To The Most Majestic and Wonderful Princess Celestia,
I am writing to you to recommend for the Royal Academy of Magics and Sciences one of my finest pupils, Twilight Sparkle. Her work in the field of cornukinesis is unparalleled for a filly of her years, and I believe that Equestria at large would benefit from the work she could do were she to have access to all the resources Canterlot has to offer! She is truly dedicated to her studies, although a bit serious at times. I believe that, given time, she could easily rise to be one of the top scholars of this age.
Your Majesty shall also have a chance to meet her personally, if time allows, as I am entrusting her with a package for you. We found it in our library's vault, among some truly ancient documents and relics; we speculate that whatever pony placed it there was unaware of its value and potential fertility. It has begun to grow warm; in fact, we discovered it when one of our archivists was using it as a space heater.
I hope the package reaches Your Highness in time for proper imprinting to occur.
Dame May Showers
Head, Whinnyton School of Magic and Letters
"It is tradition," Dame Showers began to intone, "for young ponies aspiring to attend the Royal Academy to make the journey to Canterlot alone, using their own power and resources. It is a fine show of independence, and one of ponykind's most cherished rituals! It also serves as an admission test, of sorts, and shows the sort of grit and stick-to-itiveness that is highly valued among those wishing to serve Equestria in a civic capacity."
Twilight Sparkle stood, resolute, saddlebags packed and ready to go, mane neatly brushed (with her levitating comb) and tail shiny and clean.
"You can count on me, Dame Showers!" she exclaimed, bright as ever.
"Oh, and one more thing. This is not traditional, but as you are on your way, and a highly responsible pony to boot, I request that you also take this package. Generally, we would send it via United Pegasus Service, but given its delicacy and your level of responsibility, I thought it proper to ask you to deliver it to the palace. Indeed, it may give you the opportunity to meet Princess Celestia."
"Really?" Twilight brightened visibly, and what had seemed like a dreary-but-necessary rite of passage (completely deficit of books and study, for what pony could properly read and think while making a lengthy journey by hoof?) suddenly became a proper quest and test of her admittedly vast capacity for responsibility and self-inflation. "I'd be truly honored, Dame Showers."
"You'll want a cart; it's not heavy, but I doubt it will fit in your bags." With that, Dame Showers disappeared into her closet, emerging with a small pull-cart, well-padded with blankets shaped into a nest of sorts, supporting a rather massive egg.
"Er... is that...?"
"It's merely an object for Princess Celestia's study--a gift of sorts from the School. Just try to make it to Canterlot as quickly as possible, dear."
Twilight gulped, and began to giggle nervously. "Are you... expecting it to hatch?"
When Dame Showers joined in her incredibly nervous giggle with a high, incredibly fake laugh of her own, Twilight knew that this journey was asking for trouble.
"A dragon egg! Who in the world entrusts a completely untested, bookwormish and untrained pony with a DRAGON EGG?" Twilight Sparkle had wisely waited until she'd left Whinnyton with the egg cleverly obscured by yet more blankets before indulging in her urge to freak the hell out.
"Caaalm down Twilight," she told herself. "Deep breaths! It's not far to Canterlot; and surely Dame Showers knows how to tell if something is hatching. It'll be a day and a half, max, and then you'll be able to meet the Princess, drop off the package, and get back to your studies. Piece of cake."
Her pep talk did little to placate her nerves, but there wasn't much to do except keep plodding steadily down the road, hoping that passers-by didn't notice the incredibly volatile compound in her little cart. She wondered if she'd be able to relax enough to take a break anywhere before Canterlot, and realized that the answer was probably "no." The road, straight and flat, seemed to stretch out forever, and the scenery provided no relief, except for the occasional farmer mowing hay.
Step by step, Twilight trudged on. The cart seemed to grow heavier the farther she went; she was no country pony, after all; she'd practically spent her entire life levitating things if they needed to be moved, and pulling a cart was a bit more difficult than walking home from the library with a bag full of (admittedly large) books.
"I guess... it couldn't hurt... to stop and rest...Just for a bit? Maybe have a bite of food..."
It was just as Twilight began entertaining such thoughts that she heard the first gentle crackle of a red-hot eggshell beginning to break.
Before she knew it, she was moving at a full gallop.
"AGH AGH AGH AGH AGH"
"NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO"
"WHY ME WHY DOES THIS ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME"
Twilight had given up on being careful with the egg, instead encasing it in a glowing shell of magic to cushion the now very bumpy ride of the suspension-less cart down a poorly maintained dirt road through farm country. Her maddash rush continued, over hill and dale, and past uncountable rows of boring, boring grain. She prepared herself mentally to continue at such a pace until the egg could be forced into somepony else's hooves, and become anypony else's problem but hers.
And then she came to the river, and the ferry crossing.
"Excuse me! Sir!" Naturally, the ferry was on the far bank, and the fellow responsible for it was lounging on the grass nearby, a comical strand of hay sticking out of his mouth.
"Yes, little missie?"
"Can I cross here?"
"Yes ma'am, just as soon as I finish my lunch break." The charming fellow paused here to take a bite of an apple and stare pensively up at the sky.
"Um, it's just, I'm in a bit of a hurry?" Twilight always annoyed herself when she decided to add question marks to declarative statements under stress. It was an improper use of punctuation.
"Don't you think everypony deserves time for themselves mid-day in order to decompress, prevent burnout, and enjoy a nice lunch?" On second look, it appeared that the ferrypony had a whole pile of apples next to him, which would probably take quite a while to munch through. Alternative plans were called for.
"I... guess so. I'll just... leave you alone, then."
And so Twilight Sparkle set out cross-country, in search of the nearest bridge.
And so it came to be that Twilight Sparkle's adorable little cart broke in the middle of an oat field, after hitting one too many little tufts of grass. She had already been moving slowly, there was no bridge in sight, and the egg had begun to grow even warmer.
"Dragon eggs will begin to heat above their usual temperature as they approach hatching. I guess there's no way around it, huh, little guy?"
She slumped into the grass next to her broken little cart and stared at the egg. It was lightly spotted, pale pink on pale green, and the entire surface was now covered in hairline cracks, as if it would shatter all at once, at any moment.
"Dragons just seem so scary!" Addressing the egg seemed silly, but there was nopony around, and Twilight often found she thought better when thinking aloud. " I mean, I've definitely heard stories of baby dragons setting fire to villages as soon as they hatch! It's why we have agreements with dragons, so they don't burn down all of Equestria!
"But, well, I guess you might be okay. And I guess I'm stuck watching you hatch, soooo there's not much I can do except wonder how I'm going to get you to Canterlot when you're capable of flying off or something. Can baby dragons fly? I mean, their wings are kind of small."
Twilight poked the egg gently.
"Could you hurry it up, though, now that I've decided that I'm doomed to disgrace and possible third-degree burns?"
And, like that, it happened. Every fracture deepened at once, and the shell fragments fell immediately to the ground, revealing a ferocious creature, with no sense of remorse, fiery breath, razor-sharp claws, and perfectly developed speech.
"Hi! Are you the reason it's been so bumpy lately?"
Twilight found she had no way to answer that except with a dazed nod of her head.
The dragon was talkative.
"Dragons are magic. We have species memory, and we have learned memories, from inside the shell. I can't remember much, just being warm and lots of big words and magic, and talk of some sort of book about sparkling wereponies."
Twilight took his exposition in stride. "You were... in the archives. Librarians, I guess."
"Yeah! Or something. I don't claim to know, I'm only about an hour old." And yet, you haven't stopped talking about what you know the entire time, Twilight did not respond. "Speaking of which, do you have any food?"
"Oh! Oh, yes, there's some oatcakes and a few apples..."
The look on this little dragon's face indicated that he was unpleased by these offerings.
"No diamonds? Emeralds? Rose quartz?" It sounded as if the last were a mere formality, as if he were asking about the existence of brussels sprouts.
"Um, I think I see some river stones under the water?"
"Aw, man." Wiith that, the tiny dejected dragon began to rummage through Twilight's bags, removing a shiny apple and eating it without much joy at all.
"So... do you hatch with a name?" Twilight asked, hoping for an answer between comically large bites of apple.
And so pony and dragon camped together for the first time, under the stars, sharing a few apples and generally being unafraid.
The remaining trip to Canterlot was one long, potentially insensitive question-and-answer session: why are adult dragons so aggressive? Do you plan to burn down the Princess when we get to Canterlot? How can you eat gemstones? This continued until Spike began to ask Twilight questions regarding the digestion of hay, and whether ponies really frolicked about in fields all day until their talents were called upon by the princess. He also seemed to have absorbed information about any number of romance novels, which led to questions about what reading material the most learned minds in Whinnyton chose to discuss while off duty.
Occassionally, they would pass other ponies on the road, who seemed clearly undisturbed by the tiny dragon in their midsts. It made Twilight feel a mite silly for being so distraught over a potential danger that was clearly not going to be much bigger than the egg it came from.
Canterlot's gates were less impressive than Twilight had pictured. A pair of pegasi escorted them inside, and it was only once she was in the midst of the bustling square that she was impressed--the towers, so tall! the ponies, so many! The saddles, so grand! But, most importantly, the signs of numerous unicorns working magic was apparent in any number of shops and stalls; each one made her pause to consider whether or not she could do the job better.
"This is going to be so great! Spike, where do you think the Academy is? Spike?"
But the baby dragon was gone! Twilight immediately waylaid a kind-looking pony on the street, but every time she asked if anyone had seen a baby dragon, she was given a strange look, and sometimes referred to a doctor.
"AGH. I do not have time for this!" Remembering her mission, she grew a bit faint, thinking of how she had been entrusted with a potentially dangerous member of a foreign species.
After an entire afternoon, she decided that she had no choice but to confess that she'd lost the only known baby dragon in Equestria, and headed for the Academy.
"Um, I'm Twilight Sparkle; I'm here to see someone about admission to the Academy?"
"Oh! Oh my, we've been waiting for you! Oh, follow me young fillie, follow me!"
And so she followed the older pony, up many many flights of stairs, past many hallways filled with books and other ponies her age, until she reached a truly awe-inspiring set of doors.
"Announcing Twilight Sparkle, Unicorn of Whinnyton, and Friend of Spike the Dragon!"
"Wait, what?" But Twilight had been shoved inside before she could process the statement, to see Spike laughing his head off, and--more importantly and distressingly--the beautiful Princess Celestia doing the same.
"Oh my, oh my, what do our archivists talk about all day! But oh, that must be Twilight Sparkle! Come in, dear, I've heard so much about you!" Celestia stood in the middle of a large round room, surrounded by walls of books, glowing nobly and brightly even in the clear light of day. Near her hooves, Spike sat, lounged upon a pile of scrolls.
"But... I... I, um.... It's an honor, Your Highness!" Twilight could barely manage to squeak out a proper greeting as she tried to process the scene before her.
"I hear that you protected our Spike here from several dangers during his hatching process."
"I... did?" Again with the punctuation!
"And that you are a student of the highest caliber! I'd be honored to make you the newest of my own pupils. I accept only the brightest, you see." Celestia smiled kindly, and it was only this friendly gesture that made Twilight realize that she was not, in fact, in trouble, and that perhaps things were not as dire as she had imagined.
"Well, as you know from talking to Spike, he knows quite a bit about library science, and he speaks perfectly fine Equestrian. However, what you don't know, is that dragons are instantly socialized at the moment of hatching to have allegiences to those they are near. Not like a mother; dragons don't care much for parenting, or have much need for it. It's how they keep from, say, fighting each other to the death over gemstones."
"Really? I had... no idea."
"Well, dragon scholarship is not a very widely publicized area of study; it requires long expeditions into rather hostile territory. But only very magical beings can command the respect of a baby dragon, and Spike here seems to have the utmost respect for Equestria, and for you in particular."
"You're pretty cool, Twilight!"
"Anyway, I will have someone show you to to a set of vacant rooms. They're near the library; I'm sure you'll enjoy them. I hope you enjoy your studies, and I thank you, on behalf of all Equestria. I'm sure the two of you will become fine friends."
"Naw, we already are!" The dragon sounded completely genuine, and Twilight marvelled that this was easily the fastest forming friendship she'd ever encountered. Flattered as she was, she imagined that the look on her face was still dazed.
Twilight stood in amazement as the two of them began to laugh again.
Dear Dame May Showers,
While I feel I should discourage you from sending highly volatile objects in the hooves of young ponies, I cannot fault you for the outcome of your experiment. I will indeed admit Twilight Sparkle to the Academy, and have taken her on as my personal student. The dragon (who is named Spike) shall also continue in my care.