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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117. Chapter Ninety-Five—No Gods or Kings

It didn’t take the two of us all that long to get down the massive staircase. She had a long leg-span and could jump down several at a time while I didn’t have to worry about getting tired. Doppel was waiting for us at the bottom, probably trying to prepare herself for the long journey up. Being a whore gives you good cardio, but not much else.

“Shining Armor wants to see you in the throne room, master,” she told me, seeming at least somewhat relieved that she didn’t have to go up the stairs.

“Ugh. Is it important?” I asked. My plan was to go see Watcher and find out what he was doing.

“It seemed like it. I don’t think he’d ask for you unless it was,” she answered with a shrug. “Cadance and those other annoying girls were there as well, but I think most of them were just about to leave.”

I rolled my eyes before starting to walk toward the throne room. “Might as well see what he wants,” I sighed. “Hopefully it won’t take too long. Do you know what they were talking about before he sent you away?”

“The girls were talking about plans for something called a Crystal Fair, I think. I was too busy trying to figure out which one of them was in heat. The feel was there, but I don’t know which one…”

“Doppel, you have more than enough crew to molest. Don’t add any of those six.”

“Why not?” Kumani asked. “Have a little fun. We’re leaving them behind when we leave this strange city anyway. As annoying as they are, maybe a little heartbreak would do them good.”

“First, they know Doppel,” I said.

“Second,” Doppel butted in, “I know them. I don’t want anything to do with them, master. I just like the feel of a mare in heat, is all. And of course, teasing them is always so much fun…”

“I learned my lesson about that a long time ago,” I quietly said. “Mares are fucking crazy. Mares in heat are even worse.”

“What happened?” Kumani asked.

“Something that only technically wasn’t rape,” I answered with a shrug. “But here we are.” I pushed the doors to the throne room open before Kumani could ask more uncomfortable questions.

Of course, I forgot that Kumani doesn’t really care about social politeness. “So who technically raped you that time? Someone I can get revenge on?”

Shining Armor and Cadance didn’t quite know what to make of that. “...What?” Shiny asked. “Nav, is there more you aren’t telling me? Look at what happened with Luna! If anypony wronged you, just let me know!”

“Shiny, I’m not going to make you choose between duty and family.” His eyes jerked open wider at that. “Especially not right now. What did you need me for?”

“If there wasn’t a crisis,  you would be explaining that,” he sighed. “But don’t think I’ll forget.”

“Me either,” Kumani quickly added.

Cadance probably would have said something as well if she didn’t seem to be staring at colors only she could see.

“But there is a crisis,” Shiny said. “Twilight and her friends have found a book of traditions the crystal ponies did to empower the kingdom. They could really use your help.”

I contemptuously snorted. “Really? I gave Twilight both books and she only read the least relevant part of one of them, not even noticing the entire missing chapter?”

“...What?” Shining asked, honestly confused.

“The Crystal Fair isn’t important at all. There’s an artifact called the crystal heart that the ponies are supposed to charge with their love or some bullshit. That keeps all the big baddies away. But your wife could probably charge that thing right up to full with a blast of her horn if we knew where to find it. I have my team looking for it right now.”

Shiny’s head lifted to the door behind me, his eyes filled with a mix of curiosity and confusion. When he looked back to me, he asked, “Are you sure?”

“That’s what the books I gave to Twilight said. Well, not the part about Cadance, but the part about the crystal heart. The fair was just used to power it because they didn’t have overpowered magic to do the job for them.”

“...How did Twilight miss that?” he muttered.

“Don’t know, don’t care,” I said with a bored shrug. “As long as they stay the hell out of my way, they can do whatever they want.”

“They should be told, Nav!” Shiny replied somewhat vehemently. “As… amoral as Celestia has been proven, she is still a very intelligent and able ruler. If she sent my sister and her friends here, it must have been for a good reason. I’m sure they could help you!”

“I would very much rather have someone that is going to follow my orders and not do something stupid just to try to prove me wrong. Or worse, to pass a stupid test. The girls think they’re doing something useful now. I say we let them continue doing their little fair thing. Meanwhile, we can get the heart and hopefully put it in place before anything big happens. Then they go on their way and I do what I actually came here for. Everybody wins.”

“Unless you can’t find it!” Shiny rebutted.

I scoffed and answered, “If an extremely well trained guard squad, a trained and practiced assassin, a minotaur with a device designed to find secret rooms, and everyone else in my team can’t find this thing in the palace, what makes you think an untrained and impetuous unicorn like Twilight could?”

Cadance finally spoke up with, “Arrogance is unbecoming of you, Navarone.”

Kumani laid a claw on my shoulder and said, “Is it a crime for the great to know they’re great? He spent some time building the group he has. Should they not be used for their purpose?”

“Humility is a virtue,” the pink alicorn answered. “And the charity to accept help when it isn’t needed is applaudable.”

Dragons are not at all familiar with that, I don’t think. “If it isn’t needed, why would you—”

I stopped her with an upraised hand, though honestly I was surprised she took that as a sign to actually stop. “Tell you what, Cadance. I’ll make you a deal of sorts. If we can’t find this thing by noon tomorrow, we’ll tell Twilight and her friends. If we can, cool. Either way, I want permission to do some work in this kingdom and the lands around it after Sombra is gone. Nothing that should affect any of the ponies here.”

“Another condition,” Shiny said before Cadance could react. “Not all of your team will be helping you search the palace, I imagine. Sombra seemed to have hidden his hidey-holes well and some ponies aren’t as well equipped to find them. Those that aren’t helping you can help Twilight with her fair.”

“Hm…” It was an easy condition, but it had what might be a hidden pitfall. “Are you sure you want that? I have about eight normal ponies in my crew. The other sixteen are night guards, made to look like them. And everyone else is another species entirely. Do you think the crystal ponies would be okay with that?”

“Judging by the statues I’ve seen, yes,” he answered with a very sure nod. “Maybe not so much dragons, but since neither of the ones with you are that big, it probably won’t be a problem.”

“Then I consider that an acceptable condition. I imagine there will be quite a rush from my team to prove themselves useful to Watcher now.”

Cadance wearily smiled and said, “I doubt it. What sane pony would prefer to risk dealing with dark magic to planning a fun and happy fair?”

“A soldier, dear,” Shining Armor said with a small smile. “How can I help you?” he asked me.

“No clue,” I replied with a shrug. “I need to find Watcher now and talk to him. Then I need to go find Jak and find out how he’s doing on that device. Cadance, you’re going to need some more coffee soon. It’ll wear off and you’ll feel even worse, otherwise.”

She flinched slightly when I said that, but nodded. “Very well,” she wearily sighed. “But you have to keep me company tonight.” The claw on my shoulder suddenly increased quite a lot in pressure. “I know it’s summer now, so you don’t sleep. Shining Armor needs his rest, in case something bad happens.”

“I really don’t,” he said, putting a hoof on her back.

“You’ve been awake as long as I have, dear. You’re just more used to it because of your guard training. Now that there’s somepony else to help me, let him help me. You need rest, my love. If the worst comes, you need to be at your best.”

He sighed and looked away, nodding. “Alright, Cadance. But you better wake me up if anything happens.”

Despite the pressure I could feel even through my armor, I just nodded and said, “Alright. I got plenty of games on my laptop that’ll help keep you awake, Cadance. And Kumani, relax. She’s happily married.”

“And everypony knows that Nav doesn’t go after married mares,” Cadance added with a nod. “Or married stallions, for that matter.”

“It is… highly worrying that you consider that something commonly known,” Kumani very calmly said while using her grip on my shoulder to pull me closer to her.

“Jesus… Look, Kumani, I’m not going to fuck her. Cadance is a friend who happens to have a vagina. Consider her the exact same as, say, Spike. If you’re getting worried about this, you really need to trust me more.” It felt like most of the pressure from her grip went away, at least, though she didn’t answer. “Shiny, we need to find Watcher. He should be in or near the vault, wherever the hell that is. Doppel, go make more coffee. Kumani, stay here with Cadance until Doppel gets back. Make sure she doesn’t pass out.”

“I am not a servant, Nav,” Kumani said.

“Well, if you feel like risking death by whatever plans Sombra has, feel free to let Cadance fall asleep. Shining Armor and I are going to find Watcher. We can uh… renegotiate later who gives what orders, if you’d like. Right now, crisis time.”

“...Very well. But those negotiations of ours are going to be rather intense and involved.”

“Even better. Come on, Shiny.”

He sighed and started following me as I turned back to the door we came in. “Must you really call me that? If we win this, I might well be a king, Nav.”

“Eh… King-consort at best. Remember, Cadance is the one with both wings and a horn.” The doors easily parted beneath my might and the two of us passed through into the hall, out of the throne room. “Besides, isn’t she the one fucking you in the ass?”

“...You could have waited for the doors to close before saying that,” he said as Kumani’s head probably shot our direction in shock. “Or better yet, not say that at all.”

“Hey, I’m not judging. It was me that gave her the advice. All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t be claiming big titles like king while not being the one in charge.”

“I’m sure that once we get things here up and running, I’ll have my fair share of responsibilities. As you told me yourself, marriage is a partnership. Something you seem unready for, judging by your dialogue with Kumani.”

“I never even pretended to be ready for marriage. But this relationship is fairly new and this is our first operation together. Dragons aren’t used to taking orders, it seems.”

He snorted and replied, “You shouldn’t order those you care about around, Nav.”

“Even in a military operation where lives are at risk? I understand that it’s a bad idea, but it’s important that she be willing to do as I say, at least when it’s important. However, judging by that last back and forth we had, I might have to make a few sacrifices to ensure she does that.”

“What could she even want? I can’t really think of any ‘sacrifices’ she might ask you to make.”

“No clue.” That’s a lie. “It’ll probably be interesting, at least.” Though interesting isn’t always good.

“So why a dragon?” he asked. “After… what happened, I imagined you would go for somepony a little meeker. More tame, I guess.”

“I’m stupid. It’s been interesting, at least. It’s the dragon’s mating season or something, so she’s been all over me, for better or worse.”

“Uh huh. So what will you do about foals? I don’t think there are many dragon adoption agencies out there. Or human ones, at that.”

“Shit, dude. I don’t want any more kids. At least, not right now. I don’t know what she wants, though. I figure it’s way, way too early in our relationship to bring that up. I just assumed that if she’s with me, she doesn’t mind not having them. Hey, speaking of that, where’s Skyla?”

He scowled at the mention of his daughter and said, “In Canterlot. I understand why we couldn’t bring her… But I absolutely hate that she isn’t here with us, where I can keep her safe. At least she’s in good hooves. Once things settle down, I might return to get her personally.”

“So you guys are actually going to get to keep this place if you can tame it?”

“If we can tame it, yes. Celestia claimed it was Cadance’s birthright, whatever that means.” Probably just some bullshit Celestia came up with on the spot to get rid of the two.

“Well, I’m sure you two will grow into it. Lord knows it’s about time you got out of Canterlot.” Though going from Canterlot to a place like this might not necessarily be an improvement.

“Yeah. Same for you. And you know, we would grow into this job much easier if we had a good advisor helping the two of us.”

“Then don’t accept any that Celestia appoints. They’d put Equestria’s interests above yours.”

“I’m offering you a job, Navarone,” he said with a smile. “Name your price and I’m sure our coffers can cover it once we get this place up and running again.”

That was the most directly tempting offer I had gotten so far. Sure, retiring as a king with Chrysalis would be interesting, but it had a ton of problems that were obvious from the start. Same for dating Celestia. But a job with Shiny and Cadance…?

“You don’t know how much I want to say yes. If I didn’t have to do what I came here for, I would take you up on that. Will that offer stay on hold for some time?”

“Absolutely,” he answered, his smile growing wider. “We could really use somepo—one like you. I imagine after what’s happened, there’s little love lost between you and Celestia, and in effect the rest of Equestria. I know you’re close with the griffins, but I don’t know how well living there would go over. Same for the changelings.”

“Chrysalis offered to make me king. She wasn’t entirely pleased when I turned her down.”

“... I can imagine. From what little I remember of her, she didn’t much care for hearing the word no.”

“Yeah… Dude, where the fuck is the vault?”

We both stopped and he looked up the hall and then behind us before turning back to me. “Nav, I was following you. I thought you knew where you were going.”

“I just got here! You’re the one that’s been here for two weeks.”

“...Alright, give me a minute.” He walked up the hall a few feet to a tapestry. When I got next to him, I saw that the thing showed a large black stallion with a very strange horn and a hairstyle that just screamed 80’s. He was standing in front of three rows of nondescript soldiers, facing off against a horde of what honestly looked like fucking undead. “We’re going to need to get rid of these,” he muttered, studying it before looking around the hall again.

“Dude, that thing is fucking awesome. Though why are there zombies on there?”

“I don’t really know the history of this place that well, but I think something named Grohan or Godor lived up here for some time, using dark magic to raise the dead.”

“...Grogar?”

“That sounds right. Alright, I think I know where we are. Come on.” He started walking off again. “Even with as much as you read, I’m surprised you know about Grogar. I only learned about him in passing during my advanced royal guard training.”

“I’ve heard his name once or twice. But increasingly often.” Worryingly so. “It’s another one of those things Celestia removed from history books, I imagine.”

“That… is not surprising to me. It should be, but… Do you know what all was hidden?”

“Not everything. But I’m almost positive that the books in the library here were not screened. So if you can protect them, you can find out for yourself.”

“I will definitely do that, then. Though I never really was big into reading.” You don’t say. “Any suggestions on where to start?”

“Fuck all if I know. I just know the Hearth’s Warming story is a lie. That book I gave Twilight has the real story in it, or at least part of the real story. I also know that there is a spirit of chaos called Discord that ruled a while ago, was put into a stone prison by Celestia, escaped recently, and she’s been covering up the fact that he broke out. He’s the one that killed off humanity, not that it’s important. And there’s—”

“Wait, what?”

“Dude, have I got some stories for you later. Anyway, the last thing is the history of a dragon called Reginald, who was apparently instrumental in protecting the ponies in their early days. He had all kinds of cool stories, like how originally all ponies were alicorns but Discord split some of them into three, making earth, unicorn, and pegasus ponies.”

“That doesn’t… What?”

“Like I said, I have some stories for later. But since there’s a really big and extremely safe looking door ahead of us, I think we made it.”

“I honestly don’t know how your team got that door open. Nothing I did would budge it!”

I just smiled as the two of us walked up to the massive set of doors, seemingly inlaid into the wall. “If I had to guess,” I said when we got to them, “these aren’t doors. Just put into the wall. The actual vault is probably hidden behind some magical door. Just a guess, based on what happened when I opened his journal.”

“Good guess, daddy,” Taya’s voice said. Both of us looked around, but couldn’t see her anywhere. At least, not until she stepped out of the wall. “Those actually are doors, though. It’s just a good thing Shiny didn’t get them open.”

“Really, Nav? She’s doing it too?”

“What’s on the other side of them?” I asked.

“Watcher just said pain,” she replied with a shrug. “So do you want to see the real vault?”

“Not really,” I said. “Just Watcher. But I assume he’s in there, so we might as well check it out.”

“Yep. And he was teaching me all kinds of cool magic!”

Oh great. More bad habits that she doesn’t need. “Well, lead the way,” I sighed.

“Um. You might want to hold on to me, daddy. It’s impossible to see until you get to the other side and it’s a maze in there. All the traps are gone, at least, but it’s still easy to get lost.”

“A maze?” Shining Armor asked. “How could he have even built that?”

Instead of bothering to answer, I just grabbed Taya’s tail with one hand and Shiny’s horn with the other. “Lead the way, Taya. We’re right behind you.”

“Really?” they both asked at the same time.

“Why the horn, Nav?” Shining Armor asked.

“Because it’s the obvious choice, unless you feel like hobbling along on three legs or me just grabbing your face.”

“And the tail?” Taya sighed, trying to weakly pull it from my oppressive grasp.

“Same reason. It can’t be one of your legs and it’s not like you use this thing anyway. Just lead the way.” They both sighed and rolled their eyes as Taya turned back to walk into the wall. The two of us followed behind somewhat quickly, so I wouldn’t risk jerking her tail.

It didn’t take the three of us long to get through the tunnel. It was completely pitch black all the way through, almost as though we were actually walking through a solid object. The complete lack of sound probably helped with that feeling. It was… eerie.

When we got out, though, we beheld a tremendous mass of fucking dosh. Like, treasure of every kind. Fancy equine armor, strange weapons, gold, silver, jewels, a few books, bones for some reason, and a various assortment of other items to which I didn’t really pay attention. Kat, Watcher, and his two redshirts were moving piles of junk from one area to another to continue looking for the heart. Kat decided to deck herself out in fancy gold trinkets, looking somewhat like a nigga with a passion for rapping.

“Find anything, Watcher?” I called, releasing both ponies. Taya’s tail flicked in response, pulling away from me. One of Shiny’s hooves went up to his horn to rub at it, for whatever reason.

“Just a bunch of useless treasure,” he grumbled, stepping away from the efforts to move the piles to walk over to us. “I can’t imagine what in Tartarus that bastard was going to do with all this.”

“Useless?” Shiny quickly interjected. “I could field armies with this! We could feed the city for years! There won’t be any need to tax the ponies here for… years, probably!”

“Gold has to come from somewhere,” Watcher told him. “We found records. This is all the gold in the city. All of it. You want an economy to appear when all’s said and done? You have to get the money back to the ponies somehow.”

“Well, that’s—”

“Not our problem,” I broke in. “Watcher, we have a deadline. Find the heart before noon tomorrow or Shiny’s sister is going to get involved and make our lives hell.”

“Then we’ll start working harder. I don’t need an amateur trying to tell me what to do.”

“Hey,” Shiny said, “Twilight is very well practiced and really smart!”

And she’s a sperglord. “Practice is not experience,” Watcher said. “When the fate of a city—and my fate, come to think of it—depends on the actions of someone, I’d prefer it to be someone who has done something like this before. Sadly, this palace is rather large and it may be impossible for one or two unicorns to search the entire thing. And that is, of course, assuming the heart is here at all.”

“Why does it have to be a unicorn?” I asked.

“So far, all the hidden areas have been blocked off and only accessible with dark magic. Your daughter seems to have picked it up quickly, but I won’t risk letting her run into other, more mundane traps.”

“Same,” I said with a nod. “Though you shouldn’t have taught her something with the adjective ‘dark’ before it at all.”

“Why not?” Taya petulantly asked.

“Noted,” Watcher said with a nod. “The point remains that I could use some more assistance, however. Sadly, I think I’m the only one on my team that actually knows how to do the magic.”

“I can,” Shining Armor said. “It’s another thing I learned in my training for captain. Though how you know it… Isn’t it forbidden?”

“No, it’s not. It’s just nearly impossible to find a teacher. And of course, knowledge of even its existence was heavily suppressed, so not many know to look for it.”

“Hm. Well, if you show me how to open the doors, I can assist you in searching.”

“Sir?” Watcher asked me.

“Go for it. Give him Kat to help him search and teach him how to open the hidden areas. Two search faster than one. If you get tired and you’re confident in Taya’s abilities, you are free to use her to open the doors, but you have to deal with the other traps.”

“Understood,” Watcher replied. Taya did a victorious hoof pump that she thought I didn’t notice. “We should get started now. Do you need anything else, Navarone?”

“Nothing I can think of. I just need to go talk to Jak, see how close he is to getting his device built.”

“Yes sir. I’ll keep Taya and Shining Armor here to teach them both, then send Shining Armor out when he has it down.”

“Alright. Hold onto my ring for now, then. Shiny, after I talk to Jak and head up to my ship for a second, I’ll probably be keeping your wife company, if you know what I mean.”

“Okay, Nav. I’ll see you when I see you.”

“Yeah. And Taya, be careful. You’re dealing with the kinda shit that actually blinded me.”

“Well technically—” she started.

“It blinded me,” I interjected. “And I do not want it to hurt you. So don’t do anything stupid. If you need me for something, you know where I’ll be.”

“...Yes, daddy. And I love you.”

“Love you too, Taya.” And with that last phrase, I went on back out the strange hidden door, tracing my steps back to the hallway where we first entered it.

It didn’t take me too long to find my way back out of the castle and down to the ground below. I only had to jump out of one window to do it. Most of my crew down there was doing fuck all, just sitting around and chilling like lazy bastards. Jak and Smiles were actually doing shit and a few of the people down there were helping them.

“Listen up!” I called, getting everyone’s attention. “Twilight and her friends are putting a fair together. Everyone that isn’t helping Jak, go help them. The sooner we finish helping Shining Armor and Cadance, the sooner we can go back to doing what we came here for.”

“What did we come here for?” someone muttered.

“You’ll find out when we finish helping Shining Armor and Cadance,” I answered. “Now go find those girls and volunteer.”

There were a few unhappy mutters, but Gilda actually pulled her weight by shrugging and walking off in some random direction, hopefully wherever the girls had gone. The others began following her, thankfully. Truth be told, I was surprised to see Gilda actually doing something like that, but I suppose she wanted to spend some time with Dash.

Anyway, with most of the crew out of the way doing fuck all, I walked over to Jak and the few people he appropriated for assistance. “How’s it looking?” I asked him.

“Unwell,” he growled. “This building is made of a material I have never seen. It will take more time than I was expecting.”

“Can you get it done before noon tomorrow?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent. If you need more help, I should be wherever Cadance is soon.” He didn’t answer, just continuing to mess around. Given how little of a talker he seemed, I just took that as my sign to leave. So I walked out from under the castle, spread my wings, and took off toward the airship that was hanging in the air above the city.

When I got up there, only the two crew members and their foals were on deck. They both looked up when I landed and one asked, “What’s going on down there?”

“A lot of things,” I answered. “Where are the squads?”

“Asleep,” the guy said. “We figured we would wake them up if we actually needed anything.”

“Well, I actually need something. Go wake one squad up and tell them to head down and find Twilight or something and ask to help with the fair.”

“Fair?” the other crew member asked. “Can we go?”

“Maybe. But someone has to watch the ship. Anyway, one of you go wake them up. I have a few things I need to get before going back down.”

“...Then why can’t you just do it?”

I scoffed. “And be in front of a tired, possibly pissed off ex night guard? Hell no. You two have magic. I just have armor.” With that bit of common sense thrown their way, I started to walk to the ship’s belowdecks entrance.

“Which squad?” one of them asked before I got there.

“Flip a coin,” I answered over my shoulder, starting down the stairs deeper into the ship. Thankfully, it didn’t take me that long to get what I needed and get out, since all I needed was my laptop and its charger. When I got back to the top, only one of the crew members was there, nervously strumming his hooves against the table. “Chill,” I told him. “Ain’t nothing that scary out here.”

“Even that massive black cloud against the shield?” he asked.

“Massive black cloud…?” He nodded toward one of the edges against the shield, where, as he said, a fuckmassive cloud of darkness loomed ominously, from the ground up to about the top of the shield. At the top of it, I could see Sombra’s glowing green eyes, what looked like an orange changeling horn, and some semblance of oily black hair. “Oh. Nah, that’s nothing to be too worried about.” Just an evil king that wants to kill or enslave everyone.

“Well, that’s good,” he breathed in relief. “So do the rest of us just stay up here?”

“Yeah. Now, I need to get back down. Just stay ready to do whatever is needed, I suppose.”

“Of course, Navarone. We won’t let you down.”

“Good.” And then I jumped off the side, falling down toward the city. After a few seconds, I arrested my fall and flew straight to the one of the windows at the throne room, flying through the open space and alighting on the floor. “Miss me?” I asked a weary looking Cadance and a bored looking Kumani. Doppel was nowhere to be seen, or I would have been asking her as well.

“We’ve just been… talking,” Cadance said.

“Well, now I have the laptop, so we can do something more amusing. Cadance, you ever go to a movie?”

“...Shining Armor took me to one, once, I think. It wasn’t really that amusing.”

“That’s because you guys are in the very early stages of film technology. I think I know just what will keep you awake, too. It’s time for Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” That’s personal enough for her, right? I didn’t want to show them anything too graphic yet, since I figured it might make Cadance throw up.

“That sounds… unpleasant,” she warily commented.

Kumani growled, steam pushing past her slightly bared teeth. “Never offered to watch anything with me.”

“I… didn’t think you’d be interested, Kumani. And you were always too busy trying to jump my bones.” Just one bone, actually. “By all means, stay and watch if you want.”

“Please do,” Cadance added with what looked like a forced smile.

“I think I will,” Kumani said with a nod.

I shrugged and set the laptop down on the hard floor, opening it and turning it on. With it starting up—not that it took longer than ten seconds—I started getting out of my armor. If we were going to be in that damn room for a long time, I didn’t want to be sitting around in that annoying, uncomfortable carapace. When it was all off, I sat down on the hard floor, pulling the laptop to me. “Well, come on over, you two. Shouldn’t take long for this to get set up.”

They both walked over next to me. Cadance sat her bony ass to the ground, staring at the device. “So what exactly is this thing, anyway?” she asked. “You never really explained it, that I can recall.”

“Just human technology with a bunch of information stored. Think of it as a library with a ton of human knowledge.”

“An entire library right here?” she asked in wonder. “Twilight would fall in love.”

“Which is why she doesn’t know about it,” I replied. “Kumani, are you going to join us or just keep standing there?” In hindsight, I should have realized she’d sit and then immediately pull me into her lap. It’s just something that she would do. And of course, something she did do.

“Oooh, that’s how it works,” Cadance said with a smirk, looking our way.

“Shut up,” I sighed, unwilling or unable to even come up with a better answer. “No one wants to hear your shit.”

“I think it’s cute,” she replied with a giggle.

“Hear that, Nav?” Kumani said, wrapping her arms around me. “It’s cute.” After she said that, I felt her lean over and then I felt a tongue tickling my ear, making me flinch away. She and Cadance just chuckled at my suffering.

“Why must you torture me so?” I asked, leaning over to find the movie in question.

“Because you like it,” Kumani answered, using a claw to stroke one of my wings. “And sometimes you make really funny sounds.”

“He does that too?!” Cadance asked with way too much glee. “I thought Shining Armor was the only one!”

I knew I had to step in before it was too late. “Do you guys want to watch this movie or not?” I asked. “If you just want to talk about boys, I can go find something else to do.” Like finding a really nice room that doesn’t have a ghostly guardian.

“We can watch it, dear,” Kumani said, letting her head rest on top of mine. “And you know we’re just teasing you.”

“You do it all the time to us, after all,” Cadance said with a smirk. “It’s only fair that we get some revenge.”

“Bah.” Now that they finally decided to behave, I pressed the start button and let the horror begin. Then immediately stopped it because neither of them could understand English. “Cadance, can you hit yourself and Kumani with a translation spell?”

“Simple enough…” When that was done, the horror began again.

“That was pretty impressive visually,” Cadance tiredly said, “but it was more disquieting than scary. I thought you said humans could be dark and evil, Nav. Surely there’s scarier stuff than that out there.”

“Yeah, that was pretty boring,” Kumani somewhat tiredly said.

“Alright, alright. I was going to save the harder stuff for later, but I see how it is.” My next search was for Thirteen Ghosts. “You guys might like this one. It’s more… spooky.”

...I almost had my arm ripped out of its socket while that movie was going. Cadance has a very painful reaction to jump scares, as it turns out.

“That one was pretty cool,” Kumani said, though Cadance hadn’t been alone in being afraid.

“C-can we watch s-something more… happy?” Cadance asked, her eyes very wide.

“Hey, I gotta keep you awake,” I answered with a shrug, prying my aching arm away from her very tight grip. “And you did ask for something scarier. Now, how about The Grudge?”

And so things went for the next few hours. We got through two more movies before Kumani got too tired to stay awake any longer. I sent her to bed and she went without too many problems, finally secure in the fact that I wasn’t planning on cheating on her.

“She seems… possessive,” Cadance said after Kumani was hopefully far enough away that she couldn’t hear us.

“That’s because she is. It’s been annoying, but not too bad just yet. I need to learn more about dragon customs, though. Like, she asked me to help her lay an egg. I thought that was really, really weird.”

“...That is really, really weird. Well, to me, at least. I don’t really know that much about dragons, honestly. So what was it like?”

“She’s still in her season, so she hasn’t laid it yet. It’ll probably be pretty freaky up until the point where we throw it over the side of the ship.”

Her entire body flinched and her head shot my way, eyes open even wider than they were during those scary movies. “W-What?”

“It’s unfertilized. You know, like a chicken egg that you’d eat.”

“...Oh. Yes, that does make sense. After all, I don’t suppose the two of you will be having foals…”

“Thank God for that, too. So what do you want to watch next? More scary stuff? Comedy? Happier things? Or would you prefer something more interactive?”

“Interactive how?” she asked.

“They’re called video games. You control an avatar on the screen and do all sorts of things.”

“Oh, video games! Like the few arcade games back in Ponyville and Canterlot?”

“...Yes. But those are ridiculously primitive compared to what we have. The ones we have can truly suck you in and eat hours at a time, if you let them. They’re definitely the easiest ways to stay awake, in my experience. If you find a fun one, at least.”

“Well, what’s a fun one?”

“Depends on what you’re interested in. Let’s see… You’d probably like The Sims or something. I don’t like them, but you’re boring enough to.”

“I’m not boring!”

“We’ll see.” I started poking around until I found the latest version of The Sims, which was the tenth one or some bullshit like that. When I loaded it up, it looked the exact same. “Well, find a formula and stick to it,” I muttered, opening the tutorial for her. “There. Mess around with this. If you break my laptop, you’re going to be getting a hell of a spanking.”

“That… would be a bad idea,” she said with a small blush. “Though I suppose it would definitely help keep me awake.”

“God, you damn ponies are perverts. I’m going to go get more coffee. Where’s the kitchen?” She gave me perfect directions, which made me rather happy. Looks like Shiny’s been making sure she knows her place.

Sure enough, her directions led me right there. As I set some water up to boil, I checked the larders for anything that would be quick and easy to make. Sadly, there didn’t seem to be much of anything in any of the pantries, so I just shrugged and made the coffee before heading back to the throne room. When I got there and got settled next to Cadance, I saw that she had managed to build a human version of her own family.

“Did you make sure that this Skyla is also evil and extremely hateful?” I asked, passing her the coffee.

“Of course not! I wanted to make it realistic, after all.” I rolled my eyes. “I made a few other couples here as well. I created an entire neighborhood!”

“If this is anything like what I remember of this game, prepare for a whole lot of cheating.”

“What? Shining Armor would never—Wait, what’s he talking to Twilight about?” When I looked at the screen, I saw that some heart bubbles were coming out of an avatar with Twilight’s hair style. After a few seconds of talking, they started coming out of Shiny’s as well. “But… They’re siblings! That’s gross!”

“Yeah. Welcome to The Sims. To be fair, looks like you’re planning an affair as well.” Her avatar was very obviously flirting with a tall dude with green hair that… Fuck.

“I would never…! Ugh! This game is weird!”

“To be fair, you did ask me to fuck you a while back.”

“I was in heat! That’s different… Maybe this human character is, too?”

“Humans don’t have heat. You’re just being a slut.”

She hmphed and turned her head away from the screen. “I’m done with this! How do I turn it off?”

I pulled the laptop my way and hit escape and tracked down the quit button. Let me tell you, EA doesn’t like players quitting their games, because they didn’t make it easy. “Alright, so that was a bust. Let’s try something a little more my speed.”

“Better not be some dirty cheating simulator!” she growled as I hunted down Dead Space.

“Alright, now you’re just getting upset over nothing. It’s a game, not what would happen in real life. Now, you remember those movies we were watching earlier?”

“Oh Celestia… Yes. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those…”

“Then yeah, you’ll really love these games.” I got it open and pushed the laptop back in front of her. “I suggest drinking that coffee before you start. You’re not gonna want to look away from the screen much.”

She sighed, lifting the mug. “What did I get myself into?” she groaned.

Half an hour later, I had her screaming pony curses at the screen and spraying bullets at every little thing that moved. It was hilarious.

All things told, that night was really, really fun.

It’s a shame that it was almost ruined by the awful day that came after it.

Let me tell you, Shining Armor was quite surprised when he walked into the throne room and heard his wife screaming, “I’LL BUCKING KILL YOU!”

His eyes widened and he teleported right in front of us, looking around and summoning up a quick shield. “What the hay’s going on?!” he demanded when he saw no threats.

“That stupid… double hollow killed me again!” she shouted, pointing her hoof at the screen that rather emphatically showed ‘YOU DIED’ and a hollow walking away from her corpse.

“That’s Dark Souls for you,” I calmly said, patting her back. “What’s with the shield, Shiny? Nothing going on.”

“I thought… What’s… Never mind. So how was the night?” he asked, lowering his shield and getting out of his defensive stance.

“It was pretty rad,” I answered with a shrug. “That’s enough, Cadance.”

“But I want to kill that thing! This is the third time it’s killed me!”

“Cadance!” Shiny gasped. “Why are you so violent all of a sudden?”

“This game is so unfair!” she said by way of answer as I pulled the laptop away from her. “It’s just impossible!”

“That’s hardly true,” I answered. To prove the point, I cut my way to the thing that kept killing her and easily took it down, even with her shitty equipment. “You just need to get good, scrub.”

“Ugh! I’m done with your stupid human games!” Shiny and I both smirked as she sat there and pouted, allowing me to easily turn the game off.

“So do you know how things are going with the search?” Shining Armor asked me.

“Absolutely no clue,” I answered with a shrug, closing the laptop. “Haven’t seen Watcher or heard from any of his team. Hopefully that doesn’t mean he got incapacitated by a trap.”

“You should go look for him, then,” he said. “I’ll stay here. Maybe open a few of the hidden doors that Kat told me were in here.”

“If you do, be careful.” I stood, taking a second to gloriously stretch. “And if the armor gets in the way, just push it aside. I don’t think I’ll be needing it.”

“What about shoes?” Cadance asked. “I know how sensitive your little footsies are.”

“...Did you really just say that?” I asked in a deadpan voice.

“I’m tired and you just spent all night torturing me with your horrible human ideas of fun! It’s only fair that I can get some revenge.”

“Well, in this case, you’re right. This floor is ridiculously hard. I suppose a few more hours in that tin can won’t kill me…”

“Need help putting it on?” Shiny asked.

“Oh, you know you’d prefer to help me take it off,” I slyly commented, batting him with a wing before walking over to where I left it. When I looked back over there, Cadance was smiling darkly and Shiny was blushing up a storm. “I was joking. God. No, I don’t need help.” I started putting the armor on. “So how did you two stay awake before we got here?”

“We… had our ways,” Shiny said, looking away.

“Lots and lots of kinky sex,” Cadance answered, deadpan. When Shining Armor looked at her with complete shock on his face, she said, “What? This is Nav. He already knows what we do. No reason to hide it.”

“But… but to just say it like that?”

“Honey, I lived with him for months. Some of his bad habits rubbed off on me, I suppose. I thought you would have realized that by now.”

He sighed, looking away, but she stepped in front of him and kissed him, not letting him avoid her. I quickly got the rest of my armor on and let myself out, pausing only to grab the laptop. When I got to the door, I just had time to hear Cadance ask, “So you wouldn’t cheat on me with Twilight, would you?” before it closed, cutting off whatever horrified response he might have had.

With me finally free from the tyranny of watching over Cadance, I began searching the castle, searching for any signs of Watcher or the rest of his group.

It took me nearly an hour to find them. Thankfully, Shiny wakes up early, so it wasn’t that much of a problem. “How’s the search going?” I asked a rather tired looking Watcher. “And where’s Taya?”

“Sent her to bed,” he grunted. “And not well. We’ve searched half the palace with nothing important to show for it. This is starting to get irritating.”

“When was the last time you ate? Or took a break?”

“...I don’t remember, actually. Regroup!” His two squadmates stopped what they were doing and immediately walked over. Kat took a few seconds longer to realize she was included in that. “We need a break. We’ve been at this all night. Get some sleep, eat something, walk around, whatever. We’ll meet back here in one hour.”

“Yes sir,” his two squadmates immediately answered, probably extremely happy for a small respite. The two of them wasted no time in fucking right off.

“How’s the fair going?” Kat asked me before yawning.

“No clue. I was going to check on that after this. You should probably get some sleep, though.”

“Nah. My training is different from that of a guard, but still very effective in helping me stay awake. I’m tired, but good to go for a few more hours.”

“Eh, whatever. Watcher, you need anything before I go find Jak?”

“I don’t. Just tell him to hurry up. We need to find the big chambers in this place quickly. That would save us a lot of time.”

“Easy enough,” I answered. “I’ll see you both later.” That conversation concluded, I walked on over to the window they had set up and violently tossed myself out of it, since I really didn’t want to get lost while trying to find my way outside. Once I got in the air, it was but a short flight down to the bottom where Jak was still tirelessly working. Smiles, however, was very tiredly working. “How’s the device going?” I asked the minotaur.

“Well. I finally figured out the correct frequency. I began the looting process shortly after. Smiles has proven himself very useful in that regard. Wings move faster and allow for more areas to be accessed when hunting for specific items.” The ‘specific items’ he was talking about were a ton of different bells, as it turned out. They were all interconnected by various means and set up around the base of the palace. “Give me another half hour and I should be ready to set this thing off.”

“Excellent. You have any trouble with the crystal ponies?”

“Not them, no. But some lavender unicorn came up to me pitching some kinda fit about how I shouldn’t be taking up space needed for her crystal heart.” I swear to God, if she beat me to the fucking heart...

“How’d you deal with her?”

“By threatening her with a very large wrench. She decided to put the ugly heart somewhere else for the moment, at least until I use this thing.”

“Excellent. And I see this place is a lot more lively, too.” That was somewhat of an understatement. The girls had been very busy setting up the fair. The entire thing was finished and a large number of crystal ponies were already there, going to the various booths and activities that were set up. Several of them were eyeing us, but none could build up the courage to approach.

“Aye, ‘tis,” he answered. “As long as they don’t interrupt me, they can watch all they want.”

“Good. Whenever you get this thing ready, use it immediately, then find me or Watcher and give us the results.”

“Understood, forerunner.” I would say that he got back to work, but he actually never stopped while talking to me. So I just sort of walked away to get a better look at the fair.

It was definitely in full swing. And, to my somewhat horrified surprise, some of the crystal ponies actually looked like they were made of crystal! They shined and glittered as they moved, each wearing a smile on his or her face. It was a rather interesting sight.

My staring was interrupted by Doppel tapping on my leg. “Master, Pinkie wanted me to ask you something.”

“What did she want?” I sighed, knowing that if it was from Pinkie, it couldn’t be good.

“She wants to know if you can use the ship to play music over the city. She thinks it would be good for the crystal ponies to hear.”

“That’s… more reasonable than what I was expecting from her, actually. Alright, let’s head up to the ship. You’re DJing.”

“Why me? I don’t know anything about music!”

“It’s simple. You just say ‘stop’ if you want the music to stop. And then ‘play’ to make it start again. Then just make sure the laptop stays safe and you’ll be fine.”

“Hm… I was helping cheer them up in my own special way… But I suppose this’ll be easier. And I’m feeling pretty full anyway.”

I stopped myself from asking if she was full of lust or full of cum. “Well, let’s go then.” We both spread our wings and took off, flying up to the ship that was still in the same position. When we got there, I set the laptop up next to one of the masts and said, “Go get one of the cords to plug it in. I’ll set up a playlist for you.”

“Okay, master.” Off she went while I began finding music to throw in there.

That became a lot easier when I realized that ‘love songs’ was a search term. With that in mind, I created the list pretty much instantly and had it ready to go by the time Doppel got back. I took the cord and plugged the computer up, then started the songs up. “Think that’s loud enough?” I asked when they began.

“Hm… I don’t know.”

“Well, I don’t want to offend Slaanesh. Things shall get loud, now!” With that, I cranked it up to eleven. And then to ten, because my minor OCD kicked in. Now, as everyone knows, computers have two sound settings: Quiet and too loud. There’s a very fine and immediate distinction between the two that is easily found. I found it and music began blaring from the speakers. Given that we were several hundred feet up, I figured that was a good thing. “Now?” I yelled over the noise.

“Turn our speakers down!” she called back. I shrugged and did so, lowering the setting of the speakers that played the music onto the actual ship. “Yeah, that’s good,” she said with a nod. “And if anyone thinks it’s too loud, I’ll just seduce them so I don’t have to figure out how to turn it down.”

That’s Doppel, everybody. “Have fun with that. I’m heading back down there. If you need anything, I guess just send someone down to find me. Or have someone else watch over the computer and find me yourself.”

“Okay, master! Have fun at the fair!”

“Fun. Right. See you, Doppel.” I jumped off before she could answer, plummeting on down toward the ground.

Now, I didn’t particularly want to participate in any kind of fair. And to be honest, the ponies probably didn’t want me there that much either. I mean, I’m really weird to them since they didn’t know much about me. So instead of wandering around the booths that were set up, I just went back into the palace and on to the throne room, where Shiny was cuddling his wife. When I got there, I just found a nice place to sit and wait for Jak to set his device off.

It came right on his schedule, or close enough to it. There was silence for several minutes before a sudden and massively loud *CLANG* reverberated all through the halls, feeling like it was honestly shaking the entire castle from its foundations to the very top of the building.

Shining Armor immediately leaped away from his wife, looking all around. “What just happened?!” he blurted.

“Relax,” I quickly said as the shakes began subsiding. “I had my minotaur blacksmith working on a way to help us find hidden rooms easier. He told me he could build something that used sound to locate the hidden rooms. I have no idea how, but I’m sure it makes sense to him.”

“...I suppose the hollow rooms would echo, or something,” he slowly said. “But you should have warned me!”

“Yeah, probably. Sorry ‘bout that. I’m going to go see what he found out,” I said, jumping up and soaring out the window. When I got back down, there was a whole ring of ponies surrounding the base, all staring in wonder at what the minotaur had wrought. They were all easy enough to fly over, so that’s just what I did. “So it worked?” I asked Jak, landing next to him as he made some marks on a paper that I couldn’t see. Watcher and his team was already next to the minotaur, waiting in silence.

“Shhh.” He continued making marks as I stood there in silence, waiting for him to look up. About five minutes later, he did. “Yes, it worked. Judging by this, I’d say that the biggest cavity is… directly under the throne room.”

“For buck’s sake!” Watcher cursed, kicking the ground with a loud clop. “Alright, let’s go. Knew I should have listened to Kat…” He led his team back to one of the doors, moving rather quickly.

“Jak, get this device broken down. I don’t think we’ll need it again. Might as well give Twilight the space she wanted. I’ll be helping Watcher if you need me.”

“Understood. Smiles! Stop dozing off and help me break this thing apart.”

“Huh whuh? Yes sir!” I left them and hurried after Watcher’s squad, catching up to them as they took the stairs up.

“What kind of villain puts their greatest weakness right under them?” Watcher was griping. “I swear, doesn’t anyone ever have brains?”

“Hey, it might not actually be there,” I said. “We just think it’s there.”

“I’m almost positive it will be,” Watcher said.

When we got up to the throne room, we found Kumani, Shining Armor, and Cadance all there. “What in the world was that noise?” Kumani asked.

“The sound of this conflict hopefully being resolved,” I answered. “Watcher, if you would?”

He nodded and walked to the center of the room, his horn glowing an inky black and a purple haze appearing around his eyes and then his horn. When he got his evil spell powered up, he shot it at the throne. It seemed to scan the room, which revealed a large, dark stairway going down.

“Now we’re talking!” Shiny ecstatically said. “Let’s go!”

“No!” Watcher quickly said. “You stay here with your wife.”

“Yeah, Shiny,” I added. “Make sure she stays awake. But Watcher, we want to get this shit done quickly. If you, me, and Kumani go, we can easily just coast down that hole and skip the stairs entirely.”

“Excellent point, assuming she doesn’t mind carrying me.”

“Eh, ponies are light,” she answered with a shrug.

“What about me, sir?” Watcher’s pegasus asked.

“You two stay with Cadance and Shining Armor. We’re at the pivotal point, right now. If he has alarm traps anywhere, they’ll be down there. If it all goes bad, make sure they get out.”

“Yes sir,” the both immediately answered.

Kumani walked over to the unicorn, but I beat her there. “If we’re all going down there, I want my ring back,” I said. “I’d be much more comfortable with it than without it.”

“Yes sir,” Watcher replied. His horn lit up and then the ring appeared in the air next to him. “It was very useful against the traps. It’ll probably continue being useful as we go down.”

“Let’s find out,” I said with a smile, jumping down the center of the hole and spreading my wings enough to slow my fall. As soon as I got to the bottom, I slipped the ring on and stepped out of the way of the center, making room for Kumani. The only thing down there was a single fairly nondescript door. Without even bothering to check for traps, I just pulled my magic key out and plugged it into the door as Kumani landed behind me. I had it open before she could even set Watcher down.

“Any traps?” he asked me, walking up to the door.

“None that I know of,” I answered with a shrug. “Just a simple door. Easy enough to get around, when you have a key.”

“Then let’s keep moving. You’re the one with the ring, so go first.”

I shrugged and stepped into the very bright room. As soon as I got in there, my gaze seemed drawn up and up and up, farther than even my eyes could see. “Good God.”

“What’s in there?” Kumani asked from behind me.

“I don’t even… Jesus.” When I was able to pull my gaze from the massive height of the room, I saw more stairs to my immediate left. “Really? What the fuck is with this guy and fucking stairs?”

“More of them?” Watcher asked. “Good thing we left the others behind. That would take forever if we had to walk.”

“Yeah… It seems safe, though. Come on through.” The two of them joined me in the insanely huge room and both quickly joined me in looking up to the top of the spire leading up as far as we could see.

Watcher let out a low whistle as he looked up. “Quite a ways. Shall we get started?”

As an answer, I pulled my ring off and jumped into the air, soaring straight up. Kumani joined me in the air seconds later, Watcher grasped in her scaley claws. Together, we flew up to the top of the incredible height.

Even when flying, it took us a disturbing amount of time to get there. Watcher theorized that we were in some form of pocket dimension, because even with the deep chasm of the stairs going down that we found in the throne room, we shouldn’t have been able to go as high as we did to get to the top.

But get to the top we finally did, though we had to actually use the staircase to get to the very top, since the ceiling blocked part of our way. When we did, I think all three of us were pissed at what we saw.

“You mean we could have flown here the entire time?!” Kumani demanded, looking at all the windows leading right outside the palace. The three of us were at the very top of the tallest tower on the palace, overlooking the entire city. The room was a large circular one, with nothing but a few columns to block out the wind.

“We could have actually seen it from the fucking airship!” I shouted. That’s true. I could see the airship from where we were, including Doppel getting down and dirty with one of the crew members.

“All that bucking time wasted!” Watcher growled, glaring at the glowing blue heart suspended in air at the center of the chamber. He walked a few feet that way before immediately stopping in front of a black circle on the ground. “This is trapped. I barely felt it.”

“I can grab the fucking heart, then,” I said, slipping my ring on.

“No!” he quickly said, stopping me in my tracks. “This is a different kind of trap, I think. Not made to stop or hinder someone, but just to alert Sombra. Or at least, that’s what it looks and feels like.”

“Can you disarm it?”

“...Probably. If I can’t, we’ll just try having one of you fly over it and see if he has air sensors on as well. I know if you step on this thing or use magic while standing in it, he’d know immediately.”

“Well, get to work. The sooner we get out of here, the better.”

“Yes sir.” He began walking around the circle, his horn glowing.

“So what should we do?” Kumani asked, pulling me closer to her.

“Just be ready to move, I guess,” I answered with a shrug.

That didn’t stop her from lifting me up for a kiss, though. “We still need to talk about when you can give me orders, you know,” she whispered, one of her claws trailing down a wing, usings its talons to dig into the feathers slightly and making me squirm in my armor.

“That’s something that c-can be done privately, I think,” I quickly answered, trying not to give way too much of how good that felt.

Thankfully, Watcher saved me. “I can’t do anything to this,” he said after a few circles around the trapped area. “It’s way, way beyond me and the quality of most of the rest of his work. If I had to guess, that dark circle was made out of some kind of strange crystal that increased its power greatly.”

“So we fly over it?” I asked, pushing myself away from my sexy dragon girlfriend.

“That’s my suggestion, yes,” he answered with a nod.

“Then that’s what I’ll do,” I said, taking my ring off.

“Why can’t I do it?” Kumani demanded. “I haven’t done anything this entire trip. And I’m resistant to magic anyway, so it should definitely be me.”

“Alright, go for it,” I said with a nod to the heart. “Fly over the circle, grab the heart, and get back here. Simple enough.”

And of course, it saved me from being put to unnecessary risk. She smiled sweetly and did just that, grabbing the heart with absolutely no problems and landing next to me. “Easy,” she said.

“Why wouldn’t he trap the air around it?” I rhetorically asked.

“If I had to guess,” Watcher said, “it’s because there are no pegasi in this kingdom. Or at least, none that I’ve seen. If any of his subjects tried to get the heart, they would have to walk over that circle. Why waste magic if you don’t have to?”

“Fair enough,” I answered. “I’ll carry the heart. Kumani, carry Watcher. Let’s take the express path, shall we?”

“I just want to forget about this stupid heart,” Kumani muttered, handing it to me so she could grab Watcher. “Can’t believe we wasted all that time!”

“Consider it a learning exercise,” I replied, walking over to the edge. “That is one hell of a drop. Lead the way, Kumani.”

“With pleasure.” She carried Watcher over and jumped off, majestically soaring down.

I took a second to look around the room behind me before a sound caught my attention, a sound coming from the stairs. That somewhat worried me and I almost jumped off to avoid whatever trouble might be coming up, but Flo whispered, “That sounds familiar.” At her reassurance, I waited.

There was no way I could have possibly expected what appeared: Twilight and Spike, shooting out of the stairwell and then collapsing to the ground. “Huh.”

“Whoa,” Spike groaned, sitting up and rubbing at his head. “Where… Nav?”

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“Is that…?” he asked, eyeing the heart.

“Yep. See you at the bottom.”

The last thing I heard as I jumped from the top was Twilight screaming, “NAVAROOOOOONE!”

I fucking laughed the entire way down. Hell, I was still laughing when I touched down next to Kumani and Watcher at the base of the palace. “What’s so funny?” Kumani asked. “And what took you so long?”

“I’ll tell you later,” I answered, pulling myself together. “So Watcher, what do we do with this damn thing?”

You’re the one that read the history book. I was just looking for it.”

“Oh yeah.” Thankfully, I quickly remembered what we were supposed to do, and looked to the center of the area under the palace, where a very nervous looking Applejack was standing guard next to a covered object.

When I started walking up to her, her eyes went wide. “N-nothin’ to see here, Nav!” she quickly spouted, obviously lying and doing her best to hide whatever was under the cover.

“Then get that ‘nothing’ out of my way. I need to place the crystal heart there.”

“The… you found it? I thought Twilight was looking for it!”

“I beat her to it,” I replied, holding the heart up. “So if you would…”

“Right!” She started pushing the obviously heavy object out of my way, making room for the very impressive looking heart. I carefully positioned it right at the center of the tower before letting it go, ready to catch it in case it fell. Thank God, it held, and two crystal spikes appeared from below and above the heart to hold it in place. Everyone around me breathed a sigh of relief. “So now what?” Applejack asked.

“Now we get Cadance down here to blast it with love magic,” I said, smiling at how easy that was.

“I uh… don’t think that’s gonna happen,” AJ said, going from happy to pale and afraid almost instantly.

“Why not? Shouldn’t be that hard.” Instead of answering with words, she pointed to our right, where her face was directed. I turned that way to witness the flickering shield collapse, allowing the massive form of King Sombra complete access to the kingdom. “Oh fuck me…”

We weren’t the only ones that noticed, either. Sombra, of course, started surging into the kingdom as soon as he could. Since everything he touched immediately became corrupted into a dark version of the original, the crystal ponies were also very quick to notice. They began panicking as their lord came for them once more. I think all of my team noticed.

With the shield down, Cadance was obviously unconscious, so she would be of no use. Watcher was likely weak from staying up all night and Shining Armor would be too worried about getting Cadance to safety to be of much use. And of course, nothing else could fight that monster but me anyway, not unless they had the ring on.

So I did the only thing I could do: Slip the ring on and start running toward him. As I’m sure it should be obvious, Kumani and Watcher did not quite like that reaction and both began running after me. By the time they caught up to me, though, I was already at the evil cloud. “I challenge thee, Sombra!” I yelled up to where his head was laughing madly. “A duel of honor!”

“What need have we of honor, ape?” he growled, another pair of eyes and a mouth appearing in front of me. Thankfully, he stopped his rampage. “We own this city once again! Submit or thou will be forced to submit!”

“You know you’re better than that! I will not go down without a fight, Sombra! So fight me one on one. A duel, as I said.”

“Nay. We have nothing to gain from fighting thee.” His eyes disappeared from their position before me.

“Oh, afraid of fighting me without being able to use that dragon dick you keep on your forehead?” I yelled, hoping that publicly mocking him would get him to stop.

“Oh, we are sure thou art well acquainted with the phalluses of dragons! Little else would satisfy thy gape, we imagine.”

Pinkie appeared out of fucking nowhere. “Oooooh! You gonna take that, Nav?”

Truth be told, I was too stunned to answer. Holy shit, I just got fucking served. “Of course the ape will take it!” Sombra answered. “We imagine he does little else with his time than bend over for his dragon masters.”

Thankfully, what he said gave me the reply I needed. “Psh. You can’t talk to me about dragon masters! I saw your collection of dragon boners in your vault! I bet you got plenty of use out of those in your spare time, didn’t you?”

“Thou knowest nothing of our fights against the dragons of olden times!”

“Oh, I read your history books! How you forced your country to bend over and take it from behind from all the dragons. I bet just seeing Kumani here makes you quiver in your cloud. You probably couldn’t even fight me if you tried, after all the cowardly stunts you pulled in your time.”

“Thou wilt eat those words!” he hissed, shrinking in size and changing his shape until he appeared before me as an extremely angry pony about the size of Shining Armor. “We accept thy challenge, ape! If ‘tis an honor duel thou wants, ‘tis an honor duel thou wilt get!” One of his front hooves slammed down, propelling everyone around us away, sending them tumbling away until a clear ring was around us. “One against one, pony against pony. No magic, no weapons, no armor! What dost thou say?”

“Agreed.” No armor and no weapons did tip the scale rather heavily in his favor, but I wasn’t there to win. I was there to hopefully distract him long enough for either everyone to get away or for someone else to do something to help me kill him. So I slowly began pulling off weapons and armor, doing my best to delay as long as possible.

Nothing came from those initial delaying tactics. “Thou art small and weak, ape,” Sombra said with a smirk. “Thy armor is quite misleading. This shall be over quickly.”

“Underestimating me is the cause of death of most of my opponents, Sombra,” I answered, casually popping my neck. “Art thou ready for a royal ass whooping?”

“It will be amusing to beat an enemy mostly to death in front of our subjects. Public displays of strength always remind the peasants why we are king.”

After cracking my knuckles and surreptitiously making sure my ring was there, I lifted my arms in a basic boxing stance. Right when I got ready to start the fight, one certain song started playing over the ship’s speakers, one song that I never, ever wanted to hear again. “We’re no strangers to love…” Oh you have got to be fucking kidding me!

Sombra smiled at the fixed rictus of rage my face was in. “Dost thou finally fear for thine life, ape? If thou givest up, we’ll make it quick.”

 “Bring it, bitch,” I growled, absolutely pissed to be fighting a battle while getting Rickroll’d.

“Consider it brought,” he growled before pouncing at me. I easily dodged and almost tried for an attack before I realized he caught himself and was waiting for me to do something. So instead of getting countered, I began circling. He realized that I knew and began circling as well. “Ruling again will be nice,” he said, looking for any signs of weakness. “Spending a thousand years under the ice has left us feeling particularly vindictive.”

“Then maybe you shouldn’t have been such a fucking dick.”

“Again, thou speakest of—” I rushed him, going for a kick. He lifted both hooves and caught my leg. He grinned and used his considerable strength to throw my leg up, hoping to catch me off balance. Instead, I used my wings to push off and do a really awkward and disorienting backflip that barely left the ground since I was wearing the ring. “Ah, so thou art flexible! That will endear thee to those we grant use of thee.”

“I’ve been down that road before, you sick—” I jumped in again, slamming my fist against his snout. His eyes flashed in anger as he dodged back from my follow up attack before jumping back in and going for a gore attack with his horn. I barely dodged away from it and brought my right hand down to do a fisted chop at the side of his throat, which probably didn’t really hurt that much and did little more than serve to help me disengage.

He snorted as we started circling again, a few drops of black blood shooting from his nose. “Thou wilt pay for that.”

“Only if you win, you st—” He took a page from my book and jumped in for another goring attack that I jumped back for, then slammed my knee up to catch him in the face he had lowered to the perfect height. It jerked his head up as I recovered, bringing my right hand around for a hook to his jaw.

It connected perfectly, but I think he had enough pure rage in his system to ignore the pain almost completely, as he caught my right hand with his right hoof and held me in place as he essentially backhanded me with his left hoof, sending me reeling back as he let me go.

“That is but the start of the pain thou shalt soon feel, ape,” he spat, blood dripping from his mouth and nose.

I recovered quickly, knowing my life was on the line. Some of my teeth felt rather loose and I wouldn’t be surprised if I was also bleeding, but I chuckled darkly and got back into a fighting stance. “Enough talk, then. Have at thee!”

He seemed to agree with the sentiment, and no more banter was aired as we continued to circle. He made the first move, pouncing forward with his left shoulder, trying to tackle me instead of pounce at me. I jumped to the side and kicked up as he passed, hitting him right in the stomach and hurting the shit out of my foot, since I didn’t have any kind of shoes on.

It seemed to hurt him more, but we both recovered at about the same time. By then, though, I was already jumping at him for a somewhat wild haymaker, going for the back of his head. Since he turned around, it whizzed right past him and left me open for him to slash my side with his horn.

That stung like a bitch, but it wasn’t nearly enough to get me to stop. I backed off again, but he pressed what he thought was his advantage, rearing back and thrusting both of his legs forward.

...I didn’t think he would actually be that stupid. I backed off quickly and waited for him to start falling back down to jump forward and catch him right in the jaw again with a vicious uppercut, then used my other arm to punch him on the top of the snout, forcing his head back down.

With those two hits, the trickle of blood from his mouth became a flow, presumably since he bit deeply into his tongue. But he still recovered very quickly, despite me trying for a third attack, and managed to completely tank the last punch I had for him, instead tackling me and finally getting me on the ground.

There, I knew it was just a matter of time before things got really ugly for me. It started with him bleeding his disgusting blood all over me and he started to rain blows down at my head. I dodged the first three, but he caught on and did a side sweep instead of a straight punch, jamming my ear against my head and making both ears ring.

I wasn’t about to take that shit longer than necessary, so I slammed both hands against the side of his head, hitting his eyes. He grunted in pain, splattering more blood against me, and tried swinging at me again. In response, I started trying to gouge his fucking eyes with my thumbs.

To get away from being blinded, he rolled off me and hopped to his feet as I tried to recover. Before I could, he reared up to slam both hooves down. Seeing the attack coming, I rolled toward him, letting him harmlessly miss me and putting me directly under his body.

I took advantage of that by punching where no man should ever punch. Man, I thought he was angry before… He was positively howling in rage after I punched him in the balls.

Since he was probably about to go down in pain, I pulled myself out from under him, quickly standing to my feet. “Oh yeah, look at ya! You were poppin’ all that good shit just a second ago!” I shouted to his extremely pained face.

Most people have problems with attacking a downed or really hurt opponent. I am not most people. So while he was clutching at himself, I raised my fist to punch him yet again. However, my fist didn’t have the chance to connect; as soon as it got to him, he exploded into his cloud form. “ENOUGH! THOU SHALT PAY FOR THY INSOLENCE, APE!”

“You said no magic!” I shouted, backing away.

“And thou said ‘twould be a duel of honor!” A tendril of his cloud shot out toward my armor, grabbing my sword. “There is no honor in striking a stallion there!” He drew my sword and brought it toward me, glaring. “And thou shalt pay!”

Despite him saying he wanted me alive for Flo, I was actually extremely worried as the blade dove toward me. But before I could dodge or trying begging for my life, a huge explosion from behind caught both of our attentions.

The sword dropped from his magical grasp as we realized what was happening. “No! NO! WE WILL NOT LOSE!” He tried grasping me with his magic as the waves of pure love or whatever from the crystal heart overwhelmed the two of us, completely cracking through the dark barrier he had erected around us. Wherever the blue field of magic hit his cloud of darkness, it utterly destroyed it, sending the evil king reeling in horror. He couldn’t flee fast enough, however, and soon there was nothing left of that old bastard but a bad memory.

“Holy shit, I actually won,” I whispered to myself when he was gone, falling to my knees in surprise.

“I don’t know about win,” Flo whispered, “but you survived.”

Before I could answer her, Kumani appeared at my side, lifting me into a massive hug. “You did it!” she shouted. While she was holding me, I realized that she had the same crystalline appearance that some of the ponies from before had.

“What… happened?” I asked, struggling to catch my breath from the surprise victory.

“That purple unicorn organized all the ponies and they were all cheering you on, watching as you beat that unicorn’s ass. When they all saw you winning, they seemed to pick up in hope. And then the purple mare pointed out that the crystal heart was there and they all just bowed to it, immediately becoming crystal! Then… some kind of explosion,” she answered. When she finished with that explanation, she pulled me away from her, still smiling. “Now don’t you ever do that again!”

“No promises. But trust me, I’m not in a hurry to do anything like that again.” Of course, her setting me down opened me up for getting hugged by pretty much everyone else as they all got to me.

“You did it!” Pinkie shouted, the first to reach me and drag me down to her level. Normally, mares are all warm and soft, but since she was made of crystal, she was hard and very ungiving.

“Am I the only one not made of that crystal shit?” I asked, looking down at one of my arms to make sure.

“You’re the only one wearing that ring,” Twilight said by way of answer, commandeering Pinkie’s place in hugging me. “And we did it, Nav! Though… I have to apologize… I was under a lot of stress with the princess and everything that’s happened and… I’m sorry.”

“And I was a lot more rude than I should have been,” I answered, patting her on the back. “I’m sorry as well. Twilight, we need to stop being dicks to each other.”

“...I know, Nav. I’ll try if you will.”

“Of course. Now let go. Your body is hard as rock.” She chuckled and let me go, allowing someone else to try hugging me. I quickly back stepped, denying Rainbow Dash her chance. “Try again when you aren’t made of rock,” I said, standing next to Kumani. “I’m going to go find out what the fuck happened to Cadance. Twilight, can you take care of cleaning up this mess out here?”

“Of course, Nav. But you better come and get me if she’s hurt!”

“I wouldn’t keep you in the dark. Come on, Kumani.” I pulled the ring off and took to the air once more, flying toward the palace. The crystal ponies cheered as I flew over them, happy to see their savior or whatever they considered me in action. I easily ignored it, not really wanting to hear their bullshit, and just flew up to the windows to the throne room.

In there, Cadance was collapsed on the ground with snores as loud as a morbidly obese man’s horrid farts erupting from her mouth. Shining Armor was wearing the amulet I gave him, his horn glowing a dark red as he prepared to act. The two night guards were next to Cadance, ready to lift her at a moment’s notice.

“What the hell happened?” I asked as I landed.

Shiny breathed a sigh of relief when he saw me. “She just collapsed!” he answered. “I don’t know why and I couldn’t even wake her up with magic!”

“...Did you make her more coffee?” I asked, already dreading the answer.

“No, of course not. I don’t know how. No pony here does.”

Ooooh… I bet she crashed. Too much caffeine and then not enough. Ouch. “Well, Sombra’s deader than hell, so she can get her sleep.”

“I suspected as much, from the shiny appearance everypony got. What happened?”

“We found the heart, got it set up, then the shield broke down. I challenged him to a duel, kicked his ass, then Twilight got the crystal ponies organized enough to activate the heart and deep six that bastard.”

“So it’s over,” he sighed, his horn losing its red glow.

However, he made no attempts to remove the amulet. “Shiny, take that thing off.”

“Hm? Oh, sure.” He casually pulled it off and tossed it to me before walking over to his wife, kneeling down next to her.

“That’s weird,” Kumani said as I stared at him in wonder. “Isn’t that thing addicting and hard to take off?”

“...It’s supposed to be,” I replied, watching Shining Armor gently lift his wife and put her onto his back.

“I’m going to go find her a bed,” he announced and started walking off.

“Go with him,” I told the two night guards. “Stay with Cadance and make sure she stays safe.”

“Yes sir,” they both sighed, sounding rather tired.

“I’ll try to send a squad to relieve you when I can. I know you two are tired.”

“Thank you, sir,” one of them said as they started following Shining Armor.

When the four of them were out of the throne room, I slid the amulet in my pocket and just let out one long sigh of relief.

“So now what?” Kumani asked me.

“Now… Now the real work begins,” I answered. Where oh where would an elemental be hiding?

 
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