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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115. Chapter Ninety-Three—I’ve seen some shit

“So what’s our destination?” Flash asked when I called him and Watcher to the ‘planning room’ thing. “You never really specified, just that it was up north.”

Flo told me to bring the laptop to the room so she could communicate, so I set it on the main table with my good hand. “Honestly, I don’t know. But Flo should be able to tell us.” I opened the thing up and turned it on. “Did we get everything we needed while we were there? I know I was kind of in a hurry to leave.”

“We got everything,” Watcher said as I lifted my hand up to my ear. “But I didn’t find any information about that magic shop.”

“To be honest, I didn’t think you would,” I replied, helping Flo to the laptop. “They seemed rather elusive.”

“And powerful,” Flo suddenly said from the speakers, making both of the ponies jump. “Hello to both of you. We have not yet been formally introduced. I am Flo. Or at least, I am a part of her. The rest of me is trapped underground near the primary changeling hive.”

Flash seemed more off-put by that than Watcher, which was expected. “Nice to meet you,” Watcher calmly said. “So what’s our destination?”

A globe appeared on the screen, facing our general location. “This is around where we are, not far out from Stalliongrad. Our destination is…” The globe began turning until it was facing somewhere in the Arctic Circle, above Canada. “...here.” A red x appeared over the location. “This is the approximate location for the elemental that I believe would be the best one to free first. Once we get closer, I can get a better reading. And of course, this map is hundreds of thousands of years old, so the landscape will be different.”

“...That’s useless to me,” the captain said. “I need a location on my maps, not on some fancy globe.”

“Place your map of the area in front of the screen then, Captain,” Flo said. “I will give you a better reading.”

“Always wanted to see the Arctic,” I idly commented as Flash did as she requested.

“It’s cold, sir,” Watcher grimly answered. “Very cold and rather miserable. Ice as far as the eye can see with a single railway in and out. Celestia alone knows why even that is there.”

“Meh. We shouldn’t be there long, hopefully. Just gotta get in, cut through some ice, grab the chunk with the elemental, and get the fuck out. How bad could it be?”

“Never say that, Navarone. You should be smarter than that by now.”

“...Fair.”

The captain nodded at Flo’s string of coordinates and he used a pen to mark a point on the map. “We should be there within two weeks. It’ll take three if you want to go the long way, but we’ll hit less terrible weather.”

“I want speed,” I said. “This ship can handle the worst in the world, you said. Let’s see if its crew can do the same.”

“You got it, Nav. We’re going over the top of the world, for this one.”

“I’ll be sure to drop a letter for Santa Claus, then. It’s been a while since he got one, I bet.”

“...Who?” Flash asked.

“Human thing. Not important. Is there anything else to discuss?”

“One thing,” Flash said. “Are you planning on informing me the next time you bring more crew onto my ship?”

“Hey, I told you that we’d be picking up more people in Stalliongrad!”

“You did not inform me that one of them was an assassin. Or that the other was a high-ranking dragoness that you were planning on dating.”

“He’s right, Navarone,” Watcher said. “These are things that we should have known. At the very least, I should have been informed about Kat sooner. I don’t much mind her and in fact she’s quite charming, but she’s extremely dangerous and I don’t trust her.”

“Both points are understandable and I apologize. On the very low chance we pick up anyone extra in our travels, I will be sure to make an attempt to tell at least one of you beforehand. In recent times, I’ve come to rely more and more on only Flo for advice since before I started working with you two, she’s been one of the very few useful and intelligent people in my life. Now, I forget that I have an experienced and useful team. Just stay on me about things like this.”

They both nodded and Flash said, “I need to get these coordinates to the helmspony. If there’s nothing else…?”

I shrugged and looked to Watcher. “I just want to talk to Flo for some time,” he said. “I need nothing else.”

“Then until later,” Flash said before walking out, his maps floating in the air behind him.

“Whenever you get done, bring me the laptop with her in it,” I told him.

“Very well. Before you go, how is your wound? Zecora told me she was still experimenting.”

“The same. Hurts when pressure’s on it and I can’t really move my arm. I have every confidence that Zecora can fix me up.”

“You know, one of the unicorns might be able to help you if they were wearing that amulet you obtained.”

“Maybe. Do you really want to risk it?”

“...No. I was able to find a small amount of information about it. The thing has a dark past. Have it used only in emergencies, Navarone. Keep it locked up, otherwise.”

“That’s the plan. You need anything else?”

“No. Just a talk with Flo.”

“Then have fun. Don’t break my laptop.”

“Understood.”

When I got outside the planning room thing, I was immediately grabbed and thrust into a scaley chest. “We need to fuck,” Kumani told me. “I’m in season and we haven’t done much since we got back in touch.”

“...Alright. Just as long as we’re careful about my arm. It still hasn’t healed properly.”

“I thought you were tougher than that,” she commented, grabbing me by my good arm and pulling me along.

“Being tough does not mean you can’t be intelligent. I could take the pain, but I’d rather not have to. And since we can have plenty of fun while being careful, I don’t see what the problem is.”

“Hmph. You’re lucky you’re cute. Would you feel better faster if I started playing nurse for you? Treating you like royalty and walking on eggshells around you?”

“...Would you wear a sexy nurse outfit?”

“I was joking, but now… Hm. I’ll think about it.” That actually gave me something to look forward to, as sad as it is to say. When we got down to her room, she easily lifted me up and tossed me onto the bed. Thankfully, I landed on my ass so it didn’t hurt my wings. “Now, one question before we start. Are you any kind of gay?”

“...No? I mean, there was that one time, but that was the heat of the moment.” Well, actually it was two times, but the same person. Braeburn made a very convincing case, I’ll give him that.

“Good. That means I don’t have to worry about the stallion here that wants you.”

“Whoa whoa, you can worry about him! Please, chase him off!”

“Why? It’s almost cute, the way he acts around you. I got close to punching him when I first realized it, but then I remembered what you said about controlling the jealousy or whatever. After thinking about it, I realized that he probably wasn’t even competition.”

“I’m perfectly okay with gays, but I really, really don’t like it when they hit on me after finding out I’m straight. Smiles is extremely aware of my orientation and I can’t get him to stop. So feel free to dish out some pain to him. Maybe that’ll teach him what-for. Just don’t go overboard.”

She smiled and shook her head. “You can’t have it both ways, Nav. First you told me not to threaten anyone and now you’re telling me to threaten someone. Is it because he’s a guy? You think that makes him tougher?”

Well… “It’s because he’s a trained soldier. Do your scary dragoness thing. He can handle it.”

“Hmm… I’ll think about it. Now lose the pants.” I was all too happy to comply, of course.

 

When we finished, she ended up wrapping both arms around me, making me lay on her front side. My wings were sagging to the bed in the nice afterglow and we were somewhat lucky the ship was mostly fireproofed. “So tell me about that ‘one time’ you were gay,” she whispered, one of her claws going to my wings and gently tweaking my feathers.

Oh boy. Flo?

Fuck, that’s right. “Well, it was more like two times with the same guy. The first time I met him, I was still reeling from the Luna breakup, I think. Our initial meeting didn’t go well and I felt bad about that. I guess I felt like I owed him something. That, combined with how I felt, led to something… interesting. Basically, we sucked each other off. Then later, I met him again. He enticed me and I fucked him hard. That was that.”

“Hm…” She gently plucked one of the feathers she was toying with, making me flinch. “And he’s not on this ship, is he?”

“No. God no. I don’t need a farmer here. If he was, I’d set him up with Smiles so they’d both leave me alone.”

“So you were always on top?” she asked, continuing to stroke my wing, moving closer to the tip. They were floppy in the afterglow, but she was doing her best to stiffen them up again.

“Yep. One of the only rules I have in sex is that I want nothing in places that are exit only. Ever. For any reason.”

“Sore subject?” she joked, trailing her claws around the base of the wing. It was starting to twitch in response, now.

“Very funny. Long story short, fuck Luna. Bitch is crazy and very much wanted to be on top in more ways than one. I want nothing to do with that.”

“You don’t seem to mind giving it.”

“Yeah, because you don’t mind receiving it. I do mind. Very much so.”

“Alright, I’ll keep that in mind. Anything else I should know?”

“There are specific zones in my wings that are much better than others for sex purposes. And there are parts in there that can be hurt if too much pressure is on them. We can go over them whenever you’re ready to go again.”

“It’s mating season, Nav. I’m always ready to go. And if that’s what I think it is poking me, I think you are, too.”

“Well, you have been playing with my wings… Alright. If you let me go, I can show you everything you might want to know.”

“Hm… It can wait,” she happily said as she turned suddenly, knocking me to the bed and situating herself on top of me. “I don’t think you’ll mind…”

I didn’t.

 

“So what do you think of roleplaying?” she asked when we next stopped. This time she had an arm wrapped around me, holding me close as she laid on her back. The other was behind her head. It felt like she should be smoking. It also felt like I was her bitch.

“It can be interesting, if done well. It can also get to the point of horrifying if done too well. And always make sure your partner is very aware of what you’ll be roleplaying as.”

“Experience?”

“Yeah… Not something I want to talk about and it was a low moment in my life.”

“Fair enough.”

“Hey, what about you? You got any freaky sex stories to share? Or worse, crazy exes I need to know about?”

“No stories aside from what we’ve done. It was pretty plain before I met you. And there were a few dragons my mom tried setting me up with that might be pretty angry that I’m dating someone else. Especially someone outside the species. But it’s not like they’ll ever leave our country.”

“Good. I don’t think I could take a dragon out in a fist fight. Scales are tough,” I said, thumping her chest.

“And you’re so soft,” she giggled, running her claw down my side.

“Comparatively, I guess. But I’m too skinny to be very soft. Try poking a pony some time, especially a plump one.” Celestia has so far been my favorite pony in terms of softness, but I wasn’t about to mention that to Kumani.

“Oh, I know they’re soft. I remember them from the competitions. Quite fun to toy with, though that magic of theirs can be annoying.”

“Yeah. I’m so thankful you don’t have any of that,” I sighed, snuggling in tighter.

“Well, not unicorn magic. We do have our own kinds of magic, but not much of it. I don’t think I’ll need magic to get you to do what I want, though. A few kisses and maybe a blowjob would do it.”

“Eh, probably. For most things at least. Just as long as the kisses come first, of course. I don’t want cum kisses.”

“The taste isn’t that bad… But alright, easy enough. Oh, and by the way, how much do you know about dragon anatomy?”

“Other than that you’re sexy, very little. I know you guys grow based on conflict, what you eat, and your age. And I know wings grow in eventually, but I don’t know when.”

“Hm. Well, as a warning, I’ll be laying an egg when my season is over.” That almost worried me, but she kept going. “Unfertilized, of course. I don’t think your sperm can survive in me, with the heat. It’s customary for a dragon’s mate to assist them with the process, but I’d understand if you don’t want to. Unless humans lay eggs?”

“We don’t, but I’d be willing to help. What do you usually do with the eggs?”

“Sell them. They go for a lot of gold, if you have the right connections. This year, I’ll probably just throw it over the side. Not like there’s anything else to do with it.”

I was really tempted to ask if we could eat it, but then I realized how horrible that would sound. “Well, that’ll be a new experience, at least. And thanks for telling me now instead of waiting until after it’s happened. I’d freak the fuck out if I walked in here and there was an egg on the bed.”

“…That would have been pretty funny. Oh well. Do you have anything about you I might find weird?”

“Well, I can access the dreams of ponies, I sleep at night during winter and fall and my hair also changes, and I usually have an artificial intelligence in my head that gives me feedback on the world.”

“…Okay, you need to explain some things.” They were easy enough explanations that I went over quickly. “Cool. But I’m going to have a talk with this Flo. It’s a she, you said?”

“There’s no need to be jealous of her, Kumani. She’s more like a mother than anything.”

“I know. I still want to talk to her. She sounds pretty interesting.”

“…Alright. But she’s currently with Watcher. Or at least, she was. Might be back in my room, now.”

Her arm around me reached down to tweak a certain part of my anatomy that received much love and care recently. “Hm… We could do something else first.”

“As much as I’d love to, I’m pretty sure I’m spent for now. I’m good, but I can only do so much. Besides, my pelvis hurts. No offense, but you weigh a lot more than I do and you aren’t gentle. You need to be more careful when on top.”

“Oh, you know you like it.” She let her claw slide back up to my wings instead.

“Of course I do. Even prefer it, in a way. But I’ll be changing my tune when you break my pelvis.”

“Fine, fine. I’ll be more careful. But only for you, Nav. Now, let’s go talk to Flo.” I sighed as she pulled out of bed. “What?”

“You’re warm. With where we’re going, it’s going to get very cold very fast, so I want all of it that I can get now.”

“Huh. Where we going?” she asked as I sat up and started looking for my clothes.

“Arctic Circle, above mainland Equestria and Gryphonia. We’re going over the top of the world to do it. I hope you don’t mind the sun, because that’s all we’ll be seeing for the next few weeks.”

“Well, at least I won’t have to worry about finding reasons to get you in bed. Now are you getting ready or what?”

“My pelvis started hurting even more when I stood up. Getting dressed with only one hand is bad enough. Adding the other is torture.”

She rolled her eyes as I pulled up my pants. When it took me half a minute to get my belt on, she just snatched the shirt from my hand and then picked me up. “Now I don’t have to wait,” she said as she began walking to the door.

“Really? You’re going to do this?” I sighed. “Hell, do you even fit through the ship’s corridors?”

“Barely. I definitely can’t get into any of the smaller rooms, at least not without really bending over.”

“I’m okay with that, as long as I’m behind you. But come on, what happened to not babying me?”

“Hm. Just consider this part of nursing you, then. I don’t have a little outfit for you, but that’s okay.”

Another sigh escaped my lips as I realized this was a point that I probably wouldn’t win. Baby steps, I suppose. “Well, at least hurry it up. I’d rather not be seen like this.”

“Ashamed of me? There’s nothing wrong with this.”

“There is one thing that I hate above all else and that is being seen as weak. Especially in front of people that I’m in charge of and that I lead, which includes most of the people on this ship.”

“Then what’s with the sling?”

“That’s a sign of being injured. Perfectly acceptable to wear something like that. If you were sick, you’d take your medicine. This is the same thing.”

“Then I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t run into anyone in the halls,” she idly commented as she set me down in front of my room. “Which is somewhat strange. Where is everyone?”

“No clue,” I answered, stepping into my room, thankfully seeing the laptop on my bed. “You want to talk to her in my body or on the laptop?”

“I’d prefer it to be private. Oh, and here’s your shirt.” She threw it at me. My good hand snatched it out of the air and dropped it on the bed.

“Privacy can be done either way. Flo, you ready to come back?” Her watery form oozed out of the laptop and into my hand, ready for its transmission. Kumani watched in some form of interest as I lifted the elemental up and let her slide back in. Oh baby, I love the feel of you inside of me.

“You’re such a pervert,” Flo whispered. “So Kumani wants to talk to me?”

“She does,” I confirmed out loud. “If you want to take over, I can just chill in the background.” Okay, now Kumani was looking somewhat confused.

“Alright. Taking over now, then.” I blinked and found myself staring at the seemingly permanent fixture of the glade in my mind. For some reason, Flo always had the place locked in the season of spring.

“Life with no death loses its meaning,” I idly commented, concentrating on a single tree to wither it down to an autumnal appearance. As soon as I got its appearance to change, the leaves immediately reverted to green.

I keep these trees as an indication of your health, Navarone, Flo thought at me. Each tree is a different part of you. When any of the leaves change, I immediately know when something is wrong. Not all of them are green. If you explore, you’ll find a few that are wretched and downtrodden.

“I wonder what those might represent,” I replied as I wandered around the forest, thankful that I didn’t carry my physical pains with me.

She didn’t respond.

As I looked more around the garden, I began noticing little things that helped me realize what she meant when she said this thing was used to identify my health. For example, I saw a single tree with an axe wound that seemed rather faded with age, presumably my stab wound that was partially better. That same tree had a number of scars on it, some more major than others. But it was still mostly as healthy as ever, despite all the damage.

It took me a bit of looking, but I managed to find one of the dead areas. The tree appeared to have been burned and it was oozing some kind of fungal solution that was killing the grass around it. The only form of life I saw was a single shrub growing out of the ground in front of the tree, somehow unaffected by the rest of it. A few dark purple flowers poked off from it and strings of sickly looking black berries made their home on it.

Atropa belladonna, a beautiful plant, Flo thought. Even in the most dead of places, life still finds a way. Though it isn’t always the kind of life we want.

“I bet those berries taste awful,” I commented as I walked past the place. The plant looked familiar, but I never really was into gardening, so I couldn’t say for sure.

The next dead and ruined ground I found was littered with small bushes with white flowers. They surrounded a tree that had been chopped down some long time ago and it appeared that someone made a few attempts to destroy the stump.

Cicuta virosa, another interesting plant. Your mind is quite an intriguing place. But Kumani and I are finished with our little talk. I’m putting you back in control.

Before I could reply, I found that I was once again in my body. And surrounded by about half the people on the ship on the top deck. Thankfully, I was wearing a shirt.

As soon as I looked around, everyone called out, “Surprise!”

“…What?” I asked, honestly confused.

“It’s your birthday,” Taya happily answered from her spot next to me. “And I knew you wouldn’t do anything for it, so we decided to work around that.”

“This is… unexpected.” And extremely unwanted. “Is it actually my birthday? I don’t even remember.”

“It is,” Taya hastily confirmed.

“Well. Before anything celebrationy happens, I have two announcements. The first is that we have a destination that we should be on our way to. Long story short, we’re going over the top of the planet and it’s going to get cold for everyone on deck. Get ready to layer up if you go topside. The second is less important and more personal. In case anyone doesn’t know, I’m dating Kumani. So no more late night rendezvous, for those that are used to them. Anyway, I guess the… ugh, party can begin.”

After saying that, I immediately got hugged from behind, with Kumani’s head bending down over mine for a kiss. I made it easier for her by looking up. Now, I’m not much a fan of PDA, but I wasn’t about to deny her in front of everyone right after saying we were dating.

Thankfully, she didn’t take very long. “I didn’t even know what a birthday was, until Taya told me,” she commented as she let me go and I turned to face her. “It feels weird to celebrate that.”

“For me, it is. Taya knows full well that I don’t like having parties for me. She knows and she’ll regret it. I’m going to plan hers and it’s going to be really cute and she’ll hate every minute of it.”

“Yes, because that’s the perfectly mature thing to do. Way to be an upstanding father, Nav.”

“I try. Now, unfortunately you can’t hog me. Even though there’s nothing else to do on this damn ship, people made the effort of showing up and I need to talk to them.”

“Then I guess I should try to meet some of them. I’ll be sharing a boat with them, after all.”

“Have fun.” She nodded and I got another peck on the lips for my troubles before she departed and was almost immediately replaced by Kat.

“So it was Miguel that attacked you?” she asked. “You seemed rather close-lipped about it and I just heard today.”

“It was,” I confirmed. “I originally assumed he was just going after me because I found his collection of faces. It was belated, of course, but still. Turns out he was working for an enemy instead.”

“Interesting… Did you let Jocasta know?”

“I was a little busy being almost dead from blood loss. I have no clue if she knows or not. Don’t really care, either.”

“Well, it’s no longer my problem. Anyway, are you entirely certain that it’s wise to date a dragon?”

“Nope. I’m still wondering why I’m doing it. But I’m doing it, and that’s that.”

“Your life. Happy life-day, Navarone.” With that, the kitty left.

I was about to start looking for cake when the hulking minotaur blacksmith parked himself in front of me. This guy was a very aged fellow with grey fur, a relatively wrinkled face, weary seeming eyes, and one of his horns was broken off around the middle. “Hello, forerunner,” he quietly said.

“Howdy, Master Jak. Are your accommodations to your liking?”

“Better than what I was expecting from signing up on a pony ship. Now, I have little use for parties or bandying words. My shop is set up and I can begin working on whatever you want immediately.”

“Excellent. You ever work on or with siege weapons?”

“Once. It… was an ugly affair. I’ve seen the ones you have here. Innovative, but very shoddily made. I can scrap them and rework them. Shoot straighter, farther, and less likely to break.”

“Start whenever you’re ready. If you ever need additional help, just ask me, Watcher, or Captain Gourd. And I’d prefer you only take one apart at a time.”

He blinked in surprise. “I am not stupid.”

“I know, I know, and I’m sorry. I’m just used to dealing with idiots.”

“Understandable. I’ll start immediately, unless you need anything else.”

“Not right now. I might have you look at a few designs and current items to see if you can recreate them, though.”

“I will likely be in the forge, should you need me. Until next time, forerunner.” Before that point, I was on the edge about him. Not liking or disliking him. It was at that point that I decided the two of us would probably get along rather well. His next words confirmed it. “Smiles! Quit horsin’ around, it’s time for work.”

“Aww… Can I at least talk to the birthday colt?”

“Make it quick. Be down in three minutes.” Well, so much for getting along with him… “Blasted ponies,” he muttered as he stalked off.

Of course, that rather public exchange gave Smiles the right to talk to me next, sadly. He sidled up to me, wearing his normal smile. “Happy birthday, sir!” he merrily said.

“Thank you, Smiles. Now, you shouldn’t keep your boss waiting.”

“So how old are you, again?” he asked, not even acknowledging what I said.

“I don’t know, twenty-five or so? How old are you?”

“Ooh, so twenty-five birthday spankings… You want them hard and rough or soft and sensual?”

“I will discuss that with the sexy female dragon I am dating in good time. The one that doesn’t at all like sharing. Also, can you, like, stop hitting on me? It’s really annoying.”

“I’ll try, sir. But it’s hard. Almost as hard as—oof!”

I pulled my hand back from thumping him on the nose. “Bad pony! Now go attend your master.”

“…Yes sir. Can I have a happy birthday hug before I go?”

“No. Now shoo.” And off he went, his tail between his legs. I made sure to look away before he could turn back and try using puppy-dog eyes on me. Turning my back on Smiles meant I caught Spike trying to sneak up on me, his arms outstretched for a sneak attack.

“Oh shoot,” he cursed.

“Caught you,” I replied with a smile. “Good thing, too. That might have hurt, with my arm.”

He scoffed at that. “Tough guy like you? Wouldn’t hurt at all.”

“Tough? Yeah. Right. So how are you enjoying your freedom from Twilight’s apron strings?”

“I wore the apron, not her, Nav. You should know that.”

“It’s a figure of speech. Are you enjoying yourself?”

“A little. It feels… nice to be out here like this. Away from Ponyville. Living with ponies like this. I feel more alive than ever, I guess.”

“Good. Did you enjoy the Stalliongrad party?”

“Ugh, not really. I tried finding a few female dragons, but there didn’t seem to be any aside from Kumani.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I kinda cornered the market, I guess. You aren’t gonna go crazy and try to steal Kumani, are you? I’d hate to have to smack your shit.”

I wasn’t at all comforted by the nervous chuckle he gave me. He followed that up with, “No, I would never do that…” When I narrowed my eyes at his sarcastic tone, he winked and said more sincerely, “Nah, dude. After all you’ve done for me, I wouldn’t even think of doing something like that. She is really pretty and I wish I had a dragoness that hot, but I would never do that to you.”

“Good. Then I’m fine with asking her to teach you to fight like a dragon. A sword will only get you so far when you get to be huge, after all.”

“You think she would?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I said I would ask her. Or you can ask her. While you’re at it, you can ask her about anything else dragon related. Not like anyone else here can teach you anything about them.”

“I already had most of my questions answered, but… thanks, Nav. You really are just the best friend I think I’ve ever had.”

“Damn dude, the ponies must have been shittier to you than I thought. I’m a fucking awful friend. Just give me the chance to prove it.”

He smirked and shook his head. “You are something else, Nav. But I’m not going to keep you to myself on your birthday. Well, unless you want me to.”

“I don’t even want a bloody party. But I have one, so I’m going to pretend to enjoy it to keep up appearances. Even if, you know, there isn’t anything party-related on deck aside from a group of people.”

“I think they tried making a cake, but it didn’t work out. I don’t know. Happy birthday, Nav. Wait, do they have birthday spankings where you come from?”

I rolled my eyes and answered, “Why? Do you want to spank me, Spike? I bet that would get you nice and hard, wouldn’t it?”

His head spines shot up straight, twitching, and he quickly shook his head. “N-no! I was just… asking!”

“Right. Well, I’ll see you later, Spike. Have fun with that disturbing mental image.” He just made a squeaky sound that I assumed was a confirmation and I wandered off, wondering if anyone else was going to waylay me or if I would have to talk to someone.

Gilda saved me from having to, for better or worse. “Sup, Nav. This party’s pretty lame. I’m about to bail, go flying or something. You want anything while I’m out?”

“Nothing I can think of. Just be careful. We’re heading north, so it’s gonna get cold. I know you’re covered in fur and feathers, but I don’t want you getting sick.”

“Eh, I’ll be careful. Hey, you put clouds in your bed yet?”

“…No. I didn’t even think about it. God, that would make it a lot more comfortable.”

“Then that’ll be your birthday present. See you later, Nav.” She spread her wings and shot into the air, easily clearing the ship and getting out of the area quickly.

I really like her. Quick and to the point. Even if she is kind of a bitch.

The two changelings were the next to approach me. Doppel and if I remembered correctly, Ganger. “Happy birthday, Master!” Doppel said with her typical smile. After a few weeks of being a complete and total slut and getting laid at least once a day, her chitin was very healthy and practically glowing.

“Happy birthday indeed, sir,” Ganger added. I never really liked him that much. Aside from being somewhat flirty, the fellow was rather bland. Definitely the most normal of the four, that’s for sure.

“Thanks to you both. Doppel, you’re looking exceedingly healthy. Ganger, have you guys secured a better food source yet?”

“I’m afraid not,” he sighed. “Doppel has the luck of eating something everyone is oh-so-willing to give her. Love is something less are willing to part with.”

“So you’re hungry again.”

“…Yes, we are.”

“Alright. I’ll give you some now. But after I help you, I want you to do something for me.”

“Of course. We are here to assist you, after all. At least until we find our place in the world.”

Right. Because that’ll happen. I knelt down for the changeling to easily access my memories. He did so with a faint sucking sound, just because it had to be creepy. When he was finished, I stood back up. “Alright. Go down to the minotaur’s workplace and turn into me. Then stand next to Smiles for a little while and see what emotion he exudes. Just watch out for sexual harassment, because I have that problem with him.”

“…Yes sir,” he somewhat glumly said before walking away, head low.

“I could have done that, you know,” Doppel replied. “I’ve been meaning to try that, actually. See if I could get him to sleep with me that way.”

“Don’t. I don’t want my body debased like that. Whatever sick fantasies Smiles has can remain fantasies.”

“Oh, alright… By the way, I should warn you that we’re going to become practically useless when we get to the cold areas. I can do snow and some cold, but when it gets too far below freezing, changelings can’t survive. We’ll have to stay inside.”

“Alright, that’s not too much of a problem. If all goes well, we shouldn’t be here but for a week or two, if even that long.” But when does everything all go well?

“We’ll still be able to help out on the inside of the ship, of course. At least, as long as it stays heated.”

“The captain assured me that it would. With as much money as I poured into modifying this damn boat, it better. And if it doesn’t, you two can just curl up under a blanket or something. We’ll figure something out.”

“Alright. I just wanted to let you know, master. Happy birthday! Oh, and tell Kumani that she better give you something ‘special’ tonight.”

“She probably won’t need telling. Not really interested in anything special, though. The last time a lover offered to do something special for me, I got stabbed with a horn.”

“Yeah, but Kumani isn’t a completely crazy and homicidal bitch. Or at least, she doesn’t seem like it yet.”

“…She threw you aside like trash after threatening you away from me.”

“So? That’s perfectly normal for changelings. When we get in relationships, we make sure we stay in relationships. Murder is considered justified if it’s because someone was trying to steal our mate.”

“Well, that’s creepy as fuck. But no wonder Chrysalis said your crime rate was so low.”

“The crime rate is low and recidivism is zero, master! But uh… every changeling that commits a crime is put down, so that might be why. Anyway, I see a certain somepony giving me eyes, so I’m gonna go let him fuck me in the ass. I’ll talk to you later, and happy birthday again!”

“Have fun,” I replied as she walked away, her backside waggling a little more than it should have been. Not that I was looking, of course.

With most of the important people either gone or having spoken to me, almost all I had to do was survive a very small deluge of a few soldiers and a single crew member giving me pleasantries. I assumed everyone else was busy, didn’t care, or were asleep.

After a few minutes of making sure I had spoken to everyone at least once, Taya appeared at my side. “Having fun, daddy?” she sweetly asked.

“Not really. And don’t worry: You’re going to get a party because of this. It’s going to be really cute and you’re gonna hate every minute of it, but I won’t let you leave until you at least put on the very pink and adorable dress I’ll find for you.”

She shrugged and replied, “Sacrifices must be made. I knew you wouldn’t tell anyone, so I had to do it.”

“…No you didn’t. You didn’t have to tell anyone. I could have and would have ended the day normally, without any of this party stuff or recognition for turning a year older.” However old that actually is. The worst part about having a different year system is that you can’t just add back.

“You always made me have a party. It’s only fair that I make you have one.”

“No, Pinkie always made you have a party. I just forced her to accept my help in planning them so you wouldn’t immediately leave. Denying Pinkie her parties is impossible. Trust me, I’ve tried. They always come out eventually. Delaying just makes it worse.” Thank God I don’t have to deal with that bullshit anymore.

“Well either way, now you have a party!”

“With no cake. Or anything else. It’s more of a gathering, really.”

“About the cake… I sort of accidentally messed up while helping make it. Also, I’m banned from cooking on the ship now.”

“Jesus, how badly did you mess up?”

“Um… Sunny said she can probably fix the burn damage, but doesn’t know if the smell will ever go away. It was an accident, though!”

“I didn’t expect you to burn down the kitchen on purpose. It happens. At least you didn’t accidentally blow something up, like I did. Thank God that batteries don’t exist here…” Never put one of those in a fire. Especially not in a candle as you’re lighting things on fire to see what happens. “So are there any other plans for this thing, or can I just sort of leave?”

“Well, there isn’t really much we can do…”

“Awesome. I need to talk to Kumani for a second and then I’ll be heading to my room. Do not disturb rules are going to be in effect.” She sighed and nodded, knowing exactly what that meant. “I’ll see you some time tomorrow. I’ll probably need to be healed. You know the drill.”

“Yes, daddy,” she sighed. “I’m sure everyone will stay quiet around your room.”

“Cool. Good day or night, Taya. Whichever it is up here. And… thanks for the party.”

“You’re welcome. I love you, daddy.”

“Love you too.” And with that, I was on my way to the most noticeable person on the deck. Kumani appeared to be rather bored and perked up a little when I approached her. Truth be told, I almost felt regret for what I was about to do. “Having fun?” I asked, even though I knew the answer.

“Not really, no. Most everyone here already knows each other and doesn’t seem interested in talking.”

“A bit of good will might help. Did you try talking with Spike? He doesn’t know much about dragons and actually fights with a sword instead of any draconic things. He needs someone to teach him how to be a damn dragon.”

“That’s… something I could do, I suppose. Better than spending half of my time bored. But I can do that later. Now, you and I are going to have some fun.”

“Actually, about that… I was thinking about turning in early tonight. I’m feeling pretty tired, you know?”

“…What?” She was definitely surprised and disappointed by that, if her ear spine things were any indication.

“I know you were looking forward to some fun, but I’m really not feeling too hot. We can just do it tomorrow, right?”

“I… guess we could. Are you sure?”

“Yeah. A night of good rest will perk me up just fine.”

“Well, alright.” She leaned down and stole a kiss, using one of her claws to gently hold my face in place. “Goodnight, Nav,” she quietly said when she pulled away.

“’Night, Kumani,” I replied, turning to go. There were a few mutters from behind me, but I didn’t really care that much. I just quickly escaped the party and made my way through the belly of the ship to my room.

“I can’t believe you’re really giving that up for this,” Flo said.

“It’s an important tradition that will go on for as long as necessary.”

“Navarone, it never won’t be necessary with that attitude.”

I shrugged as I pulled out one of the bottles of alcohol I had left over from my time in Equestria. “Maybe. But for every birthday I have, I’m going to get trashed until it doesn’t hurt anymore. Or until I forget everything I lost. Whichever comes first.” Hopefully the forgetting part.

“And you’ll never get over the pain if you just drink your problems away!”

“That’s a shame.” I popped the top and took a nice shot of it. “Vinyl can make some pretty good stuff,” I coughed when I swallowed, the burn reminding me that I was alive. “Hoo man, this is gonna be a night…”

“Drinking alone. Quite a night,” Flo sarcastically answered.

“Nah, not alone. Not with you up there to keep me company.”

She huffed. “I don’t want to deal with you while you’re drunk, Navarone. If you choose to follow this course, I’m going silent until the morning.”

“Fine. Leave me, then. You aren’t the first.” She didn’t reply and I burned off half the bottle in a single, painful pull. “They just couldn’t let me die, could they?” I asked no one as I reached over and locked the door. “Couldn’t let me escape this hell and join my family…”

Quite a night, indeed…

It got very cold very quickly on our little ship. Thankfully, the heating held up on the inside, so that wasn’t so much a problem. It seemed that even though the sun stayed out for longer as we went farther north, the cold seemed to suck all of the pale light’s warmth from the air.

It got to the point where it actually hurt to breathe, at times. Of course, I knew that would be coming and made sure to prepare accordingly. Everyone on the ship had at least some kind of sub-zero clothing around, though most didn’t need to use it because not everyone was stupid enough to go topside while we were passing the frozen wastes below.

Of course, that option wasn’t always available. “Do we r-really have to be o-outside for this?” I hissed, shaking slightly even in the heavy coverings I had on.

“I am afraid that is sadly the case,” Zecora answered with a nod. “I fear removing this curse is a race. I too am not a fan of the cold, so let’s do this before we get old.”

The two of us, as well as Kumani and Taya, were all standing on the deck on the fourth day of our little trip. The air was clear and crisp, the perfect morning, but fuck, it was cold. It didn’t seem to bother the three of them that much, which makes sense; Taya and Zecora have fur while Kumani is a fucking dragon. Apparently, Zecora finally figured out how to deal with that damn stab wound.

“So let’s get to it, then. What do I need to do?”

“Something that is not fun. Remove your jacket, hun. The wound must be fully open to the air, something of no problem for one so debonair.”

“I have to take off my jacket and my shirt to expose this thing to the freezing cold fucking air?”

“I’m afraid that this is true. Is that a problem for you?”

Kumani stepped closer and put a claw on my shoulder. “I’ll keep you warm, Nav. Just strip down and I’ll help you.”

“And if she can’t, I will!” Taya added.

I just shook my head before pulling the zipper down on my jacket. “You better tip me well for this, Zecora. Not every day I give a strip show.”

“If a tip I would dole, you must first find a pole.”

“Don’t tempt me. I bet I could make that mast work as a stripper pole. Well, if Taya wasn’t here, at least. Ooh fuck that’s cold,” I groaned, the jacket slipping off my back. Taya floated it away as I began working on the shirt, the shivers picking up. It came off easier, since it wasn’t zipped and buttoned. As soon as the shirt pulled away from me, Kumani wrapped both of her wings around me and lifted me up, holding me against her chest. It was even warmer there than I had been in my jacket, actually. Unfortunately, that defeated the purpose of taking the jacket off. “The wound has to be in the air, Kumani,” I said, poking her wings.

“He is unfortunately quite right,” Zecora said with a nod. “The wound must be in my line of sight.”

Taya smiled greedily and teleported me away from Kumani’s warm grasp and into the frigid cold. Less than a second later, a wonderful warmth suffused my body, keeping me warm despite the chilling wind. “There,” she happily said. “As long as I keep the spell active, you’ll stay warm.”

“Thank you, both of you,” I said. “Zecora, let’s get this over with. And hell, why do we even need to be outside for this?”

“Your green hair and odd body align you with the sun. Without its help, your internal battle can’t be won. Now, be very quiet and still; we may yet overtake this hill. I cannot promise this won’t hurt, so I will attempt to be curt.”

“Do what you gotta do,” I said, using my good arm to pull the sling away from my bad arm. At some point, I regained feeling in it, so I was able to stop it from just shooting straight down. There was still pain as it moved, but it was a lot better than it had been.

She didn’t answer and just opened the bag she had next to her, pulling out a small hooked scalpel style of knife. She reached up with her mouth and used it to very gently cut the stitches holding the wound closed. As soon as they were gone, a trickle of amber blood began flowing, the true nature of the curse showing its ugly head. Once again, there was pain, but nothing I wasn’t used to.

She waved me to turn around and I did, kneeling down to make getting the ones on my back easier. One of my wings got in the way, but she just batted it away until Kumani thoughtfully reached out and grabbed it for her. Not so thoughtfully, she decided that playing with it would be a good idea.

I gave her the most ‘what the fuck’ look I had. She just smiled and said, “Remember dear, stay quiet.”

Oh, you’ll pay for this. Thoughts of revenge were interrupted when something very cool and wet began rubbing against the hole in my back. It was cold enough to cut right through the spell Taya had over me like a penis through a hymen, with just about as much shock and pain.

Needless to say, I winced. One of Zecora’s hooves immediately went to my shoulder, holding me steady as she continued applying the freezing substance. So Flo, are you still giving me the silent treatment? Needless to say, she wasn’t quite pleased that I drank myself out cold that night. I’m sure there was plenty of other stuff she wasn’t happy about, but I didn’t exactly know for sure because she refused to talk to me.

Of course, she didn’t answer this time either.

You can’t stay silent forever, Flo. Once we get close enough, you’ll have to tell me where exactly the elemental is. And I know you have to be really bored up there.

Still no answer.

Typical woman. Mad at a man and refuses to even tell him how he can make it up to her.

Zecora finished her work on my back and got me to turn around so she could begin torturing me from the front. “This poultice is really quite neat,” she idly commented as she began slathering the purple mixture on me. “Its main ingredient is peat. Life to death and death to life… This mix is good for all strife. Though if anyone asks from where it came, I implore you not to mention my name.”

“Why?” Taya asked.

“Its properties are quite intense. He’s lucky his blood is so dense. Anyone else would trip balls, running screaming through the halls.”

Wait, what?

She continued, “Even he will have at least one hallucination. Staying aware will take all of his concentration.”

I couldn’t stay silent anymore, not after that. “And you couldn’t have told me that before?!”

“It matters not; this is your lot. Were it not for that thing in your head, I assure you that you would be dead. This must be done, so do not run.”

There wasn’t that much I could really do. And it was too late, anyway; the stuff was on and in me now. All I could do was sit back and watch the show. Kumani, though, could. “So you’re saying this is going to mess with his head? There’s no way that’s safe!”

And Taya agreed. “How can this be helping him if it’ll hurt his mind?”

“Do you want him to die?” Zecora asked sharply. “I think you would both cry. This absolutely must be done, so help make sure he doesn’t run.”

“Yeah, that’s great and all,” I said, “but can you hurry this up? This mixture is fucking cold.” At my insistence, Zecora started working again, whispering some form of incantation in a language that made my skin crawl.

After a minute or two of that, she pressed some form of homemade bandage onto the wound. It was covered in very precise and tight lines of writing, all in a language that hurt my eyes to look at. “Do not remove this; it would make you hiss.” She looked over to Kumani. “Take him down into the depths below. His will should be at an all-time low. You must keep him safe and keep him sound. In vile thoughts and dreams he will be drowned.”

“Why can’t I do it?” Taya hotly asked. “I got him hurt so I should help him get better!”

“The poultice I made allows him your magic to resist. I fear that from your words alone, he would never desist. Strength and power must detain him or I fear his future looks dim.”

“Taya, relax,” I said. “What’s important is that I get better. And I don’t think it’s possible for me to hurt Kumani without weapons, so whatever I see won’t matter if it’s her that’s watching over me. And having only her watching me means that you won’t be at risk. Don’t you worry, Taya. I’ll be just fine.”

“So when can I take him?” Kumani asked.

“You can take him whenever you want,” Zecora told Kumani before turning to Taya. “Now you should come along with me, runt. There are things about which we must talk, so please come and join me for a walk.”

My daughter looked to me for some manner of confirmation. I nodded and said, “Go, Taya. I’ll be fine. Kumani’s going to take care of me.” As I said that, I felt two claws wrap around my sides and carefully lift me up.

“That’s right,” the dragoness said. “I’ll make sure he gets better.” With that, she wrapped me in a scaley hug.

Zecora was already walking away, expecting Taya to follow her. I just called, “Thanks for the help, Zecora.” She lifted one of her front hooves in reply, thankfully not confusing me with more of her freaky rhyme-talk. Kumani started walking to the entrance to the lower deck, where her room was. “So why are you carrying me?” I asked, not really expecting a useful answer.

“She said you’re going to start seeing things and maybe freak out. I don’t want to risk having you jump off the side or something.” Though she probably was doing it more to hold me than because of that. “So have you ever tried sex on hallucinogens?”

“Nope. And if these were normal drugs, I’d be all over it. But Zecora was talking like this would be a dark, painful trip. I don’t really want to risk having sex like that. Just lock your door and make sure I don’t hurt myself. I’ll try to stay aware, but no promises. It would be a lot easier if a certain elemental in my head was helping, but I made her upset.”

I heard the first thing from her in days when I said that. It was a dark and somewhat petulant extremely justified “Hmph!” Also, have I ever mentioned how wonderful it is to have someone so loving that’s occasionally able to take over your hands?

“What did you do this time?” Kumani asked, probably with a grin on her face.

“Eh, ignored some advice. She was trying to force me not to do one of my traditions.”

And then I felt the second contact I had from Flo as she took over my mouth. “Ask him what that tradition was,” she said in her own voice.

“Now now, she doesn’t need to do that!” I hastily said, taking over my mouth again.

“I don’t need to,” Kumani mused, opening her door while still holding me up. “But now I’m interested. What did you do?”

“Drank so much alcohol that I passed out. Nothing really big. Well, we’re in your room now. You can set me down!”

“I could…” She walked over to her bed and sat down, sitting me in her lap. “So tell me why you were drinking.” While waiting for an answer, she pulled one of my wings out and started preening it, taking extra care with the delicate feathers to make sure to torture me as much as possible.

“N-no reason,” I answered, a blush almost instantly coming to my face.

“Oh? I don’t think she would have mentioned it if it was for no reason…” Her claws moved closer to one of the big pleasure nodes as she worked, making my eyes open wide.

And when she got that close… my concentration slipped. With my eyes opened that wide, I began to see… things. Things that should not be. The captain had set up a mirror in each of the rooms, and the one here was facing us. As my eyes peered into it, all I could see in it was Kumani and I. But instead of tweaking my feathers, she was tearing them off and pulling the skin with them. A massive centipede was climbing through my screaming mouth, each of its hardened and sharpened legs leaving pinpricks of blood across my face.

The wound in my shoulder was uncovered and open, a festering mass of infections and gangrenous tissue. The arm below it was blackened and rotting, clearly long dead and waiting to fall off. I could see writhing masses under the cracked skin and occasionally a maggot would fall from the limb as it chewed its way free.

My other arm had clearly been broken at some point, as it seemed to bend awkwardly, points of bone pressing against the skin. None of the fingers on it had fingernails and half the flesh had been flayed from the hand, leaving the red muscle tissue to shine dully in the light.

The pants on my legs blocked out most of whatever happened down there, thankfully.

Kumani’s sharp smile was shining with fresh blood as she gleefully tore at my wings. Small shoots of flame and steam occasionally escaped her mouth, torching and broiling my hair and skull. Her eyes were bright and happy, knowing that as she plucked her little bird, I could never leave her.

But perhaps the most horrible thing I could see were my eyes. They were staring dead at mine. No pain or horror was reflected in them, nor pleading or sorrow. Only acceptance resided there. This is what will become of you. An abusive dragon’s toy, left to rot and die. Welcome to your—our—life.

Behind the two of us was just an eternal void, the darkness within seeming to radiate with the evil inside of that world’s Kumani and encouraging her to redouble her efforts as the real Kumani waited for me to answer her.

All she got out of me was a horrified groan as I forced my eyes away from the mirror. If she was still touching me, I couldn’t even feel it. What little concentration I had was shattered and I was left adrift in a sea of horror. I tried to stifle what I felt by looking down at my hands, but that didn’t help. What I saw were the hands in the mirror, one black and twisted and the other destroyed and ruined. Even as I watched, they both began to ripple and bubble before I was able to tear my eyes away.

“Nav, are you o—” The entire world erupted in a horrific screeching sound that tore at my eardrums. I tried to cover them, but my hands wouldn’t obey me. That’s when I remembered they were destroyed, both useless. I began to hyperventilate, unable to get enough air in the hell I was going through.

I was lost. Trapped. Trapped in a room with a monster that wanted to clip my wings and make me hers. Every single part of me screamed to escape her oppressive grasp and my muscles strained against her, but she held me fast. Every whisper she made grated at my mind as a litany of hate. Every move she made ripped at my flesh and pulled me tighter against her.

And every second in her embrace drove me deeper into panic and the madness that followed.

That was and will probably forever be the most horrifying and painful night that I have ever had.

There are no words for the pain I felt the next morning. My entire body was screaming and burning with the overexertion you get after spending days in a gym. Every one of my teeth felt loose and there was dried and caked blood around my mouth. My tongue felt like it had been bitten clean through at some point. I tried groaning in pain only to have some rattley wheeze come out, followed by even more pain from my throat. The stab in my shoulder felt like someone poured liquid wasps into it and laughed as they went to town on my insides.

All of the pain I was feeling was compounded by the dragon using her body to hold me in place. One of her eyes opened when I made that noise, her iris shrinking when she noticed I was at least partially awake. “Are you… there?” she asked, pushing back slightly from me.

Since I couldn’t talk, I just nodded. Her body sagged a little in relief, not doing any favors for my already aching self.

When she noticed me flinch, she rolled off of me and then off the bed. “You were… wrong about not being able to hurt me, Navarone,” she said, stretching. I saw that her wings seemed somewhat scratched up and there were a few discolorations along her scales. “But I think you got the worst end of that deal.” I couldn’t even move; attempting to sent spikes of agony throughout the offending limb. “It was definitely one wild night. I think you might have broken some bones. And uh… destroyed your voice. So how do you feel?”

My mouth opened and more wheezing came out. When it started hurting too much, I stopped.

“Yeah, I figured... Look Nav, I’m really, really sorry about what happened. If I had known what I did would stop you from fighting whatever you saw, I wouldn’t have even thought about it. Just… think about ways I can make it up to you, okay? I think I need to go get Zecora. And you probably can’t move after that.”

It’s probably a good thing that she had no idea what the fuck it was that I saw. There’s no telling if she would be pissed, depressed, or even more desperate to make it up to me. And either way, I’d probably lose.

Since she wasn’t expecting any kind of response other than maybe a few gasping wheezes, she left the room shortly after telling me what she would do, leaving me alone in the room of waking nightmares.

“There’s only so much I can do for your pain, Navarone,” Flo whispered. “It was hard enough to keep you from killing yourself on accident last night.”

So you’re talking to me again?

“For the moment. If you make another foolhardy and pointless attempt to kill yourself passively, however, I might decide not to. I joined with you in an attempt to help you, not to watch you kill yourself. I will not allow it.”

...Understandable. After all, I didn’t really want to die until after I help the elementals and maybe the humans. After that, I could slash my veins and let the red flow. And of course, Flo isn’t at all happy to see me write that, but she’s confident that I’ll find something to live for eventually. I don’t know if I should hope that she’s proven right.

It didn’t take Zecora, Taya, and Kumani long to get down to my prison. Taya gasped as soon as she saw my condition and rushed forward to do something, but Kumani quickly snatched her by the tail.

Zecora quickly said, “We cannot risk making it any worse, filly. If our efforts were for naught, we would feel silly. I must check over his health and vitals first. Go fetch water; he should have a mighty thirst.”

Kumani let Taya go. She gave me one last longing look before saying, “You better make it quick.” With that warning, she bolted out of the room.

Kumani and Zecora both walked toward me, Zecora humming as she saw my aching body closer. “You said he would see things. You didn’t say he would go crazy.”

“I said that he would have visions most vile. But his mind is tough and hard to rile. What any would have seen would have brought true fear. Whatever he saw must have made his mind sear.” Laughter tried flowing from my cracked and bloody lips, but it didn’t work out very well at all. “At least it seems that his spirits are high, though he looks even worse, I cannot lie. Be at ease, Navarone; I must look over your shoulder, though the rest of you looks like it was hit by a boulder.”

She stepped up close to the bed and gingerly peeled back the bandage that somehow managed to stay on. While she was lifting it away, more of the dark incantations escaped from her mouth. When the dirty thing was fully away, the pain trapped inside the wound exploded out of my shoulder all at once, stealing a gasp from me and jerking my body rigid.

“The seal did its job well, though it drove you through hell. From the curse you are now free. It seems the mix was the key. I imagine that you still really ache, so I will leave you now for Taya’s sake. Allow her to mend you well and true. Now, I have other things I must do.” Without another word, she left. The dick in me wanted to call her a bitch, but I did recognize that she pretty much saved my life.

A few seconds after she got out, Taya teleported back in with a bucket of water. “Where’s Zecora?” she asked as she looked around.

“She left,” Kumani answered. “Gave Nav here a clean bill of health. Well, aside from what happened last night. She said you can help him with that, though.”

And that got Taya to finally smile. She walked up next to me and very gently poked me with her horn, letting some soothing waves of healing flow through me. As soon as I felt able to move, I snatched her into a hug, trying to talk and thank her.

Once again, nothing but wheezing came out. This time, though, it was from one hell of a dry throat and mouth. Either way, she said, “You’re welcome, daddy.”

Since I really wanted to be able to talk again, I didn’t let the hug last too long before setting her down and grabbing the bucket of water she brought. The good news is that it was cold. The bad news is that by cold, I mean it was probably ice that had been thawed minutes ago, so it was almost freezing cold.

I forced it down anyway, doing my impression of a lady by swallowing and not spitting. That impression was slightly ruined by the thunderous coughing that followed the swallowing, though. My throat and voice was starting to kick in again, though it was still very hoarse and slightly painful from its unwanted slumber.

“Feel so much better,” I was able to grunt out after a few seconds. “Thank you both. Taya, can you spare some healing for Kumani? I wasn’t alone in getting hurt last night.”

“Magic doesn’t work well on us,” Kumani quickly said, dismissively waving a claw. “And all I have are bruises.” Bruises that Taya wasted no time to heal anyway, now that it was clear that Kumani was uncomfortable with magic. “Uh… Thanks, I guess.” I don’t think she was that thankful.

“So what now?” Taya asked.

“Now I go get dressed and talk to the captain. I want to know where we are and how far we have left to travel. And if we’ve passed a certain point. What time is it?”

“It’s still pretty early,” Taya answered. “Around breakfast time or so.”

“Good, then he should be awake. Kumani, you need to get some sleep. After last night, I know you need it. And I’m sorry for accidentally beating the shit out of both of us.”

“No problem,” she answered. “I’m just glad you’re better.” It amused me that she didn’t mention how she considered it her fault while Taya was around.

“So am I. We’ll get out of your room and let you sleep, I suppose.” I hesitantly stood from the bed, testing my legs before deciding they’d hold me. “Come on, Taya.”

“No goodnight kiss?” Kumani teased. That actually completely froze me up, the thought of being too near her after what I had seen, what I had experienced. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to notice. “Eh, your breath is probably terrible anyway. And I can’t talk. I’ll see you both later. That hard bed is calling…”

That left me and Taya to leave, which we wasted no time doing. “So how do you really feel, daddy?” Taya asked when it was just the three of us in the hall.

“...Better. It’s nice to be able to use my right arm again. And having that wound finally sealed is a weight off my mind. But Jesus… those hallucinations, they were bad. Really bad. It’s gonna take me some time to get over them. And I need one hell of a fucking shower, too. I’ll be right as rain soon enough, don’t you worry.”

“Daddy, that’s the kind of thing everyone says when it’s the right time to start worrying.”

“Really? Huh. Well, worry if you must. Don’t let me stop you. Just don’t be annoying about it, please. Now, this is my stop.” We had arrived at my room, passing by the few ponies traveling the halls at such an hour. “I’ll be out shortly, probably. I’m sure you can find something to entertain yourself.”

“Yes, daddy…” I let myself in my room, leaving her in the hall.

A shower and a letter written later, a cleaner and more aware me stepped back out of my room, wandering down the hall to look for the captain. He wasn’t in his room or in the mess hall, but I did discover that he was outside on the deck. So that was another trip to my room to get dressed once again in warm clothes that would help me survive outside. With that preparation made, out I went.

He saw me before I saw him out there. “Ah, Navarone. I trust you’re feeling better?”

“Yeah. It was one hell of a night, but I’m better.”

“Oh, that I know. I don’t think there’s a soul aboard the ship that didn’t hear you. Good to know it was worth it, though. What brings you topside?”

“The search for news,” I answered, finally heading up the stairs to stand next to him near the wheel. “Where are we and how far out are we?”

“We’re almost dead at the north pole, right now,” he answered. “Should be another two or three days before we make it, if all goes well.”

“Excellent. Any signs of life that might be dangerous?”

“No sir, thankfully. No signs of life that isn’t dangerous, either. It’s quiet up here. Some of the crew were worried about windigos, but thank Celestia, we haven’t seen any.”

“Yeah, that’s probably a good thing. Though it’s not like they would attack us anyway.” If, you know, they even existed. “How close do you think we are to the north pole?”

His hoof pointed off to our left. “It’s about three kilometers that way, I believe. This is about as close as we’ll be getting.”

“Damn good timing,” I said with a smile, reaching into a pocket and pulling out the letter I wrote.

“Hm? What’s that?”

“Letter to an old friend, long forgotten and longer still dead. I couldn’t pass by without paying tribute, though…” I walked over to the left rail and took one last look at the letter. It was addressed to one Santa Claus living at the north pole. “Maybe in a world with actual magic, some long lost hope will spark some life back into that old myth…” A foolish and childish thought, but one that made me smile as I released the letter over the side, allowing it to fly away into the early morning air. “Let me know if anything comes up, Flash,” I said, turning back around. “I need some time to myself, I think.”

“Yes sir. I don’t think anything will happen out here, though. It’s nice and quiet.”

“I hope not. See you when I see you.” That out of the way, I went back down to my room and took off my bad weather clothes before sitting on the bed and trying to figure out what all I just fucking saw.

Two days later, around the time that everyone was expecting us to get to our destination, one of the crew members came down to my room. “Nav, we need you on the deck immediately. Something… Well, you gotta see it, sir.”

“Uh, okay? I’ll be up in a few minutes.” Thankfully, I wasn’t really in the middle of anything all that important. The crewmember left and I got ready for the freezing air. As an afterthought, I grabbed my ring and my sword, just in case. I didn’t expect to need either, but if whatever it was warranted sending someone to get me, it had to be big.

And so I went topside looking somewhat ready for war. In truth, there wasn’t much that could have prepared me for the surprise I saw ahead of us. “What do you think?” Flash asked me. Most of the soldiers and the crew were already up top, looking ahead of us in the midday gloom.

Honestly, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. So I just said the first thing that came to my mind: “Is that a fucking city?”

 
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