight drooped, head hanging low as her wings sagged.

No, that stupid part of you can't be right, she wouldn't leave. She tried to reassure herself, yet after a few long minutes of nothing, she could feel her hope begin to slip. My one chance to try and make things right... No.

A loud shuffling in the bushes caught her attention and she perked up, leathery ears standing tall. Her eyes darted left and right, scouring the mass of leaves and tree trunks before she caught a glimpse of a purple tail sink into the undergrowth.

"Starlight!" she called, reaching out with a claw as the mare vanished, then without thought she jumped up and charged right toward her. "I understand if you don't want to talk to me, but can we just go home?"

As she'd suspected the mare gave no response, instead she seemed to be rather rapidly scurrying away into the forest. The rate at which she was able to get by the trees was astounding as Twilight struggle to claw her way through the branches after her, at least until falling face first into a muddy clearing.

Urg, what is it with my face and mud! she mentally screamed as she pulled herself up from the floor and looked around.

The trees were like fortress walls on all sides, the clearing was small, dipping in its center to form a boggy ditch littered with pale white branches. Twilight took one step and felt her claw sink ankle deep into the mud. Lifting her talons free, she shook off the sickly wet grime and looked ahead to where Starlight was standing with her back to her. The mare's coat looked odd, slightly dulled and wrinkled. Her mane and tail had a swampy tint to them, twigs and vines jutting from her ruffled fur.

Twilight cocked her head, noting that the mare seemed to be standing effortlessly on the thick mud. Wait, she can telekinetically fly but... no magic?

The images her eyes were providing her had both sides of her brain stumped as she asked. "Erm, Starlight... What are we doing here, and where's Zecora?"

She dared take another step, claws sinking deep as the lilac mare twitched. Then something caught her attention.

There was a muffled cry seconds before Starlight's voice called out. "Twilight, that's not me!"

The dragonesses' eyes shot up to the canopy above and fixed on the thick mass of thorn laden vines wrapped around the tree branches like dark snakes. At that moment she almost wished she hadn't looked. In the thicket of wicked tendrils, she saw both Starlight and Zecora pinned to the underside of the trees, legs bound and Starlight's horn entombed in a coil of glowing thorns. Starlight had has just enough time to call out before the vines once again covered her mouth, constricting around the two mares painfully.

Looking back at the doppelganger before her, Twilight swiftly made out the scene. Those pale branches were not branches at all! Bones littering the soggy mire around her, the impersonation of Starlight turned to reveal a pair of hollow back eyes. Then her coat fell away, the chameleonic vines shifting color as the form of a lilac mare slithered away and the thicket uncoiled. The last vestiges of the plant's wicked illusion faded as the fake Starlight opened her mouth and from it erupted a lashing swam of vines, all aimed right at Twilight's face.

The dragoness gasped, the loose ground under her talons rippling as more of the vines snaked their way through the mud to ensnare her. More shot out from the trees, coiling around her neck and wings, serrated thorns digging at dragon scales in an effort to find purchase. Fear once again took over her mind as more of the vines entangled her muzzle, squeezing hard to prevent intake of breath. She instinctively reached for magic with a horn that was no longer there and squashed back that eager fire in her chest.

I'm not a dragon, I'm not a dragon! She declared to herself over and over, forcing back that fear as she grit her teeth and tired to rip a claw from the mud as the other side of her screamed. You're kidding, right!

The vines tugged back with an unnatural strength that would have surely ripped her leg off if she were still a mare. Yet, flexing a claw and taking the long strand of damp vegetation in her grip, Twilight ripped one foreleg free, talons slicing through the offending vines. The broken limbs recoiled with a hiss, yet just as soon as they did so, more exploded from the shadows to take their place.

Her wings, legs, and tail were all swiftly bound, the grip painfully tight as the whole thing tried to drag her kicking and screaming into the thick mud. More vines shot up to wrap around her forehorn, yanking her head down as another coil snaked around the crooked pair at the back of her skull. The vines around her muzzle squeezed hard, fangs grinding under the pressure as she fought to take a breath. More began to knot up around her chest and midsection as they all worked harder to drag her immobilized body into the mire.

Augh, what in Equestria is this thing... If only I had my magic! Twilight internally cursed, glancing up at a very petrified looking Starlight and Zecora becoming even more ensnared in the canopy themselves. Starlight’s got magic and look where that's gotten her. Damn it, Twilight, you have what you need, stop fighting and let it go!

The dragonesses' face scrunched, muzzle wrinkling under the strain as she closed her eyes and gritted her fangs.

I'm not a dragon, I won't fight like one. I won't be a monster! She screamed at herself as she swore she could hear scales cracking. And neither will I let anything happen to my friends!

With a surge of newfound strength Twilight's wings flared, straining against the force of the vines before, with a series of wet pops, the vegetation gave way. The vast plant gave a fit of painful hisses, it's severed limbs retreating back into the undergrowth. Ripping a leg up from the muddy wallow once again, Twilight seized the attacking thorns in her claws and cut them loose before tearing the vines that bound her muzzle free and taking a deep breath.

The vines recoiled as flames started to smolder in the dragonesses' mouth, amethyst fire leaking from between her fangs as she bit down hard and ripped the plant's thorny appendage from her right foreleg too. The thing tasted like swampy water with the consistency of sponge and she spat the grime from her mouth with a jet of flame. Seconds later, and her tail whipped up, vines severed by the spines along her back and snapping apart with wet cracks.

The attacking vines retreated and she fixed her attention on the two mares still suspended above. Kicking up and standing on her hind legs, she was just able to reach the pair. Weight shifting, her hind claws began to sink deeper into the mud, and from the shadows, more of the wicked vines started to creep forward.

"Just hold on, I can get this thing off you," she assured the others, steadying herself before ripping the plant away from Starlight's mouth with one claw and freeing Zecora with a whip of her tail.

The vines recoiled from the pair, leaving them hanging by a few thin strands around their legs and Starlight's horn.

"Starlight, I'm sorry, I should have just listened to you," Twilight admitted, yet before she could apologize further, Starlight called out.

"Feeling sorry later. Look out!" The sensation of vines going taut around her neck was all she felt before she was yanked back.

Falling into the mud with wings and legs outstretched, the vines were swift to capitalize on their opportunity. With a woven coil choking their prey, more of the thorny limbs slithered to ensnare her claws. Half gagging on mud and half gasping for breath, Twilight once again felt herself start to sink into the bog, only this time the vines were not about to let her go.

Looks like you could use a little fire right now! Her mind exclaimed and she bit back the urge to suppress that flame bubbling away inside her and opened her muzzle wide. How dragons do, do that!

The vines gave another hiss, shying away from the heat and scattering like cockroaches back into the shadows. Those that did not retreat fast enough were torn to black ribbons by Twilight's claws as she surged to her feet and slashed out.

"That's right, I'm still not a pony you should mess with!" she called after her attacker, both sides of her mind cheering.

That was until the vines began to pool across the mire, coalescing into a rough black mass, slowly shifting into a lavender form.

"A mimic thicket this is, whatever it touches it can become a part," called Zecora, as the mass forming before Twilight started to look unnervingly familiar. "To kill it for good, you must destroy its heart!"

"Oh, now, Twilight, why would you want to do that?" croaked a very twisted and inequine voice as the pale, dark-eyed alicorn cocked her head. "I'm you, you're me... We're the princess of friendship."

Twilight paused. Seeing herself like that again, even as rotten and decayed as the plant made her look, sent a shiver through her whole body. What she would not give to look like herself again, forget this transformation had happened and get on with her life as everypony else had already.

"You would not really destroy yourself, would you?" the false Twilight asked, and the dragoness shook her head.

"I still am the real Twilight, you're just some monster," she declared, snorting fire. "Now let my friends go."

The false Twilight frowned, features cracking like a dry river bed. "I see how it is. Let's see how you prefer this then!"

The doppelganger's voice began to warp, bubbling and writhing along with her vine crafted body into a shape that almost perfectly mirrored Twilight's new draconic form. Eyes dead, black sockets, the false dragoness grinned.

"Like how you look now?" it asked before, with an alien and unnatural grace, it lunged forward, black vines trailing behind it like the strings of a puppet.

Twilight pressed low to the ground, careful not to sink into the mud too much as the false dragoness came down. With all of her remaining might, she thrust upward, catching the underside of the vine mass with her horns and cutting a deep furrow in the doppelganger's chest. It fell over her, sprawling in the mud as more vines snaked from the trees to repair the damage.

"If I'm honest, I don't like how you look one bit," Twilight retorted, opening her mouth as flames welled up in her throat.

The false dragoness snarled, long, black vines shooting out of one of her eyes sockets to clamp Twilight's muzzle closed and yank her head downward. Her cheeks puffed as a gout of fire caught in her mouth and backfired down her throat, singeing all the way to her stomach. Smoke puffed from her nostrils and she fell back, coughing on her own breath. Before she even knew it, the false dragoness charged, ramming her horns right into Twilight's gut and knocking what was left of her scorched breath out of her.

Oh, now that hurt! winced even the dragon side of her mind as she doubled over in the mud.

"Twilight!" called Starlight, and glancing above she could just about make out the two mares wiggling their way out of the last of the vines.

The dragonesses' doppelganger did not even take notice of the pair as it prowled over Twilight, starting to slowly disintegrate back into its base form. As the scaly illusion began to fall away, Twilight caught a glimpse of something jagged and hard in the cage of its chest. Yet as soon as she was able to register the fact, more of the vines had already begun to coil around her wings and legs.

"Humm, there's never been a dragon stupid enough to wander in here before. You'll keep me fed for months," the dissolving dragoness cackled, voice fading away along with her improvised form.

Twilight wriggled her neck free of the thorny coil and glared right up at the thing's hollowing eyes.

"Yeah, well unlucky for you, I make a really dumb dragoness!" she curled her tail free, surging the tip round and right into the monster's chest.

She felt a kind of sickly wet substance against her scales, mixed with shards of rock and coiled vines. For all of its lack of emotion, the false dragonesses' eyes went wide seconds before Twilight squished the exposed heart within the coil of her tail. She poured all the draconic strength she had left into the force, and with a sickly wet pop, the thing busted like a foul water balloon.

Twilight smiled, the mixed voices in her thoughts soothed as she finished. "Oh, and watch the mud, it's bad for your scales."

"What... No... No...!" The thicket's reverberating voice distorted into nothing but a groan, as it, along with all the vines around the pool, disintegrated into dust to be blown away on the breeze.

There was a pair of wet thuds somewhere in the mire, yet Twilight's head fell to the floor long before she could look up. The monstrous plant's grip around her faded, relieving her of the pressure and leaving her to lay exhausted in the swamp as she heard the sound of rapidly splashing hoofsteps and a shadow finally appeared over her.

"Twilight? Oh Celestia, Twilight, are you okay?" Starlight asked frantically, yet to Twilight the mare appeared as nothing more than a pink blur in her fading vision.

Well done, I'm actually impressed, The draconic side of her muttered as the pony side of her mind simply nodded in agreement with Twilight's next words.

"I'm fine... Totally fine... Just do me one favor, Starlight." The lilac unicorn paused and nodded.

"Anything you need, Twilight."

"Take me back home now, okay?" That was the last thing to leave her mouth before the tendrils of darkness in the edges of her vision won out, and the oblivion of unconscious claimed her mind once again.