• Published 14th May 2022
  • 433 Views, 61 Comments

Art of the Dragon - Trinary



Smolder is worried about being a role-model so Rainbow Dash gives her an opportunity to be just that.

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Chapter 1

It was Rainbow Dash’s last class before the weekend, one she was emphatically eager to start. It had been a long week for her: teaching at the School of Friendship, a Wonderbolt show in Baltimare, a Friendship Mission in Detrot and saving all of Equestria with her friends from some tragically misguided warlock who just needed a friend or a hug or something—she couldn’t even remember. The point was, she needed a break.

What she didn’t need was to have her gym converted into an assembly yard for half a dozen parade floats in various stages of completion. The worst part was that she had nopony else to blame for this but herself. Okay, herself and Twilight, because naturally Ms. Egghead-Headmare-Princess had another one of her bright ideas. She wanted to demonstrate the success of the school and its students to the other world leaders. In particular, she wanted to highlight the Special Class, as she referred to them: Smolder, Ocellus, Silverstream, Yona, Gallus, and even Sandbar to impress their leaders into agreeing to send more of their subjects to the school next semester. She thought they should let Summer Light, Long Path, Cloudy Spinel, Frosty Quartz and Bella settle in a bit longer before they started asking for more kirins, buffalo, Crystal Ponies or Diamond Dogs—not that they had actually asked for Diamond Dogs in the first place, but whatever.

For her part, Rainbow had been the one to suggest the six should put on a display or performance to represent their homes, like what she and the Cutie Mark Crusaders had done at the Equestria Games. From there it snowballed: Pinkie suggested the displays be on parade floats because she liked things that float (only to be disappointed when they couldn’t make the floats themselves out of actual balloons). Rarity began proposing all sorts of designs and Applejack volunteered her family’s tools and spare lumber to build them. Even Fluttershy was engaged, offering her animal friends to help find flowers and plants to help decorate them. When they brought the idea to Starlight, Sunburst and Trixie, they were all for it. They also quickly stepped in to begin organizing the exhibition itself, preventing Twilight from being tempted into handling the details herself.

As for the students themselves, they eagerly threw themselves into the work. Rainbow figured they welcomed the break from dealing with Cozy Glow and her shenanigans, which she didn’t blame them for one bit. Spike was taking over Cozy-sitting for a while, the poor guy.

It wasn’t long before their projects started to take shape. Looking around, Rainbow could see Yona’s float which looked as crude and ungainly as—well, a yak. It was covered with finely-woven Yakyakistani rugs and dotted with various wooden carvings and furniture. You didn’t need all of Twilight’s degrees to guess what those were for. Another float was loaded with seemingly random, mundane objects which happened to grab the attention of its builder. Rainbow spotted a bowl of plastic fruit, pieces of confetti, a shower curtain, a step stool—she figured it out right as a sink was tossed onto the pile. Silverstream. Of course. She must’ve been trying to wow her fellow hippogriffs with the wonders of the wider world.

Ocellus had gone all-out and created a meticulous model reproduction of the Hive, built to scale. In fact, she made two, presented back-to-back: the current Hive and the way it looked before the reformation. Applejack had mentioned that Ocellus planned to make a little rotating section which would spin the models around, like a before-and-after image. Gallus’ float also had a model of his home, albeit a much rougher-looking one. But where Ocellus had made hers look like how her home used to look, Gallus made his look like how he wanted Griffonstone to be. It was much cleaner, no more dilapidated hovels and was now full of griffons and ponies—and plenty of fake bits made of shiny gold paper. Rainbow guessed this was Gallus’ pitch to other griffons on why they should embrace friendship.

Sandbar’s float was … typical Sandbar, there was no other way to put it. He’d made Hearth’s Warming dolls of himself and his friends and put them in what looked like a foal’s school playset. Rainbow felt both a little flattered and embarrassed that Sandbar had also made dolls of her and the rest of the staff, positioning them in the classrooms as if teaching the other dolls. She quickly sped past when she noticed he was holding two of them in his hooves and was moving them around and talking to himself.

The last float was Smolder’s. It was dominated by a giant paper-mache volcano built around one of Pinkie’s larger confetti cannons that would fire during the presentation. It looked like it was going to be really cool. Except, Rainbow frowned, it only looked to be about half-completed and Smolder was nowhere to be seen.

Rainbow flew around the gym but failed to find any trace of her. Spotting Ocellus, she headed over to her instead. She’d noticed the two tended to stick pretty close, sometimes sneaking off together when they thought nopony was looking. “Hey Ocellus, have you seen Smolder?”

The little changeling looked up and Rainbow could see her wrestling with her response, fidgeting. “Oh, Smolder? Um, she was here but she wasn’t feeling well.” She tried to smile, but it looked brittle. “M-maybe she just ate a ruby that wasn’t properly, um, ripe?”

“A huh.” Rainbow folded her front legs over her chest as she hovered over Ocellus, who swallowed nervously. “Look I get your loyalty to her. Appreciate it, even—seriously, full marks—but I don’t like being lied to.”

Ocellus' face immediately crumpled. “I’m sorry, I didn’t want to! Professor Applejack says honesty is important but I want to help Smolder too and not get her in trouble and you said helping your friends by being loyal is important and—”

“Whoa whoa, whoa.” Rainbow landed and put a hoof on her withers. “Relax and remember to breathe, okay?” She waited for the distraught changeling to collect herself, spreading her wings to afford them some privacy. “Sorry,” she lowered her voice, reminding herself to handle Ocellus like she would Fluttershy. “I’m not gonna ask you to betray a friend’s trust if it’s important, but Smolder is one of my students and you’re both in my class right now. That means she’s my responsibility. If anything happens to her…”

Sighing softly, Ocellus shook her head. “She’s not doing anything dangerous. She just … wanted to be alone for a bit. I can’t tell you why, sorry. But I promise she’s safe!”

It was Rainbow’s turn to sigh, looking at a clock on the wall. “Alright. I’m going to go look for her since class is about to end anyway. I won’t ask you where she is, I’ll find her fast enough on my own.” She stretched her wings. “You can tell the others to pack it in for the day. If you want to keep working, wait for Rarity or Applejack. I think they’re going to swing by in a few minutes.”

Ocellus opened her mouth to say something, but fell silent. “Okay,” she whispered after a moment of indecision. “If—when—you do find her, could you, um...” She rubbed her front legs together.

Rainbow smiled and winked. “Yeah, I’ll tell her it was like trying to get a straight answer out of Pinkie Pie or a simple explanation from Twilight: I got nothing out of you.”

A startled laugh rang out before Ocellus could cover her mouth. Taking that as a win, Rainbow flew out of the gym and over the school grounds, looking for her missing dragon. She thought about checking the dorms, the library or the Crystal Treehouse, but ruled those out. If Smolder wanted to be alone, she wouldn’t go to a place where other students would be. “So where does that leave?” Rainbow muttered as she scanned the grounds.

She was about to move on and widen her search through town when she spotted small ripples from the lake near Twilight’s castle. Somecreature was skimming stones across the water, hidden from an aerial view by a thick growth of tall shrubs. Rainbow landed to get a better view and as soon as she did, spotted a flash of familiar orange scales picking up more rocks to throw. She must’ve planned to be there for a while since sitting beside her was a basket of gems.

Feeling triumphant, Rainbow didn’t bother trying to hide her approach. “Hey Smolder!” The small dragon leaped up and whirled around. Unfortunately, she’d been caught in mid-throw and unconsciously released it just as she turned to face her.

A rounded rock hurtled straight for Rainbow Dash before either of them realized what was happening. It was only thanks to years of flying experience, Wonderbolt training and dealing with Pinkie Pie that Rainbow had the speed and presence of mind to duck before she would’ve been clouted right between the eyes. As it was, she still felt the stone part her mane as it zipped by overhead, landing with a thump in the bushes behind them. “Bad time?”

“P-Professor?!” Smolder blinked. “What are you—geeze, didn’t anycreature ever tell you how bad an idea it is to sneak up on a dragon?!”

“I’ll be sure to add it to my next lesson plan,” Rainbow groused as she stood up and dusted herself off. “If you think you’ll actually show up.”

Smolder winced. “Oh. Yeah.”

“‘Oh yeah’ is right.” Rainbow tapped her hoof. “What’s up with you? Cutting class isn’t like—okay, I take it back—cutting my class? That’s totally like you. But usually you’d be running off with all your friends, not pulling a solo maneuver.”

Smolder just grunted. Rainbow mentally reviewed her Dragon-to-Equestrian dictionary to recall if this was an ‘I agree with you’ grunt, a ‘whatever’ grunt, a ‘shut up and leave me alone’ grunt, or all of the above.

Dragons were very fluent like that.

Smolder rubbed her face tiredly. “So, did Ocellus give me up?”

Rainbow shook her head, frowning. “Okay, first thing? Don’t ask a friend to cover for you like that. It puts them in a tough place of having to choose between being dishonest or being disloyal, and that isn’t fair to them. Secondly, don’t pick somecreature who’s clearly such a terrible liar.” Rainbow rolled her eyes. “But no, she didn’t tell me where you were or why you weren’t in class. She cares a lot about you.” She shuffled her wings. “I also have a bit of an interest in seeing what’s up with one of my favorite students.”

Smolder leaned back. “Really?”

“I see a lot of myself in you,” Rainbow admitted. “You put yourself out there, always trying to prove just how tough you are and you don’t put up with stuff you think is nonsense. You’re pretty awesome and I’d like to think you can always talk to me if something’s bothering you.” She paused just long enough for that to sink in before adding, “You also don’t always think before you speak and usually prefer to solve problems physically even when you really shouldn’t, but hey, stones and cloud houses.”

Smolder, caught off guard, snorted so hard that smoke leaked out of her nostrils. “If you’re trying to butter me up so I’ll nominate you for Teacher of the Month again or talk more—” she sighed. “It’s working.”

“Nah, I’m flying straight with you but I didn’t say I always solve my problems with force.” Rainbow smirked. “I’m pretty used to having to deal with surly, snarling temperamental beasts that would fry me as soon as look at me—namely every time I run into Spitfire before she’s had her morning coffee … and even that only goes so far to help her usual personality.”

Smolder chuckled and sat down. “Thanks. You’re actually a really good teacher.” She paused then clapped a claw to her forehead, grimacing. “Ugh, can I go back and take out that ‘actually’? You weren’t wrong about not thinking enough before I talk…”

“It’s fine.” Rainbow smirked. “I’m pretty sure I won’t remember it when I’m grading your next project.”

“Now I’d like to take back my entire statement,” Smolder grumbled.

Rainbow snickered. “Now that we’ve established how awesome we both are, how about you tell me what’s wrong?” She held up a hoof, preempting Smolder. “And let’s just pretend we already did the ‘nothing’s wrong’ and ‘I can tell there is’ back-and-forth bit. It’s boring and I think we’d both prefer jumping right to the point.”

Smolder fiddled with her claws for a second then sighed. “Yeah, okay.”

Relieved at having made some progress, Rainbow walked over to join her by the lake’s edge. Her hoof bumped into the basket, knocking it over and spilling out a few gems. “My bad, let me get those for you.” She knelt down and started picking them up.

“Waitaminute, don’t—”

The “don’t” registered in Rainbow’s head just a second too late. She had forgotten how possessive dragons came to some other creature touching their stuff, especially when they were already on edge. Rainbow glanced over and saw Smolder lashing her tail and flexing her claws. “That’s MINE!” Smolder snarled as she snatched at the basket handle and yanked it away, ripping it off in the process. The woven basket dropped, with more gems falling to the ground—along with a poofy, pink satin dress with more frills and laces than Rainbow had ever seen in one place, even Rarity’s.

Smolder’s eyes bulged and she reacted with lightning-fast reflexes, snatching the dress before it could be stained and hugged it tightly to her chest. Black smoke streamed from her nostrils and the scales on her face turned bright red. A terrible, uncomfortable silence fell on them. For Rainbow, this couldn’t have been any more awkward if she had walked in on Spike making a collage of all his candid Rarity photos.

Again.

Rainbow’s ears wilted and she felt herself stammering. “Um, sorry, I—I, uh—”

Smolder squared her jaw and pierced Rainbow with a glare that instantly silenced her. Even the surliest training sergeant would’ve envied Smolder’s glower, despite her incandescent blush. “Fine, you saw it, happy?!” She stamped her foot, tail roiling on the ground. “So now you know! Want to know all my other secrets while you’re at it? I like dresses and have secret tea-parties with Ocellus. I love cute, silly pony stuff even though dragons aren’t supposed to!”

“Smolder—” Rainbow Dash bit her lip, painfully aware of how badly she had screwed this up. She had, however accidentally, humiliated Smolder and it felt feathering awful. “I’m—I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

“Whatever.” Smolder stuffed her dress back into the basket and gathered up her gems in a righteous fury. “This is a dragon issue and last time I checked, you’re not a dragon, so just leave me alone!” She punctuated her shout with a puff of smoke. Before Rainbow had even finished coughing and clearing the air, Smolder was gone.

Rainbow darted around the sky, looking for her. The only thing she was quick enough to see was an orange tail snaking into the window of Smolder’s dorm room. The window slammed shut behind it, soon followed by the closing of the curtains. As much as she wanted to follow her and try to make this right, she quickly realized that she had no idea how to really do that. Smolder was right: this was a dragon issue.

Then Rainbow Dash got an idea.

Author's Note:

For those curious about the names of unfamiliar characters or why Cozy Glow is being mentioned, allow me to explain:

RainbowDoubleDash set up a group to write a series of stories centering on the Student Six and the School of Friendship, taking place after the events of the Season 9 finale. Part of the arc for these stories would involve Cozy Glow being released from her stone prison and being remanded to the custody of the School for her rehabilitation. The Student Six are assigned the task of keeping an eye on her and trying to get her to change her ways.

To help flesh things out, it was also decided to come up with some original tertiary characters to provide more depth to the School, specifically students from lands and races we had already encountered in the world of MLP:FiM but never appeared at the School of Friendship for whatever reason. These are Summer Light the kirin, Long Path the buffalo, Cloudy Spinel and Frosty Quartz the crystal ponies, as well as Bella the diamond dog.

This story is my contribution to this project and takes place after a story by RainbowDoubleDash that sets all this up. Since my story, by and large, is a stand alone largely unconnected to the wider arc of the proposed series, I'm going ahead with publishing it (with RainbowDoubleDash's permission) on its own.