Snoring and murmuring to himself, Spike slept covered in his blanket in his small bed at Twilight’s castle late Friday morning.
Twilight Sparkle opened the door to his room and said, “I can’t believe you’re still asleep.”
Spike flicked his tail with an annoyed groan. “Ugh. Just five more minutes.”
With her alicorn magic, Twilight opened the curtains to Spike’s room as he continued to snore. “It’s nearly noon, and you promised to help me with my lecture for class today.”
Spike rose out of his bed, his back still facing Twilight. “Noon? Whoa. I slept like a rock.” He rubbed at his face. “Which reminds me, all that sleep probably cleared up my stone scale!” he declared. He looked at Twilight.
Twilight’s mouth fell open, and her eyes widened with a horrified gasp. “Um. On second thought, you can go back to sleep if you want.” She smiled at him nervously.
Spike felt at his face again and moved to face himself in the mirror for a peek. Instead of his one bothersome blemish from the day before, his face was now covered in numerous stone scales. “Aaaaaaaah!” he screamed in horror. Spike started to close the curtains Twilight just opened. He jumped into his bed and covered himself completely with his blanket.
Twilight approached the bed. “Spike, what are you doing?”
“Hiding,” he said from under the blanket, “From my hideous face!”
“I’m sure it feels terrible,” Twilight said sympathetically, “but it’s just a breakout. It’s not the end of the world.”
Spike peeked out from his blanket with small glare. “That’s easy for you to say. Your face isn’t covered in itchy red spots.” He scratched with fervor at his face in frustration.
“I used to get terrible breakouts anytime I had a final exam with Princess Celestia,” Twilight admitted with continued sympathy. Then she got a little annoyed with a thought and enviously added, “who probably never had a blemish her whole life.” She stopped there and smiled at Spike.
Still scratching at himself, Spike replied, “Well, I’m not in magic school.”
“No,” Twilight agreed, “but these things can be stress-related, and you did spend yesterday with Rarity.”
“Heh! What could possibly be stressful about that?” he said nervously. “Rainbow Dash was there too.”
Twilight gave a tiny groan at that and moved back to the starting topic, “You could try Zecora.” She used her alicorn magic to start opening the curtains again. “She makes a cream that…”
“…works wonders. I’ve heard,” Spike finished for his friend. He got out of the bed and looked at the mirror. He added, “But I’m not leaving the castle until my face is back to its adorable self.” He tried to pop one of the stone scales and failed, grunting in pain.
“Fine..” Twilight conceded, “But you’re still gonna help me practice my lecture.” She magically placed a stack of several sheets of paper in his claws to hold.
Spike groaned but was clearly going to comply.
Twilight cleared her throat. “Ahem. The element of generosity and its importance in relation to the other Elements of Harmony – “
Spike burped a very large burst of green fire, burning all the sheets of paper in a quick whoosh. He covered his mouth while holding the pile of ashes that was the paper.
Twilight gasped in horror. “My lecture!” she lamented, magically lifting the pile of ashes into a ball.
“I don’t know what happened!” Spike insisted. “I just had a sudden case of – ” he stopped as he tried and failed to hold in another burping blast of green flame. Twilight teleported out of the way. She teleported back in with a fire extinguisher and sprayed it over her assistant dragon friend.
“…indigestion,” Spike finished. “I’m so sorry!” he apologized.
Twilight’s ears drooped sympathetically. “Oh. That’s okay, I’m sure I can re-write t he lecture from my notes.” She magically brought over another larger pile of paper. “I have a lot,” she admitted with an embarrassed smile.
“I can help you with – ” Spike started to offer but found the stack immediately moved clear of his grasp as Twilight magically guided them away from him.
“Maybe we should call in some help because I think something’s going on here,” Twilight said. She closed her eyes and concentrated hard.
“Uh, Twilight, what are you doing?” Spike asked.
In a quick flash of light, Rainbow Dash appeared hovering place. “Whoa! Haven’t felt one of these in weeks.” She scanned the room and saw Spike and Twilight. “Whoa, Spike, that did not clear up at all. It’s way worse. Is this why you summoned me, Twilight?” she asked.
Spike stumbled down in surprise. “Uh…”
“Master, it’s not just the stone scale breakout. He’s burping fire big time. I think something’s happening to him. Please tell me your gut senses something about all this or how to find out what’s happening,” Twilight pleaded.
Rainbow Dash peered down at Spike and thought carefully. “Well, so far my gut says it’s nothing to actually worry about. The stone scales and burps are related into a bigger something, but there’s actually nothing wrong going on here,” Rainbow said.
Twilight breathed a sigh of relief.
“I’ll ask Blitz for a second opinion,” Rainbow Dash said aloud.
“What? Right here, right now?” Spike asked nervously.
Rainbow paused. “Well, I mean, I don’t have to. It’s just that large sea serpents like leviathans are sometimes regarded as a type of dragon or distantly related, depending on the story. So you know, maybe she could tell me more.”
Spike scratched at his scales. “Fine, go ahead.”
A small red circle appeared on the floor, and Blitz sprang upward from it into the room, meeting the gaze of her master.
“Hey Blitz. Can you tell me what’s happening to my friend Spike here?” Rainbow asked. “He didn’t have all those stone scales yesterday and never has before. Twilight tells me he’s been burping fire big time. That’s not a thing we usually see from him, but I’m not sensing anything wrong.”
Blitz peered down in the same way Rainbow had a moment ago. She slithered around in a close circle, studying the young dragon more closely.
Spike clenched his eyes shut and grimaced, even covering his head with his small claws. She parted away and floated back up to Rainbow Dash. Then she lowered her head again, all the way to be even with Spike’s head and raised it and her body upward at a small pace, higher and higher. She gestured her tail at Spike.
“Growing,” Rainbow said. “You’re growing.”
“What? No, I’m not,” Spike said. “I’m still as tall today as I was yesterday.”
The tip of Blitz’s tail curved and pointed up.
“Up. You’re growing up,” Rainbow added.
“I am?” Spike asked.
Blitz nodded her head at Twilight, then Rainbow Dash. Then she nodded her head at Spike and yet another nod at the windows.
“What’s that mean?” Spike asked.
Rainbow thought for a moment. “Pony, pony,” she muttered aloud. “Dragon…she means another dragon like you. Smolder! Go ask her for help.”
Blitz nodded in the affirmative to indicate that her master understood her correctly.
“Oh,” Spike remarked. He scratched at his face. “I really don’t want to leave the castle.”
“I really think you should,” Twilight urged.
“I could ask her to come here,” Rainbow offered. “I’ll fly over and if she’s free, we’ll come right back.”
“The castle is still flammable while you’d be gone and while she would be here,” Twilight pointed out.
“Yeah, and so’s the school,” Rainbow pointed out right back to her.
Spike sighed. “Fine. I don’t suppose your super master mev magic powers can tell me where she is?” he asked, not interested in debating which flammable location was more okay to set on fire by accident.
“Ha! More like super awesome teacher powers!” Rainbow Dash proudly declared. “Sometimes the students from the other kingdoms study in the library together around this time of day, so I’d start there. Or the dorms.”
“I can teleport you to the library for a quick peek,” Twilight offered. “Then I really need to get back to redoing my lecture, so I’m just dropping you off. Still, it’ll be fast.”
“Yes, please! But first! Let me put on something to wear,” Spike said. He fumbled through some clothes and found a small trench-coat, large sunglasses, and gray hat. He put them on.
“I do believe I’m no longer needed here,” Rainbow noted to the pair.
Twilight nodded. “Thanks for your help, Master. We’ll take care of the rest. Thanks to you as well Blitz.”
Blitz made a quick circle around Twilight to tell the alicorn mev she was welcome. “Alright Beautiful, back to the void,” Rainbow commanded. The leviathan dread slithered down into a circle on the ground and disappeared. “Good luck, Spike,” Rainbow said and flew down to give Twilight a hug. “He’ll be alright,” she assured her Rexa.
Twilight smiled, feeling comforted. Rainbow Dash flew out of the room.
Smolder sat with Sandbar and Yona in the library reading when she saw a small figure approach their table, standing on the other side of it. Her nose crinkled at the stench. The figure was short and looking a little silly in his getup, but she saw enough purple to soon register who it was.
“Can I talk to you?” Spike tried to ask but his voice came out very low and inaudible. He clutched at his throat in annoyed horror.
“Huh?” she asked him.
“Can I talk to you?” he tried again, still super low in his voice.
“I can’t understand you,” Smolder shook her head.
Finally, Spike shouted in a much louder voice, “CAN I TALK TO YOU?” and he felt another fire burp that burned all his clothes, thrusting him up into the air to fall onto the pile of ashes that was his attire. That left Spike exposed, revealing his stone-scale-covered face. Embarrassed, he darted as quickly out of the library as he could. He found a closet to hide in within the school halls.
Smolder raised a confused eyebrow and flew off to find him. Following the smoke, she found the proper closet. “Yeah, you can,” she said with a smirk and folded arms.
“What’s happening to me?” Spike asked nervously. He let out another massive fire burp, and Smolder darted up to the ceiling to clear out of the way as brooms in the closet turned to ash.
Smiling from her perch on the ceiling she told Spike, “It’s called the molt. I’ve seen some pretty bad ones in my time, but yours takes the cake.” She landed on the floor again. “Super painful stone scales, fire burps,” she started to playfully dance around him as she listed off more, “uncontrollable volume shifts? It’s all part of growing up dragon. Congrats!” She smacked his back. Hard.
Spike let out a pained cry.
“Oh. Sorry,” she said with a little guilt.
“It’s just like Blitz said, but this can’t be right,” Spike muttered. “The last time I grew up, I turned into a giant, greedy monster!”
“Two things. One. Greed-induced bigness. That’s totally different. And two. Blitz? I don’t suppose that Blitz is actually a giant snake of some kind?”
Spike paused in his pacing in the closet. “So Rainbow told you all her name?”
“Ha! So it is the same Blitz. She can talk?” Smolder asked excitedly.
Spike scratched at his head. “No, not exactly. Rainbow Dash translated that. Still, how is it different?”
“Oh,” Smolder uttered and grew disappointed. “Well anyway, the molt is completely normal compared to the greed-induced bigness. Every dragon goes through it. Pretty soon you’ll leave and strike out on your own.”
“Why would I do that?” Spike asked.
“Have you been living with ponies your whole life?” Smolder asked incredulously.
“Uh-huh,” Spike answered sincerely.
“Oh,” Smolder realized. “Well, in the Dragonlands, a molter’s loved ones kicks them out at the first stone scale.”
“What? Why?” Spike asked, unnerved.
“I think it’s biological,” Smolder theorized. “We call it the ‘Molt Effect.’ I haven’t even told you about the smell,” she said with a knowing smile.
“Smell?” Spike asked and sniffed himself. “Agh!” he declared in disgust.
“Yeah. I mean I loved my brother and all, but one whiff and I was all, ‘See ya!'” She sniffed Spike. “Speaking of which…”
“Wait!” Spike flung himself to the ground and grabbed the end of Smolder’s tail. “Does the Molt Effect happen to ponies too?” he asked. He gasped. “Twilight already asked me to leave the castle today. If she kicks me out, where am I going to live? I’m too young to grow up!”
Smolder grabbed her own tail and pulled it away from Spike as she told him, “I’m sure you’ll find a nice hoard of gems to guard or a village to terrorize though now that dragons and ponies are friends, I guess that’s off the table.” She tapped her claw thoughtfully at her chin on that last lost prospect.
“So no creature is gonna want to be around me?” Spike asked with a small, sad voice.
“Oh, I didn’t say that,” Smolder said with contrasting assurance. She motioned with her arms emphatically. “That molt stench is a magnet for predators, Tatzlwurms, Hydras, Rocs.”
Upon the last word in that set, Spike grew annoyed. “Dragons are scared of rocks?” he asked.
“R-O-C-S,” Smolder explained. “Rocs.” She lifted into a hover with her dragon wings and mischievously explained,. “Humongous birds of prey that can snack on a molting dragon like candy.”
“So, Twilight’s kicking me out and the only creatures who don’t find me disgusting want to eat me?” Spike asked in his overly quiet, hoarse voice.
“Seriously, I heard none of that,” Smolder told him with a deadpan tone.
Spike repeated the question in his much louder voice, “SO, TWILIGHT’S KICKING ME OUT AND THE ONLY CREATURES WHO DON’T FIND ME DISGUSTING WANT TO EAT ME?”
“Congrats!” Smolder told him.
She left the closet, leaving a distraught Spike behind. The young purple dragon was not comforted by any of this news, even if it did help him understood what was happening.
Spike waddled alone through the Everfree forest, but then he heard familiar voices. He walked closer as he listened.
“Maybe I could help you set up your own little solo stunt show or a duo with me here in Ponyville,” Rainbow’s voice said. “No Washouts and no flying necessary. Show us what you can do with that scooter. It’s why you wanted to join that group after all.”
“Really?” Scootaloo’s voice asked full of hope.
“Yeah, if it’s something you want to do. What do you say?” Rainbow offered.
“I say ‘yes’,” Scootaloo said with a smile.
“Rainbow Dash!” Spike said urgently to approach the two pegasi.
“Spike, what happened to you?” Scootaloo asked.
“That’s why I’m here to talk to Rainbow Dash,” he said. He looked at the pegasus in question. “Zecora wasn’t home, but you’re right here, right now. Please help me. Now.”
Rainbow nodded, and the three friends found a small clearing where they could sit and talk.
Spike relayed everything Smolder told him about the molt. When he was finished, he stared at the ground. “So, is there anything your master mev powers with all that magic you eat can do about this?” he asked. “Your business to help magical creatures and all,” he added.
“Could you really Rainbow?” Scootaloo looked from Spike to the mev.
“What? Stop you from growing up?” Rainbow asked.
“The smell? My voice? These stone scales! Anything!” he pleaded.
“Hmm,” Rainbow tapped her chin thoughtfully. “The thing is, all of these things are supposed to be happening to you. I need a really good reason, and it should be something that can’t be done otherwise with the magic I have in the reserve. I certainly don’t know enough magic besides chaos magic to handle for those things, and my gut is definitely blaring a large alarm to totally not do that.”
“I’m in danger,” Spike hoarsely remarked. “Isn’t that a good enough reason?”
“The smell causes that problem, right?” Rainbow probed.
“What did you say?” Scootaloo asked.
The young dragon repeated to Scootaloo in his louder voice. “I’M IN DANGER. ISN’T THAT A GOOD ENOUGH REASON?”
Scootaloo pat one of her ears down, overcome by the volume.
“Honestly, I’d say you’re already on the right track,” Rainbow Dash told Spike. “I’ve read about deodorizing gels that you can buy at a pharmacy but for really strong smells, you should see a doctor or potions expert, like Zecora.”
“The thing is, I don’t know when she’ll be back,” Spike said and tapped two tiny clawed fingers together timidly. “I don’t want to wait forever outside her house.”
“Hmm, you know, I can handle the smell,” Rainbow noted. “I’ll protect you. If things get really dire from actual predators, beyond what I can do as a fast pegasus, then I can tap into the reserve. You could just stay at my place until this molting thing is done. “
“Done?” Spike asked.
Scootaloo gazed at Rainbow with similar curiosity.
“Yeah, molting is a process some animals and creatures go through,” Rainbow told him. She flapped her wings and lifted into her frequent hovering position. “When it’s over, you’ll be…I don’t know exactly what, but you’ll be different. Still, you aren’t going to stink like this forever. Smolder doesn’t. Ember doesn’t. Even from the couple of times I went with you to the Dragonlands, the other dragons didn’t.”
“Ohhh,” Spike realized. “That was totally not clear to me. But different how? Please tell me you can figure that out.” He clasped his two clawed hands together in pleading hope.
Rainbow thoughtfully paced in her hover. “I don’t know. Is there anything different about all older dragons we’ve met compared to you besides that you’re shorter?” she asked.
With a tiny contemplative claw touching his chin, “I don’t have wings?” Spike asked, staring off into space. His eyes widened as it fully registered, and he looked up at the master mev. “I DON’T HAVE WINGS!” he shouted from one of his uncontrollable volume shifts.
Scootaloo’s mouth fell open in too much shock to let the loudness bother her.
Rainbow rubbed one of her ears, still flapping her wings in her hover. “Then I’d say you’re probably going to grow wings.” She paused in thought and smiled as it fully registered on her as well. “Which. is. awesome!!!”