I exhaled softly as I landed atop the snowy mountain peak once more, not thirty feet from where my bones had once rested. The raging snow had since buried the crater from which Alduin had raised me from so long ago, and the gentle flakes danced across my silver scales, drifting away with the howling wind to places unknown. My long neck swiveled as I turned from the ancient mound, and my eyes trailed slowly up to the broken stone spires that still defiantly clawed at the sky, stubbornly refusing to bend knee to the decay of time. The monastery had not fared well over the long millennia atop the peak, though the bandits squatting inside its ancient walls seemed to have found a use for it. They had posed no threat to one such as I. They were not dragonslayers, after all. I sluggishly stalked between the crumbling pillars, gazing lethargically over the ancient altars where my worshipers once committed abhorrent crimes against their fellow men, all in hopes of obtaining my favour. In hope that I may spare them. The fools.
The scent of burnt manflesh and the taste of their blood was so painfully familiar, especially within the confines of this hallowed place. My dread squashed any feeling of nostalgia I might have felt, however. There was no glory to be found here, not anymore. There were no mortal slaves to come and give their worship to me and my brothers. No servants who took pleasure in the suffering of their fellow man, who would go forth from my home and crush those who would attempt to be free of their chains. There were no priests who would sacrifice man and elf before me, in exchange for the barest taste of the power my father had granted me. Not anymore. All that was left was the scorch marks of my fiery breath and the fear that the Dragonborn was somehow closer to me than I had thought. I was no longer the judge overseeing the execution of those who would see the carefully-kept order broken. Now It was.
I could find no humour in the situation. My damnation was born of my own actions. I had stood above the humans so long ago, content to watch them scream and break beneath my iron talons, for nothing other than my own amusement. This was our reckoning. Alduin was destroyed, and Akatosh reclaimed his soul. The Gods - my own father - had turned against us. This was to be our judgement; hunted down one by one for years, torn down from our immortality by the cursed spell Dragonrend, then our souls consumed, our very beings lost within the Dragonborn's soul until the day came where it could tear our knowledge, and the last dregs of our consciousness, away from us - cast deep into a cold, unmerciful oblivion from which we could never escape. Then, perhaps it would turn our bodies into weapons and armour, and use our corpses to kill even more of us. I supposed I was fortunate, in a way, that the Qahnaarin had already consumed the souls of my brothers who were weak-minded enough to fall thrall to that forsaken will-bending shout. Now that it could no longer follow me through the skies, I actually stood a chance at escaping. I felt a guilty sense of relief at the thought.
I must be feeling more nostalgic than I imagined. I have already been here for much too long. I growled to myself, turning from my perch, towards the sheer cliff behind me. I took a few wary paces towards it, gazing across the distant, snow-scarred landscape below. I know the words. I remember the lessons that Alduin once taught me. The words Akatosh once whispered in my ear. The Thu'um that could carry an immortal to another world. I must focus on the words. Feel them within my soul... I took a deep breath, closing my eyes to the precipice that lay before me. Tear. Essence. Escape. The Thu'um of World Crossing. And if my father has a shred of mercy left within him for my wretched soul, perhaps I may yet be saved. I exhaled through my teeth in a snarl, and fell forward, my eyes and my wings snapping open as I took to the skies of my home for the last time.
The joorre were crafty. When no Dragonborn appeared in the ancient age, they turned to Kaan and learned the secrets of our shouts through Paarthurnax. When they could not seize the mastery of the Thu'um that we wielded, they created the shout Dragonrend using their rage, their hatred, and their anguish to strip away our power. When they knew that they could not beat Akatosh's firstborn in open combat, they had banished Alduin across time, to when he may be killed for good. I could not let them know what I had done to escape, or else they would surely find a way to pursue me. I had fled for too far and for too long to allow that to happen.
"Dovahkiin, you are too late," I growled, twisting into a dive. "You have claimed the souls of a thousand dragons, but your crusade will not end with our extinction. I will live on! And within me, Alduin will yet survive! Luv, Rii Filok!" My roar echoed out, and the colours of the world began to bleed away. The shout echoed out across the valley, throwing snow from the distant cliffs, and I felt myself begin to fall faster and faster. The wind blasted past my scales as the antediluvian Thu'um's magic wrapped around me, burrowing into my hide. I felt my immortal being shudder under the power of the shout, and a dull pain rocketed down the length of my body as the chill spread from the end of my tail to my wingtips. The ground continued to approach as the world tore asunder before me, and a rift formed: a silvery crack in the world, and from within it poured the brightest light I had ever seen. I squeezed my eyes shut, and let out a final roar of defiance; be it at the world I would leave behind, or the father that had lied to me so long ago, I cared not. The rift ceased moving, and it swallowed me whole.
There was darkness.
Then the world... shifted. Pressure washed over me, and I felt gravity tilt as a monstrous explosion rang out. No longer was I falling, rather, I was ascending. I opened my eyes, blinking to cast away the spots that had been burned into them, and I found myself squinting at the vibrant colours that lay below me. Where... Where am I? I wondered, waiting for my vision to acclimate to the foreign land that now sprawled beneath me. This land was colourful. Too colourful. Compared to the soft whites and muted tones of my home, the vibrant green forest was blinding, and if anything, the fires that I assumed had started from the shockwave of energy from the rift shutting behind me were less vibrant than the greenery was. The chill that lingered from the summit before the portal was overpowered by a temperate warmth, and the humid skies and distant scent of salt water was replaced by dry air and the smells of nature. My wings continued to flap as I leveled out, my gaze dragging once more across the forest I was now in flight above. Perhaps making a blind leap into another realm was not the wisest choice. I shuddered as I felt the drain of the Thu'um begin to spread, my weight suddenly too much for my beating wings to hold aloft. I scanned the horizon, settling on a not-too-distant chain of mountains. However, wisdom is often ignored by the desperate. I continued to desperately flap my wings, despite the exhaustion dragging me down. I needed a place to rest, and soon. I had not expected that crossing worlds would be an easy endeavour, but I could not have prepared for how much it drained me.
The mountain range was, thankfully, not too far off. I shifted into a glide, then began to turn, looking to spot a cave, or perhaps any flat spot where I could set down. Fortune favoured me, evidently, as I spotted a hole with a plateau of flat rock before it nestled in the side of one of the peaks. What drew my eyes, however, was the scorch marks that were scattered across the cave's entrance. I flapped my wings harder, speeding my descent towards the mountain peak. Another dragon?! Could it even be possible? Did another one of my brothers know the Dimensional Rift shout, and arrive here before me?
I made a shaky landing, swiftly dashing through the opening and down the tunnel. The tunnel opened into a fairly large cavern, though my eyes were immediately drawn to the scaly figure moving on the far side of the cave. Against all odds, another dragon is here! Perhaps I truly do still carry the favour of Akatosh! A grin spit my face as I crawled towards my crimson-scaled brother, and I couldn't help but let out a soft chuckle. "Drem yol lok, Zeymah! Drem, zu hind wah tinvaak-" I froze, my mouth hanging open, as the figure at the end of the cave turned to face me.
That... is not a dragon.
It had scales like me, yes, and great leathery wings, but that seemed to be the end of the similarities. Its wings emerged from its back instead of its front, and it had four legs instead of two. A single black frill grew from the back of its neck, and distrustful gold eyes bore into me. It was larger than I was, but not by much. "What are you?" I asked, narrowing my eyes. It glared back in response, standing to face me.
"Who do you think you are, coming into my home like this?" He snapped, baring his teeth.
I paused. I had made an error in entering the cave, evidently. I was drained, and I did not feel like testing the not-dragon's power while I was weakened. Diplomacy seemed the best course of action, so I sat down and nodded respectfully. "Krosis. I apologize for my abrupt entrance, but I assumed that this cave held within it a Dovah, not... whatever you are. I have recently exhausted myself, and was merely looking for a place to set down. I meant no disrespect. I will leave if you so wish." I silently cursed myself for revealing my vulnerability to him, and I anxiously ruffled my wings.
"'Exhausted yourself'? What could you possibly have been... Hey!" He snapped, suddenly standing to face me. "You're the one responsible for that blasted noise, aren't you?" He growled, taking a threatening step forward. "Some of us are trying to sleep around here!" A surge of anger spiked within me, but I fought down my pride. Arrogant though this beast may be, I saw more merit in a peaceful resolution than in a violent one.
"Krosis. Again, I bear no ill will, I merely-"
He took another step forward, flashing his teeth at me. "No, jerk! Enough with your weird words! You woke me up with that explosion thingy, and you just waltzed into my house like you owned it! You ought to be taught a lesson about personal respect!" He hissed, opening his jaws wide. Before I could respond, a gout of flame emerged, blasting into me. Though startled, I quickly realized the heat from his flame was astonishingly pitiful; its heat was less than what my brothers and I had used to casually greet one another in times since passed.
That did not matter to me, however. I had tried to be reasonable, and he had chosen to attack me. He was arrogant, and my wits had met their end. I did not know what this... Vodovah thought he was, but in that moment, my patience ran out. I inhaled deeply through the flames, and rose to meet his challenge.
"Fo Krah Diin!" I roared, and the fire was instantly overwhelmed by a torrent of ice from my maw. The creature reared back, surprised, as the first tongues of frost began to bite into him. He staggered under the force of my Thu'um, and I began to advance on him, driving him against the far wall of the cave. As his wings began to scrape the stone, I lunged forward, closing my jaws around his neck. I dug my talons into the ground and pulled, lifting him off the ground and throwing him across the cavern with a mighty swing from my neck. He was much lighter than I anticipated, and he collided with the far wall with an impact that shook the earth. I refused to let him recover, however, and breathed deeply once more. "Gaan Lah Haas!"
The shout tore though the air, and I watched as the energy enveloped him, dragging him back to the ground with a haggard gasp. I stood still, teeth bared, ready for him to try and continue his attack. A moment passed, then another, and as the purple energy continued to dance across his hide, I realized that he would not try to rise again. His eyes were wide with panic, and his breathing was laboured. The gash my teeth had left in his neck was bleeding heavily, and he seemed content to lie still, curled against the wall, among the gravel that was knocked free from the impact. I scoffed, turning towards the exit of the cave once again. "Perhaps I overestimated your abilities." I grunted, beginning to walk for the entrance.
The creature stirred, coughing heavily. "What... what was that?" He rasped, and attempted to stand once more. His limbs would not hold him, however, and he collapsed once more with a wheeze. I paused. A thought had struck me. Here I had a resident of this new world, completely at my mercy - a potential source of information, if nothing else. I could not reasonably leave, and go into the world blindly. Perhaps this meeting was an opportunity in disguise.
"You," I snarled, turning to the sniveling whelp. "What is it they call you?"
His gaze did not rise to meet my own. Bile rose in my throat as a looked down at him. Pathetic. And to think I mistook you for a Dovah. "My name is Blaze." He choked out.
"Blaze. What are you?"
The glow of my Thu'um faded from his scales. He tried standing once more, to no effect. He fell with a huff. "A... dragon."
I scoffed. "Doubtful. Where are we?"
His eyes briefly raised to mine. "How do you not know these things? What in Tartarus are you?"
I flexed my wing-claws, carving gouges into the stone. "Answer my question. I will not ask again."
His head quickly dropped, eyes tightly shut. "Smokey Mountain. Near Whitetail Woods," He coughed. "The town of Ponyville's to the east."
I sat there, befuddled. Impossible. I must have misheard. "Ponyville? There is a joore settlement named Ponyville?"
"Uh, yeah," He mumbled, finally managing to drag himself into a sitting position. "It's full of ponies. They built it. It's near their capital - Canterlot, I think it was."
I could barely believe what I was hearing. "Hin Lein joorre keyye? Beyn," I spat. "Ponies? Small horses rule this realm? How have you not destroyed them yet? What powers could they possibly hold?"
"Hey!" He growled, but shrunk under my glare. "The ones with the horns on their heads cast magic, and some of them have wings! There's a few in the capital with both, and a purple one lives in Ponyville!"
I scoffed. "Some have magic, then, and some can fly. It should not matter for a beast of fire, tooth, and scale. Your species is weak, if you have been driven to live in caves while they live peacefully in their towns."
He barked a rueful laugh. "Well, one of them has lived for thousands of years and literally raises the sun, so sorry if Princess Ember has decided to make peace with them!"
I stared at him. "Surely you jest. Your Krein is controlled by an immortal pony. A Keyvojoor. What twisted humour is this?" I growled, lowering my head. "This world makes no sense. Perhaps father has seen fit to punish me yet, and this realm is his instrument."
Blaze did not respond. I let out a rumbling sigh. "The divines that rule over this world are foreign to me, as are their intentions. The reason they would trust the gateway to their realm to a pony eludes me, but it matters not," I pursed my lips, looking down at my claws. "What goal lies before me? The ponies may make decent zaamme," I pondered, turning away from the red wyrm. I thought for a moment, then shook my head. "No. I have learned that lesson already. I have known the taste of death, and the terror of being hunted. Never again will I demand servitude born from fear." I snorted, scowling. "I need to consolidate power."
I paused, then began to pace the length of the cave. "Nid," I growled to myself. "Paar los ni di grah-zeymazin, ni nu." I spun around, turning away from the cowering lizard behind me, once more towards the entrance. "Ambition is not my ally. Not now." My neck swiveled back to the wretch in the corner of the cave. "Not yet. I know what I am. I have been powerless for too long. Should I try to seize power now, I would not be able to stop myself from desiring more than I should reasonably take. I do not yet know what threats stalk this new world, and my arrogance has led to my downfall before." I rumbled, shaking my neck.
My frown deepened. There was too much to do. I had too many questions, and no answers. I had nothing upon which to craft a plan, and I had still not decided whether searching out the other immortals would even be an ideal course of action. Perhaps absconding to the far reaches of the world would be preferable to dealing with the oddities that this new dimension offered? "I may yet speak with this leader of yours. This... 'Princess Ember' may be able to assist me, even if-"
A crash rang out from the entrance of the cave, and I whirled to face it with my teeth bared. A lone voice cried out, "By order of the Princesses, come out!"
I turned and locked eyes with the red dragon. Blaze groaned. "Royal guards."
I snarled in frustration, lashing my tail. "These royal guards serve princesses, then," I growled. "Do these princesses serve the Immortal Sun-mover?"
Blaze shot a nervous glance at the entrance, then turned back to me. "The Princess is the one who moves the sun." He growled. "I did not need this kind of attention..."
I bared my teeth, turning away from him. "I will deal with the... ponies. You will remain here." With that, I prowled forward, passing up through the tunnel once more, emerging into the sunlight. I glanced about, and then down.
Before me stood three white ponies in golden armour. All three had wings, and at my abrupt arrival, had backed up. The first thing that struck me was just how small they were; each one was easily half the size of a jul, and they were not nearly a fraction as intimidating.
"You," The one in the front said, clearing his throat and stepping forward. "You're under arrest for setting Whitetail woods on fire, which is in direct violation of the laws that the Dragon Lord Ember has set for dragons residing within Equestria. You'll be coming with us." He stated, standing straighter. My jaw dropped at the pony's brazenness. I was rendered speechless. They are either insane or the most self-entitled creatures to ever exist. They wish to arrest me, a dragon? With only a mere three soldiers?
The lead guard rolled his eyes at my silence. "We know it was you. Don't try to deny it. Some hikers saw a dragon of your description flying away from the fires you started. Come on."
My jaw shut with a snap. "You seek to arrest a son of Akatosh?" I finally growled.
The lead guard scoffed. "I don't care who you dad is, he can take it up with the court. Come on, buddy, don't even think about resisting."
Cold rage filled my heart, and a molten anger began to push my exhaustion from my mind. This land is a test. I care not what divine trickster currently watches over me, but I will not kneel to their will. The beings of this world are arrogant and spoiled. They know nothing of respect. They must be taught their place.
"Hin kah fen kos bonaar." I widened my stance, snarling down at the three royal guards that stood defiantly before me. "Zu'u Revakheyvkaal!" I roared, baring my teeth as the two in the rear nervously began to back up. "Dir ko maar! Strun Bah Qo!"