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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64. Chapter Fifty—Let the Race Begin

It didn’t occur to me until a few minutes after Twilight left, but I had no idea where Taya was. Today was one of her study days with Twilight, but if Twilight was going off to that silly meeting thing, where was Taya? I searched the library and she sure wasn’t there.

“Well, she knows better than to get into any trouble,” I commented to myself. Man, I really am a terrible father.

What she knows and what she does are two different things, apparently. Half an hour after I sat down to enjoy a few hours of nothing, I was interrupted by Taya. “I… may have done something bad,” she said, not meeting my eyes.

“What happened?”

“Two fillies tried to entice me to play with them since I’m your daughter. They didn’t like hearing the word no. So I used the spell I know to enter minds and dragged their worst nightmares up. When I saw how pitiful they were, I gave them my worst nightmares. They were still screaming when I thought it would be a good idea to leave.”

“Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, I presume?” She nodded. “You probably scarred them for life. They’re both rich, spoiled, not used to any hardships. Mr. Rich is a pretty cool guy. He’ll understand if I have to talk to him. I don’t know Silver’s parents that well, though. This will probably end here, without the need to tell anyone anything. But never do what you did again. Using offensive tactics is a last resort. Always try to run first, and if that isn’t an option, then try for defense. If that fails, attack.”

“You’re not… mad at me, are you?”

“I should be, but I’m not. I’m actually kind of proud. What you did was wrong, but it was smart. You didn’t have to physically hurt them, which was good. Maybe a bit of perspective is what those two need.”

She let out a small sigh of relief. “So what are you planning on doing for the rest of the day?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Vinyl was a bit of a bust. Flaked on me before the day was half gone. Though given we met pretty early, I guess that was fair. Twilight’s off doing something with clam jousters.”

“What’s a clam jouster?”

“Something you’re too young to know about. And don’t ask Twilight, because she doesn’t know.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Yep. Do you have anything in mind?”

“Can I practice some spells on you?”

Oh lord. “As long as you’re careful.” She’s always careful when it comes to me. She knows how I feel about magic, after all. I’m glad she’s learning it, though. No one should be helpless, and magic is a great way of making sure you aren’t. Especially if you’re as freakishly strong as she is.

We went to the room Twilight set aside for magic testing. It was warded against all kinds of things.

She closed the door behind us. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked, turning to face me.

“For you, I do.” I snapped my fingers, suddenly remembering something. I slipped the ring off.

 

 

A message from everybody’s favorite lord and master Discord

 

Time inside that warded room broke. I slithered my way through Twilight’s baby wards and stood in front of Taya. I snapped my fingers and she unfroze. She blinked when she saw my smiling face. “Hello, dear,” I said, gripping her in a hug. “You said you wanted to practice your spells. How about we practice something a bit more… chaotic?”

“What did you have in mind?” she asked as I set her down.

“It’s time to teach you how to use my gifts. Aside from the exorbitant strength, that is. I left this here to demonstrate,” I said with a wave to the human body still suspended in time.

“I thought you said I would get to learn this when I was older.”

“My dear, you are older! Every minute, every second, every instance, you age. In the time it will take you to understand this word, you’ll have lost time that you will never get back, making you older. Now, are you ready to learn true magic?”

She crossed her eyes to look at her horn before turning her gaze back upon me. “What’s the difference between unicorn magic and true magic?”

“Unicorns use spells. I use magic. True magic, not limited by thought or ideas. If I think it, if I want it to happen, it does. That is magic. Spells are limited. You have to know the minute motions. You have to know the internal incantations. You have to understand how the magic flows through your focal point. True magic is simpler but harder. You have to learn how to control it or it will seek to give you your every minor whim. But once you learn control, you will never be limited again.”

“Do any ponies know your magic?”

“Celestia and Luna. On the few occasions they are required to turn the planet, they use true magic to do so.”

“Why don’t they tell anyone else about it?”

“Because true magic is dangerous. Anyone can use it—earth pony, pegasus, or unicorn. But if you have the mentality to use it very well, you could essentially change reality. Like right now. Time doesn’t exist beyond this room. There were not many magic users out there that could do something like this. Starswirl the Bearded was one of the last ponies to use it knowingly, aside from Celestia and Luna.” I sighed. “Poor fool… Celestia forced him and his council of mages to spread her spells. She knew that magic was too powerful to be freely used anymore, after one mad fellow used it to bring about a nearly eternal winter. Clover was the first unicorn to ever be taught spells rather than magic.”

I stood in silence for a moment, remembering. It was me that whispered the idea into Celestia’s head. Magic is too powerful, I said. The risks aren’t worth the gains. Celestia and Chrysalis were still on relatively good terms at the time, and between me and Celestia we managed to get Chrysalis to stop using magic as well.

“Their society was already cut into three distinct groups by then. Practitioners of the art were rare outside of unicorn society. It took no effort to stop teaching it. And when the three societies melded, well, by then true magic was just a memory.” I shook myself. “One of the only ponies that actively uses magic—though she wouldn’t know it—is Pinkie. As far as she knows, she just does things. Baby unicorns use it passively, but they forget what they are doing eventually. But that’s enough history. Any questions before we begin?”

“Why are we… using your body for testing?”

“Taya dearest, this is my body. I’m just using that old thing as a disguise for now. Now, a demonstration is in order.”

I appeared at her side and wrapped an arm around her shoulder, lifting her as I extended to my full height. The room wasn’t high enough for me, so I casually extended it. “Reality is nothing to me.” I snapped my fingers and the walls fell away, revealing us on the summit of a snowy mountain. There was no change in temperature or air pressure. Flakes of snow hung motionless in the air. I brushed them away from us, making sure they wouldn’t get in the way. That done, I set Taya down. “Feel the snow.”

She knelt down. “Cold. But the air is warm. And I can breathe easily.”

“That snow will never melt as long as I don’t will it to. Try tasting it.”

She licked it. “Warm cotton candy?”

“Correct!” I swirled my hand in the air, catching water moisture. With a thought, it coalesced into a small cloud. I lowered my hand and a holder appeared. I held it down to her. “Try it.”

She looked at the cloud. With a shrug, she bit into it. “Cake?”

“Red velvet.” I dropped it and let it vanish. “I think that’s enough of a demonstration.” With a snap, we were back in the warded room. “Actually using this magic is difficult. It requires a mindset that isn’t normal. You have to disregard what you see as real and substitute what you want to happen as reality. It is similar to using unicorn magic, but there is so much more to it. Many users required a handicap of sorts. I snap occasionally, an old habit that I never quite lost. Starswirl would rustle his cape, jingling the bells sewn into it. Celestia and Luna had a ceremony of sorts. It’s just a way of focusing the mind.”

“So with this magic you can do anything?”

“There are limits.” So many limits… “It requires concentration to use. If you’re going through trauma, it will be much harder to use. And killing with it is impossible.” So is dying. “That doesn’t mean you can’t kill someone using it, but you can’t just will them dead. You can will a weapon into existence, though.” I reached out and grabbed a gun. “Such a nasty toy.” I tossed it away, letting it disappear before it hit the floor. “But all in all, it is vastly preferable to use my magic than it is to use unicorn magic, assuming you’re willing to give it time and practice.”

“It seems like unicorn magic is easier to learn and progress in, but is weaker overall.”

I smiled. “Exactly the case, my dear. And of course, if you do start learning this magic, you aren’t to use it when any important ponies can see. Twilight wouldn’t know what you were doing, but she would recognize that you weren’t using unicorn magic. Celestia and Luna would recognize it right away. Cadance? Well, who cares what that silly little breeder thinks, assuming she even has two brain cells to rub together.” I smiled. “It was nice of Celestia, to finally let Cadance go to her loved one instead of holding out in hopes of finding a male alicorn. I’ve quite eliminated that hope for her anyway. Not like ponies understand genetics or anything like that.” I waved a hand. “Enough of that. Onto the actual lesson!”

I explained further how true magic worked. She listened intently, doing her best to understand everything I told her. We spent a few hours in there. At the end of it, she wasn’t able to use magic at all.

“Don’t think of yourself as a failure, Taya. It took Celestia herself a week to make any progress at all, and that was with a full-time teacher and evidence of magic all around her. Many ponies couldn’t do anything with this. It’s difficult. You’ll learn, with time and practice. Just no practicing it without me around. And I mean me, not Navarone. The princesses watch through his eyes almost constantly, after all.”

“And you allow that? Couldn’t you stop them?”

“Easily. That’s what the ring is for, after all. But they can still watch him with actual magic, if they want to. They haven’t, but they could.”

She sighed. “Why can’t you just make your presence known? You’ve been nothing but nice to me. Why do they hate you so?”

“It’s a long story. They think I’m evil. That what I do is wrong. Or rather, that what I did was wrong.” I shrugged. “It’s all a matter of perspective. To them it was wrong, and I can see where they’re coming from.” After all, I can read minds. “In all honesty, morality doesn’t exist anymore for me. No right, no wrong. I am incapable of caring. I just want some way to alleviate the boredom. If a few unimportant souls suffer, well, what are they in the grand scheme of things? I am as alone as it is possible to be, aside from a few souls like you that join me. But even those that join me eventually fail, as much as I try to extend their lives. In the end, it will just be me. Again. Surrounded by billions that will flare into existence and then die away. So what do I care if I hurt them? I’ve seen untold numbers of souls come into being. They are replaceable. I know that this viewpoint is evil to most, but I don’t care.”

“As long as I’m not the one suffering, I don’t either. I wouldn’t want my daddy hurting any more than necessary.”

I couldn’t help but smile at that. “I’m glad to know that there are those out there that are willing to love me for me rather than for the power I could give them.” Though I knew the offer of real magic helped her decision. And honestly, the thing about extending lives is only partially true. It is possible, but everyone I’ve tried it on went insane around the ten thousandth year. Dragons make good friends, but almost none of them are ever willing to have anything to do with me, and the few that would be willing are often hunted down. I could prolong lives, but I couldn’t make anyone invincible. I suffer that curse alone.

“Are you insane?”

I blinked. “That’s an interesting question,” I said. “Again, I suppose it depends on how you look at it. Most would say yes. I’m inclined to agree. I’ve been alive almost as long as there has been sapience, and that tends to drive a guy mad.”

“Do you have any proof that you’re actually my dad, and not just someone trying to steal me away?”

I smiled. “You should have asked that question first! As soon as we met, that should have been the first question.” I gently laid my lion paw on her head, giving her the memory of the deal I made with Celestia.

“And how do I know what’s real, and not just something you made up?”

“Well, my dear, you’ll just have to trust me. Since I can manipulate reality, I can create illusions that are as lifelike as life. You’ll have to ask yourself what is real and what isn’t.”

“How will I know?”

I looked away from her, off in a direction I try to avoid looking at. “I ask myself the same thing sometimes. How much of what I see is real and how much of it is the madness in my mind?” I looked back at her. “You just have to choose one illusion and pick it as the reality you’re willing to believe in. If you’re right, great. If you’re wrong, you’ll probably never even realize it, so as far as you’re concerned, you’re right.”

“I think I’ll trust you, then.”

“That’s nice to hear you say.” I knew what her answer was going to be anyway, but it was still nice to hear it. I suppose even some ‘human’ comforts apply to me.

“If you can freeze time like this, why can’t we just keep practicing until I understand magic?”

“Because your mind needs time to rest. You can’t just completely change your entire outlook on life in one sitting. No student ever managed anything on his first try.”

“His?”

“Or her. Believe it or not, there was a time when males ruled the world, rather than women.” It’s fun, causing paradigm shifts like that. “Old habits die hard.” Well, the real reason is that I am technically a he. Or at least, I’ve always identified with males. While in all honesty the body I have is easily changeable, the female body never sat as well with me.

Oh, and in case anyone wonders why I’m wearing the body of a chimera—for some reason called draconequus by the ponies—it’s because that shape is disquieting. Some would say terrifying. So delightfully chaotic, the reactions of those that see it so fun to watch…

“So… What now?”

“Now I return to hiding. You show the princesses some pretty spells, courtesy of Navarone’s eyes. Think on the things I have told you. Attempt true magic in your time off, away from anyone. If anyone asks, tell them you are working on human relaxation techniques, taught to you by your loving father.”

“When will I see you again?”

“Oh, it won’t be too long. And soon, you’ll be seeing quite a bit more of me.”

She smiled. “I think I’d like that.” I answered her smile for a moment before snapping my fingers.

 

 

 

I dropped the ring into a pocket and casually popped my neck. “Ready when you are, Taya.”

She shrugged and did some magic. It was pretty alright. I’m still not a fan of magic, but I’m proud of her.

Rainbow Dash thankfully returned the stones before I went to bed. She refused to tell me anything she had done with them, which was probably a good thing. Twilight also mentioned how much more excited the mares at the clam jousting club were that day, and I decided not to pry.

You can only avoid someone for so long. Especially if that someone is Pinkie. I’ll freely admit that no matter how good I am at hiding and whatnot, she will always be better at finding. Eventually, it was bound to happen. The only thing that stopped the confrontation from happening sooner is that she didn’t know I was avoiding her.

I woke up sitting at a table. I had been chilling with Vinyl for a few hours. We were drinking and talking or something. As always, I knew my limits and made sure to stay away from them. I was telling her about some of my less gruesome exploits and she was telling me about all kinds of weird shit her fans did. You know, normal stuff.

And then I woke up sitting at the table. The only light in the room was hanging from the ceiling, focused on giving light only to the table somehow. On the table was a revolver. “What the fu—”

“Hi Nav!” Pinkie shouted, jumping in the seat across from me.

“Oh good, the past few years weren’t a dream.”

“Well, no pony said that, but if it makes you feel any better, you can think it. Let’s play a game.”

I shrugged. “Sure.”

Her grin widened. “I’m going to spin this doohickey. Whoever it lands on gets to go first.”

“Mind explaining the rules? And the name of the game?”

“Roulette.” Oh fun. Ponies have Russian Roulette. “If it’s your turn, you take the doohickey, pick it up, put it against your head, and pull the trigger.”

“Okay. What does the winner get?”

“Well, that all depends on who wins. If you win, you walk free and we all forget about this whole thing. The awkwardness goes away and you stop avoiding me. We do it your way, essentially. If I win, you and I are going to have a talk. What happens is what happens.”

“Oh good, so the loser doesn’t die?”

“Don’t be silly, Nav! I couldn’t talk to you if you died!”

I shrugged. “Humans have a similar game. The loser in that game doesn’t survive.”

“I bet there aren’t many players, then.” She spun the revolver. It stopped pointing at the wall, closer to me.

“More than you’d think,” I replied as I picked it up. “What happens if I’m the loser?”

“Face full of pie.”

“Eh, could be worse.” I put it up against my temple and fired. Nothing happened. I passed it across the table. “So how are you going to pull the trigger?”

She looked at it. “Uh. I hadn’t really thought about that.” She looked up at my hands, resting on the table. “Can you help?”

“Sure.” She passed the gun back. I lifted it up, aimed at her, and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. “So how did you get me here, anyway? And what did Vinyl put in my drink? My head doesn’t even hurt.” I put the gun up to my temple and fired. Nothing.

“Oh, the same thing I used on you and Fluttershy before. Roofies, I think they’re called. And I just picked you up and carried you.”

“Man, I’m surprised no one ever calls you out on some of what you do.” I lifted the revolver up, aimed it at her, and pulled the trigger. A pie somehow shot out of the barrel and coated her face. “That doesn’t make sense, but I don’t even care.” I set the revolver down. “See you, Pinkie.”

She used a disturbing tongue trick to mysteriously clean her entire face. “Just because we don’t have to talk doesn’t mean we can’t hang out!”

“Today’s a Vinyl day, and you sort of ruined that. I figured I could go and find her again.”

“You never willingly have a Pinkie day, though! Why can’t we have one of those?”

“How about you have one of those and I’ll go somewhere else so I don’t have to hear it?”

“Oh come on, Nav! It’ll be fun!”

Okay, as annoying as Pinkie usually is, she’s also occasionally somewhat fun to be around, when she’s not being terrifying. And Vinyl probably already found something else to do. I mean, there was no telling how long I was asleep.

“Sure. What are we doing today, then?”

“What, nothing about how your past is too stained to allow you to ever do anything fun anymore?”

I shrugged. “Well, if you really don’t want to do anything, I’ll leave.” I started for the door again.

Pinkie shot between me and the door, blocking me. Of course, that’s not really enough to stop me. I just kept walking.

Of course, her physically blocking me stopped me. She sidestepped in front of me every time I tried walking past her. No words were said. I stopped trying after a minute. “Well?” I asked, crossing my arms.

“There’s really not all that much for us to do… We don’t share many common interests, there’s not really much going on in the town, we always end up baking and I always end up eating most of what we make, and most of our friends are busy. Hm… Want to go on an adventure?”

“What kind of an adventure?”

“We can go hiking!”

“Isn’t it a little late for that?”

“Well that all depends on where we go hiking, now doesn’t it?”

“As long as we’re back before nightfall, I’m okay with it.”

“Yeah, you are a pretty heavy sleeper… We can just go for a walk instead.”

“Sure. Lead the way.” She bounced her way to the door and out it, leading me into Sugarcube Corner proper. We stayed just long enough to get to the door, whereupon we started walking out of town and toward a direction I was all too familiar with: The changeling mines. “Pinkie, let’s not go this way.”

“Why not?”

“Bad memories.”

“What kind of bad memories?”

“The kind that I don’t want to talk about. Let’s go somewhere else.”

She stopped, not moving. “You can’t just hide from your past forever.”

“I know. But I can hide from it for a while. And I can definitely hide it from regular ponies forever.”

“P-shaw! How bad could it be?”

I opened my mouth to respond when she focused on something behind me. I turned and saw Spike approaching at a dead run. He stopped in front of me, panting. “Princess… looking for you…” He held up a letter. I grabbed it and he fell on his back, breathing deep.

I scanned over the letter. “Walk’s cancelled, Pinkie.” I folded the note back up and handed it to Spike. “Send this back, please.”

“You didn’t… even change it,” he panted.

“I know. Send it back.” With a deep inhalation, he did. “I’ll see you two later. I should be back in Ponyville in a few hours.”

“Oh no you don’t!” Pinkie cried, tackling me just as the teleportation spell hit. We both tumbled to the floor of the Royal Science Room, or whatever it’s called.

“That’s odd,” Celestia commented. “I don’t remember summoning you.

Pinkie bounced off me. “You didn’t. I’m just here to make sure Nav answers a question.”

I picked myself off the floor and brushed myself off. “A question Celestia ordered me not to answer.”

“Princess, did you order him not to answer any questions about what happened at the Diamond Dog Mines?”

She looked from Pinkie to me to Pinkie. “Not specifically, but I did order him to use his discretion when talking to my subjects. That topic does not need to be discussed.” She turned to me. “Navarone, do not discuss what happened at the Diamond Dog Mines with anypony that isn’t somepony you’re comfortable discussing it with.”

“You got it, Celestia.”

She turned to Pinkie. “Stop ponynapping Navarone. This is actually important and it had to be delayed because no pony could find him.”

Pinkie sighed. “Yes, Princess…”

Celestia muttered something along the lines of, “I have to do everything around here…” She turned back to me. “Do you remember what happened after you got back from the changeling mission?”

I looked around for a moment before turning back to her. “Technology?”

She nodded. “With magic and your memories, we have made massive headway. We already have working light bulbs.” She nodded to one of the surrounding ponies who flicked a switched. I heard a generator kick on and then I saw a light bulb turn on. Pinkie gasped. “They are imperfect, however. We are still working on switch gates and the like.”

“This is cool and all, but why am I here?” I asked.

“Because all of this came from your mind,” she answered. “Flim and Flam can only do so much with raw memories. They have to know if something seems familiar to you.” Flim and Flam… Why are those names familiar? I cast a sidelong glance at Pinkie and saw that she was still too busy staring in wonder at the light.

“Alright. Which of these are Flim and Flam?”

“None of these ponies are,” Celestia said. “They’re working in their own room. They invent. The workers here perfect.”

“Then shouldn’t I be here instead of with them?”

“We need to make sure they aren’t wasting their time.”

I shrugged. “You’re the boss.” I looked around the room at the various scientist ponies. “You’re all doing an incredible job. If half of the creations in this room work, you’ve outdone my people by about a hundred years. Even working off memories and half-seen manuals, that is an outstanding job. You do ponykind everywhere proud.” Of course, my kind still had them outclassed in weapons, but I don’t know if that’s something to be proud of. Celestia led me and Pinkie away from that room, wearing a small smile. We walked down the hall for a moment in silence.

“So there’s no magic at all?” Pinkie finally asked.

“None,” Celestia confirmed.

“So… anypony could use these?” Pinkie asked.

“Yes. I think earth ponies and pegasi have been reliant upon unicorns for far too long, don’t you?” Celestia asked.

Pinkie nodded. “It’s about time we got good at something other than farming.” Ah, veiled class/race wars. How fun. Odd to see Pinkie getting involved in something like that, but I suppose she’s still a farmer at heart.

“And you, Navarone?”

“I don’t like magic anymore, Celestia. Anything to get rid of the dependence on it is good for me.”

“I don’t foresee electricity completely replacing magic. But supplementing it? That would be quite nice.”

“Do you know how well Chrysalis is doing in her own endeavors?”

“All we know is that she has her entire research team dedicated to figuring all of this out. They have fewer resources, less ponypower, less magic, and generally just less to work with. By all rights, we should be out-maneuvering them by years.”

Anything to keep the black man down, I guess. Changelings are black in color, if you didn’t realize.

We made it to the next room by that point, so there wasn’t anything I could really say in reply. This room was a lot different than the old one. Where it was clean and orderly, this place was trashed and chaotic. “This is what I like to see,” I commented as I walked in. “The signs of a job actually being done.”

“I’m glad somepony likes it,” a male voice growled. A pale yellow unicorn with bacon hair pulled himself out from under a… How did they even get that in here? It looked like a car mixed with a fucking train. I saw he had a mustache that was half scorched off. “Flim, get out here! Princess and her lackeys have come calling.”

I looked to Celestia. “Had a harder time ‘tying them to the royal yoke’ than you thought, eh?”

“Some ponies care more for their own profit than for the need of all,” she replied as another unicorn that looks almost the exact same as this one came out. The only difference was the lack of a burned mustache.

“What,” he said, looking at us. It wasn’t a question and it wasn’t overly welcoming.

Celestia answered him with a smile and said, “This is Navarone and one of his friends from Ponyville. He is the one responsible for all of the memories I graced you with.”

They both turned to me. Before either of them could say anything, Pinkie spoke up, “You two look familiar.”

“That’s because we tried to scam Ponyville a few years ago,” the mustached one said with a voice full of bitterness.

“Blackmail is a wonderful thing,” Flim muttered, glaring at Celestia.

Celestia rolled her eyes. “I’m paying you two more than you would have ever gotten from owning that silly apple farm.”

“But it isn’t our choice! We were doing just fine without this…” He looked me up and down before sneering and turning back to Celestia. “Without this ape’s help. Magic always served us well. Why would we need anything like this?”

“Because the world turns,” Celestia said. “Navarone, give them a demonstration of why magic is not always reliable.”

I pulled my ring out and casually slipped it on. “Release your anger,” I said to the one with a mustache. “Teach me a lesson. I dare you.”

His horn lit up like a fireworks show. Nothing happened. I casually walked up to him and poked him in the forehead. He was sweating from effort by the time I walked back to where I was standing.

“I think that’s enough of a demonstration,” Celestia said. “That’s enough, Flam.” He didn’t stop. Celestia stomped a gold-shoed foot down, cracking the floor. “Enough!” He finally stopped. Flim and Flam both glared at me. “Now you see the limitations of magic. First, only unicorns can use it directly. Second, there are ways of nullifying it. Nav, your ring?” I pulled it off and held it up for her. She picked it up with her magic and flew it over to Flim. It slid down his horn and he flinched.

A moment later his eyes went wide. “Get it off,” he said in a very quiet voice. Flam reached over with both of his fore hooves. Flim kneeled down and let Flam remove it. Celestia’s horn lit up and it floated back to me before either could do anything with it.

“This technology works for anypony,” Celestia said. “We’ve already been over that, but you seem to keep forgetting it. Maybe this will help it sink in. And if it doesn’t… Well, isn’t that just a shame.” She didn’t sound very sad. “Now, Navarone, poke around. See if anything looks familiar. Pinkie, you stay here.”

I didn’t move, just pointed at the car. “That looks like a mix between a train and a car. Is it coal operated?”

Flam nodded. “We don’t have… gasoline. Or oil. Don’t even know where to go to find it.”

“Dig. All I know is that it’s underground, usually in swamps or the like. So it’s the same as coal. What’s the max speed?”

“Twenty kilometers per hour. I don’t know what a mile is, so I don’t know how to translate that to whatever you’re used to.”

Conversion ratios… “One inch is… Ah fuck it, not important.” I always hated related rates. “That’s faster than I can run and I bet this thing can go a while.”

Flim snorted. “Not quite. The wheels keep shattering on the roads we have.” He walked up to them and kicked one. A wooden thunk echoed. “We don’t have rubber. I don’t even know what that is. If we had a sample, we could make more with magic.”

“I still have my old shoes. They’re ratty as hell, but they have rubber in them. Think that would be enough?”

“Sure hope so,” Flam said. “Wooden wheels just don’t cut it and metal wheels are too heavy.”

“They’re in my room back in Ponyville. When do you need them?”

“Soon as possible.”

I turned to Celestia, who was looking at Pinkie. “Go get Navarone’s old shoes. Nav, where are they?”

“Back of my closet. Watch out for weapons.”

“Have Spike send a message when you find them.”

“Yes, Princess.” With a flash, Pinkie disappeared.

“Now that she’s gone…” I walked over to a table. “Celestia, this looks an awful lot like a weapon,” I said, picking up a large metal rod.

Flim and Flam both coughed. “Er… That’s a—” one of them started before I interrupted.

“A steam powered rail driver. Experimental, I assume.” I turned to Celestia, still holding it. “If they get this thing working, it would be able to shoot large metal spikes about as fast as a crossbow, but with considerably more sound.” I turned and set it down. “Ban it.”

She turned to them. “Is what he said true?”

They shared a scared look. “Well…”

“Sort of…”

Celestia glared at them. “Explain.”

“You told us to duplicate whatever we could find in his mind, but to avoid the weapons,” Flam said.

Flim picked up, “This device was in a… video game, I think it’s called. It shot railway spikes. In the game, it was used as a weapon. But we saw further applications for it.”

“Railways take a long time to plant,” Flam said. “With this, they could cut the time down, as well as the labor costs. We would no longer have to worry as much about workers freezing to death in the mountains between here and the griffin lands.”

“It’s steam operated,” I said. “How do you plan on getting steam in the mountains?”

“Fire. Magic, if it comes to that.”

I turned to Celestia. “Your call. It could be used as a weapon.”

She looked from them to me. “Anything can be used as a weapon, if you have the will to do so,” she replied. “This has a practical use. Your guns do not.” She nodded to the inventors. “You may continue making this. But you will include safeguards, something to hopefully reduce the chances of it being used against anypony.”

They both let out sighs of relief. I shrugged and moved on to the next thing. “And this?” I asked, holding up what looked like an old-fashioned alarm clock.

“That’s our alarm clock,” Flim said. Celestia face-hoofed.

I shrugged and set it down. “Just checking. Never know what you might find in an inventor’s shop.” A letter appeared in front of Celestia. She opened it up. A moment later, her horn lit up and Pinkie appeared wielding old shoes.

Flim floated one to himself while Flam floated over the other. They poked and prodded them while I continued looking. I made the occasional comment while they did their thing. I didn’t really have all that much to say, though. They didn’t seem to mind.

At least it didn’t take me that long to get through everything. I was able to recognize everything there, though I still had one of them explain to me what they were doing with them. Pinkie looked on in wonder at most of the things. I saw her whispering to the princess at some points.

Anyway, Celestia thanked the duo for their time—not that they cared about that anyway—and led us off. “How would you two like to stay at the palace tonight?” she asked.

“Pass,” I said.

“We’ll stay!” Pinkie replied at the same time. She jerked her head to me. “Why not?”

“Because I have a daughter that’s probably worried about me. And you have a job.”

“The princess can write me an excuse!”

“She can’t write me an excuse from fathering. Taya already doesn’t like you, Celestia. No reason to make it worse.”

Celestia sighed. “It’s just one night, Nav. And I’m sure Luna will be happy to see you again.”

“Yes, but sometimes you have to know when to make personal sacrifices in order to keep those dependent on you happy. I’m sure you’d know about that.”

“Oh come on, Nav!” Pinkie said. “Just think, we could have a sleepover with the princesses! We could tell stories and play spin the bottle and truth or dare and give each other makeovers and—”

“Do you really think I want a makeover?” I asked.

“You sure could use one,” Celestia commented. I felt something ruffling my hair. “You have your mane in the same style you’ve had it in since you got here.” Ponytail, for anyone that cares. I cut it myself when it gets too long. I tried going to a pony barber once to get it cut. I don’t like remembering those weeks.

“Celestia, you can’t talk. Neither can you, Pinkie. Neither of you have changed at all since I’ve been here.”

“Well duh!” Pinkie exclaimed. “We haven’t been to any sleepovers since you’ve been here either!”

“Let me know how that turns out, then. I need to get home.”

“Can you at least join us for dinner, then?” Celestia asked.

“Nope, not hungry.”

“You don’t even want to say hello to Luna?”

“She knows I have fatherly duties.”

“That hardly answers my question, Navarone.”

“I would like to say hello to Luna, but I do need to get back. The sooner the better.”

“Are you trying to avoid somepony, Nav?” Pinkie asked.

“…No? I’m trying to get home so I can—You know what, fuck it. If you don’t send me back, I’m jumping out the next window and flying back.”

“If you’re going to be that way, fine, you can miss Pinkie’s party.”

“Oh man, I’m getting to go home and I get to miss a Pinkie Party? Fuck yeah, Christmas came early!”

Celestia just rolled her eyes. “Any messages for Luna?”

“Nothing she doesn’t already know.”

She shrugged and her horn lit up. I found myself in my room. I went out to see what was going on. Turns out nothing. We had a nice, quiet night devoid of any kind of partying or unexpected happenings. It was nice.

 
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