The Nature of Dragon Magic
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Dragons, as a species, are impressive and awe-inspiring. Wherever they go they inspire fear, wonder, and in some cases even adoration, all of which can be traced to reasons that are obvious: they are large, physically strong, long-lived, and equipped with all manner of natural and deadly things such as claws and spikes and, of course, fire breath.
By observing the one known as Spike an interesting note can, and must, be made: dragons can use their fire to accomplish things that are otherwise impossible, possibly even for ponies (except for unique instances, such as “Pinkie Pie,” who are simply anomalies). This accomplishment of the impossible is quite literally a feat of magic, for powers outside of physical nature are involved, but the larger questions remain: “What is this power?”, “Where did this power come from?”, and “What can this power accomplish?” The first two questions must be answered together, for they are one and the same.
In the beginning there was creation, and from creation came all the elements, including Fire. This Fire is manifested in many ways that are taken for granted. It is at the heart of the sun, which burns brightly and gives light and warmth to all the world. It is at the heart of the earth, which refines the rocks and dirt to yield metals and gems alike as well as brings forth its fury to form the most powerful (and dangerous) of mountains. It is even woven in as part of the sky, for within its clouds can come forth lightning, which strikes at the surface in swift fury and sets ablaze those things unprepared for it.
From this same Fire, which is from creation, was manifested one of the first lights of knowledge. This very light of knowledge took the shape of flame and learned and grew, expanding its fires increasingly until it was exceedingly large. However, this fire could not keep growing forever lest it consume all in its path, and so it willingly bound itself with earth, which also came from creation, and gave shape to the first dragon: grand, mighty, and wise. Bound within an earthen body came at a cost, for the fire within him could no longer expand as swiftly or burn entirely as brightly, although in its great shape it knew and remembered much from creation. So equipped, this dragon formed other earthen bodies of lesser size and drew forth other flames of knowledge into them, thus fathering all dragons that were, are, and will ever be.
It must be set clearly that dragons are not necessarily the first beings of creation, nor are they necessarily the most in-tune with all things. Indeed, the attunement of the “lesser” race of ponies to all things order is so visible it seems to allow some of them access to the stuff of creation itself: Harmony, the order of which cannot be subverted or overruled. Nevertheless, the dragon’s connection to the physical earth and the fires within are fundamental to his being as he is an earthbound manifestation of the first fires and the lights of knowledge within. This natural connection, in turn, gives a dragon awareness of fire and earth, with a divine potential to one day know all its secrets either in this life or in the life to come. It can be concluded, therefore, that from creation dragons were gifted with a natural attunement, or magic, with the physical earth and the fires inside of all things, which shall be simply referred to as “the fire within” henceforth.
We are now brought to the third question, which regards the potential of a dragon’s attunement to the earth and the fire within. It remains a sad truth of a dragon’s life that a dragon may never reach the potential to learn the finer workings of his magic, if he ever learns anything of magic at all. Dragons, in their glory, are vain, greedy, and excessively proud, leading some down dark paths that prematurely end their lives and others still into slothfulness. It is acknowledged that a gifted few may yet begin their learning in the days of their youth, such as Spike has done, although most that ever will learn this magic only begin doing so once they have reached the full splendour of their lives and are counted as “elder,” which requires one additional elaboration: all elder dragons are adult dragons, but not all adult dragons are elder dragons.
Even when one reaches the beginning of this learning, youth or elder, a dragon does not simply snap his claws and become able to do anything he wills. As the earth of his body keeps his age long, so does it slow the expansion of his potential, which in turn forces a dragon to continually unlock his potential by dedicated training. Even if a dragon were to have all the knowledge required for every spell devised by his brethren, it would take time to be able to summon forth the power from his fire within, oftentimes taking decades of effort before achieving mastery. This is further complicated by the manner by which dragons advance in age in the present day, for dragons seldom mature to adulthood without the presence of a hoard of gems and gold and precious things.
The cause of this manner of aging is unknown, even to dragons. It has been thought that back in the eldest of days dragons aged in a more natural, albeit slow, fashion--not unlike the exceedingly slow growth of dragons who have no hoards of their own. Regardless of how this change came about, or even if such a change ever took place, it is an indisputable fact that dragons grow more rapidly as they hoard precious things. There is rumor, but little evidence to support it, that by hoarding and eventually feasting on these things a dragon fuels himself with the natural earth he is made of, but more importantly that these things bear within it the faintest hint of the great earth’s fire within, and that by increasing this hoard the same dragon is exposed to increasing amounts of the natural elements he is made of, much like a sponge as it absorbs water.
Without further regard as to how a hoard affects the growth of dragons, there are visible benefits to the assembling of a hoard in regards to magic. The first of these benefits is that the hastened aging of a dragon, as his hoard increases, likewise furthers the unlocking of his raw potential, although this still leaves him at a lack for the proper discipline and skill. However, as a dragon thirsts for more hoard he may be driven to seek more, which forces him to exercise his powers in whatever means necessary. Just as a pegasus seeking to fly faster exerts his or her wings, so must a dragon’s magic when being utilized to find plunder to add to the hoard.
There are many ways this is accomplished, the three most frequent of which shall be named in no particular order. Firstly, dragons may often times learn to sense or even see the precious stones and metals locked away in the earth, and dig their caves to access them, at first by physical strength but in time utilizing magic to aid them or to do the whole work. Secondly, as any dragon becomes emboldened and ablaze with pride, he may venture into the world and assail others--indeed, many cities have been razed and sacked by one or more dragons throughout time (though many have also repelled such attacks). Thirdly, dragons may battle one another, though in this instance dragons are not prone to using their magic and more frequently than not this is done as a last resort.
It has been known, however, that dragons in their youth will compete fiercely in games of violence for the same goal, but these are kept watch upon as to prevent a young dragon’s life from being prematurely snuffed out. The gifted young are kept separate in this regard, and compete with their magic as well as their own strength. Likewise, dragons who are seeking mates among the migration will often combat one another, those who wield magic are given a greater advantage. As is the prior case, dragons are careful to not slay one another, though a sound beating is not beyond imagination.
Regardless of how the exercise is accomplished--by combat, by conquest, or by sheer force upon the earth--the ever-burning quest for a hoard fuels the unlocking of potential and the fulfilling by means of dedication in the same action and becomes the chief method of expanding a dragon’s magic. To be stated again, this process is neither instant nor easy and requires much of a dragon’s time before he will be able to reach mastery. Even with accelerated growth from the collection of hoards, a dragon will likely spend some manner of decades mastering his magic.
Once mastered, however, a dragon’s magic is tied into his earth and fire within, as well as any other thing that bears earth or a fire within. In the example of Spike, who breathes fire in a fashion to send letters to Princess Celestia, his magic is tuned in such a way that his “fire within” consumes within itself the object desired to be sent and is harmlessly and efficiently sent to the being or location of choice and then unconsumed. As Spike is directly tied to Princess Celestia in this fashion, it is not beyond believing that either the Princess also bears a fire within, or has tied her light in a way that would allow Spike’s fire within to identify her light as a functional equivalent of a fire within.
This ability to “teleport,” however, is strict: a dragon cannot send himself anywhere, nor can he send the object in question to a position he is not familiar with--there must be a link between the fires within of both the dragon and the destination, be it being or location, that bears some personal significance.
Such equivalents, in turn, allow for dragons to emulate a number of pony magics. The most common example is “telekinesis,” or the ability to lift and move objects at will without touching the object, usually at will. Ponies accomplish this task by bending their energies around these objects and with little more than a focused thought move them to whatever end they will. Obviously, dragons do not have such energies to bend. However, if the object is tied to the earth in a blatant way--made of rock or metal or encrusted with gems--a dragon’s earthen nature may allow him to manipulate this very earth to accomplish the same task.
For example, a dragon and a unicorn pony sit down for tea and drink from cups made, in part, with gold. The unicorn uses her innate grasp of inner magic to bend energy around the teacup to take a sip, whereas the dragon must use his connection with earth to will the gold to move as he wills in order to do the same task. The image that results, uncommon as it ever will be, is that of two vastly different beings sharing the same pot without ever needing to physically touch the vessels they drink from.
This fire within may also be shaped and formed into other things. For a dragon wishing to indelibly write a message upon the air it can be reshaped into an “ink” and then drawn into letters at his leisure. If a weapon is needed, it can be shaped into any manner of devices from a ball to a pillar to a more advanced design and then wielded as long as necessary. The fire, in very rare instances, can even be refined so much by the fire within that it can be seen as a beam of light with multiple times the power of “normal” flame.
These are merely examples, of course, and a wise dragon with experience may find many uses for his fire within, just as many have found uses for their attunement to the earth to dig tunnels without claws and to fashion beautiful things from the base ores and minerals of the ground. With age also comes an increase of power, and many of the dragons who were alive before the being known as “Nightmare Moon” came to exist have created many powerful spells, the ultimate of which, when combined with the might of other dragons, raised a mountain out of the earth and filled it with great fire. Only once in the known memory of dragons has this been done, and rarely if ever will it ever be done again, for such a feat taxed those dragons severely.
Some of these same elders live on today and are the most powerful and wise of all living dragons, and have a power that well rivals that of the alicorns. While many magics were lost from the disappearance of alicorns, the earth and its fire within were well-tended by the elder dragons, and even with the return of the alicorns many regions left alone by ponies are still tended to and guided along in accordance with the harmony of the world. But no amount of dragon magic has, or ever will, assail Harmony or its Elements, for such is the stuff of creation, and no force made by creation can cause its undoing.
Dragon magic, while not the most refined of magics, remains a force to be reckoned with. It is ancient, practiced, and an integral part to any dragon that would pursue it, although the sad experience of history knows that few will fulfill their potential, and most who begin will never reach the height of its glory. Nevertheless, it is no less important than the spells cast by unicorns and alicorns and other beings with such power at their command.