A/N: Been a long time for an update for this story, and for that I apologize. However, here is the long-awaited chapter, and I do hope you enjoy. Things will be wrapping up soon, and from there I have a few possible directions I can take this universe. Time will tell how it goes. As always, please R&R and let me know what you think.

To Voltzs - I'm not so sure if I would want this all to really happen, since Koa is basically me. That would lead to a lot of death for everyone. All the same, the realism is what I was going for, so I'm glad you enjoyed.

To Wing Zero 032 - Dat GoT reference doe...

To Nightmare daniell61 - Well good luck with that.

To Skullsplitter98 - It's an INTJ thing; we get rather meticulous with details to make sure they're logical enough to be believable.

To chipmunkfanantic - I have to be honest, I stopped reading your review once it started rambling; apologies. With that having been said, things aren't going to follow the set storyline for MLP: FIM, and you'll find some new antagonists as well as new allies. Brace thyself.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters associated with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, nor the original story.

Chapter 23: Rolling Thunder

PoV ‒ Rainbow Dash

Following Koa's recommendations, we all kept our eyes on the news. With me being me, I didn't like not being able to actively do anything, but there wasn't much I could do. Luckily, Luna and Scootaloo kept me company at night, while AJ and Fluttershy kept me busy during the day, but for the most part, I was just anxious about it all. After all, three weeks was a long time no matter who you were. At first things were pretty quiet on the news, with nothing any of us would have been able to pin on Koa happening.

Then the reports began to come in.

Just two days after Koa left, a huge storm front the likes of which nopony had ever seen was building outside of Stalliongrad, meaning he had had covered over a hundred miles with his storm. I guess normally that speed would have been considered slow to me, but since he was moving an entire storm front with him against the normal wind patterns, it was unreal. Since Equestria hadn't had an unplanned storm in over a century, such a large storm front was causing nervousness across the entire country. Luckily for us (and Koa), no damage or deaths had been reported. Frankly, the very fact that the storm just kept building without release was worrying the nearby weather pegasi almost as much as the fact that the storm wouldn't respond to their attempts to redirect or dissipate it. Even more unsettling to the average viewer was the fact that eyewitnesses would often report what sounded like roars coming from the storm, along with ominous shadows that would sometimes show up between the flashes of sheet lightning that would jump around within the clouds themselves.

Well, I suppose Koa's plan was working perfectly. If this Lunar Republic didn't know he was after them before, they would soon. Of course by the time they realized that the cloud was headed straight for them, it would likely be too late. I guess I should have been more worried about the fact that Koa had taken such a dark turn in his work, but I couldn't really blame him after what had happened to Celestia. If I was honest with myself, I knew I would probably react the same way if the same thing had happened to Scootaloo or any of my friends.

I could only hope that he wouldn't lose himself to his need for retribution.

Contrary to the weather surrounding the plains between Dappleshore and Derbyshire to the west, the sky over Ponyville and Canterlot was clear and blue. It was the perfect weather for flying, as the cool air of autumn was just chilly enough to keep me from sweating while I practiced, without being obnoxiously cold.

Like most days recently, Scootaloo had joined me. Her flight skills had improved vastly with my training, and it was clear she had the potential to be one of the best fliers alive. Needless to say, I was more than happy to have a flying buddy that could keep up, and Scoots was happy just to spend time with me.

As I stopped to rest on a nearby cloud with Scootaloo, I inhaled deeply with a smile. True that in the back of my mind, I knew that things were getting intense for Koa ‒ and through him, me ‒ but while I was flying, I could just allow my cares to slip away. After all, worrying was Twilight's thing; being awesome was mine.

"Hey Rainbow Dash?" Scootaloo called, barely even winded from the flight.

I turned towards the orange filly and grinned. "What's up, Scoots?"

She trotted over to me, the cloud beneath her hooves displacing only a little bit as she did so. "I uh…" she began, seeming to try to put her thoughts in words, "I was wondering if you knew the princesses well enough so that we could go see them."

I raised my eyebrow at this, a little confused. "Why the sudden interest in the princesses?"

She shrugged, stretching her small (but quickly-developing) wings. "Well Koa said that both of them mean a lot to him, and so if I'm going to be a good friend to you and Koa, I should get to know them. I mean that makes sense, right?"

I thought about it for a minute before shrugging as well. "I mean, I guess." I scanned the skies for a few seconds before turning back to the filly beside me. "Well the air's clear, which means I don't have work today. I can take you up to the palace if you want. It's likely Princess Celestia's the only one awake right now, but she'll be happy to see us if she's not busy." I smirked and pointed to the palace, which was just visible in the distance. "Think you can make it all the way there?"

Scootaloo looked to where I was pointing and stared at the city for a moment before turning to me and nodding. "Yeah. I wouldn't beat you there, but I can make it."

"Alright then," I began, stretching my wings out a bit and flapping them a few times to warm them back up, "let's get going. If we hurry, we can get there right after Princess Celestia's done with day court." With those last words, I took to the sky with Scootaloo close behind, and headed towards the capitol.

It didn't take anywhere near as long flying to Canterlot as it took by train, which just made me feel a little more sorry for unicorns and earth-ponies. I mean they already couldn't fly, but taking the train was just so boring. I mean, if you're going somewhere, why not get there fast? That way you have more time to do stuff when you get there. Poor ground-pounders…

Anyhow, as Scootaloo and I approached the castle, I couldn't help but take in the sight of everything in the late afternoon sun. The palace as a whole had taken on the same yellow-orange hue as the sky, which made it look like polished gold in the fading light. Maybe being around Koa was making me a little soft…

"It's so pretty." Scootaloo said over the rushing air.

I glanced over to my flying buddy for a moment before nodding. "Yeah, it really is."

We landed just outside the palace to see Celestia talking to the two gate guards, and upon seeing us, she waved us over.

"Rainbow Dash, Scootaloo! How wonderful to see you both!" she greeted happily. While she put on a brave face for the rest of the ponies, I knew her well enough to know she was beyond stressed, and it wasn't because of the minor limp in her steps.

The fact that Celestia, the friggin' sun princess of Equestria, was limping made me feel a little sick to my stomach. Maybe it was unfair or even a little selfish, but Celestia wasn't supposed to be weak. She'd battled Discord and Nightmare Moon both, and came out of both of those fights alive; she wasn't supposed to limp or get sick like normal ponies. But, just as I was getting scared, I remembered something important: she was just a different path at a fork in the road. A long time ago, we were all just friends in California, hanging out at the beach and having fun together. Inside, she was still that same person; I knew it. I just had to remember that under all the royalty, she was still the person I made friends with all those years ago.

With that in mind, I led Scootaloo over to Celestia and the guards as I replied, "Good to see you too, princess. Feel like a little company from a friend or two?"

The princess made a show of considering the offer, but from the twinkle in her eye when I'd suggested it, I knew she'd made a decision from that instant. Looking to her two guards and then to me, she nodded happily. "I think that would be wonderful, and Luna would love to see the two of you as well. Will you two be staying tonight?"

I shrugged. "I mean we can, but only if it's no trouble. Scoots is a pretty good flier now, so we can fly back to Ponyville if we need to; it's only like twenty minutes."

I saw the twinkle of a tear in Celestia's left eye as she stated, "It's a long flight to make this late in the day, Rainbow Dash. Stay ‒ I'll have a room prepared for you and Scootaloo."

Just from her expression alone, as well as the well-hidden sadness in her eyes, it was clear she was asking for her sake as much as mine. She was hurting, and she knew there weren't many ponies she could talk to about what was likely causing her grief. I guess in some ways knowing the truth of the world and its people was a little bit of a burden, but it just made the few of us that actually knew the truth that much closer.

So, I nodded gratefully. "Sounds awesome, princess. Thanks a lot."

Celestia nodded as well, turning to one of the guards. "We'll retreat to the dining hall for an evening meal with Princess Luna. Please have one of my personal guest rooms prepared."

The guard nodded with a salute. "As you wish, your highness."

With another glance at me and Scootaloo the princess tossed her head toward the palace. "Shall we?"

When the three of us made it to the dining hall, it was to see Luna already taking her seat near the head of the table, next to her sister. True that during diplomatic meetings and such they sat at opposite ends of the long table, but in private, they wanted to be close. I could understand that, as I chose to sit on Celestia's unoccupied side, with Scootaloo sitting next to me.

"So," Luna started, twirling a spoon around a cup with her magic, "how have things been for you two?"

I shrugged, shifting my wings a bit to sit more comfortably. "Alright I guess. We spend most of the day practicing when I'm not working, so things are pretty good." I then glanced to Celestia before returning, "How are you both doing?"

Luna hesitated for a moment. "Good."

It was clear to me just in her hesitation that there was far more to be said, but I left it alone for now. I knew that they wouldn't want to show particular weakness in front of the palace staff, as they were just getting over the assassination attempt on one of their princesses. Finding out that she was emotionally fragile probably wouldn't be a good thing for them to deal with right now, as selfish of them as that sounds.

Secrets can really be a burden.

Still, I was hungry and knew the others were as well, so I set my concerns aside as I waited for our food to arrive. Instead, I busied myself with relaying to the two princesses just what had been going on in Ponyville lately, keeping them up to date with those they cared about the most. Scootaloo simply listened in silence as we spoke, likely awed at the fact that a "regular" pony like me was just talking to the princesses as if they were old friends ‒ which they were. I suppose it was still a bit of a shock for her, even though frankly, I was still getting used to it too. I mean, I had been just a regular pony my whole life, and yet just in the last year I learned so much about our mutual past that it redefined my whole world. It made feelings of deja vu make so much more sense now.

Drinks were brought to the table, pulling me out of my private thoughts again as I turned my attention to the princesses; it was then that I noticed something a little upsetting. While it wasn't uncommon for Celestia to have a glass of wine with dinner, I noticed that she had instead traded wine for a glass of amber liquid, with little cube-shaped stones in it. Even from a foot away, the sharp scent of whiskey tickled my nose. I frowned at Celestia, but she said nothing as she levitated the drink to her lips and took a sip, sighing as she did so. I was used to Koa drinking, but Celestia wasn't known to be a big fan of alcohol besides dinner wines.

It became clear to me she was much more stressed than I originally thought.

Scootaloo apparently had the same idea as me since she kept glancing at the princess out of the corner of her eye, but a nudge from me broke her stare.

"We'll talk later." Celestia spoke aloud nodding to both of us before sipping her drink again.

I nodded in return and sipped my own glass of grape juice, promising myself that I would help Celestia in any way I could. Maybe to the rest of the world she was the infallible princess that led and protected her ponies, but to me, she was a friend who was clearly hurting; a friend that needed to be reminded that she still had a few who understood what she was feeling.

A well-dressed trio of unicorn stallions walked into the dining hall through one of the side corridors, followed by a few earth pony maids wheeling in several carts filled with covered dishes. I glanced at the table, seeing that there were indeed only four of us, and raised an eyebrow at the princesses.

"Are you expecting other company?" I asked curiously, awed at the sheer volume of food that was being brought in.

As the three unicorns began uncovering and setting the dishes on the table in front of us, Luna shook her head with a grin. "Not at all, Rainbow Dash. This is all a regular dinner for us."

I raised my eyebrow. "But, this is enough food for like a week for me!"

Luna smiled, gesturing to herself and Celestia. "We are quite big ponies, with quite a large amount of magic and energy being used every day. That energy must come from somewhere, Rainbow Dash."

I looked to the food, to the princesses, and then back to the food. "Wow...I never actually figured you two burned that much energy every day."

After Luna thanked the crew that brought in the food, she turned to me with a smile. "Well, now you know the truth. To keep healthy, we must eat no less than twenty-five thousand calories a day."

I wasn't as smart as Twilight, but I could work out the math in my head. I figured out that the princesses ate five times the amount a normal pony needed daily, though ponies like me and Scootaloo needed more because of our active lifestyles, and I remembered pretty well just how much food Applejack and her family made for every meal.

I suddenly felt a little sorry for the kitchen staff.

As I got ready to serve up some food for Scootaloo and me, I came across a bit of a problem: hooves suck for holding ladles and spatulas. I spent a few seconds glaring at the platters of food, trying to figure out how to get some of the goods without making a fool of myself, and painting my fur with roasted peppers and cheese.

Just as I was about to give in and grab the stuffed pepper with my hooves, the platters all lit up with a soft golden glow, and as I watched, a few bits of food from each one was deposited on my plate and Scootaloo's. I looked to Celestia, whose horn was glowing softly as she smiled, and offered her a grateful nod before leaning down and taking a big bite of stuffed pepper. As I chewed the cheesy, roasted goodness, I focused my mind on the food to give it a break from worrying about things.

"No offense to your cooks," I began, swallowing before continuing, "but Koa makes these way better than they do. One of these times you have to ask him to cook for you both."

Luna smiled with a nod of agreement. "I remember long ago he would often bring me breakfast in bed, consisting of fresh fruits, a buttered bagel, and orange juice."

"He still cooks breakfast for us when he's awake before I am," I said, chuckling as I did so, "which is most of the time, considering he sleeps like once a week." I then glanced at Celestia, only to frown when I noticed she was staring straight ahead, her glass shaking in the air as she levitated it. "Princess Celestia?"

Her magenta eyes slowly rolled to look at me, and I could see the fear and pain in them. Without a word, she stood and hurriedly limped out of the dining hall and toward the Solar Wing. A part of me wanted to dash after her and make sure she was alright, but I knew it wouldn't be a good idea with all the guards around. They might misunderstand my intentions.

Luna, thankfully, took control of the situation as she announced, "We are all retreating to Princess Celestia's quarters. Please have three gallons of ice cream brought to the room, the flavors of caramel chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla." Two of the guards watching the room nodded before retreating down one of the hallways, while Luna turned to me. "Follow me, please. Your princess has need of your presences."

I'd only been to Celestia's room once, just after Koa brought her home from the hospital. Even though I knew what to expect and knew that she wouldn't mind us entering, I still felt a little nervous about it. Maybe it was the fact that Celestia was always so strong and radiant, but whatever the reason, I found a creeping dread settling in my stomach as I walked with Luna and Scootaloo toward the personal quarters of Celestia. Scootaloo wasn't faring much better, since even though she was leaps and bounds more mature than most ponies her age, she was still just a young filly when it came right down to it. No matter who somepony was, none of us in Equestria wanted to know that one of our princesses was in pain.

The three of us stopped in front of the large gold-trimmed wooden door that led to Celestia's room, and Luna pushed the door open before peeking her head in. After a moment, she opened the door fully and ushered Scootaloo and I in before shutting it behind us.

The room was pretty plain considering it was a princess' bedroom, featuring only a large bed, a chest in the corner, a few sitting cushions, and an armoire with a TV in it. Koa had a more lavish room than this; heck, my bedroom was flashier too. It goes without saying that I had expected a more fancy bedroom, considering royalty slept in it.

Celestia was huddled up in her bed, the comforter and sheets wrapped around her form as she looked out of the open window across from her.

"I never believed that we would need protection sigils cast on the walls of my own room." Celestia whispered, raising her head to look at the glowing golden magic markings along the walls of the room. "To think that we are not safe, even in Equestria." Turning her eyes back toward the window, she sighed ruefully. "And now one who I love is off to fight the very organization that attempted to end my life. Where did I go wrong, Luna? What could I have done to prevent this?"

Luna moved to her sister's side, nuzzling her as she did so. "Prevent evil in a world with free will? That, dear Tia, is impossible. This is not the first time we have dealt with those who wish to overturn the balance in our world, and it will most certainly not be the last. Until the sun burns out and the moon crumbles away into nothingness, we will forever deal with those who wish for some form of insanity." She then smirked as she added, "As I recall, it was a certain night princess who wished to drape the world in everlasting night. Maliciousness can come from anywhere, with little to no reason for it sometimes. Powerful as we are, even we cannot hope to fully stamp out every bit of evil in the world."

"Then why did Koa have to go?" Celestia whimpered pitifully. "Why does he always have to be the fighter?"

Luna wrapped a wing around Celestia and leaned against her, offering both physical and emotional support. "Because it is who he is; it is who he has always been. He fights because he must."

"Even when I first met him years ago," Scootaloo interjected, "he protected me from a bear that was chasing me through the Everfree. I know who I am and who I was in the past, but at the time I just saw a kind dragon that was looking out for a homeless filly. I don't think it would have mattered whether we knew each other or not though; he would have come after me anyway."

I stepped forward and put in my own two-bits worth. "When I got sent to Earth as a human, Koa looked out for me before he even knew who I really was ‒ before he knew who we were to each other. He protected me from some religious bigot, and even made sure I was happy and healthy the whole time."

"A dragon protects his realm and all within it; by force if necessary." Celestia commented. She then turned her head slightly until I could see one magenta eye. "His home is not the land nor the sky ‒ it is the ponies he loves, and he will protect his home with everything he has. In essence, we are his hoard."

Luna nodded with a smile. "He has never cared for gems or precious metals; his treasures are the ponies who he cares for."

Feeling the mood lift a little I added, "As long as he doesn't stick me in a cave, I'm alright with that." A soft laugh from Celestia made me grin in triumph as I finally trotted over to the two princesses, joining them on the large bed. It was by no means as soft as a cloud bed, but it was pretty nice for a spring-filled bag of soft stuff.

A knock at the door caused the four of us to look toward it, which was followed by the same guard from the dining hall pushing open the door and ushering in a servant pony, who wheeled in a cart with what could only be cartons of ice cream on it. Princess Luna said nothing as the steel cart was left next to me, only offering a grateful nod as the servant pony left again, the guard closing the door behind them.

All three cartons of Dairy Delight ice cream were encased in a golden glow as they were levitated onto the bed, and they opened as a spoon levitated to each pony present.

"I know I could use something to calm my nerves, so please, eat." Celestia said softly as she turned to face us and opened the caramel ripple chocolate ice cream, digging a spoon in and moaning as she took the bite. "Mmm...chocolate makes everything better."

I shrugged, using my hooves to dig my own bite of the strawberry. "I don't know; I've always been more of a fruity kinda pony, myself."

Celestia smiled softly, running a hoof through my bangs. "It shows."

I gave her a dead stare and retorted, "Ha, you're hilarious."

For several minutes, we all ate the sweet treats in silence. It felt nice to just sit with friends and just be. So many ponies underestimate the power of good company, even if no words are said. Granted I wasn't as much a talker as, say, Pinkie Pie, but silences usually made me uncomfortable unless I was with Koa. I was surprised then to find that in the presence of the two princesses and Scootaloo ‒ three ponies that were probably as close to Koa as I was ‒ I didn't feel the need to talk needlessly. It was nice to just sit with each other and know that ponies who cared about me were right there.

"Do you think he's doing alright?" Celestia asked quietly.

I thought my words through carefully. "I think so. I mean even if-"

A knock at the door interrupted me as a guard stuck his head in and said, "Apologies for the intrusion princesses, but I think you should all turn on the television."

Luna raised an eyebrow as she levitated the remote from the nightstand next to the bed. "What channel, Slipstream?"

The guard backed out of the doorway. "Any channel." The door closed, leaving us in dim light before the TV flickered on.

A banner ran across the top of the screen with the title, "BREAKING NEWS". As we watched, the camera panned to what could be only Koa's storm cloud, which seemed to have grown even larger since the last time I had saw it. It now had a huge shelf cloud at the beginning of the front, which was roiling ominously like a monster in the sky. Flashes of sheet lightning and thunder accompanied the storm, but the news anchor seemed too in awe of the storm to talk.

"Where is this?" Scootaloo asked nervously.

I looked down at the corner of the screen and read, "Tramplevania."

"He's arrived already." Celestia muttered as her jaw dropped open. "In just under a week, he's traveled nearly a thousand miles."

I raised my eyebrow as I looked to Celestia. "Only a thousand miles and you planned for three weeks? You do know he can outfly me, right?"

"I...honestly never thought you would say that about anypony ever, Rainbow Dash." Scootaloo muttered in shock.

I shrugged. "I'm all for being the best, but he's on an entirely different level. He owns the sky, Scoots. It's his domain; I just fly there."

"Shh!" Celestia hissed, pointing her hoof to the television.

The camera panned once again, this time to a young unicorn mare that was holding a microphone. She swallowed noticeably before greeting, "If you're just joining us, I'm Orange Cream here in Tramplevania, where the storm of the century seems to be brewing. The weather factory of Cloudsdale has been tracking this particular storm since it began building just outside Canterlot, but all attempts to disperse or redirect it have been fruitless. No damage or fatalities have been reported as of yet, but we will be keeping an eye on the situation as-" The anchor was interrupted by what could only be a dragon's call, and she turned toward the ominous shelf cloud as the camera panned toward the storm. "W-was that a dragon?"

Just after she asked the question, a bolt of lightning struck the ground only a few feet away from her, and the flash caused the camerapony to turn away as screaming ensued. After a few seconds the camera turned back toward the storm, only to show an unfamiliar figure.

It was the form of an adult dragon, complete with a long serpentine neck and an impressive wingspan, but all other similarities stopped there. There was no skin or scales, only pure electricity. The body itself was made of living lightning, only a vague outline, seven horns, and claws giving it any clear shape. The shape seemed to stare with sightless eyes at the camera for a moment before it extended its neck, placing its face only a few scant feet away from the lens of the camerapony.

With a low growl it announced, "Greetings Equestria, and any others that are watching this. Know that I mean the good ponies of this land no harm, so you have nothing to fear from me."

"W-what do you want?" Orange cream asked nervously.

Two circular sparks that could only be the eyes swiveled to her before it answered. "A short time ago, a malicious organization calling themselves the 'Lunar Republic' attacked Princess Celestia, nearly killing her in the process; I am here to enact retribution upon this group, who has taken refuge just outside this city."

"His elemental form." Celestia muttered in disbelief. "He is not even a century old yet, and already he has fully integrated himself with his elemental form."

Before I could ask a question, the dragon ‒ or Koa, rather ‒ continued with, "I have no doubt that there are agents in this very city at the moment, and that more than a few of you even know who they are. While I could certainly simply destroy the entire city to be sure I have disposed of them all, such a thing is not very productive. Instead, I ask that all of you keep in mind these were the same ponies that tried to kill your beloved princess, and are focused on bringing Nightmare Moon back to this world." His voice crackled with buzzing and pops of electricity as he spoke, and even though the situation was intense, I couldn't help but think of how cool he looked and sounded.

"Excuse me, sir!" called a voice from off screen, just before a male royal guard galloped over to Koa and bowed respectfully. "Captain Keen Spear reporting! I lead the guard detachment stationed here, and have been keeping tabs on the group you speak of for months now. I believe we could help each other."

PoV ‒ Koa

"Captain Keen Spear reporting! I lead the guard detachment stationed here, and have been keeping tabs on the group you speak of for months now. I believe we could help each other." the guard greeted with a stern expression.

I nodded slowly, shifting my electric wings to rest more comfortably on my back. "I'm listening, captain."

He looked around warily before suggesting, "This is confidential information, sir. Perhaps we should speak somewhere more private?"

I thought for a moment before nodding again, then turning to the camerapony again, whose mouth had dropped open in awe of my form. "I will be working with the local guard to find those who committed the crime I mentioned. Any citizens who have useful information regarding this are encouraged to seek us out at…" I shot a look to the captain.

"The Bunk and Bale Inn." he answered for the gathered crowd ‒ both in person, and listening over the televisions across the kingdom.

I looked back to the crowd and camera. "We appreciate any assistance given. Thank you."

As the captain and I walked away (well, he walked. I sort of...lumbered), he looked up to me with a grin as he whispered, "Quite the display you're putting on here."

I grinned back, even though he probably couldn't see it, seeing as how I didn't currently have a physical mouth. "Intimidation of one's enemies can do wonders to lessen or eliminate resistance. Furthermore, it inspires allies and friends to know that such power is for them instead of against them."

He chuckled and nodded. "I guess, but do you think it was such a good idea to basically announce to your presence and intentions to the very group you're after? It'll give them time go escape."

I shook my head and motioned with a jerk to the sky, which was beginning to clear as the clouds settled over the mountains and began to drop their payload of torrential rain and lightning. "They're not going anywhere; trust me. The rain will cause a few mudslides, there's too much ambient energy in the air with all the lightning for any unicorns to safely teleport, and it's too dangerous for pegasi to fly." I let some of my magic seep back to my core, revealing more of my natural form as scales, though arcs of electricity still ran along the surface of my skin. It allowed the ponies we passed to feel a little less apprehensive around me, as I didn't want to be feared by any except my enemies. I knew some fear was warranted, as dragons weren't generally known as the most diplomatic or approachable beings on the planet, but I didn't want to cause more; let's go with that.

"So the only ones you currently have to worry about are…" he suggested.

I nodded. "The ones in the city, yes. I don't expect to get them all mind you, but even sixty-five percent would decimate the organization. I would like to arrest them if possible," I then growled, anger returning to me, "but after what they did to Princess Celestia, I am ready to end their lives if it is required."

Captain Keen Spear nodded before calling down one of the pegasi guards floating nearby. "Private, spread the word: no pony leaves the city. Any caught sneaking over the walls are to be detained." The pegasus nodded before speeding away, presumably to deliver the message to the rest of the guards in the city. The captain then turned back to me. "That should keep things handled until we can track down the members of this organization. I have quite a few suspects, but nothing entirely conclusive. What we need is a way to separate the members from innocent civilians."

I shrugged. "That is why I'm only expecting to find part of them instead of all of them. This isn't a movie where everything ends happily ever after. Ponies are going to get hurt, and some are going to die, but if I can stop this group it'll be worth it."

"How many innocent casualties are you predicting?" he asked worriedly.

I sighed and shook my head. "None, if I can help it. The only problem is I'm unsure how they will react to pressure, so we'll have to wait and see. I can only hope to end this before things get too bloody."

"Well what should I call you?" the captain questioned carefully, shifting his wings with anxious energy. "Simply calling you 'dragon' or 'Skylord' seems a little impersonal."

I thought for a moment. Only my friends and family called me Koa, and looking back on it now, "Storm Rider" was more than a little cheesy. "Call me Zizzanasx. It's the only name the public needs to know."

The captain gasped and exclaimed, "You're the dragon from-!"

I closed my hand over his muzzle, holding it shut as I whispered, "Yes, I am. However, on the off-chance that someone wants personal revenge against me, I'd rather they don't know where I live, alright?" He nodded rapidly before I released his face, and worked his jaw.

The captain stepped back and continued leading me to the inn in the distance before looking to me skeptically. "I don't mean to cause offense sir, but you aren't going to fit inside the building."

I smirked before focusing, feeling my body shrink in size. A moment later I opened my eyes and pushed myself off the ground to walk on two legs, noticing I was quite a bit closer to the ground than before. Captain Keen Spear was staring at me with wide eyes and a gaping mouth, while I just chuckled and kept walking. However, I let the visual of lightning arcing all over me continue, so as to hide my identity a little better.

"You uh," the captain began, unsure of how to address me, "don't look like I heard you did."

I nodded. "That's the idea. If I conceal my identity, it protects my home and loved ones. Zizzanasx is just a name to ponies; no one but my friends and family know what the owner of that name looks like."

Captain Keen Spear nodded with a chuckle. "I've gotta say, it's a pretty big honor to have you here though. It's not every day a pony meets an elder wyrm, let alone the Skylord."

I cleared my throat and answered, "I'm, um, not really an elder. In fact, I'm only in my twenties." I gestured with a hand to myself as he looked at me. "To be honest, I don't know how I'm doing this. It just sorta...happened, and somehow I can control it."

"So if you're not an elder wyrm," he began, apparently trying word his question correctly, "what exactly are you?"

I pondered the answer to his question; just what was I? In the most basic sense, I was a dragon, but so much more than that ‒ that much was clear. I thought about what I felt like the most, and how I felt.

I looked to the sky with a smile. "I am the storm. I am the howling winds and the stinging rain. I am the thunder, the lightning, and the whirlwinds. I am the hurricanes and the blizzards." I then looked to the pony, who had a look of abject horror. "However, I am also the cool breeze on a warm summer's day. I am the autumn winds, and gentle snows that blanket the land in a sea of white. I am the gentle rains on a balmy day in April, and the cool mist of morning."

"That's a whole lot of things to be all at once." he replied, his expression having softened to something akin to respectful awe.

I shrugged. "In the abstract, that's who I am. Otherwise, I'm just a dragon that loves his home and the ponies in it. The former is a lot more interesting, I think." I turned my eyes back to the sky. "I feel the ground when it rains, and can taste the electricity in the air when lightning forks across the sky. It's a connection that I've always had, though it seems that I'm just now noticing it. It's a little difficult to really explain it; it's the kind of thing you have to experience to truly understand."

He nodded before jerking his head in front of us to a stone-brick building with a thatched roof. "Here we are, the Bunk and Bale. It's a private place we guards tend to wind down in, as the barracks aren't big enough for much besides bunks."

I raised an eyeridge. "Not even a mess hall?"

He chuckled and shook his head, motioning with a hoof around us. "This city isn't big enough for a full-sized barracks. It's alright though, because the owner of the inn gets reimbursed by the crown for catering to us."

I nodded before pushing the decidedly low door open for the captain, ducking and entering after him.

The interior of the inn had a very warm feel, as inside the stone walls was a lining of dark oak wood, which gave the building a very homey atmosphere. A large firepit crackling merrily added even more of a comfortable environment, and I felt myself relax just a few hairs.

The captain trotted over to the barpony ‒ who was busy staring at me ‒ and knocked his hoof on the counter to get the pony's attention. "My guest and I will have two pints of Black Bull ale to start, and keep them coming; we'll be here awhile." The barpony nodded before getting to work, while the captain reached in his saddlebag and fished out a bag of bits, which he tossed onto the counter before making his way back to me.

Unfortunately for me, the table and chairs were designed for ponies, which meant they were three or four sizes too small for me. So, with no other place to sit, I planted my behind directly in the firepit, sighing happily as the flames began to warm my body. While it was true that I didn't have fur to keep me warm during the winter, ponies couldn't sit in a hearth to warm up.

Up until recently, I had never thought to myself, "Damn, it's cold. Is there a fire nearby I can sit in?"

"Um, I'm sorry but there doesn't seem to be any chairs large...enough…" the captain began, trailing off before asking, "are you seriously sitting in the firepit?"

I shrugged, leaning back and digging my hands into the glowing coals to warm them. "What? It feels good. It's a dragon thing; fireproof hide, and all."

Captain Keen Spear smirked before reaching into his saddlebag again, pulling out a very large folder...then another, and another, and another.

"Well," he began, working his jaw a bit as he did so, "we've got a lot of suspects to go through. We should get started."

I sighed heavily and shook the coals and ashes off my hands before grabbing the first large folder. "I'm going to need a lot of drinks."