Inferno was a loner by nature even now as the consort of Red, despite having the power of both a King and a Dragon-Lord he was never really one to stick around and take responsibility: often leaving the castle for several days in order to explore the nearby forests and rivers.
Red was already with child when Inferno went on another trip, much to her displeasure, he didn't understand why but Red seemed especially reluctant to let him go now that she was pregnant - though he put it down to stress and hormones, they hadn't had an easy time and he knew things would get worse in the future.
Yet as he left he assured Red everything would be alright, it pained him to lie to her like that but he wanted to spare her the truth until it was "right".. he knew many of his allies would hate him after they learnt about how he was lying to them like this.. yet he had no choice.. better to let them have their moments of happiness than burden them with the reality that soon they would be facing a war against a beast so ancient it may as well be the universe itself..
Inferno walked down the dirt path formed in the forest around Red's castle and sat by a large rock, leaning against it and folding his wings around himself as he looked out at the blue sky.
"..it's pretty cool, isn't it?" a voice suddenly spoke out from atop the rock, making Inferno jump slightly - he turned around to see a winged humanoid similar to himself, only with a single horn protruding from her head.
Inferno's eyes grew wide as he observed this and he instantly stood up, so as to kneel down in a sign of respect towards the creature "..I.. I'm sorry.. I meant no offense..".
The figure tilted her head to one side then grinned a little "..uh.. hello? hi! hey? whatcha doing?".
Inferno blinked a little as he looked up, still kneeling before the creature "..bowing.. as is the custom.. you are a Alicorn, are you not?" he replies - his voice full of wonder.
The figure scratched her head slightly, her long flowing hair swaying a little in the breez as she noted "..well.. yeah.. I guess so.. you must be a Pegacorn, right? you guys are soooooooooo cool! hey! hey! spread your wings! come on.. I'll start!" - the figure stands up, spreading out large wings "..see? it's easy! you do it!".
Inferno looked more confused than before but stood up and spread out his wings as requested, "..like this?" he asked, unsure what to make of this figure.
Before Inferno could fully react however the figure appeared behind him and felt across his wings, her face leaning close to his as she grinned widely "...ooh! they feel so nice!" - suddenly she appeared in front of Inferno, without warning and leaned against him "..wanna feel mine?" she grinned.
Inferno backed away, startled by the sudden movements and total lack of inhibition the figure showed.
"..hey! what's up with you?" the figure frowned, toppling slightly as Inferno backed away.
"..I.. I need to go.." Inferno began, turning away.
"..don't you DARE turn away from me!" the figure growled and Inferno suddenly froze in place - a force turning him in place to once again face the figure, Inferno finding himself unable to fight against it.
"..who.. are.. you!?" Inferno growls.
"..I'm Maya.. who are you?" the figure replies, her eyes focused on Inferno as she held him in place.
"..I am Inferno Pendragon.. King of The Twilight Dragons.. Lord of Avalon.. and I demand you let me go!" Inferno replied, his skin starting to crackle with black lightning.
Maya grinned as she released Inferno, "..cool.. a dragon! wanna race?" - proceeding to rise into the air as she once again spread her wings out.
Inferno frowned as he looked at Maya "..you remind me of someone I'd rather not talk about.. if you are really an Alicorn I would of expected you to show more grace..".
Maya frowned "..I'm plenty graceful! you should be more respectful towards your number one fan!".
Inferno looked about ready to explode at that point, "..what are you talking about!? I don't even know you!"
Maya in turn grew angry, her frown increasing as the sky seemed to darken visibly and thunder rolled across the area: "..don't you speak to me like that!".
Inferno suddenly unleashed a beam of energy at Maya in frustration "..this is insane! *you* are insane! now leave me alone!".
Maya absorbed Inferno's beam as if it was nothing and her face contorted into fury as her eyes burned like hot coals: "..as you wish!".
Inferno blinked as he found himself engulfed in darkness for a few minutes, when he awoke it was to an alien landscape of tall grass and vast empty spaces - he looked around from side to side before he suddenly became aware of a large shadow overhead.
Looking up Inferno suddenly froze again, confronted by Maya - who now appeared to tower over him.. that was until Inferno finally figured out what had truly occured.. he had shrunk..
"..now you can be left alone.." Maya said, folding her arms as she stood in place - staring down at Inferno angrily.
Inferno concentrated, sparks flying from his body, yet nothing happened and he yelled up at Maya "..turn me back!".
Maya knelt down and smirked at Inferno, "..I'll turn you back.. on ONE condition.. you ditch that dumb old Red and come live with me.. your number one fan..".
Inferno shook visibly in anger as he fired a small bolt of energy at Maya - which deflected off her harmlessly "..NEVER! you're insane!".
Maya frowned as she stood up again and spread her wings "..fine.. then stay this way.." - with that Inferno felt a gust of wind nearly blow him off his feet as Maya flew into the skies above and vanished from view.
Inferno's anger soon gave way to confusion again - strangely there was no fear running through his mind.. he had grown increasingly accustomed to moments such as this.. though this one was particularly troublesome to him due to his general pride:
"..great.. now what?" he muttered to himself, looking around the tall grass as he tried to figure out what to do next..
Nearby, Inferno could hear musical humming as the giant figure of Nebula began to approach, walking with a spring in her step.
Inferno just stares for a moment, his face blank - then slowly changing to irritation as he thinks aloud to himself "..you have got to be kidding me..".
Nebula stopped, having spotted the tiny Inferno standing on the ground. Her eyes grow wide with shock.
Inferno doesn't even wait for a reaction, upon noticing Nebula has spotted him he spreads his wings "..nope.. forget this.." he begins and flaps his wings, only to fall back down as he can't seem to take flight <<..oh.. this is just wonderful..>> he thought silently.
"Eep!" Nebula squealed. "Inferno, is that you?! You're so... so... so cute when you're tiny!" She scooped up the miniature Inferno in her hands and squeezed him in a hug like a doll.
Inferno wriggled, "..Nebula! control yourself! or so help me-!" he began, though he really couldn't do much as he was hugged - he knew Nebula had a good heart yet he also knew she was not the type to know personal boundaries.. "..great.. now I have to content with two madwomen.." he thinks silently.
"How did you do that?" Nebula asks. "Can you teach me how to make myself small? Huh? Can you? Can you?"
Inferno finally frees himself and lands on the ground next to Nebula, looking up at her "..ugh.. well, I'm free at least.." he thinks to himself: he then motions to Nebula "calm down! this isn't my doing! listen to me!".
"...oh? Okay!" Nebula says happily, lying down on the ground and facing Inferno.
Inferno raises an eyebrow at this, still trying to get used to the idea of a Wisp that is bigger than he is - at least in relative terms - he shakes his head a little to clear his thoughts: "..I've been cursed by a powerful entity.. an.. Alicorn.. by all rights such beings should all be extinct.. yet one seems to have survived.. you following me so far?" he asks, deliberately stopping halfway as he had a funny feeling Nebula's attention-span wasn't likely to be long.
"Um, wha-" Nebula said, poking at a daisy, then snapping back to attention. "Oh yes! Mm-hmm! You were cursed by an extinct corn!" She then looked confused. "...how could you eat a shrinking corn if it's extinct?"
Inferno stares a moment as if resisting the urge to say something unpleasant then thinks, "..well, it's been fun Nebula.. we should do this again sometime.. yes.. we most definitely should.." he says as he makes his way around the Wisp and begins wandering off across the grass, keeping his pace rather quick.
"Wait!" Nebula exclaims, picking Inferno up by his shirt and dropping him in her palm as she stands. "You said you were cursed! You need help!"
"..I need help alright.." Inferno mutters under his breath, still managing to stay remarkably calm - an increasingly common trait even he began to worry about.. as if he was no longer fazed by the madness around himself.
"I'll go take you to help... I'll bring you to Red!"
Inferno suddenly yells out "NO! Nebula! STOP! Red is pregnant, remember!? the last thing she needs right now is this kind of stress! no.. look.." - Inferno sighs, as he regrets it even as he utters the sentence "..we're going to have to do this by ourselves..".
"...she's PREGNANT?!" Nebula says in shock. "...I thought she was getting fat! But she's pregnant! This means you're going to be a dad! Wheeeeee- oh. Right. You're tiny. We're going to need to fix that. Without getting Red involved. But she's got a baby inside her! That's so awesome!"
Inferno leaps off Nebula's palm and lands on the ground with almost feline grace, his Pegacorn heritage preventing bones from breaking as he seems totally unfazed by what would amount to a considerable fall - he walks casually along the grass as he thinks "..Maya flew off.. now how to track her.." - as he speaks he notices a white feather on the ground nearby - "..ah ha!" - he moves towards the feather - "..this is going to be easier than I thought".
"Ooohhhh..." Nebula said, lifting the feather. "...pretty..."
Inferno frowns a little at Nebula and bats at her ankle "..Nebula.. concentrate.. these feathers will lead us to Maya - the one who cursed me.. now come on.." - with that he starts moving along, the feathers seeming to lead into a trail, making one wonder how Maya even managed to shed so many in the first place.
Nebula, however, as she walked along, began picking up each feather they came across, until she had a small bundle of them in her arms.
Inferno suddenly came to an abrupt stop after a good few minutes of wandering across the forest path.
Nebula didn't notice that Inferno had stopped... until she accidentally stepped on him.
"Omigosh! Inferno! Are you okay?!" she asked frantically.
Inferno rolls onto his back, having ended up under a footprint but no worse for wear save for a slightly bruised ego "..we never speak of this again.." he replies.
"You're okay! I'm so happy!" Nebula said, leaping for joy, but having forgotten that she was holding all of the feathers, which scattered in all directions.
"Awww..." Nebula moaned.
Inferno erfs a little at the leaping "Nebula!" - he scrambles back onto his feet, dusting himself off.
"I spent forever collecting these!" Nebula complained, scrambling around to pick up the feathers.
As Nebula turns around Inferno gets ready to shout out when suddenly a hole opens in the ground and an arm reaches out a grabs Inferno, dragging him into the hole "..NEBULA!!!!!" he yells out before disappearing into the hole.
"...Inferno!" Nebula cries out, leaping down into the hole and clutching the feathers that she managed to catch.
Nebula suddenly finds herself rising out of the hole as a winged figure rises up, spreading two large wings as Maya suddenly appears - clutching Inferno in her hands "..looking for something?".
"Yay, you found him! Thankies!" Nebula said happily, holding out her hands to collect Inferno.
Maya looks to Nebula, keeping Inferno close as she raises an eyebrow then simply states "..nope.." - before landing on the ground nearby, outright blanking Nebula's request as Inferno wriggles.
"let me go you goddamn witch!" Inferno growls.
"Inferno! That's not a nice thing to call someone!" Nebula exclaimed. "And as for YOU..." Nebula points at Maya. "Give me back my friend! Um... please?"
Maya tosses Inferno up in the air then catches him again, causing him to swear several times - she idly looks to Nebula and replies "..nope.." - she then speaks casually "..I'm not a witch, I'm an enchantress.. I am also your number one fan, Inferno.. I followed all of your exploits.. like when you fought against your insane sister and saved Avalon from destruction.. or when you bravely entered Tartarus itself.. oh yeah.. that was the best..".
"Yeah! He's really cool, isn't he!" Nebula says cheerfully. "Anyway... give him back, you... you... evil enchantress!"
Maya puts Inferno on her head and gives Nebula a look of distaste, "..who you calling evil? let me tell you something little Wisp.. I'm an Alicorn.. which means I can do anything I want.. I'm also an enchantress.. double the fun.. so if you don't like it you can just GO AWAY!" - the last two words are amplified into a gale-force wind by magic designed to send Nebula soaring, Inferno taking advantage as he leaps off Maya's head during the chaos.
Nebula is thrown back by the wind, but manages to catch hold of a tree until the gale dies down.
"You big meanie! I've never seen an Alicorn that was so mean! Well... I've never seen an Alicorn before, but still... I'm sure they wouldn't be as mean as you!"
Maya grins and spreads her wings out "..aww.. you're such a baby.. grow up already and face the facts.. the world is cruel.. the world is evil.. the world is.. BAD.."
Inferno suddenly finds his escape blocked as the area suddenly shifts as a spotlight shines upon Maya from nowehere, reality seeming to shift as a rock instrumental plays from all around - Inferno's mind works overtime "..I've never seen magic as powerful as this before.. oh Maker.. why is it always the crazy ones?" he thinks to himself.
Maya's grin widens as she breaks into song:
"..let me tell you something, honeypie..
here's the truth - I can not lie..
I'm bad to the bone and I can not change -
some people say I'm kind of strange..
they say "Maya dear that's not right"
and what I say "Get out my sight!"
I'm the number one fan,
gonna give it all I can -
when this day is through..
I'll be done with you!
It all began a few centuries ago -
I was nice back then, don't you know..
fell in love with a man, you see -
thought we'd live in harmony..
funny how time changes you -
now it's time to give the Devil her due..
I'm the number one fan,
gonna give it all I can -
when this day is through..
I'll be done with you!
Yes, I guess I am a witch -
but you see I've got this itch..
revenge is something I do well..
petty spite, ain't it swell?
I'm done with being nice and sweet,
now the world's at my feet!
I'm in charge - you better believe!
I'm here to stay - I'll never leave!"
As the song ends, Nebula applauds vigorously. "Encore! Encore!" She cries out. "So... what was that song about? There's revenge and witches and number-one-fans..."
Inferno runs over to Nebula and tugs on her ankle "Nebula! she's insane! you need to run away! now!".
Sure enough Maya's grin fades as she growls "..centuries ago I had a prince.. he was brave and handsome.. everything I ever wanted.. yet he rejected me.. so I didn't get sad.. I got mad.. REAL mad.. I decided to make him pay.. him and every other man.. nobody rejects me, you understand? NOBODY!"
Inferno keeps tugging, pointing at Maya "..see?! see what I just said?! she's dangerous! you need to get out of here!".
Nebula lifts Inferno in her hand as the danger she's in finally seems to click in her mind. "Well, it was nice meeting you! You sing awesome! BYE!"
Nebula flies away as fast as she can, clutching Inferno firmly.
Maya spreads her wings and flies after Nebula "you can't go! I haven't told you about the special game we play!" she says, managing to keep up with Nebula with disturbing ease.
"Oooh, a game?" Nebula asks, her face lighting up.
Maya nods "..here's the rules: you solve my riddles and I turn your friend back to normal.. you get three riddles.. each time you lose.. well.. you'll see.. deal?"
Inferno wriggles, despite the fact it would be wiser to keep still "..Nebula! don't do it! she's crazy!" he protests.
"...but it might be our only way..." she reasons.
Maya suddenly appears right in front of Nebula, spreading her wings "..times up! make your choice - play by my rules or prepare for a fight.."
"Eek! No fighting! I'll play! I'll play!" Nebula squealed.
Inferno just rubbed his face in frustration "..Nebula..".
Maya narrows her eyes and crosses her arms, staring at Nebula for a few moments - her eyes narrowing further and further as she frowns deeply "..okay.. dokay.." she says as she lowers herself to the ground, watching Nebula so she doesn't fly away - pointing towards a nearby clearing "..this way..".
Nebula hesitates for a moment, then warily flies down to the clearing after Maya.
Maya creates a small table next to Nebula as well as a stool and a tall platform - she stands on the platform and points to the stool: "..sit.. put your little friend on the table.." - her eyes still fixed on the Wisp and narrowed.
"Aww... but I wanted to hold him!" Nebula whined, placing Inferno on the table. "...he's so cute when he's small!"
Inferno dusts himself off and frowns "..Nebula! I'm beginning to really -!"
"hush up and listen!" Maya interupts "..my first riddle is a simple one: I am everywhere, yet I am nothing.. I am big.. yet I am small.. what am I?"
"AIR!" Nebula calls out immediately after Maya finishes reciting the riddle.
Inferno had already began to climb down off the table when he blinks, hearing the response: he stares between Maya and Nebula.
Maya frowns and crosses her arms, "..lucky guess.. next one is harder: At night they come without being fetched, And by day they are lost without being stolen.."
"Um... night and day... fetching and stealing... this is hard!" Nebula moans. "Lost... day... night..."
Nebula continues to mutter to herself, before finally guessing: "Stars?"
Inferno slides over to Nebula, hopping onto her ankle as he blinks "..I never thought I'd say this but you're doing good.. only one more to go!"
Maya growls as she suddenly leans down right next to Inferno "Shut your mouth, you little pest!" - she then returns to her normal position and glares at Nebula "..as for you.. don't think you're special.. you still need to solve the last riddle.. David's father had three sons: Snap and Krackel were the first two.. who was the third?".
"Pop- No, David!" Nebula blurted, correcting herself.
Maya laughs "..too bad! second guesses don't count!" - she points at Inferno and with a puff of smoke he ends up even smaller than before.
Inferno just looks aghast "..this isn't happening.. this is NOT happening!".
Maya grins widely as she looks to Nebula, "..though you still have one chance to save him, you know..".
"...you... big... dumb... MEANIE!" Nebula fumes.
Maya rises up and laughs madly as she spreads her wings, "..fine, have it your way.. CATCH!" - she forms a large bolt of magic and hurls it towards Nebula.
"Eek!" squealed Nebula, ducking below the bolt just in time.
The bolt hits a nearby tree, turning it to stone - Maya grins "..ha!" - she then swoops down and lands on the ground next to Inferno, leaning right down so she is almost eye-level with him "..as for you.. you're going to love me.. or I'm going to make you so small you won't ever be found ever again!".
Inferno growls and leaps up, proceeding to poke Maya right in the eye "..love this!" - he then runs for it as Maya flails, rubbing her eye.
"ow! HEY!" Maya exclaims - sparking with rage.
Nebula grabs Inferno and begins to fly away.
Maya roars, quite literally, transforming into a large white dragon, however unlike most other dragons her form was akin to those of a Chinese dragon - soaring after the pair she unleashes bolts of magic that turn what they hit to stone: "..YOU'RE GOING TO LOVE ME DAMNIT!".
Inferno, almost unable to believe what is going on, finally has an idea as he wriggles slightly "..Nebula! listen! I have an idea! we need to find a mirror or something.." he yells out.
"Like this?" Nebula asks, using her magic to create a tiny, circular glass-like surface that floats above her hand.
Maya suddenly vanishes, reappearing in front of Nebula - having returned to her original Alicorn form: "end of the line, sister!" she yells, swinging around and swatting Inferno out of Nebula's hands with her tail - Inferno proceeds to fall towards the ground below.
"Inferno!" Nebula calls out, dashing after him.
Maya flies after Nebula and grins, "..sorry.. but.. I always win!" - she hurls a bolt of magic at Inferno just before he lands on the ground: the result is a tiny stone Inferno landing in the grass below.
Maya cackles madly as she once again spreads her wings, Nebula having barely touched Inferno with her finger tips before the transformation - seconds away from saving her friend.
"Oh no!" Nebula squeals. "Inferno!" she turns around and glares at Maya. She floats up and suddenly, and her form begins to glow red and her hair turns into raging flames. She confronts Maya and glares at her. "YOU! Who do you THINK you are, turning my friend into stone?!" she yells.
Maya just grins maliciously as she hovers in place "oh.. boo-hoo!" she taunts, before hurling another bolt of magic right towards Nebula.
Nebula flies around Maya, letting the bolt sail harmlessly into the distance. "Turn my friend back or I'll... I'll... uh... YOU'LL suffer the consequences!"
Maya suddenly grows angry as she points to Inferno, the little stone figure rising into the air before it suddenly cracks - as it does so Inferno suddenly returns to normal: Maya proceeds to drop him in the grass again.
"..there! now you have your friend back - only.." - Maya clicks her fingers and Inferno ends up buried under a pile of little Inferno dolls - "..you've got about one minute to find him before the spell wears off".
Maya crosses her arms and mutters, "..threaten me will you? now you'll see who's in charge around here.."
Maya is barely finished talking before Nebula, returning to normal, dives into the bottom of the pile, calling out for Inferno.
Inferno, however, had wiggled himself free of the pile and stood up on the grass - looking up at Maya: "..hey Maya! you win! I'll go with you! just stop this!" he calls out.
Nebula's head pops out of the giant pile nearby. "No Inferno! Don't- Think about Red!" she protests.
Maya grins and begins to fly down, however as she does Inferno slowly begins to turn to stone <<..Nebula.. this is going to sound insane.. but trust me.. smash the stone.. you HAVE to trust me.. when she gets angry.. use the mirror..>> - sure enough Inferno is soon completely stone once more.
Maya lands on the ground and tilts her head a little "..guess the minute is up, oh well.. I can just fix him once we're back in my palace.. a happy couple.. forever and ever!.." she laughs madly.
"Inferno... this better work..." Nebula thinks worriedly to herself as she uses her magic to break apart the stone Inferno.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Maya roars, spreading her wings dramatically before she looks at Nebula - her eyes literally blazing with fury: "..you RUINED EVERYTHING! YOU LITTLE PEST!" - she hurls a bolt of magic right at the Wisp.
"Eek! Mirror!" Nebula squeals, summoning the glass-like surface to block the bolt and crouching behind it.
Maya's bolt hits the mirror and bounces back, hitting Maya and transforming her into stone - trapped in a look of rage.
As soon as Maya is petrified Inferno reappears, having returned to his usual size and very much alive - looking around as he spreads his wings out and wiggles them slightly as if checking he wasn't dreaming.
"Wheeeeeeeee! You're back!" Nebula squeals happily, leaping at Inferno and throwing her arms around him.
Inferno, surprisingly, folds his wings around Nebula - though only for a brief moment - before he looks towards Maya: "..you think that will hold her?" he enquires.
"It'll hold her for now, I think..." Nebula said.
Inferno thinks, "..well.. better safe than sorry.." - he opens a portal and tosses the stone Maya inside, casting her into a distant dimension before he sits back down on the grass, somewhat exhausted after everything he'd been through - "..feels good to be back to my usual size again..".
Nebula looks at the spot where the portal had disappeared, before sitting down on the grass next to Inferno. "...I still feel a little sorry for her..." Nebula said sadly. "Just a little. She may have been crazy and mean, but she still had a broken heart..."
Inferno just looks to Nebula for a moment "..hey, I'm the one who got stepped on.. shrunk.. turned to stone and smashed.. where's my sympathy?" he smirks, obviously not too annoyed but trying to distract Nebula from other thoughts.
Nebula giggles. "Ok, you can have my sympathy too. And look what I got to keep!" Opening her hands, one of the many Inferno dolls that Maya had conjured up appeared.
Inferno suddenly leaps up "no! give that back! give it!" he exclaims, flailing about madly.
"Eek! No! I wanna keep him!" Nebula protested, leaping up and taking a few rapid steps back from Inferno. "Maybe I'll duplicate him and give a copy to Red!"
"come back here!" Inferno says, giving chase to Nebula with his wings outstretched.
Nebula, laughing, turns and begins running from Inferno, clutching the doll. "He's mine! MINE!" she calls out.
Meanwhile in a distant dimension the stone Maya floats endlessly in a sea of nothingness - Nebula's laughter somehow echoing across the area as well as her playful words: "He's mine! MINE!".
Maya's form cracks and splinters, then violently explodes as she roars, flexing her wings as she yells out "HE'S MINE DAMNIT! MINE! MINE! MINE!"
Maya catapults around the dimension, yet she keeps bouncing off invisible shields - blocking her escape:
"..grrr.. I'll find a way out of here.. you'll see.. and when I do.. you're going to love me.. you hear me, Inferno?! YOU'RE GOING TO LOVE ME!!".