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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60. Chapter Forty-Six—Gryphus Part 2

“Fine,” Shiny said. “He can stay. It isn’t worth debating. Did you know the king was going to react like that?”

“In hindsight, I can say that I suspected he would. The griffins have always been more down-to-earth. Beforehand, though? I thought I was about to get murdered. That was a complete cluster fuck on my part that only got resolved positively through sheer luck. But then, that’s pretty much how all of my everything gets resolved, so no complaints.”

“All of your… everything?”

“Yes, that’s what I said. Is that all you wanted?”

It wasn’t, of course. “So you’re saying you insulted the king offhand, with no regard to the consequences?”

“Yes, that is exactly what I said.” Cadance, Shining Armor, and even Sunshine Smiles face-hoofed at that. “At least I didn’t punch him in the face! Just be thankful he didn’t ask what a pecker was…”

“And what, Navarone, is a pecker?” Cadance wearily asked.

“It’s another word for penis.” Shining Armor and Cadance both blushed. Smiles looked slightly interested. “It’s also a euphemism for beak. So pecker face would have a dual meaning, in that he has a beak on his face and that he has a penis on his face. Like I said, it’s a good thing he didn’t ask.”

“Are all human insults this… colorful?” Shiny asked.

“No. We have a few imaginative ones. And making your own isn’t that hard. Like… Thundercunt McAssFace.” The guard choked, laughing so hard.

“I don’t know what some of those words mean,” Cadance slowly said. “And I don’t want to. We’re getting off track, Shiny…”

“Yes, we are. What you did today was highly irresponsible, Navarone. Disregarding the fact that it worked better than anything we had planned, it is still inexcusable. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Nothing. You’re right. I screwed the pooch on this one.” I shrugged. “I already knew that. I won’t say that it won’t happen again, because I know me. There’s a very real chance it will happen again.”

“You just don’t learn from your mistakes, do you?”

“Oh, I do. I just don’t learn the correct lessons. You see, my ‘mistake’ here built an instant rapport with the king. I impressed him more with a single statement than I would have my entire time if I hadn’t said it. The lesson I come up with is that trusting my instincts is usually a good idea, even if they seem fucktarded at the time.”

“That’s going to get you killed one day, Nav,” Shiny said.

I shrugged. “I’m not going to live forever anyway.”

“It’ll break Luna’s heart,” Cadance said.

“…Yeah. It would, wouldn’t it?” I sighed. “I was avoiding it for so long… It’s a lot easier to do stupid things when you’re the only one that has to suffer. But with Taya and Luna… It’s a shame I can’t change. C’est la vie.” I grinned at their expressions. “I had you two going, didn’t I? Hah! Yeah, I know it’ll fuck them both up if I die, but they’d get over it. You can call me selfish and it wouldn’t be a lie. You can call it senseless, but then, what fun is there in making sense? What you—and everyone else—seem to forget is that I’m not a pony. I’m not the same as you. Similar, yes. But never the same. You guys need anything else?” I’m such a dick. And what Cadance said was right. I really didn’t want to hurt either Luna or Taya. I never wanted to at all. I would probably work on being more cautious, but I wasn’t about to tell them that.

They shared a pained glance. “Just one more thing, since you’re going to be like this,” Shiny said. “Be careful with the king, Navarone. I know he is allowing you—for some reason—to speak freely, but know that some things don’t need to be discussed. And besides, I’ve heard some dark rumors…”

“I’m not an idiot,” I answered. “I may be a lot of things, but that’s not one of them.”

“I hope not. Good night.” With that, they both left. Smiles closed the door behind them.

I sat, unloading and decocking my crossbow. I set it against my desk as I began to write. “Uh, sir?”

“Stop calling me sir. And yes?”

“Did you mean all that?”

“Yes.”

“That’s cold… sir.”

“You are sleeping in my room on sufferance. Don’t make me kick your ass to the hall.” He sighed. “Now go find some more blankets or something. From the feel of things, there is no central heating in this building. You are going to get cold tonight, with that meager pallet.”

He exited the room. I went back to writing. Not five minutes later, he came back empty-hooved. “We aren’t allowed to leave the embassy wing tonight, for some reason,” he told me. “I was told to return to my room by one of the guards. No pony else had any blankets to spare.”

“Well, have fun with that.” I didn’t look up. I knew what he was going to say next.

“Just for tonight? Please?”

“If you stop calling me sir, fine. But if I catch you calling me that again after tonight, I’m going to come up with a really embarrassing pet name for you and I’ll make sure it gets put on the official roster back home.”

“That’s cruel and unusual!”

“I’m a cruel and unusual person. Do we have a deal?”

He sighed again. “Fine.”

“That also goes for calling me any other thing over than Navarone or Nav.” He grumbled at that, but I wasn’t listening. I was trying to remember how a certain chapter went and it was giving me all manner of trouble. After way too long of staring at it, I looked up. “So what do guards think about when they’re just standing there, guarding something?”

“The same things you think about when you zone out.”

“I doubt it. When I zone out, my mind is gone. I stop thinking entirely and turn to my senses.”

“Oh. Then we think about our life. What we’ll do when we get off duty. What we’ll do when we retire. What we’ve done in the past.” He shrugged. “We just think.”

“That sucks. I’m glad I’m not a guard. So how did you get signed on with Luna?”

“Celestia offered some of her guards a choice. We could swap our colors or we could stay under her fold. She had profiles on all of those she asked, knowing beforehoof that we would all say yes. We all did it for a number of reasons. Some didn’t like the day hours. Some were already working night hours anyway and decided not to change. Some liked the idea of a small pay increase. Some wanted to do it for the looks. Some wanted to meet the night princess, to see what kind of pony Celestia would willingly forgive for doing such a heinous act. Some just wanted a change in their life. Me? I just loved the irony.”

“Her profiles must be rather in depth if she knew you would agree to it because of irony.”

“She knows almost everything about everypony under her command. I wager she knows quite a bit more about you than she lets on, too.”

“Oh I’m sure she does. But I know she doesn’t know everything.”

He gave me an unsettling smile. “You’d be surprised.”

“No, I wouldn’t. If she knew everything, I would be in prison—if I was lucky. It’s more likely that she would kill me.” I tell her a lot, I’ll admit. But she doesn’t know everything.

“If you say so. When do you usually go to bed? I’m really tired.”

“Is it even dark out?” He shrugged. “I hate not having windows. But I suppose it’s a good thing, here. I’m stuck on this chapter anyway.” I stood, popping my back; being forced to lean over because of my wings is a pain. I grabbed my toothbrush and went to the bathroom. At least they have running water. Somehow.

I finished up and went back into the room to find Smiles reading my notes. There was nothing sensitive there, so I didn’t really care. He looked up as I sat on the bed. “You’re the writer of the books from another world?” I bet you can count on one hoof the number of people here from another world, dumbass.

“So that’s what they’re calling them now? Yeah, that’s me. Well, not the writer, just the translator. That’s how I’ve pushed so many out so quickly. It’s a shame I don’t have the originals; I have to make do with what I can remember, and that isn’t always everything. Still, it’s better than the crap books you had before I got here.”

“I went with Princess Luna to a showing of Hamlet. She cried her eyes out at the end. A lot of ponies did.”

“That’s the point. We got so inured to such tragedies in our daily life that we have to make such things theatrical to drive the pain home. It’s a shame Celestia forbade me from bringing more tragedies over, but I think the few I brought were more than enough to encourage other play-writes to bring some up.”

“Why not write happy stories, to help you forget?”

“Because life isn’t always happy. The book you’re poking through right now is called Braveheart. If his wife hadn’t died, the man would have no reason to do what he did. Sure, the English were unjust, but it wasn’t personal until then. In the end, the man dies. He dies horribly, having failed. The only victory he has is that he gets the queen of England pregnant. But that book will probably never get printed, because Celestia will want to read through it first.”

He looked down at the notes before shuffling them together. “I guess I have no reason to read it, now.”

“It isn’t about the end, Smiles, nor is it about the beginning. The only thing that matters is how you get there.”

“If you say so. Are you ready for bed?”

I looked over at the door. “Did you lock that?” He nodded. “Then yes.”

“I uh… I have two things to say first, though. I’m a pretty deep sleeper. And uh… I’m kinda hoovesy.”

“That’s a bad combination. You stay on your side of the bed and I stay on mine.”

“Um. Have you… have you looked at the bed?”

I looked at the bed. “Son of a bitch.” It was a double. I sighed. “It’s just one night.”

At least I’m wearing clothes. I lied down as far to one side as I could without being in danger of falling off and pulled the blanket over me. Smiles wasted no time getting in either.

“Um.”

“I can’t control them, Smiles. They don’t tuck in well against my body. Just ignore them.” Fucking wings. “Besides, I thought you wanted to play with them earlier.” He hmm’d. “Don’t play with my wings.” He sighed.

Before too long, I heard his breathing slow down. Not too long after that, I felt the bed shift. I felt a hoof slowly trail down my wing. This isn’t going to end well. I jerked the wing up, out of his reach. He murmured something and shifted again.

Everything was going okay until I managed to fall asleep. I wasn’t out for five minutes before I felt myself rather rudely jerked backwards, even though I fell asleep on my stomach. I was apparently now on my side, and being spooned by a large bat-pony. At least he doesn’t have a boner. Ponies don’t get morning wood, right?

…Right?

 

OH GOD PONIES GET MORNING WOOD!

I tried pushing myself out of bed to find that I was completely trapped. His forelegs had my upper body trapped and his… oh God… had my lower body trapped. There’s no way it should be that big! What is this guy, a hor—Oh yeah.

I jabbed my elbow backwards into his ribs. He grunted and shifted, grinding against me. I looked down but couldn’t see much because of the lack of light. How did he get that between my legs? What the fuck is wrong with this world?

“WAKE UP, SMILES!” I punctuated that with a backwards head butt into what I was hoping his snout.

“Hmm, feisty today, Flare Runner,” he sleepily sighed. I felt a hoof start to descend from its iron lock around my chest. “I know what’ll make you go back to sleep.”

It’s times like these that I’m glad I sleep with a belt. “I’m not your boyfriend, Smiles,” I said in a voice that was bordering on panic.

“What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him,” he whispered.

“Alright, fuck this.” I clenched my legs together, tightening around his… ugh. I jerked them sideways, bending it unnaturally.

The forelegs around me squeezed tight and Smiles jolted awake with a cry of pain. I found myself flying across the room, colliding face first with the wall. I was out like a light.

 

I woke up to being shaken by a terrified Sunshine Smiles. “Oh Luna, please wake up, please wake up, assaulting an officer is bad enough, but killing one? Oh Luna…”

I groaned, feeling my face explode in pain. I pushed myself to a sitting position as Smiles let off a small cheer. I felt blood dripping down from my nose and saw a small puddle of it on the floor where I had been laying. “Get me some tissues,” I groaned.

He ran to the bathroom and came back with some. “I’m so sorry, sir! Please don’t castrate me!”

I took the tissues. “You just earned yourself a ridiculous pet name. I’ll figure something out.”

I had time to see a massive smile on his face before being hugged. I noticed he was still having morning problems.

“Get away from me, dammit! That hurts!” He immediately pulled away, blushing. “Go take care of your… ugh, morning problem. Stop waving it in my face.” He grinned sheepishly.

“I’m sorry, Nav. I told you I was hoovsy…”

“I don’t want to talk about it. You’re sleeping on the fucking floor from now on.” I staggered to my feet, pressing a tissue to my nose. “This better not be broken. Clean up the blood, I need a shower.”

“Are you sure you should…” At my look he shut up. I shakily walked to the bathroom, still holding that tissue to my nose.

“God, my head hurts… Do any of the guards know healing spells?” We had three unicorn guards with us, thankfully. Two day and one night.

“All guards get rudimentary healing training. They should be strong enough to heal it if it isn’t broken…”

“If it’s still fucked up when I get out, we’ll find out.” I closed the door and checked the mirror. Oh yeah, that’s bad. My shirt was covered in blood and the towel was starting to drip.

Before I could get into the shower, there was a frenzied knocking at the door. I sighed and opened it. Smiles was there with the night unicorn.

“Sweet Luna, what did you do to him, Smiles?” the unicorn asked upon seeing me.

“I fell down some stairs,” I said. “Can you fix this?”

“I can certainly try, sir.” His dark horn flashed a bit as he stepped into the bathroom. He leaned down to me and I felt some healing magic pour in. After a moment he stepped away. “Better, sir?”

“Yeah. The pain’s gone. I guess it isn’t broken after all.”

The night unicorn stepped out of the bathroom and looked around. He saw the puddle that my guard had yet to clean. “Stairs, sir? That doesn’t look like stairs to me.”

“Maybe you should get your eyes checked, then. Or maybe my memory’s a bit fuzzy. You get my meaning?”

He looked up at me and gave a small nod. “Yes sir, I think I do.” He smiled. “It’s good to have a commander that looks after us.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Now go to bed, I’m sure Shiny kept you up all night guarding Miss Prissy.”

He let a laugh out before he could stop himself. “It’s Missus Prissy now, sir.” I waved him away. He left as I was closing the door to the bathroom again.

I took a quick shower to get all the blood off. Quick, because apparently the griffins haven’t figured out how to heat water up. Or maybe I just had a fucktard moment and couldn’t figure out how to turn it up. Either way, it was colder than a dad’s stare when you bring his daughter back late. I got out, shivering. Thankfully, the towels were massive, allowing to me cover my entire body.

It was at that point that I noticed I didn’t bring any spare clothes in. I dried off as best I could and wrapped the towel around me. I left the bathroom. “If that shower makes hot water, you need to show me how,” I told Smiles as I dug through my bag. I stood to find him staring at me. “What?”

“I’ve just… always wondered what you looked like without your clothes. All of us have.”

“Well, you’ve already fucking molested me on accident…” I dropped the towel. “Nothing impressive, as I’m sure you can tell.”

He looked me up and down. “Damn. Frolic owes me five bits.” He shook his head as I started to get dressed. “The showers here are odd, from what I was told. The regular showers don’t get hot water, but ours do for a short period each day—or whenever a unicorn feels like taking a shower.”

“So, do you know anything about a schedule today?”

“No pony tells me anything.”

“I know that feeling… If you’re hungry, feel free to go eat. I’ll be fine here. If anyone needs me they know where I’m at.”

“Do you know where the mess hall is?”

“There’s a mess hall? I don’t know, ask one of the other guards. I’m sure they know where to get some food.”

“I suppose I can do that now… See you when I get back, then.”

It felt good to be alone again. Especially after the traumatizing events of the morning. Seriously, never again. I sat at the table and started writing again.

Smiles came back soon enough. I asked, “Have you ever guarded an ambassador before?”

“Yes, I have. I’ve guarded Princess Celestia and Prince Blueblood as they went to various nations. I was even with the princess when she came here, once.”

“Anything fun to do in town?”

“Most griffins don’t care for ponies. It’s nothing personal, they just view us as mostly weak. I had to hoof-wrestle a maniac to get let into their bars.”

“And you won?”

He scoffed. “Tartarus no. I just put up enough of a fight that they let me in anyway. I don’t remember most of that night, either… Too much of a local drink, I guess. Mead, I think it’s called. Don’t know what’s in it. Kinda like that stuff you gave us at Shiny’s party.”

“Hm. Is there any kind of directory here? Any way to contact old friends?” Hell, if Gilda is in town, she could get me anywhere I want to go, I bet. She seemed like a party girl.

“Not that I know of. You might be able to find out from someone in the castle, though. You’d have to ask a servant or something.”

“I might just do that. You wouldn’t happen to know a Gilda, would you?”

“That’s a relatively common name here. I know the king has a daughter named Gilda. There are several noble families that do as well. How do you know her?”

“She has a friend in Ponyville and she came by to visit one time. She was pretty cool. I wouldn’t mind seeing her again, if she’s in town. I’m sure she knows all the fun things to do here.”

“For her to be rich enough to visit Equestria, she’d have to be pretty highly ranked. But for her to be there alone, she wouldn’t be the king’s daughter.” He shrugged. “She shouldn’t be hard to find, assuming she’s here. She might well be a native Equestrian griffin. There aren’t many, but it’s possible.”

“Eh, it’s not all important. I just don’t want to be sitting here for three fucking weeks. Especially not with Cadance and Shiny pissed at me.”

“Well, if you weren’t acting like you are…”

“Yeah, yeah. I wasn’t planning on spending too much time in this place anyway. Having them pissed is just a nice bonus. If they don’t need me, you want to explore the town?”

“Not much is going to be happening at this hour, but it shouldn’t be that hard to find places that’ll be full come night fall.”

“Oh. Oh no. I don’t need to be at any places come night fall. At least, not without a princess watching my back. The last time I went into a club without Luna, I got slipped a Mickey. I woke up in a pile of ponies with a very sticky and sore body.”

“Huh. Did you report that to the guard?”

“Nah. No harm done. I can’t get ponies preggers and I can’t get pony diseases.”

“Well, if you’re really worried, I’m guarding you for a reason. I won’t let anypony hurt you.”

I was somewhat worried about how he was planning on ‘guarding’ me. Especially given he would be guarding against griffins. He’d probably kiss me or something and say that I was his.

…Okay, that’s mean. I know what he did that morning was an accident. “I’ll think about it. My biology might not allow it anyway. I assume they accept bits here?”

“They do. It didn’t take them long to be converted to the Equestrian bit. It’s a lot more stable than what they had before.”

“Good, then I’m rich here, too. Here’s hoping they don’t need me for much this week.” I went back to writing.

Of course, my life never gets to be that quiet. Not long after, there came a knocking at my door. Maybe they have the wrong door? Smiles opened it. “What is your business?”

“The king summons Sir Navarone. He will come with me.”

I stood and slipped the axe belt around my back. “Don’t worry about your armor, Smiles. You’ll be fine without it. Come on.”

“You are to come alone, he said,” the griffon responded.

“He can wait outside wherever we meet. But he will be coming with me. That is the desire of my liege lady, and I shan’t disappoint her.”

“You can discuss that with the king if you desire. You will meet him alone, though. I care not if your pet follows.”

“Then lead the way.” He did just that. I paused just long enough to lock the door behind us.

“There are no thieves in this castle,” the griffin said.

“Okay.” There is no more infuriating answer than that.

“Why did you lock your door?”

“Habit.”

“It is a habit you should break.”

“Comments like that are why I lock my door. That sounded entirely too ominous for my liking.”

“Are you insinuating that I am a thief?” His tone was sharp.

“Not you personally. I’m not even saying you know anything about it. But I wouldn’t be surprised to have that crossbow of mine disappear the first time I leave my door open. Tech like that—even tech as far behind as a crossbow—are marvels to a race with no natural ranged attacks and the inability to use bows. I don’t think it’ll happen just yet, but I believe the king will eventually ask me how to make it and if I don’t tell him the crossbow will disappear.”

“So you are calling my king a thief!”

“No. It wouldn’t be his hand—or talon—that did the taking. Anyway, do you know any griffins named Gilda that spent a lot of time in Equestria lately?”

He was shaking in rage at the moment, actually. I think it was only the fact that I was an ambassador that stopped him from attacking me. He didn’t answer my Gilda inquiry, just stalked through the palace with Smiles and I close behind. Smiles gave me a bit of a disapproving look, but he didn’t say anything. I really should start being more diplomatic. Griffins are too arrogant to let me get away with this forever.

The griffin finally stopped in front of a door. He seemed to calm himself for a moment before saying, “This is where he wanted to meet you. Leave your servant outside.”

“Don’t wander far, Smiles,” I told him. “I can just go in?” The servant nodded. I shrugged and pushed the door open. I stepped inside and surveyed the scene in front of me. The king was at a desk on the far side of the room, his back to me. There was no one else there. The room itself was relatively bare. A few couches, a fireplace, a single bookshelf, the king’s desk, and a window. There were no tapestries and no rugs. It was cold. “There are many that would question the sanity of a ruler that sits with his back to a door in a room with no guards,” I said aloud, closing the door behind me.

“I would question the courage of one that wouldn’t be willing to,” he said without turning.

“There’s a difference between being brave and being stupid, your highness. Your kingdom needs a living king more than they need a brave one.”

He sighed, turning to face me. “Where were you fifty years ago?” He stood and began to pace. “So much could have been prevented if we had a foreign mind helping us think. It wouldn’t even have to be a smart one! We just needed a different perspective! We needed a voice to tell me when I was making a stupid mistake. We needed someone that had no fear of me or my power. I had brown-beakers aplenty, but so few that were willing to tell me what I needed to do… and fewer still that I allowed to live. We avoided war with the ponies a few years ago by a feather’s width. A firebrand noble’s daughter was insulted and snubbed in a small town in Equestria. He used that as a kickoff point for massive political turmoil, all aimed at a war against Equestria. And all because one rich snob got her feathers tweaked.” He guffawed. “She disappeared for nearly a year after that! The only reason the war didn’t kick off from that alone was because when she came back she was completely changed. Apparently she was injured by a freak wind gust and had to spend a long time recovering in a small pony hamlet. They treated her with kindness despite her rash attitude and she slowly grew tolerable, or something silly like that.” He waved a claw. “Either way, I was willing to listen to that idiot. I need a voice of reason in my court.”

“Well, good luck with that. I’m stuck in Equestria.”

“I know you are. But surely you aren’t the only human. There are more where you come from, yes?”

“Yeah, seven billion more.” He jerked to a stop, staring at me. “But I wouldn’t bring a single one here for any reason. My life was ruined when I got dragged here. My family, gone. Friends, gone. I lost contact with my entire race and was thrust into a world that I have no chance of fully integrating with. I’m stuck here and I wouldn’t wish this fate on anyone else.”

“I see.” He continued pacing. “The point remains that I need a voice of reason, one that doesn’t fear me. One willing to tell me what I’m doing wrong and to tell me when I’m being stupid.”

“Hire a mercenary from Egypt. The cat people there are as sly as I am, though perhaps not as militarily minded. I don’t think the naga would like living up here in this cold, but if you could get one of them, that would be great. Most of the dogs aren’t that bright, but if you could get one of the smarter ones, that would be good. I don’t suggest a pony; most of them would be intimidated, and very few are good with tactics at all. Or you could try to find a dragon. Princess Luna has one as a good friend, so I know it’s possible.”

“A dragon would be… useful. I will have to look into that. Naga don’t like the cold, as you said. The dogs are our friends… I will ask if they can lend me an advisor. And I have always wanted to meet one of the cats. I might look into that as well. But I did not bring you here for this. Sit, sit. Let us talk.”

“Before we begin, can I bring my guard in here? I would hate to have him chilling in the hall for however long we’re in here.”

“You don’t need to be worried about this old bird, Navarone. I won’t attack you.”

“I know, but if I’m sitting on a comfortable couch, it only seems fair that he gets to as well. I don’t think we’ll be talking about state secrets.”

He shrugged. “Fair enough. If either of you tries anything, you won’t make it out of this country alive.”

“Nah, if I wanted to kill you I would have done it last night by poisoning you. Your mug was wide open the entire time.” He blinked but didn’t say anything as I went to call Smiles in. He entered and bowed slightly to the king. “Have a seat anywhere. We were just about to get started and I didn’t want to leave you in the hall.”

“I have never seen a pony like this one before,” the king said, looking at my guard. “Where do you come from?”

“Equestria, sir. I am one of Princess Luna’s guards. She uses magic to modify our appearances to fit in better with the night. Sir Navarone had similar modifications, but had them removed.”

“I see. Sit, both of you, and let’s talk.”

And that’s just what we did. He was interested in all sorts of things. He kept us talking until lunch and we continued the conversation on the way there and while he and Smiles were eating. He finally shut up after we finished.

When he finally told us we were free to go, I said, “When we first started talking, you mentioned a griffin that had been in Equestria. I met her there, and was wondering if she’s in town. Do you know?”

“I don’t, but I’ll have someone find out for you. If she is and wants to see you, she’ll stop by. If not…” He shrugged. “A phrase you used, c’est la vie.”

“Yep. See you later, Bloodbeak.” It was hard to think of him as a rapist when he was so nice to me. For the king of the griffins—the second most arrogant race I’ve found here—he was pretty cool.

Of course, Shining Armor wanted to know where I was all day. He didn’t seem that upset when I told him, thankfully. Though honestly I don’t think I would have cared if he was.

Thankfully, I was left to my own devices for the next several days. I apparently pissed Shiny off enough to remove me from the guard roster, so I didn’t have to take a turn ‘guarding’ Cadance when she went to see the king or another dignitary or anything like that. For a week, I just lounged around. I passed the time by writing, playing card games with the guards, teaching griffins how to play card games, and occasionally exploring the castle. The king also summoned me a few times for more chats. It was nice.

By the first week, though, I was tired of lounging about in the castle. I still saw and heard no sign of Gilda, so I assumed she was either out of town or didn’t want to hang out. This place wasn’t like Egypt; I didn’t have to worry about a pickpocket or worse coming after me. I also had no chance of blending in with the crowd, so I suppose there would be less of a chance of it anyway.

So Smiles and I spent a week exploring the town. We both got plenty of stares and even more questions—griffins were bold and upfront, after all. I stayed away from the booze and the parties, though I don’t think a griffin would want to take advantage of me like that. I was also able to find the recipe for mead; it was pretty simple, once I offered up the recipe for applejack. A little variety in life is never bad, after all. A whole week was spent exploring the town, away from the castle as much as possible. Shining Armor and Cadance didn’t much like it, but then, I don’t think I could have won their approval at that point no matter what I did.

Honestly, nothing important happened those two weeks. It felt great to have a bit of time to myself on official business when I didn’t have to actually do anything. I finally felt that the ponies could handle their own damn problems for once.

Nothing good ever lasts.

It was the start of the third week there in Gryphus. Sunshine Smiles actually found someone willing to make his night—calling me on that promise I made at the start. I wasn’t expecting him to, honestly, but I guess that’s what happens when someone gets too emotionally attached to those he is supposed to lead.

Anyway, I was sitting in the hall well away from my room—I sure didn’t want to hear that shit—when I saw a griffin peeking its head down the hall. It was pretty late at night and by all rights I should have been asleep, so I was definitely nodding off. All I had on me was my axe—as I took it with me everywhere—my throwing knives, and my crossbow with a single bolt—I left the rest in my room and didn’t bother unloading it.

Now, griffins wandering the halls weren’t uncommon. After all, we were in their castle in their capital. They owned the joint, so they were free to walk its halls. Because of this, Shining Armor stopped putting up guards after the first week; it grew tiresome for every single griffin that passed through to be checked. I personally didn’t think that was a wise move, but Shiny was in charge, not me. Besides, the griffins seemed pretty chill; why would they try to deep six any of us?

This griffin didn’t get the memo. She noticed me nodding off, leaning haphazardly against the wall and looking quite like a puppet with its strings cut off, and did her best to quietly sidle up the hall. I noticed her and was watching her the entire way, but I didn’t move; I didn’t see any reason to and I figured she would be moving on.

She didn’t. She also didn’t seem to realize that I could see her perfectly. I mean, it was dark in the halls and a normal pony or person wouldn’t have been able to see her at all. She was making no noise, either. She got right up next to me and whispered something I couldn’t hear. She slowly reached over to me and pulled a knife off my belt, whisking it out soundlessly. I didn’t react, just waited to see what she would do.

She backed away from me and opened the door to Cadance’s room. She entered without a sound, leaving the door open. I stood, thanking myself that I left everything that might have made noise in my room before Smiles took it over.

I was hoping to be proven wrong, but I wouldn’t have put a bet on it no matter the odds.

I wasn’t. The assassin was inching her way toward the bed, my knife clutched in one of her talons. I reached inside my left sleeve and withdrew a knife of my own. I wasted no time catching up to her; I didn’t need to worry about being as noisy, after all.

She still didn’t notice me, being completely absorbed on not making a single noise to wake the sleeping duo. I spared not a glance for them, my eyes only for the foolish little assassin before me.

I was at her side before she was halfway to the bed. In a normal, conversational tone, I said, “Drop the knife or it’ll be your blood that paints the room this night.”

I was pleasantly surprised to find that she did drop the knife rather quickly. I was less pleasantly surprised when she followed up by slashing me with her razor-sharp talons, opening a jagged tear along my ribs.

“Mistake,” I hissed, kicking at her. She easily dodged, rushing toward the bed that contained a very rudely awoken magical couple. She was jumping at Cadance, talons outstretched, when my hand snatched her tail and yanked her back. I don’t remember drawing my ax, but it was in my off hand. I barely managed to catch her talon on it as she struck at me again. She recovered before I could and swiped at me again, scoring a cut on my ax arm that completely disabled it. I dropped the ax, crying out. Shiny and Cadance were well and truly awake by now, and light flooded the room. The assassin, to her credit, did not flinch at the sudden light. I didn’t either, my mind too far gone in shock.

She jerked away from me and back to Cadance, who had time to look on in horror as the griffin jumped at her again, once more to be caught by my good arm as I ripped her back so hard she actually collided into me. “I’m not finished with you, bitch!” I let her tail go and punched her in her very surprised face, cracking her beak.

She reared back, dazed from the blow. I had enough time to grab my axe, sticky with amber blood, before she recovered. “You made the mistake of taking out my wrong arm, you crazy cunt,” I wheezed as we circled each other, watching for weaknesses. It was rather obvious where mine was.

She wasted little time in going for it, too; she feinted right, towards the hand with the axe, but clawed at my left side, further tearing open the wound on my ribs. The axe fell again and she turned back to Cadance, who was now doing her best to get over the panic to actually cast a spell.

Shining Armor jumped in front of her, standing between Cadance and the assassin. The assassin grinned, finding a new opponent. She pounced…

Just in time to catch a crossbow bolt in the back of her skull.

I dropped the crossbow from my right hand—the side of my body that had taken no punishment, miraculously. “Fuck. Assassins,” I managed before I collapsed. Thanks to the curse that Luna and Celestia gave me I wasn’t in an incredible amount of pain, but all the rips still stung and I had lost a lot of amber blood.

 

It’s funny. The first thing that came to my mind was the song “Amber” from back home. My real home, not Ponyville.

It didn’t stay funny for long. I picked myself off the bed I was laid upon and reached across to the basin of water left there. I could tell I had a bit of stubble and my face felt pretty nasty, so I knew I had been out at least all night, probably longer. I washed my face with the water there and stood, stretching. I could work my arm again, which was nice. I hadn’t been changed out of my clothes, so there were massive tears and a dark stain on it. It was a black shirt, though, so the stain was hardly noticeable.

I saw my axe leaning against a nightstand. I grabbed it and slid it into the loop on my back.

Then I thought for a moment and removed it. I pulled open the bag of my armor and started putting that on first. I was putting on my gauntlets when the door slammed open. A gauntlet promptly slammed into Shining Armor’s face. “That’ll teach you to knock,” I muttered as I buckled the axe belt over the armor.

“Good to see you’re awake,” he said when he recovered enough. “Though it’s a bit less good that you’re throwing things left and right.”

“Not left and right. Only at you. Pass me that gauntlet, would you?” He tossed it to me with magic. I slipped it on. I went over to the writing desk and grabbed my crossbow and loaded it, drawing the string back tight. I aimed down the sights to make sure it was still okay. “So when are we going to go confront the king?”

“We did, as soon as Cadance calmed down enough. You gave her quite the scare.”

“I’m sure. What happened? And where is my guard?”

“The king is not at fault. We can’t know who exactly is, since… well, the assassin is most definitely dead. You made sure of that.” I patted my crossbow with a grim smile. “It isn’t something to be happy about, Navarone. The king let us read him so we know he isn’t at fault. But we don’t know who—and probably never will, now—was.”

“Someone who would benefit from a dead king at the hands of the Equestrian Captain of the Guards. So basically, someone that would benefit from a war between Equestria and the griffons.”

His mouth tightened when I mentioned how he would have killed the king, but he didn’t dispute it. If Cadance had been assassinated in the night, Shining Armor would have went mad and lashed out at the first target to seem responsible: The king.

“Although,” I continued, “the assassin took one of my knives in the hall. It is very possible she was trying to set me up as the fall guy. Although that would have been retarded as fuck, since you couldn’t exactly harm me and since I would allow any unicorn to read my mind to prove my innocence.” We were silent for a moment. I shrugged. “I guess we can’t know now. How’s the baby?”

“Just fine.” He seemed to slump a bit. “I don’t think she could have… Thank you, Navarone. We’ve had our differences, but… thank you.”

“So what do we do now? I assume we aren’t going to be spending much more time in Gryphus.”

He shook his head. “No, we’re going to be spending the same amount of time here. We can’t let the one who hired the assassin to think we can be scared off that easily.” He gave me a dark grin. “Besides, I don’t think security will be a problem anymore. I have my shield up. No pony with any intentions to hurt somepony can get through.”

“Why didn’t we just do that in the first place? Save us all some time.”

“The shield takes a lot of energy to maintain and it shows distrust between us and the griffins. Since they haven’t exactly earned our trust this trip…” He shrugged.

“So how are we going to go about finding who called the hit on your wife?”

“We can’t. It would be impossible for us to get anywhere. We’re not in Egypt, Nav. You can’t just barhop for information.”

“That’s not how I got my info. I tortured the assassin until I learned what I needed, and then Celestia ordered him given to the king. So what is to be done now?”

“For us? Nothing. Just back to my normal schedule of guarding and your normal schedule of… whatever you’ve been doing these past weeks.”

I blinked. “You don’t need me to sniff around for info? Or try to find blackmail material for the king? Or kill someone that might or might not deserve it?”

“Uh… no?”

“Huh. That’s odd. Usually I have to do some kind of shit to fix the situation when something goes wrong.”

“Nav, you aren’t all important. You’ve been in some weird places, yeah, but there are others that can do a job like that just as well if not better than you. It’s being taken care of. Enjoy some time off.”

“Awesome. So uh… Where’s my guard, again?”

“Right outside. He hasn’t left your door since you got hurt. Though given that you only got hurt a few hours ago…” He shrugged again. “Just don’t go too far. Cadance wanted to speak to you when you woke up, but she’s off to see the king right now.”

“Did she say what she wanted?”

“No, but I think we can both make a good guess. She probably would have been dead if not for you.”

Maybe I should have given the assassin a few minutes. “I see. Send Smiles in on your way out.”

“He’s pretty distraught that he let you down, Nav.”

“I’ll talk to him.”

He nodded. “See you later, then.” With that, he walked out.

And in walked Sunshine Smiles. He wasn’t smiling now, that’s for sure. He shuffled in, staring at the floor. I crossed my arms, watching him. After a moment, I said, “Cadance would be dead if I had not been in the hall. If you hadn’t been having sex in my room, I would not have been in the hall. Don’t be ashamed.”

“You got hurt,” he sullenly replied.

“And I got better. I can heal ridiculously fast now. Most of what she did to me was more painful than damaging; she didn’t want to kill me, she wanted to disable me. I don’t blame you at all for what happened. As far as I see it, Luna doesn’t have to know this happened.”

He looked up. “She already does.”

“Welp, you’re boned. Not in the good way, either.” He gulped. “Relax, man, I’m kidding. I’ll talk to her. I’m sure she won’t freak out on you or anything.” I paused for a moment and he started to relax. “Probably.” I shrugged. “You know how women are.”

“What’s a woman?”

I fucking hate this place. “Mares. You know how mares are.”

“If you say so, Nav…” Oh yeah, I finally broke his habit of calling me sir.

I just shook my head and began to remove the armor. If Shiny gave us a shield, I wouldn’t exactly be needing it. I sighed as I returned to the desk to continue writing. I didn’t get far.

“Nav, I’ve… been meaning to ask you something.” I set the quill down and looked up. Smiles was looking at me kinda funny. “From everything I’ve heard, when you fight, you… well, you do your best to make sure the enemy goes down and stays down. But when you stop… how do you return to normal so easily?”

“I am not a pony, Sunny. My mind does not work the same way as a pony’s. We are built for fighting and for killing, in our mentality. We can tune out everything and focus on one single goal if we have to. That goal can be anything. When I get into fights, my goal is to make sure the enemy will no longer be a danger to me—ever. When the enemy is no longer a threat to me, my mind no longer needs to focus on that and I can go back to whatever I was doing. What I do might come back to me later, but at the same time, it might not. I don’t think killing this assassin will haunt my mind, since she deserved it.” I shrugged. “I fear it might just be a human thing.” Or perhaps a predator thing.

“I… see. It’s not something you can teach?”

“I don’t think so. I mean, it might be teachable, but I don’t know how. I wasn’t a soldier back in my world, I don’t know what kind of training they went through.”

“What were you?”

“A student. A nerd, in some ways. It’s interesting to see the changes, I suppose.” It was, actually. I used to be somewhat shy. Sure, I was no stranger to killing; I was a hunter, after all. But I had never taken a sapient life… Now, I just killed someone without batting an eye in the slightest. Maybe it’s not so much a human thing as it is an experience thing. Or maybe I’m just a sociopath.

Not like there’s a psychologist here that would tell me different.

“From everything I’ve heard, you’ve definitely been through a lot.”

“Yeah, I have.” I went back to writing, knowing he would want some elucidation. He was disciplined enough to not ask. Or he didn’t care. Either way.

The next interruption was a knock at the door. I turned to face that way as my guard answered it. Enter Cadance. She looked a bit happy to see me.

I sighed. “Must we continue this dance of love and hate, Cadance? Why won’t you just give in and let me wallow in my darkness?”

Her smile grew wider. “I wasn’t going to hug you, but just because of that, I will.” I wasn’t wearing my ring. I dove to where I left it, but I didn’t get halfway there before her magic gripped me. I gave off a longsuffering sigh as she dragged me over and wrapped her forelegs around me. After a moment, she levitated me back to my chair. “Now don’t you feel better?”

“I hate you so much right now it hurts,” I answered.

“I bet another hug would make you feel better!”

“I think your husband might get jealous.”

“Don’t be silly, Nav. We all know neither of us would ever consider that.” I shuddered at the very thought.

“Well, you’ve physically and emotionally tortured me. Is that all you needed?”

“Nope! I also wanted to thank you.”

“Well, now you have.”

She turned to Smiles. “Is he always this cranky after waking up from his wounds?” He shrugged. She turned back to me and did her best to put a serious face on. “Thank you, Navarone. I probably would have—” She held a foreleg up to her belly. “—we would have died, if not for you.”

“I was just doing my job, Cadance.”

“No, your job was to impress the king. You were doing something else, out in the hall. Why were you out there?”

I pointed to Smiles. “He was getting laid and I didn’t want to see that.” Her jaw dropped. “I promised him when we got here that he could use my bed, as long as he…” I looked at the bed and then back to Smiles. “You did change the sheets, right?” He looked down. “Oh you fucker! I swear to God, whoever you fucked better have a suction up his ass that kept all that gunk in, because if I just slept in that, I’m castrating you!” I paused for a moment, thinking back. With a shudder, I said, “Then again, it’s not like I haven’t done worse…”

Cadance looked like she was going to be sick. It was somewhat amusing, but nothing I had never seen before. The guard looked sickeningly interested.

Before either could say anything, I giggled. “Imagine that, Cadance. You got saved because someone was having sex. Ain’t so horrid now, is it?”

She gulped and put on an uneasy grin. “Yeah,” she managed. She looked around before backing up a step. “I uh… I think I’ll see you later, Nav. Have a good time doing… whatever you’ve been doing.” With that, she was out.

“Too easy,” I sighed while shaking my head. Sunshine took a step backwards to the door. I shot my head his way. “Don’t think you’re getting off easy. Change the sheets. I should make you sleep in them, but you probably wouldn’t have a problem with that. When you’re done with that, clean my armor.” I sat back down as he sighed and began his work. I continued what I was working on.

It’s nice, knowing that the ponies—or perhaps the griffins—can occasionally be competent. Either way, I had another week off that was spent relaxing. It was nice and odd to be letting someone else do all the work for once.

 

“That was the most uneventful royal business I’ve ever been on,” I was saying to my guard as we boarded the airship home. “Aside from that one spurt of interest, I didn’t have to do shit!”

“You call killing somepony uneventful?” he replied. “I’ve never killed somepony that could talk back before!”

“Yeah, well, I’m not a royal guard. I specialize in killing, not guarding. That might be why.” He shivered slightly. “Don’t worry about it, Smiles. Just think: We’re going home!” I paused. “Well, I’m going home. I guess you’re going back to active duty. If Luna gives you grief about what happened, get word to me and I’ll do my best to bail you out.”

“I hope it doesn’t come to that. She’s usually understanding.”

“Yeah, usually. Overly so, it seems, if she still wants anything to do with me.”

“She loves you, Nav. Even if it isn’t announced, anypony that sees you and her together can tell it.”

“Yeah, but I’m not a pony. I can’t tell stuff like that.” Other humans could, of course, but not me. “I don’t know pony body language perfectly yet.”

“Well, there’s this thing mares do called winking and—”

“SHUT UP!” I shuddered at the memories. “Yes, I know about… that.” I don’t even want to talk about it.

“Well, that’s just the most obvious sign. There are plenty of other more subtle ones.”

“I really don’t want to talk about it. I think it’s a foregone conclusion that she likes me. The only hard part now is making it work. I believe we’ll have some time to figure it out, when we finally get together.”

“If you say so. It’ll be fun to watch, at least.”

“Well that’s comforting. At least someone will be having fun in the event of a falling out.”

“Don’t think about it that way. Although… If you happen to pick a fight with her before the next year, I’ll be a very rich guard.”

“You’re already a rich guard! And why are you making bets for this kind of thing? What the hell, man?”

He shrugged. “The life of a guard is very boring. We have to do something to keep ourselves amused.”

“Why not make bets about Cadance instead? I mean, she’s an easy target, right?”

“For you. Most of the guards like her. And most of them definitely like Shining Armor, even if he is sometimes a bit of a—” He looked around, noticing Shiny and Cadance standing pretty close to us on the airship that began to move a few minutes ago. “Well, never mind.”

“I know that feel, bro. The princesses do their best to make my life hard, too. Although they usually do it in ways other than pointless drills and inspections.” Like libido spells or ordering me to kill people or getting me raped by Twilight.

…Wow. I just realized how blasé I got about killing people. That’s a serious problem.

Oh well.

I took my spot back at the front of the airship and watched as we left the griffin capital behind. It was a very nice break, all things considered. I bet if Celestia had been there, I totally would have been doing all kinds of work. I’m glad she wasn’t there.

Thankfully, I was left alone all the way back home. Not a word from anyone. It was… odd. And nice. Maybe Celestia sent me here with the orders that I be left alone by everyone as much as possible. That would have been nice of her, if true.

Either way, I was headed home.

 

 

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