No Fury At All (Draganon)

Dec 9th, 2014
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  1. >Day six of your expedition on the Eastern Fringe of the Gryphon Lands
  2. >Reports from the locals had indicated anomalous quakes happening in the area, accompanied by strange wailing
  3. >They had put it down to the spirits of their dead mourning some great calamity to come, but pah!
  4. >You were a pony, and a scientist at that!
  5. >These backwards tribesmen probably still thought the sun and moon moved of their own accord, based on some everlasting hunt, like a dog chasing its tail
  6. >In their defence, they'd never been to a Summer Sun Celebration to see the princess raise the sun, but still
  7. >But you had been, and you knew far better than to crumble to superstition at the slightest sign of strange circumstances
  8. >So here you were, with a team of ponies, trying to locate where these tremors and noises were coming from
  9. >The gryphon leaders had requested the aid of Princess Celestia, knowing of the superiority of Equestrian technology no doubt, and she had sent in your team
  10. >So here you were, in the backwater of the Gryphon Lands, looking for the perfectly natural cause of whatever was screeching and shaking the ground
  11. >Of course, sometimes what you were looking for came and found you
  12. >Like in this case
  13. >A hydra, truly a magnificent specimen, easily twenty meters tall, was staring you down like a purple unicorn reading a book
  14. >Kind of a weird metaphor, but if you knew this pony...
  15. >It screeches in a terrible wail, eerily similar to what you'd imagine Tartarus sounds like, and slowly stalks up on you, tongues flicking from its mouths
  16. >And then the rumbling starts
  17. -
  18. >You are Anonymous
  19. >Man, your parents had been either real jerks or else your dad had wanted you to get beaten up a ton in school to "build character"
  20. >Seriously, your birth certificate actually had you named "Anonymous Incognito Yngir"
  21. >Well one out of three wasn't so bad, even if that one was Finnish
  22. >But forsaking the conundrum of the terrible parentage of your childhood, there was a more pressing matter at hand
  23. >Something was screeching in a tone that would usually make your ears bleed, but seemed dulled for whatever reason
  24. >Not to mention the constant, dull thumping on your side
  25. >Maybe there was a particularly bad car accident outside, and your cat was hungry
  26. >Well you can settle at least one of those things
  27. >You rise out of bed, the covers feeling bizarrely heavy on your body
  28. >The warm sun hits your body and you let out a yawn, stretching up your arms to work out any kinks
  29. >Twisting your neck sideways and popping the cartilage and finally open your eyes
  30. >The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the grass is green...
  31. >The grass? You lived inside, not in the park like a dirty hobo
  32. >You look down, and the sight overloads your brain till all that's left is a shrieking beast
  33. -
  34. >You are Tremble, an Equestrian seismologist on an expedition to the Gryphon Lands
  35. >And you were stilled in fear and awe of the sight before you
  36. >Behind that hydra that was about to devour you, a large hill began to move
  37. >Grass, dirt, rocks, and large trees fell away from what lay beneath the mound
  38. >A head with heavy brows of bone and scale topped with a majestic crown of horns
  39. >The neck and body followed the beast, scales shimmering dully, like a burnished shield
  40. >Down the monsters neck ran a series of fan-like spines, serrated and wicked looking
  41. >Its forelegs stretched out to the heavens, its wings following suit and painting a shadow across the valley
  42. >Its eyes opened, gleaming sapphires amid a bronze ocean, blazing with intelligence and will
  43. >The behemoth yawned, its maw gaping and showing a fearsome mouth filled with sapling sized teeth
  44. >It looked down, seeming to regard itself for a moment, as though taking in its own majesty
  45. >Then that fearsome jaw opened once more and loosed a roar that turned your bones to gelatin and forced you to the ground from sheer force
  46. >Your last vision is of the hydra turning towards this new challenger and shrieking in defiance, before all fades away
  47. -
  48. ->You are Anonymous, and you are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, dreaming
  49. >After all, you don't have scales or claws
  50. >You don't stand a hundred meters tall, or have a roar somewhere between Godzilla and Satan
  51. >Yes, a dream is the only logical explanation
  52. >A pinch on your scaly leg only results in a shooting sensation of pain and the feeling of torn flesh
  53. >Another bellow, this one of surprised injury
  54. >Dammit, just what in the hells was all this anyway?
  55. >But as you try and think of what exactly could possibly have brought you here, a ball of flame explodes against your face, or snout now
  56. >You feel a warming sensation, and the reek of soot in your nose, but are otherwise unharmed as you seek for what did that
  57. >Your new eyes fall upon a seemingly miniscule, multi headed creature, the source of the shrieking you had heard earlier, if its current noise was any indication
  58. >As you stare at it, something awakens inside your mind
  59. >This insignificant cretin barely able to conjure fire dared to waken and then attack you?
  60. >A smouldering flicker of annoyance fans itself into a flame of anger and you take a swipe at the minute beast with a gigantic claw
  61. >The hydra hops nimbly aside, or perhaps you were just too slow
  62. >Either way, the tongue of flame in your heart blazes into a white-hot inferno of rage
  63. >A raging blast of noise echoes from your maw at your opponent as your other claw, balled into a fist comes down on top of it
  64. >You barely feel the impact, but there's little doubt that the hydra does
  65. >The fist, smaller than the hydra but driven with considerable weight behind it, does the job and crushes two of its three head beneath its might
  66. >The heavily wounded, draconic creature screeches in pain from its undamaged mouth and flees as fast as it stumpy legs can carry it
  67. >The fire in your heart burns brighter and you release a resounding bellow of domination and victory that shakes the very walls of the valley you have been brought to
  68. >As the adrenaline dies though, the fear and uncertainty comes creeping back in
  69. >You peruse your surroundings once more, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of this new land
  70. >Your gaze travels downwards and...oh shit
  71. >You lean in and take a closer look at the pastel speck on the ground bellow and, yep that's a pony
  72. >Well, the where has been answered already
  73. >You're in fucking Equestria
  74. -
  75. >Your gentler nature takes over as you stare longer at the yellow mare lain in the dirt
  76. >Maybe she needs help, and there's a good chance she may be hurt
  77. >With as much gentleness as you can muster, given your unfamiliarity with this new body, you pluck the pony from the peat and cup her in the palm of your bus sized hand
  78. >Your eyes search the area and, after a moment, you spot what you sought
  79. >A trail of smoke rises into the air, perhaps a kilometer or less away from where you now stand
  80. >One of your wings, involuntarily twitching forward and smacking your head, or more accurately something protruding from it
  81. >Best not to use those, no idea how well you'd fair on your first flight, especially carrying precious cargo
  82. >So instead you stand as comfortably upright as you can, still hunched forward because of the wings and how it all is balancing on two legs, and take of at a rather brisk pace
  83. >You cover the distance in little over three minutes
  84. >Of course, once you arrive to the source, a small village of perhaps twenty buildings, there's not a soul in sight
  85. >Obviously they had been frightened by the massive quaking your tread had no doubt caused, nevermind the terrifying noise you had produced
  86. >But this was no time for fear, there was a possibly injured pony in need of aid!
  87. >You choose the most obvious public building you can see, a stark white, two level structure with strange runes on it and a winged heart
  88. >Heart means good right? Of course it does, it's a world filled with pastel ponies!
  89. >Using your unoccupied claw, you punch a hole in the upper level of the structure, revealing...
  90. >Some gryphons?
  91. >Huh, so you weren't in Equestria proper, or if you were then catbirds had taken up residence in it
  92. >One of the group is a clearly older bird, draped in all manner of coloured fabrics
  93. >Probably some kind of elder, she'd know what to do for sure
  94. >Making a slow blink at the group, trying to show you weren't about to eat them or steal their maidens and gold, you bring the claw holding the pony against the building, opened so they can take her
  95. >A pair of younger gryphons scamper over your scaly digits and pick up the prone pony and rush her inside to the building
  96. >You take a look back inside to ensure they weren't about to eat her or anything, after all half-hawk half-lions had to be predatory, right?
  97. >The dressed up elder falls onto her face, prostrating before you with her claws splayed out to her sides
  98. >Slowly, but surely, the rest of her number follow suit, even the youths that had grabbed the pony deposit her on a nearby bed and join in
  99. >As weirded out as you are by the display, it makes you feel...good
  100. >As though something in your chest has had a small weight taken off it
  101. >With another slow blink, you pull away from the building and carefully stomp your way out of the hamlet
  102. >You fall onto all fours as soon as you pass the outskirts, it's much easier to balance like this
  103. >With a great deal of concentration, you fold your wings to your sides and walk back to where you had awoken
  104. >The precise spot you'd stood up in was a crater, a brown blot in the otherwise pristine clearing
  105. >Turning back, you see both trails of destruction you'd left in your wake
  106. >The first, because you'd been dragging your tail to keep you from falling backwards, was a skid mark that left broken trees and overturned dirt in the wake
  107. >The second was much less obvious, but many trees no longer possessed tips
  108. >A heaviness falls over your mind
  109. >The actions, few as they had been, certainly had drained your energy for the time being
  110. >Most likely was that, given your current size, your body burned off calories faster than a sprinter in a leather gimp suit
  111. >With the pleasant thought of a black clad Usain Bolt streaking through your mind, you lay down in the crater your awakening had created
  112. >At least the churned earth was fairly comfy, and it was still warm enough to not bother you
  113. >With the promise to your brain that you'll figure everything out tomorrow, your eyelids fall shut, only to open once more when your dreams end
  114. -
  115. >An eager, constant hum pulls you out of your fitful slumber
  116. >Your eyes open to take in a stark white stucco ceiling above you
  117. >Well that's certainly strange, the last thing you remember...
  118. >That monster, looming so high above the trees, the one that seemed to tear itself from the very soil of the land
  119. >That horrifying bellow that had flattened you and made you fai-- knocked you out
  120. >You blink your eyes a few times, clearing away the feeling of sleep, and look around for the source of the noise
  121. >Surrounding your bed is a group of gryphons, or a flock, a nest? You weren't a faunologist
  122. >But an elder in bright robes is clearly in control of the mostly younger group of them
  123. >As soon as she sees you blink away the cobwebs in your head, she speaks up in a raspy, yet firm, voice
  124. >And of course, you don't understand a word she says
  125. >Fortunately, one of the younger gryphons begins translating immediately for you
  126. >"She asks how your sleep was, vorð."
  127. >You sit yourself up, slowly, and rest against the wall behind your bed
  128. >No backboard, and the stark white of the walls, plain sheets
  129. >You must have been in a hospital, evidently still in the gryphon lan--
  130. "Wait, what did you call me?"
  131. >The young gryphon lowers his head to you
  132. >"Vorð, ma'am."
  133. >You shake your head, eliciting a twinge of pain from the base of your neck
  134. "No, I mean I know what you called me. But I'm not your wife, what are you talking about?"
  135. >He frowns and speaks in his native tongue, which you mostly understood though they spoke too rapidly for your pained mind to keep up, to the elder
  136. >She responds in a slightly more impatient tone than before, and the young one lowers his head further
  137. >"Please excuse me, I was contracting the word. Elder Yngvir did not know your name, and so called you 'drekivorð'."
  138. >Another spike of pain in your head, and you bolt upright
  139. "Dragon wife? Just what in Tartarus are you saying?"
  140. >The young gryphon opens his beak to speak again, but the elder puts a talon on his shoulder and silences him, before speaking in a heavily accented Equestrian
  141. >"The Great Dragon brought you to this place. He carried you with a gentleness unknown of dragons to us. That means you hold a place in his heart."
  142. >With her last words she prods your chest with a talon
  143. >Your hoof touches where she had poked you, and her words sink in
  144. >That monster that had knocked you out with just its roar...saved you?
  145. >It's both strangely heartwarming, and equally terrifying
  146. >And yet, the curious filly in you raved ever louder
  147. >You needed to go back and see it
  148. "Where did this "great dragon" go?"
  149. >The old gryphon smiles and places her claw on the young translators shoulder
  150. >"My second-son, Svardr, will help you trail him."
  151. >He turns to the elder and begins bickering with her, apparently not happy being tasked with escorting the outsider
  152. >It gives you some time to think though
  153. >What did it mean that a monster like a dragon not only didn't kill you, but brought you to a hospital?
  154. >The weight was sinking in, giving you a sense of dreadful excitement
  155. >As soon as you got out of this bed, you were going dragon hunting
  156. -
  157. >Your vision is watery, it's hard to breathe
  158. >A burst of bubbles floats in front of your face, and you notice a spiderweb of cracks in front of you
  159. >A tightness about your chest eases as you feel a strap dig into your palms, painfully
  160. >Your sight shifts to the right and you can barely make out a blurry, limp figure beside you
  161. >Another burst of bubbles and a muffled noise of pain
  162. >Slowly, the sight darkens and eventually disappears altogether
  163. >You smell smoke and feel a small amount of heat near your face
  164. >Or snout, you suppose
  165. >You open your eyes and are greeted by the blazing, midday sun and the sight of a pony and gryphon sitting by a fire
  166. >The pony, apparently having been subtly watching you, gasps and backpedals rapidly
  167. >The catbird, probably barely just hatched if his size was anything to go by, immediately prostrated himself
  168. >Slowly, you lift your head and move it forward towards the gryphon
  169. >You honestly try your best to speak, to say anything
  170. >But the only thing that escapes your maw is a low, tortured moan
  171. >The pony approaches you, quite timidly, or maybe assuming you spook easily
  172. >"Excuse me, ehm, dragon. I just wanted to thank you for saving me from that hydra. I'd have been dead if it weren't for you."
  173. >You arch your neck towards her and do a slow blink to acknowledge that you understand
  174. >She slows her speech considerably, perhaps trying to word it in such a way that doesn't sound like she's dissapointed
  175. >"So...why didn't you eat me?"
  176. >You recoil at her suggestion, a hiss emenating from your open mouth
  177. >Eating a sentient creature, what kind of monster did they take you for?
  178. >Well, a dragon for one
  179. >And while you certainly had no objections to eating meat, the idea of chowing down on a speaking, thinking creature was abhorrent
  180. >The pony jumps backwards and squeaks, covering her head with her hooves
  181. >You move your snout towards her slowly and nudge her as gently as possible
  182. >She seems to get your message and stands back up, staring into your eyes, her knees shaking
  183. >You lower the tip of your snout towards her
  184. >Her trembling hoof reaches out towards you
  185. >You gently push your muzzle against her outstretched limb and do your best approximate noise of acceptance
  186. >Visions of a young man fishing from the moon whiz through your head as you pull back and snort gently
  187. >You look over at the gryphon, who's jaw is agape at the oddity of the scene
  188. >The pony takes a step back and stares up at you, seemingly regaining her courage
  189. >"My name is Tremble, and I guess you're my friend."
  190. -
  191. >The walk back to town seems to take forever
  192. >At least to you, it could have something to do with the fact that the two creatures you were travelling with took about thirty steps to one of yours
  193. >But you didn't mind, it gave you a chance to think
  194. >You were astonished by the fact that the pony you'd save, Tremble wasn't it, had come back
  195. >Not only that but she wanted to befriend you?
  196. >Jeez, maybe this place was a bit too cavity-inducing sweet after all
  197. >But what exactly were you supposed to do with a body like this?
  198. >You couldn't talk, as far as you knew, you hadn't eaten yet and only the gods knew how much you'd need
  199. >It was a frightening situation, to put it mildy
  200. >"The village is just ahead!"
  201. >Tremor's excited shouts rouse you from your dreary train of thought
  202. >You see that you are indeed just outside the village, and what's more, there's a reception waiting for you
  203. >As the pair below you emerge from the foliage, shouting excitedly in a language you don't understand, you stand high above the treetops, gazing down in a way you hope comes off as regal
  204. >You see a number of the group fall to their knees and...are they crying?
  205. >A part of you feels legitimately bad and, before you can stop yourself, you've leaned your head down and brushed your snout over the individuals foreheads
  206. >The murmuring of the crowd immediately ceases as you withdraw, keeping your head nearer to the ground
  207. >A hatchling, barely tall enough to reach your chin, reached up a claw and placed it on your scaley jaw
  208. >You make a low rumble in your throat, almost like a cats purr
  209. >The wonder and amazement coming from the child is damn near palpable, and excitement quickly spreads through the crowd
  210. >They approach in a gaggle, some timidly reaching, others eagerly laying hands on you, all babbling in a tongue you can't understand
  211. >But basking in the adoration and worship of so many certainly makes you feel good
  212. >Hell, better than good, you feel incredible, almost as though you deserve every bit they're giving
  213. >And why don't you? You're a motherfucking dragon!
  214. >You sigh contentedly, happy to enjoy the reverence until everyone gets over the novelty
  215. >Then the sun is darkened by a bat-winged shadow overhead
  216. -
  217. >Your neck snaps skyward before you even think, reacting on ingrained instinct
  218. >Not yours, but instinct to be sure
  219. >You can't believe what you're looking at, magical talking horsie land or no, this was insane
  220. >A massive, chiroptera-like creature whips overhead, chittering and snarling as it lays eyes on you
  221. >It performs and impossible looking turn, then lands in the forest just outside the village
  222. >The hideous creature, nearly as large as you, roars out a challenge, bombarding you with some kind of weaponized sound
  223. >You cringe away from the noise before trumpeting out your own, challenging bellow
  224. >Some hind part of your brain yells at you to get out of the town so you don't crush anyone underfoot, but your blood is up
  225. >On all fours you stalk forward, lips curled back and teeth on display, a constant growl echoing from your throat
  226. >The batwinged behemoth hisses at you and bares its own, massive fangs, daring you to come near
  227. >You finally realize you're not fully in control of what you're doing, almost like you're in a command seat on a ship, just ordering it what to do and seeing it happen
  228. >It's kind of neat, though mostly terrifying because if you weren't in control...
  229. >What was?
  230. -
  231. >No time for that now, the chiropteran beast started charging at you
  232. >A strange gait, likely coming from its body not being naturally quadrupedal
  233. >Though given its mass, the charge didn't need to be a fast one to carry crushing force
  234. >You lower your head and rear back, of your forelegs slightly, before pushing yourself down and butting the hideous monsters skull
  235. >While you can certainly feel the impact, and no little amount of pain, the effect on the creature is nothing short of devastating
  236. >You can hear the skull crunch from the impact, and its screech of pain nearly deafens you
  237. >But it's down, and dying
  238. >But not dead, not yet
  239. >You lean in, maw agape, and close in on the chiroptera's neck
  240. >It squeals, each time beginning anew in a high pitch until it goes beyond your range of noise
  241. >Then your jaws snap shut, crushing and tearing its neck, and the monster goes silent
  242. >You bellow out another roar of triumph, snout crimson with the gore of your victory
  243. >If you could chuckle, you would, that think would never have given Godzilla a run for his money
  244. >Heck, you doubt it could have come close to even Mothra, given that you killed it without knowing how to even use your wings
  245. >You snarl one more time at the gigantic corpse before turning your back and going towards the village
  246. >You never hear the second creature until it impacts your ribs and sends you sprawling into the dirt and trees
  247. >You begin to rise when its claws sink into your back and its teeth into your shoulder
  248. >The cry of pain you unleash shakes the skies and you bolt up, whirling about and trying to catch this newcomer in your mighty jaws
  249. >It pushes off you and flaps up into the air, landing a few meters from you
  250. >You turn, slowed by the immense pain that radiates from the gashes, and being more cautious
  251. >This one was larger than the other, almost equal in size to you
  252. >The jaw was stronger, more pronounced, and its teeth more serrated like a steak knife than smooth
  253. >It stands over the corpse of its fellow, bellowing in anger
  254. >Perhaps they were mates? How would that bedroom romp go?
  255. >Shuddering internally at the thought, and externally at a pulse of pain, you push the strange idea from your mind
  256. >The beast pounces again, grabbing the horns about your head with stubby claws and scratching at your eyes with its hind talons
  257. >It doesn't have the power to penetrate your scaly hide, but it's certainly distracting
  258. >You snap at its legs, but it pulls away and pushes off, once again landing across the small, monster-made clearing
  259. >A pressure begins building in your throat and your chest begins to burn, you need to kill this thing fast
  260. >With a roar you spring forward, expecting to flatten the monster and crush its skull between your teeth
  261. >Incredibly, the chiroptera avoids the pounce, immediately going back onto the offensive and tearing gashes along your flank
  262. >One of its wings batters your head and knocks you to the ground
  263. >Its fangs sink into your hind leg, eliciting another roar of anguish
  264. >Your vision starts fading, the fatigue and pain taking its toll
  265. >But that pressure in your throat and heat in your chest won't let you go down so easily
  266. >You raise you head and look back at the creature, seeing your tail rise into the air as well
  267. >But your spines aren't burnished bronze, they're crackling with azure energy
  268. >The heat keeps building and pushing the pressure in your throat upwards
  269. >A low buzzing noise fills the air, and the breeze crackles with energy
  270. >The beast, backs of, chittering in fear and confusion
  271. >You rise back onto all fours and face your adversary, panting with fatigue
  272. >It feels like you're about to vomit, and you can't hold whatever was pressing in your throat back any longer
  273. >Your jaws flare open, facing the monstrous bat, and unleash a hellstorm of lightning straight into its head
  274. >The stream of pure energy cooks the air around it, generating a terrifying cacophony of crashes and booms
  275. >Finally, you close your jaws and cease the storm, gazing at your fallen foe
  276. >Its head is gone, it simply doesn't exist anymore
  277. >The body is charred beyond recognition, and the grass around where it was standing had burned
  278. >Your gaze travels back to where the village still stood, unharmed though perhaps their hearts were racing now
  279. >But they all lived, and that was what mattered
  280. >You roar in triumph with the last energy you can muster before rolling over onto your unmarred side, panting with exhaustion
  281. >As you lay your head down, unable to muster the energy to hold it up any longer, your vision begins fading
  282. >Before your eyes fully close, you see tiny silhouettes running towards you
  283. >Your last thought is the hope that Tremor doesn't take this too hard
  284. >Then you're gone
  285. -
  286. >You're sitting in a field, staring at the open, blue sky untainted by clouds or even birds
  287. >A soft spring wind blows through the air, ruffling your mane and teasing your coat
  288. >It's been a couple weeks since a joint force of Royal Equestrian Guards and Gryphon Varangers arrived
  289. >You'd sent a report to Princess Celestia of course, she had sanctioned the mission and prepared everything diplomatically
  290. >You hadn't expected this kind of response though, and truth be told the locals weren't taking kindly to it
  291. >The mixed troop had immediately done their best to fence in the sleeping behemoth of a dragon, the one that'd fallen only a hundred meters from the village
  292. >The villagers had tried to destroy the fence on many occasions, even succeeding in burning down a large part of it, before it was put under constant guard
  293. >They had set up a small camp just across the clearing from the soldiers, and could often be heard incanting in some strange tongue that you weren't familiar with
  294. >It was a bizarre scene to be sure, and you weren't certain of why you hadn't been recalled yet
  295. >The mission was over, the source of the earthquakes and groundcracking shrieks had been found and...dealt with
  296. >Why were you still here? You were just a scientist after all, no one important
  297. >You feel a tap on your withers and turn to see a young gryphon standing there
  298. >Oh it's the elder's, or matriarch of this clan you supposed, grandson, the one who'd seen you to the dragon
  299. >He shuffles his feet around in the grass of the meadow
  300. >"Ms. Tremor, we are celebrating tonight. I humbly request that you join us for this."
  301. >That clipped accent sounded so odd, but perhaps it was just because he was making sure nothing was pronounced poorly
  302. >Of course, it still sounded a bit funny
  303. "Why? What's so special about tonight?"
  304. >It sounded rude, but you just kind of blurted it out how you thought it
  305. >Not much of a barrier between your brain and your mouth
  306. >But Svardr either didn't notice the tone or, maybe more likely given your apparent status, was pointedly ignoring it
  307. >"It's Ormrsdagr, today we make an offering to appease the great beast that sleeps by our village. He saved all of us, and we must honour the wounds he took in doing so."
  308. >It sounded ridiculous, absolutely mad to pay homage to a creature that could have so easily annihilated their homes, had it not been distracted by beasts as horrifying as itself
  309. >It was insanity, plain and simple
  310. >But there was still a niggling doubt inside your mind, the monster had spared you after all
  311. >Not only had it spared you once, but it had actively protected both you and the village
  312. >Maybe, just maybe, it wasn't such a terrible force
  313. "Alright, I'll go. When do the ceremonies or whatever start?"
  314. >The young gryphon looks up at the sun, now just above the distant hills
  315. >"Very soon, perhaps one half of an hour? Come, we must go now if we're to make it."
  316. >You mutter under your breath, but rise and follow him as he walks back towards the village
  317. >The chanting increases in volume, the closer you two get to the encampment
  318. >Your hackles have been up the entire time, every nerve set on edge by the ambience of the noise and the runes carved into every tree nearby
  319. >You weren't a superstitious pony, but damn if this wasn't bringing up thoughts of some cult bringing you to feed to a dead god or something
  320. >The stiffness of Svardr's gait only sets your mind fluttering further onto ridiculous ideas about what might happen
  321. >Before long, you arrive at the edge of the camp and begin making your way through the close quarters set by the abundance of tents
  322. >There were strange knots in the trees that each tent sat at the foot of
  323. >Twisted images of what appeared to be gigantic serpents and behemothic mastodons fighting
  324. >The knots seemed to shimmer and dance in the firelight of the clearing, almost looking to move and fight in time with the rhythm of voices
  325. >You shake your head, finally noticing that you've stopped outside the largest tent in the camp
  326. >It was adorned with all sorts of trinkets, carved runestones, masks
  327. >And of course, was the source of the loudest chanting in the area
  328. >You duck under the flap and enter, your escort following close on your tail
  329. >A group of gryphons stood in concentric circles around a fire, their heads bowed and tails twitching in time with their incantations
  330. >One at the center, it was the matriarch herself, looks up as you enter and raises and claw to the congregation
  331. >The noise immediately drops, not completely stopping but becoming more of a loud whisper than a cacophony
  332. >The old gryphoness makes her way through the crowd, weaving lithely through the crush of bodies without touching a single one
  333. >She bows low when she reaches you, catching your eyes with the decoration upon her
  334. >Her feathers and fur were painted with a deep red substance, patterned in whorls and waves, runes and rushings all across her body
  335. >It was tribal paint done to such a degree as to be dizzying
  336. >She raises her head once again and places a claw on your brow, making you flinch from the contact
  337. >"I am glad to see you here, drekivorð. This ceremony would have been such a miserly affair with your presence."
  338. >You nod at her words and thank her quietly
  339. >She gestures to the flap behind you, and you both walk out together, passing by Svardr who goes in to join the rest of the flock
  340. >The moment that the tent flap shuts, the noise of the chanting increases again
  341. >But the matriarch leads you away from the tent, to the border of the small bivouac, within sight of the soldiers fortifications and the sleeping mass of the dragon
  342. >"Ms. Tremor, if it's acceptable to call you such, have you heard about how the gryphons first came to revere the dragons?"
  343. >Of course you had! You'd done loads of cultural studies to prepare yourself for this trip this deep into their home
  344. >Gods, mythos, creation of the world, even the differences based on the region that you'd be visiting
  345. >Though...a refresher never hurt
  346. "Heh, I'm actually a little foggy on that one."
  347. >The matriarch, you'd never actually caught her name, looks up at the sky before beginning her tale
  348. >"In ages past, our tribes had been reduced to so few, by disease, famine, and predations from creatures, such as hydras and windigos. But from one of the tribes, a great leader was born. Jurl Fafnir, of the Northern Wastes went and conquered the other tribes, bringing gryphons of every flock together as one, and we prospered. We had thought the North too sparse to populate, but he showed us hidden places to find food and rest, even new nesting grounds secreted away in the crags of the great mountains. And in the caves, we found the first dragons."
  349. >She knelt down and began scratching pictograms into the dirt with her claws
  350. >"These were not the same dragons you have in Equestria today, Ms. Tremor. They are like the one that has protected our village for eons, the one that those soldiers now surround out of fear. The great serpents in the North tolerated our presence, for our entire people ate less in a season than they did in a day, and because of our respect for their territory. But the peace was shattered one day when a fledgling stole an egg from one of the nests. By the time that they found the culprit, the son of the great leader, the boy had already devoured it."
  351. >She stares across the way at the soldiers standing by the sleeping serpent, her eyes oddly distant
  352. >"They say that the nest of the chieftain in the North still burn with the fury unleashed by the dragons on it. The very peak itself became molten and flowed like a red river, covering the entire nesting in ashes, and turning it into the Wastes we know today. That is when we left, for the dragons had shown us that they had the power that even gods would balk at using. Occasionally, from then on, there would be small raids by the dragons on some villages, often the ones of foolhardy hatchlings gone to the North to prove their worth. We erected shrines to them, that they might not turn their baleful breath upon us as well."
  353. >She looks up at you and smiles, that oddly flexible beak turning up at the corners
  354. >"And our worship has borne fruit, as you can see. For dragons find worship as endearing as many others do. It is simply natural for such monstrosity to warrant it. And that is the tale of why we worship these great firebringers, and I understand you may call such things foolhardy, but you have seen for yourself, they are not simple beasts like a chicken, or a cow. They are wiser than you, or even I, could ever hope to be."
  355. >You both look at the distant peaks, beginning to glow red from a new day dawning
  356. >Had it been so long already? All the excitement must have gone to your head, that or you really were that far north
  357. >You watch the sun rise alongside the old gryphoness, content to warm yourself in the waxing rays of light
  358. >But movement catches your sight in the corner of your vision
  359. >A gilded chariot flits through the air, seeming to be beelining towards the dragon, and flanked by a number of pegasi in glistening armour
  360. >Wait, didn't Princess Celestia use a chariot just like that one? Why in Tartarus would she be visiting here?
  361. >But the train of thoughts is interupted by the sudden rumbling of the earth
  362. >You lower your head as the matriarch starts chanting, probably in prayer
  363. >In a second, you quickly join her, and the rumbling becomes worse
  364. -
  365. >The smell of strange blood fills your nostrils and twists your slumbering visions
  366. >Horrific cries fill your ears, screams of wounded children and dying mothers
  367. >Fire and smoke fill your gaze, obscuring the torment making the noise
  368. >Alien thoughts scrape painfully along your consciousness, beating back the more rational part left behind
  369. >'Three-and-forty eggs crushed, nests burned, brothers cut, Surtr's Perch blazing with eldritch hexes'
  370. >A spike of cold pain lances through your chest and, finally the sensations cease
  371. >Your eyes snap open once again, revealing a clutch of gold-clad guards sparkling in the dawning sun
  372. >They shouted as soon as you opened your eyes, leveling their pikes square at your face
  373. >Something about one of their wives or something named Celeste...
  374. >The fog dispels from your mind and it finally dawns on you what they're talking about
  375. >These are Celestia's troops, and they were yelling for her, and that meant
  376. >Before your addled mind can catch up, the princess of the sun herself was standing before you in all her radiance
  377. >Were it not for this body, you'd have stood high with arms outstretched to the heavens
  378. >But you content yourself with raising your head off the ground, it takes enough energy just to do that
  379. >Unfortunately, a yawn forces its way out of your throat, escaping into the morning air and polluting the stillness with a noisome bellow from deep within your chest
  380. >The guards step back, cowed by the quite accidental display, but a group of similarly kitted, but clearly more specialized, troops take their place
  381. >Their helmets cover their faces, masked with the visage of a snarling lion, and a tall, red plume rises from the top of their helmets
  382. >The lances levelled at you now have a strange corkscrew patterning on the steel, and the heads are half as long as the hafts themselves
  383. >But stepping in front of them, and wearing a gaze that's far more befitting of a warlord than a goddess, stands Princess Celestia
  384. >But something about her
  385. >You couldn't put your finger, claw, talon whatever, on it but she was entirely offputting
  386. >You take a deep breath, trying to calm yourself from the threat of weapons levelled at you and an angry princess who could likely call down the power of the sun itself on you when it hits you
  387. >She reeks
  388. >It's no ordinary stench, the foul smell pouring off her seems to almost be emanating from her very soul, for how deep it is
  389. >But below the rational human mind of yours, the instincts of a dragon lurched into sudden panic and writhing hatred
  390. >'Murder, egg-killer, nest burner, matron of Tartarus, scale-cracker'
  391. >But underneath it all was a rhythmic chant that continuously grew until it was all but deafening
  392. >'Liar, liar, liar liar liar liarliarliarliarLIARLIARLIAR'
  393. >You lips curled back and you felt a burning deep in your gullet, and your spines and crown of horns began crackling with a familiar energy
  394. >You swiftly shut your eyes, forcefully close your mouth, and begin taking deep, meditative breaths
  395. >You'd done enough fighting and, as anthemic as Celestia was to you, you needed to find out how to become not a dragon anymore
  396. >No, you needed to find out how to become a human again
  397. >Yes, human, that's what you were underneath all these scales, teeth, and spines
  398. >Then it occurs to you, you have no clue how you were supposed to communicate like this
  399. >Opening your eyes once more, you see Celestia's horn glowing as though charging up some kind of spell, probably to use on you
  400. >You put and open hand in front of her, trying to show that you don't mean any harm, but one of those special guards stabs it with his lance
  401. >The tip cuts clean through your scales and stabs deep into the palm, causing you to flinch away from it
  402. >Your blood spatters the ground, steaming, sizzling, and for all the world looking like a pony
  403. >That was it!
  404. >With your opposite hand, you coat the tip of one of your claws in the blood and, with what little fine motor control you have, begin to draw in the dirt
  405. >For what it's worth, Celestia and her guards restrain themselves while you do your best, tongue stuck out the side of your mouth with effort
  406. >There, finished!
  407. >It's passable as a dragon and a pony, in this case Celestia, touching claw and hoof together
  408. >You ensure to point at the cartoonish looking smiles on each of their faces, done so she can figure out that you're friendly
  409. >Her gaze has changed from one of divine wrath to that of a certain purple unicorn when something doesn't make sense
  410. >But shouting draws your attention away from the regal ruler and towards a small, blond dot growing rapidly
  411. >Wait, you know that dot, and the accompanying panicked shouting
  412. >That was Tremor!
  413. >She'd been kind enough to you, even if she did talk a bit much about her job when you walked with her back to the village
  414. >You easily step over Celestia and her elites and lean your head down to meet Tremor half way, crooning in a happy tone
  415. >She grabs onto your muzzle and starts nuzzling it
  416. >You don't understand exactly why she was, but then you were a human in a world populated by talking ponies, and were trapped in the body of a gigantic dragon
  417. >Looking past your snout, you see some old gryphon all painted up and looking really cool, except that she was bowing to you like a Muslim to Mecca
  418. >Your chest expands slightly, such a magnificent creature like yourself deserves that kind of admiration after all, but for the most part you simply don't care all that much
  419. >A pony was cuddling you, or your face, and that was contentment in a can, body, fursuit, whatever
  420. >But from behind you, or beside you but behind your head, you hear someone clearing their throat
  421. >You turn your head slightly and rotate your eye to see Princess Celestia standing and tapping her hoof impatiently
  422. >Tremor, finally noticing her ruler standing there, rushes over and bows deeply before the princess
  423. >"P-princess Celestia, I'm sorry. I didn't notice you there. I-I'm Tremor, the lead scientist of the team that you'd sent to find the source of the issues plaguing the Karstair tribe. It turned out to be a hydra, but easily three times larger than the ones we have in Equestria. But luckily this big guy was around to stop him!"
  424. >The princess' gaze turns on you and you slowly blink, trying your damnedest to convey agreement, but gods only knew if you were pulling it off
  425. >The princess turned her eyes back on the scientist still bowing at her feet
  426. >"And does this creature have a name?"
  427. >Creature? Ouch, that kinda hurt somewhere in your pride
  428. >Tremor looks nervously between you and Celestia
  429. >"Uh, he's called...Shiin, yeah. He actually woke up when the hydra was about to eat me, then kicked its butt! And kinda tore up the forest a bit, but still he saved me and that's got to count for something, r-right?"
  430. >The sun goddess' gaze travels back to you and you simply stare back at her, nothing disturbing your stillness but your slow, sure breathing
  431. >Finally, Celestia sighs and bows her head
  432. >"Very well. Shiin, if that's indeed your name, please follow me. I have a great deal of questions to ask of you."
  433. >You lower your head to show that you're willing to go along with her, but Tremor takes it for an invitation for her to jump on
  434. >And indeed, that's what she does, like a little mountain goat she begin clambering up your head, carefully making her way past your bony crown
  435. >Celestia stare pointedly at Tremor's rear, clearly trying to convey a message, maybe telepathically or something
  436. >Could unicorns do that even?
  437. >If they could, Tremor wasn't getting it at all, or maybe it was impossible
  438. >Either way, you stare straight back at Celestia, daring her to object, until she finally sighs and turns around, taking flight and heading straight North
  439. >You decide to walk instead, no need to try out flying when you've got precious cargo on your back
  440. >And still, you can keep easy pace with Equestria's ruler, being careful to not trample too many woodland creatures underfoot
  441. >The slight pressure on one of your spinal spikes lets you know that Tremor is safely aboard and nestled somewhere she won't fall off
  442. >You begin wondering what compelled her to run to you like that after all, you were a dragon and she a pony, that's a predator-prey kinda thing, right?
  443. >Of course, this had been your dream when you'd lived another life, having a warm pony cuddle up to you
  444. >But not like this
  445. >Not anything like this
  446. -
  447. >Celestia walks along, further away from the village, heading towards a mountain range in the distance
  448. >Surely she wasn't going to walk all the way to the peaks, but she marched doggedly on without speaking
  449. >The wide trail through the forest left by your enormous steps and swinging tail was followed by dozens of gryphons
  450. >All of them were painted in dizzying arrays of runes and designs, many sang as they walked along with you
  451. >The guards-
  452. >'Dragonslayers' a whisper tickled through your mind
  453. >The Dragonslayers kept the avian people back a fair distance from you but seemed more concerned for the safety of their princess, always leaving a half dozen guards around her person
  454. >You did your best to pointedly ignore them, instead absorbing yourself with reflection
  455. >After finding that you hadn't been dreaming on the first day, one thought had been slowly consuming you
  456. >How?
  457. >How did you come to be in Equestria? How were you inhabiting the body of a dragon?
  458. >How were you going to get back home?
  459. >Perhaps Celestia had some or all of the answers, perhaps she had none
  460. >But first you needed to find the answer to a more pressing question
  461. >How were you going to communicate with her?
  462. >Well you are a magical, mythical beast, and even if you're incapable of speaking you must be able to 'talk' in some way
  463. >Another word rumbles through your consciousness and a force presses down on your head
  464. >'Mind'
  465. >As quickly as it comes, the feeling is gone but the word itself lingers
  466. >You recall your earlier thought as Celestia had glared at Tremble
  467. >Yes, perhaps that would be the way, you are a being of magic as well now
  468. >You focus on trying to push your mind “outwards” from your head
  469. >Or more specifically, above it to the little weight nestled among your crown of horns
  470. >You feel the little pony on your head shifting around
  471. >You try and sharpen your mind towards that sensation, and you hear a little gasp
  472. >Finally, you're rewarded with a glimpse inside her mind
  473. >It's a busy place, and right now full of fear and...pain?
  474. >Startled by the sudden realization, you think less of a sharp focus and more of a gentle embrace
  475. >Her pain lessens a great deal, and she stops shifting, but you hear her panting as though exhausted by the experience
  476. >Suddenly it dawns on you
  477. >How do you plan to talk like this?
  478. >With all the thoughts that are racing through both yours and her mind, any words would likely be jumbled
  479. >But you can use feelings perhaps, or visions?
  480. >With nothing to lose, you try and impress an image of you shaking her hoof
  481. >A great deal of confusion emanates from her mind, and you realize you'd given her an image of the human you shaking her hoof
  482. >You try again, this time with a vision of a smaller version of the dragon you are performing the same action
  483. >She speaks aloud from the top of your head, seeming quite distant to you
  484. >”A-are you trying to communicate with me?”
  485. >Over your new mental connection, you make the projection of yourself nod
  486. >”Uh, well, I'm Tremble. I'm a seismologist and avithropologist. I'm the uh, the pony you saved from that hydra.”
  487. >You snort out loud, you knew all this already, you weren't some old man dammit!
  488. >Tremble lets out a little 'eep' as the wave of annoyance goes over the telepathic connection
  489. >Is that how it works?
  490. >You suppose it makes sense that it would send feelings as well, got to be more careful about that
  491. >Now you send a calm feeling, and in return you feel a sense of relaxation
  492. >A yell comes from below you and you notice one of the Dragonslayers blocking your path
  493. >You were so distracted that now your foot is hanging just above him, but now stopped
  494. >Celestia's voice echoes up from the woods below you, sounding far louder than any normal yelling could even be
  495. >”We're here, creature. Let my subject down.”
  496. >While it irks you on some strange level to follow the orders of a pony, you lower your head under the trees and rest it next to the princess
  497. >Her personal guards have their lances leveled at your face, you notice
  498. >As if you even wanted to attack her
  499. >That rank stench hasn't disappeared from her though, it sits heavy in your nostrils
  500. >You feel a pressure deep within rumbling, well under your conscious mind, but it begins to concern you
  501. >But time enough for mysteries later, and you put the thoughts out of your mind
  502. >Tremble clambers down your craggy face and bows before her princess, though Celestia just glares up at you
  503. >”So, beast, do you know where we are?”
  504. >You look around the little clearing you've found yourself in
  505. >There are several rows of what look like long, overgrown trenches plowed across it
  506. >Much of the greenery is short grasses and wildflowers, unlike many of the clearings you had passed though
  507. >In fact, it reminded you a bit of the space you had awoken in
  508. >But still, you slowly shake your head
  509. >You didn't want to attempt to communicate to what may as well be a god with your mind quite yet
  510. >The princess scoffs and makes a sweeping gesture with her hoof
  511. >”Fifty years ago, this was an outpost of the Equestrian Expeditionary Force. They were guarding a group of scientists who were bound for the Wastes to the North of here.”
  512. >She turns towards the dark line of mountains in the distance and her eyes narrow
  513. >”Shortly after making camp here, all of them vanished. When an investigation team finally came, all that they found was a burned out crater. They asked the villagers, who all claimed ignorance of anything happening. But one of my cartographers noted a large elevation nearby that had not appeared on any maps before.”
  514. >She twists back to face you, her brow creased with lines of anger
  515. >”So monster, why did you feel it necessary to kill my ponies?”
  516. >You squint your eyes at her, confused at the accusation
  517. >You'd never harmed a pony, and you certainly hadn't done it fifty years ago
  518. >Tremble stop kowtowing before Celestia and moves herself into the princess' sightline
  519. >Her voice quivers as she speaks up
  520. >”Y-your majesty, please pardon me but, I don't think this is the dragon that destroyed the expedition.”
  521. >Celestia's glare turns from you onto Tremble, who makes like her namesake and begins shaking
  522. >”And how, my little pony, would you know such a thing?”
  523. >Tremble raises a shaking hoof to her forehead
  524. >”W-well, I can...feel it in here. I d-don't know how, but I know he doesn't know what you're talking about.”
  525. >Oh right, the mental link
  526. >You look at Tremble's back and do your best to exude a calming warmth
  527. >It's not easy, the subconscious rumble keeps growing the longer Celestia stares
  528. >But the seismologist's shaking lessens and she stands up straighter
  529. >Celestia's voice turns from angry to sounding abhorred
  530. >”You mean you let this creature inside your mind?”
  531. >Tremble shakes her head and scratches at the earth
  532. >”No, he just started...communicating with me. While we were walking out here, I had this image of him in my mind. But I knew it wasn't from inside, somehow. And at first it was him, but wasn't you know, him? It's all...”
  533. >She sits on the ground, rubbing her temples, and Celestia lays a hand on her withers, speaking in a voice holding a note of interest
  534. >”So you can speak with him?”
  535. >Tremble nods her head, slowly
  536. >Celestia's face softens as a smile grows on her face
  537. >”Well my little pony, and dragon, let us have a proper conversation.”
  538. -
  539. >Celestia stared coldly at you, and in turn you held her gaze
  540. >It was significantly easier for you now that the gryphons had caught up with your party
  541. >They had made camp near your tail and groups of them were near constantly worshiping your very presence
  542. >The worship seemed to make you stronger, you were far less tired than you had been when you'd first stopped
  543. >That brought up the question of feeding
  544. >Did you even need to anymore?
  545. >As long as you had the gyphons around, or any kind of worshiper, you'd get powered up it seemed
  546. >That could certainly be interesting, but what if you didn't have any around?
  547. >Well it was all something to figure out later
  548. >The noise of someone clearing their throat snaps you out of your reverie
  549. >”I'm waiting for an explanation, dragon.”
  550. >An explanation for what?
  551. >Had she asked a question while you were lost in your thoughts?
  552. >Did she expect you to read her mind?
  553. >A timid voice speaks up from beside your face, just out of your sight
  554. >”He's confused about what he's supposed to explain, princess.”
  555. >And rightly so!
  556. >You let out an indignant puff of smoke, ignoring the guards with their lances leveled at you
  557. >Celestia rolls her eyes and speaks in an exasperated tone
  558. >”I want you to explain that, if it was not you who destroyed the expedition, then who or what did?”
  559. >Well, you suppose that question at least makes sense
  560. >Not that it means you know the answer at all
  561. >You focus on Tremor, and trying to give her the feeling of not knowing what the answer is
  562. >”Princess, he doesn't know what killed them.”
  563. >Maybe you're actually getting better at this
  564. >Celestia slams a hoof down on the grassy pasture
  565. >”That isn't good enough, by Tartarus!”
  566. >Tremble's sudden burst of fear feeds back through your mental link, setting your nerves on edge
  567. >You immediately set about trying to calm yourself, but in your distraction something...else washes in
  568. >A powerful, thundering voice echoes through your head, and judging by the reactions of the ponies, theirs as well
  570. >For a long moment, everything in the clearing is silent
  571. >The wind itself seems to have stopped rustling the grass, cowed by the enormity of the telepathic bellow
  572. >From the corner of your eye, you see Tremble backing towards Princess Celestia
  573. >And slowly, as the guards regain themselves, they level their lances at your face
  574. >Celestia opens her mouth to shout, but you don't hear her words
  575. >A wind rushes over your face, drowning out all sound
  576. >You squint your eyes into it, and when the wind winds down, you find yourself surrounded by a burning hellscape
  577. >Looking around, you see that you're at the base of a burning volcano
  578. >A massive, shadowy thing blasts through the plume of ash and rushes overhead, scattering cinders in its wake
  579. >You raise your hand over your face as it passes to protect it
  580. >Wait, your hand?
  581. >You look down and realize that you're back to being the way you were born
  582. >Happy as you are to be back in your body, the location tempers your ecstasy
  583. >A crash echoes behind you and a cloud of soot rushes past you
  584. >You turn around to find out what had crashed, and see the trunk of a massive tree
  585. >A scaly, clawed tree
  586. >Your gaze travels upwards and stops at the massive head of a dragon, so large it blocks out the fiery sky
  587. >The head pushes through the thin curtain of ash and cinder, looming ever closer to your face
  588. >A massive crown of horns sitting atop the head crackle with bright streaks of lightning
  589. >And then, in a monstrous voice, it speaks to you
  590. >”So, you are the soul-traveller that inhabits my body.”
  591. >The enormity of the dragon leaves you speechless
  592. >You may have been in that body for the past few...days? Weeks?
  593. >Just how long had it been anyway?
  594. >The gargantuan claw in front of you slams into the ground again
  595. >”ANSWER.”
  596. >You open your mouth and speak up in a stuttering voice
  597. “I-I'm Anonymous.”
  598. >The dragon snarls at you, lowering its immense head and taking you in with a piercing, cobalt eye
  599. >”Do not trifle with a dragon, nothing remains unknown to me for so long!”
  600. >You stand speechless for a moment that drags out into eternity
  601. >Then the dragon blinks, quite suddenly
  602. >”Oh.”
  603. >There is another moment of silence
  604. >Then you just have to open your stupid mouth
  605. “Uh, not to waste your time, but where are we?”
  606. >The dragon stares at you silent
  607. >Then from its throat pours a grating, monstrous sound
  608. >To call it laughter would diminish it, but you suppose it's the closest such a being could come
  609. >The halting roar rises for a long moment before petering out
  610. >Then sounding quite mirthful, the dragon speaks again
  611. >”Why, dear invader, we are home!”
  612. >You blink, startled, and look around
  613. “But...this isn't home.”
  614. >The dragon's thoughts lose their jubilant tone
  615. >”Perhaps it once was not, but you have taken my body from me. This is now your home, just as much as mine.”
  616. >The reality of that simple statement hits home, and overwhelms you
  617. >You sit heavily in the dust of the eruption, the volcano rumbling quietly behind you
  618. >The dragon lays its monolithic head beside you
  619. >”What brought you to take my body?”
  620. >You stare into its eye, incredulous at the question
  621. “I didn't 'take' anything. I just woke up one day and 'poof' I was a dragon.”
  622. >The beast squints the eye facing you
  623. >”Is that so? Where are you from, creature? I have not seen your like before.”
  624. >You stare up at the embers floating across the smoky sky
  625. “Earth, a little planet in who knows where now. I'm a human, there's seven billion more like me back home.”
  626. >The dragon shuffles, seeming to want a better look at you
  627. >”Really now, seven billion? And other...humans, they look like you?”
  628. >You shrug your shoulders, feeling emptier as you talk more about home
  629. “More or less. Some are taller, or shorter. Fatter or skinnier. White, red, black, all manner of colours.”
  630. >You trail off again, eyes locked on the sky
  631. >A throaty rumble from the dragon breaks the silence
  632. >”Human, I think you and I can strike an accord.”
  633. >You barely lift your head off the ground, weighed down by thoughts of home
  634. “What kind of...'accord' are you talking about?”
  635. >You turn your head to look at the dragon, and see him staring at the quaking volcano
  636. >”I want you to help me restore my home, human. I no longer can control my body, not with you in it. So you must do as I say.”
  637. >You push yourself off the ground and stand next to his head, hands on your hips
  638. “And what do I get out of this?”
  639. >The dragon's head turns back to you
  640. >”In return, when my home has been returned to how it was, I will gift you with all my knowledge of this world and its magic. As well, I will assist you in scouring this place for any way to return you home.”
  641. >You think for a long few moments
  642. >This could be it, your only chance to get back to reality
  643. >Well your reality at least
  644. >And besides, it's not like you have anything left to lose
  645. >You feel a flicker of heat in your chest, a swell of energy that pushes aside the hopelessness that had been festering
  646. >You look the dragon in its glassy eye, and see a small glimmer, a fire of determination, reflected from your own
  647. “I'm in.”
  648. >The dragon's laugh booms out across the smoldering hellscape once more, and a hot wind rushes over you again, obscuring the world with ash and ember
  649. -
  650. >The clanking of metal objects and baleful moan of horns brings you back to reality
  651. >When you open your eyes your gaze is assaulted with all manner of coloured banners whipping in the wind
  652. >Focusing in, you see they're attached to poles coming from the top of large tents that have been set up across the immediate area
  653. >All manner of gryphons surround you as well
  654. >Some are bowing down in a semi-circle around you, and there are others coughing or in bandages laying against your body
  655. >A heavily decorated gryphon at the edge of the praying group looks up from his strange, fiddle like instrument and gasps
  656. >He begins babbling excitedly in a language you don't understand before running off towards the largest of the tents
  657. >The worshipers chanting increases in volume and velocity, and some of the injured or sick at your feet utter quiet prayers of their own
  658. >Despite the proximity of the ill gryphons, you feel remarkably at ease
  659. >In fact, for the first time since awakening here, you feel well rested
  660. >The soreness that had been slowly taking over your body had seemingly disappeared
  661. >Your injuries from the first large fight had finally stopped their constant throb and ache
  662. >You open your maw and let out a massive yawn, frightening some of the gryphons around your muzzle away
  663. >More gryphons join the growing crowd of worshipers as you shift slight, adding to the cacophony of sound
  664. >You ply your eyes around the crowd, spotting the old gryphon from the village among them
  665. >Troublesomely, you don't spot Tremble among all the gryphons
  666. >As you strain your eyes to look beyond the congregation, you still fail you see her, though the mass continues to grow outwards exponentially
  667. >With your perusal, you notice a parting in the throng that moves steadily towards you
  668. >As it draws nearer, you feel your anticipation building
  669. >They may worship you, but whoever this was commanded their obedience
  670. >When the opening is a few rows of gryphons away, you raise your head fully, trying to portray yourself as regal as possible
  671. >Your pride begins quieting the nervousness inside, you were a dragon dammit and you were going to act like it!
  672. >Finally, the source of the disturbance arrives in front of you
  673. >A small group of gryphons stand before you, many of them wearing ornately decorated furs and assorted regalia
  674. >At the head of the flock is a being you can only describe as 'kingly'
  675. >He towers a full head above anyone else in the entourage, wearing a gargantuan bear pelt stitched with gold threading
  676. >The top half of the jaw sits atop his head, its gilded teeth surrounding his face like an upturned crown
  677. >His eyes, though shaded, glint with an intelligent gleam that his massive figure would belie
  678. >At his right hand is his absolute opposite, a wizened and hunched figure clinging to a staff decorated with dull yellowed bones
  679. >The shriveled gryphon is, himself, heavily decorated, but with dark red glyphs painted over his ancient form
  680. >But he carries himself with a force that his scrawny body seems to hide
  681. >And then, from behind a squad of hulking guard gryphons, a comparatively tiny pony steps out and into your view
  682. >You rumble happily and move your muzzle past the two high ranking gryphons towards Tremble
  683. >She runs up and grabs the tip of your nose, beaming happily
  684. >You hear someone clearing their throat on your right and look over to see a young looking gryphon decorated like a herald
  685. >He opens a scroll in his hands and begins to speak in only mildly accented English
  686. >”Presenting his most high majesty of the Great Rookery, slayer of the Ancient Svarbjern, conqueror of the Green Heath, he who has touched the sun, the Grand King Gunnar Arnesen!”
  687. >Your gaze floats over to the announced king, who looks chafed after the end of the spiel
  688. >In a surprisingly soft voice, though one that doesn't lack command, he speaks to his subordinate
  689. >”That will be all, Harald.”
  690. >The herald, Harald, backs away bowing towards you and the king
  691. >The king then turns to you and the pony still nuzzling your snout
  692. >”Great dragon, as you heard I am King Gunnar, ruler over all gryphons. I beg your pardon for not making my pilgrimage to your presence earlier. Word has only recently reached my ears.”
  693. >He bows low before continuing to speak
  694. >”We have expelled the princess and her savage guards from these lands. They will not be allowed to threaten your glory any further.”
  695. >You blink slowly, not entirely understanding
  696. >The king takes it as a good signal and continues his speech
  697. >”And as you can see, we have spread word of your awakening far and wide. Thousands have come to pay homage to you, and many more build shrines in their villages. And word still continues to spread. Soon all shall know of the glory of your reawakening.”
  698. >At this, many of the worshipers cheer raucously
  699. >The king straightens himself, a small grin tugging at the edges of his beak
  700. >Clearly he is please with himself for his words, no doubt thinking them expertly chosen to appease your ego
  701. >And if you were a real dragon, or had any idea what was going on, they probably would have
  702. >The king fidgets in the uncomfortable silence before breaking it himself
  703. >”So, great dragon, it is with the utmost humility that I implore you, command us. What is it that we lowly folk might do to appease your cosmic might?”
  704. >A rumbling stirs deep within, and you find yourself reflecting on your dream
  705. >A dream of dragons, of burning hills, and restoration
  706. >You concentrate your will on the king, surrounding the comparatively small flicker of his own mind with the incessant furnace of your own
  707. >And with that done, you impress upon him one singular word, taking all your focus to ensure nothing else is said
  708. “North...”
  709. -
  710. >The kings eyes grow wide, and he turns to the crowd, his body visibly shaking from the mental force he'd found himself in contact with
  711. >After a moment to compose himself, he manages to speak in a loud voice that somehow lacks the grandeur it had before
  712. >”The great dragon, guardian of our people, wishes to go to the North! Let us all, each and every one, give him everything he needs to reach his goal!”
  713. >He repeats the command in the gryphon language as well
  714. >The gryphons cheer and many disperse, running to and fro to tents, spreading the command through the camp
  715. >In the commotion, Tremble climbs atop your head and nestles among your horns
  716. >You focus your thoughts up and on her, you need an update on what happened
  717. >After all, none of this could have sprung up in the ten minutes you'd spent inside your own head
  718. >You hear her speak from atop your head
  719. >”Uh, Mr. Dragon, you've been asleep for a week now.”
  720. >That statement stuns you
  721. >How could it have possibly been an entire week?
  722. >The last thing you remember was Celestia confronting you about something
  723. >And then that horrible roar and you were...
  724. >”It's okay, the gryphons will protect you. King Gunnar brought a thousand soldiers and more are coming from other large cities. Nothing to be afraid of.”
  725. >You feel as though she's treating you like a scared animal
  726. >Your thoughts turn back to wonder what had made Celestia leave in the first place
  727. >”There was an...incident.”
  728. >Oh this wasn't going to be good
  729. >”After that psychic shout that came from you, Celestia and her guards wanted to get all the gryphons out of there so they could cordon you off and deny all access.”
  730. >You feel Tremble's melancholy and hear her voice begin to crack
  731. >”Svardr he...he confronted Celestia, put a claw on her to stop her. One of the guards overreacted and he...”
  732. >She trails off, but you can figure out what happened
  733. >You doubt Celestia had wanted to actually hurt you, or hurt that gryphon, but the matter was that it had happened
  734. >You can't help but admire the restraint that the king had shown in simply expelling Celestia instead of calling for blood
  735. >Tremble composes herself and continues, as you rise from your place in the camp and walk as softly as you can out to the forest
  736. >”The elder, Yngi, has been calling for Celestia's blood though. She pleaded with the king, and when he refused she started praying to you for vengeance.”
  737. >Your unease flows over the mental link, reciprocated by Tremble
  738. >It was a good thing you were getting away from the camp, you certainly needed the moment alone
  739. >Well, mostly alone
  740. >”Mr. Dragon, what's in the North that you need to go to?”
  741. >Hmm, shit
  742. >What exactly was up there that the dragon wanted?
  743. >He said something about restoration sure, but restoration of what?
  744. >Maybe it was some kind of monument or sacred site that you could somehow fix
  745. >All that you could feel is that it was of such importance that fixing it was a matter of life and death
  746. >You transmit the certainty of the importance of the journey, but refrain from letting her feel the confusion of exactly what the journey was for
  747. >You feel her contentment at your thought, and she settles down on the top of your head
  748. >Cutting off the mental link, you stare off into the distance, glaring at the peaks of mountains that seemed worlds away
  749. >North said the dragon
  750. >That was all, just go North and fix something
  751. >Then you could go home
  752. >Tremble stirs a bit on top of your head, grabbing hold of one of the large spikes that crowned you
  753. >Home
  754. >A distant but pleasant thought
  755. >You turn back to the camp and see many of the tents have been taken down and more are in various states of disassemble
  756. >Well, you should go back anyway, the adoring public needed you
  757. >Gently as you can, you trudge back to the encampment
  758. >Upon returning you lay down at the edge, gently rocking your head to wake the pony who'd made herself so comfortable on your crown
  759. >You feel her stir and she gently climbs down the craggy ramp of your nose and onto the trodden earth
  760. >She rubs her eyes sleepily and turns, then gives you an endearing smile
  761. >Oh god, how were you suppose to respond to that?
  762. >Before you can stop yourself, the instinct of smiling back has already worked its magic over your snout
  763. >Your upper, more elastic, mouth covers draw back and upwards at the corners of your mouth
  764. >But the front of your snout is bony plate, and is unflexing even as it is pulled back to expose your gargantuan, glistening maw of teeth
  765. >There's no way this looks anything but hideous or terrifying
  766. >But still, Tremble chuckles at your attempt and turns back to the busy camp
  767. >Then you see a sizable number of gryphons going straight towards the pair of you
  768. >And traveling at their head is the king himself
  769. >Tremble kneels as he arrives in front of you, but he waves the gesture away
  770. >Then he turns his attention back to you
  771. >”Oh great dragon, we have spread word among our humble flock of your journey North. There are many here who will now return to their nestings and tell tales of this, but there are many more who will follow you and give aid as you roam.”
  772. >A great cheer rises from the host behind him, many clanging objects together and making as much noise as they could
  773. >The praise swells in your heart, and the promise of company does sound good at least
  774. >As the swell dies down, the king speaks once more
  775. >”Great dragon, protector of our people for generations, we would but humbly ask one thing of you before we take this perilous road in your footsteps.”
  776. >Well that sounds easy enough, just one thing right?
  777. >You nod your head towards him, to indicate your acceptance
  778. >”So that the bards may compose songs, banners be made for you, and stories be written, all glorifying you above lesser creatures; please mighty one, grant us the privilege of your name!”
  779. >Another cheer, somehow drowning out the previous one rises from the crowd
  780. >Your name?
  781. >Anonymous is the first thing that comes to your mind
  782. >But just as quickly as it comes, it slips away into nothing
  783. >You weren't Anonymous anymore, you were a dragon dammit!
  784. >But it couldn't just be any name either, it had to be the right name
  785. >So what could it be?
  786. >You think of the names of all the dragons you'd ever read about from old stories
  787. >There was Fafnir, a guy who got turned into a dragon because he was a greedy dickhole
  788. >But that wouldn't fit with you, even if it seemed to match the gryphon naming conventions
  789. >Jormungandr would fit within that convention as well, even if he wasn't technically a dragon
  790. >Leviathan would certainly be appropriate for your size, but still
  791. >None of these names felt right
  792. >But then you feel that almost familiar brushing against the bottom of your mind
  793. >Now though, it doesn't merely stop at a brush, but drags at you, embracing your mind entirely
  794. >And in that rush, a name is branded in your mind
  795. >No, not a name, the Name,
  796. >Your Name
  797. >You hear the booming laughter of an ancient mind and feel yourself caught in its excitement
  798. >And with a roar that shakes the earth and teeth turned to a sky glowing red, you shout your name into the thoughts of every being as far as the mountains themselves
  800. -
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