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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57. Chapter Forty-Four—A visit to a changeling hive Part 2

Chrysalis walked to the edge of the encampment. “We’re traders, dog. We’re just passing through for the night, but if any of your kind wishes to browse our wares, we will not turn down the business.”

The dog in the vest turned to one of the warriors and whispered something. The dog ran back to the tunnel he came from and dove down it. While wearing plate armor and wielding a spear.

Dogs, man… They aren’t that bright. The dog with the vest pointed to me. “What is that winged freak?”

I stepped forward. “I am Navarone, a human mercenary. I’m traveling with these ponies until I can find a better job. I don’t suppose you have any contracts you need fulfilled?”

His eyes widened. “We have heard of you, human! You won the tournament at that party!” He grinned, showing yellowed teeth. “You cheat, but you fight good. Come, we can talk about your career.”

“Only if we stay within sight of the encampment. I’ve heard of a few disappearances around this area. No offense, but I think I prefer being careful.”

“You have nothing to fear from us, human. But we can stay close.”

I started picking my way across the short field to him. I stepped across several holes, doing my best to avoid them. As I got closer, I noticed how large the two warriors were. They could probably crush a changeling just by punching it. They might be able to pull me in half. Well, they’re miners. They’re going to be strong.

“So, you are looking for a job?” the dog asked when I got close enough.

“Yeah.” Thankfully, they didn’t smell bad. I suppose dogs have stronger noses than I do, so keeping clean would be important to them. “I overstayed my welcome with the ponies. Celestia was not happy that I betrayed her people like that in the tournament.” I shrugged. “It was time to move on to greener pastures. You guys have anything for me to do?”

“Yes. Much work. We need pony slaves to pull carts. We need to kill a small nest of changelings. We need to plan better defenses for our home. This was supposed to be a small colony of dogs, but with all of the hostile creatures around us, that idea quickly fell through. We couldn’t just abandon this territory since it was so full of… gems…” At this point he salivated slightly before shaking his head. “We are miners. We want to bring our families here, but it is too unsafe for them. We have been doing our best to kill the changeling scum, but they do not take the hints.”

“Why kill them? Why not try to live in peace?”

He shook his head. “No peace with them. They must be destroyed or removed.”

“That’s senseless. Why is peace impossible?”

He growled slightly. “You have lived among ponies too long. Changelings and dogs do not mix. Peace can’t exist between us. We need slaves and we need their caves, so we will fight until they are dead.”

“And there is no way to convince you or them otherwise?”

He shrugged. “No. But that is good for you, eh? You help us kill them off, we pay you in gems. Lots of gems.”

I shook my head. “I do not fight wars. If you heard about my fight in the tournament, you should know that.”

He grinned. “I do know that. Which is why I want you to do something else for us. Kill their queen. A bug without a head is a dead bug.”

I pretended to think for a moment. “It would take a little while. Do you know where her home is?”

He nodded. “Somewhere near a pony village called Appaloosa. I do not know more than that. You bring us her head, we pay you much.”

I took a moment to pretend to consider. “Very well,” I finally said. “But I will need some supplies, and they might not be cheap. I would ask for a small advance, if possible.”

He nodded once. “I did not think you would come cheap.” He turned to one of the two dogs with us, leaned in close, and whispered something to it. That dog turned and dove down another tunnel. I noticed at this time that several unarmed dogs, smaller than the soldiers, were walking from one of the holes to the wagons. A lot of them had bulging bags.

I turned back to the dog. “When my job is complete, who do I come back to, to ask for payment?”

“I am Fido,” he told me. “You can ask for me, Spot, or Rover.” I almost burst into laughter. I managed to stop myself at a small smile that was partially hidden by the helmet I was still wearing for some reason.

I reached up and pulled it off. “I am Navarone,” I said as I moved it to the hook on my belt. The dog looked at my eyes for probably the first time and his own widened a bit. I nodded. “Yeah. A curse from Luna. A punishment for my actions. Such is life, for an unwanted creature in Equestria. Maybe with the money from killing the queen, I will be able to afford a cure of sorts.”

“Did you not get paid for the tournament?”

“Confiscated by Celestia for cheating. All fifteen hundred bits, gone. And I’ve been banned from competing again.”

He shook his head sadly. “The ponies are cruel. But then, we aren’t so clean ourselves. You can help us get revenge on them, after you take care of the changelings. There is a village of ponies nearby. In that village is a white unicorn with the most annoying voice you have ever heard.” Says the pot to the kettle. “Cut her tongue out and bring her here and we’ll pay you good.”

“I know that unicorn. I’ll think about it.”

“Good. We should not have let her escape, but by the time we realized how bad she was, her friends had already come to help her. Celestia might not notice one or two ponies missing, but six and a dragon would bring her ire down upon us.”

Before I could say anything, the soldier Fido had sent down came back up with a bag in his hands. He ran to us and handed it to Fido, who passed it to me. I couldn’t feel what was inside through the gauntlets, but I heard it clinking enough to know it was jewels. And it was a large bag, too.

“Isn’t this a little much for an advance?” I asked, hefting it.

“This is a tough job. But I know you can do it. You are well worth it, Navarone. You do this job and you’ll get twenty more of those bags to your name. If you bring us the white pony, you’ll get three.” That’s a fortune in my world. Here? Fuck if I know.

“I’ll have to finish my contract with the pony caravan, and then I’ll be off immediately to kill the queen. I should be in Appaloosa before the month ends.”

“I cannot wait. As soon as she is dead, come here. Even if you refuse to help us in an open fight, you can help us plan raids on the changelings. They will be off balance when the queen dies. We will need to keep them that way so they won’t be able to initiate any large counterattack.”

“I will do that, then. I assume I will be paid when the changelings here are dead?”

“Of course. There are a lot of bad things the ponies say about dogs. Most of them are true. But of all the bad things they say, we are loyal to those that help us, even if it is only for pay. You scratch our back, we scratch yours, yes?”

I smiled. “Yes.”

 

When we got back to the caves the next day, I told Chrysalis all about the conversation. “And I conclude with this: They need to die.” I heard Taya sigh.

“Yes, they do,” she answered. “I am surprised to see you taking our side on this, after all they offered you. Twenty large bags of gems for my head? I’m somewhat insulted, but that is enough to buy an army. We can have your magic users ready whenever you call for them, Navarone.”

“I want them just before dawn. The sentries will be tired and less likely to notice us. We can kill all the rest of the dogs in their sleep.”

She gave a vicious grin. “So are you finally going to tell us your plan?”

“Yeah. It’s simple. Shoot fireballs down every cave entrance repeatedly. The fire will consume the air in the tunnels and suck the rest of the oxygen out from the inside, creating a virtual vacuum inside. The dogs that don’t burn to death immediately will suffocate.”

She looked surprised. “That’s all?”

“Yeah. I told you, we know a lot about science. More than the ponies ever will, probably. Dogs need oxygen to survive. Fire needs oxygen to survive. Fire consumes oxygen faster than dogs do. If you use enough fire, the caves will be cleared of oxygen. Thus, those that don’t burn will suffocate. Everything within should die.”

She smiled. “Then it is a good thing we broke all of their prisoners out today.” The dogs had three ponies and a whopping one hundred forty seven changeling prisoners. I don’t know how they were keeping the changelings alive. The ponies were currently being held in the changeling caves, and would be taken back with me when I returned to Ponyville. I gave them the big bag of gems the dogs gave me, to split up amongst themselves. Not personally, of course; I sent the bag with some changelings that were delivering food to their chamber, along with a note.

“Yeah. Stupid fucking dogs…” I did feel a little bad about what I was going to do. They were nice to me. But at the same time, they were dicks to everyone else. Getting rid of them was for the best.

…Right?

“So… What do you changelings do in your spare time around here?” I asked after a little while of silence.

“Sex. Talk. Some of the hatchlings explore the caves. Changelings do not have much free time. And this is not free time, either. Right now, we are walking to a meeting.” Well, we were definitely walking somewhere. Fuck all if I knew where to, though.

“Is this a meeting for you or a meeting for me?”

“For both of us. But mostly you. We do not have much in the way of a military school or an auditorium, but we do have an announcement area. You are going to talk with the officers in my army about tactics.”

“Hold on, what? I don’t have any kind of speech prepared!”

“You don’t have to give them a speech, Nav. They will ask you questions and present scenarios. You will tell them how you would solve the scenarios given various armies and various technologies and magic. If you honestly do not know or cannot think of an answer, don’t worry. I know you weren’t a military man.”

Damn right I wasn’t. I was a computer nerd. I didn’t even like RTS games. I could make war plans and I could play small time fights by ear, but I don’t think I could actually lead troops in a fight. And I don’t think I could actually lead a war. I could discuss theoretical tactics, but I don’t think I could write out military plans. Planning supply lines, food distributions, civilian management, and all of that would go way over my head. I could just do what I could with common sense and hoped the rest worked out.

“So do you really expect Taya to sit through an entire presentation of that?”

Chrysalis looked at the filly huddled in my arms for a moment before looking at me. “Yes, I do. She would be safe in the hive, but I do not think you would allow her to be away from you for long.”

Damn right I wouldn’t. I didn’t answer her, though. “Can I at least get out of this armor? I’ve been in it for way too long.”

“I am not stopping you from being comfortable, Nav.”

“You haven’t exactly given me a room. I don’t really have anywhere to put it if I took it off.”

“Remove it and I will teleport it all to the room you and Taya will be given when she retires for the night.”

“It can wait until we get to the entryway of the auditorium.”

Her horn lit up and we appeared in the entryway of the auditorium. I set Taya down and began taking my armor off. It disappeared piece by piece, until I was left with the underclothes I was wearing. Which meant… “Dammit, I don’t have any shoes.”

“You’ll get over it,” Chrysalis said as she began walking down a side hall. I sighed and followed her, my bare feet prickling a bit on the cold floor. At least the floors in this cave were really smooth. Taya followed behind me, of course.

We didn’t go far before Chrysalis opened a door and stepped inside. We followed her into what was apparently a stage. There was a table and a bare stone chair on the stage. I looked into the audience and saw glowing blue eyes staring at me from hundreds of faces. Other than those eyes and a single light that barely did anything in the center of the room, it was completely dark.

Oh lord. Chrysalis walked up to the front of the stage. Her horn glowed for a moment before she said in a very magnified voice, “Navarone is here to answer any military questions you might have. Present him your scenarios and he will try to answer them.” With that, she turned to me. Her horn glowed for a moment. “Sit, Nav,” she said in her normal voice. “Your voice will be magnified, so you don’t have to scream to be heard.” Slaanesh disapproves.

I sat down in the chair and leaned back as far as my wings would let me. Taya hopped up a second later, which I wasn’t expecting her to do. In a less formal setting, sure. Here?

Well, fuck ‘em. I didn’t really want to do this anyway. Besides, changelings didn’t seem big on pony traditions anyway.

Chrysalis acted as the moderator of the massive forum. I was asked hundreds of questions and was given dozens of scenarios. I did okay on the questions and good on the scenarios, I think. A lot of the tactics I said went over their heads when they asked about what humans would do or when I started talking about a technology or gas or something they didn’t know about. They had no clue what a cannon was, for example, so my plan of using a cannon to take down a dragon made no sense to them. It would be hard to do anyway, but they are resistant to magic, so it would probably be the easiest way to do it.

Still, I like to think I did well enough. I had to call for water a few times because my throat was so dry even though I was talking quietly. Taya was, of course, hungry by the time we finished.

So the creepy as fuck dining hall was where we went next. As we were walking there, I said, “So you aren’t disappointed, are you?”

“I was surprised by some of your answers,” Chrysalis said. “But not disappointed, no. I understand that you have limitations. Using civilian changelings to disguise as prisoners so you can trade them away is ingenious, if underhanded. And napalm is just… fascinating. Oh, the things we could do with that…”

“And it’s a good thing you don’t have it, I think. I only ever plan on giving the recipe to that mess away in extreme emergencies.”

“Of course, of course.” We were at the prison. She pushed the door open and we entered. There were fewer ponies in cells this time. When we got to the mess hall, we learned why: Apparently it was feeding time. Taya and I got to the line as Chrysalis transformed into the same pony she had been during the trading thing. She walked to a table with three ponies that looked very ragged and very, very scared. They were picking at their food weakly, casting furtive glances around themselves.

When Taya got her tray, we joined them at the table. The three immediately focused in on me. “I’ve heard of you,” one of them whispered. “You’re the hooman. What are you doing in Tartarus?”

“This isn’t Tartarus, bro,” I said. “You’re in a changeling cave after getting rescued from a dog cave. Soon, you’ll be coming with me to Ponyville. From there, you’re on your own. With the gems you three got, you should be able to get home, wherever home is for you.”

“Oh, and have all of these ponies been rescued too?” the mare of their group demanded.

“Oh heavens no! They’re all criminals. Celestia gave them to the changelings as food, along with a shipment of love poison.” They all looked at me dumbfounded. “A lot has changed since you’ve been gone, apparently. I’m surprised you were being held that long.”

The first guy that spoke snorted. “I’ll believe we’re free when we get released.” He turned back to his mushroom stew, or whatever it was.

I just shrugged and zoned out, happy that I was no longer being grilled by military changelings anymore. Taya didn’t take long to eat, thankfully. We stood to go, but the fellow that had yet to speak up stopped us. He stared me in the eye with a hard expression. “Why now, human? Why did you rescue us now?”

“Because tomorrow we are going to kill all the dogs,” I answered in a dull voice. We continued out. I think I saw a grim smile on his face before I turned away. Taya dropped her tray off and we left the horrid place. “So where to now?” I asked.

“Your chambers, if you are ready to retire for the night.”

“Taya?” She answered with an adorable yawn. “Good enough for me. Lead the way, Chrysalis.” She started walking and I followed, Taya in my arms. I turned down to the filly. “You’ve been practicing at being cute again, haven’t you?”

“Maybe.”

“Well, keep it up. Cuteness has solved a few of our problems so far. It might be able to do more later.”

“Navarone, are you trying to weaponize cuteness?” Chrysalis asked, turning back to us.

“Taya, show her your skills.”

She did. Chrysalis was old and tough, though. She wouldn’t break from a barely trained filly. I let Taya stop after a few seconds of the assault.

Chrysalis nodded in approval. “With some more practice, you might be dangerous. I’ll remember that, Nav. Cuteness doesn’t really belong on the battlefield, but I can think of uses for it elsewhere.”

“Yeah, I used it to get out of punishment for some of the crazy shit I did during the week you and I met. She’s gotten better at it now, though.”

“I see. And does she ever use it against you?”

“She doesn’t have to. I’m not exactly a good father, Chrysalis. She doesn’t do anything wrong, so I never have to punish her. She never requests things I don’t think she should have, so I never have to tell her no. The only reason she would have to use cuteness on me is for practice.”

Taya reached around my neck with her front legs and mumbled something into my chest.

“I’m going to assume that was something kind,” I answered her mumbles. “So where are we staying, anyway?”

For some reason, Chrysalis grinned at that. “There is a room next to mine that has not been used for a while. You will stay there. Our two rooms are connected by a door, if you should need anything.”

“Cool. Why isn’t that room used?”

“It is the room of my consort, if I had one.”

“Oh.” Well, I was rather distinctly uncomfortable upon hearing that. It’s not like I’d really mind fucking Chrysalis again, assuming I could use a contraceptive, but with Taya right next door? Meh. I assume there was a reason she was giving me that room. A reason that didn’t involve sex.

Either way, she didn’t tell me what that reason was.

“So Chrysalis, why don’t all the changelings have magic? They all seem to have horns.” That was one thing I noticed. I don’t think I’ve really described the regular ones, so I might as well go ahead and do that: They were all about the size of ponies. Each one was pitch black, had glowing blue eyes with no pupils, had insect wings and a horn, and holes in their feet like Chrysalis. Their teeth were sharp and they looked pretty vicious. A few, like Doppel, Chrysalis, and Ditto, had pupils, but most didn’t.

She was silent for a while. “I think you already know the answer to that,” she said after some time. Her tone was very dark.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t have asked. But it is obviously a painful subject, so don’t worry about it.”

“I see. Ask your…” She stopped, mouth open. I don’t know what she was trying to say. After a moment, she sighed. “Ask Celestia. She may tell you.”

We walked the rest of the way in silence. The bedrooms were considerably more opulent than the rest of the city, though even that wasn’t saying much. The mattress was considerably harder than anything I was used to, so I was glad that we were still in the edge end of summer. I still had a few weeks of staying up all night.

I put Taya to bed and began to work on more plagiarism. I had sold off all of Shakespeare’s plays. If I hadn’t been rich before, I would have been shocked at the money coming in from them. Apparently no one in Equestria ever thought to write tragedies.

I got a few quiet and unpleasant reminders from Celestia about that very fact when she found out who the author was. It honestly wasn’t that hard to figure out who I was, since I’m the only one that would be writing a story about humans—other than maybe Lyra. It was too late to recall the things I had already written, but she made me promise to run everything new by her first. I was currently copying Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

I still get pangs of guilt from copying their works, but I put a dedication to the authors in each book I write, as well as an explanation that I’m just bringing the books from my world to theirs, with a few slight modifications when I couldn’t remember things exactly.

My main thought as I wrote was that it would be so much easier with a computer.

Either way, I was really into it. Which is why I was rather shocked when my chair was violently swiveled around. Thankfully, the quill I was writing with was lifted so I didn’t leave a large streak of ink across the page.

“Chrysalis, why are you shaped like Luna?” I whispered.

“To see how you would react.” She turned back to her real form. “I’m a bit disappointed in you, Nav. Not even a flicker of love.”

“You don’t say. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was watching, though. She tends to do that quite a bit, unless I’m wearing my ring.”

“Oh, she doesn’t trust her beloved? What a shame…” Chrysalis reached out and ran a fucked up hoof down my chest. I didn’t react.

“I think it’s boredom more than anything. There’s not much to do when you rule when everyone is asleep. Given that, she watches me to see what I get up to in the night hours.”

“Oh? And what do you tend to do?”

“Write. Walk. Read, if I can find a book I haven’t read two or three times already. Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”

She pouted as best she could with fangs. “I’m lonely and my bed is cold.”

“Get a blanket and a teddy bear. In my experience, mares are really comfortable to sleep against, so try finding one of those. Or get one of your changelings to turn into one.”

“I had something else in mind.”

“If you already have a plan in mind, why did you need to come and see me?”

“You know how this is the chamber of my consort, yes?”

“Yeah. You told us that while you were leading us here.”

“And you know what role the consort usually takes?”

“Yeah. They fuck the ruler.”

“Indeed.” She took a step closer to me and leaned her head in a bit. “And I was just wondering if…” She was trying to sound seductive. “…you would tuck me in and read me a bedtime story.” She was whispering at that last bit, her eyes half-lidded.

“Sure.” I stood up and reached under her, picking her up with relative ease. I marveled to myself at how much lighter changelings are. Wonder what causes that. Maybe that’s why they put holes in their legs.

She giggled as I carried her through the door that connected the two rooms. Her room was quite like mine, but the bed was a hell of a lot softer. I reached down with one hand and pulled the blanket away from the bed and gently eased Chrysalis down on her back. She lay there, looking up at me with those awesome green eyes. I slowly pulled the covers up around her. She grinned when she felt their sweet warmth.

I reached down beside her bed and picked up a book that was resting there. “The Three Little Ponies,” I intoned aloud as I began to read. It was basically the three little pigs, but with ponies and changelings instead. The end had the changeling alerting his swarm and they attacked the brick house, whittling it down with a massive swarm of changelings. The three ponies ended up being feasted on until they died.

“The end,” I said at last, closing the book. She gave a sweet little sigh and closed her eyes. “Goodnight, sweet queen,” I whispered, standing up from a chair next to her bed. I quietly walked back to my room, gently shutting the door behind me. “Welp, that was officially the weirdest thing I have ever done.” I went back to writing.

 

Chrysalis entered again a few hours later. I don’t know what time it was, but I knew it was time for the assault. I began to put on my armor, staying as quiet as possible. I knew I couldn’t take Taya with me today, and I didn’t want her asking to be taken.

I know she woke up because I heard her breathing change, but she didn’t get up. I followed Chrysalis outside and put my boots on in the hall. My mood was slowly growing darker.

I am about to kill an entire colony of people that showed me kindness.

Chrysalis, perhaps sensing my mood—but more likely because she wasn’t a morning person—stayed silent as we stalked through the cave to meet the troops. It took us about a quarter of an hour to get to where they were all standing. Chrysalis led me to the front of the group and nodded at me to talk.

“Greetings, soldiers,” I said in a voice loud enough to carry to them all but quiet enough that it couldn’t be heard too much farther away. “Today, we are going to kill the Diamond Dogs. The plan is relatively simple. We fly above their cave entrances and shoot fireballs down them for as long as you can maintain them. Any questions?”

After a moment, one of the changelings actually raised a hoof. I nodded at him. “Is that it?”

“Yes. The fire will eat the air inside their caves. The dogs that don’t burn to death will suffocate. Any other questions?” There weren’t. I nodded to Chrysalis.

She nodded to Ditto. “Move out,” he ordered. We all took to the air, flying up the shaft that led out of the changeling caves.

I turned to Chrysalis as we flew. “I probably should have asked this before, but are there any tunnels that connect your caves to the Diamond Dog caves?”

“Yes, but they were fully sealed off last night and every other soldier in the hive is watching over them right now.”

We made good time to the dog caves. The changelings didn’t waste any time getting into position and Ditto didn’t waste any time signaling them. It took about ten minutes from the start of my short speech to get to the fire raining down.

I watched silently from my perch on the hill overlooking the caves. It felt wrong. Very, very wrong.

While the mages were shooting fireballs down, a few other soldiers that Ditto brought with us hunted the sentries. They were quickly found. Chrysalis teleported them to the caves personally, a smug expression on her face.

None of them recognized me, thankfully. I don’t think I could have looked them in the face if they had. Then again, I didn’t do much of that anyway. I just watched the fire streak down and hit the caves, bouncing down. Some of the rocks around the entrances were so hot that they were melting. Most of the sand and dirt had long since turned to glass.

And still the fire came. A long time ago I would have thought the display beautiful.

Now? Now… Now I just felt a hollowness inside, watching it. I knew what that fire was doing. There were no screams—there couldn’t be, with the air inside so hot that it would char their lungs if they opened their mouth or breathed in.

Occasionally I found myself watching the changelings as they worked. None smiled, none frowned. Just another day on the job for them. I found myself somewhat envious. After Chrysalis took care of the sentries, she joined in. She was the only one that had any expression at all, and that was a massive grin as she shot streams of green fire into several entrances at once.

There couldn’t be a single survivor inside the tunnels. The only dogs that lived were the sentries. I think I felt more sorry for the sentries than I did for those that died.

Four hours after it began, it ended. A few of the changelings had to drift off from the group to join me at my perch. They were all able to create fireballs, but not all of them were strong enough to sustain them for that long. I think there at the end, Chrysalis was just shooting fire therapeutically.

She landed gracefully in front of us. Even from where we were, we could feel the heat radiating off the field. She walked up to me, beaming. “Even if we didn’t kill them all, that was fun!”

I looked up at her with a dead expression. “Yeah. Can we go get Taya and the ponies and go home?”

She shook her head, her smile dropping a bit. “Not just yet. You can go home tomorrow after you help us make sure the caves are clear.”

“What?” I’d like to think my tone was dangerous there. A few of the changelings near us shifted.

She cast a quick look around her. She knew she could force me to stay, but that doing so would be a bad idea. “We can talk about it when we get back to the caves.” She looked up to her troops. “You have done well, troops. Let us return to the hive. You all have the rest of the day off to recover.”

There was no cheering and little whispering. We took off and went back to the changeling cave, as simple as that. Chrysalis and I began to walk back to her abode. “So why are you in such a hurry to leave, Nav?” she asked as we walked. “I thought you didn’t much care for the ponies.”

The last time I saw someone smile like that was when Kat was torturing that assassin. “Killing those dogs like that put a bad taste in my mouth. I want to get home so I can try to put it behind me.”

“You said it yourself, Nav: They needed to be put down. They tried to get you to kill me! They were a threat to me and to the ponies, and if you weren’t useful to them, they probably would have been a threat to you as well.”

I know she was right and I couldn’t help but hate her for it. “They were kind to me. Offered me jobs and a place to live. Hell, if I looked stronger, they probably would have offered me honest work. Knowing I might have to betray them, I was kind. That dog did not hate you and I don’t think he hated the ponies. It was just a matter-of-fact refusal to see sense. They did not want peace because they did not want peace. I can’t wrap my head around that, and it’s driving me mad. The only thing in my mind right now is… ‘if he had known, would he have taken peace?’” I shook my head, trying to work it out in my mind.

“It isn’t something you can dwell on, Nav. I have made hard decisions like this in the past. I’ve killed my own subjects… my own children because of lack of food. It was a quick death versus starvation. If you had not helped us, more would have died. I would have wasted untold numbers of changelings killing all of the dogs in the caves. It would have been hellish. Peace was impossible, so killing became the only way of resolution.”

And you enjoyed every minute of it. “This ain’t my first rodeo, Chrysalis. I want to say I’m inured to it by now, but this was worse than the last time I did this. I felt bad the last time, but that was mostly because it was my knife that cut throats. It was my flaming bolt that killed all the women and children. I heard the screams as they burned alive. It was bad. But I didn’t have any chance to talk to any of them until afterwards, and he eventually thanked me for it. But here…” I sighed, shaking my head. “I’ll get over it. It’ll take me a while, but I’ll get over it. And I refuse to go anywhere near their tunnels until they’re cleaned, so don’t even bother asking.”

“Will you at least consent to staying here until we search their tunnels? You don’t have to go near the tunnels yourself, but I want you nearby in case we run into any resistance.”

I sighed. “Fine.” I’m doing this because I have to. Just gotta remember that. “It should be cooled off enough to begin exploring tonight. I suggest opening the entrances you have in your caves and going in that way. If you have any way of cancelling out smell, give it to your troops. I don’t think it will be pleasant in there.”

“I will deal with them.”

“So tell me more about changeling society, I guess. I know that you are fertile, but what about the others? Do changelings have families?”

“Yes, they do. There are three real layers of changeling society: Drones, sentients, and the intelligentsia. I am not proud of it, but we did what we had to do in order to survive. Drones do not do much in the way of thinking. They do the common labor. Mining, mindless swarm fighting, construction, things like that. The sentients are the common class. They do most of the labor that requires thought, and make up the bulk of the army. Troops are most useful if they have initiative, after all. The intelligentsia are the planners of changeling society. The ‘scientists’ that you gave the information to yesterday were some of them. Ditto is one. I am one. You can tell who we are by our pupils. I honestly don’t know why the smartest of us have them while the others don’t, but that’s the way it is. Any of them can have families if they want, but most drones don’t. Interbreeding between groups is allowed and now that food supplies are stable, it will be encouraged. There is no longer a reason for a divided society.”

“I wish humans could see the same thing. There’s a place in my world called India. For a long time, you were born into a very rigid division and that is where you stayed no matter what. If you were the lowest, you stayed the lowest. If you were the highest, you stayed the highest. It didn’t matter if you were the smartest son of a bitch alive, if you were born in the low class, you stayed there. When I left, it was a little better in some places, but not by much and not everywhere.”

“Well, it is somewhat the same here. The only difference is that all of the drones actually are born stupid. Any that show signs of intelligence are quickly brought away from the drones and given to the sentients. I don’t like taking hatchlings away from parents, but I dislike wasted potential even more. I expect it will take a few generations to have changeling society back to the way it should be.”

“Will you ever move out of these caves and back to the open?”

She looked around. Saw the darkness, the oppressiveness. Saw the dull looks on the faces of her subjects. I don’t know what all she saw. Maybe she was looking at it with a rose tint. “I do not think so, Navarone,” she finally said. “With electricity coming up, I think things will get happier down here.”

“There was a cave of naga I ran into a while back. They had their caverns lit up with massive amounts of torches on the roof, put into the shape of constellations in the sky. It was hard for them to keep the torches lit, but when they could it was beautiful.”

She shook her head. “What about… what was it? Carbon dioxide, you said? Wouldn’t that be a problem?”

“I thought so too, actually. They didn’t have any problems with it. Though they also spend most of their time under the water. It might have had something to do with the shaft they had leading to the surface, though.”

“Either way, that is not something I consider worth the time. We have to get our wood from Equestrian forests. For the most part, we steal it with no worries of getting caught. But now that we are allies, it will be harder to do.”

“Couldn’t you start a new colony up north in Canada and loot the shit out of their trees?”

“I don’t know what Canada is, but north is griffin territory. We do not like griffins. We do not like them at all.”

“Then you shouldn’t feel any compunctions about stealing from them!”

She shook her head. “No, Nav. We don’t like them and they really don’t like us. If they saw any of my changelings, they would not stop until the swarm was dead. And the griffins are fully capable of taking down a small colony.”

“Eh, whatever. What about far west, in a place like Montana or something? I don’t think Celestia has anything up there.”

“I don’t know what Montana is. We don’t know too much about the areas in the far west. We know about Appaloosa, but our knowledge doesn’t go farther west than the buffalo territories out there.”

“That’s disconcerting. It’s like no race on this planet has any kind of wanderlust at all. When I get tired of the damn ponies, I’m going to slip on my ring and explore the world for a few years. Link up trade routes, build roads, become an adventurer, loot treasure, all that fun stuff.”

She smirked at that. “Why would you need to loot treasure? You already own the majority shares in a soon-to-be lucrative changeling mine.”

“Um. What?”

“Oh come now, Nav! You saved my life and the lives of all of my subjects by proxy. And now you come here to this little hive and not only help us destroy the Diamond Dogs, but give us the means to escape the darkness. You will be rewarded! And Celestia has already agreed to it, so don’t even bother saying she wouldn’t allow it.”

“Would it help if I said please?”

“No. No it would not. You are going to be a very rich stallion soon, Nav.”

“I already am a very rich man. I have a large amount of money made from helping the princesses, I have even more from winning the tournament at Maris, and when I sold some of the books I wrote I got even more fucking bits. I could open a damn bank I have so much green. Er, gold. Whatever.”

“Well, a little more never hurt anypony. Although this won’t exactly be ‘a little.’ We saw some of the carts the dogs wheeled out of those mines. That place is so full of gems it isn’t even funny.”

“And you don’t think their homeland will fight to take it back?”

“What the ponies don’t realize is that the Diamond Dog mining corporation is a criminal front,” she answered. “We followed their wagons, saw where they were being unloaded. The other dogs won’t bother even investigating their loss, though the criminals they worked for might be somewhat more upset about it. But to risk an open war within Equestria’s borders is suicide. They will gnash their teeth and wring their paws, but we own their mine, now.” She giggled. “Well, mostly you. I’m sure you’ll find something to do with all of those gems.”

My left eye twitched a bit. Well, Rarity is going to have a gem-gasm when I tell her. “I’ll figure something out. A friend of mine knows a spell that allows her to detect gems. Do any of your people know that spell?”

“No. No we don’t. You will have her teach me this spell so I can teach it to some of my miners.” She grinned wider. “Output will explode with this spell.”

It took me a long time to figure this out, but I think Equestria is a video game. I started penniless and alone, with only my good lucks and natural charm. I grinded charisma for a while and used that to ingratiate myself with the princesses and all of the ponies. Then I started grinding crossbow accuracy and cross-classed a bit with knives. I started off at shit tasks with low pay and worked my way up to hard tasks with ever-increasing pay, and pushed my way through society’s ranks, starting from the outsider and ending up the right hand man of the ruler of the strongest country in the world and a personal friend of the queen of the changelings and an ally of several other people.

I wish I could turn the game off for a while. There was a long period of time back when I was young when I wished anything interesting would happen. I got over that when I started reading a lot, when I realized what ‘interesting’ meant. Then I just wished to live in a world of peace. Well, I got my second wish. And then I learned what a world of peace takes to maintain, and I got my first wish.

Life sucks, and then you die. Unless you lose the ability to die because princesses keep healing you when you get close to death and you can’t die of old age anymore. So I guess life just sucks.

We made good time to our chambers, at least. Taya was up and about, reading through the stuff I had written. I was using her as my basic proof-reader. Twilight fine-tuned everything.

She looked up as we entered. “Password?” I asked.

“Password,” she answered. “How did it go?”

“The way it had to,” I answered with a sigh. I started dropping the armor. Chrysalis looked on in amusement. When I had everything off, I turned to her. “Well, what now?”

“First, feed me. The spells I cast earlier sucked a lot of my strength out.” We stepped close to each other. Her horn lit up and she took what she needed with a smile. “Now, I believe Taya needs to eat.” Taya looked up at that. “Yes, she does. Shall we?”

We most definitely did. Chrysalis led the way back to the mess hall. “So why are you leading us everywhere personally?” I asked her as we sat down at an empty table. We got there at a meal time, so there was plenty to eat. “Don’t you have, like, queenly shit to do?”

She waved a hoof. “I have advisors that can take my place for a few days. They managed while I was imprisoned within Canterlot, and while I was pretending to be Mi Amore Cadenza. Besides, the most important event in my kingdom is happening right here.”

I looked around. “Ponies eating?” I asked after a moment.

She slapped me across the face with magic. At least it wasn’t very hard, like Rarity. Taya glared at her for a moment before turning back to her mushroom marsala.

I looked at her mushroom thing. “There better not be wine in that,” I said to Chrysalis.

“What is wine?”

“Another alcohol. So there really isn’t anything more important happening than killing the Diamond Dogs?”

“Not just that, Nav. You. You are one of the only non-changelings we have peacefully hosted in our caves in a very long time. The only one here that has or is allowed to feed off you is me, unless you give express permission. So you are a peaceful guest here for a purpose other than food. And you are here on behalf of an ally nation of ponies. So you are a high ranking official from another peaceful nation here to help us in our time of need. I would be insulting Equestria if I did not show you around myself.”

“Well, you’re more fun than most of the changelings. None of the officers in that crowd last night laughed at any of my jokes.” Chrysalis smiled at a few, but she didn’t laugh. “And you seem to have a personality, while none of the others do that I’ve seen. Doppel was all over the place with her moods and personalities. Crazy bitch punched me in the face one day. I came out on top, but still!”

“As I recall, you also punched me in the face.”

“Yeah, but you deserved it! I just knocked on your door. She opened it, grabbed me, threw me inside, and jumped on me, demanded an answer to a question, and punched me in the face when I gave a smartass response.”

“It sounds to me like you deserved it,” Chrysalis answered with a grin.

“Yeah, well, she got hers. Speaking of maids, though, I noticed you don’t seem to have one this time. What happened?”

“I do not usually have a maid. Doppel flew with the army without me knowing. She is one of the serving staff assigned to my palace at the main hive. She is… protective of me, I suppose. I was surprised and somewhat pleased to find that she was there to help me through that hard time.”

“I’m glad you had a friend as well. I’m surprised Celestia allowed it, but it is a good thing she did.”

“I did have a friend, Nav. And… thank you.”

“I don’t usually accept thanks for things like this, but you are welcome. I knew you were in a dark place and I knew I could help. I’m glad I took the time to. You know I’ll come if you call, unless my services are required elsewhere.”

“If I call? Are your ears so good as to hear me from Appaloosa?”

I grinned. “Ask your scientists about telephones. I showed him those as well. They could probably make them, eventually. Since all your hives are apparently connected, you could run telephone wires to every hive you have with no issue.”

“I could ask them… or you could tell me. What is a telephone?”

“A way to instantly communicate. On my world, one person could be standing on one side of the world and another person could be standing on the other side and they could talk nearly instantly to each other through a telephone. Every word one person says will be transmitted to the other person and vice versa, and it’s nearly instant, just a few milliseconds off.”

“Amazing. It’s like dragon fire, but with words rather than letters!”

“And anyone can do it. We also have a way to instantly send letters, though they aren’t actual paper letters. It’s some really fascinating stuff. I’ve always wanted to bring some of this tech to Equestria, but Twilight always giggles as she’s writing the letters to the princess about it. I don’t know if she thinks I’m lying or what, but I don’t think she would be much help.”

“You’ve never showed her any of the memories of your past life?”

“Hell no. You remember what you saw. I would be banished from Equestria if I let any of those memories get out. Not even Celestia has seen them. And no one knows my real name yet.”

“I see. Then I shall not discuss my findings with her, as I had planned. I suppose this technology is ours for the keeping, then.”

“When you start making tech, I want some of it. Whenever I move out of Twilight’s house, I want a house that isn’t dependent on magic to run. I miss electricity.”

“I can understand that, given the dependence your world has on it. You will have all that you need from us, of course. After all, none of it would exist if you didn’t tell us how to do it.”

“Awesome.” Taya had finished her food. “So now what?”

“Well, I don’t have anything specific planned, but… Well, no, I don’t think you would be interested in that.”

I shrugged. “So we got a bit of free time?”

She looked disappointed that I didn’t inquire as to what it is I wouldn’t be interested in. “Yes, I have nothing planned. If you are interested, we could talk to more of the intelligentsia. I’m sure you humans have all sorts of strange ideas we could use to increase productivity here in the hive.”

“So another large Q and A session? Neat.”

“Q and A… Question and answer?” I nodded. “Yes. I understand that you do not know what we have in terms of technology, so we will ask you general questions. You will answer as best you can.”

“Easy enough. How long should it take to get together a crowd?”

“Less than an hour. The discussion you had with the military changelings made its rounds, and the civilians want their own shot at you.”

“Chrysalis, no offense, but how do you know all of this? I mean, the changelings seem completely expressionless while around me. I haven’t seen any of them make any reaction to me like I’m a big hero or anything. They seem completely neutral around me.”

“They don’t know what to make of you, that’s why. They don’t want to offend you. The one that asked you a question earlier today, before the assault, was terrified.” I sure couldn’t tell. I was starting to think Chrysalis was either insane or trying to show off something that wasn’t there. She keeps saying things about how much of a hero I am but how they show it differently, but I haven’t seen any emotions here at all. It’s getting to be a bit creepy.

But given that I was trapped here for a bit longer, I was going to stay silent on the matter and just smile and nod. She led us to the auditorium and left us there for almost exactly one hour. Taya was showing off magic when changelings began to shuffle in and take seats. Chrysalis joined us on the stage a few minutes later. She acted as moderator again and I was given questions about everything under the sun. Including the sun, actually. Quite a few asked me if I knew how Celestia was controlling the sun.

I did okay, I suppose. I only know so much. I like to think I’m smart and that I have some decent common sense, but some of their questions were really fucking out there. And I mean ‘fucking’ out there literally. Some asked about sex. I covered Taya’s ears and answered them after giving Chrysalis a glare for letting the questions through.

I don’t even know how long we were there. I just know it took a long time and a lot of thinking. I needed a chalkboard to answer some of their questions, to draw diagrams or something. We took a break to eat and then went right back to it.

Before long, it was time to put Taya back to bed. Chrysalis had me read her another bedtime story, which just seemed creepy as fuck and extremely out of character. But given that she let me pet her earlier, it doesn’t seem that odd. Either way, I did that and went back to writing for a long time.

When morning came—what we assumed was morning, given that we couldn’t see the sun—Chrysalis came into my room and announced, “All of the Diamond Dogs are dead. Not a single one survived.”

“Woopty doo.” I didn’t sound very excited.

She rolled her eyes. “You two can go home after you eat and gather the ponies you are taking with you.”

I began gathering my armor and slipping it on. When I had everything, we all took off to the dining area. “So how are we going to get the ponies out of the cave?” I asked as we walked.

“The same way we got them in. Surround them with changelings and fly.”

“You can’t just teleport them?”

“Well, I could. But I do not make it a point to teleport just anypony.”

“Whatever. So when should I start getting shipments of gems?”

“The first is going with you on your way back. I will unfortunately be unable to return with you, but I will send a few drones with you as carriers and a sentient to learn the spell from your friend.”

“Alright. Now, what kinda gem level are we talking about here? Like, a few hundred this trip?”

For some reason, she smiled at that and refused to answer.

 

 

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