Heart of the Dragon General

General Iroh. Fire Nation hero. First born son of Fire Lord Azulan. The Dragon of the West. It was thought he would be the greatest warrior in the history of the Fire Nation.
But all that changed when the war claimed his son's life. This changed him, and he turned his back on the war.
This was a necessary event. Iroh had a role to play in bringing balance back to the world...but to play that role, he first had to be broken down, so that he could be rebuilt. This truth was self evident in the spirit realm.
But one particular spirit felt this was unfair to Iroh. The wheels of fate are cruel to those caught in the gears, but this particular spirit felt that Iroh deserved kindness. And so this spirit sent Iroh one who would help him to rebuild himself.
And so, shortly after his son's funeral, Iroh would find a creature sent by the spirits, the likes of which he never would have imagined...a pretty pink pony princess.
Somepony to love...and be loved by.


62. Old, New, Borrowed, Blue

The past few days had been hectic for Cadence, though made easier by the presence of Twilight's wonderful friends.  Rarity had taken her in hoof, creating a beautiful wedding gown for her that incorporated both the traditional designs of Equestria and those that Cadence had told her about from the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdoms.  While the requests had caught Rarity off guard, she'd absolutely adored them and had gone on and on about how it would be a brand new trend in Equestrian fashion, which had left Cadence rather amused.

Pinkie Pie had helped plan out the reception after the wedding, and all the games and pastries and music that would be available.  Cadence had been rather surprised that Pinkie already had recipes for several Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom dishes, as well as arranging for the music for the Fire Nation traditional wedding dance.  In response to how she had all this already, Pinkie had offered one of three explanations, telling Cadence to believe whichever she was most comfortable with.  ...Cadence chose to believe Pinkie Pie spoke owl, as the first explanation gave her a headache to even contemplate, and the third didn't actually explain anything.

Applejack was overseeing the baking, and the home-cooked feel she gave to every dish she put her hoof to was a welcome touch for Cadence, and the rediscovery of apples - she wasn't certain if there had actually been any in the other world, and if there were they hadn't been this good - had been an embarrassing pleasure.  She was grateful that Applejack had been so understanding about the mess Cadence had made of the kitchen with her 'tasting'...and of having to get a lot of her ingredients - including all the apples - redelivered.

Fluttershy had taken care of the music, teaching all of Celestia's songbirds to carry the wedding march beautifully.  Her gentle nature had also eased some of Cadence's own worries about her upcoming nuptials, what with how much she'd obviously changed from that 'five minute' jaunt through a dimensional rift.  It was a relief to hear that, for all her differences, Shining was still obviously head over hooves in love with her.  She hoped the differences didn't ever come between them.

And now here she was, hearing the songbirds sing her down the aisle, the lovely dress hanging from her body, the train laid out behind her as three adorable fillies threw flowers in front of her.  Iroh was at her side, walking her down the aisle to where Shining Armor awaited her, splendid in his best dress uniform and his favorite Uncle's insignia on his chest.  He smiled widely as she approached, nervousness only barely visible.  Celestia stood behind the altar, smiling warmly as she watched Cadence as she approached.

Cadence looked downward, her eyes on her white clad hooves and the red carpet she walked upon.  Ever so briefly, the music faded out of her mind, and she saw the carpet as clay, the red crawling up her hooves as flames.

A touch on her shoulder snapped her out of it.  Looking up, she saw Iroh smiling down at her.  Nodding, she continued her walk forward until she was at the altar.

She stood there, her eyes locked on Shining Armor before her, not really hearing the speech Celestia was giving about the beauty of marriage and love, and about how wonderful it was that they'd finally come together.  It didn't look like Shining was really hearing it either as they gazed into each other's eyes.  As silence briefly fell over the cathedral, they both found themselves whispering the two words they'd come to say.  "I do."

Startled murmurs raced through the hall, until Celestia's amused chuckle cut through it.  "Feeling a bit jumpy, aren't you?" she asked teasingly.

As Iroh started laughing, Cadence and Shining simultaneously realized the silence had been Celestia asking if anyone had any objections.  While both were mortified at first, Cadence soon found herself laughing, and Shining quickly joined in.

More familiar laughter caught her attention, and Cadence turned her eyes upward.  Wan Shi Tong in the guise of Twilight's #2 assistant, perched atop a window.  Through the window, Cadence saw not the outside of the castle, but many familiar faces.  Aang, Katara, Sokka, Suki, Zuko, Mai, Jin, their children...even King Bumi, who was still live and kicking after all this time (he claimed the Death Spirit had tried to take him three times, only to find him too tough).

Wan Shi Tong smiled and winked at her, his wings spread over the top of the window, letting all those she knew from the other world witness her wedding.  Turning back, she saw Shining smiling at her, and Celestia and Iroh smiling down at her.

The rest was a joyful blur, and the next thing Cadence knew, the ring was on her horn and Celestia was telling her to kiss Shining.  She needed no second bidding.



The reception was a wild bash, and Cadence wasn't entirely sure she'd remember all of it.  However, as she climbed into the carriage to ride off with her new husband, she knew that it would always be a special memory, a day that didn't start out perfect, but truly made itself perfect by the end.

She smiled as the carriage began the long journey for their honeymoon, leaning against Shining with a happy sigh.  "That was amazing..." she whispered happily.

"Yeah," Shining agreed.  "Quite the day."  He leaned his head against hers.

"It's not over quite yet, Shining," Cadence breathed teasingly, making him blush.  "So I heard Spike was planning your bachelor party.  How'd that go?"

Shining blushed even brighter.  "Well...apparently your father heard about it and...after deciding Spike wasn't old enough to understand, took over the planning.  Teamed up with my father, Big Macintosh - Applejack's brother - and Prince Blueblood for a real blowout."

"Sounds like quite the party," Cadence replied warmly.  "But why are you so embarrassed?"

"Well, Iroh assigned Big Macintosh to procure...entertainment," Shining replied.  "He somehow convinced a friend of his - a zebra shaman named Zecora - to jump out of a cake."  He swallowed convulsively.  "Among other things..."

Cadence did her best to stifle her giggles.  "So...take anything away from that?"

"Umm..."  Shining swallowed convulsively.  He then grinned nervously.  "Can we...buy you some fans?"

Unable to hold herself back, Cadence burst into laughter, hugging her husband tightly.  "Only if you get Zecora to give me lessons," she teased, nuzzling into him.

It wasn't happily ever after.  It was only a new beginning.

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