Diaries of a Madman

When Discord breaks free of his stone prison, he proves to be much older and wiser than he was on the show. A being of ancient and unimaginable power, he forces Celestia to make a deal to save her little ponies. What she doesn't realize is that one of the terms of the deal is that she forgets ever making it. Enter Navarone, a poor human just trying to get by—or at least, to the ponies that's what he looks like. Pulled from his home by an accidental summoning from one Twilight Sparkle, Navarone is thrust into a world of ponies and more violence than he expected from such a peaceful seeming world. These are his adventures—with a few asides from everybody's favorite Lord of Chaos, of course.

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111. Chapter Eighty-Nine—I’m on a Boat

I woke up the next morning feeling like shit. After going from an amazing bed to a mediocre cabin bed aboard a moving ship, I knew I wasn’t going to be getting a good night’s sleep in a long damn time.

Despite that, everything felt… right, I guess you could say. Spring was coming, I was finally away from the ponies, and my destiny at last felt like it was something I had control over. The winds of fate were finally blowing life into my sails.

The winds in real life were also blowing, as I found when I got topside. There were sails on both sides of the large airship, hanging off the two masts built into both sides of the ship to help hold the balloon in place.

“How are things looking?” I asked the fellow behind the wheel.

“Clear,” he answered, then yawned. “Smooth flying behind and ahead, as far as I can tell. Wouldn’t mind a few outfliers scouting the weather ahead, though. If push comes to shove, we’ll either fly above it or ride it out. Those modifications you paid for means we can pass right on through most bad weather.”

“Well worth the money, then. You know if anyone else is awake?”

“Some of the night guards had trouble sleeping. Most of them are up. I think their schedules might be different.”

“Then they’ll be bunking down soon. When are you getting relieved?”

“Probably another half hour. I’ll be fine until then.” He definitely looked exhausted, but I figured I could trust my new crew to know their limits.

Or at least, I certainly hope I can. “Go to sleep when you are. You look like you need it.”

“Yes sir,” he answered with another yawn. There were only two of the night guards on the deck and I didn’t happen to know either of their names yet. I knew I needed to talk to Watcher, so I went to his room first.

When I got there, I found that his door was already open. I leaned against the frame and peered on into the small room, finding myself thankful that the ship was made for either cats or dogs instead of ponies. “Doing good?” I asked him.

He looked up from the papers he had been peering over. “Yes sir,” he quietly answered. “None of us are used to sleeping at night. It’ll take time for a few of us to adjust. Why did you bring Smiles?”

“He needed a job. I told him I’d get him to Stalliongrad to find one and that he better be fucking looking when we’re there. If he can’t find anything, I said I’d take him on. I figure I can find something for him to do.”

“Probably not the best of ideas. He’s not a bad soldier, but I’ve heard it said that he occasionally thinks with the wrong head.”

I shrugged and replied, “Who doesn’t, sometimes? Rein him in, if you think you have to. I’ll admit that he’s nothing but a liability if he acts like a lovesick girl, so let’s make sure he doesn’t act like that.”

“Very well. What did you need?”

“I have questions. First, why do you and the others still look like night guards?”

“Three reasons. The first is that Luna was too busy being in prison to turn us back. The second is that Celestia was too busy being interrogated to turn us back. The third is that we are a strike team of highly trained specialists. The appearance we have complements our group and our skills and shows everyone that we mean business. Also, I absolutely bucking hate being pink.”

“…Pink?” I asked.

“That’s my natural color. It’s a pain to dye a coat without magic. What else did you need?”

“Huh. Why did you and your group come with me? I mean, I know I’m awesome and you just love being around me, but there had to be another reason. What do you see in me?”

“Discord is free, the princesses are proven to both be corrupt, the griffins are changing in ways that I don’t think even they fully understand, and the powers that be are moving. I don’t think the world could afford for me and my troops to sit still and wait. I have picked up a sixth sense for things like you. There’s a feel to you, a feel that lets me know you’re going to change the world. I don’t know how—though I would very much like to—but you’re going to change something.”

“And you decided to leave everything behind and follow me instead, not even knowing what we’re doing?”

“I did. And my entire team decided to come with me. Make of that what you will.”

“They’re either loyal or you’re really well-known for having a good intuition. You deserve to know what’s going on, at least, though I don’t want it to leave this room until I give the say-so. To put it simply, a long time ago, my kind ruled the planet. I’m talking a hellishly long time ago, so long that there are almost no hints left. Humans are… were engineers. Scientists. And we became gods, creating life. Both robotic and biotic. Some of the robots are still ticking.” My hand moved up to my ear for Flo to ooze out. I played with her between my fingers as he looked on impassively. “This is one of them. The technical details are unimportant and I don’t think either of us would understand them anyway. Long story short, the reason I got this ship was to search for the others, mostly locked away by Discord long ago.”

He was silent for some time and I let Flo reenter my mind. He eventually sighed and said, “And you think they can help against Discord even though they lost in the past?”

“I think he locked them away for a reason. Flo seems to think they’d be useful. They may have been locked away the first time, but with extra help? Well, I think it might be worth finding out. And in the meantime, we’ll be flying all around the world, including many of the previously unexplored areas. If the elementals can’t help us, maybe we’ll find something that can.”

“Maybe.” He didn’t sound all that enthusiastic, but then, he never did. As long as he didn’t flake out on me, he could stay unimpressed the entire time. “Now, I’m not sure about this griffin you brought, either. She seems abrasive. In a tight place like this, that is a bad quality to have.”

“True. But she’ll be useful. She’s purportedly a hell of a fighter and is rather fast in the air. No offense to you and your troops, but hooves aren’t especially dangerous unless you can get a good hit in and that can be hard to do. Talons are easier to fight with and they do a different kind of damage.”

“I know. But none of that will matter if she’s too much of a bitch to use them for you.”

“That’s a fair point. If push comes to shove, I’ll tell her to get her shit and leave. I doubt it will come to that, though. What are your thoughts on the dragon, the naga, or the zebra?”

“Zecora’s mind seems addled. She speaks in rhymes and riddles and she reeks of African mysticism, not something I’m entirely certain I want here. But she’ll be useful for her potions, if nothing else. Naga are always good fighters and I’m eager to see this one in action. How much did his services cost?”

“Getting stabbed in the chest with a unicorn horn. What about the dragon?”

He snorted. “I recognize Spike from the few times I was in Canterlot back when he was Twilight’s little pet. Unless he’s changed, he’s little more than a servant.”

“He’s changed. I don’t know if it’s for the better, but it’s a change.”

“We’ll see. He’s gotten bigger, at least. Maybe he’s finally grown a pair as well.”

“What about the changelings?”

“Doppel will give the troops something to do, I suppose. The other one is… worrying. I honestly don’t know what to make of her and that scares me.”

“And my crew?”

“Battle hardened. I don’t know if I like that they brought their foals, but for such a long trip, it’s not surprising. And I’m also not really certain that it’s a good thing there are no pegasi for an airship, but supposedly they manage well enough without any. If things go poorly, my troops have some small experience with boats on the water. We might be able to assist.”

“Good. Now, I want to know all of my troops’ names. I know you and Smiles, but no one else.”

He nodded. “I’ll reintroduce you to them later, when we’re all in one place. It might be hard for you to tell us apart, though.”

“I believe I’ll figure it out with time. What are you guys going to do in terms of scheduling? Get back to a day schedule or stick to what you have?”

“Both. Six are staying the same. Nine of us are going back to day schedules.”

“You aren’t including Smiles in that.”

“I’m well aware. He is not part of my team. He lacks our special training and our experience. He’s little more than a common soldier that happened to get paired up with royalty often.”

“Fair enough. Do you need anything before I go?”

“Are there going to be meal times planned, or will it be a free-for-all?”

“I’ll need to ask the captain if he already has a schedule. If he doesn’t, we’ll make one. Do you have anyone that can cook?”

“One of my group did a stint as a spy in a gourmet restaurant once. Had to go through months of training. So yes.”

“Good. I know Spike and I also can, so I figure there won’t be any problems in that department. Anything else?”

“We’re going to need a blacksmith or someone else skilled in metalworking. If our armor gets damaged, do you think we can afford waiting for a friendly port to get it fixed?”

“…Do you really want a blacksmith on a wooden ship that’s flying a balloon full of flammable gas?”

“Blacksmiths are careful. I’d rather risk going up in flames than not being able to wear armor because it’s too badly damaged.”

“I’ll see what I can do. No promises. Oh, and can anyone in your group operate siege weapons?”

“No. We’ve never had a reason to.”

“I’ll show some how, then. It would be good to have people manning the ballistae I brought, just in case. Now, I need to go find the captain. You need anything else, let me know.”

“Of course. And if I have any advice to give, I’ll do the same.”

“Thank you. This is the first time I’ve headed any kind of… expedition. It’s nice to know that I have some experienced people with me.”

“And it’s nice for me to know that I have someone willing to listen to advice at the head of the group.” There was a pause and he casually added, “If you’re at the head. You are, aren’t you?”

“It’s my money paying for this and it’s my word that says where we go. I leave troop placements up to you, because they’re your men and you know them better than I do. I leave managing the airship up to the captain, because I don’t know what it requires. But this is my crew, if that’s what you’re asking, and it’s my agenda that we’re following.”

“Good. See to it that you remember that.”

“I’ll say the same to you, Watcher. I can think of another reason you might not have changed your coats and it doesn’t involve Luna being in fucking prison.”

“I doubt you would trust someone you suspect of being a traitor to tell you the truth when he says he’s not, so I won’t waste your time. But if you don’t trust us, we can’t trust you. And a team that doesn’t trust each other doesn’t last long.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” That doesn’t mean I would trust them too much until I saw some proof they weren’t still on Luna’s payroll, though. Anyway, with my business with Watcher done for the moment, I went on down to the captain’s room.

His door was not open. Given that it was still rather early in the morning, I lightly knocked on it, hoping not to wake him up. A somewhat groggy Flash opened the door a few seconds later. From the short look I had into his room, I saw that another one of the seven crew members was still asleep on his bed. He stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind him. “What do you need?” he asked.

“Questions and concerns. If now’s a bad time, some of them can wait.”

“For things like that, it’s better that they don’t wait. What’s on your mind?”

“First, your kids. Are you sure it’s a good idea to bring them with us?”

“Where else are they going to stay? We almost lost them once, Nav. We aren’t going to abandon them now. We might not be going to some safe places, but I think having the foals around will be good for us. The crew, at least. It’ll give us something to fight for, you could say. Besides, you brought Taya.”

Like I’m going to have to worry about protecting her. “I just had to point it out. Anyway, we might be picking up two more people when we get to Stalliongrad. Just letting you know so you’ll be able to get any supplies we might need for them.”

He nodded and replied, “My supply officer will take care of everything. He hasn’t let us down yet. What’s our destination after Stalliongrad?”

“Nowhere safe, so don’t go picking up passengers without a good reason. Once we leave Europe, we probably won’t have any safe ports for a while.”

“Alright. No more passengers. Anything else I need to know about where we’re going?”

“It’ll be fucking cold. Make sure your crewmembers have cold weather gear. I’ll do the same for my troops.”

“There are heaters in the ship, but I’ll make sure everyone has gear for expeditions. After all, I don’t imagine we’ll be spending the entire trip on the ship.”

“You imagine right. Do any of you have experience with mining? Or experience with fire magic?”

“Yes to the fire magic. No to the mining. Are we going prospecting in ice?”

“Sort of. We’re not looking for riches, though. More like a tomb. How much weight can this ship hold?”

He sighed and muttered, “Oh Celestia, what have I gotten myself into?” After a second, he answered, “With the modifications, a lot. I do not like the idea of grave robbing, Navarone.”

“Let me rephrase that, then. It isn’t a tomb so much as it is a prison. A jail for someone unlawfully imprisoned. Hopefully they’ll be somewhat thankful for getting busted out.”

He snorted. “And hopefully you’re right when you said it was unlawful. I don’t want a convict aboard my ship.” Better not tell him about Kat’s history, then.

“I’ll remember that. One last thing. Is Sunny going to be a problem?”

“She isn’t. And I want you to talk to her, Navarone. Give her a chance to apologize. She’s wanted to for a while, but she’s afraid to. And you avoiding her hasn’t helped.”

“I’m plenty willing to let the past stay in the past. There’s no need for her to apologize as long as she doesn’t attack me again.”

“For her sake, let her talk to you. Or talk to her yourself.”

“Sure, whatever. I’m not as much of an asshole as I used to be. Speaking of which, I never did learn any of your names.”

“…We all told you our names. Several times.”

“Yeah, but I was an asshole back then and didn’t pay attention.”

“Hmph. I’m Flash Gourd. Used to be a farmer. The mare you’re going to go talk to is Sunny Disposition. And you’re going to find the rest of their names out for yourself. Consider that punishment for not paying attention the first time.”

“Oh come on, man. That’s just mean.”

“No, it’s just. There’s a difference. I’m sure you’ll figure something out. Now, do you need anything else?”

“Watcher wants to know if you have any meal time schedules. I can’t imagine the galley on this thing is big enough for us to all eat at once. He has a cook and I have one, so shifts are possible.”

“Sunny will be quite pleased to hear that, I think. Less work for her if there are others that can help. And of course, the two changelings probably won’t eat with us anyway. I trust you can provide for them?”

“Yeah, don’t worry. Doppel eats lust and there’s plenty of stress here she can help relieve to earn it. I can take care of Eva myself. But is there a schedule?”

“There is. Eight, one, and seven. No need for shifts. There isn’t a galley, just a kitchen, so anyone that wants to eat can just get served at the kitchen and find somewhere to eat. For the night guards… Ugh, Watcher will have to deal with them. The two I have on night watch just eat whenever they feel like it.”

“I don’t think ex-soldiers are going to take to that. I’ll let him know.”

“No, I’ll tell him myself. It’s important that we form a working relationship. After all, I imagine we’ll be working together for a while.”

“True enough. And if you two can take care of things like this before I have to, that means less for me to do.”

“Exactly. Though I can’t imagine that there will be all too much for you to do anyway. There’s rarely much to do on long trips like these, at least not until you reach your destination. Speaking of that, how many destinations do you think we’ll have?”

“…I honestly couldn’t tell you. I guess it really depends on how successful the first one is. I’ll be able to find out then.”

“Hm. Well, I need to get ready for the day. If there’s nothing else…”

I shook my head. “Nothing comes to mind. Make sure to talk to Watcher before you forget. I’ll talk to Sunny after breakfast.”

“I’ll hold you to that, Nav,” he warned before slipping back into his room.

Shows how much he trusts me, I suppose. With my schedule for the immediate future cleared, I went on back down to my room. There was still a little while before more people started waking up and I knew I could kill some time with the laptop.

Since the laptop was now an open secret that Celestia knew about, I didn’t bother closing my door when I set it up. If anyone passing by asked what I was doing, I might even tell them the truth.

Something picked at me, though. It took me a second to realize what it was. “You’ve been quiet, Flo,” I commented.

“I have,” she uselessly replied.

“Any particular reason why?”

“You’ve been handling things well enough. I haven’t had to step in. And I’ve been doing my utmost to try to track the air elemental. I’m pretty sure she’s following us, but I can’t be certain without her doing something.”

“Pretty sure because you know air elementals or pretty sure because you can sense her?”

“Mostly the first one,” she sighed. “But I have felt some flickers that might have been her. Now that I know she’s there, it’s easier.”

“Well, if you see a good chance for me to talk to her, let me know. I’d rather secure her on my side than let her continue roaming free like this.”

“Be very careful what you wish for, Nav,” she quickly answered. “I’ve told you many times that air elements are flighty. She might not be the kind of ‘friend’ you want, if you could ever even call her one. They don’t see life like you or I do. If an important event is occurring, one might do something very random and potentially damaging just to ‘lighten the mood’. She would be useful later, yes. But getting her to stay with us for now? Not the best of ideas.”

“Great. So she’s like a fucking kender. How fun. Once we bust out this first water elemental, can we leave her in charge of the air elemental?”

“Impossible. No one is ‘in charge’ of an air. They might follow suggestions if they like you, but if you try ordering one around, you’ll find your hold on them slipping through your fingers like… air.”

“…So we need to keep her interested but not so much that she gets attached?”

“Precisely. Just do as you’ve been doing. She’ll follow. I’ll try to think of ways we can tie her to you in such a way that she’ll feel obligated to do more to help you than hinder you.”

After what she just said, I wasn’t entirely certain I wanted the air elemental around at all. But she would be useful… And it’s not like I haven’t dealt with worse. I mean, this one isn’t going to want to fuck me, right?

When I heard a knocking at the door a few minutes later, I looked up to find a rather weary looking Octavia standing before me, confused. “Sir Navarone?” she said. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s not sir anymore. And I’m sitting down. What are you doing here?”

“Why, getting a ride to Stalliongrad. I assume you’re doing the same?”

“Something like that, yeah.”

“I figured. Do you know why there are so many night soldiers here now? I didn’t see you or them board.”

“They’re with me. Mercenaries I hired for something.”

“I see. I do hope you’ll stay safe.”

“That’s what the soldiers are for. Though I don’t think I’ll stint on the fighting if push comes to shove. Hopefully there won’t be too much fighting, but with where I’ll be going, there’s no way to know.”

“Hm. Where will you be going, then? The captain of this ship told me I would need to find another way back to Canterlot. I assume you’ll be hiring him for your journey?”

“You assume correctly. And I don’t know where all we’ll be going, other than that it’ll include some unexplored places. If they’re unexplored, they’re probably like that for a reason. I can’t imagine we’ll have all that much fun.”

“Traveling rarely is as exciting as you expected when you left, I’ve found. But sometimes you’ll find yourself surprised. What’s the occasion? I assume it’s not a mission from the princesses, given some of the whispers I heard before leaving...”

“Once again, you assume correctly. It’s a personal thing, a favor for a friend. It’ll be a long, lonesome road I walk. I’m grateful to have companions going. Kill some of the boredom, you know?”

She nodded. “Yes, I know. I would offer to go, but I have many concerts at which to play. More, after what you showed us. Although... Hm. I need to talk to Vinyl. I’m sure between the two of us, we can find a way to liven up your journey.”

“You know you don’t have to do that. And please don’t make it a point to spread those whispers you may have heard concerning me and the princesses. I don’t want to deal with that in Stalliongrad.”

“I may not have to spread anything. By the time we get there, it’ll likely have already spread.”

“Hm. Well, I didn’t really have a reason to be at that damn party anyway. I can just sit on the boat and wait until it’s over, do what I’m going to do, and then leave.”

“I would suggest a disguise, but I can’t imagine it’s easy for somepony like you to hide. Especially with those wings.”

“Yeah. I’ve done it before, though. It’s certainly an idea. I think I still have those desert clothes...”

She lifted an eyebrow. “That’s a story I don’t think I’ve heard. But you don’t want to wear anything like that in Stalliongrad, not even in the first day of spring. It gets rather cold there.”

“I’ll figure something out if it becomes a problem, then. I’m used to being the center of attention, though, so I can probably live with all the stares if I have to.”

“True, as sad as that sounds... Say, is Taya with you? I can’t imagine you’d leave her behind, but taking her with you on what might be a dangerous trip seems strange.”

“She’s here, yes. Everyone in my house came, along with a few others. Hm... Say, could you use a bodyguard or a cello case carrier? I have an unemployed ex-guard with me that needs a job.”

“No pony seems particularly interested in harming my body, so I don’t believe it needs a guard. And while there are times when I wish I had somepony to carry my cello for me, I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself... as long as I have a cart. Is he cute, at least?”

“He’s gay, so...”

“Oh. Well, he’ll feel rather welcome in Stalliongrad. It’s a stallion majority town. Maybe Vinyl will have work for him?”

“I’ll ask. But if she likes rewarding her employees with sex, she’ll need to grow another organ.”

“I believe you could help her with that, if I remember correctly...”

“True, but I can’t be with her all the time. And those stones are coming with me on the off chance that they’ll be useful later.” Probably not, but it’s worth a hope. So far, they’ve only really been used for sex. Shouldn’t have picked the damn things, that’s for sure...

“They’ve been useful so far, have they not? Useful for stress relief, at least. If those curled toes of yours I remember last year are any indication, you quite enjoyed our activities.”

“I did. I meant useful outside of sex. Everyone seems to think of me as a massive slut, but I have several more priorities than just sex, I assure you.”

“Like supporting the arts by... ahem, ‘making music’?”

“Well, if you’re offering. But I figured you would want breakfast first.”

And there’s the smirk. “Maybe that’s why everypony assumes you’re so loose, Sir Navarone.”

“Not a sir anymore.”

“But yes, it is important for one to break one’s fast. Would you care to join me?”

“I can’t. There’s no dining hall. You’re welcome to get something to eat and come back here, though. I’m not eating right now. No appetite.”

“I might do that. But I do need to practice as well. Tell me, does anypony in your mercenary group like classical music? I wouldn’t mind an appraising ear for my part in the coming concert.”

“So I don’t like classical music now? Or do I not count because I’m not a pony?”

She rolled her eyes, still smirking. “I already know you’ll listen. I mean somepony less biased. If nothing else, I can just play on the deck if the captain doesn’t mind. I’m sure somepony that’s interested will find me there.”

“I don’t know anyone’s tastes yet, so I can’t really help you there. You’re better off eating than playing on the deck. I can’t imagine too many of us will be staying inside all day. I’d go stir crazy if I had to spend too much time in one of these damn cabins.”

“...Stir crazy? That’s a phrase I’ve never heard.”

“It’s what happens when you get locked up in one place for too long. The same four walls start bearing down on you and it’s easy to lose your mind. In a tight place like this, it would be awful.”

“I can imagine... I’ll make sure to spend plenty of time outside, then. With that balloon above us, it’s not like rain will be much of a problem.”

“It will be if we’re inside the clouds. But we can probably get above them.”

“Probably... Well, I need to go eat. I will talk to you later, Sir Navarone.”

“It’s not sir anymore.” She left, still with that smile on her face. I just shook my head and went back to playing X Rebirth, happy the damn game finally came out.

My next guest was our current resident dragon. “What do you need, Spike?” I asked, closing the laptop.

“What’s that thing?” he asked, looking down at it.

“Human technology I brought with me from the past.”

“...What?”

“Come on in and close the door. I think it’s about time I told you what’s going on. And where we’re going, for that matter.”

“I... was going to ask about that, yeah.” He shuffled on in, closing the door behind him.

“I would offer you a place to sit, but there’s hardly any damn room unless you’d feel comfortable on my lap.”

“You offering?”

“Only if you ask nicely. Alright, the first part. After last year’s Europe party, I commissioned an experiment in the unicorn tower outside of Canterlot. It was fairly simple: Find out where I come from in relation to the universe. Past, future, different galaxy, different dimension, whatever. As it turns out, I come from the past on this same planet. I got those unicorns to send me back in time and I brought some relics forward with me. This laptop is one of them.”

“That’s... whoa. Does Twilight know?”

“She knows some of it. And Celestia does as well. Anyway, the point of this trip is twofold. The first reason is to find a safe place for colonists. If I want to save any of the humans, I need to find a good place to bring them.”

“You can’t use Equestria?”

“Hell no. They’d be very well treated slaves, like I was. I want a place where I can ensure their safety and their independence. If I have to, I’ll put them in Gryphonia. At least I can be certain the king will give them a chance.”

“...You were a slave?”

“Moving on. The second reason is very different and it won’t make much sense until I show everyone. So I’ll wait until we break the first one out to say much of anything.”

“Come on! I can take it, Nav.”

Oh, I’m sure you can... “Then I suppose I can give you the basics. Before the humans died out, they created a race of beings called elementals. They are intelligent robots designed to rebuild and guide the world in our absence. However, the humans weren’t able to kill the thing that wiped them out, an entity called Discord. Some time after humans were nothing but a memory, Discord returned and destroyed most of the elementals, leaving a small number of them alive and mostly imprisoned. I happened to find two of them. Now, I have the location of several others and I’m going to break them out. That’s what this ship and crew is for.”

“That’s... huh. Why do you need us for that?”

“Because some of them are in places that I can’t go alone. South America. Antarctica. The North Pole. The middle of an ocean. I need a team to access some of these places safely. Hell, Zecora’s only here to get something from South America. She might or might not stay, after that.”

“And the night guards?”

“Are night guards no longer. Now they’re mine. They have... talents. If you want to learn anything that might or might not be legal, feel free to ask them. I wouldn’t be surprised if Watcher had someone with every skill under the sun represented. Hell, turns out he has a gourmet cook that’ll be sharing shifts in the kitchen. Speaking of which, I seem to remember you saying you wouldn’t mind cooking...?”

“Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting there to be this many ponies here! I don’t know if I could keep up.”

“Hey, bitches love a guy that can cook. I’m sure some of the mares on this boat are single. You start cooking for them, you might get your dick wet. If you want to try your hand at it—and trust me, help would be welcome—talk to a mare named Sunny Disposition. Looks like she’s in charge of the kitchen. One of the soldiers is also going to help, I think. Having three people in there would be nice.”

“I guess I could... But this isn’t really what I imagined when you asked me to come with you.”

“Dude, yes it is. You even said as much when I asked.”

“Well, you know what I mean!”

“I know. But traveling and adventuring is mostly boring with a few bits of excitement and then long stretches of nothing. We’ll find ways to entertain ourselves, but expect plenty of downtime.”

He snorted. “Doing what? Experimenting?”

“Feel free to ask Zecora if you want to do any science experiments. She might let you use her stuff. If you blow up my ship, though, I’ll be almightily pissed.”

“That isn’t what I—Never mind. So do you think the night guys will teach me stuff?”

“If you ask them, they might. I’ll try to learn some stuff from them as well, if I find out that any of them know something I think might be useful. I can’t learn any magic, but there might be any number of other things they can teach. And you could try asking Gilda about learning how to fight with claws or talons. Just don’t get too rough with her because she would tear you apart.” He gulped and nodded. “So what did you actually come in here for? Or was it just to ask me where we were going and why?”

“Well, I just wanted to know where the dining room was.”

“Follow your nose. If I remember right, it’s down the hall, to the right. It’s been a little while since I explored this ship, though, and when I did I was kind of killing everything on it.”

“What?”

“Oh, guess I never told you that one. This ship used to be a pirate ship. The unicorns that now own it were slaves here. The pirates on it started chasing the ship I was on back to Equestria on the return trip from Africa. I broke the unicorns out, helped save their kids, and ordered that the ship be brought back and sold. No one bought it, so they decided to convert it into what it is today.”

“That’s pretty neat. What kind of pirates were they?”

“The murderous kind. Naga, cats, dogs. Even a griffin. It was a pretty hairy scenario. Glad it was resolved quickly.”

“Think there’s any hidden treasure on board?”

I shrugged and replied, “You’re free to look.” Maybe that’ll keep him busy for a few days. “If you find anything, let me know.”

“Will do! I might need your help to carry it, after all.”

“Right. But for now, you should probably go eat. I imagine that’s why you came to ask about the kitchen, anyway.”

“Yeah... I’ll talk to you later, Nav. Hey, maybe the cook made eggs!” I just shrugged again as he walked on out, leaving the door open and inviting for my next guest.

Ames was my next visitor, though truth be told, he barely fit in the hall or through the door. Keyword there is barely. “How you minding the flight?” I asked.

“It has been... an experience,” he commented. “One that is just beginning. One that I’m not so much a fan of. But I agreed to come. I wanted to ask you about these ‘soldiers’ we’re bringing with us. Are you sure they are trustworthy, wearing the signs of the moon princess?”

“No, I’m not. But I’m going to put my trust in them anyway. For now, at least. Be on the lookout for signs that I’m trusting them too far. If they’re selling out my movements to the princesses, I want them stopped. We’re far enough away from civilization that certain... accidents can happen, if you catch my meaning. Just tell me first.”

“Of course. Though I must warn you that there are more of them than there are of us.”

“I know. We have two changelings that will be useful. I imagine Doppel’s already spent the night with at least one of them.”

He grimaced in distaste. “Despicable.”

“But useful. Besides, she needs that lust to eat. You don’t want her to go hungry, do you?”

“Bah.” I don’t think he particularly cared. “She’s useful, but at what cost? She spies and spreads disinformation. Dishonorable, Navarone. We are naga warriors, proud and upright.”

“No, you are. I’m technically a scout. I don’t have to worry as much about that whole honor thing. Not like it matters. You need anything else?”

“We’re going to a party in this Europe place, you said. Do you have enemies there?”

“Shit, probably. I’ve pissed off so many people these few years. If I’m going down to the party proper, it’ll probably be incognito.”

“Either way, I am going with you. If you have enemies, they will likely want to hurt you. I shall not let that happen.”

“Awesome. But uh, how are you going to follow me if I fly?”

“If you’re going in disguise, you won’t be flying. There is only one bipedal creature in this world with feathery wings that I know of. Two mercenaries looking for work, though... Well, I imagine we can hide in plain sight easily enough.”

“Alright. I’ll think of something. I’m good at stealth. And I have to say, it’ll be nice to have your sword at my side. I got into some dicey situations last year and I really would have liked you there. If this year is half as bad as last year, your sword will be getting wet.”

“Good. It has been... too long since it bathed in red. Hunting sates its thirst, but killing fills it up.”

“Well, that’s creepy as fuck. You need anything else?”

“For now, no. I’ll just find the center of the boat and stay there, trying to ignore our unique... situation.”

“Have fun with that.”

About half an hour after the naga came by, I realized that I hadn’t heard anything from Taya yet. Since her room was right next to mine, that was odd. I turned the laptop off and wandered on over. Her door was closed and I wasn’t about to just barge in. Doppel made that mistake a month after Taya’s first heat and I didn’t really want to see any of that.

So I knocked and waited for a reply. “Who is it?” she eventually grunted.

“Your father,” I answered through the door, somewhat unhappy about having to talk through a medium. Thankfully, the need to do that was removed as the door opened. “You alright?” I asked, stepping inside. She was on the bed and it didn’t look like she had moved much since the night before.

“...Yes,” she quietly answered, not meeting my eyes.

“Taya, you know I’m a better liar than you. You’re going to have to get better at it if you want to fool me. What’s wrong?”

“I feel... weird. There’s a strange feeling in my stomach and I don’t know what’s wrong.”

“That’s probably nervousness, dear. You’re leaving what you’ve known and were comfortable with and going into something new and unknown. You aren’t sure if it’s safe or if you’ll have any friends or anything like that and you’re worried about it. That’s perfectly natural for a trip like this.”

“It feels... different.”

“Hm.” I walked over to her bed and sat down next to her, rubbing her back. “Is it a good weird or a bad weird?” I asked after a few seconds.

“I don’t know. It’s a weird weird.”

“Well, I know you’re not fucking pregnant, so that isn’t something we need to worry about. Can you describe it?”

“...No. I don’t know what’s wrong. I don’t think it’s bad. Just odd.”

Probably just nerves, I bet. “Well, if you ever need to talk about anything, I’m here for you.” I dragged her enough out of the bed to pull her into a hug. “And if you want any breakfast, you should probably get it now or tell me so I can get something for you.”

“Not hungry,” she muttered.

“Well, you’re going to need to eat some time today. You aren’t part tree, after all. Spike will be helping cook, I think, so there’s that.” She didn’t answer. “Hm. Do you want me to stay in here with you?” I felt her nod, but she didn’t say anything. “You want me to read you a story?”

“I guess...” she mumbled.

“Alright. I just need to get the laptop and I can. I’ll be right back, okay?” She mumbled another reply as I gently set her down. Honestly, it was rather worrying that she was feeling like this. On the date of our big success, our big escape, she should be elated. I was finally free, the princesses were getting some justice, and we were finally doing stuff. No more dealing with annoying assholes if I didn’t want to. Although I suppose that didn’t benefit her as much, given that she didn’t have to do too much. Then again, I did keep pressuring her to make friends. Maybe I actually made her leave one behind?

Something to think about, I suppose. Either way, I returned as quickly as possible, ready to do my best to make her feel better. Even if it did feel retarded...

With Taya feeling down and out, I wasn’t able to get out of the rooms until around lunch. Even then, it was only to get her something to eat. Though I was out long enough to bump into our resident zebra. “Your room alright?” I asked her.

“Very much so, my dear human friend. It will do until the journey’s end. There are some problems that I have, but none that need concern you, Nav.”

“Hey, I don’t want any pissed off voodoo slingers on board. If you have any problems here, let me know. If I can’t sort them out, I might be able to point you to someone that can.”

“If you happen to know another alchemist on board, there are ingredients I would love to add to my hoard. I’m sure I can find what I need in Stalliongrad. If what I need is not there, I will be quite mad.”

“Here’s hoping what you need will be there, then. As far as I know, there ain’t no alchemists on board. Say, do you know how to make alcohol?”

“If getting drunk is to what you aspire, I will not help you with what you desire. But if these spirits of yours have a use, I can fashion a still out of refuse.”

“I can assure you that most of it will not get drunk. That stuff is good for medical uses and for fires. I figured you’d be a decent medic, what with your knowledges of all kinds of remedies.”

“As a medic, I have no small amount of talent. I was medicine mare before away I was sent. It was a simple task I was given, but when I returned, the clan was riven. A dangerous foe we had and it drove many quite mad. However, that’s enough of my tale. Tell me, what is the state of our sail?”

Just when her story starts getting good... Every time, I swear. “As far as I can tell, it’s smooth sailing out there. The current plan that I have—and please forgive me if it gets changed—is that first we go to Stalliongrad, then up north, and then to South America. Honestly, what we find up north might change everything. But it’s important we go there first.”

“Of your explanations, I need not a list. The act of traveling itself was quite missed. If I can’t break this annoying curse, I will hardly require a hearse.”

“Well, that’s good to hear. But I’d still like to hear you talk without rhyming. No offense, but some of what I hear makes me want to punch a baby. Door hinge isn’t meant to rhyme with orange.”

“Trust me, I am very aware. And yes, to you it is quite unfair,” she finished with a smirk.

“Hey, I said no offense. No reason to get snarky.”

“If you think you hear snark, you are far from the mark.”

“See, when you’re smiling like that, it’s hard to tell. I’m not used to dealing with rhymes and shit. Not a dance I know well.”

“Oh, now you speak of knowing many dances? I know your favorite involves holes and lances. The only speaking part is a loud moan. I imagine your skills there need no hone.”

“Damn right. If you ever want to learn a few steps, just let me know. It’ll have to wait a little while, though; Taya’s feeling under the weather.”

“If I grow heavy with stress, we might meet to make a mess. If your daughter needs any kind of help, did you not consider the dragon whelp? Spike is known for his loving soul and in helping may have a role.”

“Or you could help. Didn’t you say you were a medicine woman?”

“True, this was said. Is it her head?”

“Nah, her stomach. I figure it’s nerves, but I’d rather have an expert’s opinion. She’s in her room, if you can go see her. I was actually going to get her something to eat, but I have a feeling I’ll get stopped by another mare I need to talk to. You mind going to see Taya? Tell her I sent you or she might get paranoid.”

“Some caution is safe. But too much can chafe.”

“I know. I may have... made her a bit paranoid on accident. I’ve been trying to work with her, but it’s hard to oust bad habits.”

“This I would know all too well. They can be hard to dispel.”

“Yeah... Well, I’m gonna go get her some food. You know where her room is?” When she nodded, I added, “Cool. I’ll see you soon, then.”

She wandered off down to her room of horrors, probably already decked out in her tribal memorabilia. As she left, I couldn’t help but think of how exhausting talking with her can be sometimes. Those rhymes, man.

Sunny, Spike, and one of the female night guards were all standing in the kitchen area, discussing something. I heard schedules and experience as I helped myself to a plate of cheap travel fare. Their conversation didn’t look like it might get violent, so I left them be. I could talk to Sunny later.

Of course, as with everything, my desire to go unbothered wasn’t met. As I was turning to go, she stopped me with, “Sir Navarone, can I have a word?”

That stopped me and I couldn’t help but sigh internally. Still, it was a problem that needed to be addressed sooner or later, and I’d rather get it out of the way sooner. “How can I help you?” I asked, turning back around.

She peered over to the two onlookers. “Can we talk about this later? I have something important to discuss with him.”

Spike shrugged and said, “Alright. Not like we’re going anywhere.”

The night guard nodded. “Later is fine. I’m tired anyway.”

There was some calculating in Spike’s eyes before he said, “Hey, you want me to walk you back to your room?”

“I know the way... but some company would be nice.” You smooth motherfucker. I winked at him as he walked her out. He just smiled.

When the two of them got out, I picked an empty counter to lean back against, setting the plate next to me. “I would have talked to you sooner, but something came up,” I said. “Flash told me you were wanting to talk.”

“I wanted to apologize, Sir Navarone. I... overreacted a few times when we first met. My actions were uncalled for and I know they hurt you.”

“It’s not sir anymore. And as I told you at the time, I understand. I was a weird thing you hadn’t seen before, you were worried and stressed, and I was acting like a dick. I’m just sorry for threatening you with cutting off your horn. I know how important magic is to you unicorns.”

“No, you... don’t understand. What you said is true, but all of us were going through that... When I saw your wings, I thought... My husband was a pegasus. We were both captured together... But when the slavers demanded obedience, he... balked. He tried running away so many times, even though there was nowhere he could go. At first, they just used threats. Then came the beatings. Finally... they sent my husband to a torturer, a violent and monstrous cat. He... he... he cut off his wings. He cut them off and tied them around his back like trophies! And when I saw you, I thought... I thought another pegasus suffered like my beautiful Sea Breeze...”

Why do I always hear the fucking sob stories? And of course, she broke out in tears there at the end. Christ, I never know what to do in these situations...

Thankfully, Flo does. “Would you like me to take over, Nav?” she sweetly asked.

Fucking go for it. Lord knows I’d just screw it up. I retreated into my mind as she came to the forefront, letting her take control. I immediately zoned out, not caring how Flo was going to handle it. After all, I had her to deal with shit like that so I didn’t have to.

Though she would probably be pretty pissed that I was relying on her to handle my emotional problems. Even if she should know that my emotional problems were one of the main reasons I agreed to harbor her.

I zoned back in when I heard her say, “I’m done with her.” With a blink, I had a screen projecting what my body was seeing. It was just me walking back to the room down an empty hall. “It all went well.”

“Good. Mind if I take back control?”

“...What would you do if I said yes?”

“Be pretty pissed. But since you’re going to go deal with Zecora, by all means, keep going. You won’t hear any complaints from me.”

“No, no. She’s helping Taya and I won’t have you miss out on that.”

Fuck. “Fine, put me back in control. But you better not have forgotten Taya’s lunch.”

“I didn’t,” she replied as I regained control. Thankfully, I didn’t lose my grip on the tray I was apparently holding.

“Talk about tunnel vision,” I muttered. I don’t know how I missed the tray when I looked through the camera, but whatever. Anyway, she had gotten me most of the way to the room, so I finished the journey with a few quick steps and let myself into Taya’s cramped room.

Zecora appeared to be examining Taya. Since there didn’t seem to be any real need for me, I set the tray down on the small dresser she had and just leaned against the door frame, waiting. I wasn’t about to leave her and I didn’t want to get in the way, so I just watched from afar.

Whatever Zecora was doing didn’t take that long. Since it involved incense and what I would call pseudo-science at best, that probably wasn’t a bad thing. When she finished, she nodded. “Just a case of hunger and bad nerves. You need rest and plenty of hors d’oeuvres.”

“Appetizers? Is lunch okay instead?” I asked, smiling.

“If mocking me is something you must do, it is something you will soon come to rue. Any food is fine, when it’s time to dine. Just as long as it is healthy food you eat and not simply a very unhealthy treat.”

“Well, you’ll be hard-pressed to find much in the way of healthy food on a trip like this, but I brought what I could find,” I said, nodding at the tray on the dresser. “Thanks for looking her over, Zecora. I’ll watch her for now.”

“There is nothing more warming than a father’s care,” she answered with a smile. “Now, it is time for me to exit Taya’s lair.” I backed out of the door so she could exit and let her go on her way as I went back into Taya’s room.

“Ready to eat?” I asked, lifting the tray from her dresser and bringing it over to the bed. “Can’t promise it’s good, but it’s filling.”

She sighed, staring glumly at the plate. “Did we have to leave?”

“I did. But I gave you the choice, remember? Do you really regret it? I thought you were always talking about how you didn’t like the ponies.”

“I know… But it feels weird to be leaving like this. Running away in the dark. I thought you were planning on waiting another few weeks!”

“I was. Something came up and waiting wasn’t viable anymore. That doesn’t change the fact that you need to eat.”

“What came up? What happened?”

“I’ll tell you after you eat.” She shrugged and sat up to slowly pick at the tray with a mix of magic and hooves. With her eating, it was relatively silent. “You know, I probably shouldn’t actually tell you what happened,” I said, leaning back a little. She looked up sharply from her tray, a reply ready on her lips, but I quickly held up a hand. “That isn’t going to stop me. This could actually affect you, so it’s only fair that you know. After you eat.” She just sniffed at me and continued eating.

Truth be told, I could see why she was somewhat hesitant to eat it. Not that I was really doubting Sunny’s cooking, but there’s only so much you can do with stuff you carry with you for the road. Especially if you can’t use meat. I mean, Gilda could go fish or something if she felt like it, but the rest of the omnivores on board were stuck with whatever the herbivores were eating. Well, aside from what I had prepared beforehand.

When Taya finally finished, I set the tray back on the dresser and closed my eyes, thinking. After a few seconds, she said, “Well?”

“Just thinking about how to start this. To put it bluntly, Luna did something really, really stupid. You know how I’ve had… problems with her in the past, right?” She nodded. “Most of those problems involved her doing things to me that amounted to torture or otherwise breaking the law.” That got her eyes to slam wide open and her jaw to drop. “She confessed to it publicly, in front of tons of reporters. She ended up in a lot of trouble and I thought it was best to split while I still could. So here we are.”

After a few seconds, the look of shock on her face started slipping into one that seemed to be closer to rage. While there wasn’t much she could really do, I figured it was better to snip that in the bud rather than let it possibly get bad. So I quickly snatched her up and pulled her into a hug. “So here we are,” I repeated, slowly rocking back and forth. “And we’re going to make the best of it, aren’t we? No reminiscing about the past, no holding grudges, and no causing problems.”

Taya tried pushing away from me, but I wasn’t budging. “She hurt you!” she eventually said, still pushing.

“A lot of people hurt me. Luna is getting her just desserts. Revenge is beneath us. That’s why we’re going to let it go.”

“No!”

My grip tightened around her. “Yes. That is absolutely what we’re going to do. I’m pulling my fatherly rank. You are going to let it go. You are not going to worry about it. And I’d like you to hug me back.”

“But—”

“No. This is over and done with, Taya. Luna’s confession was the end of it.”

“Then why are you running away?”

“…Because not everyone will agree. There are many reporters and citizens and… ugh, friends that will want my side of the story or to comfort me. I don’t particularly feel like being bothered or reliving those events. That’s why I left early.”

She finally stopped talking for a little while. After a few seconds, I felt her legs wrap around me, returning the hug. “I’m so sorry, daddy,” she whispered.

“It’s okay, Taya. It’s all over now. If we ever need to go back, maybe things will have calmed down. And until then, we’re essentially free. No laws holding us down, no morals but our own keeping us in place. It’s liberating.”

“Does that mean… you can help me with my heat?”

“No it does not,” I quickly replied. She just sighed and I patted her back. “That’s one of my morals.” Sadly, that kind of killed the mood for me. I let go of the hug, pushing her back. “Are you feeling better now?” I asked, letting her rest back on the bed.

“Yes. A little.”

“Excellent. I should probably let you rest, then. If you were feeling that bad, you probably didn’t sleep that well.”

“Yeah…” When I stood to go, she quickly said, “Wait!” I looked back down at her. “Daddy, I have a… question.”

“Go for it.”

“Why do you… treat most mares differently than me? What do they have that I don’t?”

Oh boy. “Something I want from them. What I do with most mares is called flirting. I have a specific goal in mind when I do that and it’s a goal that I don’t have with you. That’s why I treat most women differently.”

“Oh… What do you want from them that you don’t from me?”

God dammit. “Sex. You’re too young and my daughter, so I have no interest in that from you.”

“Sex? Is that what… I’ve been doing? With the toy?”

“Sort of. What you’re doing is called masturbation. Sex is between two or more people. But it’s the same concept, yes. You see, guys like me have a thing called a penis that we stick into your vagina. There’s a whole lot more to it, but that’s the basic point of it right there. It’s used for fun and making babies.”

“Huh. I won’t get pregnant from the toy?”

“Nope. You need a stallion for that. Guys have something in them called semen that goes inside of your vagina and has a chance of making babies. I think ponies can only get pregnant when they’re in heat, but I’ll have to ask one to be sure. Either way, you’re too young for it.”

“Okay. Can two mares have sex too? Or two guys?”

“Sure can. The logistics are usually different and some things change, but it can still be fun for everyone involved. No chance of pregnancy, either.”

“Interesting… So when I go into heat, what I crave is… a guy’s penis?”

“Yep. That said, you better not do anything with one, not until you’re old enough. If I find out you are or you’re trying to, there will be consequences. You understand?”

“Yes, daddy. But why can’t you give me yours?”

“We’ve been over this. Stop asking. It’s not going to happen.”

She sighed and looked away for a moment. A moment that was far too short. “Can I at least see it?” she asked.

“You already have,” I answered, crossing my arms. “You saw it when I was hurt and you were washing me.”

“…Is that what that was?”

“Yes. That’s what that thing between my legs was. Stallions have it more hidden away in a thing called a sheath. When they start getting aroused, it’ll poke out. Same for most other races.”

“And nothing but a stallion can get me pregnant? Something like… say, a dragon, couldn’t?”

“Yes, only stallions can get you pregnant. I really don’t suggest male dragons as lovers, though. They grow quickly and their sperm is extremely hot. Not a good idea. And I swear to God, you better not go chasing after Spike.”

She blushed and looked away again. “I… I won’t.”

“You better not. Now, do you have any other questions?”

“…How does it feel as a guy? Is it different?”

“Give me a sec. I’ll be right back.” She nodded as I left her room and went right next door to mine.

“You really shouldn’t do this, Nav,” Flo warned as I opened the hidden compartment in my dresser and pulled out the human lockbox.

“I know,” I answered, pressing my thumb to the sensor and opening it to pull out my gender stones. “But she asked. I’ll give her the choice, of course.”

“Bah. Who wouldn’t take that choice? You still shouldn’t do it!”

“I don’t think anything bad will come from it. It’s not like she’ll get addicted.” Flo just groaned as I went next door, the bag with the stones in my hand.

“Alright,” I said, stepping through the door. “You remember my gender changing stones?” Taya nodded. “If you want to find out what it’s like as a guy, I can let you find out. I have to warn you, though: Transforming the first time will hurt. A lot. It’s up to you.”

She eyed the bag I was holding, cogs turning in her head. After a second, she nodded. “I want to try it.”

With her consent, I opened the bag and pulled out the stones, turning genderless as I held them both. “You know the deal. Pink for female, blue for male.” Before she could reply, I threw the blue one at her, forcing her into the change. “Nothing worse than bracing,” I said, rushing forward and hugging her as she squealed in pain. Thankfully, he got over it quickly and just shuddered as he recovered from the agony.

“That hurt,” he whimpered.

“I know it did,” I replied, my voice female since I still had the pink stone in my hand. “But it doesn’t last long.” I rubbed my son’s back warmly before standing up and backing away, snatching the blue stone and setting them both on the dresser. “Have those stones back to me in an hour. Hell, as soon as you get finished, turn back. Don’t stay as a boy for longer than necessary. Any questions?”

“How do I… do that?” he asked.

I stepped forward and flipped him onto his back, pointing at his sheath. “That’s where it is. If you stroke it with magic or something, that would probably work. Just think arousing thoughts. Now, I’m going to close the door. Don’t open it for anyone but me while you’re still male. Okay?”

“Okay…” I left him staring down at his sheath, trying to decide what to do.

God, I’m such a terrible father. It amused me that Flo didn’t comment on that.

My next visit was from Smiles. This was after Taya had her fun and got the stones to me and I was just about to get ready to turn in for the night. When I opened the door, I immediately sighed upon seeing who it was. “What do you want?” I asked, wondering why I was even bothering.

“Can we… talk?” he asked.

“I’m about to go to sleep, so make it fast.”

“I heard about what happened with the princ—er, Luna…” For some reason, he stopped there, as though waiting for a response.

“And?” I sighed, leaning against the doorframe and crossing my arms.

He blinked, surprised. “Do you… want to talk about it?”

“No.”

That kind of stumped him, actually. “Uh… It would make you feel better! And everypony is really curious about your side of the story. We know what Luna did, but we don’t know why. Or if anypony does know, they aren’t saying.”

“First, it wouldn’t make me feel better. Second, the why is simple: Bitch is crazy. You made a very big mistake when you came here with this, Smiles. You assumed that I’m a pony and that my mind works like one. I’m not and it doesn’t.” Which is kind of a lie. I haven’t really noticed that many differences between my thought processes and a pony’s. “I’m feeling fine and I don’t need comforting.”

He looked down and muttered, “Oh.” His ears were drooping and he looked rather out of place. It didn’t take him but a few seconds to perk up. “Sir, I… Well, I feel bad about it. All of us night guards do. We failed you and the princess both. Several of us followed questionable orders thinking it would be okay if the princess told us to do it. I never… Well, I don’t think I ever helped do something illegal, but…”

“Okay?”

I fucking hate ponies. After I said that, the next thing I knew, I was getting mercilessly hugged by a depressed bat pony. “I’m so sorry,” he kept whispering over and over, his wings also wrapping around me.

I massaged the bridge of my nose as I fought to maintain balance, wondering just where in life I had gone wrong. Truth be told, I blamed Twilight, but I’m sure I could have done some things to prevent this. Either way, I had a bat pony to either comfort or get rid of.

“Look, Smiles, you didn’t do anything wrong. I mean, you probably did, but you didn’t know that you did. I don’t think you would have helped Luna violently rape me and tear me apart on purpose. Or that time she attempted to murder me. Or give me love poison. Or everything else she did.” In hindsight… Well, let’s just say that what I said made him even more despondent.

“Oh Celestia, wh-hy-hy-hy?!” he sobbed, holding me tighter.

“God damn, Smiles. It isn’t your fault! Christ, it’s not like Luna’s the only one that abused me. I got raped by a naga and several times by a cat in Egypt. And a few others.” That continued my streak of saying things I really shouldn’t have, because he just constricted his grip even more, actually starting to hurt. “T-t-too tight!” I hissed, trying to force him away.

He seemed to get the hint and loosened his grip. Sadly, it didn’t loosen enough for me to get away. Instead, he gently nuzzled me and whispered again, “I’m so sorry...”

“That’s nice. Now can you let go?”

“Most ponies aren’t like that, Nav,” he said, not letting go.

“I know.”

“Most wouldn’t even think of hurting you… So kind and loving… You just had bad luck, I promise.”

“Okay?”

“I mean, would never… mistreat you like that.” Oh God dammit. “I’m kind and wouldn’t push you to do anything you didn’t feel comfortable with.”

“Smiles, I’m not gay.”

He quickly pushed himself away, blushing and not meeting my gaze. “I… never said you were, sir. I was just… trying to reassure you, is all. Most ponies aren’t like that.”

“Well, thanks for the reassurance. Even if it’s something I already knew. I’m going to bed now. Good night, Smiles.”

“…Good night, sir.” I started to close the door, but he stopped me. “Wait, I have another quick question.” I sighed and nodded him on. “What do humans think of stallions like me?”

“I’m going to assume you mean flaming homosexuals. When I left, most humans didn’t like them. I’m one of those that doesn’t mind your kind.”

“Have you ever… thought about it?”

“Yes. I’ve even tried sex with a stallion. He was the bottom, of course. It was… different. Not for me.”

“Oh… But you’ve never tried being the submissive partner?”

I sighed, once more rubbing the bridge of my nose. “I’m tired, Smiles, and I’m going to bed. If you don’t stop this bullshit, I’m going to kick your ass off my ship as soon as we hit land.  Stop trying to get me to go gay.”

“I’m not—”

“Don’t lie to me. I’m better at it than you’ll ever be. I’m going to bed. You aren’t invited.”

“…Yes sir.” Once again, I started to close the door. Before it was shut, he said, “One more thing!” The sound of the door closing cut him off and I just fell onto the mattress. “It can wait!” he called through the door. After a few seconds of not answering, I heard his hooves walking away.

Flo giggled and whispered, “There are many times that I don’t envy you, Nav.”

“It’s surprising that you envy me at all.”

“Not really. You have freedom of movement while I’m trapped in you and in this cave. Is it so bad to envy freedom?”

“Meh. Let’s just go to sleep.” I’m tired of dealing with horses and their horsey problems.

...Not that it was an invitation for non-horses with non-horsey problems to start bothering me. Flo alerted me to someone knocking on the door after a few hours of being asleep. Since I knew there had to be some kind of emergency for someone to be waking me up at that hour, I sighed and told her to wake me up.

She jolted me awake with a surge of adrenaline, something I’m sadly used to. I was still hellishly tired, but at least I was awake and able to stumble over to the door. If I open this door and Smiles is on the other side, there will be hell to pay. Throwing it opened revealed Spike instead. I wasn’t expecting that one, that’s for sure.

He was shivering slightly in the cool night’s air, though he did have a blanket around him. A look of either worry or fear and exhaustion was carved into his face. “Uh... hey, Nav,” he whispered, pulling his blanket tighter.

“What do you need, Spike?” I answered just as quietly, one of my eyes sliding shut.

“I... had a bad dream.”

“Well, that sucks,” I answered, leaning against the uncomfortable door frame. “I can’t access your dreams, though, so I don’t know what you want me to do.”

“Can I... sleep with you tonight?”

You’re joking, right? A quick look at his face told me that he wasn’t.

I was still tempted to tell him to fuck off, but Flo stopped me. “He’s mature in some ways, but in others… Well, it’s your fault that he’s here. You have to take responsibility for him, Nav.”

I sighed and ran a hand down my face before asking, “And you don’t see anything wrong with that?”

“No? Is there something wrong with it?”

Fuck it. “It’s only weird if you make it weird. Come in and close the door behind you.” He breathed a sigh of relief as I moved to let him inside. The door swung shut behind him as I fell back into bed. “I’m way too tired to talk about whatever dream it was, so it’ll have to wait until morning. Find a place to sleep, I guess.”

Now when I said that, I wasn’t expecting his place to sleep right next to me on the fucking bed. I flinched when I felt him lifting my wing away and plopping down right next to me. “Thanks, Nav,” he whispered, pulling the wing back down over him like a blanket.

“Don’t make this a habit,” I muttered, doing my best to get comfortable with the wrong gender of dragon next to me.

“I won’t. I just... didn’t want to be alone tonight.” He sounded genuinely afraid, so I decided I’d go easy on him. Everyone needs some comfort sometimes.

So I just said, “Goodnight, Spike. Sleep well.”

“You too, Nav,” he answered with a yawn, pulling my wing tighter. God dammit.

Flo giggled and said, “It’s cute, Nav. He’s young and he trusts you. That’s not a bad thing.”

Bah. Fucker better not have morning wood.

“You’re just worried that it might be bigger than yours.”

If you were in front of me, I would slap you right now. She just giggled again as I drifted back off to sleep.

Some time early the next morning, an uninvited guest let herself into my room. She did so by slamming my door open, saying, “Yo Nav, you wanna—Whoa.”

I shot awake and away from Spike, who had at some point wrapped around at least part of my body. When I blinked the sleep out of my eyes and focused on the door, I saw Gilda standing there with a small blush and a large smirk. “What?” I groaned, rubbing at my face.

“I was gonna ask if you wanted to go fishing,” she replied with a chuckle. “But it seems you found something to eat your worm already.”

“What does that mean?” Spike asked, sitting up and rubbing his back from where I accidentally pushed him off the bed.

“It means that her mind is in the gutter,” I answered before she could. “No, Spike and I didn’t fuck. I’m fairly certain he doesn’t even want to. Right, Spike?”

“Well—”

“So get your mind away from that, Gilda. He got cold and came to me because of it.”

“Right, right,” she said, nodding and still smirking. “You know I don’t judge, Nav. But you probably shouldn’t go for one so young. I bet that takes the fun out of it!”

“Ugh. You’re sick.”

“You know you love it. And it’s not like you can talk, after last night!”

“God, you... Look, I’m fully clothed! How could we have fucked if I’m not undressed?”

“Hey, we did it once,” she answered with a shrug. “Just get those pants down far enough and it’s not a problem. You’d think the sheets would be dirtier, though. And I know from experience that little Spike here would be a lot more tired. Unless... was he the top?”

“My brown cherry is pure and unbroken, I assure you,” I answered with a sigh. “Now get out. We can do whatever later. I need to talk to Spike.”

“Oooh, lover’s spat?” she whispered, her eyes going wide in mock horror. “Don’t mind me! I’d love to watch.”

“Out!” She just giggled darkly and pulled the door shut, no doubt running to spread the news of the illicit tryst she believed occurred.

“What was she even talking about?” Spike asked, turning back to me.

“She thought we fucked,” I replied, leaning against the wall. “You know, penis in pooper.”

“...But we didn’t.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s why I said that she thought we did and not that she knew we did. But that’s not important.”

“If you say so,” he replied with a shrug. “So why did you tell her I came here because I got cold?”

“Never admit fear or weakness to a griffin unless you really trust them. Trust me when I say that it’s just a bad idea.”

“Isn’t getting cold a weakness?”

“Yes, but it’s not as bad as coming to me for nightmares. Speaking of that, what were they about?”

He looked away and just said, “You know, the usual. Nothing big, now that I think about it.”

“...If you say so. But if you ever need to talk, just come and find me. I can’t promise I can help, but talking about things like that usually makes you feel better.”

“I’ll remember that,” he answered, nodding. “But uh, I think I should probably go. Don’t want anypony else thinking... we did that.”

“Probably a good idea. No reason to risk your chances with all the poon on the ship. See you later, Spike.”

“Yeah.” And with that, out he went, wagging that little tail of his.

“Your crew is really, really colorful,” Flo commented as I stretched and fell back into bed.

“Tell me about it,” I muttered, closing my eyes and trying to get comfortable again.

In case anyone was wondering, what Gilda meant by fishing was diving down to the water and snatching fish up. I tried a few times and had no luck. She got a few fish and ended up fighting a shark for an octopus that slipped away when no one was watching.

It was pretty interesting, all things told.

And so the days went on the way to Stalliongrad. We found amusement where we could and kept ourselves occupied. For the most part, Smiles stopped his advances against me. Taya learned some dirty magic tricks from the unicorns on the ship. Spike and I learned more about fighting from the naga and Watcher’s group.

Finally, the day came that we beheld the great city of Stalliongrad. Winter wrap-up was over in the city and most of the snow was gone. A massive statue of an alicorn stood on a hill right next to the city. According to Watcher, it was named The Motherland Calls or something.

The rest of the city appeared rather dull and drab, but that’s what I was expecting from a place in Russia. It certainly didn’t look like a place of new beginnings, but I’ve long since found that appearances are commonly deceiving. Stalliongrad was the gateway to my future and I quickly found myself looking forward to seeing what new adventures awaited beyond the city.

 
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