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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59. Chapter Forty-Six—Gryphus Part 1

I love the beginning of fall in Equestria. Ponyville is around the area of north Virginia, pretty close to DC. It gets cold early on and the leaves drop quickly. Faster, when the Running of the Leaves happens. October was always my favorite month back home, and here it is just compounded.

Which is why I was not happy I was leaving Equestria that month. I had already packed everything I needed, all the clothes and my armor and my weapons. “Do you have to go?” Taya asked for the umpteenth time, lying on my bed.

“Yes. I asked Celestia if you could go, and she said no. Didn’t say why.” Actually, she did say why: Apparently the king of griffinland is fucked in the head and likes fillies a lot more than he should. Not just fillies, but kids of all kinds. Innocence, I guess. I snorted when Celestia mentioned that. ‘Innocent’ isn’t something I would use to describe Taya. She would tear that king to pieces. Of course, she would be tearing his dead body to pieces, because if he laid a talon on her, I would rip his dick off and beat him to death with it.

But I wasn’t going to expose her to him if I had the choice. I did raise the point to Celestia that we shouldn’t even deal with a fucking pedophile. She had the relatively decent rebuttal that politics and keeping the peace are a lot more important than morals.

Didn’t mean I had to like it. Pedophiles will get their special place in hell. And if I find any children he’s keeping for his fun, I was going to bust them out. Celestia agreed with me on that, as long as I could do it quietly. I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to get Cadance and Shining Armor to help me on that issue.

I was planning on taking all of the magic things I got from the forest, my axe, the knives, clothes, the crossbow, plenty of bolts, my armor, and plenty of paper. Guard duty is boring as hell, so I was expecting—or at least hoping—I would be able to write during it. God only knows I didn’t want to have to listen to Cadance.

Thankfully, Celestia said that none of the others knew the king was a pedophile. Most ponies would refuse to deal with him if they knew. Cadance, especially, wouldn’t. They would find out right quick if I had to bust any kids out.

That should have been my first hint that she was probably lying, though.

I sighed as I looked over the few bags I was taking. “I really don’t want to do this, Taya.”

“I know. I don’t want you to either.”

“Well, it’s good to know the feeling is mutual. Not like it does us any good. At least I won’t be up all night anymore.” That wasn’t really a blessing, though. Unless I get frequent sunlight, my body starts getting sluggish and will eventually just shut down to sleep a while to recuperate the energy. I suspected that if I started eating more, I could use that energy stored to keep me awake all fall and winter as well, but I hadn’t tested it yet.

Probably wasn’t going to get to any time soon, either. I stooped down to throw the axe over my back. I buckled it on and grabbed my crossbow. I continued with the rest of my weapons. “Fucking cognitive dissonance,” I muttered as I felt their weights settle on me.

Taya looked at me, confused.

“It’s a phrase from my world. It’s when you have two conflicting ideas in your mind at once. I hate the idea of carrying weapons. I hate it so much… All the pain and death I’ve caused. But at the same time, I don’t feel comfortable unless I have cold steel on me, ready to be used in my defense.”

I eschewed a cloak this time. I was over that phase of trying to look cool. Fuck ‘em all; I already knew I wouldn’t blend in here, no matter what I wore. I did have several warmer things packed, though; we were going into fucking Canada, after all.

I looked down at all the bags on the floor. There were only three, but two were bulging, full of clothes and armor. “It’s a good thing they’re coming here,” I said. “I wouldn’t want to have to carry these far.”

“It would be a lot easier if you were wearing your armor,” Twilight said as she walked in. “I’ve gone over the checklist three times, and I believe you have everything you need to impress the king!”

Twilight had a thing for checklists. It used to be a whole lot worse, and I heard horror stories from Spike. Between me and Spike, we got her over a bit of it, but she was still really into them.

“I’m not there to impress the king.” Not officially, anyway. “I’m there to guard Cadance. I don’t know why Celestia’s insisting on sending a pregnant woman as an ambassador, but whatever.” Cadance and Shining Armor didn’t waste much time, that’s for sure. At least she wasn’t very far along; we wouldn’t have to worry about a baby coming. But we would have to worry about Shining Armor being overly protective of her, and we would have to worry about a hormonal chick.

“Well, she can’t exactly send Luna,” Twilight answered. “And ever since Blueblood disappeared…” She shrugged. “Cadance has been doing most of the ambassador missions. She’s been getting run ragged, I hear.”

“Celestia sent two ambassadors—non-royals—to Egypt. Why is this any different?”

“Because the cats are unimportant. No pony cares what they think. We didn’t even know they existed until they started causing problems! Everypony knows about griffins, and griffins have been our neighbors for hundreds of years. They have to be given the best.” She muttered something I didn’t hear. “Now let’s get all this downstairs. Don’t want to keep them waiting when they get here!”

“Twilight, this’ll be the first time in a while since you saw your brother. It wouldn’t kill them to stay and talk for a bit.” She grabbed my bags with a purple aura and they started following her down the stairs. She didn’t answer me.

Taya and I followed her down. I bumped into Spike on the way there. “When I get back, we’re going hunting,” I told him. “So be ready.”

He smiled. “About time! I don’t know why you wanted to wait until it got cold…”

“Tradition. Fall and winter were the hunting seasons back where I come from. I may not be there anymore, but I might as well keep some things from that time.” Man, it’s hard to think there will be a time where I’ve been in Equestria longer than Earth.

I made it to the main room of the library, where all of my bags were sitting, ready to be packed onto whatever ride we were getting. I assumed we were going by pegasus chariot. Anything else would probably take a while.

So color me surprised when a ladder plopped down outside of the library and Shining Armor climbed down it like that was somehow logical. He entered the library with a smile. His smile dropped when he saw me. “Put your armor on, Nav. You’re there to impress the king, after all.” Twilight smirked at me.

When she got done smirking at me, she rushed forward to hug her brother. I was dumping my bag at the time, so I had a hard time hearing them. I heard airship and stopped. “We’re going in one of those things?” I asked.

I had seen airships here in the past. They’re basically small blimps, Hindenburgs or something. I was honestly surprised they weren’t used more often, but I also didn’t care.

Shining Armor nodded. “Yep. The princess gave us one since our entourage is so large. It would take too many chariots to get everything there, and it would take too long to go by foot. We never built train tracks over the mountains toward the griffin territory, so she decided an airship would be fine.”

I started dropping weapons and putting armor on. I didn’t really like feeling enclosed in that stuff, but I’ve been through worse.

Shining looked at the bags on the floor. “Is this really all you’re bringing?”

“I travel light. I assume the griffins take bits? Or do I need to carry some gems?”

He blinked. “How do you have gems?”

“I own a gem mine now, apparently.” I shrugged.

“Bits are fine.” I finished putting my armor on. “Are you ready?”

“You just got here and now you want to leave? Don’t you want to talk to your sister?”

“We do need to get there, Nav…”

“Shiny, I’ve been away from my sister for years now. You really shouldn’t take her for granted.” I grabbed the two bags and started hauling them out. Taya followed me out. I thought about it for a few seconds and then tied the bags to the end of the rope. I bent down and grabbed Taya. “I’ll see you when I get back.”

“I know.” She sighed. “Just… come back.”

I let her go. “I fully plan on it.” I looked up at the airship and gave a light whistle. “Good God.” It was larger than most of the others I had seen. A large purple balloon sat on top of it, and propellers sat on the back. It really looked like a boat with a balloon on top. In fact… it looked familiar. That’s the pirate ship! What the hell?

Wait, more importantly, why the hell does that ship have propellers, but they can’t put propellers on the ships in the water? I swear, these ponies are fucktarded sometimes.

I grabbed the ladder and began to climb. I was halfway up to the ship before I remembered that I had wings. I kept climbing, because it had been a long time since I got to use a ladder.

When I pulled myself over the railing, I saw Rainbow Dash talking to a familiar unicorn. It was that bitch that threw me around with magic back on the ship. This is going to be a long trip. I pulled the ring out of the pouch around my neck and slipped it on. They noticed me when I was putting my gauntlet back on.

And as soon as they noticed me, I had Rainbow Dash in my face. “This thing is so awesome! I can’t believe you get to ride on this thing all the way up to Gryphus!” For anyone not familiar, that’s the griffin—or griffon or gryphon—capital.

“I’ve been on this ship before,” I said. “But it was in water at the time. I bet the blood stains have been cleaned out as well.” She paled a bit at that. “You didn’t know? This used to be a pirate ship. Quite a few of them called this place home.” I grinned. “I evicted them. Your friend over there helped,” with a nod to the murderous unicorn that was glaring at me.

In a quiet voice, Rainbow just said “Oh.” She gulped. “I’ll uh… I’ll see you when you get back, Nav.” She jumped over the edge.

I took one look at the unicorn and walked over to the entrance of the under deck. I opened it and went down. The entire place had changed. Where before it smelled of death and fear, now it seemed to smell of flowers and ponies. I found Cadance in a room, writing something down.

“Where’s my room?” I asked, standing at the door.

She looked up at me and smiled. “Hello, Nav. You know, I’ve heard some interesting news from Luna…” Her smile grew wider.

“Where’s my room?”

“She said you finally agreed to date her. I’m so happy for you both!”

“I bet she didn’t mention that her sister is considering taking me as a consort.” Her mouth dropped. “So where’s my room?”

“W-w-what?”

“It’s not a hard question. Where is. My room. You know, where I’m going to be sleeping and staying? The place I’m going to hide from that bitchy unicorn that wants to kill me? You must be working too hard if you can’t figure this one out.”

Her horn lit up. Nothing happened. I crossed my arms over my chest, looking at her. Now she was gaping again.

“Oh, Celestia didn’t tell you? I found a ring that gives me immunity to magic. You’ll have to stab me if you want to stop me, now. Funny thing: I found a key that opens any lock, too.” I pulled it out. “Including minds.” I concentrated. “Where’s my room?”

Her eyes went blank. “You don’t have one. It shouldn’t take us a day to get there, and we’re all staying in the embassy.” She blinked, shaking her head. “What did you do to me?”

“Oh, you know.” I waved a hand while putting the key away. “I’ll see you later, I suppose.” I walked back up to the deck before she could say anything.

I didn’t see Crazy Bitch McFucklips on the deck, but given that there was one entrance below decks, I was assuming she was just standing somewhere I couldn’t see her. I approached the front of the ship and leaned against the rail, looking down. Hope I don’t fall with this ring on.

It wasn’t long before I heard the clopping of hooves approach me. I didn’t turn. “I don’t want hard feelings on my boat, Nav,” I heard a familiar voice say. It sounded like that fellow that was the de facto leader of the pirate slaves. Didn’t remember his name. Didn’t really care, either.

“You don’t have any from me,” I answered, still not turning. “You should be talking to Crazy Bitch McFucklips. I’m immune to magic and poison now, so the only way she’ll kill me is by stabbing me with that horn. And while I’m wearing this armor, she won’t be able to do even that.”

He started giggling when I said her name, or at least what I was calling her. He clammed up when I mentioned my new talents. “Immune to magic, eh?” He shut up for a second. After a moment, he grunted. “Well I’ll be. How’d you pull that off?”

“Enchanted ring. I leave her alone, she leaves me alone. End of story. In fact, I’d rather just be left alone by everyone. I’m a knight now, so if she lays a hoof on me, I’ll have her in irons. We have an understanding?”

“Seems fair to me. But wouldn’t you rather make peace?”

“No. I’ve done nothing to her, other than save her from a life of slavery. If this is how she chooses to repay me, I might as well do her the favor of staying out of her business.”

“I see. Would you be willing to talk to a few of the others, at least? Some… haven’t been doing as well as others. We’re all in this business together; it doesn’t take much to keep this scow operational. No pony wanted to buy a ship with such a dark history, but Princess Celestia took pity on us and gave us a neat little solution. We all said we were done with the sea, but… Well, we’re not on the sea!”

“Yeah, and what happens when you fall off?”

“Those of us without wings stay away from the edge,” I heard Shining Armor say as he walked up. I didn’t hear him heave himself over the top, but then, I was a bit distracted.

“You get used to heights,” I answered. “When are we casting off?”

“As soon as the captain returns to his post,” he answered.

“Aye aye, sir,” the captain said, presumably saluting. I heard him walk off. Shining Armor stayed.

“Shiny, I might have a bit of a problem with one of the mares here.”

“Don’t call me that. What kind of problem?”

“I saved her from slavery and she tried to kill me twice until I threatened to cut off her horn and shove it up her ass.” Actually, I don’t remember what I threatened to do with it, but I know I was going to cut it off.

“I see. Well, as long as she leaves you alone now, there won’t be a problem.” I felt a judder as the ship kicked into gear and began to move. “Your bags are stowed below with the others. Has Celestia already briefed you?”

“Yeah. Show up, look good, be impressive, guard Cadance. If the king gets uppity, slap his shit.”

“The first four are good. Don’t lay a hoof—or hand—on the king. I’d prefer you not talking to him at all, but if he asks you a question, you need to answer it. He’s not at all like the princesses.”

“I’ve met a king and a queen before. I’ll be fine.”

“You’ve met a king of a backwater and a queen that was basically a vassal. This is different, Nav.”

“Buck up, prince. I’ll be fine.”

“P-p-prince!?”

“Yeah. You married a princess. The fuck you think that makes you?” That’s one reason I sure wasn’t in any hurry to get married to Luna. Not a fan of marriage and I sure don’t want to be a prince.

“I… I never thought of that before. I’m… I’m a prince!” He started giggling. “I wonder what kind of authority I have now… I bet Cadance knows!” It sounded like he took a step back, but he stopped. “Nav, why are you looking out there, anyway?”

“See that mare glaring at me next to the captain?”

“Uh… no?”

“Well, I’m sure she’s somewhere. I don’t want to see her. Besides, I like watching the plebeians run about their day like little insects.”

“That’s… kinda messed up.”

“Yeah. I just said that to see what kind of reaction I’d get. You’ll do fine as a prince. I shouldn’t have to do to you what I did to Blueblood.”

“What… what did you do to Blueblood?”

“Well, when was the last time you saw him?”

“Um… You didn’t… you couldn’t… Did you?”

“No. I just wanted to see your reaction again.”

“You’re terrible, Nav. I’m going to see my wife, unless you need anything.”

“You still want to talk about my time back home? I’m sure we have some time, if you do.”

“I have some things to get squared away. We’ll have time during the week.”

“See you whenever, then. Don’t make her moan too loud, now.”

He beat a hasty retreat at that. I knew he didn’t like being teased, which is of course why I did it. Sure, he could make my life hell if he wanted to, but I could make his worse—and shorter. Being a knight apparently has some interesting perks that I never planned on taking advantage of if I could help it.

I was alone there for nearly an hour, watching the countryside pass by. Good things never last, I’ve found. I heard a pony clop up to me. “Sir,” a male voice said, “do you have any orders?”

What the fuck? I turned around and saw a bat-winged night guard standing there. “What the fuck?”

He looked at me, confused, and said, “Princess Luna placed me under your command for this mission, sir.”

“Then Princess Luna is smoking crack. Did she give you anything to give me?”

I saw a light click on in his head. He patted all over before pulling a letter out from under his armor and handing it to me.

“This better not be sweaty,” I said as I grabbed it. He smiled sheepishly as I opened it. “Blah blah, Sunshine Smiles asked to guard you, blah blah don’t get hurt, blah.” I looked up. “What the fuck, dude?”

“Well… After what you did for us, the night guards want to make sure nothing bad happens to you. Princess Luna was all too happy to allow one of us to accompany you to the griffin capital. We all wanted to send more, but it would be suspicious enough sending one along with you.”

“I don’t see why, honestly. Both to sending any and as to why one would be suspicious. When have I—Never mind.” I looked back to see how far away we were. “Too damn far to send you back.” I turned back to him and crossed my arms, leaning against the rails. “So. Does Shining Armor know about you?”

“Yes sir. I reported to him first.”

“Cut the sir crap, unless you absolutely feel the need to annoy me. Shit, I bet you’re supposed to be sleeping right now, aren’t you?”

“Well… I usually am asleep right now, yes.”

“You ain’t much use to me dead tired, Smiles. Though to be fair, I honestly don’t know what use you’ll be to me at all. With the onset of fall, I start sleeping again. And it has to be at night, or my body will start to shut down. Resetting a sleep schedule is hell on the body and on the mind, as I’m sure you know. All of my activities will be during the day, when you are asleep. You’d probably be better off joining the small night guard contingent Cadance has guarding her. I won’t tell Luna if you don’t.”

“You can’t get rid of me that easily, sir. She told me personally to make sure nothing happened to her soon-to-be special somepony. Or… somehuman, I suppose.” I wish there was a way I could make myself look more threatening. Orange hair just doesn’t do enough.

“And this letter says you have to follow my orders.”

“But the princess told me to guard you. From what she told me, making sure you get home safe is more important to me than making sure Princess Cadance gets home safe.”

“Well, my life is forfeit if Cadance doesn’t make it back. Celestia would have my head mounted above her throne if anything happens to Cadance. And given that there will be no threats to my person, I believe that making sure Cadance returns safely will give me the highest chance of keeping my head.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m not having this debate with you, sir. I’m going to guard you if I have to sneak around to do it.”

“For fuck’s sake… Fine. Good luck staying awake, Smiles.” I saw him living up to his namesake before I turned back around and began watching the passing scenery again.

Silence reigned for a good little while. I saw the scenery slowly change from coniferous forests to evergreen forests. We passed a few small settlements, each full of ponies. I saw more and more different races the further north we went. The most common were still ponies, but griffins and a few dogs began to show up. Of course, it was hard to tell as high up as we were, but we also ran into plenty of fliers.

It was a nice day out wherever we went, apparently. I later learned that Celestia had this path opened up for us all the way there so that our airship didn’t run into any bad weather. Rather nice of her.

Silence never lasts. It’s a shame. I heard the guard come to attention and then a gentle clopping of hooves come up to me. “Would you mind leaving us, guard?” Cadance asked.

“Don’t move, Smiles,” I said, turning. “He’s my assurance, Cadance. You throw me over the side, I have a witness.”

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t want to hurt you, Nav. I just want to talk.” She cast a sidelong glance to the guard. “About private things. Besides, you have wings.”

“We have nothing private between us, Cadance. Nor is there anything I wish to make private or discuss that might be private. I solve my problems, no one else.”

“Don’t make me order you to talk about this, Nav.”

“You can’t order me to do shit.”

“Your oaths would require you obey me!”

“My oaths were revoked by Luna herself. I’m a knight in name, not in oath.”

Her eyes widened. “How did… Why would she do that?”

I smiled. “I gave her an offer. Nav, or Sir Navarone.”

She looked disgusted. “How dare you hold love ransom?! You monster!” Her horn lit up but nothing happened. She grit her teeth.

“I honestly don’t consider that holding love ransom. If you were forced to follow every command Shining Armor gave you, could you love him? Could you happily have a relationship with someone that has complete control over you?”

“Somepony that loved me would never order me to do something that I didn’t want to!”

“I’m so very happy for you. I don’t have the same luck, since I’m not a princess that lives in happy fairy tale world. I live in a place called reality. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Here’s a bit of an introduction: It fucking sucks. What did you want to talk about?”

“Why do you hate me, Nav?”

I blinked. I opened my mouth to respond, but I had to close it. Why am I so mean to her? “That’s a good question. I could give a few reasons, but some are blunt and painful. Do you really want to hear them?” She gave a stiff nod. “I don’t really like the color pink. Your voice is somewhat annoying. Ever since you’ve met me, you’ve been trying to get me to talk about something that is in no way your business and I’ve told you repeatedly that I do not want to talk about it and yet you persist in annoying me anyway. I’m sick and tired of fucking ponies that refuse to leave me alone. You are a princess and yet you have no idea what it takes to take and hold a throne. You were born into the role—or were perhaps adopted as Blueblood was, I don’t know—and thus have no experience living on a day to day basis, trying to make sure you stay alive. You don’t know what it takes to do my job and automatically assume I have it easy and can spend all day talking to you about something you have no business discussing. While that is currently true, I’ve pulled jobs in the past where I would have been killed for daring to open my mouth out of place. The first time we met, you assumed you knew me based on what you had heard around the palace and from what Celestia and perhaps Luna had told you, and when you realized I didn’t live up to what you were told, you seemed personally offended or very scared, one of the two.” Though that was fair enough, given that I was threatening to torture anyone that attacked her. “Now, a question of my own: Why don’t you hate me?”

She looked like she was about to cry. The night guard looked like his eyes were going to bulge out of his head. She finally managed to answer, “Because you’re broken. You don’t mean to hurt me, you just do it because you can’t stand to let anypony close to you.”

“If thinking that makes you feel better. Now, what did you want to talk about?”

“…It can wait, I think. I will… see you later, Navarone.” She walked away, head hung low.

When she was out of earshot, Sunshine said, “It isn’t my business, but that was really mean.”

I didn’t say anything, just turned around and watched the scenery change some more. What was there to say? He was right. It really was mean. And he was also right when he said it wasn’t his business. God I wish I had some alcohol… Vinyl needs to get off her ass and start making some.

Is it bad, that I felt a strong urge to jump off the side of the airship? To tell Sunshine Smiles to go get me something from below decks and just fall, letting my body painlessly hit the ground? To finally find peace among the ponies…

I almost did it, when I heard more clopping behind me. “What is your business?” the guard demanded.

“I want to talk to the human,” a female voice said.

“Sir?”

I turned to look. Just one of the random ex-slaves. “What do you want?” I asked her.

“I wanted to thank you again. For saving us, and for helping us after. I know you didn’t want to talk to us, but everything you told us helped us get better. But… not all of us are doing so well.”

“Your captain mentioned that. I told you it would be hard. I’m having problems of my own.”

“Just as you said you would?” I nodded. “You know you can talk to any of us. And you know we are always willing to talk to you. Except for Sunny, who still hates you even though she’s the one that took your advice most to heart.”

“Just because I can doesn’t mean I should. I’ve picked up problems since we last spoke. Dark problems. I’ll not burden any of your minds with them, but if you’ll all do me a favor, I will listen to those that need more help.”

“Anything, Nav. Ask and we’ll do it.”

“Keep a very, very watchful eye on your children—your foals—in Gryphus. I’ve heard bad rumors, and I wouldn’t want any of them hurt.”

She nodded. “Princess Celestia has heard the same rumors. She allowed us to keep our foals in Canterlot for the duration of this mission.”

“Yeah, she’s a pretty nice lady. I guess I don’t need a favor anymore. Tough luck, I suppose.”

She grinned. “You wouldn’t turn any of us away if we really needed help. You’re too nice.”

“That’s an opinion. I just sent that pretty princess away in tears.”

“She didn’t need help though, did she?”

“I don’t know. She didn’t get to what she wanted to talk about. I doubt it, though; she’s been bugging me for a while.”

“I’ll send some of them on over, then.”

“One at a time. You know the drill.”

She nodded. “Of course. I don’t know why you insisted upon that, though.” The real reason was that I figured I could handle at most one unicorn at a time back when I wasn’t immune to magic. I kept my crossbow loaded every time one of them came by, so I could easily kill them before they could react. The reason I told them is that they could talk more freely without anyone there to judge them or to make them shy about their problems. The fake reason is pretty good, if I do say so myself.

She left. The guard gave me a bit of a confused look. “Don’t worry about it,” I told him. He shrugged.

I spent the rest of the ride talking to depressed unicorns. It made me feel better about myself, but that isn’t saying much.

I noticed that as we got further north, the fewer houses I began to see. Instead, I saw large trees that looked relatively hollowed out. In a lull between slaves, I asked the guard, “Do griffins live in trees or something?”

“Those that aren’t in the capital do usually live in trees, yes. The capital is styled after more modern architecture. It is a city closer to Canterlot than to other griffin towns, but it does have a few trees.”

“Hope they never have a dragon problem… We getting grub on this barge, or are they going to feed us when we arrive?”

“I don’t know, sir.” I guess he wants to annoy me. I hate titles.

 

The griffin capital looked dull—and I mean that in two ways. It looked dark, bereft of brightness. And it looked boring, lacking much to do. As soon as we got within sight of the city, we picked up a griffin escort that lazily followed us as we entered the city proper.

Smiles was right: the city appeared styled after a Canterlot that was on a plain, rather than built onto the side of a mountain. Missing were all the bright and cheerful colors, replaced by a sad and somber grey and black. Rather than the tile roofs that grace the many buildings of Canterlot, most of the roofs here were thatched, presumably to help keep in warmth; without magic, they had to make do. From my time in Africa, I knew how much that sucked.

Hopefully we would have magic rooms and stuff since we were going to be in an embassy. Surely there would be a few unicorns that could regulate the temperature. I could feel a nip in the air already, and it didn’t help that we were high up. I envied the griffins their feathery coverings, and wrapped my body as well as I could in my wings. Armor is not made for cold weather.

Shining Armor, Cadance, and the rest of the guards came out on deck ten minutes before we got off. “Everypony get ready to disembark,” Shiny called. “This ship isn’t coming back for three weeks. You leave something on board, it stays on board.”

I turned to my guard. “Smiles, is all your gear ready to go?”

“Not yet, sir.”

“Then let’s go get our stuff.” I led the way to the storage area. The ship had very few passengers, and most of them were above and waiting to get off. We had no trouble finding our bags.

Thankfully, neither of us had much of anything. “Need help with that, sir?” he asked, watching me heft a bag over my shoulder.

“No. I dearly hope you have everything, because if you have to stay in that armor until we’re done here, you are going to freeze your ass off.”

“I have everything.” We went back up topside to find that we were getting awfully close to the castle. It was a large, ugly thing. Nothing at all like the castle at Canterlot. First glances from far away gave this thing a lot more credit than it was due. This castle just looked cold: Dark, empty, unpleasant… I don’t know how else to describe it, honestly.

We were getting a little too close to the tower. Like, way too close. The guards and I both were starting to get uncomfortable, and we were looking around anxiously. The griffin escort we had picked up had apparently been trying to get us to stop or something, but had given up and were high-tailing it away from whatever they expected to happen.

I calmly pulled my gauntlet off and removed my ring, sliding it into the pouch around my neck. “If we hit that castle, drop your shit and fucking bail,” I warned my guard. “We can buy more of whatever you had. We can’t buy more you.”

He gulped. “You got it, sir.”

Shining Armor and Cadance were looking confident, though. I assumed there was a plan that we weren’t told about. Well, Cadance was looking more confident than Shiny, but then she also had wings. All of the unicorns I could see that manned the ship were doing fine, though.

We didn’t hit the castle, of course. Though I have to admit, it would have been awesome if we had—until the griffins interpreted it as an act of war, at least. We jerked upwards at the last moment and stopped right next to a spire, a quick step away. There was a griffin there waiting for us.

“Princess Cadance?” the fellow said, looking at the pink alicorn. She nodded. “Come this way. You will be shown to your quarters, and then you will be brought before the king.”

“Lead the way, please.” He did. We all followed him. Cadance was at his side, talking to him about what to expect. Shiny was watching over the guards, giving small orders every now and then to make sure they were tip-top. We had six regular day guards, four night guards, me, Shining Armor, Sunshine Smiles, and Cadance.

Whereas the halls of Canterlot Castle had rich carpets and colorful tapestries, this place had stone floors and mostly bare walls. There were almost no decorations at all. The few tapestries we passed were darker and depicted much more gory scenes. Cadance grimaced at a few of them, but didn’t say anything.

It didn’t take us long to get to where we were being led: A small wing of the castle. I didn’t comment on that in front of the griffin, but when we all set our stuff down in our rooms—and I was given a room to myself, thank God—I found Shining Armor. “This is not an embassy,” I told him.

“It is, in a way. Since the griffins and ponies are neighbors, we keep each other’s ambassadors more comfortable. Whenever ambassador parties come from here, we put them up in the palace. Whenever our ambassadors come here, they stay in these rooms.”

That isn’t at all like my world, then. There, our ambassadors have their own buildings and are almost always staffed. Or at least, I think that’s how it works; I wasn’t exactly given an education in world politics.

I just shook my head and went back to my relatively nice room. Stowing away my gear was easy: Throw the bag of clothes in a corner to be ransacked as needed.

Look, I’m a bachelor. I can do this shit.

Sunshine Smiles felt the need to rain on my parade, though. “Sir, why are your clothes in the corner? That’s highly unprofessional.”

“Dude, when have I ever given you a vibe that indicates I know what the fuck I’m doing? I just listen to my instincts; my mind is along for the ride.”

“I don’t believe that for a minute… sir.”

“You’re doing that on purpose.” He played innocent. “Whatever. When are we leaving?”

“Three minutes. Two, now. I hope you’re ready.”

“I am. You need to stay here; my job is to impress the king by being a kickass mofo. If I show up with a guard, that is going to seriously crimp my style. That ain’t up for debate, either, you hear me?”

“I know. Princess Luna said you would insist on that. Since it fits with the main mission imperative and since you’ll be surrounded by our guards anyway there shouldn’t be an issue.”

“Whatever. Feel free to do whatever floats your boat as long as it doesn’t involve rooting around in my stuff.”

“Yes sir.”

“And knock that shit off. Seriously, you’re probably older than I am.”

“Well, how old are you?”

“…Twenty something. I don’t remember anymore.”

“I see… sir.” He was smirking as he said it.

“Fuck you, Smiles.” I left the room at that. I loaded my crossbow as I walked to the small group of ponies that looked like they were getting ready to meet a king.

Cadance was at their head. It was just one guard, Shining Armor, her, and then me. I holstered my crossbow as I joined them. “You won’t need that, Nav,” Shiny told me.

“Okay,” is all I said. I didn’t make any move to unload it. I remember what happened the last time I got back from a meeting with a king when I wasn’t armed. Assassins could kill Cadance all they wanted, but they weren’t going to catch me unawares.

“Navarone, please…” Cadance said.

I looked at her. “Do you know what happened the last time I was in an embassy?” She shook her head. “Assassins. Assassins everywhere.” Actually, there were only two of them. Well, unless you count Kat. “You can laze about if you want. Me, I’m not getting caught with my pants down. If those fuckers want my blood, they’re going to have to work for it.”

“You’re here to guard Cadance, Nav, not yourself,” Shiny told me, a bit of sharpness to his voice.

“My safety comes first, to me. I’m not patriotic. I’m not loyal. I’m not self-sacrificing. I’m here because I have to be. Don’t forget that.”

“I won’t,” he forced through gritted teeth.

Cadance, however, rolled her eyes. “Don’t pay him any mind, Shiny. He’s just lying to make himself look tough. He might not like me, but he’ll do his job.”

The unimportant redshirt hissed, nodding down the hall. We all saw a griffin approaching. I popped my neck as it approached. “This is the group that will see the king?” he asked when he was close enough. Cadance nodded. “Come with me, then.” Off we went, down more drafty halls.

We were walking for a few minutes when I said, “So uh… What’s the king’s name, anyway?”

“Bloodbeak,” the griffin answered, not turning.

Well that’s a bit ominous. “Is his beak bloody, or did his parents just like odd names?”

“His parents just liked odd names,” the griffin answered. I think he was grinning, but it was hard to tell from this angle. It was also hard to tell because he had a fucking beak instead of a mouth.

The throne room didn’t have doors. We were led straight in and I got my first look at the king.

He was boring looking, just like his castle. Old and grey, the only sparks of life on him were his eyes, which watched us—no, they just watched me—approach. He stood when we were halfway to him. “Why do you bring a heavily armed freak to me, Cadance?”

“I may be a freak, but at least I ain’t a peckerface.”

Oh shit.

One hand shot to my knife before I realized the king was laughing. Shining Armor was glaring at me. Cadance was giving me a pained look. The guard had his eyes squeezed shut, thinking he was about to die. The king’s guards were watching impassively. And the king was still giggling slightly. I slowly eased my hand off the dagger.

“So they were right!” he finally boomed. “The ponies finally sent me a warrior! Something with fire in his blood! I don’t know what a pecker is, but from your reaction, I’m guessing it was a grand insult. I heard the reports of how you won the tournament in Prance, so I shan’t bother you for details of your ‘battles.’ I’m sure your parts in them were things none would care to hear. Now come, all of you. Let us feast.”

With that, he descended from his small dais and walked toward our group. Shock and surprise replaced horror on the faces of Shiny and Cadance. And probably my own, honestly. I did my best to look nonchalant, but it didn’t seem to be working. The king walked through our group. Cadance stepped aside to let him pass by her. Thankfully, he didn’t get near me.

But… “Walk with me, Navarone,” he said as he passed.

I stepped to his side, walking next to him. I heard Shiny whisper, “What just happened?” No one answered him. I wish I knew what just happened as well.

“You know, you’re the first royal I’ve met that was cool with an insult being the first thing out of my mouth,” I commented as we walked.

“I know about you, Navarone. Irreverent. Rude. Crude. Blunt. Loyal and self-sacrificing.” Shiny snorted at that. “Kind to anything not an enemy—and kind to them as long as they are kind in turn. Once you defeat them, of course. And from the things I’ve heard, you will defeat them, even if you have to resort to less than pleasant tactics to do so. Tell me, have you ever had an honorable fight?”

“Yes. Well, sort of. I ran into an assassin once that I had to fight face to face. I tackled him, using my superior strength to ruin his day. We both had daggers, but I knew if I had to fight with that, I would end up dead.”

“You are one I would never hope to fight, Navarone. Not in a war and not in a duel—and I’ve heard you were involved in one of those as well. Though I heard you didn’t fight fair.”

“You are correct, I didn’t. Why would I?”

“Because fighting fair and honorably allows those around you to know that the winner won from a superior fighting ability.”

“It doesn’t matter who’s a better fighter. At the end of the day, all that matters is who walks away and who doesn’t. If I can win a fight with my brain rather than my skills as a fighter, I can go home to my daughter a happy man—because it means I didn’t risk her father’s life doing something as stupid as fighting.”

“If you think that, why would you not learn to be the best fighter you can be so you take fewer risks?”

“Because warriors are a dime-a-dozen. Anyone can swing a blade or bash a skull in. Thinkers… No, generals are irreplaceable. If I can prove my worth by leading men and outsmarting the enemy, I’ll never find myself in the path of a sword again, until I find myself facing someone smarter than I am and I lose it all. I’d rather not be forced to fight at all, but if I had to, I would choose to lead from the back rather than fight at the front.”

“All the hatchlings grow up dreaming to become a soldier to fight. So very few grow up dreaming to cower behind them.”

“Any leader that fights with his men is an idiot. They need to be at the back, coordinating the assault using messengers and signals. If the enemy changes tactics, the commander must order his troops to respond immediately. They can’t tell what the enemy army is doing if they are in the thick of battle. At the back, they can use fliers to keep up with the flow of the battle and use those same fliers to send messages to the commanders of the individual parts of the army to correspond immediately to whatever the enemy attempts. And if, at the end of the day, your army is routed… Which would you rather make it back home? A bedraggled infantryman, or the commander leading the force?”

“The infantry can fight another day. A commander that failed me so would be put to death.”

“More fool you. No one can win every battle. Some are impossible. Sometimes you fight for a reason other than winning. If you kill every commander that loses, you will soon find yourself lacking people smart enough to lead, meaning you’ll lose more and more battles. There are indicators that your commander is an idiot and you need to look out for them, but if you put someone to death for a single loss? You’re going to lose the war and I’m afraid to say that you’ll deserve it.”

“Navarone!” Cadance hissed. I looked back at her to see her glaring at me. She flicked her eyes at the king, who I saw was looking at me with confusion.

He slowly said, “You are the only one I have ever had dare tell me I was a fool. And I have said many foolish things in my long life.”

“Well, I’ve punched a queen in the face before, so don’t think I haven’t done worse. You said it yourself, though: I am blunt and I am irreverent. We don’t have kings where I come from because we killed them.” Only partly true. “They started pushing their people too hard, so the people revolted. Royal blood sheds just as easily as peasant blood, if you can get to it.”

“So your people live in anarchy?”

“No. We elect our leaders. Everyone that is above a certain age is allowed to cast a vote for a candidate that is running for the position of president. The president stays in power for a short time and is then put up for reelection. In my country, they can be elected twice before having to stand down and pass the flag. Just about anyone can run for president, but convincing the people that you deserve to win is the hard part. You have to travel extensively to get your name in the minds of the people. You have to give speeches and make promises that you need to fulfill upon being elected.”

“And your president then becomes the king?”

“No. Not a king as you know it. We have three branches: Executive, legislative, and judicial.” I briefly explained how they worked.

“I see. You mentioned a Constitution. What is that?” I told him. “Why would you need to protect rights that are inalie… universal?”

“Because there are good people in my world and there are bad people in my world. The good want to stay free and the bad want to take power and do as they wish. The Constitution ensures that the people that are neither good nor bad will know when the bad people are trying to take power. If any of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution start disappearing… It’s time to break out the guns and have another Revolution.”

He nodded slowly. “We have had… our own problems with that. We shall discuss this more later.” He stopped at a door that a servant opened for him. “Let us eat.” He led the way inside. A large table was within, and he promptly took his place at the head. He beckoned me to his right-hand side. I joined him with a shrug. Cadance was positioned at his left, with Shiny next to her. The redshirt started to stand behind her but I pointed him next to me. He ignored me.

“The best measure of a leader, I have found, is how they treat those under them,” the king commented as he saw the exchange. “The ambassador is safe here, soldier. You may join us.”

Shining Armor glared at me as the soldier stiffly moved to sit next to me. I shrugged. I am going to be in soooo much trouble when we get back to the embassy. The king noticed that too, but didn’t say anything. As soon as the redshirt sat down, the table began to fill up with more griffins. Various nobles and dignitaries, I suppose; none were introduced to me. I slid my gauntlets off as servants began to bring out food.

I grinned massively as they dropped a smoked boar in front of me and the king. Oh, and Cadance, who was looking at it in mute horror. Shiny and the guard had similar reactions. There was no silverware or anything like that for me, so I wondered a moment how I was supposed to eat this thing or carve anything off.

The king answered that for me by gripping one of the legs and tearing it off.

Right in front of Cadance. I think some grease landed in her hair.

I wish I had a camera. Oh my God, I wish I had a camera.

As soon as the king took a large bite from what he had ripped off, the other griffins began eating. The servants had dropped vegetarian fare off for the ponies, and there was plenty of bread and whatnot for them besides. They also gave me a salad that I promptly pushed to the guard next to me. I jerked my knife out and carved into the pig.

Shiny jumped back. “You eat meat?!”

I pulled the hunk of boar to my plate. “Uh, yeah? Didn’t you notice my teeth?”

“And Celestia let you live with Twiley?” His tone was starting to sound dangerous.

“Yeah. Twilight has known since she met me. Cadance knew, too.” I took a bite of the boar. It was like an angel came in my mouth. I let out a sigh and said to the king, “I don’t eat meat nearly enough anymore.” Less time to hunt, with Taya. “I don’t suppose I could get some kind of jerky or something before I leave to take back with me?”

“That can be arranged,” he said in an approving tone. He winked at me.

Cadance pushed her plate away, having eaten almost nothing. “Please don’t encourage him, your majesty. I know that he can eat meat, but he doesn’t have to.”

“Yeah, and you can eat cupcakes,” he replied. “But wouldn’t you prefer a life with them? Such is meat to a meat eater. We can live without it, but why? Surely Celestia wouldn’t send a pony with such sensibilities to be an ambassador to the griffins!”

“I was her only choice. Blueblood disappeared, Luna is unable to leave Canterlot for some time, and Celestia herself has to deal with something very important.” I wonder what that would be. “Our closest allies require royalty, so royalty was sent.”

“I see. And yet we offend you. How do you expect to make any manner of deal like this?”

“I would prefer to not speak business over dinner,” she calmly replied.

“A wise mare,” the king said. “So be it. Eat, or don’t. Business for us begins tomorrow. Bring out the mead!” he commanded.

I dropped the hunk of boar I was working on. “Did you say… mead? As in honey alcohol?”

“There is honey involved, yes,” the king said as servants began to pour golden liquid into mugs at our sides. “I don’t know the rest of the making of it.”

I grabbed the mug with a shaking hand and sipped at it. Oh sweet Jesus. “I was summoned to the wrong place in this world,” I said. I tilted the mug back and drained the booze. I set the cup back down and looked over the pig at Cadance. “Is it too late to tender my resignation as a knight to move up to the griffin lands?”

The king boomed out a laugh. “You are welcome up here, Navarone!”

Cadance, however, was not amused. “Yes, it is too late. I believe you know why.”

“Geez, you just don’t know how to take a joke. Also uh… You probably shouldn’t drink any of that mead. Unicorns don’t mix with alcohol, and I know one of you has had bad experiences with it.”

Shiny and Cadance shared a glance. Both of their horns lit up, the mugs floated over to them, and they drained them.

Shining Armor raised his eyebrows. “This is better than the stuff you gave us, Nav!”

“This was made better, that’s why,” I replied. “And mead is just awesome. I’ll have to get the recipe before we leave.”

Cadance shook her head. “Princess Celestia banned the import of this, Nav,” she said. “I don’t think she’ll be pleased to find you making it.”

“I see.” I was totally going to do it anyway. Celestia has been reading my journals, so I know she knows I’ve been making booze. If she hasn’t stopped me yet, she probably wasn’t going to. I continued eating.

I noticed that the guard next to me was chatting up the chick next to him. They were talking about battles they have both been in or something. Apparently this guard was a veteran of many Everfree monster fights. Since no one else around me was talking, I started listening in.

And from the sounds of it, somepony was getting laid tonight. I’ve fucked a griffin before and I have to say that I felt sorry for him. But I wasn’t about to ruin it for him, so I kept my mouth shut.

When the king finished eating—and he ate over half that boar by himself—he said, “So Navarone, why were you sent with the ponies?”

Cadance said, “As a gua—”

“To impress you,” I said, cutting her off. “They figured a warlike creature would be better suited to impress the king of a warlike people than a pony, even one decked out in armor.” Cadance and Shiny both glared at me.

“It worked,” he replied with a smile. “Tell me, how old are you?”

“Twenty-three.” I wasn’t certain about that, actually. I remember turning twenty-one, but I don’t remember when. Age seems to get confused in this place, at least for me.

“So young…” I felt my hands clenching at that. It was easy to forget this guy fucks children. “You are far from innocent, though. Such is the life of those that live lives such as yours. A shame, truly.”

“Hardly. Innocence is a shield, a pair of blinders worn by children and those that don’t know hardship. It is nice while you have it, but when you finally lose it, you look back and see what you missed just because you never thought about something. You can’t take action as an innocent. You can’t change anything. You’re stuck in a small world with a narrow view, following a path set in front of you by those that long ago lost their innocence.” Maybe that’s cynicism talking. “There’s a reason Celestia rules the ponies. She is jaded and cynical while at the same time wise and loving. She leads an innocent people using the kind of wisdom it takes thousands of years to accumulate. If all of her people were forced to open their eyes, the poor mare could finally get some rest and retire in peace.”

Shiny and Cadance were quite surprised at that. I think the king was as well. At least I knew the king wouldn’t want to have his way with me.

“So young, and you have a daughter?” he said when he rallied.

“Yeah. It’s a shame I had to leave her, but when duty calls, I have to answer. She’s not mine by blood, though. I found her in a land across the sea and brought her here. I was going to leave her in an orphanage, but Celestia’s a bitch and made me keep her.” I shrugged. “She grew on me.”

“It’s good to know you treat all royalty like me,” the king said. “You mentioned you punched a queen in the face. What happened?” I told him the tale. “We have had problems with changelings in the past. Our allies and friends the dogs have as well. I believe a large mining colony was recently wiped out by the changelings. There have been raids going back and forth between the two for a while, but never anything on that scale… Filthy monsters.” He shook his head. “If the changelings weren’t largely based under Equestria, we would have wiped them out long ago.”

I think it would have been a bad idea to mention my part in that affair. Thankfully, Shiny and Cadance were smart enough to not mention the treaty between the changelings and Equestria. Fucking politics, man. How does it work?

“Your silence betrays you, Navarone. Do you disagree?” he asked.

Fuck me. “I think I would rather have an army of shape shifters on my side rather than as enemies. We found out how much damage a single changeling can do at their wedding,” I said with a wave to Cadance and Shining Armor. “There was a very real danger of her overpowering Celestia and taking over Equestria all by herself. Imagine having a changeling as an ally that could do that to your enemies. Imagine an entire army that could do something like that. Yes, you could track them down and eliminate them. But why, when friendship is so much more useful?”

“They are parasites. They survive off emotion and other resources and give little in return. We could use their ‘talents,’ but why, when we could so very easily win an upfront and fair fight?”

“At what cost? I could think of several ways to use changelings in an upfront fight against an enemy that fights as griffins do. Each would give me a significant advantage. Probably enough of an advantage to win.”

“Your mind works in devious ways. Ours do not. We might discuss this more at a later time. If you have no questions, ambassador, I can have a servant show you back to your quarters.”

“That would be fine, your highness.”

He snapped and a servant appeared. The king pointed to Cadance and jerked his thumb backwards. The servant nodded. “Follow me, please,” she said. We did. She led us right back to the embassy. I slipped my ring on while we walked.

I very quietly—as quietly as I could in a suit of plate armor—tried to return to my room. I got to the door to find that it was glowing a light blue, the tell-tale sign of a unicorn’s magic. I casually opened it with the hand that had the ring and stepped inside, locking it behind me with my magic key. I giggled as I heard a muffled curse.

Sunshine Smiles was passed out on my bed. I slipped my boots off and padded my way to him. I leaned in real close. “BOO!”

He shot up out of bed. “I wasn’t sleeping!”

“Dude, yes you were. Don’t even try.”

“…Yes I was. I’m sorry, sir.”

“You have your own fucking room. Why are you sleeping in here?”

“I… don’t have my own room, actually. There was no room in the small barracks for me. Captain Armor and Princess Cadance have the other room.” He attempted to give me puppy-dog eyes.

“I hope you don’t mind sleeping in the hall, then.” His puppy-dog eyes intensified. I sighed. “Two rules: This is my bed. If I catch you sleeping next to me, I’m castrating you. And when I go to sleep, you can shut the fuck up. You can accomplish that by being somewhere else or by sleeping yourself. Oh, and another rule: If you find a chick you want to fuck, feel free to bring her here and use the bed as long as you warn me and change the sheets.”

“I prefer stallions. But yes sir.”

“Then if you fuck in my bed, you definitely better change the damn sheets. Just leave a sock on the door knob or something if you have a guy in here.”

“What’s a sock?”

I pulled one of mine off. “This. Just grab one from my bag or something.” I began taking my armor off. “As far as I know, we’re done with the king for the night. Feel free to go find food or whatever.”

“We were all given food. The servants came by and gave us stuff.”

“Then find something to amuse yourself with. Make a bed or something on the floor. I have things to write.”

I opened my smaller bag and set up shop at the desk. I was about to start writing when he said, “Where can I get some blankets?”

Without turning I said, “Fuck if I know. Good luck with that.”

“You know, if I get cold, I might just have to cuddle up with you. Those wings sure do look warm…”

“That would be breaking rule one and would end with you castrated. In case you don’t know what that means, I would cut your testicles off.”

That shut him right up. For all of five minutes, at least. “What if I said please?”

“Then I would say no. Don’t you have anything better to do than bother me?”

“Such as?”

“Playing cards with the other guards. Reading. Guarding. Lighting babies on fire. I’m sure you can think of something.”

He was about to answer when we heard a sound of someone tinkering with the door lock. I reached across to my crossbow and loaded it, standing up and facing the door. I pulled my axe from where I had it rested and leaned it against the desk, ready to be pulled up after I shot the bolt. I pointed Smiles to stand next to the door, ready to attack anyone that managed to get past my bolt.

We stood like that for a minute before we heard an exasperated noise, followed by a loud slam against the door. “That sounded like hooves,” my guard said.

“It was hooves,” I confirmed. “I pissed Shiny and Cadance off something fierce. But I have a key that can lock a door closed until the original key or my key is used on it. That door is staying shut unless they track down the key master or I decide to open it. Honestly, I’m surprised they waited this long.”

There was a gentle knock on the door. I thought for a moment. I can’t keep this up forever. I tossed Smiles my key. “Open it.” I had my ring on and my crossbow primed, so I was safe anyway. Him? Not so much.

He complied, pulling the door open. “What is your business?” he asked.

“Move aside, guard,” I heard Shining Armor command. “We’re here for Navarone.”

“Let them in, Smiles,” I said. “No reason to keep my guests in the hall.”

He stood aside, allowing entrance for Shiny, three guards, and Cadance.

“Guards? If I didn’t know any better, I would think you were here to arrest me.”

“You have proven yourself unreliable, Navarone. I can’t arrest you—nor do you deserve it—but I am not certain it would be smart to leave you alone with my wife.”

“Yes, mares seem to quite enjoy me. I understand your fears, but you needn’t worry; I don’t chase taken women.”

“How does Princess Celestia stand you?” he groaned.

“Because I’m quite nice to those that don’t annoy me. Or maybe I’m just an acquired taste, in a way. I’ve asked myself the same thing, honestly. If we weren’t friends, I think there’s a good chance I would have ended up jailed. Now, what did you want?”

“If you put your weapons away, we can send the guards away and get to the crux.”

I set my crossbow on my desk and sat. “By all means, send your men away. I have no desire to hurt anyone that doesn’t deserve it. At least, not physically. You really should listen to your wife more.” Cadance smiled a bit at that.

Shining Armor nodded to his guards. They left the room. “You too, night guard,” he said when he noticed my guard stayed.

“Don’t move, Smiles. He’s mine, not yours, and he stays.”

“You don’t trust us?” Cadance asked.

“No farther than I can throw you, and I can’t pick an adult pony up. I’d prefer an assurance, and he was ordered by Luna to guard me.”

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