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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112. Chapter Ninety—Stupendous Stalliongrad Soiree

Of course, it couldn’t be as simple as parking our ship above the city and using it as a base. No, the people controlling the party had to be fucking difficult. As it turns out, it’s illegal to keep an airship over the city while the party is going on. The air had to be kept clear for dragons, apparently. Understandable, but it meant we had to set the ship down in a massive river outside of town.

Naturally, the naga was perfectly okay with that, even if the water was as frigid as an ex-wife’s heart. Most everyone else didn’t really care all that much, given that they weren’t planning on spending too much time at the party itself.

I was not most everyone. And neither were the two quartermasters I had, one from the ship and the other with the guards. As far as we were concerned, the only good news was that there was a port connected to the city that was free to dock at during the party.

Well, partially free. “Who owns this vessel?” an official looking pony asked, stepping aboard the ship from the plank leading to the dock.

“That would be me,” Flash answered, stepping forward. “How can I help you?”

“Do you or anypony else have an invitation to the party?” the official dude asked.

Thankfully, Octavia was on the deck at that time, having her bags dragged topside. “I do, sir,” she answered, pulling the invitation from one of her bags.

The official unicorn dude pulled it toward him with magic, reading over it. After a few seconds, he nodded. “This invitation gets you in, Miss Octavia. Unless you’ve reserved this airship to take you back after the party, it will need to leave within forty-eight hours.”

Unfortunately, that meant I had to step in. “I have a few invitations as well,” I said from my semi-hidden position next to the stairs going down. “I trust mine might be a little more inclusive than hers,” I added as I stepped forward, pulling all five of the invitations out of my pocket.

“Sir Navarone, I assume?” the fellow asked as his magic pulled the invites over.

“Not sir anymore,” I replied, crossing my arms. “And I have chartered this ship. It stays here.”

“Well, these documents are all in order,” he said. “The ship may stay here, though it might have to change docking lanes in order to accommodate other ships. Is there anypony else on board with invitations?”

I had no clue about that, but the captain did. “No other passengers with them. Just a few ponies coming here on business.”

“Excellent. If the two of you would come with me, I’ll arrange an escort to your quarters.”

“I’m staying here,” I quickly said. “I don’t need a room in the city this year.”

“Are you sure?” the fellow asked. “It would be more centrally located and almost definitely more comfortable.”

“Quite sure,” I answered. “I might have to leave in a hurry and if I do, I want to be ready to go. Besides, last year I almost got fucking murdered at the party. I’d rather sleep with several personal guards between me and any knives in the night.”

The porter huffed. “I can quite assure you that kind of behavior will not be tolerated in Stalliongrad. It may be commonplace in Flankfurt or Germaneigh, but not here!”

Oh yeah, this guy’s corrupt and crime is probably rampant. Incognito mode, bitches. “Sure. Either way, I’ll be staying on the ship.”

“Very well. Will you at least come with me to check in and tell somepony where they can send notes? With the rumors we hear, I imagine you’ll be quite a popular person this year.”

“Who’s here, first? If there’s no one I care about, I won’t bother.”

“King Bloodbeak, Queen Chrysalis, Clutch Leader Pyrite, and the minotaur leader, Asterion. Princess Celestia could not make it this year, sadly. Something... came up at the last minute, I was told.”

“Huh. No cats? Or dogs?”

“Both sent delegations, but nopony of consequence arrived from either group.”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind talking to Chrysalis or Bloodbeak. I suppose I might as well sign in... Naga, you interested in a quick trip to the belly of the beast?”

He had been helping ferry baggage up to the top of the ship and he stopped to watch the unicorn come aboard, perhaps expecting an enemy or something. “Alright, human. We both need to arm ourselves, though. I don’t believe it would be wise to enter the city without a weapon on hand.”

“True enough. We’ll be right back.”

The porter guy sniffed. “I assure you, there’s no need for that. This city is perfectly safe!”

“That’s nice. Be back in a sec. Come on, naga.” Ames took a second to glare at the porter before following me below deck. “Grab your sword. Don’t bother with the crossbow. I’ll get my stuff and meet you back up top.”

“Very well, though I wouldn’t have bothered with the crossbow anyway. That is not a weapon of honor.”

Cry me a river. He continued on to his room as I went to mine. First, I threw my sword belt on, making sure the blade was snugly in the sheath. Then I grabbed a cloak and tossed it around my shoulders, hoping I could use it to at least partially conceal myself should I have the need. Finally, I took my gun and looped it around my left shoulder, using the cloak to conceal it from all but the most prying of eyes. It was loaded and as a precaution, I put two more magazines in one of my pockets.

While I was doing that, Spike walked by my room and poked his head in. “You going somewhere?” he asked.

“Into town, yeah. Gotta check in to let the powers that be know where I am.”

“Can I come?”

“Sure. No weapons, though. I’ve only ever seen a single dragon with weapons, and you don’t want to get confused with that guy.”

“Oh... Who was he?”

“Something called a Purifier, which is their law keepers. You don’t want to fuck with them. Oh, and another point: Under no circumstances are you to ever hint to another dragon that you’ve had sex with anything outside of your species. That will get you killed by their Purifiers.”

“Whoa... What?”

“Yeah, it’s weird. Let’s go.” I stepped past him into the hall and started walking back out. “It’s against their laws. I was almost forced to marry that dragoness I slept with. If she was found guilty of having instigated it, she would have been killed. By all means, sleep with whoever you like, but don’t spread around what you’ve been doing.”

“I uh... I might just stick to dragons while we’re here. Or... maybe just stay on board.”

“First, you should definitely fuck a dragoness while we’re here. Second, you aren’t staying on board, because you can’t fuck one if you don’t talk to one.” The naga was already topside when we got up there. “Ready?”

“As ever,” he replied, shrugging his sword belt on over his shoulder. “Lead the way, human.”

I looked over to Flash. “I’ll be back when I’m back. Send the quartermasters into town with the lists I made. Tell them to work together. And ask Watcher to get some people looking for a blacksmith that wants to travel. If you see Taya, tell her I had to go into town to deal with an emergency. Oh, and tell Smiles to get to job hunting. I want him off the boat.”

“Yes sir,” he answered, thankfully not saluting. “Any instructions for the rest of us?”

“Keep some guards on the boat at all times. Otherwise, do whatever you want.”

“Alright. See you when you get back, then.”

“Octavia, you ready?” I asked, turning to her.

“Of course. I’ll send somepony by to get my things when I have secured accommodations. Please, lead the way,” she told the porter guy.

“Very well. Follow me, then,” he replied, turning around and walking back down to the dock. We all followed him, with Octavia taking the lead so I could stare at her ass.

“So tell me, what are things like here?” she asked our guide.

That was enough for me to completely zone their conversation out. As fuckmassive as the city was, I knew that we were probably in for quite a walk. Without having a map of how the city was laid out for the party, I’d have no idea where anyone was. Finding Kumani and Kat would be problematic. Though truth be told, I wasn’t really that interested in finding Kat. I knew that she could be useful, but she also sort of raped me several times. And if I did find them both, they probably wouldn’t get along very well.

Eh. I’m pretty good at dealing with problems like that. What’s the worst that could happen?

After quite a fucking long walk, our guide dropped us off at the central check-in area. It was extremely crowded and as soon as I saw that, my hood went up and I hunched over slightly in an attempt to disguise myself. No reason to advertise that I was in the city, after all. Christ, just imagine what a crowded place would be like if Luna’s confession made it to Stalliongrad.

Thankfully, I had briefed Octavia about how I wanted to stay relatively hidden in the city, so she didn’t make a point to sell me out. “I still think this is silly,” she quietly commented as we fought through the crowd to the center.

“That’s nice,” I answered. “I’m used to being the center of a very different kind of attention than you are. You wouldn’t think it was so silly if you had been in my shoes a few times.”

“I don’t imagine your shoes would fit, thank you. But... I suppose given some of what you’ve been through, I can understand not wanting attention.”

“If it’s not sexual attention, I’m not interested,” I confirmed. “And I rather doubt that’s what most of the people here would give me.”

“I don’t know... Some mares have a thing for damaged and abused stallions.”

“And those mares usually happen to be fucked up in the head. I think I’ll pass on attention from them, thank you.”

“That is a fair point... Many mares have a thing about changing their stallions. Though honestly, you won’t find all that many mares here in this city. It is majority stallion.”

“Yeah, I know. Competition’s gonna be fierce. If you didn’t have me and the naga behind you on the trip here, some of the stallions passing by would have propositioned you.”

“Yes, I noticed,” she sighed. “I fear that without an escort, traveling the streets might become annoying.” I was tempted to offer her a squad to accompany her, but I didn’t want to give any of my troops up like that, not without a good reason. “But I’ve been to stallion majority cities before. I know how to handle myself in them, so I needn’t worry.”

“Good. Wouldn’t want you used,” I replied. “Unless you’re into that, I guess.”

“Oh trust me, there will be plenty of parties with a small number of mares and a large number of stallions,” she answered. “I will not be attending any, though I imagine Vinyl will probably find several. Many of those parties tend to devolve quickly into things I am not interested in, not that it will stop Vinyl from trying to get me to attend.”

“Sounds hot. I bet Doppel would love to go to one.”

“She probably would. And I’m sure they’d love to have her. Celestia knows that few enough mares attend those filthy parties.”

“I think it would be fun.” This crowd is getting old. “Naga, you think you can get us through this crowd easily?”

He looked over the area before shooting his tongue out, tasting the air. After a few moments of deliberation, he nodded. “It would be my pleasure. I detest waiting.”

As the naga began forcing his way through the crowd of what was mostly ponies just standing around and occasionally talking, Octavia replied, “I imagine you would think so, Navarone. By all means, attend one with your gender stones. Should you be allowed in, I can almost guarantee you won’t leave while still able to walk.”

“As tempting as that is, I think I’ll hold off, at least for now. I might have a lover in waiting to pick up here.”

“Oh? Another temporary one, or something more permanent?”

“I don’t know yet. I haven’t spoken to her in a year.” Several of the ponies getting forced aside by Ames were not at all pleased, but one look at him and Spike and they took their grumblings elsewhere. The few that didn’t stop there looked at me and Octavia and decided that anyone powerful enough to afford both a dragon and a naga as bodyguards wasn’t someone they wanted to mess with at all.

“It doesn’t really seem like you to settle down,” she idly said as we grew closer to the building that was apparently used for signing in.

“I know it doesn’t. That’s because I haven’t done it yet.” Or at least, not for lack of trying. “I still don’t know if it’ll work out. But I suppose it would be interesting to try, if she’s still willing.”

“Vinyl’s plans will probably be changed considerably during this party if you won’t be available as a... partner. She had quite a number of things planned for you. Parties, orgies, and other acts of general hedonism. I do imagine she’ll be quite disappointed.”

“Well shit, so am I, now. Maybe if I’m careful, I can avoid Kumani for a few days.”

“Perhaps. But I can’t imagine she would be altogether too pleased to find that you avoided her to sleep around.”

“Meh. I’ll see what happens. And here we are. Thank you, naga.”

“Happy to help,” he answered, turning to glare at the few ponies that hadn’t gotten the hint yet. Those that met his eyes wasted no more time leaving. I think the scaley hand on his sword hilt probably did wonders for that. “I will wait out here to ensure we will have an easy way out when our business is concluded.”

“Awesome. Wait with him, Spike.”

“Uh... Okay?” He just shrugged and took up a position next to Ames, trying to look intimidating and succeeding in looking constipated.

 “...Hopefully it won’t take long. After you, Octavia.” I pulled the door open for her, letting her on in ahead of me. God, I just love watching their hips sway.

...That’s probably a sign that I’ve been in Equestria too long. But then, I already knew that.

“New arrivals?” the stallion at the front desk asked.

“Yep,” I answered, stepping in behind the grey mare.

“I need to see your invitations.”

Octavia tore through space and time to access the holding space that all ponies seem to have, producing her invitation. My methods were much more mundane and I just pulled one of mine out of a pocket. His horn lit up and the two papers flew on over as Octavia and I stepped further inside, out of the door. As we walked up, I pulled the hood back, revealing my magnificent face for all to see.

“Hm. Sir Navarone and Miss Octavia. Both of you have quarters provided. Sir Navarone, you already have a number of letters waiting for you, I do believe. Miss Octavia, you have three. If you give me a moment, I will gather them up and find somepony to show you to your rooms.”

“I don’t need the rooms I have set aside,” I answered, idly cracking my knuckles. The stallion seemed to flinch at each little pop. “I’m staying somewhere else.”

“Very well...” Even though he was flinching, he made a mark on one of the papers in front of him. “Where are you staying? You will need a new address for any future correspondence.”

“An airship docked in the river. It’s called Second Chance.

“Then that is where your new mail will be sent. I will go to collect what you already have, anyway. One moment.” There at the end of that, his voice started getting somewhat higher and more aggravated.

“I think you might have upset him,” Octavia commented when he went to a back room.

“He’ll get over it. Hell, I figured a place like Stalliongrad would breed ‘em strong. Sure did in my world.”

“Oh? You have a Stalliongrad there?”

“Nah. It’s called Stalingrad. Or rather, it was called that. I think it has a new name now, but I wasn’t a fan of geography. Long story short, there was a massive, massive war and the heaviest fighting took place in that city. It’s a pretty dark tale, but the people in that city and from the rest of that country killed fourteen out of every fifteen of the enemy soldiers in the entire war. Given that several million died, it’s no small achievement.”

“That’s... ghastly. And it gives this city a horrifying history, at least in my mind.”

“Just don’t think about it, then. That’s what I do.” After all, I’m one of the few that knows this city is actually built on the ruins of that ancient battleground. For the motherland, bitches.

The front desk guy came back out then, sparing me any more failings at being a normal human being that’s good at small talk. Two sheaves of letters followed in his wake, held up by his magic. A pegasus also followed behind him, joining the guy at the front desk. “Here is your correspondence, as well as a map and a list of public events,” he intoned, flying one bundle each to the two of us. “And this is your guide, Miss Octavia,” he added, nodding at the pegasus. “If you have any baggage, he will assist you with it.”

“It’s all on the ship... But that won’t be hard to find, once I get situated.” She turned to me. “Well Navarone, once again it has been a pleasure. If we somehow don’t meet again before you depart, know that it was an honor having known you. And should we never meet again... Well, that would certainly be a shame and something I would regret.”

“Same. But I doubt this is the end for us just yet. Vinyl will probably find some way to get us all together before I leave. If she doesn’t, I might.”

That got her to smile. “True enough. The two of you do seem to be good at finding solutions... Though I thought you hated goodbyes?”

“I do, when they’re bitter. Until we meet again, dear.”

The three of us went outside and the guide began leading Octavia away as I pulled the hood back up. To her credit, she left without a backwards glance, giving me ample opportunity to get an eyeful. However, I didn’t want to block the door for longer than necessary, so I started walking the opposite way after a few seconds. Ames and Spike fell in behind me.

“So where to now?” Spike asked. “Back to the ship?”

“Maybe. First we find a secluded spot so I can look over the information I got. There are a few guests of interest that I want to see before we leave.” Well, two of them, anyway.

“Will that do?” the naga asked, pointing to an out-of-the-way alley.

“Hell no. Last time I went into an alley, I almost got murdered.”

“And this time, I am here,” he said, adjusting his sword belt.

I shrugged and ducked into the relatively clean alley. Spike followed me in while Ames stood at the front, making sure it stayed private.

“So what did you get?” Spike asked.

“Papers. Look over the map and the schedule, see if there’s anything interesting,” I said, passing the relevant materials to him. As he started looking over that stuff, I flipped through the letters. There was one from Bloodbeak, Chrysalis, Asterion of the minotaurs, a journalist company, three from ‘party officials’, and one from the governor of Stalliongrad. Since I knew none of those were likely overly pressing, I went from least important to most important.

The letter from the governor was a standard welcome letter, which was tossed aside. The three party official letters were just invitations to various private functions, all folded up and put aside for later. The journalist guys wanted an interview, so I just crumpled that one up and tossed it away.

Asterion’s letter was... creepy. “Oh great Forerunner, your presence is requested in our humble quarters! Had we known sooner that you graced the world, we would have given you the deification you so deserved sooner. Sadly, our ignorance stopped us from saving you from a life of hardship. But it need do so no longer, now that I know of you. Come home, Forerunner. Come home where you belong.”

“...Huh. Spike, remind me to tell Doppel that I have a job for her.”

“Okay. What kind of job?”

“Spying. Now let’s see what my beautiful bug queen wants.”

“...Beautiful? You get hit on the head or something?”

“Always tell women they’re beautiful, Spike. Especially if they’re not. And if they’re extremely powerful, you better be willing to prove you think so.”

“Hmph. I don’t think I want anything to do with Chrysalis, personally.”

“That’s nice,” I replied, opening her letter. “She’s a lot of fun and I quite enjoyed my time with her.”

“Whatever,” he muttered, going back to looking at the schedule as I read the letter.

“Dearest Navarone, sir no longer! I’ve heard the news from Canterlot, though who can say they haven’t by now? So the lovely Princess Luna has gone mad while the benevolent and caring Celestia hid her dark deeds from all. How... expected. I couldn’t even find myself surprised when I learned that you were the victim, my poor friend. It seems that loyalty is a thing that is punished in the land of ponies rather than encouraged. Tell me, have you thought further on my offer? We changelings have never had a king before. Consorts aplenty, yes, but a true king? Well... it would be an experience that I believe I would rather enjoy.”

I lowered the letter, my eyes going unfocused as I thought. You know... it really is tempting. Get a few elementals free and let them do the rest. With that in motion, I could truly be a king. A puppet, sure, but a puppet with power and influence.

“But she would never love you,” Flo whispered, making me blink. “I believe we both know that Chrysalis is incapable of love. You would be a king... but you would be lonely. Servants aplenty and a long life to go with it, but would it truly be worth it when all that surround you are mindless changelings?”

“Bah.” I folded her letter back up and put it away, moving on to Bloodbeak’s.

His was short and simple. “Meet me at the Broken Unicorn Tavern as soon as you read this. - BB.”

“...Why would he use initials if this thing is signed and stamped with his seal?” I mused aloud, checking the back for any possible extra info.

“What was that?” Spike asked, looking up.

“Nothing. Do you see a place called the Broken Unicorn Tavern on that map?”

“Uh...” His eyes quickly scanned over the map again before he nodded. “Yeah. It looks like that’s the center of the griffin section of the party.”

“That’s where we’re going, then.” I gently put the letters in some pockets in order of importance, making sure not to crease any of them overly much on accident. Spike handed me the schedule and the map as we joined Ames at the head of the alley and the other two papers joined the letters in my pockets. “Naga, I need you to go back to the ship and give a letter and some instructions to Doppel. Spike and I are going to continue into the city.”

“...Are you sure that is wise?” he asked, tilting his head slightly. “You said before that you might have enemies. Would you care to risk yourself like this?”

“I’ll be fine. Spike is enough to keep most people away and the hint of steel at my side will do well for the rest. We’ll look like two mercs or friends looking for a contract, nothing more.”

“So be it, though I call it foolish. What am I to give your pet?”

“...You mean Doppel, right?”

“Even mindless dogs have more going for them in terms of intelligence than the seeking of blind pleasure.”

“Just checking.” I dug out the letter from the minotaurs and handed it to him. “Give her that and tell her to find the minotaurs and do some very discreet digging about the forerunners. I don’t want her to make a scene and I definitely don’t want her to pretend to be me.”

“I will tell her, then. Where will you be?”

“First stop is with the griffins, at a place called the Broken Unicorn Tavern. I’m sure you can find either a map or directions if you need them. If we’re done there before dark, we’ll hit up the changeling district. Otherwise, we’ll come right back. I don’t want to be in the open past nightfall.”

“Good. I would hate to have to hunt you down.”

“I’m not a child, naga. I don’t mind being protected, but I won’t be coddled or mistrusted.”

“Of this I am aware, human. However, you attract trouble and I gave my word that I would protect you. If something were to happen to you and I couldn’t help... I would be remiss in my duty and my life would be worth little.”

“Then let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Come on, Spike.” He jumped to follow me as the two of us set off down the road, leaving Ames to go the other way toward the ship.

“You know, I could have just gone back instead,” Spike nervously said as he caught up to me, his scaled feet leaving loud scraping noises on the cobblestones.

“I know, Spike.” Truth be told, I didn’t want to risk letting him wander alone in the city. Oh, I knew that he wasn’t a complete fool, but at the same time, he wasn’t quite wise to the world. There was little that could happen in a pony city, but it’s better not to chance things, I’ve found. “I don’t like feeling like a kid, though. Although... do you even remember the way back to the ship?”

He was silent for a few seconds, so I turned to look at him. He was looking around, his brows furrowed. “Oh, horseapples...” he sighed. “Where are we?”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured. The naga is good at that stuff. He’ll get back safe and sound. And we have a map, so there’s no problem there.”

“What if we lose the map?”

“Then I fucking fly us back. We’re not going to get lost, Spike.”

“But... but you’re not even looking at the map!”

“Yeah, I know. I got the basic gist of it down in my head.”

“Are you sure? You don’t want to... check?”

“Hah! Yeah, I’m fucking with you.” I pulled it out and unfolded it, passing it to him. “I’m not about to risk getting lost in this fucking place. Keep it handy and guide us there.”

He breathed a sigh of relief and took a look at the map for a few seconds before scratching his head. “So uh... where are we?”

“Have you never used a map before? Look at the street signs!”

“I’ve never been in a big city,” he replied, blushing and looking up from the map. When he found the signs, he looked back down and nodded. “Alright. Let’s go!” He took the lead, since I know that most dragons are prideful and generally refuse to follow someone without a very good reason. This looked a lot more natural and it gave him the feeling that he was doing something important.

And of course, it gave me free reign to look out for any trouble that might have been coming, trouble that an innocent dragon might have missed.

We made it to the tavern without incident. Two of the griffin royal guards were standing guard at the door in. There weren’t many ponies or any other races passing by, so they were fully able to stare at us as we walked up to the door. “Tavern open for business?” I asked, not pulling my cowl back.

“Depends on your business,” one of the guards answered. “I don’t think any of the patrons inside care for mercenaries.”

“Even one with a signed letter from a king?”

Both of their eyes narrowed and before I could react, one jerked forward, knocking my hood back to reveal my smiling face. “Don’t play games with us, ape,” the fellow said, returning to his position. “Enter. The dragon waits.”

“Either he comes in with me or neither of us go in. I won’t make my friends wait in the cold.”

The other guard rolled his eyes and looked to his friend. “Don’t be so dramatic.” His gaze turned back to me. “Both of you, go in. Though I imagine the king will only be interested in talking to you, Navarone. There has been... an incident.”

“Now you see, that’s not a good sign. Any details on what I’m walking into?”

“I’m afraid not. Orders are orders.”

“Yeah, I know all about that... Come on, Spike. It’s about time you got to try mead.”

“Oh boy! Wait, what’s mead?”

“Heheh...” I led the way into the bar, leaving the hood down now that we were in a safe territory. A few more guards were sitting inside, but I didn’t see the king. Every single person, even the griffin barkeeper, looked up when we walked in.

“King’s upstairs,” one of the older guards said, standing up. “I trust that’s who you’re here for, Navarone.”

“Sure is. He mind me just going up?”

“Leave your weapons here and he won’t. And leave your dragon as well.”

“Always leave it to a king to be paranoid of even a friend. Very well.” I walked over to an empty table and tossed my cloak aside, revealing my assortment of weapons. The rifle slid right off my shoulder and gently onto the top of the table. My two spare magazines joined it there. My sword joined it a moment later, pulled out of the sheath so I didn’t have to remove the entire belt. A few daggers and knives were swiftly added to the pile until I had no weapons left on me. “Spike, watch over these. You know their value.”

“You got it, Nav! So uh... what’s mead?”

With that, I pulled my coin pouch off and set it on the table as well before turning to the bartender. “Introduce him to it, would you? Just don’t get him too far gone; he has to walk tonight.”

“A word of warning, human,” the barkeep said. “We don’t officially have any.”

“We won’t say a word.” He nodded and reached for a mug as I went up the stairs into what almost became the last meeting I ever had.

There was just one more guard between me and the king. “Need to check you for weapons before letting you see him,” he said. “And I also need to check your blood. Just in case.”

“Understandable. Go for the blood first so you don’t waste your time patting me down if I’m a changeling.” He nodded and poked my arm with one of his talons hard enough to draw blood.

While I don’t think he was expecting dark amber to gently push out, it wasn’t the green he didn’t want to expect. “Clear on that front. Arms out, legs open.” I stretched my arms and widened my legs for him. After a very quick pat down that consisted of being molested until I explained I didn’t have a sheath for my dick, he let me in. At least he was relatively gentle with his talons. Not gently enough for me to leave a tip, but you know.

“Ah, Navarone!” The king definitely seemed happy to see me, but he wasn’t happy enough to get off his couch. “I knew you’d get that letter quickly. Sit, sit.”

I snagged the chair across from him and leaned back as far as I could. “I figured it was some kind of emergency, the way it was worded.”

“I wouldn’t say emergency, but it is something that I want your opinion on. After we talk about something less pressing, though.”

“Well, I could use some advice if you think you can give it.”

“Excellent. That gives us an even discourse. My first subject is my daughter, Gilda. “ Uh oh. “It seems that you spent considerably less time courting her than I thought, Navarone. For as long as she stayed there, she had absolutely nothing to say about you in any romantic sense.”

“She uh... wasn’t interested in that from me, I don’t believe.”

“Yes, I’m well aware,” he drily answered. “However, that isn’t to say I disapprove. What you seemed to have taught her will likely be of just as much use as your hand in marriage would have been. If not more, that is. Already she has revolutionized dozens of fields of thought, sending numerous enterprises skyrocketing. After all that you’ve done for us, I might well be remembered as the king that heralded in a golden age for griffins everywhere. Well, assuming it continues to go well.”

“So you aren’t mad that I didn’t marry her?”

“Not mad, no. Disappointed, maybe, but trust me when I say that I know how difficult she can be to get along with. Gilda is not interested in love or males. She wants and wanted knowledge. And knowledge you gave her. I suppose I can settle for her being happy in another way, though I’d honestly prefer more grandchildren.”

“You... wouldn’t have gotten those from us anyway.”

“Fair point, I suppose. Though I’ve heard it said that anything is possible with magic. If such would be the case, I imagine gold would hire a unicorn to assist the two of you.”

“Well, it wasn’t to be.”

“So it seems. That’s enough of my daughter, I suppose. Tell me, what advice did you want?”

“Another side to the same coin. Advice about women.”

“Oh my... I can certainly attempt to help you, but I married for politics. True, we did fall in love before she passed away, but such is a rare event. Tell me your troubles, Navarone.”

“Alright. First, do you know the news about Luna?”

“I have... heard things, yes. I didn’t want to pry and truth be told, I didn’t want to believe what I heard.”

“Well, it’s true. Luna mistreated me harshly and Celestia helped cover it up. So that’s why Luna’s completely out of the running and why I’ll be abandoning Equestria for some time. But when I get back, I might have some choices to make.”

“My my my... How the mighty have fallen. So the rumors of the night princess’s imprisonment?”

“Are true, as far as I’ve heard. The night guards are prosecuting the case as strongly as they possibly can to save face. And Shining Armor has been looking for evidence of corruption for some time. But that’s all beside the point. Say you were relatively affluent and well-accepted in a number of nations. You’re looking to settle down with a nice female and you’re trying to decide who. Would you go with the one that wouldn’t love you but would give you the most power and wealth, the one that seems to care for you, is a lot of fun to be around, and is rich and powerful as well, but hurt you severely in the past, or would you find a different option?”

“I imagine I know those two. Who are they?”

“Chrysalis is offering to make me king and Celestia would be willing to give dating a try.”

“Neither. By my feathers, I would sooner take a badger to bed than either of them! Discounting my hate of changelings in general, Chrysalis is a heartless monster that cares nothing for the feelings of others. She wants power and adoration, nothing more. Celestia is more crafty than a snake and more cunning than a fox. She may seem fun, but I very much imagine she’s just as incapable of love as Chrysalis. Both are ancient, Navarone, over three thousand years old at least. They have more life experience than you likely ever will, even if you do live to be their ages. It would take a fool to think he could tame either of them, let alone even understand one.”

“...Fair points. I never expected Chrysalis to love me, though. I just figured it would be interesting to be a king.”

“You are both wrong and right. Yes, there are interesting events and it can be exhilarating at times. However, normally it is incredibly boring. And you know Chrysalis. She would not let you do a thing of importance. It is her kingdom.”

I slowly nodded, realizing that he was definitely right. “Third option it is. I suppose I’ve done stranger things than hunt for true love.”

“Probable. Is that all the advice you needed?”

“I doubt it, but that’s all I can think to ask about. So tell me, what’s this big incident your guards mentioned? And what’s with all the security? I thought you trusted me more than this.”

“I thought I could,” he sighed, standing. I didn’t move as he began to pace back and forth, side to side, in front of me. “Tell me, do you know the catfolk woman Katrina?”

“Yeah. Another one I had bad experiences with. Why?”

“I don’t suppose you happen to know her career?”

“I know she works with her government. Don’t know what she does, but I can take a guess.”

He stopped and snorted, turning his head to face me. “If your guess involves spying and assassination, you would be spot on.” With that out of the way, he continued his pacing.

“That... would have been my first guess, yes. She’s fairly sociopathic, in continuing my trend of attracting those that are. She also happens to be a trained assassin.”

“I am aware. Her latest target was my daughter.”

I was on my feet before I even realized it. “Is she okay? God, I’ll hunt that whore down and kill her!”

“Sit!” The ferocity in his voice was enough for me to comply, giving me the hint that there was more going on than I realized. “Gilda is fine. This... Katrina decided to come to me with the information instead of acting on it. That is why Gilda is not at this party hunting for more suitors. Well, one of the reasons.”

“Well, that’s... Who told her to do it?”

“If she had given us a name, we would already be at war. I happen to have a rogue unicorn in my court that searched her mind for us. She was working through an intermediary, someone not directly connected to anyone important. But that raises an interesting point... Who would want my Gilda dead? And the better question, why?”

“The technology is the only thing I could think of.”

“That is my assumption as well. But then, there is a single person outside of my royal family that knows what Gilda is doing with the technology.” Flo hissed a warning far, far too late for me to stop the sharp object I could suddenly feel pressed against my throat. Bloodbeak stopped his pacing and turned fully to me. “So that means either you hired the assassin or you told someone something that you absolutely shouldn’t have.”

“You know I wouldn’t betray you like that! But she came to me when I was injured, when I had many guests. Anyone in my household that knew of the laptop knew she was learning from it and any number of my guests could have realized something was going on. They could have spread the news anywhere. I’ve been a friend to you, Bloodbeak. There’s no need for this!”

“Oh, I doubt there is. But a fellow’s voice tends to have a much higher ring of truth to it when his life is on the line. You know the assassin and have a history with her. You know my daughter and you have a history with her.”

“Why would I want Gilda dead? True, we didn’t get along very well, but I willingly helped her when I could have told her to leave. I didn’t spread that technology only to stop it by killing the one responsible! Shit, it was probably someone wanting to discredit me! All signs point to me, but I don’t have a reason to do it. You get irrationally angry at me and cause an incident to capture or kill me. With how things are in Equestria right now... There’s no telling what might come of it!”

“Hm. An interesting thought. And honestly, you would have no reason to harm Gilda. And after what we just spoke of... Release him.” The sharp object pushing against me pulled away. I very dearly wanted to look back to see who was back there, but I couldn’t afford to look scared or nervous at this point. “I need to know who did this, Navarone. I don’t and didn’t think it was you, but you understand that I had to be sure.”

I rubbed at my neck, wondering if even Flo and my blood could save me from a bloody smile. “...Yeah. Three guesses about who tried to have her killed. Chrysalis, Celestia, or Luna. Chrysalis, to stop the flow of technology. She has her own source and wants to corner the market. Celestia also has a source, but she would likely want revenge on me. Luna would just want revenge. After what I’ve done to the two of them, I imagine all bets are off with how far they might want to go.”

Now, what I was absolutely not expecting was Kat to walk up next to me, putting one of her soft paws on my shoulder. “And of course, you forget that someone could want her dead for an entirely different reason.”

I did my best to hide the surprise I felt when she showed up. “True... They may just want revenge against you, Bloodbeak. Not everyone in your kingdom is overly happy with your government change. The nobility probably doesn’t quite like it since they lost most of their power. And then there was your cousin, the one you threw in prison. He might have had a few friends.”

“In my admittedly limited experience, assassinations do not happen solely for revenge,” Bloodbeak replied, walking back to his couch and sagging onto it. “I am far, far too old to be dealing with this... Katrina, how might we track this intermediary you dealt with?”

“You can’t. That’s the point of using an intermediary. The only clients I accept hits from are professionals. Whoever it is would not leave a hint.”

“So it’s impossible to figure out who did it?” I asked.

“Essentially, yes,” Kat answered. “And I really hope that offer of a place on your boat is still open, Navarone. I... need to get away. Quickly. Clients do not like betrayal.”

Bloodbeak answered before I could. “You have asylum in my kingdom, Katrina. You will be protected as best as we are able.”

“Which won’t be nearly enough, I fear. I’ve now made enemies with five criminal cabals. Two are all but annihilated at this point, but all still have enough teeth to bite. I won’t be safe anywhere but on the move. And even then...”

“What kind of danger are you talking about?” I asked. “I’m not certain I want anyone like that on my boat.”

“Leaving a message is pointless if all those that might spread it are dead. If anyone comes for me, they would come for me alone.”

“Then yeah, the offer still stands.” With that confirmation, she smiled and immediately hopped into my lap, hugging me.

“Thank you thank you!” Of course, her paws quickly found their way to my wings.

Bloodbeak smiled at her antics. “Maybe you found your third choice.”

“Hell no. Do you need anything else?”

“A question. You mentioned you were leaving Equestria and she mentioned a boat. What exactly are your plans?”

“I decided to travel the world. So I hired an airship, a crew, some mercenaries, and will be leaving after the party.”

“Ah, to be young again... You couldn’t do this if you were a king, Navarone. Too many obligations. And a shame, too. There are dark corners of the world left unexplored, corners I and many others would love to uncover. Well, I wish you the greatest of luck in your journey, Navarone. And should we never meet again... May peace guide you. It feels strange for a griffin to say, but I have found the peace to my liking in this old age.”

I casually tossed Kat out of my lap, barely noticing as she landed on her feet, and stood up. The old griffin met me halfway as my hand and his talon met in a tight grasp. “And may peace stay with you, my friend,” I said, shaking his talon. “God knows you’ve earned it. Keep an eye on Gilda, too. They tried once and they might try again.”

“My best troops are watching her even now. She is and will remain safe.”

“Good. Then until next time, Bloodbeak.” I let his weathered talons go and started backing to the door.

“If there is one,” he sighed, and I took that as my cue to go. Kat quietly slipped out after me and padded next to me as we went down to the common room. As soon as we were out of sight, I heard the guard open Bloodbeak’s door and step inside.

When we got down to the common room, we beheld Spike emptying a frighteningly large schooner of mead into his gullet. I facepalmed just in time to miss the massive fiery belch erupting from his mouth. I could feel it even from where I was, though, and I could hear the exultations of the guards as they congratulated him.

“Is that Spike?” Kat asked, crossing her arms.

“Yes...” Fucking hell, they got him drunk.

“Wow, he’s really grown. I might have to... Hm.”

“Spike, time to go,” I said as I walked over to the table with my weapons.

“But I’m just getting started!” He didn’t sound too slurred, which was a good sign.

“And you’re also just getting finished,” I replied, putting weapons back onto my body. “Barkeep, no more for him. God knows he’ll be troublesome enough now.”

“You got it,” the fellow said, making Spike cross his arms and huff. “Anything for you, or are you closing the tab?”

“I’m closing it.” With the last weapon in place, I let the cloak fall back over everything important. “How much?”

“Eh, I’ll say ten bits. This stuff isn’t exactly easy to keep hidden.”

I shrugged and pulled ten coins out of the wallet thing. “Simple enough.” The barkeep hopped over the empty bar and flapped his wings once to land right in front of me. The bits changed hands and I grabbed Spike, dragging him out of the bar. Thankfully, he didn’t bother trying to fight back. “You just had to go and get drunk,” I muttered as I slowly guided him down the road.

Flo giggled. “This is your fault you know, Nav.”

“It’s not my fault he’s a lightweight!”

Much to my surprise, I felt a weight jump on my back and grab me from behind. “Who are you talking to?” Kat asked.

“The voices in my head. Now let go.”

“But you’re warm!”

“Spike is warmer. Fucker’s a dragon.”

“...Oh yeah.” She pounced from my back to his and then immediately slid off. “Ooh, too many spines.” After saying that, her head swung to me and she stopped moving. “Is... that pink pony here?”

“Nope.”

“Oh, thank the sands... So, where are we going?”

“Spike and I are going to the changeling district. If you have a hit on you, you’re not going with us.”

“So where am I going, then?”

“Get all your stuff together and meet us on the ship, I suppose. It’s called Second Chance, set up on the docks. You might have some trouble getting on board. If you need to, just wait for me and I’ll tell them you’re cool.”

“I have some... business to attend to while I’m here anyway. I can take care of it quickly then get to the ship later tonight.”

“Cool. But don’t go dragging any blood on my ship. If I find out that you killed someone tonight and you’re using my boat to get away from the law, you’re out. It’s one thing to run from a criminal hit. Another thing entirely to run from the law.”

“Don’t you worry about a thing, my precious little birdie. If all goes well, I won’t shed any blood this night.”

“Then all had better go well. You know where the docks are?”

“Yeah. I’ll find your ship.”

“Good. Spike, come on.” I pulled my hood up and started leading Spike away, waiting until we turned a corner to pull out the map. “You feel wobbly?” I asked him, studying the map and barely paying attention.

“Nah. I feel great! That mead stuff was awesome, man. You should have tried some!”

“I would much rather stay sober if I’m going to talk to Chrysalis.”

“Why would you want to go talk to her? Let’s go find a nice warm mare instead. I bet she’d be a lot more fun!”

“No. I have business with Chrysalis. And besides, you need to fuck a dragon, not a pony. It would be good for you.”

“That would be... awesome. Hey, didn’t you say... like, threesomes were possible? We should totally have one with another dragon!”

“Keep your voice down!” I hissed. “Bad enough we’re talking about this in public. I really don’t want another purifier poking his nose in my business!”

“Ah, relax! They can’t prove anything and I’m a citizen of Equestria anyway.”

“That doesn’t mean you should advertise what you plan! We’ll find some dragons tomorrow, when you’re sober.”

“Nah dude, there’s some right there!” He pointed ahead of us, where three familiar dragons were crossing the road. “And whoa! She’s hot!”

He started walking toward them, but stopped in his tracks with my hand around his tail. I really didn’t want him to meet Kumani while he was fucking drunk. It just wouldn’t end well.

However, he didn’t seem to agree. “Let go, dude!” His tail yanked rather hard on my arms, pulling me around to the front of him.

Knowing that I couldn’t keep hold of him that way, I grabbed his shoulders. “Spike, trust me: You really, really don’t want to meet someone like this, not when you’re drunk. I know from experience that it’s a bad idea.”

For some reason, he smirked. “I think they disagree.”

My eyes went wide as a claw wrapped around my throat from behind, pulling me off the ground and away from Spike. “Is there a reason you’re accosting one of us?” Kumani asked from right behind me. The surprise on Spike’s face as I was pulled away from him like that was probably mirrored on mine from being held like that.

However, I reacted faster, shooting my unique wings out from under the cloak, also serving to reveal my one-of-a-kind sword. The form behind me gasped and quickly pulled the hood back, not letting go of my throat until she saw just who it was that she was holding. When she did, my feet quickly hit the ground and I stumbled into Spike, trying to catch my breath. This time, it was his arms that went around my shoulders, steadying me.

“Hell of a welcome,” I croaked after a few seconds.

“You alright?” Spike asked, making an effort to look into my eyes.

One of Kumani’s claws patted my shoulder. “Sorry about that, Nav,” she said, pulling me away from Spike’s light grasp and against her chest.

“No problem,” I said, massaging my throat and ruffling my feathers against her smooth scales. “If I wanted to be identified, I wouldn’t have been in that cloak.”

“Hm... So who’s your friend?”

“This is Spike. Spike, this is Kumani.”

Kumani just looked him up and down. Spike, though... Well, he said, “Hi... You’re really pretty.”

I facepalmed and sighed. “He’s drunk,” I said by way of explanation.

“So uh... do you know what a threesome is?” Spike asked. I immediately kicked him in the shin and he started jumping up and down, massaging it.

“I can certainly tell,” she said, rather unamused. “He does not need to be in public in his... state.”

“Yeah, I’m starting to think the same thing. I’ll get him back now.”

“No, no. These two will take care of that,” she quickly said, her grip on my shoulder tightening. “Take him back to... Where are you staying?” she asked me.

“A boat on the docks called Second Chance. And he better get back unharmed. I will be... most displeased if he gets hurt.”

“They’ll be gentle. You two understand?” she asked. Neither of the guys she had seemed to like it, but they both nodded, each grabbing Spike under one of his arms and shooting off into the sky.

With the road clear but for the two of us—the ponies quickly decided leaving was a good idea when Kumani grabbed me around the throat—she whipped me around and lifted me up, violently kissing me. This continued the vein of things that surprised me. If she hadn’t been holding my arms, I would have wrapped them around her, but as it was, I just leaned into the kiss, voicing my approval that way.

It didn’t last very long, either way. She pushed me away, sucking her tongue back in with an amusing schlicking noise. “I missed you,” she said with a little smile.

“Same,” I said, trying to figure out what just happened. “It’s been a hell of a year. Also, can you put me down?”

She did so almost reluctantly. When I was finally back down, I pulled the hood back on and made sure my wings were fully hidden. “So what’s with the getup?” she asked.

“That ‘one hell of a year’ ended with me... making a few waves. I’m in somewhat of a hurry to leave Equestria before I get recognized by too many people.”

“Oooh, you break a few laws?”

“Nope. What happened isn’t important, but I’m not in trouble with the law.” Well, not technically, given who writes the laws. “Either way, I really don’t want to be on the streets for longer than necessary. I need to go see Chrysalis. You know where my ship is, whenever you want to find me again.”

She chuckled, shaking her head. “No, no. I’m going with you. After all, if you made one of these little ponies unhappy... Well, I’m not about to let something happen, not if I could stop it.”

Ugh, another one. “Whatever. Let’s go.” I started walking back down the path Spike and I had been going, but she stopped me.

“We have wings, you know.”

“Yes, but I don’t want many people knowing I’m in the city. And I’m the only thing out there that’s bipedal with feathery wings that also wears clothing all the time. Someone sees me in the air, they’ll know immediately what I am.”

...I didn’t like that grin on her face. A few seconds later, I realized why I didn’t. “Just like old times, eh?” she asked as she cradled me in her arms and jumped into the air.

“Do you really hate walking that much?” I asked over the wind.

“You’re the one that said you didn’t want to be on the streets!” she said with a giggle.

Flo joined her in giggling. “She has you there. Just relax and enjoy the flight, Nav.”

“Bah.” At least she was warm. Though her holding me as she was allowed my cloak to keep me plenty warm as well. Fucking Russian weather, man.

The good news about flying was that we got there very quickly. The bad news is that everyone in the street where she landed saw her let me down, though I don’t think any knew what exactly I was. She wasn’t having any of those stares, though. “What?” she rather unpleasantly demanded, glaring around at the ponies around us. They were all smart enough to just keep walking. “That’s what I thought,” she muttered, one of her arms draping itself around my shoulder. “So where we goin’?” she asked me, pulling me close.

“Into the lair of Chrysalis. As soon as I find it on the map.” It came free from my pocket easily enough and I unfolded the part that was relevant to the changeling section. From the look of it, she was in just another random building, which I thought somewhat odd. After quickly examining the surrounding area, I walked up to one of the buildings on our right, one that had two nondescript ponies standing out front in nonchalant positions. “Egg, larva, foal,” I calmly said to them as I pulled back my hood.

One of the two rapped his hoof on the door three times and it opened, a hint of mist escaping the building’s inner confines. “Whoa,” Kumani whispered, following me into the darkness.

“It took me a lot of work to build up trust with these guys,” I quietly said. “So stay calm and don’t get baited into anything.”

“I’m not a hatchling,” she drily answered.

Knowing a reply would likely be unhealthy, I didn’t bother. Instead, I looked around, wondering just what exactly we were supposed to be doing in the chilly place. The building itself looked like a normal apartment complex, though the tenants were most definitely changelings. Several of them eyed the two of us as we walked further into the cold darkness.

“Hey uh... Where’s the queen?” I finally asked aloud, casting a gaze around and trying my best to not look nervous.

Every single one of the changelings smiled, showing off their fangs. My hand very slowly moved toward my sword as they began inching forward. “Hold!” A single word was enough to stop all the drones in their tracks. Kumani and I looked to the source to find an intelligentsia standing there. “Navarone, is it? Queen Chrysalis is downstairs, in the basement.” He pointed at a random drone. “Show them the way.”

All of the drones straightened up, pulling out of their attack mode. The one that was pointed out began walking past the others, down the hall. I shrugged and followed him. After a moment’s deliberation, Kumani joined us. The other drones went about their business of doing nothing.

“Think they could put a few lights up,” Kumani idly commented, looking around.

“It reminds them of home. There are no lights in changeling cities. Still, they could install a fucking heater,” I sighed, pulling the cloak around me tighter.

As it turns out, that last thing might not have been the smartest thing to say. Kumani stepped up right next to me and wrapped a wing around me, pulling me close. Now don’t get me wrong: She was really fucking warm. But I wasn’t entirely certain it would be wise to let Chrysalis know about any relationships I might be getting into.

Especially if she wants me to be her king. After that thought hit me, I surreptitiously slid on my ring.

When we got to the end of the hall, the drone kicked aside a rug, revealing a trap door. He then flipped a lid, opening a hole just the right size for the hoof he inserted. We heard a series of clicks before the hidden door slowly pulled open, keeping the changeling’s leg trapped. When I looked at the underside of the door, I saw that his hoof was trapped in some manner of lock, with each of the holes in it filled by some substance. As I watched, it retracted from his leg, releasing the drone to take his position back at the head of our small group.

He led the way down the stairs into a darkness that seemed alive, it pressed on us so. I could see the bare outlines of a few changelings in the complete darkness of the room. They watched the two of us walk by with barely restrained hunger in their eyes. A few of them might have been licking their lips...

Thankfully, we got to a room with what looked like a reinforced door quickly enough. Our guide tapped his hoof against the door once and then pulled back, waiting. It didn’t take long for a sliver of the door to open and a set of eyes to peek out of the lit room. “Who approaches the queen’s chambers?” the person behind the door asked.

“Tell her that Navarone is here,” I said.

The little eye hole closed and the door immediately opened, throwing a bright glow of electrical light into the otherwise dark room. “Enter,” the royal guard told us, stepping aside. The two of us did so while the drone went back to the staircase. After a few minutes in the dark, the newfound light was almost painful, even though the electricity that powered it was welcome.

Chrysalis wasn’t in the front room and there were two doors leading away from the rather opulent room we were in. “So uh... Where is she?” I asked one of the guards.

“In her bedroom waiting on you,” he answered. “The door to the right. Don’t keep her waiting.”

Since this room was actually heated, I pulled myself out of Kumani’s oppressive grasp and walked over to the door myself. Of course, she followed me, but it was the principle of the thing.

Since Chrysalis was apparently waiting on me, I just let myself on in and then immediately regretted that decision. “Hmmm. Hey there, big bo—You brought a dragon.” The first part was sensual, the second part was extremely disappointed. And I suppose I should point out that Chrysalis was sprawled out on the bed and making no attempt to cover herself at all. If I had to guess, I would say that she was just about to jump my bones.

It was at this point that I cursed myself for bringing Spike along instead of Ames. Nothing to do about it, though. “Yeah, I did. Is that a problem?” I asked, stepping further into the room. Kumani just stood at the door, folding her arms over her chest and glaring at the bug queen.

“Well... I suppose if she wants to share, it isn’t.” Even then, Chrysalis didn’t sound that amused. As if she knew the answer already, she sat up, making at least an attempt to cover her fun parts.

“I would not, thank you,” Kumani icily answered. “Why are we here again, Nav?”

Because I’m stupid. “I wanted to see a good friend. Is that so wrong?”

Kumani just snorted, leaving Chrysalis open to ask, “Did you consider my proposal? I imagine, after... recent events... you would be looking for a new place to stay.”

“I did consider it. And I have to say, I was very, very sorely tempted. However, I’m afraid that I have to refuse. As much as being a king would be interesting, I’m afraid that it isn’t something I find appealing enough to concede to.”

Her eyes narrowed and I was suddenly very happy that I had my ring on. Thankfully though, her horn didn’t light up. “So be it. When you change your mind, you know where I will be. Though I can’t promise the next offer will be as... fulfilling.”

“That is certainly a shame, Chrysalis. Is there anything else you need?”

A smile came to her face as she eyed Kumani. “Does your young friend here know what happened in Equestria yet, Navarone?”

“Dragons care little for the boring affairs of ponies,” I answered. “She doesn’t know and she isn’t interested.”

“Actually, I am,” Kumani said. “If it concerns you, it concerns me. I could find out what happened later, but why wait?”

“We really should be going,” I quickly said, jumping to the door. Kumani didn’t budge.

“Hm. It’s an interesting tale, really,” Chrysalis idly commented. “A tale of betrayal and sins most dire. Do you know of the princess of the night, Luna?” she asked.

“I’ve heard the name once or twice,” Kumani said.

“God dammit,” I sighed, running a hand down my face at the horror that was to come.

“It seems a certain princess had quite a fascination with our dear Navarone here. Her first deed involved accidental attempted murder. Her second one was more... purposeful. After that, it seems she gained a little crush on him, if the love poison was any indication. If you don’t know, that forces the victim to do nothing but love the first person they lock eyes with. When that failed, she got somewhat more forceful and raped him a few times. It was quite vile. And it all came to light rather recently, publicly admitted by the night princess herself.”

I don’t know which was worse. The somewhat mocking tone Chrysalis told that story in, the slowly gathering anger on Kumani’s face, or the feeling of dread in my stomach from what I knew was coming.

Kumani turned to me. “How much of that is true?”

“...All of it.”

She then turned back to Chrysalis. “Thank you for telling me, Queen Chrysalis. I don’t think Navarone ever would have.”

“Oh, it was my pleasure, dear. Is there anything else you two need?”

“We’ll be going,” Kumani answered for me, wrapping an arm and a wing around me. I just sighed as I was dragged from the room.

“I can walk, you know,” I morosely commented when we were back into the dark room.

“I know,” was her only answer.

When she opened the trapdoor and we got back to the main hallway, I said, “I have the strangest feeling that you’re upset with me.”

“I wonder what would give you that idea.”

Probably your tone of voice. And that you’re almost hurting me with how tight your grip is.

Flo whispered, “I don’t think exacerbating the problem is a good idea right now, Nav.”

When we finally got outside, it was just about night. “I should probably get back to the ship,” I said. “So if you could just let me go...”

“When were you going to tell me?” Kumani suddenly asked.

“Probably never. It doesn’t seem like something that’s important. So I had some problems in my past. Who doesn’t? It’s in the past and that’s that.”

“So why are you running from it?”

“I’m not. I got that bitch arrested. I’m just running from the fallout of getting a fucking princess arrested. I don’t want to deal with that kind of attention. Getting hounded by news reporters left and right sucks. And getting tons and tons of pity from everyone from going through a traumatic event is even worse. I just want to get over it and move on, but everyone’s treating it like such a big fucking deal. So can we please just forget about it?”

She took a deep, deep breath and very slowly let it out, releasing a cloud of hot steam into the air. When her lungs were empty, she let her grip on me drop and I staggered a few steps away. “Dragons are... jealous and possessive lovers, Navarone. I do not like hearing of others hurting you. If we’re going to... make this work, I’m going to have to try to deal with that.”

“Ask her right now,” Flo said. “Ask her if she wants to make it work.”

I slowly nodded and asked, “Do you want to make the attempt? I offered last year and I haven’t found anyone else. The offer still stands, if you’re interested.” And God help me for making it.

Silence took over between us as she thought. After nearly half a minute, she nodded. “Yes.”

I had a feeling that I was in for one very interesting trip.

 
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