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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54. Chapter Forty-Two—Injuries and mixing medicines

I was on the third cycle of week in and week out when it went to hell. I was heading back into the forest on foot, when I heard a very familiar squeal of terror. Fluttershy. I started cutting through the forest in what I was hoping was the direction she was in.

She screamed again, giving me a more accurate idea of where she was. I pushed even harder to try to get to her. If I could, I would have flown through the mess.

I finally caught sight of her, running along one of the few roads in the forest. Behind her was… nothing. I pushed out on the road. “What are you runnin—” She didn’t even stop. I looked behind her again, trying to see anything.

There! Was that… was that a dot darting about in the air? Wait. It was a lot of dots darting about in the air. I barely had time to make out the basic shape of a bear before it rushed past. A bear made of dots. Or stars. I remembered what Spike had said about the critter made of stars with no skin or blood. Looks like I found one of them. Don’t know why it’s out during day, but I also didn’t have much time to think about it: Fluttershy’s fear-induced speed was incredible, but this thing was a giant bear made of stars.

I had no way of keeping up with it, so I took aim as fast as I could. I know it had no skin. I was hoping to hit a star or something. Anything to slow it down or cause it to stop. I lined up a shot and my efforts were rewarded with a massive roar that sent shivers down my spine and forced another squeal from Fluttershy. The bear shifted to face the new threat. Seeing nothing because of my ability to hide from critters, it ran off into the woods to look for its attacker.

I followed Fluttershy, hoping she would get tired or slow down or notice that it was gone. It took her a while, and we were almost out of the forest, but she finally did.

“N-n-Navarone?” she weakly asked, panting.

“The same. Whatever the fuck that thing was, we left it in the dust. I hope. You need to get out of this forest.”

“I have to see Zecora, though!”

“You don’t need to see her enough to risk dying to do it. Tell me what you need and I’ll get it for you. Right after I show you out of this place.”

“How do you know the Ursa Minor won’t attack you?”

“Because I’m mostly tree. I shot him to draw his attention off you, and when he turned to look at me, he didn’t even see me.”

“I wish I could be a tree…” She swished her tail. “But the thing I need to talk to Zecora about is… personal.”

“Well, that’s what friends are for. I am not letting you stay in this forest with that thing running around, and who knows what else besides.” To punctuate that, we heard howling in the distance. She squealed again, and tried huddling against me. I reloaded the crossbow. “Let’s go.” We went. As I said, we were near the edge of the forest, so it only took about fifteen minutes to walk out. If I had let her, she would have sped out of the forest like a bullet.

“So, what am I getting from Zecora?” I asked when we hit the edge. “Tea, perhaps?”

She gave me a very embarrassed look, and a nod. “Tell her it’s for me and Twilight. She’ll understand, I think.”

I shouldered my crossbow. “Yeah, I learned what happens when Twilight doesn’t get her tea. I’ll be back in a bit.” I strode back into the woods, wings gently streaming in a gust of wind.

Wait, wind? In the forest? I lowered the crossbow just in time to catch a massive paw across the chest, throwing me against a tree with so much force it knocked me flat out. My last thought was that I had forgotten to take off the ring.

 

While I was out, I had a strange, strange dream. I saw a statue at the palace in Canterlot. It was some fucked up critter with all manner of body parts, a chimera. I stood facing it at first, and turned to walk away. I followed a path that seemed perfectly natural, through a few gardens, into the palace, and up to a large tower. At the end of my walk stood a door with a single hole in the middle, surrounded by six colors and symbols. Stained glass windows lined the hallway leading up to it, showing all manner of scenes from the history of Equestria.

The door suddenly cracked open, letting out an intense light. When the light subsided, I saw a box. I heard a deep male voice say to me, “Take the contents of this box, and you will be rewarded.”

I only record this at all because it turned out to be pretty important.

 

I woke up some time later in a very comfortable bed, on my back. I twitched my wings, just to be sure. I felt very constricted, but not actually tied. I felt along my body, trying to discover what all was wrong.

The first thing I discovered was that I was missing my left index finger. It is a very, very horrifying feeling, to be missing a body part. I pulled my hand out of the covers to try to look at it, only to find that my hand was bound in bandages. After I got over the initial horror of discovering I was missing a finger, I discovered a small bit of other damage: A chunk gone from my stomach, a gash down my cheek, and a few deep gouges down my back. My body was propped up by pillows, leaving my wings free to hang below me. Neat idea. Why didn’t I think of it?

So, my luck finally ran out. Or rather, ran low; I was still alive.

My mouth was closed tight from the bandages around my head due to my cheek. I left them on, for the time being. I slid the covers off me. I was wearing the pants I had on when all of this happened, but no shirt, shoes, or socks. The ring was still on my left hand, thankfully. My pockets were empty.

Sunlight was streaming through the window. I weakly pushed myself up into a sitting position, expecting an explosion of pain. Nothing. I popped my neck with my unbound right hand. Still no pain.

I was contemplating getting up when Fluttershy bustled in with a tray of soup balanced on her back. When she saw me, she jumped, squealed, and the soup went straight to the floor. She was trying to find her words when I reached up and lowered the bandages around my face. They pooled around my neck, giving me a mummy necklace.

“What happened?” I croaked. My voice was raspy from a dry throat and disuse.

Instead of answering, though, she asked, “How are you awake? Zecora and Twilight thought you would be out for weeks!”

“I heal fast. What happened?”

“Oh, Nav! It was terrible…” That’s all I got out of her. I suppose it was enough.

“Why am I here? You said Twilight knows, right?”

Her eyes flicked to my ring, and then back up. “I volunteered to look after you, since you were going into the forest because of me. Please don’t be mad!” She gave off a few lying signs. The tell-tale sign of a pony liar.

I spread my wings to their full size. I find that it occasionally intimidates ponies. “What is the real reason I am here?”

She started whimpering. I lowered my wings. “Nav, please… please don’t make me tell you. I don’t think Twilight would be happy.”

“So. So this is to be my punishment for wearing the ring… Apt.” I lowered my feet to the floor.

“What are you—” she started. I interrupted her by standing. The pain suddenly exploded all across my body. I gasped and wavered where I stood, and she rushed forward to catch me if I fell. “You aren’t going anywhere like this!”

Normally, a statement like that would push me forward. This time, though… I sank back down. “I don’t think I would get a foot out that door.” The pain slowly faded. “How long should I be here?” I finally asked when the worst of it was gone.

“Zecora predicted a pony would be unconscious for a week from the sheer damage you took. You were out two days. She predicted you wouldn’t even be able to stand for three more days. All in all, she expected about three weeks of bed rest.”

“Her predictions were wrong. If I am not fine in two days, I’ll leave then.”

“Are you sure?” At my look, she gulped. “Two days it is, then. Now, you need to lie back and get some more rest!”

“You’re the boss. Don’t expect me to get much sleep, though.” For some reason, she gave me a guilty smile when I said that.

She looked down at the soup and sighed. “I’ll be right back,” she said.

Not ten minutes later I heard her clomping back up her stairs. She came in, laden with another soup tray and a few towels. Angel followed her up. I shared a nod with him; ever since Fluttershy realized what I said about him organizing the animals against me was true, he had been somewhat decent.

“So, there’s something in the soup to put me to sleep?” I asked. She looked at me, somewhat terrified. “No, I can’t read minds,” I said. She squeaked. “You’re just terrible at lying. All of you ponies are.” She gave a sigh of relief. “I suppose I should thank you, Fluttershy. Most ponies wouldn’t have bothered helping me past getting me to the doctor, or making sure I stayed in bed. Even Celestia let me get out of bed when I was almost dead. The least I can do to repay your kindness is spending my time here asleep, so I don’t bother you.”

“You’re no bother, Nav! And I’m just doing what any friend would do.” Didn’t stop her from giving me the soup, though.

“How long will I be out? And who all knows I’m even here?” I asked.

“Three days,” she whispered, and then said louder, “Just Zecora, Twilight, and me. And my animal friends, of course. No pony else knows you were injured.”

I nodded sadly. “Good. See you in three days, I suppose. And I will leave when I wake up. Don’t even think about tying me down. You would not like me when I’m bound, and I will make you cry when you let me go.”

“I would never hold you against your will, Nav.”

“I know.” I started on the soup. “At least it tastes great. You’re a good cook, Fluttershy.”

She blushed lightly and looked down.

I finished the bowl and passed her the tray. “Thank you, friend. How long until it hits me?”

“Oh, a few minutes. Just lie back down and let your friend Fluttershy sing you a lullaby…” I felt her gently push me back down into the bed. She began to lightly sing. That was the last thing I heard for six days.

 

I had the same dream while I slept the days away.

 

When I opened my eyes the next time, it was night. I had a moment of panic before I remembered where I was. All the bandages around me were gone, and I couldn’t even feel any scars remaining from the cuts along my back or cheek. The chunk from my stomach still left a bit of a hole, but it felt like it was closing in. The stump of my finger looked a little better, but it still felt terrifying to be missing something.

I noticed a weight around my body, holding me down. She didn’t tie me. Fluttershy wouldn’t do that. As my eyes acclimatized, I discovered what it was: A leg. A pony leg, to be exact. A few seconds later told me it was attached to a pony. She was holding onto me kind of like how Pinkie Pie had. Odd, though, since I occasionally scare Fluttershy. Maybe her dreams are scarier than I am.

Then again, it was Fluttershy’s only bed. No reason to expect her to sleep on a couch just because I was laid up on her bed. I didn’t know at the time that I had been out for six days, so I decided to just wait a bit. I could tell from the window that it was nearing sunrise. If I had known, I would have up and left, right back into the forest without telling a soul. I didn’t have anything planned, but I was only expecting three days, dammit.

It didn’t take much more than an hour for Fluttershy to wake up. She jerked awake and let out a funny little squeak when she realized she was holding me. She practically jumped away from me, not even realizing that I was awake. Then she let out a nervous little laugh, thinking I was still out. “You scared me there for a second, Nav…” she whispered.

I sat up. “I can imagine.” She squeaked again. I popped my neck while she tried to recover some of her wits. I continued, “I see that I am fully healed. Somewhat surprised that even the scars are gone after only three days, but I’m not going to complain.”

“Th-th-three days? It’s been… six…”

I paused, staring at her. “You told me three, before I fell into oblivion.”

“It was supposed to be three… but you weren’t well yet. So before you woke up, I gave you another dose.”

I stood, shaking my wings. “I see. Where are my things?”

“Oh, please tell me you aren’t mad!”

“You did what you thought was best. I disagree, but I understand. I am not angry, though I am somewhat disappointed. Too kind for your own damn good. Now, where are my things?” I was still wearing my ring and pants, at least.

She pointed me to a drawer. I reached for it, and felt my hand hit it and yet nothing happened. It was my left hand that did the reaching. I held it up and looked at it. She flinched when she saw the look on my face. “Nav…”

“That finger was on my top ten list of favorite fingers…” I sighed, and then opened the drawer. I pulled my shirt—completely mended—out, along with all of my knife belts. I gathered the empty quiver from next to the cabinet. “And my crossbow?” I asked, turning to face her.

She looked down. “It… it was destroyed. Please don’t be mad, Nav!”

“Why do you think I would be mad at you?”

“Because it was my fault all this happened!”

“No, it was my fault for being overconfident. I shouldn’t have gone back in. I did, and this is the punishment for my hubris. The crossbow can be replaced. My finger… well, it might grow back. My pride is something else entirely, but I suppose it’s about time that took a knock or two. I’m not mad at you, and this wasn’t your fault. If anything, I should be thankful to you for looking after me and making sure I got the care I needed.”

She blushed slightly. “When you have friends like ours—and yours—it’s hard to leave something like that up for chance. You’ve had a few visitors.” I can imagine that it was made clear to her by Luna or Celestia what would happen if something happened to me while resting, which probably didn’t do anything for her confidence. “I don’t like letting my charges leave while still injured.”

“Thanks for making me stay in bed, then. You’ve been forced to deal with me long enough. If you don’t need anything, I’ll head home. I’m sure Taya has been missing me.”

“Don’t you want breakfast?” she asked, a bit too quickly. As if realizing what she had done, she added, “It wouldn’t be any trouble.”

“No thanks,” I answered, fingering the hole in my stomach. “I don’t like eating this early in the morning if I can help it, and I really need light more than I need food.” My hair was somewhat wilted. I’m sure some of that was from sleeping so long, but some of it was probably from lack of light. The sun was able to peek through the windows a little, but she kept her blinds down.

“Wha… OH! I’m so sorry, I forgot! Please, do—”

“I’m not mad. I’ll be fine. I just need a few minutes outside and I’ll be good as new.” I started to the door.

“What about water?” she asked.

I turned to her. “No thanks. You’ve been a great host, as far as I can remember, but I really just want to get home.”

She was kind of starting to get flustered. I was beginning to suspect she was trying to drug me again. I got to the door and got my hand on the handle. She flung her front legs around me in a tight embrace.

“I was so scared,” she whispered. “I thought you were dead… There was so much blood…” Oh, that’s what this is about.

“I lived because of you. You might think you were scared, but you were brave: You did what you needed to do. I’m here, you’re here, and we’re both fine.” I let the door go and turned to hug her back. “Like it or not, you’re learning what it means to be brave.” We held each other for a few more moments, before I felt her legs go slack. I let her go. “Better?” I asked.

There were still tears in her eyes, but she nodded. I opened the door and went down the stairs. I saw Angel watching me from the couch and sent him up to look after her. I left her little house and finally got back into the sun. It was a mid-May summer day, and the sun was shining down hot. I used to be a night person when I got to Equestria, but now… Well, my biology was forcing me to be a day person, like it or not. The sun felt great.

I stretched the remaining weariness out of my body, and smiled at the energy coursing through me again. I’m starting to get good at this whole survival thing. I walked down the winding path away from Fluttershy’s home, watching small herds of animals play around me; she attracted all manner of critters to her home, some that made sense and some that didn’t. I saw a bat playing with a toucan, for example. That just doesn’t make any kind of sense, especially during day.

But I have learned that this world doesn’t have to make sense. Or at least, not to me.

It didn’t take me long to get back home, and there was little fanfare along the way—none of the townsfolk knew I got injured and most wouldn’t care if they did, and over the past few months I had been taking long absences from the town anyway.

I was tempted to remove the ring and fly into town to give my wings a bit of a stretch as well, but it really just felt too good to be walking again after so long in bed.

I got back just as everyone in the library was waking up. I didn’t know how to go about hiding my lack of a finger from Taya, so I didn’t bother trying. I didn’t point it out, but she noticed rather quickly after jumping into my arms—and throwing me on the floor while doing it—that I was missing something.

“What happened to your hand?” she asked, letting me get to my feet. She had a very accusatory stare on her face, and I knew I was about to be in trouble.

I did a quick mental check to make sure I was wearing the ring, and said, “I ran into something meaner than I was.” No reason to mention Fluttershy; I don’t want Taya to blame her for anything, even though it actually was my fault.

“You promised me you wouldn’t be hurt,” she said. It wasn’t angry, or sad, or anything. It was flat.

I think that hurt worse than losing my finger. “I said I probably wouldn’t be hurt. Besides, there was almost no pain involved at all.”

Her eyes flashed light orange, and her horn was glowing. She was about to say something when she suddenly blinked, letting both glows die. She blushed heavily and ran back upstairs.

Twilight and Spike were giving me odd looks. “What was that about?” Spike finally asked.

I snapped my fingers. “After so long away, that’s all you can say?” They both blinked.

“Are you feeling better?” Twilight asked, a bit of concern in her voice. “The princess and I were so worried…”

“I’m fine. I wasn’t expecting to be asleep so long, but it was for the best.”

“We all told Fluttershy you’d understand.”

“And now your experiment begins to see how long it’ll take my finger to grow back,” I said.

She gave a sheepish smile. “Well, I wasn’t going to do anything without your permission, but…” She turned to look around for something. “Spike, where’s my ruler?”

“Where it always is,” he said, rushing off to grab it. When he returned, Twilight eagerly measured my stub. The finger had been removed at the main joint, leaving a nasty ragged bit left. I couldn’t tell for sure without having seen it a few days ago, but it felt a wee bit bigger.

“And the rest of your injuries?” Twilight asked.

“The only thing left is the chunk missing from my stomach, and I’m pretty sure it’s filling in.”

“Amazing! I’ve never seen magic modify somepony to this level before! I’m surprised it still works, with that ring on.”

“It works because it is biology, not magic. It started as magic, but it all molded together. I fear I am not a human anymore.”

“Well, whatever you are, you’re the most resilient creature I’ve ever seen. I’m glad you’re on our side.” I couldn’t help but smile at that.

 

I stopped going into the forest after that. I wasn’t willing to risk getting attacked again, with even worse results. I believe Luna got what she was looking for, and Twilight would be busy for a while with what I brought her.

 

One day in early June found me lying back on a low-flying cloud over a relatively empty park. It was a nice warm day, and the serenity all around me let me just forget all my problems and plans. No princesses, no Taya, no clamoring voices, nothing but the cloud beneath me and the sky above.

And then Rainbow Dash had to fucking ruin it. “If Applejack asks, I’m not here!” she whispered, huddling deep into the center of the cloud.

I sighed, “Got it.”

“Sh, not so loud!” she hissed.

I didn’t answer. Silence reigned once again, aside from Rainbow Dash’s heavy breathing.

Not five minutes later, I heard someone calling down below, “Is anypony up there?”

I opened my eyes and peeked over, to spy Applejack looking up at me. “No ponies,” I called down. Not a lie: Rainbow Dash is a pegasus. “But there is a human. Need something?”

“Have you seen Rainbow Dash anywhere?”

“Not recently, no. If I see her, I’ll tell her you’re looking.” It wasn’t technically a lie either; when Rainbow Dash hid, I didn’t even open my eyes.

“Well, shoot. Thanks anyway, Nav!” With that, she ran off to look some more.

I laid back down, to find a pegasus lying crossways over where I had been. I just rested my head against her and let my legs dangle; I was well over my fear of heights by that point. “Applejack is looking for you,” I said, closing my eyes again.

“Thanks, Nav. I’m usually more careful in my pranks, but she caught me this time!”

“At least you had some manner of escape. The last time she caught me pranking her, I had to spend a day helping her with farm work.”

“Doesn’t hardly seem fair to you.”

“Don’t I know it? So be thankful you’re fast. Though if you’re afraid of getting caught, your pranking will weaken.”

“I’m not afraid of anything!” There was a bit of a pause. “But… there are some things that give me a bit of a pause. Besides, all I really want right now is a chance to sleep, and Applejack loves to work. And… a few other things. I always try not to get caught by her.”

If I had been animate enough I would have shrugged. “I wish I could sleep. I won’t be able to until fall, unless I get injured badly enough again.”

“We were wondering what happened to your finger. You finally got attacked in the forest? I’m sure you gave better than you got!”

“I was attacked right after saving Fluttershy from something in there. I wish I could say I put up a good fight, but something very large and very mean took a good swipe at me and knocked me right out. I barely survived after that. Missing finger, broken wing, deep gashes down my back, my cheek was cut so bad you could see my tongue, and I had a big chunk bitten out of my stomach. It took me eight days to heal most of it away, and all but a few minutes of that was spent asleep in Fluttershy’s bed.”

Fluttershy took care of you? Well, I suppose that would be better than a doctor; they wouldn’t know much about you. Still, eight days is incredible, for all that! I wish I had your kind of regeneration skills. And your long life. And your adventures…”

“I am liking the regenerative abilities, but as to the rest… Bleh. You didn’t read my more recent journals, so you don’t know how bad some of the rest of the world is. You think you want adventure, but with adventure comes hunger, thirst, desperation, and violence. It is not a fun life.”

I heard a voice calling up again, “Hey Navarone, come down!”

I slid around to look down again, to find Pinkie Pie looking up with her typical curiosity. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you why, Pinkie Pie.”

“Hey, that rhymed!” she said. “You’re a poet and didn’t even realize it!” Yep, that’s Pinkie Pie.

“So what did you need?” I asked, still peeking over the cloud.

“I’m bored!”

“You’re fucking Pinkie Pie! You know everyone in this village. How can you possibly be bored?”

“Come on, Nav! You’re just lying around!”

I muttered, “Dammit, Pinkie Pie.” Louder, I said, “Hold on.” I turned to look at Rainbow Dash, who was faking being asleep by closing her eyes and pretending to snore. “I know you’re faking,” I told her. She peeked an eye open then quickly closed it when she saw me looking. She started snoring faster. “You are obviously faking being asleep.” She muttered something in a sleepy sounding voice, pretending to be dreaming. “You don’t start dreaming until you’ve been asleep for a while.” Nothing. “Fine, be that way.” I slid off the cloud and glided my way down.

As soon as my feet hit the grass, I slipped my ring on. The only way a unicorn could hurt me while wearing that is by kicking me, stabbing me, or throwing something at me. I’m paranoid, but whatever.

“So what did you have in mind?” I asked.

She smiled. “How do you feel about foals?”

“You mean the tiny little newborns?” She nodded. “Not a fan, personally. And I don’t imagine they’d be much a fan of me, given what I am.”

“Come on Nav, you’re not that bad!”

“I wouldn’t say all that about a human baby. It’s just that my appearance is so wildly different from anything they would be used to that it might scare them. So I’ve done my best to avoid any babies here.”

“How will you ever know unless you find out? Want to go play with some?”

“Not really, no. That wasn’t the only reason I didn’t want to see any. I also don’t like babies that much. Loud, stinky, fragile, unmannered, uncontrollable. Not something I’d want to spend much time around, given the choice.”

“Come on, Nav! Those aren’t so bad. I mean, I’m talking to you, after all!”

“Yeah, but you are hardly fragile. The rest, yeah, a little.”

“I’m not stinky!” she said with much indignation. She didn’t try to refute the others.

“To you, yeah. And I don’t suppose you ponies smell anything wrong with each other. After so long here, I barely even notice it. But there was definitely an unpleasant stench the first few days I was here, and I notice it every time I leave pony-held lands for a while. You’d probably notice the same thing if you went to where I came from. But no matter. Pick a hobby and I might join you.”

“Anything?” she asked with a disturbing unguarded wonder.

“Ask, and I might. You never know until you ask.”

She grabbed my head and pulled my ear in close. She whispered something in my ear, and let my head go. “No,” I answered.

“How about singing and jumping and dancing and frolicking?”

“I’ll watch as you do that; some of your songs are actually pretty decent. Or if by dancing you mean ballroom, then maybe. It’s been about a month and a half since I did much of that. Jumping and frolicking, though, I think I’ll just watch.”

“You never want to try anything new! Or are you really just that lazy?”

“I’m not entirely positive as to what frolicking entails, I’ll admit. But jumping and what I’ve heard about frolicking aren’t things I enjoy, personally. I enjoy hearing others sing, and I find some dancing enjoyable. Though Scratch got me moving to beats you’re closer to. I’ll freely admit, that night was fun.”

“So… are you saying that you want to party?” She had such a hopeful gleam in her eyes.

“I don’t remember saying that, actually. Can’t you just settle for going to the Gala next month?”

“Psh, that’s not a party! That’s a gathering of rich snobs that have nothing better to do. And the princesses, of course.”

“And your friend the donkey?” I asked. Some old donkey came to town a few years ago, name of Cranky Doodle Donkey. Funny name, not so funny fellow. Pinkie Pie pulled a fucking deus ex machina and found his lost love in town. Apparently the two lovers met at the Gala some years ago. After all the abuse Pinkie put that poor bastard through, I’m surprised he forgave her even then, but people here are nicer than I am.

She waved her hoof. “He only used to be a rich snob with nothing better to do.”

“And me? Or Twilight? Or yourself, at that. We’ve all been to a few of them.”

“Okay, so there are a few exceptions.”

“We could play chess,” I suggested, hoping to get her mind off partying.

“What’s chess? Sounds boring. Why don’t we do something fun?”

“Name something you enjoy that I also enjoy.” At her look, I amended, “Aside from what you’ve already mentioned.”

She got a thoughtful look on her face. After a few seconds, she raised her hoof like she had an idea, and then paused. After a second, she put her hoof to her mouth, concentrating hard. She stood like that for a little while. And then she pounced on me.

I landed on my back, with her on top of me, one of her legs on each of my extremities, holding them down. She was smiling right in my face.

“I got your arms! What are you going to do now, human?”

“Depends on how violent you want this to get. No blood?”

“Of course not, silly! This is just between friends.”

I twisted my legs sideways, giving me enough room to rip them out from under her. I wrapped them around her back and used my new leverage to swap our positions. Her back legs were free, but I used my arms to pin her front legs. “That,” I answered, my face close to hers.

She… nuzzled me. I don’t know if I can describe how that made me feel.

And then she proved that ponies actually are stronger than I am by throwing me clear off her. I didn’t go far, and as soon as I touched dirt, I jumped back to my feet. They might be stronger and heavier than I am, but I’ll be damned if they’re more agile.

I saw her getting to her feet. “That kind of smile isn’t what I usually go for,” she said, “but I’ll take it!” I realized I was wearing a bit of a predatory grin. I was still feeling a bit awkward from being nuzzled—Taya had done it to me before, of course, but not like that—but my blood was starting to pump a bit, and I realized I was starting to feel a bit of what I had been missing ever since I got attacked in the forest.

I didn’t have time to think on it, though, as she was attacking again. I dodged her pounce, since I had been expecting it. I quickly sat on her back before she could move or shift. “Going somewhere?” I asked.

She jumped straight up. I barely managed to hold on, and the fall hurt me in ways she couldn’t understand. I still held on, though. Thankfully, the obvious answers of dropping sideways or jumping and landing on her back never occurred to her, or if they did she deemed them as too dangerous to me.

“That’s not fair, Nav!” she finally said.

I patted her side in consolation. “You’re stronger and heavier than I am. This seems fair enough to me.”

“I’m not stronger than you are! And get off of me.” After a pause, she added, “Please.” I did.

“The vast majority of you ponies are physically stronger than I am,” I said. “I am generally more agile, of course, and if we were in a real fight I would wager on me winning over most ponies any day. But for raw strength, I just can’t compete.”

“Aww, come on!” She dragged me over to a table nearby. I don’t know if I had ever actually seen any ponies sitting at one of these tables; how would they get in? Or sit down?

She managed both, and pointed for me to sit on the other side. She put one of her front legs on the table. “Hoof wrestle!”

My hand fit nicely around her hoof. “Go!” It didn’t take two seconds.

Her eyes were open rather wide at the end, too. “I always thought…” she tried, but stopped. “I thought you… What?”

I retrieved my arm. “I told you. I realized it my first week here. Ponies are just stronger than I am. I’m considerably more dangerous, of course, but if any of you got me trapped or something I would be basically helpless. That’s why I couldn’t break free when you held me that night at your parents’ farmhouse. Or when Fluttershy did the same a few weeks ago.”

“Doesn’t that bother you?” she asked.

“Not really. Most ponies wouldn’t do that. It’s different when I am a pony, of course—the magic gives me muscles to compensate.”

“Hmm…” She got a look on her face that I wasn’t quite comfortable with.

“Whatever you’re thinking, I don’t think I want to be involved.”

“So you’re saying you can’t escape snuggles?” she asked, a scary smile forming on her face.

“Oh, I can. I just can’t without turning violent.” I pulled a knife out of my sleeve and slammed it into the table.

She gave it a dismissive look. “You wouldn’t hurt me.” I don’t know if I like where this is going.

“And I don’t think you’d do what you are thinking about doing.”

She cleared the table to get to me, somehow. I don’t know how she got her legs unstuck so fast or how she got over the knife without getting hurt, but suddenly we were both rolling in the dirt. To my credit, I ended up on top, but she had her legs completely wrapped around me, trapping my arms and my legs.

“Well, you have me stuck. But there’s not much you can really do either, is there?”

Before she could answer, someone nearby said, “What are you two doing?”

We both looked over to see Cheerilee leading a flock of kids around the park. I guess this place doesn’t have summer break. We both answered hastily, “Wrestling.” Pinkie Pie quickly let me go and we picked ourselves up.

Cheerilee gave us a look that told us she thought she knew better, but didn’t comment. I’ve had a few conversations in the past with her, and I really like her: She actually has a brain, and uses it quite often. Twilight is intelligent, of course, but Cheerilee was actually smart. If that makes any sense.

Thankfully, none of the kids thought anything of what they saw. Most of them were used to me by now. I pried the knife out of the table before too many of them could see it, and Cheerilee gave me a thankful nod when I put it up.

Pinkie Pie asked, “So what are you doing out here today, Ms. Cheerilee?”

“Oh, it’s just too nice of a day to stay cooped up in a classroom. I figured a day in the park would be welcome.” Judging by the sounds the kids were making and how much fun they looked like they were having, I agreed. “So Navarone, I hear you’re now a knight for Princess Luna. I don’t suppose you’d have any stories you could tell my students?”

“No offense, ma’am, but I don’t think any of the stories I have to tell are the kinds of things you want your students hearing. I do jobs the princesses don’t want to give to ponies, if you know what I mean.” I tapped the sleeve where she saw me put the knife to make sure she got it.

“Oh come on, Nav!” Pinkie Pie said, slapping my back weakly, probably trying to make sure she doesn’t hurt my ‘fragile human body.’ “Surely you can leave some parts out!”

I made sure there weren’t any kids around. “Well, let’s see… There’s the time I got mauled in the forest. There’s the time I killed a bunch of people in Egypt, and the second time I killed a bunch of people in Egypt. There’s the time I failed my duty in Maris and Blueblood almost died because of it. I suppose we could mention the time I killed a bunch of naga, and call that a job for Celestia since it did benefit her. I could tell them about the time I met a dragon in the forest—and that isn’t sarcastic, either; he was a good fellow. I heard all of Ponyville was terrified when we flew over on the way to Canterlot.”

“That was you?” Cheerilee gasped.

“No, that was a dragon,” Pinkie Pie answered. “Navarone is a bit too small for that.”

“I was in his talons at the time, actually. He was an old friend of Luna’s and wanted to talk with her again, so I reintroduced the two.”

“Hm…” Cheerilee mused, “You could tell that story, actually. Not the others, of course, but that one would be fine. Can you make it sound… interesting?”

“I probably could, but there really isn’t that much to it. Luna asked me to explore the forest a while back. I found a few ruins, a few unique magical artifacts of great power, all manner of nasty critters, and several caves. One of the caves was full of jewels. I knew as soon as I saw them that I was probably done for, since that many jewels means a very large and powerful dragon. I was right about the dragon, but wrong about being dead. He was lonely and wanted to talk. In our talks, I mentioned that I was a friend of the princesses, and we got to talking about them. I got a hug from Luna and a short break in Canterlot out of it.”

“Wait… What was that part about the magical artifacts?” Cheerilee asked.

I shrugged. “This isn’t a story I can tell your students, but I found a repository of artifacts in the forest. The guardian of the artifacts gave me three: A key that can open any lock, a ring that cancels magic, and a pair of stones that change gender.”

“And why can’t you tell my students that story? It sounds interesting enough.”

“Because you know three of them in particular will rush off to try to find that cache of artifacts.”

She grimaced slightly. “Yes, I think I know which three you’re talking about. Though I am somewhat surprised they don’t already know; most of the stories that get told in my classroom about you come from them. Of course, most of what they say is obviously false. I mean, there’s no way the princess would ever do something as base as personally staring down an enemy general!”

“That story is actually kind of true,” I said. “But I don’t know how they learned about it; I sure as hell didn’t tell them anything about that. What really happened is that the army I was leading got trapped in a city between the hostile deserts and freedom, with a larger, stronger, and better equipped opposing army on the freedom side. We had no chance of fighting our way through, and trying to defend the entire city would be impossible with our numbers. I figured it was time for a bit of help, and used Spike to send a message to Celestia, begging for aid. She teleported to me, and we took the leader of the resistance with us to meet the enemy general. He took one look at Celestia and pulled his entire army away. My army marched right out of Egypt with all our civilians in tow.”

“See, now that is the kind of story you can tell my students!” she said. “It’s historically accurate, paints a good view of the princess, and it ends peacefully!”

“It sure as hell didn’t start peacefully. We killed a few hundred people forcing the city. I don’t even know what our losses were, but I don’t think they were that bad. The city guards were pretty demoralized by…” I saw her face shrink a bit with every word. “Well, never mind about that. My second trip to Egypt was pretty boring, but probably even more important: I dropped off the Equestrian ambassador and guarded her until Egypt was made almost completely safe for ponies.”

Pinkie Pie added, “Which thanks to you wasn’t that long anyway! See, Nav? You’re important.”

“Yeah, I admit that I sped up the process a bit by discovering those assassins. Damn near killed me, but they definitely got the short end of the stick on that one. Helped uncover a traitor, though, and that ended the threat quickly enough.”

“You’ve definitely lived an interesting life,” Cheerilee said. “But I’m not certain any of that is suitable for my students.”

I shrugged. “I didn’t think so. I tend to do the kinds of jobs that no one likes remembering needed done. Maybe someone will put me in a history textbook sometime.”

“Hm… I don’t mean to offend, by why do you say things like someone and no one rather than somepony and no pony?” she asked.

“I grew up in a world where ponies are mindless animals and humans were the only race with sentience or sapience. That’s what we say there, and I’ve never adapted to what is said here.”

I saw a light flick on in her head. Not literally, in this case, but figuratively. “Do you think you could tell any stories about your home, then?”

“I don’t want these kids scared of me. Stories of that place would probably be worse than any of the stories I have from here. Though with my entire history to work with, I suppose I could tell of other stuff; we are a hell of a lot more technologically advanced than you are. If you think Rainbow Dash flies fast, you would be in for a surprise. We have machines that make her look like she’s standing still. And if you think Twilight is smart, we have machines that make her look like an idiot. We have machines that farm better and faster than Applejack, and make better products from the crops as well. We have machines that can mass-produce any manner of clothing and just about anything else. When I left we didn’t have anything that could match Pinkie Pie for parties, though, or Fluttershy for caring for animals.”

“I’m sure you didn’t have anything that could match Ms. Cheerilee in teaching, either!” chimed in Applebloom, who materialized at my side with no other warning.

“Not really,” I answered, “but we did have machines that made lessons more accessible to students that couldn’t get to the classroom. It’s still nothing on personal contact, but it is better than nothing.”

“Now girls, what have I told you about eavesdropping?” Cheerilee asked them in a disapproving voice.

“Not to do it,” they all three answered in a sad voice. I noticed then that the other two had joined us.

Pinkie Pie suddenly shot up a foot or so, “Oooh oooh, I have an idea!” Oh God. “I know all of Nav’s stories! And he knows all of his stories! What if I told them and he acted them out?” ‘Oh God’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The three girls all looked disturbingly excited by that. Even Cheerilee got a bit of a smile on her face at the thought. “You know,” she said, “that might work! What do you think, girls?”

They all nodded happily, voicing all manner of approval.

I tried saying, “I’m not much of an actor…” That was kind of a lie. Except instead of ‘kind of,’ it was definitely a lie.

Fucking Pinkie Pie, man… “You’re a great actor, Nav! Don’t you remember your first Gala when you pretended to be Egill?” Her hooves immediately went to her mouth and her eyes went wide.

I softly answered, “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Cheerilee responded, “You were Egill? How is that possible?”

Louder, I said, “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I gave Pinkie Pie a bit of a nasty glare.

Unfortunately, the girls have about as much impulse control as Pinkie Pie. Applebloom mused aloud, “You did match the description Twilight gave us all of Egill when you were a pony…”

Sweetie Belle continued that speculation, “And he did seem to know a lot about Princess Luna…”

Scootaloo threw a bit of a wrench in it, though, “But Egill had a cutie mark! When Nav was a pony, he didn’t.”

“What do you mean, when he was a pony?” Cheerilee asked. “Hasn’t he always been a human?”

“Sort of,” I said. “There was an accident a few years ago that turned me into a pony for a week. You might have seen me around town; I was a white pegasus with brown hair, wearing a dark cloak.” She shrugged. “Either way, I was a blank flank, as Scootaloo said. Now girls, go on and play for a while.” They looked at Cheerilee. She nodded.

When they were out of earshot, Cheerilee cheerily asked, “So, how was it, being Egill?”

“Pretty fun, actually,” I answered. “And this conversation doesn’t leave this circle, either. I don’t want any pony suitors outside my door thinking I’ll turn into Egill for them.”

“I can certainly understand that,” Cheerilee muttered. Louder, she continued, “So when do you two want to put on the show?”

“I don’t rem—” I started saying, but Pinkie Pie interrupted me.

“We can do it right now!”

“Hm… I did promise the kids we would do something educational in the park today… I suppose a recent history lesson would be as good as botany.” She started calling all the kids up. “Who wants to hear a story?”

Most of them seemed relatively ambivalent.

“It’s story time or botany time,” she told them flatly. “Your pick.”

“So what’s the story about?” some bitchy sounding little filly asked. Diamond Tiara, I presume? I had heard a few stories about her from the trio of terror. She’s a typical spoiled brat. All she’ll be good for is a trophy wife, I suppose, if she has the looks for it; I don’t pretend to be a judge of looks for ponies, especially not one as young as that.

Cheerilee opened her mouth to respond—hopefully in a relatively rude manner, as I would have to such impertinence—when Pinkie Pie cut her off, “An epic of love and sorrow, war and peace,” she kept going on for a little while. Cheerilee stood gaping.

I leant down a bit and whispered to her, “Pinkie Pie is telling this story, not me. Blame her if anything goes wrong.”

She blinked and turned her head to respond, when Pinkie Pie finally got to the point, “Starring Ponyville’s very own Sir Navarone!”

She waved me forward. All the little ones looked to me expectantly. I decided to say something, to make it at least look like what was coming might be interesting: “My apologies for not having all of my weapons to use as props; a lot of them were recently destroyed in the forest while I was fending off an Ursa Minor and a few timber wolves.”

That got a few gasps. One little colt asked, “What happened?”

“I found a few critters trying to attack Fluttershy in the Everfree Forest. I helped her escape. She got out fine. Me…” I held up my left hand so they could see the difference in my finger lengths, “…I wasn’t so lucky.” There were murmurs in the little crowd. “Go ahead and begin your tale, Pinkie. I’ll just follow along, making do with what I have.”

Pinkie Pie gave a very abridged version of some of my adventures. We press-ganged Cheerilee into helping us with some parts; she ended up playing a few cats, Celestia, a naga, a dancing partner or two, and a dragon. I used knives to simulate swords and I threw them to simulate my crossbow. Pinkie Pie certainly painted me as a lot more of a hero than I really was.

Of course, a lot of the kids had already heard some of the stories, but I don’t think any of them had heard all of them. We all got a bit of applause at the end. I heard clopping coming from above me as well, and looked up to see Rainbow Dash peeking down through the cloud.

Then we all had to answer questions, of course. Diamond Tiara’s hoof shot up first, and Cheerilee called on her. “So if you saved a little filly from Egypt and brought her here, why isn’t she in school?”

“That’s an excellent question,” Cheerilee said. “Navarone?”

I shrugged. “She’s being taught by Twilight. Unicorns that want to learn more about their magic go through a special learning cycle. Ms. Cheerilee isn’t qualified to teach it, I’m afraid.”

“Ms. Cheerilee’s a perfect teacher!” one of the kids answered somewhat angrily.

“A perfect teacher without magic,” I said. “You wouldn’t expect her to be able to teach Scootaloo how to fly, would you?”

I heard a little gray filly sitting next to Diamond Tiara whisper loudly, “I don’t expect anypony to be able to teach her how to fly!” She got a lot of laughs and a few glares. Cheerilee either didn’t hear or pretended to not hear.

“But we never even see Taya!” Diamond Tiara continued. “She can’t always be learning.”

I shrugged again. “Have you been looking for her?” That shut her up well enough. “Well, there you go. I know Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo have met her. If they can do it, surely the rest of you can as well, if you wish to. Any other questions?”

There were a few more questions that I answered handily enough. One little unicorn colt asked Cheerilee if I could lead a field trip into the forest. His cutie mark was a fucking snail, which really didn’t make any sense to me. Cheerilee said no. A disturbingly high number of kids expressed disappointment at that. Are these kids retarded? Or did Pinkie Pie make the forest sound that interesting?

The rest of the questions were pretty standard, with a few disturbing ones about my relationship with the princesses, which I lied about. Kids aren’t supposed to think about stuff like that.

“Now what do we say to our guests?” Cheerilee finally asked when there were no more hooves in the air. They all chorused a ‘thank you.’ Cheerilee looked at the big clock mounted on a building in town and said way too happily, “And we have just enough time to get started on a botany study!” There was a chorus of boos. Pinkie Pie and I decided it might be best if we found ourselves somewhere else.

We got to the edge of the park when Rainbow Dash joined us. “You know, Pinkie, that isn’t how I remember some of that stuff.”

“We don’t want to give them nightmares, Dashie!” she responded. “I know I had a few bad dreams after the naga experience…” And she wasn’t even involved with the killing. I noticed at that point the direction we were walking in; Rainbow Dash and I had just been following Pinkie Pie. She was leading us straight to Applejack’s farm.

“Besides,” I said, “I’d much rather have the kids think I’m a hero than a monster. So they get a romanticized version of the truth; humans have been doing that to kids forever.”

“Yeah, and look how you all turn out,” Rainbow Dash replied. “Maybe if you told your foals the truth about stuff like that, maybe there wouldn’t be so much violence in your world.”

I shrugged. “I don’t rightly know; I never had a kid to raise. I haven’t sugarcoated much of anything with Taya, since I know she’s mature enough to take the truth.”

“You really should give her more sweets, Nav!” Pinkie Pie said. “I know they’re not the healthiest, but they taste great!”

Wha—oh. “Different kind of sugarcoating, Pinkie,” I said. “I tell her most things as they happened, rather than how everyone wished they had happened.” Well, everyone except the guy that lost.

“And she’s turning out well enough!” Rainbow Dash said. “A little bit of an egghead, but I’m sure she’ll grow out of that a bit. Twilight just keeps her cooped up too much.”

“Twilight is also getting a hell of a lot of results, though; Taya is getting very powerful very fast.”

“But if she doesn’t have any friends, what does it all matter?” Pinkie Pie asked.

“Fuck all if I know,” I said with a sigh. “I tried to get her to make some, but you can’t force something like that. The only pony she’s really close with is Twilight. Hell, she dislikes Celestia and Luna for taking up so much of my time.”

They both gasped at that. “How can you…” Pinkie Pie started, horrified

“Dislike the princess!” Rainbow Dash finished, angry.

I shrugged. “You gotta remember, Taya didn’t exactly grow up in a place that was friendly toward Celestia. A few of the ponies I met there actually really, really hated her, though most of them changed their tune as soon as the ban on them leaving was lifted. It’s possible her parents spoke ill of Celestia before they disappeared.”

“That’s awful!” Pinkie Pie said in an incredibly depressed tone. “Everypony loves Princess Celestia!”

“How could you not?” Rainbow Dash asked. “She’s so awesome!” I could think of a few ways.

“Well, I’m the only real parent Taya has anymore, and Celestia keeps making me leave to do some inane task or another. Taya just wants to spend more time with me, but Celestia is making that hard. I know most ponies do like Celestia, and for good cause, but there will always be some that disagree.”

“I’m sure we can teach Taya how great of a pony Princess Celestia is,” Rainbow Dash said. “We can start right after we get back from… where are we going, anyway?”

Rainbow Dash finally started paying attention to where we were headed. By then, though, it was too late: “There you are!” Applejack shouted, galloping up to us. Rainbow Dash frantically looked for a place to hide, and decided to settle on hiding behind me. Why, I don’t know.

For some reason, Applejack decided to continue her pounce, despite obviously seeing me in the way. So she jumped on me and I tripped over Rainbow Dash and we all three ended up in the dirt.

“So how about getting off of me?” I finally asked, after making sure I was okay.

“Simple as that?” Applejack asked.

“Simple as that,” I confirmed. “I don’t particularly want to wrestle.” Especially not after what happened the last time.

“Fair enough.” I think she was thinking the same thing. She jumped off me. I got up, pushing myself off Rainbow Dash. She got up last. “After all, you did find Dashie for me!” Applejack put a leg around Rainbow Dash’s shoulders.

“And I helped!” Pinkie Pie said, jumping in and wearing a wide smile.

“Thanks, Pinkie,” Rainbow Dash said through gritted teeth.

Applejack started leading Rainbow Dash away. We heard her say, “Now here’s how you’re gonna pay me back,” before they were out of earshot.

I turned around and started heading for the town. After a second’s pause, Pinkie Pie joined me, bouncing along as she normally does. “So what do you want to do now, Nav?”

I had started to feel a few hunger pangs over the past hour or so, ever since Pinkie showed up. She always has the smell of freshly baked goods about her, which might be why. Either way, I knew that it had been a few days since I had eaten much of anything, so it was probable I was actually getting hungry. I opened my mouth to tell her that I was hungry when she said, “I know! Let’s eat!”

So I just said, “Sure.”

“We’ll have to actually make stuff first, though… Do you know how to cook?”

“Nope. Do you?” I knew full well that she did. Me, I had forgotten all that I knew back from home. Not using any of that knowledge for years just pushed it out of my mind.

“Yep! Let’s go!” She started bouncing faster. I sighed and took my ring off to keep up with her easier.

Long story short, she taught me how to cook cupcakes. They were slightly singed, but nothing inedible.

 

 

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