Twilight was very, very happy tonight. It was Friday night, and after a fun, yet tiring, week of activities with her friends, she was looking forward to this.
Putting on her favorite lab coat, the lavender mare giggled to herself with nerdish excitement. This wasn't going to be like other Study Nights, albeit those she still enjoyed very much. After weeks of magical testing, equipment set-up, and a go-ahead from the Princesses, Twilight was going to perform what Princess Luna called a "transdimensional conveyance". The Lunar Princess stated she knew nearly everything about the stars and beyond, though she wasn't very forthcoming with the information.
"You would be better off in ignorance of the many of the happenings in the Dark Beyond, Twilight Sparkle. Trust me." The alicorn solemnly told her about two weeks ago when she came to inspect the equipment needed for the Twilight's special research project.
Twilight looked around her lab in the under-section of the library, the gear for her usual experiments was stacked against the walls, giving ample space for the unusual objects in the middle of the room.
It was a large glass cube, its corners plated with arcanite. Two blue metal disks adorned the cube. One on the top, and the other on bottom, both also made of arcanite. The upper disk had a dark azure pole jutting out of it and through the door into the main floor of the library, and from there it led out a second-story window and then straight out toward the stars. The lower disk had a flat metal bar leading from the box to an apparatus that held a brilliant white gem. The gem was the "Focus", where Twilight would concentrate her magic and pick out what to bring to Equestria to study. After reading countless tomes on the subject, Twilight was sure what she wanted to summon forth.
Well, not a fully-grown tree. A sapling. The unicorn had everything she needed. Right outside the glass cube she had a large flower pot for the sapling, as well as a few sacks of very fertile soil, generously donated from Applejack. The side of the glass box facing Twilight had an opening so she could retrieve her specimen. Spike was waiting nervously near the wall.
"Twilight? What if you don't get the kind of tree you want? If it's not the right kind or size, will you send it back?" The dragon asked. Spike was barely entering what counts as adolescence for dragons and at his full height stood an inch or so taller than the purple mare. Over the years, Spike's intelligence had grown along with him, but he was rather impulsive and rebellious at times to Twilight, who was very much his mother. She had read books on it and knew it was just a phase so she didn't worry about it too much.
"Princess Luna only granted me the equipment for receiving a specimen." Twilight explained. Luna had told her that a two-way Focus created a "conduit" that drew the attention of unknown beings if wielded by a novice. Though Twilight never thought of herself as a novice in any regard, but apparently the Princess thought otherwise with the Focus.
"She made it very clear I wouldn't need to send anything back. If it isn't exactly the right one, we can still examine it, as long as it isn't too big. Don't worry Spike." She gave him a reassuring smile and made her way toward the metal apparatus.
Luna had given Twilight a detailed account of what she would experience once she was linked with the Focus. It didn't make very much sense, but Twilight had memorized all of the important points. Firstly, this specific Focus was already attuned to mark where Twilight would need to look.
The Princess had given many warnings. Do not concentrate too much magic into the Focus, or it will burn you out, concentrate too little and the glass cube would shatter, and to have another pony there in case anything goes wrong. Luna would have been there herself, but she said she had important business to attend to, involving the Canterlot Statue Gardens and a lake, whatever that meant. So naturally, Spike was there and versed in almost all manners of plant emergencies. The worst being a poisonous, carnivorous, pony-eating plant.
Spike had made that one up of course.
Out of all of the Princess's warnings, the most important was regarding which dimensions and worlds Twilight could receive a specimen from.
"As you are not familiar with the Dark Beyond, We have adjusted your Focus to show you where you can and cannot explore." The Princess's words rung in her head, "Only explore the areas of the multiverse that glow blue. They are the ones that hold the plant life you seek. Under no circumstances are you to peer into the planes or worlds marked by a yellow glow. To intrude in those regions is to draw the attention of The Eyeless. We cannot stress how important it is you do NOT venture anywhere near the yellow areas."
When Twilight asked of "The Eyeless", the Princess only responded that they would make the Changeling Queen and Discord look like gentle moths, and wished not to give young Twilight nightmares for years.
"Ready Spike?" Twilight asked, suddenly feeling as nervous as Spike looked.
"Yep. Go ahead Twi. I got your back." He responded.
Twilight mentally calmed herself down. She needed to be focused and alert, and she had no reason to worry. She had been living in Ponyville for years, her magical aptitude was vastly greater than it was when she first arrived. Twilight would even go to Canterlot regularly to give lectures and seminars on the use of magic and the spells she had invented. And as a result, it led to her developing somewhat of an ego. Nothing as major as Trixie's, but definitely something she never would've thought having in her younger years.
The procedure was safer than other experiments she had done over the years. Using the equipment the Princess had granted her, and her own intellect and amazing skill, she would transport a small tree sapling from another world to study the effects of Equestria's radiant magic on it.
She knelt down on the floor, closed her eyes and concentrated her magic on the Focus. Spike gasped as the arcanite began to glow bright blue and similarly colored lines began to connect along the glass in geometric patterns. The bright glow raced up the arcanite pole leading outside the library and shot up into the sky.
Twilight saw none of it, as she closed her eyes and was granted new vision.
She felt as if she had no corporeal form as she drifted in what was an endless expanse of whiteness. She was aware of her physical body back in the basement of the library, but felt disconnected from it in a strange way. In front of her was a countless amount of flat objects. There had to be millions. Millions of millions.
These must be the planes of the multiverse. The unicorn thought. Although seemingly endless in number, Twilight felt as if she could sort through millions one in a thought, like going through files in a cabinet. As she did, her hope was diminished at seeing that nearly every single of the planes was surrounded with a yellow glow.
The glow was very... disturbing. Its yellow light pulsed with malevolent energy that looked like it wanted to expand its glow, filling the white space with its baleful glare.
It felt like the very essence of evil emanated from those planes, and that the glow was... watching her.
She sifted through the planes until she found one with a soft blue glow and among the vastness of eerie yellow, it was an island of calming hope. She quickly chose it and it enveloped her vision, the whiteness disappeared, being replaced with black. She gazed upon the countless galaxies in this plane and would have frowned, had she the capability. As with the planes, nearly every single galaxy was ringed with a yellow glow.
For a split-second she considered venturing into the restricted areas, but the yellow ring around the galaxies was as haunting as the glow around the planes. She felt like they wanted her to come and explore, to venture into their terrible light. Mentally shuddering, Twilight was determined to keep her distance from those galaxies. So, she searched this universe, the sea of yellow-ringed galaxies so vast it seemed like they would swallow and hide any place Twilight could retrieve her sapling. But the plane she entered was marked blue, so there had to be a potential galaxy here she could venture into.
After an indeterminable amount of time, she saw a speck of blue in her expansive vision. In her excitement to retrieve her specimen and be free of the watchful yellow glow, she consciously poured magic into the Focus, increasing her speed toward the azure spiral galaxy. Suddenly she felt her head back in the basement was beginning to feel very hot and the heat was beginning to pierce its way into her mind.
Do not concentrate too much magic into the Focus, or it will burn you out.
In shock, Twilight remembered the warning and withdrew most of her magic from the Focus. A unicorn getting burnt out of magic wasn't a unicorn at all. And when you're special talent was magic.....
As she withdrew, her vision in the Focus began to shake and from her connection to it, she felt that the glass cube back in Equestria was slightly shaking and becoming extremely brittle.
Concentrate too little and the glass cube will shatter.
Carefully, the mare increased the magic she put into the Focus until it was at just the right level. Reminding herself to stay calm, she explored the galaxy.
The yellow glow she had come to fear wasn't present in the spiral expanse, but it didn't seem as if the blue glow of hope was there either. Among the billions of stars, there had to be the life she was seeking, and it would be marked with blue. Luna stated that if it held no glow, be it yellow or blue, then there was no sufficient plant life.
Maybe there was another blue galaxy in this plane, though she was loathe to face the yellow galaxies again. Twilight had all night to search and she hoped it had only been a couple hours back in the library. As she reached the edge of the galaxy, preparing to leave it, a tiny blue triangle caught her vision. She made her way toward it and reached a star system with eight or nine planets.
As she surveyed the planets, nearly all held no life. A moon on the largest planet seemed to hold immense aquatic life under its thick icy crust, but it wasn't what Twilight was searching for. She made a mental note to ask the Princess about that moon. Making her way closer to the star, she found exactly what she was looking for.
A blue marble of a planet. Mostly covered in water, with twin ice caps at both poles. There were large pieces of land like giant islands in the planet's huge ocean, some were loosely connected, others not touching at all. It was night on the side of the planet Twilight was looking, and the island she chose was dotted with countless lights. They were bright yellow, but not the same yellow glow of warning. It was like a billion bright candles that never flickered. The unicorn knew it meant one thing.
As fascinated as she was with this unknown civilization, she still had an experiment, she had to get her sapling. But she couldn't take a sapling from the towns or cities here. The denizens might miss them. Twilight knew she could be profoundly depressed if someone had taken her tree.
So she ventured into the wilderness of the continent and was astounded by the forests of the place. She could not see the trees as she normally would have. Vision of life was very peculiar in the Focus. Trees were a light green glow, marking them as living things. Twilight could not make out the smaller branches, but she could see the general shape of the larger ones and tell they were trees. But she needed a sapling.
It was harder than she thought. They barely showed up as glows alongside the larger green lights of the fully grown trees, and when she did find one, it was too close to another tree. She didn't want to accidentally teleport a large branch or section of a tree, possibly killing it. That, and as large as the glass box was, it wouldn't hold a tree more than about seven feet.
She found a clearing in the forest, nearly void of any trees, but the soft white-green glow of the grass and bushes was still present. Near the middle of the clearing, her heart swelled. She had found it.
She found the sapling she had been looking for, it was only a little under six feet tall, nice and straight, and only had two branches which were raised up at the sky, waving slightly. It must have been windy in the clearing.
The strange thing about the sapling was that it glowed a darker green than the other trees, and in its center was a very faint red glow. The lower trunk of the sapling also looked to be split, but the glow from it seemed to meld them together. The thought that it could be a different variation or mutation from the other trees intrigued Twilight, and she was determined to bring this sapling back.
"When you find the specimen you wish to research, to retrieve it, simply wrap it in your thought, and withdraw your mind from the Focus. But be mindful to keep the magic still in the gem." Luna's instructions echoed in her head. When she had first told Twilight it didn't make much sense, but now that she was in the Focus, she knew exactly what to do to bring back her precious sapling.
She concentrated on the area around the sapling, being mindful to bring a section of the ground beneath it so she wouldn't cut off its roots. Once it was enveloped, she withdrew from the Focus. Her vision expanded at break-neck speeds, it zoomed out from the planet, the star system, and then the galaxy. It continued until it brought her back to the whiteness of the planes. From there the flat objects of the planes began to shrink as they got farther away from her, and her vision began to black out.
All she saw was black. But it wasn't a true black, she was familiar with this darkness. She saw it every split-second she blinked. Opening her eyes, she saw Spike standing worriedly over her.
"Twilight? Are you okay...?" He asked wringing his claws.
Coming back to her senses, she looked up and smiled at the dragon, "Yes Spike, I'm fine. Sorry for worrying you, I must have been in there for hours."
The dragon titled his head and gave Twilight a quizzical look.
"Hours? That was barely even a minute!"
"Huh? What do you mean!" The mare asked, shocked.
"Well," Spike started, looking up with a claw on his chin, "you started putting magic into the Focus. Then you began to sweat and it seemed like you got really hot, but right after you began to shiver and the glass box started shaking. I was sure it was going to break, but then everything went back to normal. A few seconds after that, there was a huge thunderclap and the cube filled up with blue smoke. That's when you woke up, er, came back. It had to have been around forty-five or fifty seconds."
"That's strange, it felt like I was in there for hours." Twilight pondered why it would be like that, but stopped when she caught what Spike had said. She pushed him out of her way and looked toward the glass box. She couldn't see her sapling on account of the blue smoke, Luna hadn't said anything about blue smoke, but at the edge of the cube she could see some of the dirt she had transported.
Twilight had never thought she'd be so happy to see dirt.
"I can't see anything." Spike stated flatly.
"Let me get the opening," Twilight said happily, making her way to the glass door on the cube, "I'm curious to see how our tree looks!"
As soon as she opened the door, the blue smoke began to clear out the box and immediately Twilight nose scrunched up as a sick burning smell wafted out the glass cube. Looking back toward the apparatus that held the Focus, she saw the gem was still glowing, as was the arcanite on the box. She was about to take the gem out when Spike yelled.
"Twilight! What is that!?"
She looked at the floor of the cube and gaped. That was not a tree. It looked like a slender hairless ape. With horror, she realized what was making the nauseating burning smell. The glowing blue geometric patterns on the box were burning into the creatures flesh.
"Spike! Take the gem out!" She barked at the dragon, while in a panic, she levitated the creature out of the cube.
The purple dragon rushed past her and snatched the Focus out of the apparatus, but quickly dropped it when it burned his claws. It landed on the hard wooden floor and seemed to cool down, but left a blackened mark.
Twilight couldn't care less as she carefully carried the creature with her magic. She fought the urge to panic as she noticed that it wasn't breathing. It looked like it had been wearing a shirt of light cloth that was ruined and burnt, but the leggings he wore seemed to be made of a tougher material and weren't completely ruined. From its musculature and build, Twilight was sure it- he- was a male of his species.
Though the inspection would have to wait. She had to get him to start breathing again.
Going through the spell catalog in her mind, she remembered one that should work. When Rainbow Dash crashed into the lake while practicing tricks. The high-speed impact had dazed the pegasus and water had soaked her feathers. Applejack was able to get Dash out of the lake, but not before she took in a lungful of water and was unresponsive. Twilight was able to resuscitate her with a spell that expelled the water from her lungs and refilled them with air.
It should work... Twilight thought as she lowered him to the wooden floor. Once she set the creature on the floor, she gasped and took a few steps back as his light skin started to take on a mahogany shade. His short auburn hair changed to a very dark brown, almost black.
"W-why did it do that..?" Spike stammered as he looked between the limp form and the wooden walls of the library, noticing that the creature's skin matched the darker shades of the tree.
"Oh no... " was all Twilight said. She had a hunch of what was going on, but her "sapling" was still unbreathing. She took a deep breath in and a magenta glow enveloped her horn and began to cover the creature's chest, throat and mouth.
The man violently sat up with a huge intake of air. Immediately afterward he started to cough excessively. He stared at the wooden floor as some spit fell from his mouth onto it. The burning in his lungs started to abate and all he could think of was facing whomever had given him breath again. He put on a weak smile and turned around to the sound of voices.
His smile quickly vanished and his mouth contorted in confusion and panic as he noticed the immense fiery pain on his back and the creatures before him.
A small lavender pony in a lab coat and worse, a giant purple reptile stood over her, eyeing him strangely. The pony didn't look like any pony he'd ever seen, but it was the closest thing he could think of. The words they spoke sounded like a language, but not like anything he'd ever heard before, it made gibberish sound understandable. The pony looked at him and spoke at him. The slight inflection at the end of her sentences made him think she was asking a question.
The two strange creatures moved as if to touch him, but still on the ground, he scrambled away until he was up against a hard wooden wall. As his scorched back hit the wall, he cried out in pain. Unable to go anywhere else, the man looked at them slightly afraid and completely unsure. The blazing agony paired with mind-numbing disorientation rendered the man unable to think of...anything. He couldn't even tell himself his own name if he tried.
The reptile spoke words to the pony, and she responded with a soft tone. She looked back toward the man and started to move toward him, saying...something. The more words she said, the less they seemed like ridiculous nonsense.
Either way, he didn't want her anywhere near him and he thrust out a spread hand to tell her to back off. The only thing he could think of was how much he wanted them to get away from him. What happened next no one expected.
As the man thrust out his hand, it started to glow a dark red. Once it was angled toward the pony and the reptile, they too were covered in its glow and thrown across the room where they hit the opposite wall. The vermillion glow had left the man's hand, but he held it far from his face, looking at it as if it were the source of all terror in the universe.
Across the room, the reptile turned to the pony and shouted something. The pony looked sadly at the man as her horn lit up. All he saw was a bright flash, fatigue wracked his body, and his vision faded into blackness.
"What in Celestia's name was that?!" Spike asked at the serious looking Twilight.
The lavender mare let out a wistful sigh before answering, "Exactly what was supposed to happen in my experiment..." She said sadly as she looked at the now dark brown creature that laid still inside the glass cube. With the Focus gem taken out of the apparatus, the patterns were absent and wouldn't harm the man, but more importantly, without the gem, the cube was magically inert.
"Other worlds among the stars aren't like Equestria," Twilight began, "Equestria is magic. All of it. Everything living thing here has magic in it, not just unicorns. Pegasi, Earth ponies, animals, even the trees radiate magical energy. C'mon Spike, you already know all of this." She finished, giving the dragon a nudge. He had been present to many of Twilight's lectures to the young fillies and colts at Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns.
"Yeah, but why'd it change color? How does it know magic!" Spike said, gesturing his arms wildly at the unmoving creature in the box.
"He, Spike. He isn't an 'it'. At least I'm almost certain he's a he. I have yet to check to be sure. His strange leggings are in the way, if I could just get them off, then I could-"
"Twilight!!" The dragon interrupted. Of all the things for his mother-figure to talk about.... Geez.
"Anyway," She continued, "Because his world is completely absent of magic, he has no resistance to it, and as such, he soaks it up, like a sponge. It becomes part of him, acclimatizing his body to our world. It explains why he changed color when I laid him on the floor, he took in magic from our tree. It also explains his magical ability, with what I did to him..."
Spike knew he couldn't let Twilight go down that path of thinking, "You had to do it Twilight. He wasn't breathing. He would've died."
"I know... I fear he hasn't stabilized though." Twilight said as she began to pace, "He can only absorb so much, but I don't know how much more he can take in. We need to keep him in there until I figure out what to do. I need to send a letter to Princess Luna right away. I need to get the equipment to send him back. I need to.... to.."
Her pacing stopped and she began to waver, going weak in the legs. Before she could hit the floor, Spike had caught her.
"You need rest Twilight." The dragon said, concern painting his face, "The...'sapling' will be fine inside the box. It can't be opened from the inside, and I can watch him until you can get back on your hooves."
Putting a hoof to her head, she knew he was right. Her sleep spell should wear off in a few hours, she had a little time.
"I'll take a nap, but only for an hour, got it? Go ahead and send Princess Luna a letter saying we need her assistance immediately." Giving the creature one last look, Twilight let Spike help her up the stairs and to her bed and set her wall clock to toll in exactly one hour.
What the hell is all of this crap.
Shock and confusion wearing off, the man stood up inside a glass box. The glass was almost two inches thick and had similarly thick metal braces. Well, confusion was still in his mind. Heavily. But unlike the purple reptile, he didn't start upon seeing the other. The man looked impassively at the reptile as it made its way to the box. They studied each other for a few moments. Now that he was standing up straight, the reptile didn't seem as menacing as it had before. It was a head shorter than the man and a bit more slender, though the lithe muscles under its purple scales didn't go unnoticed. Even with that in account, the man was sure he could take the reptile if he could catch it off guard...
The reptile suddenly raised a claw, a sharp claw, and waved at him friendly. It seemed to ask him a question, he couldn't make out the words but he knew it was a question. It also was slightly muffled, being that he was inside of a damn box. When he didn't respond, it pointed the claw at itself and said a single word. It started with an "S" or a "C".
Ah. His name. I'll go with calling him Mr. Scales. The man thought as he raised his arms to show he couldn't quite understand the creature.
My name's Hawthorne but I'm not telling you that, you purple-y bastard. It was Hawthorne who deserved answers, and he had no idea what they were going to do with him. His face screwed up in confusion as he saw his hands and arms.
Hawthorne looked down upon his body. It was dark brown. Not like he had gotten a heavy tan, but its whole color had changed. Inspecting his arm, it not only looked different, it felt different. Squeezing it with his right hand, he could still feel his muscles underneath but it was as if his skin was...tougher, somehow. He gave himself a sharp pinch and donned a thoughtful expression when it didn't hurt as much as it should have.
Screw the names. He was beginning to become agitated, he wanted answers, even if he couldn't quite understand the creature behind the pane of glass. With no warning, he slammed his palm on the glass. Loudly.
"Let me out!!" Hawthorne bellowed. The reptile jumped and looked up toward a staircase leading to....God knows where.
Mr. Scales kept looking in between him and the staircase, stammering and putting a single claw to his mouth. "Be quiet" the gesture said.
The man began to think about the reptile's mannerisms. It seemed a very many things. Though malevolent was not one of them. And when he struck the glass cube, the reptile looked at the cube anxiously like it was protecting the man from something. The thick glass of the cube was too strong to break, there was an opening with a latch, but he couldn't open it from his side. Inspecting the cube, he realized something and had to keep from panicking.
It was completely sealed. The only opening was air-tight and there were no holes. Though he didn't have any trouble breathing.
Maybe he could use that fact to his advantage though. Mr. Scales already looked distraught, and Hawthorne only needed to play off of that. He did his best to look worried as he began to tap on the glass, the reptile looked at him and he began his game of charades.
He pushed on the opening to the cube unable to get it open, the reptile began to vigorously shake his head.
Hawthorne was not to come out.
Expecting this reaction, he quickly moved from corner to corner of the cube, making sure the green-slit eyes of his jailer followed him. At each corner he felt the edges and used a single index finger to poke at the glass panes. The reptile cocked its head. Hawthorne made wide movements with his arms and then put his hands to his throat and started to make choking motions. Mr. Scales' eyes suddenly opened wide, realizing what Hawthorne meant and began to mimic his movements.
Hawthorne stopped and nodded his head, then pounded on the opening. Scales looked torn in between opening the glass door and saying no vehemently. He stopped his double-taking, looked at Hawthorne and made the movements to open the door, followed by putting his claws close to each other, but not quite touching.
The message was clear to Hawthorne: "I will open the door, but just a little."
Perfect. He thought, backing away from the opening. When the opportunity arose, he would lunge for the glass door, get past Mr. Scales, and get the hell out of dodge. The reptile undid the glass latch on the opening and slowly pushed it inward. It was only open about six inches. Hawthorne took a deep breath in and gave Scales a smile and a thumbs up.
The purple reptile smiled a sharp-toothed grin at Hawthorne. The teeth almost made him reconsider trying to get past Mr. Scales. Maybe he could wait until the pony came. Where was it anyway?
Scales let out a sigh of relief and the tension in his body seemed to slacken.
His guard was down.
In a sudden blur of movement Hawthorne moved toward the door. He grabbed an edge with both hands before Mr. Scales could react, but an instant after, the reptile had its own grip on the door and was trying to pull it closed. At first, Hawthorne thought he would've been able to overpower Scales, but the smaller reptile was stronger than he looked. He noticed that although Mr. Scales had sharp claws, and was holding the same edge of the door, it seemed determined not to touch Hawthorne for some reason.
Hawthorne began to win out as he pulled the door toward him, opening it further, but Scales wasn't making it easy. Becoming impatient, Hawthorne quickly let the door swing in Scale's direction. The reptile didn't expect the sudden slack and lost his balance. Taking advantage of his opponent's momentary slip, Hawthorne gave the door a strong pull. It pulled Mr. Scales off of his feet and he landed face first in the glass cube.
Too easy. He thought as he moved to grab the reptile and drag it into the glass cube before it could get up and escape.
As soon as he gripped Mr. Scale's arm with his right hand, the reptile suddenly went limp. All of the energy he had left him in a rush as he felt something... seeping into him. Hawthorne swayed and fell next to him. His vision faded into sweet blackness as he felt the very essence of himself being changed.
"No..." A rich and regal voice started as Hawthorne began to wake, "Tia won't be pleased at all."
"This is all of my fault, Princess." Twilight Sparkle sadly told Luna for about the hundredth time. Although she was talking to the Princess, her gaze was focused on Spike, who was still laying unconscious in her bed. Hawthorne was laid in the guest bed opposite of it.
"It is ours, Twilight Sparkle, we should have been present to your conveyance, to help guide you through the Focus alongside you." The dark alicorn admitted.
Hawthorne didn't know why he could suddenly understand the two creatures now, but he hoped they could understand him as he sat up and rested against the headboard. Luna noticed his movements but Twilight was still facing Spike. The Princess just stared at him, waiting.
Two things stood out to Hawthorne as he looked down to adjust the blankets on him: His torso was covered in bandages, which he assumed were for the burns on his back, that dully ached. And his right arm had dark, royal purple scales starting at his wrist, fading back into dark brown skin halfway up his bicep. His right hand was now a sharp purple claw, almost identical to Mr. Scale's.
I guess I'm supposed to say something. She's a princess apparently. He thought. He had never encountered royalty before. Or talking animals.
"So, like..." Hawthorne started, slowly upturning his palms and shrugging, "..what the fuck is going on?"
Twilight had turned from Spike and faced him, her expression blank. The Princess stepped closer to Hawthorne's bed, and cleared her throat, "Greetings... human. We will admit that we haven't ever had the chance to see one of your kind, though we knew of your existence."
Hawthorne stayed silent as he felt that she had more to say.
"You may call me Princess Luna," She introduced herself, raising her head slightly, "We are one of two rulers of the land you have been brought to."
"Well then, Princess, please tell me how and why, the hell you brought me here. And why the hell I'm brown and have this?" Hawthorne said, waving and flapping his right arm at the tall blue pony.
"I think I can help with that," The purple pony said, "my name is Twilight Sparkle, I'm the one responsible for you being here." Her voice sounded knowing but sympathetic, and Hawthorne had the feeling he was about to be lectured. The lavender pony made her way to the tall one's side.
"To fully understand what has happened, you must have an understanding of our world. Firstly, Princess Celestia raises the sun, and Princess Luna raises the moon..."
And lectured he was, by both of the strange ponies, about the history of their world, how magic existed here, and most importantly, how he was brought here and why his body had changed. It wasn't very complicated, but they said a lot of words and Hawthorne was still grasping the fact that they could talk.
At the end of the hour-long double lecture, Hawthorne was sure it was the most ridiculous shit he had ever heard.
And he was going to tell them.
"Okay. So. You-" He pointed a claw at Princess Luna, "-gave her-" He shifted his claw to point at Twilight, "-a glass cube and a gem, that she used to steal me from Earth and transport me here, because you thought I was a tree."
"And then!" He continued, "When you set me down on the floor of a tree-house-place, I absorbed magic from the tree and turned brown."
"Among a few other effects." Luna interjected.
Hawthorne ignored her, "Then when I got the better of the dragon, Mr. Scales-"
"His name is Spike." Twilight said.
"Whatever. When I grabbed him, I absorbed magic from him, and my arm did this. That's it right?" Hawthorne left out whatever Twilight Sparkle said about "unicorn magic" because it was just too much.
"Yes, basically." The Princess replied, "Though when you phrase it like so, it seems somewhat..."
"Ridiculous? Yeah, well it is. And apparently I'm some tree-dragon-wizard, so I know ridiculous when I see it."
Twilight opened her mouth to say something, but Hawthorne held up his claw and stopped her.
"And one more thing: If I black out one more time, and wake up somewhere different... I swear, I'm going to hurt somebody."
It was well into the night and Twilight was lazily leaning against her bed, where Spike was still lying unconscious. The Princess and the human were quietly talking to each other. She was explaining to him how to use the unicorn magic he had absorbed from Twilight, but he was vigorously shaking his head and tended to make a lot of gesticulations with his hushed words.
I shouldn't have ever brought him here. Twilight thought as she looked at the gentle rise and fall of Spike's chest.
"Oh, Spike, I'm so sorry." She whispered to him, touching a hoof to his claw.
The dragon's eyelids slowly opened, but only enough for Twilight to see a small fraction of his emerald-slit eyes.
His eyes fluttered and opened further as he moved his head to face the purple unicorn.
"..Mom? Please don't be mad.. I opened the box.. but I didn't think he would..."
Twilight's heart swelled, although she was used to being called by her name, Spike very, very, rarely ever called her "Mom". She shushed him and gently laid a hoof to his cheek.
"It's okay son, I promise." Tears began to well in her eyes, "I'm just glad you're okay. Don't worry about it. I'm sure Hawthorne was very convincing."
"Who's Hawthorne?" Spike said, his eyes squinting in confusion.
"He's our visitor. Don't worry, just...rest. He absorbed enough magic from you to keep you out for a few days, but look at you, already up in seven hours. You're a tough dragon, but you still need to rest. And you shouldn't have turned off my alarm."
"Well, seven hours, sixteen minutes, and....thirty-seven seconds." Twilight clarified, letting out a tiny chuckle.
Spike loosed his own short laugh, "Of course..."
Hawthorne and Luna's conversation ended without the lavender mare knowing, and he felt kind of weird watching this sentimental moment between a pony and a dragon.
So naturally, he slowly laid back down, bringing up the blanket to cover his whole body, leaving the Princess alone to watch the weirdness. He didn't really care too much about using magic, he just needed to wait until they could fix him.
Taking a deep breath, he realized he wasn't tired in the slightest. But he needed to think. A lot.
Well, Luna said Twilight only had receiving equipment, but she has the sending...stuff, so all I need to do is get her to put me back on Earth...
The thought of going back home made Hawthorne remember what he was planning to do right before he got taken to this world. It also reminded him of Elizabeth, and all of the horrible feelings that came with the thought of her.
Oh God... Liz..
Before his brain could send him into a downward spiral of depression, something pointy and hard slid under the blanket, poked his left side, and moved over his body. It was connected to a head, the Princess's head.
She lifted her head under the covers, and her horn made the blanket peak, creating a tiny tent inhabited by Hawthorne and Princess Luna's head and neck. The tip of her horn cast a small light that filled the tent.
"Why did you poke me with your thing?" He asked rubbing his side. It didn't really hurt, but he never liked getting poked. Who does?
"Why would you do that to us?" She responded to his question with a question, "Leave us alone to witness such a touching mother-to-child interaction?"
"What? She's your friend, what's the problem?"
Questions, questions everywhere.
"Our mother has been dead for over twelve-thousand years." The Princess answered, "We believe it wasn't the greatest way to perish.."
"Oh.. We are- ahem- I'm really sorry." Hawthorne said, the Princess was starting to rub off on him. Her pronouns were all weird, but he had to admit, it sounded cool sometimes.
"It is quite alright." The Princess lied, "Some would say it was a small price to pay for immortality."
"Immortality? But you said your mother was, uh- has been deceased."
"Who said it was her who gained it..? That story is truly harrowing." Luna asked him with a slightly dangerous tone in her voice.
Disarm the situation! Change the subject! Common sense yelled in his mind.
How you always have! It replied.
Oh yeah. Hawthorne thought as he flashed a disarming, full-toothed smile at the Princess, a smile that had always worked wonders for him back home.
"Thanks for not, like, experimenting on me or dissecting me, or anything.." He said.
The Princess's brow furrowed and she looked at him in a peculiar way.
"Your smile.... If we could offer some friendly advice, do not smile so...largely at any ponies...." The dark blue alicorn said.
Because it's so devishly charming I bet. Hawthorne thought conceitedly.
"It will scare most of them." The Princess finished.
If Luna tried to, she might have been able to hear his ego deflating. Hawthorne, tired of the conversation, laid his hand on the alicorn's face, and shoved her out from under the covers.
"Very well then. Be that way." She said dejectedly.
"Having fun Princess?" Twilight asked with an impish smile.
"Almost too much Twilight Sparkle." Luna replied sarcastically.
"It's getting late.." The Princess announced, meaning it was almost dawn, "..and we need to relay this series of events to our sister."
"Don't let me keep you Princess," Twilight said with a small yawn, "I'm sure I can handle him."
"We know. But we fear our sister will be much more difficult to handle when she hears of this."
The sun was over the horizon, and Hawthorne was up. Well, still up. He had stayed awake after Princess Luna had left. Twilight had gone to bed, which left Spike alone with Hawthorne. Again. Neither Twilight nor Spike was worried, Hawthorne had assured them he wouldn't do anything drastic. And truly, he didn't plan on doing anything crazy. Other than the incidents in the basement, things were going well. He just had to be patient and everything would work itself out.
The purple dragon was sweeping and humming a tune in the main section of the library, unable to sleep and simply doing something to keep himself busy. Being unconscious for so long had also made him restless, although he still had heavy bags under his eyes. Hawthorne was in the upstairs bathroom, looking at the mirror.
"So that's why I shouldn't smile.." He said aloud to the strange reflection, baring his teeth. His canines had become more prominent and all of his teeth seemed much...harder, and slightly sharper. It was almost as if he now had fangs, but fangs more akin to a reptile's, not a vampire.
Thank God. He thought. Imitating the grin he gave Luna earlier, he saw why he shouldn't give such a large smile. It was slightly menacing.
Suddenly, an intense pain gnawed at him. He put a hand to his stomach as it felt like it was trying to eat him from the inside out. Hawthorne couldn't remember the last time he had anything to eat, and he was hungry as fuck.
Briskly walking downstairs, he approached Spike and gave him a light tap on the shoulder.
"Hey Scales, you have anything to eat? I'm starving."
The shorter dragon gave a small start at the contact, and quickly turned around, "Oh, it's you. Yeah, we've got some stuff. I'm actually pretty hungry too, follow me." Spike led Hawthorne into the kitchen, opened the pantry, and began to list off their options.
"Uhhhh, we've got some oatmeal... potato chips... bread... Huh. I guess we didn't have as much food as I thought." Spike said, scratching his head. "There's some daisy sandwiches in the fridge, but I'm not sure you'll like those."
"What are those?" Hawthorne asked, pointing at a large bowl that was mainly empty, but at the bottom was at least five of the largest, most brilliant gems he had ever seen.
"Oh, those are mine." Spike was quick to respond, "But, not like I wouldn't share them, it's just, only dragons can eat gems..."
Hawthorne went to the bowl and picked up an emerald that was about the size of a grape. He lifted it up to his mouth, put it in between his teeth and slowly began to bite down on it. There was a loud snap and Hawthorne panicked, thinking he ruined a tooth, but when he spit the gem back into his hand, he saw that the green gem had a large crack going through it.
"No way.." Spike said, his mouth agape.
Hawthorne felt his teeth with his fingers and... yep, they were as strong as they had ever been. Gaining confidence, he popped the gem back into his mouth and bit down on it with more force. It broke apart and he was able to crush and chew it like a piece of hard candy. It tasted surprisingly good, like a citrus fruit, but more smooth and refined.
"Thith ith awesomth!" He declared, stuffing a couple more gems in his mouth.
"Hey! Don't eat all my gems!" Spike protested, grabbing the last two before Hawthorne could snag them.
Hawthorne finished chewing, and swallowed the gems, "Shit, sorry man. It feels like I haven't eaten anything in weeks."
"It's cool." The dragon forgave, "I needed to get some more gems anyway, and groceries. Sweetie Belle told me she stashed some sapphires for me back at the Boutique, and she normally gets there pretty early so... wanna go for a walk?"
"Yeah, why not? Twilight Sparkle won't get mad will she?"
"Well, she never said we couldn't go out, and it's not like you're going to absorb any more magic, so I don't see the harm." Spike said, making his way out of the kitchen.
"I know it's early, but won't anybody freak out when they see me?" Hawthorne asked as he followed.
"Not really. You'll get some looks, mainly because of the bandages, and curiosity, but as quiet as Ponyville seems, enough crazy stuff has happened that you wouldn't cause a huge ruckus."
"Really? Like what?"
"Well, several years ago, I turned gigantic and went on a hoarding rampage and wrecked most of the town, that was when I was just a baby dragon. And after all that, I barely even got in trouble and everyone was still my friend." Spike gloated.
"Damn. Nice." Hawthorne approved, giving Spike a pat on the back.
As they made their way toward the door, Hawthorne noticed he was still without a shirt. His jeans looked like they were washed, but they still had burns on the back. He knew he didn't need a shirt, the bandages covered most of his torso, but he'd feel more comfortable going out with one on.
"Hey Scales- er Spike?"
"You wouldn't happen to have a shirt, or something I could wear would you?"
"Nothing I think that will fit you, or that you'd want to wear...but I can check. Wait here." He replied, silently going up the stairs to Twilight's room, making sure not to wake her. A few moments later, he came back down with a blue piece of cloth that tapered up to a white fluffy collar.
"Here." He said, holding out the cloth, "It's Twilight's winter cloak Rarity made her, it's kind of old, and she hasn't worn it too much."
Hawthorne took the cloak and wrapped it around himself. It was made for the smaller Twilight, and it stopped just above his knees, also the fluffy collar bothered his neck, but if it was the best Spike could do, then, oh well. As long as he didn't spread his arms out sideways too much, it would cover him nicely.
With that, they headed out the door, ready to walk to Carousel Boutique.
As soon as Hawthorne walked out of the door, the sunlight hit him, and he stopped dead in his tracks as a feeling of immense energy and warmth seemed to flow through him. It felt amazing. He just wanted to stand still and bask in the glorious light. It was like nothing he'd ever felt before, standing in the sunlight, it just felt... right.
"Hawthorne? Are you okay?" Spike asked, a few feet away.
"Yeah! Do you not feel that?! The sun? It's incredible! Is it always like this?" He practically yelled.
The purple dragon gave him a look, "It's actually kind of chilly out dude.. I mean, it's bright, but not- ooohhhh. I know what's going on."
"What? What do you mean?" Hawthorne asked, not really caring about getting an answer, he just wanted to stay in the sunlight, it was like a fount of blissful energy.
"You're analogous to a tree Hawthorne!" Spike told him, "You absorbed our tree's magic, becoming like it, and now you, like the tree, need and want to be in the sunlight."
"Makes sense to me." Hawthorne replied with a huge grin.
"You are going to freak somepony out if you keep smiling like that though."
Chuckling, Hawthorne stopped smiling so much, but as they began to walk he couldn't help but keep a closed-mouth grin on his face. Walking alongside Spike, he looked down at his draconic forearm, remembering what he did to make it like so.
"Hey Spike... I'm sorry about the basement. I really didn't know you were looking out for my own safety." Honestly, Hawthorne was never this cheesy or apologetic back home, but he couldn't help it.
"Don't worry about it. We could hardly understand each other, and if you didn't do what you did, then we still wouldn't be able to communicate would we? If Twilight and the Princess can turn you back to how you were, then things won't be so bad."
Hawthorne could do without the magic, and the claw, but he knew he didn't want to give up the amazing feeling the sun now gave him.
"Yeah. Then I can go home." Hawthorne said, "No offense to this place, or you, or anything." He quickly added.
"None taken," Spike said cheerfully, "though it'd be nice to have someone more like me around here to be friends with, not that there's anything wrong with the ponies here."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, for one, you got that from me, so you are part dragon." Spike explained, pointing at Hawthorne's transformed arm, "And in a way, Twilight is the one who brought you into this world. Just like she did with me. She hatched my egg and has taken care of me ever since. We're almost like brothers."
"Yeah...brothers.." Hawthorne said, remembering his own on Earth. Even with the blessed sunlight, he felt a stab of sadness. It was much easier to control his grin now. He gave Spike a sad smile, "Yeah, brothers. I think the ones I have back home would really like you Spike."
"Heh, thanks." Spike noticed his change in demeanor and planned on talking to Twilight about it, "Hey, look, there's the Boutique."
"It is. The grocery stalls in the marketplace won't be up for about another hour, so we can grab the sapphires, hang here for a bit, then go restock the pantry." Spike had it all planned out. "And you can even meet Sweetie Belle, she's really nice.."
The dragon's eyes went blank as if he were looking at something far off, and he had a small smile painted on his face. It was obvious to Hawthorne that Spike was smitten with this Sweetie Belle character.
"So, is she your girlfriend?" The human asked, knowing he would amused with Spike's response.
Spike stopped and spun to face him, "What! No!" The dragon put a claw to his head and sighed, "Not really... I don't know.. It's weird."
"Hey man, don't worry about it," Hawthorne said giving him a shove toward the large white building, "let's go get those gems."