Chapter 6 - The Foxes, The Wolves and The Dragons

That night, long after Spike left, Garble left the Roost, now more or less recovered from the beating, and started flying to Ponyville.

"Oh, that stupid little... I don't know how he did it, but he's gonna pay..." Garble thought out loud, growling. He definitely have had enough of Spike humiliating him; it was bad enough when he and his pony friends tricked the dragon gang and escaped with that phoenix egg, but getting beaten by Spike, the little dragon without any back-up, was too much.

Garble already knew where Spike lived, as he had tracked him after their first meeting. However, back then, Garble didn't do a thing since, even if he hated to admit it, he knew he was no match for the purple unicorn's magic, and finding out Spike lived with her wasn't good for his revenge. Plus, even if a dragon is stronger than any pony (or so he thought), Garble wasn't stupid enough to think a few teen dragons could fight a whole city of ponies, so he decided to put his revenge on hold. Now that he was finally doing it, Garble was approaching on his own, without his gang, as this would be a stealthy attack, knowing that the ponies would be over them the moment they were spotted. Besides, some of his gang members were still very sore after Spike's attack, and weren't in flying conditions.

Garble landed at Ponyville's borders, and started approaching by land, as silent and carefully as possible. It was already late at night, so most of the ponies were already asleep, but he wasn't taking risks; even if he wasn't book-smart, like practically any other dragon, Garble was still a sly, cunning predator when necessary, so he could approach and surprise a target without being spotted until the very last moment. Plus, on his way here, he made a quick stop at Everfree Forest, and picked up a bunch of flowers that, when someone inhaled its pollen, would fall asleep instantly; it would fit his plan, that consisted in catching Spike without giving him any chance of fighting back (and Garble DEFINITELY didn't want to fight him fairly) or yelling for help, and then escape the town as quickly as possible; he also brought a large sack where he would be able to carry Spike much better than just holding him.

"Heh... this is the perfect crime. Nobody can stop me now." Garble grinned while walking aside Sugarcube Corner. Unknown to him, a certain pink pony, despite sleeping, was now having a 'combo' of weird tail and hooves moves; even asleep, the Pinkie Sense was still active... of course, Pinkie herself wasn't, so she wasn't waking up... yet.

Garble finally arrived at the library, frowning at the very idea of making a special building (or, in this case, a treehouse) just to stores books. The red dragon took a look inside, and noticed a shadow moving,; since whoever walking in there was doing it in two legs, it was obvious this creature wasn't a pony, therefore, even if it was very dark, Garble deduced it had to be Spike.

Garble opened the window and then used a very light flame on his special flowers; by doing this, the smoke got mixed with the pollen, and by moving his wings, Garble created a little wind that carried the smoke into the library. A few moments later, his prey fell, already snoring.

"Heh. I'm such a genius. Now..." Garble entered the room, very slowly, but, before he could take a better look at his victim...

"WAKE UP! EVERYBODY WAKE UP!"

Garble cringed when hearing a mare's yelling; it was so loud that every pony in the nearby houses was now waking up and turning on the lights. The red dragon realized he had no time to lose, and just threw the sack over the unconscious victim and carried it outside, at full speed, and he was already flying away the moment he stepped out of the library.

A few moments later, Pinkie Pie, followed by Amy and the Elastic Wolf Twins, plus several ponies, were heading to the library. Even if some protested for this rude wake up call, the moment the pink mare said 'Pinkie Sense", everyone agreed there had to be a strong reason behind it.

"Twilight, Sally, Tails, Nicole, Pee Wee, Owlicious... boy, too many creatures living here... wake up!" Pinkie entered the house by kicking open the door, and she instantly covered her face and started coughing. "Who was smoking here? Oh... I feel... dizzy..."

"Smoke... there's a fire in here!" Amy, who was right behind Pinkie, gasped at this. Even if Garble didn't produce a very thick smoke, it was still very notorious. The pink hedgehog and the wolf twins morphed their hands into large fans, and started blowing the smoke out of the house. While they did this, some of the neighbors were already searching for the house/library's residents, to see if they were fine.

Meanwhile, Garble was already flying over The Everfree Forest and very far from Ponyville. The dragon looked back every few moments, fearing the town's pegasi would be following him, but relaxed a bit when realizing there were no ponies around. He also noticed Spike had started moving; apparently, the smoke didn't affect him for long, probably because, after all, Spike was a dragon too, and therefore was naturally 'build' to stand fire and smoke.

"Heh, stop struggling, Midget. We're flying right now, and even if you became a mini bodybuilder, you still have no wings. Break free of this sack, and you'll break your head when falling." Garble laughed but stopped when a female voice replied.

"One correction, Sir. You didn't catch Spike."

A moment later, Garble noticed the sack was inflating, as if he had captured a balloon and it was inflating by itself inside the sack. The dragon stopped in mid air and decided to take a look at whatever creature he had captured... and then dropped the sack in surprise when his captive broke free, ripping apart the sack in the process.

"What the..." Garble couldn't believe it; whatever he had captured, looked like a large, red and black balloon, and now it was gently floating down to earth. "Hey, come back here!"

Nicole noticed the dragon was now diving in her direction, and realized she needed to move faster; first, she expelled the air inside her, blowing it at Garble, with enough force to delay him for a second, and then, still in spherical shape, she condensed her body, changing from a balloon to a solid ball that fell at great speed. Garble, recovering form the initial surprise, got back to chasing her, trying to capture this 'weird shape-changing girl' before she touched the ground.

The moment Nicole landed, the force of the impact caused her to bounce up, with great power due to the height she fell from, and she hit Garble in mid air; the collision sent Nicole, again, down to the forest, while Garble had to cover his stomach and try to catch his breath back.

"NNNNNGH...that's it! I've been beaten enough today... this time, I'll be the beater!" Garble, very angry, made a dive again, and started chasing Nicole through the forest, the shape-shifter now using her ball form to ricochet at top speed, accelerating to try escaping Garble, and also trying to find the way back to Ponyville. Unfortunately for her, Garble had already taken her very far from town, and she couldn't change back to normal and try finding a calmer way to locate herself with the dragon still after her.

Garble, used to fly in difficult terrain, finally managed to get right above Nicole, and extended his claws to grab her. Nicole realized she now had to fight back, and made a ricocheting attack with a nearby tree. Garble, now expecting this move, protected himself with his wings, hitting the 'ball' back. Nicole repeated this attack several times but Garble was able to dodge or hit her before she could do any significant damage. The elastic female finally managed to perform a successful attack by surprising Garble; after he hit her again, she extended her arm and grabbed a nearby branch, using it to 'whiplash' herself back at Garble much faster and before he expected (the dragon thought she would need to bounce back on the ground or a tree before attacking her again), hitting Garble's stomach, much harder than the first time, and sending him against a large rock; Garble groaned in pain but remained conscious and still ready to fight.

"No stupid ball is gonna defeat me!" Garble growled. The 'ball' stopped bouncing and Garble was more than surprised when Nicole morphed back to her normal self.

"Maybe you'll feel less humiliated if you're defeated in normal physical battle then." Nicole said in a calm yet firm tone. "And once I defeat you, you'll tell me the reasons you kidnapped me."

Garble was surprised, not just due to the transformation, but also by Nicole's looks; he had never seen a creature like her before. Not a pony, dragon or gryphon, yet still a sentient being, and apparently very well educated; not to mention that her eyes, tail, body shape and pretty much everything about her appearance was almost... hypnotic.

"Whoa. Snap out of it, Garble..." The dragon shook his head before realizing something. "I just said it out loud, right?"

"Yes. You did... Garble, right?" Nicole said, approaching a bit more. "My name is Nicole. If you want, we can discuss this in a civilized, rational manner..."

"N-no, I'm not rational!" Garble stopped. "I mean, I'm not civilized!" Pause. "No, no, I mean... argh, I'm gonna beat you up!"

Nicole sighed, realizing this creature wouldn't be reasonable, so she morphed into her taller, muscular self, again, impressing Garble.

"Whoa... what are the ponies feeding you?"

"Apples and other fruits, mostly." Nicole shrugged. "Now, I'm asking you again..."

Garble didn't let her finish, as he pounced on her; the dragon threw a punch at her face but Nicole grabbed his fist and then punched him back, sending the dragon against the large rock. Despite the impact, Garble wasn't giving up, so he now tried hitting her with his tail; Nicole grabbed his tail with both hands, and swung him several feet away, until Garble impacted against a nearby tree.

The dragon, visibly stunned but still stubborn, charged at her, trying to tackle the muscular female, but he couldn't even move Nicole, who just caught him and stood on her place despite Garble's best efforts. She then lifted him over her head and smashed the dragon against the ground, knocking him out.

"I hope this will make him more reasonable." Nicole sighed and morphed back to normal. Then, she started smacking Garble's cheeks, not that hard to avoid hurting him (even more) but still enough to wake him up.

"Nnnnngh... did you see the minotaur that hit me?" Garble groaned when finally reacting. When he saw Nicole, he gasped and took a deep breath, but Nicole wrapped his muzzle with one arm while giving him a stare that would make Fluttershy proud.

"I know you're trying to use your flaming attack. Well, I'm not letting you do it; and I'm warning you." Nicole was now very serious. "So far I've been kind enough to fight you on even terms, but, if you start using your fire, I'll need to start fighting you SERIOUSLY. So now I'm releasing you, and we'll talk like two rational beings, unless you insist on attacking me until I lose my patience. And I mean this; you better not make me angry... you'll not like me when I'm angry."

Garble gulped, both scared and fascinated by this female, and then nodded at her, making clear he'll not use his fire again or try fighting her anyway. Nicole nodded and released him.

"Good. Now, Garble, you're taking me back to Ponyville. And while we do that, you're gonna explain to me and my friends why you kidnapped me in the first place. Not flying; walking. It might take more time but this way I'm making sure you'll not try to escape."

Garble sighed. Apparently, this creature was smart enough to realize he had the edge in an aerial battle, so she was keeping him grounded, literally.

Meanwhile, in Ponyville, Twilight, Sally and Tails were finally awake again, and everyone noticed Nicole wasn't present. Applejack then found some footprints outside the house/library.

"Hey, these look like Spike's footprints, but much bigger." The blonde pony said. Lobo approached and sniffed the prints, nodding at her.

"You're right. A dragon was here; and it definitely wasn't Spike. I might not be familiar with other dragons' scent, but I'm almost sure this dragon was a bit older than Spike."

"But you said that Spike isn't in talking terms with other dragons." Lupe said to Twilight.

"Yes, he isn't... but he angered some dragons the last time he was at the Dragon Roost. All of them teen dragons; the adult ones didn't even notice him." Twilight frowned. "Guess this means one of those dragons wanted to get even with Spike, and when he didn't find him, this dragon tried kidnapping his friends..."

"And since Pinkie Pie woke up the whole town, the dragon only had time to capture one victim." Rarity concluded.

"But why Nicole?" Maria asked, a bit confused; after all, Tails was smaller and easier to carry, and Twilight was a very well known associate of Spike, so they would be more logical targets.

"Nicole had been taking care of Pee Wee, at least tonight; she surely was giving the little one his midnight snack." Sally explained, remembering Spike's list of instructions to take care of the baby phoenix. "That means she wasn't at her bed, and this dragon found her first."

"Well, I say we now go find Nicole, and give this dragon a very well deserved beating." Sonic said, with Rainbow and Knuckles agreeing instantly.

"Yes, but it will be hard to find them because, unlike Spike, most dragons can fly; it will not be easy to follow his scent." Twilight said while looking at her wolf friends. "Our chances increase by splitting up; some of us will try to track down this dragon while the rest goes directly to the Dragon Roost."

"It makes sense. Those dragons aren't as smart as Spike, so they would be dumb enough to get Nicole precisely to the place we'd search for her first." Rarity added.

"But if at least one of them has a working brain, they wouldn't go there. Twi is right; it's better if we split up." Applejack agreed.

Maria and Lupe nodded at each other, and a moment later they both split up into their individual clones.

"We're taking one group to the Dragon Roost." Warrior said while flexing her biceps. Leeta and Lyco joined her, deciding they wanted to go there.

"And the rest of us will assist in tracking down the dragon by scent." Wisdom added.

Soon, the two teams were formed; since Applejack and Rainbow Dash had been at the Dragon Roost before, they offered to guide Warrior, Courage, Tomboy, Daemon, Sonic and Knuckles, while the rest would form the 'search team'. Since going to the Dragon Roost would probably end in a battle with an adult dragon, or even more than one, it was more logical to make most of the toughest fighters go there.

Meanwhile, at Everfree Forest, Garble had finished explaining how Spike had humiliated him and the other dragons.

"Whoa. Spike's training had been quite successful." Nicole commented, visibly impressed. "And you, how come you and your friends had this... magic stone... all this time, and none realized it would make the holder incredibly powerful?"

"Hey, it wasn't our fault!" Garble groaned, very ashamed to admit this. "It's just... it wasn't a jewel, and we dragons don't care about any rock that isn't a jewel! How would I know it was magical?"

"But didn't you realize it when Spike gave you that list? Of course I support him, I mean, he's my friend, but I think you made a critical tactical error; once reading that the stone would give you those abilities... and I'm guessing that scroll gave a good description of the stone... why you didn't try to get the stone before him and gain the super strength and endurance?"

"Dragons don't read!" Garble almost roared. "Reading is for wimps..."

"So, Spike is considered a wimp despite the fact he defeated you all despite not having the stone at that point?"

"Yes, he is... I mean, no, of course... I..." Garble didn't want to keep calling Spike a wimp since, obviously, that would make him and the other dragons even weaker wimps. "Look, we, the normal dragons, don't make books..."

"Write."

"Yeah, we don't write either..."

"No, I mean, it's not 'make books' but 'write books'. Sure, when you write a book you're technically making it, but the proper way of speaking is 'writing a book'." Nicole paused. "But what you said reveals you dragons are normally illiterate."

"You lost me with that... I lit a rate?"

"Illiterate. It means you don't read or write, not necessarily because you don't want to but because you can't, or, more precisely, you don't know how to do it. If you were incapable of reading by your own nature, Spike wouldn't be able to read at all."

"Oh, please, don't compare me with that guy." Garble groaned. "I used to dislike him for being a wimp raised by ponies... but now I dislike him because, despite being raised by ponies, he's definitely not a wimp anymore even if he still does wimpy things like reading!"

"What's wrong with reading?" Nicole arched an eyebrow at him, visibly upset. Garble realized this and knew he was somehow offending her.

"Oh... right... you are staying at a library... you probably like to read a lot." Garble sighed. "Great, another creature that does wimpy things and yet can kick my tail without breaking a sweat."

"It seems to me that you're a victim of your own pre-conceived ideas about culture and your kind traditionally isolating themselves from other species." Nicole noticed Garble's blank stare. "I mean, you dragons don't interact with ponies or with other creatures on a regular basis, and therefore dislike everything they do, even when those activities or abilities aren't necessarily harmful."

"Yeah... you see, we, the dragons, are the most powerful creatures in Equestria." Garble paused. "Well... adult dragons... and not by... using magic, but by strength and size. So... well..."

"I understand. Your species respect physical power, and consider it more important than magical abilities, crafting and other not-combative activities."

"Yeah!" Garble exclaimed, a bit too happy.

"You like the fact I can understand your point of view?"

"That, and the fact I actually could understand what you just said!" Garble took a deep breath and got a little smile. "I mean, yes, we dragons are... strong guys... but I don't like others thinking that only because I'm big and strong I'm also dumb... just because I can't read... or write... or do fancy talking... or cook... or building a decent house instead of living in any cave I happen to find..."

Garble stopped walking, looked down and sighed.

"You must think I'm an idiot."

"Garble..."

"Usually I don't have problems with that... I mean, with being an idiot... no, that wasn't right... argh! What I mean is, I normally can handle myself just by being a tough guy, and me not knowing lots of stuff isn't that important when the others around me have even less smarts than me... but when I am with someone who has both brains and power... I feel so... useless." Garble now looked close to depression.

Nicole then surprised Garble by wrapping her body around his, and positioning her face in front of the dragon's, giving him a kind smile. Being red scaled, the blush in Garble's cheeks wasn't that noticeable, but it was there.

"Now, listen. I used to feel useless too... sometimes. Maybe you won't believe it, but I used to lack a physical body; I was pretty much like a ghost, capable of talking to others but not touching them. When I got the... ability... the chance to have a real body... It was wonderful. I felt alive; really alive." Nicole sighed and smiled. "And if I could do that, by means that are VERY hard to achieve even on my world, then you are more than capable to have both brains and brawn. You only need someone to educate you properly; I don't know how long I'll be here in Equestria, but, if you make an effort to put your xenophobic ways aside... meaning, you will stop discriminating all the non-dragon species... I'll be more than glad to tutor you."

Garble blushed even more and nodded. Nicole was also feeling very happy; Garble wasn't the simple-minded bully she had thought at first; he certainly had hidden depths, and a genuine desire to better up himself, something Nicole liked a lot. The fox unwrapped herself, and then she and Garble continued walking, both now much more comfortable with each other's company.

In the meantime, the Dragon Roost group was already arriving there. Sonic was chosen (for precisely, he jumped at the chance) to make a quick search around the place, to see if Spike was in the open; a couple minutes later, he returned to the place his companions were waiting for him, behind some rocks.

"I gave a look to the whole place; three times." Sonic informed. "Spike must be in some cave because I didn't see him in the open."

"Then, we'll need to start exploring the caves." Daemon said, the others nodding in agreement.

"Okay, we're splittin' up; Sonic, Rainbow, yah two are our fastest ones, so yah are exploring that one." Applejack took command while pointing at a large cave. "If Ah remember right, Spike said this cave leads to a series of tunnels. Yah two can explore them much faster than any of us."

"You got it, AJ." Rainbow grinned before hoof/fist pumping with Sonic.

"The rest of us will explore the other caves." AJ then looked at the cave that, unknown to her, was the same where Spike found the Power Stone. "Leeta and Lyco, yah two go there. And remember, no using yar powers or fighting unless the dragons find you."

"Crystal clear, Ma'am." Leeta, jokingly, morphed into a western sheriff outfit before turning at Lyco. "Come on, Par'ner, let's go find our Compadre."

"I think that, when it's a female, it's 'Comadre'." Warrior arched an eyebrow at Leeta.

"Who are you, Wisedom?" Lyco grinned at the muscular clone. Warrior just rolled her eyes and shook her head.

The groups separated to start searching; not surprisingly, Warrior and Daemon were a team, since she was one of Maria's clones; Courage teamed up with Knuckles while Applejack went with Tomboy.

Leeta and Lyco morphed into snakes, so they pretty much crawled their way to the cave without any of the adult dragons noticing them; the large reptiles were mostly asleep, but, once in a while, one of them moved his ears or opened an eye, so it was obvious they were still watching their territory. The elastic females reached the cave and then morphed back to normal.

"Mmm... this place smells like dragon..." Lyco said while taking a deep sniff.

"Eh, Lyco, this is dragon territory. It's like entering our room and saying 'hey, it smells like wolf', don't you think?" Leeta arched an eyebrow.

"I know that. But take deep sniff; this place was visited by Spike, and it was very recently."

Leeta did as her twin said, and realized she was right; Spike visited this place less than 24 hours ago.

"Mmm... you are right. And I think I feel the scent of the dragon that kidnapped Nicole." Leeta frowned as they moved deeper inside the cave.

"But I smell no Nicole. So... that dragon lives here, but he hadn't returned yet." Lyco guessed.

"Yes." Leeta paused. "Don't you think we're forgetting something?"

"Mmmm... oh, right; we have to talk in a low voice so nobody can find us." Lyco grinned. Both wolves stopped walking and gulped a bit; their entrance hadn't been stealthy at all.

"You think someone heard us?" Leeta asked in a whisper.

"Oh, we heard you."

Leeta and Lyco turned to see two large teen dragons pouncing on them. Before they could fight back, Fume and Shakes were pinning her down.

"Why you..." Lyco was about to change into her muscular self but stopped when Leeta talked.

"Wait, we give up!"

Lyco was about to snap at her sister but then noticed she was winking an eye at her.

"Why are you winking an eye at her?" Fume asked Leeta.

"Eh... we're in a cave; lots of dust." Leeta gave the dragon an 'innocent' grin.

"Yes, he hadn't cleaned up in a while..." Shakes said before getting a thoughtful expression. "Uh... Fume, had we ever cleaned up?"

"Yes." Fume growled before sighing. "I don't remember when, but I'm sure we cleaned up at some point."

The wolf twins got a sly grin.

"Okay, you captured us. Guess now you're taking us with your other captives." Leeta said.

"Uh... our other what?" Shakes asked.

"Captive... I think that means 'Prisoner' or something." Fume shrugged.

"Ah. I thought it was the medicine you take when you can't go the bathroom." Shakes commented.

"No, Moron, that's a 'laxative'..." Fume then got a thoughtful expression as well. "We have a bathroom?"

Now the wolf twins were getting an 'Ew' expression.

"Cut that; take us with your other prisoner!" Lyco groaned.

"We have no other prisoner. You two are our first ones." Shakes said before shrugging again. "Ever."

"Yeah, usually, when we get another creature, we eat it, break it, or kick it away." Fume informed.

Leeta and Lyco looked at each other; this confirmed that these dragons didn't have Nicole.

"Okay. Guess we're leaving now."

"Hey, hey, hey, wait a minute." Fume frowned at Lyco. "You might be our first prisoners, but even 'I' know you don't let a prisoner go when she asks for it."

"And what if we ask like this?" Leeta grinned and got her best 'cute face' while smiling at Shakes. "Please, please, please, please, let us go, with a cherry on top?"

Shakes blushed at this and instantly moved aside, and even helped Leeta stand up.

"Shakes!" Fume almost roared at his partner.

"Hey, she said 'please'... and she even offered me a cheery!" Shakes defended himself.

"Your friend is right." Lyco said to Fume before frowning at him. "Well, what are you waiting for? You're not being as nice as your friend?"

"Uh... eh... yeah, right." Fume moved aside and helped Lyco stand up too.

"Much better. Okay, we're leaving now. See you guys later." Leeta said while she and Lyco started walking away.

"You really are seeing us again later?" Shakes said, a bit too eagerly.

"Eh, well..."

"Aw, yes, yes, Leeta, please, you said it yourself." Lyco said to her twin.

"Lyco, that was just me being polite..." Leeta stopped when realizing this would probably make the dragons angry. "I mean... yes, sure, we can return later. It's not as if we were leaving Equestria tomorrow."

Shakes and Leeta high-fived and said 'Yes', very happy.

"Aw, it's so easy to make them happy." Lyco smiled at the scene.

"Heh, tell me about it." Fume rolled his eyes yet smiled.

Outside, Sonic and Rainbow had finally finished exploring their part of the caves, and joined Knuckles and Courage.

"We didn't find Nicole or the dragon that caught her." The blue hedgehog whispered at his friends. "How about you guys?"

"We found a few teen dragons..." A very smirking Courage was interrupted by Knuckles, as the smirking red echidna showed his friends a dragon tooth.

"Too bad for them." He fist-bumped with Courage.

"Yep. Still, we didn't find Nicole either. And those dragons didn't know a thing." Courage added.

"Same with us." Everyone turned when hearing Daemon, the large winged canine returning with Warrior; Applejack and Tomboy returned a few moments later, with similar results.

"Guess now we have to wait for Leeta and Lyco." Tomboy said before rolling her eyes. "Joy."

"Tomboy is right. Those two should be here by now." Rainbow said, frowning. The group decided to go get them personally, in case they were in troubles.

Inside the cave, Leeta and Lyco were chatting with their wanna-be jailers; luckily, the dragons had a few fruits so they had something edible for the wolves to enjoy while they all talked; not surprisingly, Fume and Shakes were having mini-emeralds as snacks.

"So, none of your friends had gone out tonight?" Lyco asked Fume.

"Well, after that Spike guy beat us up, we were all a bit too much sore to even move." Fume shrugged. "I think the only of us who still had enough strength to move after that was Garble."

"Yeah, he's very tough." Shakes nodded while eating.

"He's pretty much our gang's leader." Fume informed the wolves. "If anyone got out tonight, it had to be Garble."

"Does he have anything against Spike?" Lyco asked.

"Oh, yeah. We all are kinda angry with the little one, but Garble is the most... uh... well, the word that means he gets angry the easiest." Fume groaned, in one of the rare times he hated not being a cultured being.

"Ah, he's short-tempered." Lyco pointed out.

"Yeah, that's the word!" Fume grinned. "Wow, you're smart."

"Heh, if you think that, its because you don't know our friends." Lyco smiled and rolled her eyes.

"Yes, many of them are geniuses." Leeta added; then, she noticed Shakes' confused expression. "It means each one is a genius, and there's more than one."

"Oooooh... so that's the word to call a group of super smart guys." Shakes chuckled. "We always call them 'nerds'."

"Us too, but 'geniuses' is much more positive." Leeta giggled. "Heh, I like how you chuckle."

"Aw, I like how you... do the little laughing thing." Shakes blushed. "Your nose moves... funny when you laugh."

"Heh, you think so?" Leeta grinned and then stretched her nose until it was rubbing against Shakes, the dragon blushing at this.

"Whoa... how did you do that?" Fume asked, very surprised. "Are you made of rubber?"

"Not just her." Lyco grinned and pointed at her own nose while nodding at Fume. The dragon, after a moment of hesitation, grabbed her nose in a gentle yet firm way, and pulled, stretching it considerably.

"This is great... it's some power of your kind?" Fume asked. "You know, something you talking wolves can do, just like we, the dragons, breath fire and eat jewels."

"Well, not EVERYONE of our kind can do this. Many of our friends have powers like ours, but only because we all got them from similar sources." Leeta explained while her nose and Lyco retracted to normal size.

"In other words, we weren't born with the powers; we got them by using a special machine that gave us this ability." Lyco continued, used by now to use simple terms to explain advanced technology to her pony friends, and luckily it seemed the dragons understood it too. "We can stretch and morph... like this."

Lyco then changed her face to resemble an unicorn, including the horn.

"Whoa... can you change into a dragon too?" Shakes asked, very excited.

"Yes, and not just our faces." Leeta added, and then she and her sister started morphing their whole bodies, changing their fur into a scaly look, and getting reptilian features themselves, at first looking a lot like female versions of Spike but then they enlarged their torsos to get a snake-like figure while still conserving their limbs, plus growing wings and making their ears and tails considerably longer. By the time they had finished, they resembled a mix-up of a normal Equestrian dragon and a river snake... or, for someone that knew about Earth's culture, like an Eastern dragon.

"Whoaaaaaa..." Fume and Shakes' jaws fell, and got their widest eyes ever while their ears and tails dropped and their wings turned very stiff. Due to the dragons' usually greedy and competitive nature, the male and female dragons rarely interacted except when looking for a mate, and now Lyco and Leeta had morphed themselves into the most gorgeous creatures the two males had ever seen... not that they considered the twins ugly in their normal wolf form, of course.

"Heh, you guys approve?" Lyco smiled while flapping her wings, actually flying up a bit; this impressed the dragons even more, as it showed the wolves didn't just get wings but also that they were functional ones.

"Am... am... am... What's the word when something amazes you?" Fume asked while looking at both females, but mostly at Leeta.

"Amazing." Leeta smiled.

"Yeah. You both are." Both dragons chorused without even realizing.

"Aw, you guys are cute." Lyco smiled but then got a slightly concerned face. "Oh... but we have to leave now, don't we, Leeta?"

"Oh... yeah, you're right." Leeta sighed while she and her sister started morphing back to normal.

"Why?" The male dragons whined.

"Our friends are waiting for us. And we still have to find our lost friend." Leeta replied.

"Eh... why don't you let us come with you?" Fume asked, very eager. "After all, Shakes and I know how Garble smells..."

"Not that we enjoy it." Shakes rolled his eyes.

"... and we can help you track him. Besides, who better to find a dragon than another dragon?"

Leeta and Lyco thought about this for a moment, and then nodded at the dragons, smiling at them; Fume and Shakes high-fived and soon the foursome started flying out of the cave after Leeta and Lyco used their powers to change back into their own dragon forms.

Meanwhile, back at Everfree, Garble and Nicole were already very close to Ponyville. The red dragon sighed, a bit more sadly than he expected.

"Why so sad?" Nicole asked him, a bit surprised. "I thought we were having a good time together... as good as a former kidnapped can have with her former kidnapper, I mean."

"Yeah, I know... but I just thought about something... what will happen when your friends see me? The ponies will not be very happy, and I doubt your friends will throw me a party either." Garble admitted, a bit worried.

"Don't worry. You and I are together..." Nicole paused and blushed. "Walking together, I mean, so... they won't attack you. I promise you'll be fine..."

"I GOT HIM!"

WHAM!

"... starting now." Nicole ended, a bit too quickly, while moving aside. Amy had just attacked Garble, hitting him square in the chest in her ball form. The impact sent him down, and Garble, out of instinct, tried to escape by flying, but his tail got lassoed by Lobo (who obviously had been learning a few things from Applejack), and before he could resist, the large wolf, Big Macintosh, and a muscular Heart pulled him down in a very harsh way.

"Don't let him escape!" Rarity joined shortly, the white unicorn already recognizing Garble, and giving him a powerful roundhouse kick the moment he touched the ground. The rest of the search party was about to attack Garble as well but Nicole jumped over him, morphing into a protective dome.

"Everyone stop!" Nicole yelled. Everyone stopped moving... except Pinkie Pie, who still charged at the dome and lifted it to aim at Garble with her party cannon. "Pinkie! I told everyone to stop!"

"What? You didn't say 'Simon says'." Pinkie shrugged.

"I'm not playing games here Pinkie..."

"Good, because you'd be doing it wrong." Pinkie interrupted Nicole but then looked at Garble and got a little smile before turning at the others. "Hey, he's not dangerous!"

"How can you say that?" Wisedom asked the pink pony. "He's a kidnapper."

"I didn't say he wasn't a criminal, just that he's not dangerous. Focus." Pinkie grinned and poked Wisedom's forehead; before the clone could say another thing, Pinkie added, "And I know he's not dangerous because my Pinkie Sense isn't going crazy. And unless Nicole just got a case of Stokholm Syndrome, I think she wouldn't defend an evil guy."

The rest of the group, once getting over the shock of Pinkie Pie knowing about the Stokholm Syndrome, realized she had a point.

"He's not evil, this whole situation was a big misunderstanding." Nicole said while morphing back to normal. "He wasn't trying to kidnap me; he was looking for Spike."

"Not exactly helping his case, you know?" Twilight frowned while Rarity and Sally looked now even more eager to pummel Garble. Actually, the purple unicorn was having some problems to stop herself from using some very painful spells on the red dragon; spells that would turn him into a red, black, blue and bruised dragon.

"What would you want with Spike, other than the fact that you're still holding a grudge for turning his back on your gang of brutes and stopping you from crushing that innocent phoenix's egg? " Rarity frowned at Garble. "And I think you remember what I said I'd do if you even dared to touch him."

Garble was now gulping again; he now recognized Rarity, and also Twilight, from the first time the ponies and Spike made fools out of him and his friends. And now she had actually kicked him, Garble had no doubt this unicorn would really tear him apart to protect Spike, as she promised she'd do the first time. The fact she was backed up by several other creatures that seemed more than capable of beating him up even without assistance only made Garble more nervous.

"Look... Garble just had another encounter with Spike, very recently, and let's just say Spike was victorious." Nicole started explaining. "In a very one-sided, curb-stompĂ­ng, overwhelming, humiliating way."

"Way to protect me while crushing my self-esteem, Nicole." Garble sighed yet nodded.

"Sorry." Nicole gave him an apologetic smile.

"Wait Spike was at the Dragon's Roost, what was he doing there?" Twilight arched an eyebrow. She knew Spike wasn't exactly eager to return there.

"I can explain it to you if you'll allow me." Garble sighed.

"Ooooh...a story!" Pinkie smiled, disappeared from scene, and returned with a coach and a bag of popcorn; she got herself comfortable and started eating. "Okay, you can start."

"Where did she..." Garble was interrupted by everyone but Pinkie chorusing...

"Don't ask, we never understood her and we never will."

"Nice chorus. You guys had been rehearsing?" Pinkie smiled while Garble sighed and started telling what happened with Spike at the Roost.

Meanwhile, the Elastic Twins and the dragons finally exited the cave; Leeta and Lyco were still in dragon form since, they thought, it would be safer for them in case an adult dragon spotted them, especially now they were practically in the open instead of being stealthy. Once they were the other side of the Roost, the females changed back to normal, just in time for Daemon to spot them; the flying hero had been keeping an eye on the whole area from the sky, while the rest of his companions looked for the twins more directly.

"Leeta, Lyco, we were concerned about you two." Daemon then looked at Fume and Shakes, the two dragons being more than impressed at his looks. "And you two gentlemen would be..."

"Gentlemen?" Fume arched an eyebrow.

"I think he's confusing us with other dragons." Shakes said to his friend.

"They're our new friends, Fume and Shakes. And they are coming with us back to Ponyville." Leeta informed.

"What do you mean 'coming back with us', uh?"

The dragons turned to see a very upset Rainbow Dash frowning at them. The dragons then recognized her as one of Spike's friends, and got obviously worried, especially when the rest of the ponies and Mobians arrived.

"Wait, guys, nopony... and no Mobian... hurt them!" Lyco stood in front of the dragons. "They're friendly."

"Yeah, well, Ah think Pee Wee's family would disagree with that." Applejack frowned.

"Heheheh... she said 'pee'." Fume chuckled, but silenced himself when noticing the others weren't that happy.

"Look, Fume and Shakes aren't bad dragons." Leeta joined her sister, standing in front of the dragons to protect them. "They're just... ignorant."

"Yeah, well, I'm not an egghead nerd like Twilight either, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna use that excuse to attack others." Rainbow folded her arms.

"Hehehehe... she said 'egghead'." Now Shakes was the one chuckling... and silencing himself when the others frowned at him.

"They even have some info on Spike and the dragon that caught Nicole." Lyco added. This actually made the others to cool down a bit.

"Well, then they'd better start talking, or I'm gonna start collecting more dragon teeth." Knuckles growled.

"You collect that? Heh, nice, I collect lint!" Shakes grinned. "And how do you get teeth for your collection?"

Knuckles shoved his fists in front of the dragon. Shakes needed a few seconds to realize what this meant, but even an illiterate dragon wasn't that dumb, and when it clicked in his head, Shakes gulped and nodded.

"I think we should have this conversation somewhere else. Even if the adult dragons don't seem to care that much about their youngsters, I'm sure they don't like to see other species bullying their kind." Daemon suggested. The others, including Knuckles, Tomboy, Rainbow, Courage and Warrior, agreed on this.

"Okay, let's go. And you two start talkin' while we return to Ponyville." Applejack said to the dragons, Shake and Fume just nodding and staying close to Lyco and Leeta. As the group started leaving, Sonic grinned a bit and said...

"Butt."

"Heheheh... he said 'butt'." Shakes and Fume chuckled at this. The rest of the group frowned at Sonic.

"Just testing a theory." Sonic shrugged and then grinned. "And I was right; these two don't use their head that much."

"Hey, I resent that." Fume frowned.

"And I... wish I knew what 'resent' meant." Shakes groaned while Fume face palmed, and then the two dragons started telling what they had already said to Leeta and Lyco.

Back at The Everfree Forest, Garble was finishing his story as well. By now, the Mobians and ponies were a bit more comfortable with him, and they were all surprised that Spike could be this tough even without morphing into his adult, monstrous self.

"Spike's training has been more than successful." Sally commented.

"If that means he can kick my tail without even trying, yes, you're right." Garble nodded.

"What intrigues me is what Garble says about this stone." Twilight thought out loud. "It must be some sort of amulet, or a very special magical rock, like the Crystal Heart, but this one works with physical power instead of sentiments."

"Actually, he had a scroll... and I think it described the rock. I couldn't read what it said, but I could make out these letters." Garble said, glad to show he wasn't a complete moron even if he lacked a formal education.

Garble then wrote some letters into the ground, I.N.Y. S.T.S.. The others looked at the symbols and Pinkie Pie then jumped in front of them.

"Oh, I got it!" Pinkie started writing. "I Need Your Salty Treats, Sally. Now, if we can find out who this 'Sally' is..."

"Pinkie, I doubt that's what the symbols mean." Twilight groaned.

"Ah... well, if those aren't the first letters of a word each, but bits of a large sentence, then... mmm... Infinity Stones!" Pinkie grinned while writing.

Twilight gasped at this. She had already read a bit about those stones.

"Pinkie... I don't know if I should call you 'crazy', or a 'genius'." Twilight then rubbed her chin. "Then again, that's not new."

"Heh, I know." Pinkie smiled while looking back at the symbols Garble drew. "Mmm... are you sure these aren't the first letters of a larger sentence? It can also mean I Need Yummy Sugar Taffy, Seriously."

"It's official, she's a Crazy Genius." Fiona arched an eyebrow yet smiled.

"So, Twilight, you said you know about the Infinity Stones or whatever." Sally got in front of Twilight, the purple unicorn nodding at this.

"Yes... there's very little information about them. In fact, it seems that when Princess Luna first became Nightmare Moon, she destroyed a good portion of Canterlot's library, along with other parts of the castle, before Princess Celestia could stop her... and the information about the Infinity Stones was among the destroyed books. Only an experienced alicorn, or some other creature that had lived long enough, might know about the stones' full capacity... especially if he or she has a scroll describing them, as Garble said."

"Wait, you mean the purple shorty had been training with some guy or gal that's old enough to be an adult dragon's grandpa?" Garble groaned. "No wonder he kicked our tails so easily."

"From what I remember, those stones can give you infinite control about some aspect of reality; in this case, and according to your description, the stone Spike got is the Power one." Twilight noticed Garble's confused look but luckily Tails 'translated' her.

"She means that whoever gets any of these stones can do anything he or she wants... as long as it is in the stone's capacities. If Spike got the Power Stone, for example, right now he is the strongest being in all Equestria, or probably in this universe."

All the non-nerds in the group gasped at this.

"He-Spike, the most powerful dragon in the universe... HE HAS THE POWER!" Pinkie exclaimed.

"Randomness aside, you are probably right, Pinkie... but..." Twilight thought a bit. "All this power can corrupt whoever is using it... so... Spike probably needs help to keep himself from going crazy with all that energy..."

"Twilight, I think whoever is helping Spike gather these stones is doing it precisely because he knows our friend can handle that power." Rarity interrupted Twilight. "Remember that Spike, as a dragon, is greedy by nature..."

"Oh, yeah, we are." Garble grinned.

"... and we all know what happened the last time Spike lost control of his greed." Rarity was then interrupted by Pinkie Pie.

"SPIKE-ZILLA!"

"Ehem! Anyway, he eventually got to control his greed and returned to normal by himself... even if I had to help him a bit." Rarity rolled her eyes yet smiled before getting serious again. "My point is, Spike can control his natural instincts and impulses to keep himself from becoming a destructive super monster, and he does it every single day. So, if he gets access to these stones..."

"Spike will be able to use them without getting corrupted because he already is using his self-control on a regular basis." Sally concluded.

"Still, we probably should go find Spike and see how he's doing." Fiona suggested. "Also, we must find the group that went to the Roost and tell them what we know."

"Good idea." Twilight nodded. "Mmm... but the Roost is very far from here... maybe I can teleport a small group of us, to get closer, and then we arrive there by hoof/paw."

Everyone agreed on this. Twilight decided to go to the Roost with Garble (he REALLY had to go this time, in case they needed his help to calm down the other teen dragons), Nicole, Sally, Fiona, and Lobo; she couldn't take a larger group since a collective teleportation would be hard enough even with a small one.

"Alright, everypony, stay close to me while I use my spell." Twilight said to her 5 companions as she started concentrating.

"This is the first time I travel this way." Garble admitted.

"It tickles. You'll get to like it." Rarity, a bit apart from the 'teleporters', said to the dragon.

A moment later, the group disappeared in a flash of light.

A few minutes later, after repeating the teleportation spell 10 times, Twilight was exhausted. This trick had helped her group cover most of the distance to the Roost in little time, but, as she said, it wasn't an easy spell.

"I'll... need... some rest..." Twilight panted yet still tried to keep walking. "Once... we get there..."

"Twilight, we know you want to help Spike; we all do. But you're not helping him if you drain yourself." Sally said to the unicorn before morphing into her muscular form, and then carried Twilight, pretty much giving her a... pony-back ride.

"Nnnnngh... can someone carry me too..." Garble groaned before covering his mouth to try covering a large burping. "Ugh... the first two tele-whatever were fun... but after the third one... nnnngh... it made a mess with my stomach."

'I thought you'd manage that better than us; you dragons eat jewels!" Fiona exclaimed.

"Yes, that means you dragons have very strong stomachs." Lobo added.

"I know... but we're not used to... travel this way." Garble now needed Nicole's help to walk, since he needed to lean a bit on her to keep up his balance.

"Next time, try the train." Nicole chuckled a bit while helping Garble. "Sorry; when Pinkie Pie isn't around, someone must keep the jokes running. And Sonic isn't here either."

"But I'm here now!"

The others looked at Sonic, who was now standing in front of them. Rainbow Dash and Daemon landed next to him a moment later.

"We were on our way back to Ponyville." Rainbow explained before looking at Garble and Nicole. "Hey, great, you found Nicole! But... the dragon is coming as friend, prisoner, or a punching bag for Knuckles?"

"Friend. Yeah, that. Friend. Really." Garble nodded at the newcomers, that looked at the rest of the group; when their friends confirmed Garble's words, they cooled down, and a few moments later, the rest of the Dragon Roost's group joined them.

"Shakes? Fume?" Garble arched an eyebrow when looking at his friends. "What are you guys doing here?"

"We can ask the same thing." Fume replied.

"Look, Ah know we all need to compare notes..." Applejack was interrupted by Shakes.

"Notes? Someone was supposed to be writing this?"

"Figure of speech, Shakes." Garble groaned.

"Ehem. As Ah was saying, we must find a better place to talk. Ah don't wanna be close to the Dragon Roost in case any of the big ones decide we're now a big enough group for a midnight snack."

"Good thinking. Still, we have 4 dragons in this group, so guess they won't attack us." Lyco pointed out.

"Uh... Lyco, there are only 3 dragons with us." Twilight corrected the elastic wolf.

"She's also including the dragon that had been following us since we left the Roost." Tomboy grinned. "We, the wolves in the group, already knew that, but even I wouldn't start a discussion with a dragon with so many large ones around us."

The non-wolves of the group looked at the direction Tomboy was pointing, and, indeed, they could all spot a dragon's tail, the rest of him hidden behind a boulder.

"I think I know that tail. Puff, get out of there; we know it's you!" Garble confirmed this dragon's identity by sniffing the air.

"Heh... hey, Garble." The albino dragon emerged from his hiding place, grinning a bit. "So... these guys aren't enemies?"

"No, they're not." Garble groaned.

"Are you sure? You should have seen what those two did with the rest of the gang." Puff pointed at Knuckles and Warrior, the two brawlers just grinning and shrugging at this.

"They tried to bite, barbecue and beat us, not exactly in that order." Warrior pointed out.

"Hey, you guys invaded our home! And I was following you because I thought you were dragon-napping Fume and Shakes. " Puff argued back. Fiona then approached him with a nice, gentle smile.

"Sorry about that. Our friend Nicole was kidnapped, and they were looking for her. We know you were only defending your territory against trespassers, but you must see things from our point of view."

"Uh... eh... well..." Puff blushed a bit; like Fume and Shakes, he wasn't used to any female from any species to be this nice and polite with him. "I'd... agree with you... but I still have a very important question for you."

"Sure, go ahead."

"What's a 'trespasser'?" Puff smiled dumbly.

"You guys need a school around here." Rainbow whispered at Garble.

"I guess you're right." Garble groaned, hating that, once again, his species' lack of education made them look like fools.

"We'll think about that later. Right now, like Applejack said, we must leave and find a better way for us to discuss our current situation." Twilight proposed. Once everyone agreed with her, they went to find some cover place where they could talk without interruptions.