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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56. Chapter Forty-Four—A visit to a changeling hive Part 1

A few weeks later, a shiny black carriage pulled up right outside the library and a regal-looking Queen Chrysalis stepped out. She proceeded to knock on the door of the library for half an hour before she realized no one was there.

She reported that to me an hour later when she found us all chilling at the park. She was rather displeased. Displeased enough to pull me away from a picnic with friends, that’s for sure.

I rubbed the back of my head in her carriage as it started up again. “You didn’t have to throw me in here, you know!” Taya had managed to hop inside before the door closed, at least.

“I didn’t have to, but I think it was funny,” she replied. “And your daughter does not seem to mind.”

“That’s because she’s sadistic. Where are we going?”

“Back to the library, first. You are going to get everything you need to eliminate a mine full of Diamond Dogs. And then we are going to the hive outside this town, where you are going to plan an assault on a mine full of Diamond Dogs. And then you are going to a mine full of Diamond Dogs to kill them all.”

“Sounds simple enough. If you have enough magic, I could have it done in about an hour. Or however long it takes to find all the entrances.”

Her eyes widened. “How much magic would you need?”

I shrugged. “Depends on how big their cave is. How much does it take to make a fireball?”

She gave me an evil grin. “Not much. This might be easier than we thought.”

“I don’t suppose you could give some manner of peace a chance though, could you? I mean, dogs are annoying as hell and Celestia did give me permission to wipe them off the face of Equestria, but still.”

“We could, but I’d rather not.” We arrived at the library just then. The door popped open and Chrysalis exited first. Taya followed her and I was the last out. I opened the door and went on in. Chrysalis followed me in and looked around, somewhat impressed. “We do not have many libraries in the hives,” she commented idly. “Do you mind if I look around?”

“I don’t care. Twilight might, but she’s been a bitch to me lately, so do what you want.”

She walked around. I went on upstairs. Taya stayed below with Chrysalis. I quickly threw my armor on and grabbed all the weapons and gear I needed. I took my axe instead of my sword because apparently it’s important or something. I was back down within fifteen minutes.

Long enough for the two of them to be standing in the center of the room watching me descend with the most innocent of expressions on their faces.

“What did you do?” I asked them.

“Why, what makes you think we did anything, Nav?” Chrysalis asked, sounding somewhat shocked that I would imply such a thing.

“Whatever it was, I hope you got her good,” I said. “Shall we?” They grinned as we all headed to the door. Chrysalis led the way up to the chariot and we all piled in again. “Alright, despite what Celestia may have told you, I’m not a big fan of genocide. I’ll kill them if I have to since the Holocaust never happened here so the Nuremberg defense can be applied, but I’d rather not. So why can’t peace be had?”

“I don’t know what the Holocaust is or what the Nuremberg defense is. Explain.”

“The Holocaust was an attempted genocide against a group of people in my world. The Nuremberg defense was the attempts of the soldiers that helped to get out of trouble. They explained that because they were only following orders, it excused them from whatever horrible things they did. That shit didn’t fly, even with my fucked up people.” I waved a hand. “Enough of that. I saved you so your people wouldn’t die. Why should I commit genocide in your name against another people that have done nothing to me?”

“They break into our tunnels occasionally. When they do, they tend to drag some of my changelings out with them to be used as slave labor. They have, in the past, stolen eggs from my people as well. The gems they steal, I do not mind. The adult changelings they steal, I can get over. But they took eggs, Navarone. Innocent changelings, unborn. If they were allowed to hatch at all, they were raised directly into slavery, never knowing another life. I would not be surprised if the ignorant dogs did not just crush the eggs as soon as they were in their caves, or eat them.”

“I agree that it’s pretty fucked up. But how are you sure these are sanctioned actions? And what manner of revenge have you ordered done to the dogs? There are two sides to every story, Chrysalis.”

“We are not innocent, no. But we did not start the raids, Nav. That, I swear. We have never taken any of their children, for the dogs don’t have any in that mine; it is just adults there.”

“I see. Would it be possible to arrange a meeting with their leaders, then? I would like to talk with them before I decide one way or another.”

She nodded. “Of course. I admit that I hope you will be disappointed, but if you think that you can resolve this peacefully, I will work to do it peacefully. Now that food is no longer a problem, though, we do need more room to expand…”

“I do not want to meet them with a changeling obviously near me. Can you give me a few troops or something and a few wagons? A trading caravan would easily draw some dogs out, I believe. From there, we can make a few disappear and send some of your changelings down to scout the tunnels out to find any slaves down there that might need to be liberated. While they’re doing that, I can begin talking to the dogs, see what’s on their mind about you guys.”

She nodded. “That is possible. The dogs are usually on good terms with the ponies. We’ve never heard of them taking more than one or two ponies alone at a time, and they rarely do that much. A traveling caravan should be safe.”

We planned it out on the way to the hive. About thirty changelings, twenty traders and ten guards. I would be the head of the security detachment. Or rather, I would be the fake head of it; one of the changelings would actually be in charge. Chrysalis would be the head of the actual caravan. Another changeling would lead the scouting expedition into their tunnels. It’s hard to fuck up such a relatively simple plan, right?

…Right?

 

We made it to the hive in pretty good time. “I warn you, Navarone: when I said you were considered a hero by my changelings, I meant it. Most of the soldiers there at the attack on Canterlot came from this hive, and they all know of you and what you did for them.” We were still in the chariot at the time, and were just about to get out and head down one of the surface tunnels.

“I don’t suppose it’s possible to skip entering the hive, then? I never liked the hero’s welcome. Especially since I’m such a—” My eyes caught Taya glaring at me. “Well, never mind about that. But must we enter the hive?”

Chrysalis grinned. “Now that I know it’ll make you uncomfortable, yes. Just be glad that I won’t make you give any speeches. Although… I don’t suppose you would be willing to carry me in, would you?”

“As in, pick you up in my arms and carry you?” She nodded. “Why?”

“It would be funny.”

“I’m not particularly strong, Chrysalis. That’s why I use weapons instead of punching things. I can barely carry Taya anymore.”

Chrysalis rolled her eyes. “Fine. Be that way.” The carriage door opened and she serenely exited, doing her best to look regal. She did a pretty good job, I’ll admit. I followed her out, looking significantly less regal. Given that we didn’t have an audience aside from the carriage changelings, that wasn’t really a problem. Taya joined us as we walked toward a tunnel.

A tunnel that led straight down. Even with my augmented eyes, I couldn’t see the bottom. “Holy hell,” I said, looking down. “How deep is this?”

“Oh, a few hundred meters. We plan most of our entrances like this so we don’t get many… unwanted visitors. It goes straight down,” Chrysalis answered.

“That’s really unsafe, in terms of actual defense. But we can discuss that more when you are actually an ally of Equestria rather than just… whatever you are right now.”

She nodded. “Very well. The few guests we bring down usually have to be brought down with magic. I can do that for you both, or we can fly down. The choice is yours.”

“Is it a massive chamber on the other side? Or is it just a sudden stop?”

“It is a large chamber, yes.” I grinned. “Why?”

“Taya, come on over.” She did. I picked her up. “Hold on as tight as you can.”

“Nav, what are you—” I jumped, after checking to make sure I didn’t have my ring on. I grinned as I turned in the air, falling headfirst down the insanely long tunnel.

After a few long seconds of straight falling, we entered a large chamber. I saw that we still had a few hundred feet before we hit the bottom, so I didn’t open my wings yet. Taya was still holding on as tightly as she could. I saw a large number of changelings looking up from whatever they were doing to see the angelic figure falling from the sky, shrouded by what little sunlight was left down at this depth.

When I was about halfway to the ground, I threw my wings open. It felt like I slammed into a wall of air, and Taya loosened a bit in my arms before normal gravity—normal for Ponyland, that is—asserted itself and we began to glide out of it. I was able to catch a glimpse of Chrysalis following in my wake, and did my best to slow down so she could catch up. I gave her a grin that she met with a glare that slowly resolved into a grin of her own.

She finally drew my attention to an area on the ground where I assumed she wanted us to land. I followed her over to it. There was already a crowd of changelings around it. We landed, her with grace and poise, me with a loud thump as my armored boots hit the stage. Stage? Oh balls. I set Taya down. She looked around before settling as close as she could get to me.

“Greetings, subjects,” Queen Chrysalis said. I say Queen there because she had taken on a considerably queenlier look and voice. “I believe many of you have heard of Sir Navarone.” I felt a large number of eyes shift to me. Felt rather than seen; these changelings didn’t have pupils, their entire eye was blue. She continued, “He is here to visit for a few days. If all goes well, he will be helping us remove the Diamond Dog nuisance. I trust you will all treat him with the respect due a visiting dignitary. And do not feed off him. Do not even ask. The same goes for the little filly next to him. Now please, go about your day.”

The crowd dispersed. It was eerie, how quiet they were. Not silent—there was some talking, but it was all muted. As they started disappearing, I turned to Chrysalis and said, “I think I like it here. The people are a lot quieter than ponies. I somewhat expected cheering.”

She smiled. “Changelings do not cheer. The sounds would carry too far in the tunnels, creating terrible echoes for any of my subjects further in. Most rarely talk at all. Now come, we need to find Ditto to get what we need.” She began walking to what looked like a collection of buildings.

I noticed she didn’t have any guards. “Do you not worry about assassination attempts down here?” I asked as we walked.

She smiled again. “We have few enemies and none that could hide among my changelings. There are a few rogue hives scattered about, but all are small and none wish any harm upon me. Most rogue hives quite like me, but choose to remain away from my rule for some reason or another. A few come back into the fold every now and then, as they fall under hard times. Now that we have food in excess, I believe I will have no trouble convincing most hives to come back. Crime is also a non-issue.”

“Sounds quite nice. Crime is rare in Ponyland, but I had to judge a few food thieves a few weeks ago. Poor starving kids… Hope they’re doing alright.”

She sighed. “That’s not to say we’re a perfect society, Nav. We do have our problems, they just aren’t apparent from an outsider looking in. I had to sacrifice much in order to keep my changelings alive for so long.” She grit her teeth and glared ahead. “And the peace treaty I was forced to sign did not do wonders, either.” She shook her head. “But if that is what it takes to begin changing things, it is a price I am willing to pay. Ask your questions; I’m sure you have more.”

I nodded to the buildings. “Why build things? Why not just carve your homes into the rock?”

“Style, of course. And… as a reminder of the way things once were.” That sounded ominous.

It also wasn’t my business, and from her tone, she didn’t really want to talk about it. “So how are those changelings with different tastes liking the infinite love thing you’ve got going on?”

“When their choice is something they don’t prefer versus nothing, they’ll happily take what they don’t prefer. A few of them like sadness, though, and that is easy enough to replicate given the tools we have. And happiness comes with love. Lust is relatively easy, also. Anger is a lot harder, but… most of my subjects that like anger do not last long.” That also sounds ominous.

“So how long did it take to build this place?”

“A few years. Not that long at all; swarms are great at simple tasks. It took longer to plan than it took to build, I know that much. There are several underground pods around here that are similar, but this is the epicenter of activity and the largest of the pods. Any newer areas are built with less planning, but are still built well enough to last. There haven’t been any cave-ins because of changeling activity in a long time. The dogs have done some things to force cave-ins, and we’re still fixing one pod from when a dragon landed too hard on the area above it, but for the most part, disasters are uncommon. We no longer need most of the substitute food we used to eat, so the workers we had doing that have been mostly assigned to upkeep.” Assigned? Meh.

“What kind of population do you have down here?”

She smiled smugly. “Around five thousand. This is a decently sized hive, which is one of the reasons I want to get rid of the Diamond Dogs.” I wonder why she’s smug about that.

“A nice size, for a city on this world. What’s the size of the main hive?”

“Around ten thousand. What do you mean, this world? What are cities like where you come from?”

“Oh, they have a few million living in them. What’s the main hive like? Similar to this?”

She had stopped. “Million? I remember looking into your mind, but I don’t remember millions!”

“Well, yeah. I don’t know a million people. I was a recluse.” And look where that got me. “When I left there were nearly seven billion on the planet.”

Her mouth dropped.

I was looking around at a few of the changelings near us. “You know, changelings do look a lot lighter than ponies. I might be able to pick one up. What do you think, Taya?”

“You never know until you try.”

I looked back to Chrysalis, who looked like she was still having a hard time imagining seven billion people. I shrugged, leaned over, and scooped her up. “Wow, she is a lot lighter. I bet the regular changelings would weigh about as much as you, Taya.”

“Nav, you can put me down now.”

“I thought you said you wanted me to carry you earlier.”

“I changed my mind. Put me down.” I did and we continued on. “Now, what was your question? I seem to have… well, what was it?”

“What’s the main hive like?”

“Similar to this, but with more changelings out and about. It’s a lot larger and more fancy.”

I noticed something, then: There were no lights. “Taya, how are you seeing?”

“I’m following your voice and avoiding all the glowing eyes.”

“No, that won’t do. Come here.” She did. I picked her up. With my axe on my back, I had to hold her in my arms, but that wasn’t really a problem.

“There will be lights in the planning room, Navarone, and more in every other building. We just don’t keep the city proper lit because we don’t need the lights to see enough to get around.”

“Good. And if I’m going to be here for days, you do have food for her, right?”

“Of course. We have to feed our love slaves something, after all.”

“Awesome. What do you guys use for currency?”

“Chunks of ore. They are actually useful, rather than useless bits. Gold is a terrible metal to do anything with. The only reason it has value is because Celestia forces it to have value.”

“Do you understand the reasoning? Or do you want me to explain it to you?”

“I understand the reasoning. It does not apply to my society. We prefer practicality.”

“And yet you decided to make buildings rather than carve from the rock.”

“These buildings were made from stone. No one says you can’t have both, Nav. They were built with the stone dug out while we carved this pod.”

We were into the city itself, now. The buildings were pretty large, but the entrances were relatively small. It was about like Canterlot, in a way. There was a lot less style, though, and most of the colors were black and green. It reminded me more of my short stay in this world’s Spain than anything else. “Have you ever been to Barcelona or San Sebastian, Chrysalis? This hive reminds me of them, in a way.”

She shook her head. “I’ve never been away from this mainland, Nav. Or rather, I haven’t in any recent time.”

“I suggest it. Some of the places across the sea are quite nice, and you would probably enjoy the Europe party next year. Hell, you might be able to get some changelings into the tournament at the end. I won it this year, but Celestia banned me because of how I won it.”

“Because you were smart, you mean.” I nodded. “I don’t suppose you would be willing to be my military advisor? Ditto knows his craft, I will admit, but we have not been in any open fights recently. We do not know how battle tactics have changed with time.”

“The only conflicts I’ve been involved in were small-time things. I helped plan a great retreat across a hostile country, but that was the biggest thing I’ve done.”

“From what I’ve heard, though, you have a very high success rate.”

“That’s because humans were made for this kind of shit. If you absolutely, positively must kill every motherfucker in the room, call for a human.”

“If you weren’t carrying a filly in your arms and stroking her hair occasionally, I would be quivering in my carapace.”

“That’s part of the reason we’re made for it. We have the ability to disconnect like nothing you’ve ever seen. One minute we’re fighting someone and the next we’re their best friends. It’s harder for some than others and if the fighting is worse than normal it’ll take longer, but we can adapt to just about anything. When I think back to some of the things we’ve done, the only thing I can say is fuck yeah, humanity.”

“Hm. I might have to learn the spell to summon some of you for myself, then…”

“No. I’ve grown to like you too much to have to kill you. This world does not need humans. I still don’t have an honest niche worked out.”

“Well, you’re my dad,” Taya said, breaking her silence.

“That hardly counts, I wouldn’t think.”

“You’re also a knight,” Chrysalis added.

“God, don’t remind me. At least I managed to spell out a sob story to get Luna to revoke my oaths. I’m still a knight, but I’m not forced to follow orders anymore.”

“That is good. I would not want somepony that loved me to have control over me. Though I also can’t imagine somepony loving me at all…”

“That’s actually one of the arguments I used. It was very effective. But no, this world honestly doesn’t need any humans at all. Or I should rather say, the ponies don’t need any humans at all. They are peaceful, and do not desire war or battle. It is a shame I was forced to stay long enough to get trapped there.”

“Someone needs to keep them out of the fire, though,” Chrysalis said. “If you had not been there, I would have ruled them and destroyed them. They need a defender of some kind.”

“There are plenty of races out there that could do just as well of a job as me, or better. Naga, griffins, dragons, even dogs, if you could find some that weren’t total assholes. Luna has a pretty good dragon friend we found just recently that might be willing to help.” I thought it best I leave out the part that I was the one that found him.

“But all of those races have stakes in this world. They all want what is best for their own species. But you… You are the only one of your kind here. It is cruel, what they did to you. It makes you a wonderful tool, though.” I feel like I’ve had this conversation before.

“Yeah.” I felt it best to leave it at that. “How far do we have until we get to wherever we’re going?”

“We’re there now, actually.” We were in front of a building much larger than most of the others around us. It was eerie, looking at all of those buildings but not seeing a single window. There was a single set of large doors in the center of the building and that was that. Chrysalis led the way inside, opening the doors with a green glow. Light actually streamed out of the building.

I set Taya down. My arms were starting to get tired anyway. She followed me as I entered the building behind Chrysalis. Inside was not at all what I was expecting. Instead of a welcoming desk, there was just a directory. There was a single light shining on it. Hallways led off to both sides, with more halls jutting off from those. There was a single hallway going down the center that Chrysalis was walking down already. We hurried to catch up; I wasn’t going to get lost in this fucking place.

There weren’t many lights there, either. Just the one in the entrance, and a light streaming out of every room we passed that had an open door. It was enough for Taya to see, at least. “Chrysalis, this place is depressing as hell,” I finally said.

“It is efficient. We do not have as much magic as the ponies do. We light up the rooms so our workers can see. Any more is a waste of power.”

“So why not just use electricity and light bulbs? You could light up the entire cave that way.”

“What is electricity?”

Oh shit. I explained that concept to Twilight a long time ago and she laughed at me. Everything the ponies have is powered by magic. I wanted to make a generator or something as a proof of concept, but honestly… why? I mean, with the things electricity could do, I could make pegasi and unicorns relatively obsolete.

“Electricity is what people in my world used since we didn’t have magic. Our society was more technologically advanced than the ponies are. Hell, we were more advanced than the ponies will probably ever be; they seem stagnant in terms of technology. But with it, we could create light. We could power cities full of people. It took resources to do, but you could probably substitute those resources with magic. Use a little magic to power the generators to create enormous amounts of electricity. You could power factories, rail cars, light, and so much more.”

Her eyes widened. “And you could teach my changelings this?”

“I could give you the basics. I didn’t know too much about it, but I could make you a really small generator. From there, you would have to let your scientists take over. Honestly, I don’t even know if you could do it within a generation. It took my people a long time to figure out that electricity even had a use, let alone all the science behind it. There’s a lot of physics involved, but if you could dig into my memories and find the things I forgot, it could be done.”

“The Diamond Dogs can wait.” She stopped in the middle of a hall. “Prepare your mind, Navarone!”

I didn’t even have time to stop before she ripped into me. She discarded all of my recent memories, digging deeper she ever had before. You want memories of my past life? TAKE THEM! I gave her everything horrible humanity had ever done to itself. Pictures, statistics, events, names, all the fun stuff. Thank you, 4chan.

She tore herself from my mind, looking at me with a mix of awe and terror. “I didn’t believe you,” she whispered hoarsely. “Millions… billions… Dead. That power. That raw, terrifying, and beautiful power. Unbelievable… and yet true. You did not lie when you said that you did not belong here, Nav. Your kind are monsters. And you are no different. I saw your mind. You have the capacity to kill an entire world without blinking an eye, as long as you can justify it.” She slowly smiled. “You are wasted on the ponies.” She dropped her smile. “But you won’t ever stay here with me. I won’t even ask. We do not have any scientists, not as you would call them. But I know who to give this information to. Now come. We have allowed the others to wait for long enough. We have dogs to deal with.”

“Never rip into my mind like that again. If I ever allow you to enter again, I will guide you.”

She smiled again. “You can’t stop me from doing what I want.”

I slipped my gauntlet off, reached into my breastplate, and pulled out a small bag tied around my neck. I let the ring fall out of the bag and slipped it on. “You wanna bet?”

Her smile turned vicious. Her horn glowed. Nothing happened. Her smile dropped and she narrowed her eyes. Her horn glowed even brighter, illuminating the hall completely. I noticed that a few changelings were standing around us now in both directions. Chrysalis was snarling, her horn glowing brighter and brighter.

“Stay behind me, Taya,” I whispered. She moved. I took a step closer to Chrysalis. She stood her ground. I took another step. Her eyes widened. I stopped right in front of her. I slowly reached out and grasped her horn with the hand not holding the ring. “I could break this off right now, and you would be powerless to stop me. Do not ever underestimate me, Chrysalis. I am a friend, and you will treat me as a friend, or you will find me an enemy. That would end poorly for you. Do we have an understanding?”

Her horn stopped glowing and I released it. “So you’ve found a new toy,” she commented, eying my ring. “Interesting. Very well, Navarone. I would hate to lose such a good… friend.”

I slid my gauntlet on over the hand with the ring. “Then I believe we have left your soldiers to wait long enough. Shall we?”

She turned and started down the hall, only to stop when she found some of her people watching us. “Why are you not working?” she demanded.

“Break time,” one of them rasped. “Your majesty is in the way of the break room. We wait until you are clear, as moving past would be disrespectful.”

I could hear her teeth grinding. It was bad enough that I embarrassed her, but doing so in front of her subjects was worse. “You did not see this,” she told them.

“We did not see… what, majesty?” the changeling asked.

She nodded. “Continue, subjects.” They bent their knees slightly, and turned to go back. I suppose that given this building’s layout, they could probably find a different path to wherever they were going. We followed behind them.

“I like changelings more than ponies,” I said when they turned off. “You guys are awesome. If something like that happened between me and Celestia, I probably would have been attacked by any civilian nearby that witnessed it.”

“If you had harmed me, you would not have left this building alive. They know you are a friend and that you would not hurt me. Changelings treat heroes differently than ponies do. We give them respect by giving them privacy and distance, honoring their requests if they make them and they are reasonable. If you were as much a hero to the ponies as you are to us, I believe you would be surrounded constantly as soon as you went to a city. You would not have a single moment of peace.”

“Then it’s a good thing my role as a hero there is small and relatively forgotten. I am known, but I’m not revered. Ponies just know that I fought for Celestia.”

“I fear that it is sadly too late for you to stay here. But if you ever find yourself out of favor in Equestria, you are welcome in the hives. And when I get the plans for this ‘electricity’ to those that need it, you will be nearly as famous as I.” She looked me up and down. “Though probably not for looks.”

“Well, not all of us can be as sexy as me. I’m sorry, Chrysalis, but maybe one day.” I gave her a conciliatory pat on the back. She just shook her head with a small smile.

“Oh, and in case you were wondering, your eggs are doing well.”

“Eggs? What?”

She smiled at me. “You did not know? As the queen of the changelings, I am super fertile. I could breed with any race on the planet.” I wonder if the terror I felt at that was strong enough for her to pick up from where she was. If not, the expression on my face probably did it.

“That’s… that’s not possible. The genetics wouldn’t allow for it. I have forty-six chromosomes. You probably have considerably more. It’s not possible!”

Oh, her smile was terrifying. “I am a changeling, Navarone. My body adapts to whatever I mate with. I don’t know how it does that, but it does. But you need not worry. You do not have to meet your children if you do not wish to. Most fathers never even know they have hatchlings from me, when I choose to look outside my race for mates.”

My mind was terrified by that news. It shouldn’t be possible! Biology can’t allow for that! But… in a world with magic, who knows what’s possible? I gulped slightly. “What will… what will they look like?”

“Oh, like any normal changeling. I suspect their eyes will be different, though. And they’ll definitely be higher class, in terms of intelligence. They will be my first children to enter this world while we have food enough to sustain them well. I expect great things from them. They may have a few of your traits, though. They will never know of you if you do not wish them to, and even if they do learn that you are their father, they will not recognize you as such until you decide you want them to.”

Well, I knew there would be some kind of repercussions from that week of debauchery. I was expecting more pissed off friends and an angry Luna than children, though. It was sobering. But… “In that case, why did you have to tell me about it at all?”

“To make you suffer, of course.”

“I see. And how do I know you aren’t lying about it, then?”

“I can let you see them, if you desire. The only other male I mated with in the time it would have taken to get them to where they are now was that fool Shining Armor, and I did not deem him worthy of making eggs with.”

“He had some pretty powerful magic, though. Doesn’t that count for anything?”

“No. We have a few that are able to use magic, but not many. All of my children can, whether or not the father was able to. They might have been stronger in magic, if Shining Armor had been the father, but they will be strong enough anyway from me. Besides, we currently need thinkers more than we need anything else. Between the two of us, their minds will be made for plotting.”

That’s not really how genetics works, but… fucking magic. With my luck, they’ll be smart enough to track me down and live long enough to make the rest of my life hell. Of course, I could probably also kill them, but… could my conscience really take killing my own kids? That’s fucked up, even for me.

Then again… are they my kids if I didn’t raise them? They’re just kids that happen to have my genes.

“If anything interesting happens with them, keep me updated. I wish you had told me beforehand that you were going to do this, but… I suppose if I don’t have to raise or see them, it will not be a problem. Just don’t tell anyone else.”

“They will not hear it from my mouth, Navarone.” And I don’t think this entry will go with my journals, either.

“What’s wrong with children?” Taya quietly asked.

Oh God. There’s no way I’m coming out of this question well. I opened my mouth to respond, but Chrysalis opened a door with her magic and stepped inside. I followed her in, closing my mouth. Taya followed on my heels, of course.

The room we were in was not that large. There was a table that dominated the center, with a single light over it. A large changeling that I thought might have been Ditto was standing at one end of the table. There were two others next to him that I did not recognize.

Chrysalis stopped at the table and looked to the fellow I thought was Ditto. “We have three things to do. First, get together ten sentient soldiers and twenty sentients that can act as merchants. I don’t care if they’re soldiers or not. Second, find four sentients and a leader for a scouting mission into the dog caves. They have to know how to walk bipedal. Last, find all of our magic users with the strength to cast fire spells.”

The changeling turned to one of the others. “Go through the roster. Pick out four good scouts. You are in charge of leading the scouting mission.” The one he was talking to gave a single nod and looked down to the table, using magic to ruffle through some papers. The big changeling turned to the other one in the room. “Pick twenty-nine sentient soldiers. I will lead them.” The changeling he was talking to gave a nod and started looking through more papers. The big changeling turned to Chrysalis. “We have fifty sentients and three drones here capable enough to use fire spells. Of those, only forty can make fireballs. I can have them here in an hour.”

I don’t know what a sentient is, but Chrysalis talked about intelligence stuff earlier. I suppose drones are the lowest of the low, incapable of acting without orders or something. Sentients are probably those that can act individually.

“The mages can wait, Ditto. Nav wishes to interview the dogs. The scouting mission is the more important of the two. The merchants will be Navarone’s cover as he talks with them. We will need four wagons and some random goods we looted in raids. Nothing we looted from dogs. Gems would be best, if you can find them. The treasury will cover whatever you use.”

Ditto nodded once. “We will have everything prepared in three hours.” My eyebrows rose. That’s a hefty order right there, and an insane time. If he could pull that off, my opinion of the changelings would rise even higher.

“Then we will meet you on the surface. Come, Navarone.” We left the room and started off down the hall. We weren’t going the way we came.

“Can he really do that in three hours?” I asked her.

“Yes. We are efficient, as I said. I don’t know where he’ll get the wagons, but it will be done in three hours.”

“That’s amazing. In my world, it would probably take at least a day to do that much. Especially if you had to pull troops from their families.”

“You may be better at fighting and killing, but we are better at organizing. And you also have to remember that you have massive armies while we have small ones.”

Simply amazing. “Color me impressed, then. So where to now?”

“To drop the ideas and memories of electricity off. If possible, I would ask that you give the changelings I am leading you to a guided tour of everything you can possibly remember about it, as well as everything you think might be useful for it. History lessons, physics lessons—whatever physics is—anything you can think of that might be helpful. If you can guide us to where it is, we can fill in what you forgot from your subconscious. It’s there, but you just don’t know where. We can find it and use it, though we can’t show it to you.”

“I… see. I am not certain that this is a good idea, Chrysalis. I was not what you would consider normal in my world. I spent a lot of time learning how to make things that I shouldn’t know how to make. Alcohol. Explosives. Gunpowder. Low tech guns. Weak generators. I could revolutionize war in this world with what I know. I could make weapons that anyone could use that could destroy buildings. I could make bombs that a changeling could hide in a building that would kill anyone there. I could do so, so much with what is in my head. And I do not want to risk that knowledge getting out to people I may one day have to fight.”

“That’s simple. Don’t show us any of that. Show them what I want to know and we’ll do the rest.”

“I agree on one condition, then. I want Taya to be there with the fellow I’m giving the memories to. I will not risk whoever it is taking more than I am willing to give, and Taya is ridiculously strong in terms of magic.”

“That is not a problem to me, Nav. Though it will take a bit longer if we have to show her how to look into minds.”

“I know how,” Taya quietly said. That was news to me, but then I don’t know most of what she learns in terms of magic. She proudly demonstrates some of it to me, but she knows how I feel about magic so she doesn’t use anything on me. It’s kind of hard to show off mind reading magic without using it on the person you’re showing off to.

Chrysalis pushed another door open and stepped inside. The changelings inside all stopped what they were doing and turned to us. They all blinked in surprise when they saw Chrysalis and a few actually gaped when they saw me.

“What can we help you with, my queen?” one of them finally said, stepping forward slightly.

“I need your best mind reader to look into Sir Navarone’s memories. He will guide you to what you need. Whoever does it has to be able to meld flows.”

One of the other changelings stepped forward and bent his knees slightly. “I am yours, your highness.” He turned to me. “Come, Sir Navarone.” I stepped forward. Taya followed me. “Have you done this before?”

“Yes, but I’ve never had to show memories that are fragmented. I will do my best to keep it simple for you, and you will not understand most of what you see. I don’t suppose you have a chair?”

“We do not.” This is gonna be odd. I gave up most control in my body when Shining Armor was looking in, but then I also had to prepare some very hard defenses. “Who am I melding with?”

“Her,” I said, pointing to Taya. I pulled my gauntlet off while he was considering and removed my ring.

“A pony foal? We’ve done stranger. Come, let us meet in his mind.” With that, his horn glowed green. I zoned out, waiting for his presence to make itself known. It did not take long. “You have control. Good. I do not want to sift through every passing memory.” A moment later, another one joined him. “Let us begin.”

“You are going to learn about electricity,” I said in my mind. “Power without magic.” I gave several memories of electronic marvels quickly. And then I began the lessons. It took over an hour to dredge up everything I could possibly remember. A lot of it was out of order and most of it was fragmentary, but apparently that wasn’t an issue.

With Taya watching him, he never made a move at anything I didn’t want him to see. But he did get more than I wanted him to, through the simple sake that it’s impossible to stay focused on one thing for more than an hour. Especially after you get told you’re going to be a father.

When I gave him everything I could possibly think of, he pulled out of my mind and turned to Chrysalis. “It can be done. Give us five years and the resources we need and we should have a working generator and light bulb variants. Give us twenty years and we can have incredibly efficient factories. A hundred and we can probably have computers. Two hundred and we can leave Equestria so far behind in terms of technology that they’ll be begging us for table scraps.” It was kind of scary, hearing him say that in the same raspy voice most changelings seem to have.

“Begin on light bulbs and factories now. Time will tell about the others,” she answered. “Distribute the important memories. Discard the rest. Forget your focus on magic. Figure this out. Use magic to fill in the blanks only when you have no other choice, and do your best to remove magic from the equation when you can. Navarone’s people did this without magic, just technology. If they can do it, so can we.”

The changeling nodded. “It will be done.” He turned to the others. All their horns glowed as the rest of them stepped closer to the one guy. Taya and I walked over to Chrysalis.

“If you hold this tech over the ponies, I’ll probably be dispatched to fight you,” I told Chrysalis as we reentered the hall. “And if I have to fight with all the resources of Equestria at my back, I will not make it easy on you.” I wouldn’t, either. I knew how to make a gun, even if I didn’t have the resources. I couldn’t make the things I needed to make a gun. But Celestia could get me what I needed if I was able to show her the memories and let her dig through what I’ve forgotten. I could bring in all kinds of war machines. I just hoped it didn’t come to that.

“They have magic, Nav. They can do anything we’ll be able to do, just using magic instead of using technology. We’ll just have both.” We were finally walking back out the way we came.

We talked on small matters until we got outside. Ha. ‘Outside.’ We were still in a fucking cave. Chrysalis turned to me. “We have an hour before we have to be topside. Is Taya hungry?”

“Why ask me? Taya, are you hungry?” I knew better than to ask.

“Yes.” She’s always willing to eat.

“Then come. I will show you to our feeding hall.” Given what changelings eat, that sounded ominous. She started leading us away. I picked Taya up and followed. “I’ll admit, the taste of the love being produced by the love poison is… off. It is artificial, one could say. But it is better than what we are used to, and it is limitless. The only complaint I have is that we have such a small number of victims to feed off of. I do not suppose there is any way to take some of the dogs prisoner, should it come to that?”

“Not with what I’m going to do, no. They will all die.”

“I see. Will it at least be painful?”

“Oh God yes. Some will burn to death and some will suffocate while burning to death. It’ll be a painful, horrible, gruesome death.” She smiled darkly at that. And I thought humans were fucked up. “That’s why we’re breaking the prisoners out beforehand. Nothing in those tunnels will be living when I’m through, should I decide to attack.”

“Humans are good at war. It is… delicious. Peace would be profitable, but I hope you find them unworthy just so I can see how you kill them.”

“I don’t particularly want to kill them, personally.”

“You don’t have to,” Taya quietly said.

“Oh? And if I deem them as unworthy to stay neighbors, what would you suggest we do instead?” I asked her.

“Scare them away. Make them flee. You don’t have to kill them, daddy.”

“You’ve never fought dogs before. They don’t flee. Most of them are too stupid to run away unless ordered to, and most of those that give orders are too stubborn to run away without some manner of ‘fuck you’ plan.” I learned that from experience and from books. Mostly books, though. “It would take Celestia’s army and the changeling army both to scare them away from their home.” She didn’t respond.

The dining hall was only a few blocks away from the other building, whatever its title was. The last block was walked in silence.

We entered the dining hall. I looked around and one thing came to mind instantly: Oppressive. Holy God. Cells lined the hallway. There was a crank next to each one that looked like it operated a retractable wall. There were ponies in all of the cells and more ponies standing outside the cells, looking in. I assumed those standing outside were changelings. I heard wailing from some cells that didn’t have anyone in front of them, and saw some changelings walking to them and some walking away.

Chrysalis didn’t give any of them a look, just continued through. I carried Taya through, taking some comfort in her presence. This is terrible. I know I came up with this, but… this is just outright terrible. Chrysalis led us through two layers of cells, straight down the center. If I had to guess, I would say there were maybe fifty cells. Half contained ponies and half contained other things. Dogs, griffins, a single naga. I didn’t want to think about how the naga worked; it might be able to rip the cell open.

We ended up in an empty cafeteria. It looked like it could hold around a hundred people. She pointed to the kitchen. “You’ll find what you are looking for there, Taya. You will have to fix your own food, or loot the storage; it is not meal time, so nothing is prepared. Everything within is safe to eat for ponies.”

I carried her into the kitchen. I did not want to leave her alone in this place, I don’t care what kind of security there is. Chrysalis remained in the cafeteria. When we got to the kitchen, I set her down and we looked around.

Mushrooms. Lots and lots of mushrooms. “Taya, do you know how to cook mushrooms?”

“No. Do you?”

“Not a clue. But if they can be eaten when cooked, they can be eaten raw.” That makes sense, right? “They probably just won’t taste that good.” Though they might not taste good even if they were cooked. I can’t imagine changelings putting too much effort into cooking when they feed off emotions.

“Waiting won’t make them taste any better.” She used magic to bring one to her mouth and began eating. “Not… too bad.” She continued eating slowly.

“So what did you think of their prison?” I asked as she continued.

“It has to be done. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.”

“My thoughts exactly. I’m glad I’m immune to love poison. Oh, and the new code word is password.”

It didn’t take her long to finish. We left the kitchen and made our way to Chrysalis, who had been joined by Ditto. “The preparations are finished,” she told us. “It is time to return to the surface. Do you want Taya to come with us, or stay here?”

“We aren’t killing the dogs today. We’ll wait until tomorrow, if it comes to that. She can come with us, as long as she stays with the group. I’m going to need to talk to their leaders alone, as one warrior to another.”

“And why, Navarone, would you need to do that?” Chrysalis asked with a bit of a sharp tone.

“Because they don’t like ponies, for one. They won’t speak freely in front of them. And for two, there is a code of sorts among most warriors. It is unspoken and unofficial, but we treat each other with respect until the fighting starts.” Ditto nodded at that. “They’ll talk to a grizzled mercenary traveling with the ponies until he can find a better contract. They might even offer me a job, but I doubt it. Most dogs I’ve run into were arrogant, not one to rely on other races for help.” If they did offer me a job and I decided they needed to die, I would totally ask for an advance just to see if they would give it to me.

“I see. Well, are you ready to return to the surface?”

“Yeah. Is there a quicker way up?”

She smiled as her horn glowed. We teleported topside, appearing next to a few wagons. Changelings stood to attention when they saw us. “Change to your disguises,” Ditto ordered. All of the changelings turned into ponies. A few of them turned into ponies that were the same. It took them a minute to sort out and all have different disguises. “Haulers, hook up to the wagons.” A few of them went to the wagons. Some got hooked on and some helped do the hooking. “Move out.” With that, Ditto changed into his disguise—a large royal guard. Ten of the soldiers were also disguised as guards.

The wagons began to move, trundling off. The rest of the group moved with them. I turned to Chrysalis. “I suppose I will see you when I get back, then.”

“No, I am coming with you.” She turned into a random pony.

I was kind of surprised that she was coming, but we fell in with the group. “Taya, when I break off to talk to their leaders, stay with Chrysalis.” She didn’t answer. I reached down to my belt and grabbed my helmet, setting it on my head.

The terrain around the entrance to the changeling cave was rugged, but there was at least a road of sorts leading away. We were on it now. “So why have you guys never done something like this before?” I asked. “Surely this occurred to you. Disguise as peaceful traders until the dog leaders are outside, then kidnap them and drag them back to your caves.”

Chrysalis and Ditto shared a look. Chrysalis turned back to me. “No, Navarone. That never occurred to us.”

Ditto said, “If you had been us, what would you have done thus far against the dogs?”

“I would have killed them. Anybody that takes my children needs to be put down.” I put a hand on Taya’s head. “But since you didn’t know the easy way of clearing out caves, something like this is what I would have done. Have some of your kind disguise as ponies and some disguise as gnats hiding on the ponies. When you have a good number of dogs outside, start quietly taking them down one by one and replacing them with your changelings. When you have them all, send the disguised changelings in to bring more out. Repeat until you have most of them captured or killed or whatever. If they catch on, kill the prisoners and run like hell. That could net you a sizeable chunk of them in one blow.”

They shared another look.

I continued, “Of course, with magic on your side, there’s quite a bit more you could do to them. If you could find a large reservoir of water near here, you could easily flood their caves. If you wanted to take them over for yourself it wouldn’t be that hard, just use fire to evaporate all the water. Or since they’re dogs, you could probably use a very high pitched sound to incapacitate them and then clean up house while they’re all on the ground writhing. Since you are working with caves and tunnels, you could probably cover the entire system from one area and just let the echoes take care of the rest. Really, there’s a lot you could do.”

“Why did you never think of these, Ditto?” Chrysalis demanded, glaring at him.

“I have no excuse, your highness.” He turned to me. “If you wanted to kill the changelings, how would you do it?”

“In their caves, you mean?” He nodded. “It would be harder, given that you don’t actually live in the tunnels. If I knew every entrance and exit, I would plug the holes and fill the caverns with carbon dioxide. It is odorless and it sinks, meaning it would fall straight to the lowest parts of the cave. You would be dead within minutes. Cleaning the caves out would be hard, though. Or if I really wanted to ruin your day, I would fill the caves full of methane and strike a match.” I smiled. “I bet you could see the explosion from the fucking moon.”

“What is carbon dioxide and methane?”

I gave him a look that said ‘really?’ “You guys are miners. How do you not know about dangerous gases?” He just looked at me. “Okay, have you ever dug into a tunnel and had miners mysteriously die for no reason?” He nodded. “They died from methane poisoning. It is a gas that gets trapped underground until released. It is lighter than air, so it rises to the roof of the tunnels. In my world, miners would carry birds into caves with them. If the birds died, they would get the hell out of there because it meant the air is poisoned. Carbon dioxide is what you get when you exhale. Breathe in, you use oxygen. Breathe out, you get CO2—Er, carbon dioxide.”

“I see. And how do you get rid of it?”

I shrugged. “Methane? Shit, strike a match and it’ll burn. Just make sure the idiot striking the match is expendable; if you’re not lucky, there might be more there than you thought and the entire cave would explode. If you wanted to get it out of your caves, you could just unplug the entrance and leave it open for a few weeks. Carbon dioxide is different. If you had time, you could just lower some trees into the cave and after a few years they should take care of it for you. I guess you could also unplug the entrances and leave it for a long time. It might eventually dispel out.”

“If you were fighting us on an open field, how would you do it?”

“Oh lord. Um. If I had access to human weapons, I would mow you down with machine gun fire, as they did in World War I. If I didn’t and had access to unicorns…” I smiled. “Rolling thunder. If I was fighting on an open field with unicorns under my command, you would die very quickly, unless you could fight back with magic.”

“What is rolling thunder?”

“A campaign from my world in one of the nastiest wars my country fought. It was a gradual campaign of shit fuckery. We started small, blowing up some stuff. Then we got larger and larger until the enemy gave in. Or at least, that was the plan. The enemy didn’t actually give in.” I sighed, shaking my head. “We lost that war because of politics. But it was a stupid war anyway. A stupid war for a stupid time. In this case, I would order the unicorns to start small, killing a few waves of troops. As you kept coming, the resistance would get stronger and stronger until there was nothing left of you or you broke and ran.”

“And if the unicorns could not help you?”

“Then it would devolve into a very ugly melee. You would probably have air superiority, but I think ponies are heavier and probably stronger than changelings. I was able to pick Chrysalis up with no problems, while I can barely shift an earth pony. It would be an interesting fight.”

“How would you deal with infiltrators?”

“Check your blood. You guys have green blood, ponies have red. Go into a room, tell everyone to not move and that you would kill the first motherfucker that makes a move to a door. Then you take a knife and make shallow slices on each pony in the room. Those that bleed green die while those that bleed red get healed and sent out.”

“I am glad we are allies, Navarone,” Ditto said.

“So am I,” I answered. “So how far is it to their caves, anyway?”

“Not far now,” Chrysalis said. “The entrances are over that hill.” She nodded to a small hill we were walking to.

“What kind of sentries do they have?”

“Terrible ones,” Ditto answered. “They won’t know we’re coming until we get over the hill. But they’ll be hiding, so you probably can’t see them. Whatever else I can say about them, they know how to hide.”

We topped the hill. I got my first look at the dog territory. I’m glad I don’t have trypophobia. There were holes all over the place. I looked to Chrysalis. “And I thought your legs were bad! What the hell kind of organizational scheme do these idiots have?”

“They don’t,” she answered smugly. “Every hole leads into their tunnels. It’s a warren down there, and if we didn’t know the way, our scouts would never return. The dogs are miners, until they feel like being warriors.” Fucking dwarves, then. They shouldn’t be that hard to eliminate. I just hope I don’t have to.

We got down to a good place to stop and Chrysalis called for her people to do so. “Make camp, everypony. We’ll stop here for the night and continue on tomorrow. Maybe if we’re lucky, the dogs here will want some trade.”

The changelings wheeled the four wagons into a defensive perimeter and clustered the queen inside. The guards took up positions at each corner and on top of the wagons. A few of the changelings wandered out to peer in holes, trying to look like interested traders. They were doing a pretty good job of acting, in my opinion.

It took half an hour, but a few heads finally poked out of holes. They watched us for a few minutes before disappearing. Five minutes later, a group came out of one of the holes. They walked over to our wagon slowly. I noticed the dogs here were incredibly hunched over, making most of them shorter than I am. I figured that was because they were miners, but I could have been wrong.

There were three obvious warriors and one dog dressed in what looked like a vest or something. When they got close enough to our wagons to be heard, the one in a vest called out, “What do ponies want in our land?”

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