The throne... wasn't even a throne really.
Oh, sure, it looked impressive. The four Ancestral Spirits, crafted out of bronze, reared to either side of the Pillar of Power. The Arc of Wisdom, a great circle of granite, served to frame the central monolith. Ember knew that she had to but touch it with the Bloodstone Scepter and the runes of the ancient would come to light, revealing knowledge that only a Dragon Lord would know.
And rolled in front of this wonder were two smoothed squarish stones, and THAT was where she was supposed to sit. It wasn't part of the structure. It didn't even have a name. It was just the place she put her tail while reigning over her people. Not exactly comfortable, if she was entirely honest, but she could stand the discomfort.
No, that wasn't the issue at all. Looking at the throne, or what was supposed to be the throne, made her realize exactly what she had put herself up for. She was to lead this clutch of dragons--this generation, the duty of defining their legacy was up to her. Ember, the Princess of Glaurung's Molten Falls... now the Dragon Lord.
Because Spike gave it up.
She shook her head, banishing the doubt. Doubt wouldn't serve a dragon! Dragons were strong, powerful, they brooked no quarter in combat and defied any who would take their realms! And the Dragon Lord was the paragon of dragons! She had at her beck and call the most wondrous, most terrifying creatures to walk the world...
...and, actually, not much else. Their hoards were large, but few, hidden in regions lesser creatures rarely trod--or, well, should have rarely trod. The ponies that Spike had brought along appeared very comfortable in an environment that could have killed them, only hiding from the dragons. And not even out of terror, just... to avoid causing issues for Spike.
Tartarus, she'd actually hidden herself, using a disguise to keep her identity under wraps. That she had won--
--that Spike had won and allowed her the prize--
Ember's claws gripped the bloodstone scepter tightly. The point was... the point was, the so-called lesser creatures had treated the whole thing like some sort of sports match, cheering their team and not really acknowledging the danger. They had humored the dragons. Humored them, as though the gauntlet of fire was simply a child's game.
The whole thing was a joke to them.
Dragons were only important when the one they had raised got involved.
...and really, who could blame them? Ember wasn't daft--the ponies had control of the sun and moon. When one of their princesses went mad, the whole world suffered. When a spirit of chaos burst from prison, it was the ponies he went after--even ignoring the dragon in their midst! A demon, escaped from Tartarus itself, decided that pony magic was most worthwhile, and was only put down by ponies themselves. The simple fact of the matter was that ponies reigned over the land, dealt with the greatest threats, and left other races to their own devices.
Here she stood, looking at the throne that wasn't a throne, reigning over powerful creatures who owned so little, and lived in a dangerous land that weak races would frolic through casually on one of their adventures. Here, she faced the nature of her race, all that it was and had become... and found it wanting.
Dragons were no longer relevant to anyone who wasn't a dragon. True, their migrations were watched, but not with the fear and awe they had once been monitored with; no, they were no merely events that were worth watching for their color and their mass. There was a time when nations trembled at the sight of their scaled visage when whole realms would flee from their approach... or submit in desperation.
She remembered the legends, the greatest of the great, how they shaped the world with fire and claw, how they beat against the air with wings large enough to spawn tornados, how even the mountains came up only to their shoulders. Rare now was the dragon of that stature, in either body or mind; Ember could think only of her father, the last Dragon Lord, the one who had led the clutch of Illuyanka and all that followed till, at the very last, all of his clutchmates had fallen.
Once, dragons had been revered, for their power and their knowledge and their position. To be considered friend to a dragon was a high honor--to be considered enemy, the most damning of insults. Yet now, they were fading, with even the eldest of the last clutch not being truly considered a power in the world. With the youngest raised by the weak... or thouse who had been weak. As ponies rose, so too had dragons fallen. They remained only because nobody could be bothered to slay them all. Because no pony could be bothered. The rules had changed, and they were left behind.
Ember grit her teeth and, with a furious roar, swung the scepter at the throne. Runes lit up across its surface, words in the tongue she had been taught all her life, secrets and wisdom that so few were privy to. Stories of the dragon lords before her, how they fought, how they battled...
...how they thought.
How they watched. And learned.
Her eyes drifted over the throne, the words embossed over the generations. Each story, each legacy, filled her mind, her heart, her soul with grim determination.
The rules had changed? Fine. Ember would play this new game. She would learn the powers of the ponies and the other races, she would learn their ways of building and of growing. She would drag her people, kicking, screaming, and cutting off those unable to change, into what future she wasn't sure yet but it would be one worth seeing. She would take this dusty scrap of rock, and melt it again and again in the fires of life and revolution, until it glowed with power and glory like the well polished scales of Tiamet herself!
Ember would play this new, strange game.
And. She. Would. Win.