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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128. Chapter One Hundred and Five—Back in business

That morning, I was still in pretty good spirits. Things were looking up and it was nice.

“Hey Nav, I’ve been thinking,” Spike said. That’s new.

“What about?” I asked, idly flapping my wings. I was on my stomach and they hadn’t gotten much exercise lately, so I felt it would be good to move them some.

“Why don’t we just stay here?”

“What do you mean? Why would we do that?”

“Well, these monkeys are really nice. They obviously care about you and they seem to like me, too. I mean, pretending to be lovers is… weird, I guess, but I don’t really mind. Staying on the ship is dangerous. But staying here would be fairly safe and fun and the life is easy. So why don’t we just do that?”

I sighed and turned on my back so I could look at him. “Spike, I have responsibilities. First, to Taya. She could stay here with us, but she would hate the life of a princess. Second, to my crew. I refuse to abandon them like that, not if they need me. Third, to the elementals. The quest is started now that we’ve freed Aqua, but they still need someone to help free the others. Twilight could do it, but it’s not fair to ask that of her. Fourth, to myself. This life would drive me mad. I can’t do anything because all the monkeys suddenly jump up to try to help me. I can’t touch a sword because that elemental is crazy. And I’m tired of not having anything to have sex with.”

“...Well, we could… do that. I mean, if we’re pretending to be lovers anyway, what’s one more step?”

Honestly, I was really tempted, but I shook my head. “If Kumani found out, bad things would happen. And you know how upset these monkeys would be when they find out they’re being tricked, so Kumani can’t stay here. Hell, you can’t stay here, not for long. Spike, you’re going to grow huge. These monkeys can’t find you enough food. And once you get big enough, I can’t pretend that we’re fucking anymore because one look at you would tell everyone that you’d split me in half. Staying just can’t happen.”

He sighed and nodded. “Well, when do you think the ship is gonna get here? I know I want to see Doppel again…”

“I’d say either today or tomorrow,” I answered. “I got in contact with Watcher last night in the dream world.”

His eyes opened wide, confused. “Why didn’t you do that sooner?”

“I didn’t have the chance. Normally, Flo helps me with my dreams. But Brook beat the shit out of Flo, so she wasn’t able to help me. But Flo’s finally getting better, so I was able to contact him. They should be getting here shortly.”

“That’s great news! But uh… are you sure you’re really in any condition to be moved?”

“Taya can fix me right up, Spike. And honestly, the holes are already closed and I’m probably mostly healed by now. You and those damn monkeys forgot who you’re dealing with. I’ll stay down now to humor you, but if the ship shows up, you won’t stop me from leaving this room.”

He smirked. “Is that a challenge? With those girly muscles, I bet you couldn’t even stop me.”

“You might be stronger than me, but don’t think I wouldn’t still kick your ass, girl or not. I can even prove that later, when we’re back on the ship.”

“We’ll see,” he just said, still smiling.

Before I could rebuke him, there was a gentle knock on the door. I waved him over and he opened it, letting in my three silly handmaidens, carrying in platters of light foods. My empty queen smile instantly appeared on my face as they walked over to the bed. “We brought you breakfast, your highness,” one of them said, placing a breakfast tray on the bed.

“Thank you, girls,” I said. “It looks wonderful.” And I bet the fruit is good for Flo, too. “Tell me, did anything happen overnight that needs my attention?”

“No, your majesty. Brook seemed upset about something, but that is for the priests to help with, not you.”

“Yes, of course.” Excellent. Spike really did fuck her sideways. “Once again, thank you. Spike is fully capable of helping me eat, so you needn’t stay. I know you want to get back to court life.” If they’re not here, I can eat myself.

“Oh no, your grace,” one of them said. “We made sure to get all the gossip we could before we came, so we can fill you in!”

I looked imploringly at Spike, silently begging him to help me out. He smiled and said, “I’m sure they won’t disrupt you, dear. I can feed you while they talk!” God fucking dammit.

“What a good idea,” I lied, trying to sound like I wasn’t getting strangled. One of the monkey ladies clapped in joy while the other two placed the platters of food on the stand. Spike stepped up and sat next to me. Then I saw a dark little smile on his face and he very gently lifted me up, sliding under me. I felt my wings twitching like crazy as he placed me on his lap.

“Comfortable, dear?” he asked, his tongue tickling my ear.

“V-very,” I unsteadily answered, wondering just what the fuck he was doing.

“I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of your ladies while feeding you, after all,” he said, grabbing one of the fruit slices and holding it up for me. When I opened my mouth, he popped it in. “I don’t think they mind. Do you, ladies?”

“Not at all, Lord Spike,” one of them said while the other two tittered, happy to see us doing something so adorable. In response, he just popped another slice in my mouth. “Oh, your highness, just wait until you hear what the lady of Banana Hall has been up to!” I did my best to keep a fake smile on my face as they talked and talked about shit that I didn’t give a fuck about. All while Spike was feeding me and holding onto me from behind, of course.

Oh, I’ll make you pay for this, you little bastard. After all I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me? For better or worse, he had no idea of the plans I was making for him. He definitely seemed rather content, though, occasionally even talking with the girls as they gossiped. I had no idea how he could possibly enjoy it until I realized what his life had been like before I stole him away from Twilight.

“You seem quiet, your majesty,” one of the ladies finally said, noticing that I hadn’t been saying as much as I usually did. “Is something the matter?”

“Oh, no. I was just thinking about that nasty business yesterday.”

“The spiders?” one asked. “Truly awful beings, your majesty. It’s a shame you had to see them. It had been a while since they attacked and many were hoping we had seen the end of them. It appears not. But with you there to inspire our troops and Lord Spike’s legendary aim and prowess, they didn’t hurt any of us!”

“...Spike’s legendary aim?” I asked.

“Of course, your majesty! You didn’t see? Soldiers say that ten or eleven of the beasts died before even getting to the position. When they looked over, they saw that Spike handed you his ranged weapon so that he could fight honorably. Oh, they say he made such a cutting figure… If only I could find someone so brave and heroic.”

“He’s definitely… something,” I said, elbowing him surreptitiously. He very wisely stayed quiet.

When he was finished feeding me, I was hoping the girls would get the fuck out. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be so lucky. They happily cleared the shit away from the bed, getting it all packed away at the door. Then they rounded on me, smiles back on their faces. “Now, are you ready for your bath, your highness?”

“Uh… Are you sure it would be a good idea, with my injuries?” I asked. “I really don’t want to risk getting the bindings wet.”

“We’ll be perfectly careful,” one said. “And with Spike there to hold you above the water, you don’t have to worry about the stitches getting soggy!”

I think the smile on my face took on a nervous quality. “I don’t want to burden him,” I said, laying a hand on one of his arms over my stomach, holding me against him. “And I’m sure he’s still weary from yesterday’s fight. Besides, I’m not planning on leaving my room. The doctor said I can’t even get up for another several hours!”

“I can carry you,” Spike said, one of his arms moving to my back and the other tracing my body down to my legs. Before I could tell him not to, he very gently picked me up, then stood, holding me against his chest. “Comfortable, dear?”

I’m going to do horrible things to you. “In your arms, always,” I sweetly answered.

The three ladies all “Awww”ed at our little display, though it just seemed sickening to me. Of all the places to get trapped, it had to be with these things. Christ.

“Just take her into the washroom, now,” one of them said, jumping to open the door for him. Spike carried me in easily enough, then just stood there as they quickly drew a bath. Soon, the water was steamy and ready for my ‘delicate’ body to enter.

After getting undressed, of course. I wasn’t wearing a top that whole time, so it wasn’t overly difficult to just remove the panties and the socks. And so it was that Spike carried my naked and placid form into the bath, making sure none of the water hit my injured side. The little monkeys happily washed me, making sure to be even more gentle than usual. I could barely feel their paper-light touches as they washed my body from head to toe.

It wasn’t until they backed away from me in the tub that I realized they didn’t touch my wings, the things they were usually so careful with… and that I hadn’t told them they got me off. Yeah, I’d been letting them molest me every day. It was a lot of fun.

Anyway, they backed away, smiling sweetly. “Lord Spike, would you care to show us how to properly wash wings? We try with our beautiful queen, but we have no one else to practice on… We would be so grateful if you’d show us!”

“Girls, you do a wonderful job!” I hastily said, hoping to get Spike to catch the hint. “And besides, I can wash them myself later. They aren’t even dirty, so—” I suddenly gasped, feeling one of Spike’s claws running down one of my wings. “S-Spike!” I tried to put a warning tone in there, I really did, but he just grinned.

“Don’t worry about it, Nav,” he said. “The shampoo, ladies?”

One of them passed him the bottle, saying, “It’s so nice to see you willing to help her like this. You’re such a perfect couple!”

Neither of us answered as he braced my body against his, then used one claw to pour shampoo on the other. He set the bottle aside and rubbed them both together, sharing the lather.

I don’t want to talk about what happened next. Let’s just say that I did not get the happy ending my body very much craved afterward…

As soon as the blushing ladies left, Spike turned to me. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” he asked, smirking. His smile disappeared when he saw the look on my face. “N-Nav?” I got out of bed, slowly advancing on him. “It… it was just a joke!”

I reached my hand back and slapped him right across the face. “What the hell is wrong with you?!”

“Oh come on, you—” I cut off his attempt at an excuse by punching him in the stomach as hard as I could. It felt like I broke my fist doing it, but he dropped down, clutching at himself. Then I walked over to the bed and yanked off the blankets. He was struggling to look up as I walked back over and roped his arms behind his back, tying him up. I used the sheets for his legs. And then I wadded up a pair of panties and shoved that in his mouth, using a sock to gag him.

“Now what have you learned?” I asked, dragging him into a corner, making him face the walls. He tried mumbling something around the bindings, but I had no clue what. “Now you just sit there while I deal with this massive fucking ladyboner you gave me.” He groaned as I walked over and locked the door, then went back to the bed and touched myself very, very inappropriately. I made sure to moan plenty, too.

By the end of it, it seemed the horniness I had transferred to him. I didn’t comment on that, of course, since it wouldn’t be fair to draw attention to something he couldn’t control. I wanted to leave him in the corner for even longer, but I had no clue when or if someone else might walk in.

When I walked over to him, I took off his gag first, then removed the panties. “Now when I let you go, what are you going to do?” I asked.

After working some moisture back into his mouth, he said, “G-go to the bathroom…”

I nodded and pulled off the blanket holding his arms in place. As he was pulling off the sheets around his legs, I walked back over to the bed and just collapsed onto it, avoiding the wet spot. He hurried into the bathroom, though I didn’t look back to watch.

...Although when I did readjust myself on the bed, for some reason I didn’t see the panties I stuffed in his mouth there anymore.

After about fifteen or so minutes, he came back out looking considerably more mellow and slightly flushed. “Feeling better?” I asked.

He mutely nodded, then said, “I’m… sorry for teasing you like that, Nav. I know you said your wings were sensitive, but I didn’t know they were that sensitive.”

“Well, now you do. And bring the blankets back over. It’s cold and these bites are actually kinda hurting.” He nodded and grabbed the sheets and the blanket, dragging both over and dropping them on me. I tried fighting my way out to see, but he apparently decided that would be a good time for revenge. Soon, I was wrapped up in a sleep burrito, unable to move. “Very funny, Spike. Now let me go.”

“Hm… Nah. You didn’t listen to the doctor, so maybe this’ll teach you a lesson.”

“Spike, you know I hate being tied up, unless it’s a sexy chick doing the tying and she’s about to punish me for being a naughty boy. Or girl, I guess.”

“Well, I’m not a mare, but I can still punish you for being naughty, if you want. What’s that you always threaten to do to me? Spanking, right? Do you want me to spank you?”

“God no. How would you even get to my ass in this cocoon?”

“Yeah, I guess that is silly… Oh well. But still, you tied me up, so it’s only fair I tie you up. And this way you can’t clean up that really sweet smell!”

“Ugh. You know what that smell is, right?”

“Nope. I remember Twilight mentioning something about smells like that, though. Phero-somethings. She got really embarrased when she realized I was standing there and stopped talking about them.”

“Pheromones.” More like pheromoans, if you know what I mean. “Things that induce and increase arousal, usually released by either sexual activity or becoming ready for breeding.”

“...Nav, do you want to be… bred?”

“If I could move, I’d smack you. According to Kumani, I release pheromones that were nearly addicting or something. And I also taste really good.” Before I could stop him, he leaned down and licked me right across the face.

“Don’t taste that good. Though you were occasionally sweet when we were kissing…”

“I didn’t mean my face. When girls get horny, they begin releasing natural lubricants in their vagina to facilitate sex. Come on, Spike. I know you’ve been through this with Doppel.”

“Oh, that stuff? Yeah, hers tasted kinda funny.”

“That’s because she eats lust. But different species taste differently. And according to Kumani, I taste good.”

“Huh. Do you mind if I—”

Yes.

“Okay. So what do you want to do now?”

“Hm. Any stories you want to hear?”

“Sure, I guess. I heard some of the ponies talking about how you’ve… been with so many mares. Do you have any stories about that?”

Oh boy. “Stories of my sluttiness have been partially exaggerated. But I suppose I can tell you some of my legendary sexcapades…”

The next day was back to business as usual in the castle, with one important addition: I heard a faint whispering while the ladies were brushing my hair the following morning. “Can you hear me, Nav?” Flo whispered.

I almost fucked up and answered her aloud, but thankfully stopped myself. Thank God! Are you strong enough to take over yet?

“I’m afraid not,” she said. “Just endure it for a short time longer. Surely the ship won’t take much longer to get here.”

God, I hope so. I don’t know how much more of this inane bullshit I can take. Just listen to these three! They were currently talking about boys while doing my hair and makeup. The only good thing about the process is that it gave me a lot of ways to punish Taya if she started misbehaving again. And hey, they made sure to teach me how to do my own makeup in case I ever had to do it without them for some reason, so I could beautify someone if I needed to.

Anyway, the day got much better a few hours later, when another rushing messenger let himself into my throne room. “Your majesty, a… thing approaches!”

“What kind of thing?” I asked, not getting up from my seat yet. Why bother, if it wasn’t anything important?

“It’s large, made of wood, and flying right toward us!”

“How quickly?” I asked, wondering if I had time to change before anyone from the ship could see me.

“It’ll be upon us within twenty minutes!” Fuck. Guess not.

“Assemble the guard, but do not attack,” I said, standing. “It is not spiders, so they may be peaceful travelers.” Man, these monkeys are retarded. Do they really not recognize the ship I was on before they kidnapped me?

“Yes, your highness. Will you be meeting your troops on the fighting deck again?”

“Of course. I would not let my people fight without being there to assist in any way I could.”

“Then we will fight all the harder, knowing we have such a precious jewel to protect,” the soldier said, bowing. For some reason, I actually felt a small blush appearing on my face as he ran off.

“About time they got here,” I muttered, standing. “Spike, come on.” He jumped to follow as I began stately walking from the hall, making sure I didn’t seem to hurry. Showing alarm might panic the monkeys, which would be bad. And I also didn’t want any of them around me while we walked.

“What’s going on, Nav?” Spike asked. “Think it’s our ship?”

“I certainly hope so,” I answered, fishing the radio out of my bra, where I had stored it. I had left it on, which made me wonder what the hell they were doing that they hadn’t tried contacting me yet. But I pressed the button and said, “Nav, ship. Anyone on this channel?”

A few seconds later, I actually got a reply. “You’re alive!” Kat nearly shouted.

“No shit. Gonna take more than that to bring me down. You near Watcher?”

A few more seconds passed before Watcher’s voice kicked in. “I’m here, Nav. What do you need?”

“Stop the ship. You’re panicking the monkeys. Bring a shore party down. One squad, you, Twilight if she’s awake, and Pinkie. Absolutely no one else. Hear that, Taya? Do not go with them.”

“Why not?” she whined when the radio clicked on again.

“I’ll tell you when I see you again, I promise. Watcher, you get all that?”

“Yes sir. Where do you want us to meet you?”

“Pull out your spyglass. You should see a somewhat camouflaged fighting deck a few dozen meters before the city, in the trees. There might be monkeys on it.”

“Yes sir, a lot of them.”

“Spike and I’ll be up there in a few minutes. Would be sooner, but it’s impossible to run in these fucking heels. When you see us, teleport in and put up a shield. The monkeys shouldn’t attack, but no promises.”

“Yes sir. Did you say… heels?”

“Nav, out.” I turned the radio off and picked up some speed. “It’ll be good to see them again.”

“Yeah…”

“And of course, don’t tell anyone shit about what happened this week. Well, except about how you got your wings. You can tell them that. But none of how we were forced to act.”

“Right.”

“I’m warning you, Spike. It’s bad enough they’ll see me dressed like this.”

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” he answered with a shrug. “I mean, you were an awesome queen. And as you said a few times, we only did what we had to do. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?”

I’m wearing makeup.”

“Yeah, so? I’ve done it before. I mean, I wouldn’t do it again, but it wasn’t that bad.”

I sighed, shaking my head. “The difference is that you grew up in a mare-heavy town, so it wasn’t as frowned upon. I dunno. It might weird some of my crew out. Just don’t risk it.”

“Alright, Nav, I won’t. But can I at least tell them about your panties?”

“Spike, don’t make me reach over there and pop you right in the jaw.”

“...Didn’t you hurt your hand the last time you did that?”

“Some things in life are worth it.” He rolled his eyes, but didn’t respond. Thankfully, we finally got to one of the palace balconies. “You ready to fly?” I asked, lifting my wings.

“Allow me, your highness,” he said, lifting me up. “After all, we don’t want the monkeys to think you’re working too much after getting hurt, right?”

“Such a gentleman,” I swooned, allowing him to steal me away.

“A pleasure to serve, m’lady,” he said, jumping off the side and spreading his wings wide. “Oh man, what do you think Twilight’s gonna do when she sees these wings?”

“Freak the fuck out, probably,” I said. “Most of the girls will. It’ll be funny.”

“Hey, a few might freak out over you even more! I mean, just look at you.”

“I can wipe this shit off my face. Good luck getting rid of those wings.”

“We’ll see,” he said, pulling off a very rough landing on the platform. “We’re uh… we’re gonna have to work on that…”

“No shit. Surprised you even know how to move those things.”

“It’s natural for me,” he said, setting me down. “Didn’t you say that no human ever had wings? That’s probably why you couldn’t do it.”

“Eh, maybe.” Before I could tell the monkeys to chill out, six ponies teleported onto the platform, a purple shield immediately surrounding them.

Before any words could be said, a fireball instantly struck the shield. “Protect the queen!” the vizier shouted.

“Hold!” I shouted before any other damage could be done. “A shield is defensive, vizier. Do you see them attacking?”

As soon as I shouted, the monkeys stopped. When I finished talking, they stood down. “No, your highness,” he said. “Their appearance seemed… threatening.”

“Be at ease, then,” I said, stepping up to the ponies. “Why have you come here, visitors?” I asked them.

Pinkie said, “You know why we—” Twilight shoved a hoof in her mouth.

“We’re here to visit the uh… goddess,” Twilight said.

“To pay our respects,” Watcher added with a nod.

“I see no harm in that,” I said with my signature queenly smile. “Please, come with me.”

I wanted to lead them away for privacy, but the vizier fellow said, “Your majesty, allow me.” One of his fists glowed brightly and all of us appeared in the throne room. “I built a teleportation line between the deck and the throneroom after I realized you would prefer to be with the troops. You left before I could find you and teleport you earlier.”

“Convenient,” I said, nodding. “Guests, there is no need for your shield in here.” Twilight dispelled her magic, removing their protection. The three pony soldiers tensed, ready for an attack that never came. “Vizier, would you mind giving me time to speak with them before meeting with Brook? I would like to know how the outside world is doing.”

“Of course, your majesty,” he said, bowing.

As soon as he left, I said, “Guards, leave us.”

“Are you sure, your majesty?” they asked.

“Spike is protection enough for me,” I said, laying a hand on one of his arms.

“Of course, your highness,” they said with an implied shrug, grabbing their spears and following the vizier out.

When they were gone, I dropped the smile. “Finally. Bar the door.” The pony squad rushed to do as I ordered. “Watcher, news.”

Before he could answer, Pinkie was all up in my face, beaming like crazy. “Navi, you’re so pretty!”

“Spike, you got your wings!” Twilight shouted, rushing up to hug him. I stopped paying attention to whatever they were doing to get the pink menace away from me.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, taking a step back and letting her fall.

“The makeup! The dress! Ooooh, wait until I tell Rarity! She’ll love making you over!”

“I think you’re seeing things, Pinkie. I’m not wearing a dress or makeup.”

“But… but I see them! And Aerie does too!”

“Watcher, do you see anything?”

“No ma’am, aside from your armor. I don’t know what she’s talking about.”

“See there, Pinkie? You really need to get your eyes checked.”

“But I can feel the dress!” she shouted, reaching up and grabbing it.

I slapped her hoof away. “What did your mother tell you about touching others?”

“If they’re gagged or drugged, they can’t say no, so plan accordingly.”

“...I need to have a serious conversation with your parents.”

“I’ll go find some roofies so you can’t say no!” she happily said, starting to bounce to the door. Before she got too far away, I grabbed her tail.

“It can wait. Watcher, news?”

“Not much to tell. Those that got poisoned woke up yesterday. Zecora cooked up her cure and no longer rhymes. Aqua and Aerie spoke at length about this Brook character. Apparently she’s one of the older elementals.”

Twilight broke in with, “She’s spent so long acting as a goddess that she probably doesn’t remember that she was meant to serve. Aqua thinks it’s possible to get her on our side, but we need to be careful.”

“Very careful,” I said with a nod. “Don’t let her touch you. She already threatened to kill Spike once before he burned her out.”

“Whoa dude, what?”

“Not important. Just don’t let her touch you.”

“...That sounds pretty important,” Twilight slowly said.

“Yeah, well, it’s not,” I said. “Watcher, suggestions?”

“Aqua also says that’s important,” Twilight added.

“So do I,” Flo agreed.

“Alright, fine,” I said. “Spike, when Brook healed you, she left a part of her inside of you and threatened to kill you if I didn’t play along and stay here after the crew left.”

“WHAT?!” he shouted, both hands going to his ear things. “GET HER OUT, GET HER OUT!”

“Dude, you already killed her.”

“What?! How do you know that? She could be faking!”

I rolled my eyes. “Twilight, let Aqua take a look.”

“Why can’t Flo do it?” she asked.

“Because Flo had her shit kicked in, that’s why. Brook really wanted to make sure I cooperated.”

“That… doesn’t sound like a water,” Twilight slowly said.

“That sounds like a meanie!” Pinkie shouted.

“Yeah. But Spike’s still panicking, so if you would?”

She shrugged and walked over, forcing Spike still with magic. Aqua slowly oozed out of Twilight and slid down onto Spike, then into him. “It feels so… empty without her there,” Twilight said, shivering slightly.

“I know, right? Wait until you lose her for days.”

“Being alone again would feel… weird,” Twilight said. Right after she said that, Aqua slid back out. Twilight grabbed her with magic and lifted her up, letting her reenter. “Spike, you’re fine,” Twilight said, letting him go.

He breathed a sigh of relief, then turned to me. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“So you wouldn’t panic. There’s a reason we played along and didn’t immediately leave, man. You never thought about it?”

“No, I did. I just trust you.”

“Well alright then. Watcher, thoughts?”

“A few. The first is obvious. If this Brook refuses to go with us, killing or kidnapping her is an option.”

“No, no. Killing her is stupid because we might be able to get enough water elementals together to convince her to come with us. Kidnapping her defeats the point of going after her right now anyway.”

“You could try being a terrible queen. Though adorable as you are, I don’t think the monkeys would feel overly threatened.” God fucking dammit, Watcher.

“Very funny. I’ll get a maid outfit for you, too, and you can join Spike while he’s practicing in his. Being a bad queen for these dudes would… Well, it would make me feel bad, actually. I’m already going to feel bad just for leaving them, but seriously, fuck this place. We need to convince her to leave in another way.”

“Why don’t we just ask what she wants?” Pinkie asked.

“That’s an option, yeah,” I said. “This is for what we do if she says she doesn’t want anything.”

“It’s not too late to just leave,” Watcher said with a shrug. “I mean, the water elementals down in the actual ocean might be receptive, with or without this one’s help.”

“Brook’s old. Old enough to actually remember humans. That’s why she kidnapped me in the first place. Having her help would be good. But yes, if we can’t convince her, fuck her.”

“Do you think that would work?” Pinkie asked. “We can get Doppel down here to show her a good time!”

“God dammit, Pinkie. And no. Before she healed Spike, I offered, thinking that would be her price. She was… less than impressed by my offer. Fuck it. Pinkie, is Aerie with you?”

“Nope! She’s playing with the cute little monkeys.”

Fucking great. “Whatever. When we get to the water, let her talk through you. We’ll try an appeal to emotion, first. With three other elementals here, hopefully she’ll be willing to listen to them. And if not, we’ll see what she wants to go with us. And if all else fails, we’ll just call this mission a failure and leave.”

“Are you sure the monkeys would let you come back, Nav?” Twilight asked.

“Hope so. I’m abdicating, baby. Well, after we either give up or get Brook to go with us. Now, are you guys ready?”

“Not until you tell us what you’ve been up to!” Pinkie happily said. “Anything that made you so pretty has to be a good story.”

“Everyone, follow me,” I said, walking to the door. Pinkie hopped right up next to me. “I said follow, not walk next to. I’m their queen, Pinkie. You don’t want them to think you think you’re my equal.”

“But—” Twilight grabbed her with magic and pulled her back. “Aww…” I pushed both doors open and began stately walking along. Spike walked behind me, slightly to my right. The others all arranged themselves behind me in various ways.

One of the guards outside said, “My queen, would you like me to inform Goddess Brook that you are coming?”

“She already knows, thank you,” I lied. He just bowed slightly, watching the ponies as they followed behind me. “They are guests, guard. There is no need to be so nervous.”

“I know, my queen. We just don’t want you getting hurt.”

“Your concern warms my heart,” I said, my smile deepening. “I will be just fine, though.” He nodded again and I started walking off. Thankfully, he didn’t try to follow me.

When they were hopefully out of earshot, Pinkie said, “Wow Nav, you’re really good at this!”

“I told you a long time ago that I was a good actor,” I said. “All it takes is the know-how.”

“It takes a little more than that,” Watcher muttered.

“So Spike, how’d you get your wings?” Twilight asked.

That got Pinkie to gasp enormously, rushing forward and grabbing them. “You got your wings! Ooh, this calls for a party!”

“Later!” Twilight and I both said.

“That just gives me more time to plan!” she said with a dark little chuckle, backing away from him.

“So, the wings?” Twilight asked.

“The monkeys got attacked by spiders two days ago,” Spike said with a shrug. “While we were fending them off, Nav got webbed and they were dragging her off. The gun was empty and I just knew I had to save her, so… Here they are.”

“So you got them by… saving Nav?” Twilight asked.

“How romantic!” Pinkie very enthusiastically said, jumping back up and grabbing me and Spike, then shoving us together. “I knew you two would be so perfect for each other!”

Once again, Twilight pulled Pinkie away from us as I said, “I think we all know how well that would go over. And as I’ve said before, I’m not gay. As soon as I turn back, I’m going to stay that way for a while. Fuck this girly body.”

Spike didn’t reply.

Pinkie did, though. “Surely that’s not the only reason! Come on, Nav. There’s more to a relationship than what’s between your legs. And as everypony’s seen with Kumani, that’s about all there is to what you two have. How much time have you spent with her since her heat ended?”

Our arrival at Brook’s room saved me from having to waste my time responding. The guards bowed and one said, “The goddess is accepting visitors, your highness.”

“Thank you.” I wouldn’t be surprised if that was one of the bastards that tried to stop me before. At least I don’t have to kick the door open this time. That shit hurt on my bare feet. Anyway, I continued leading the way in.

Brook was behind her receptacle thing again, hiding away from the world. There were no priests or anything like that within, thankfully. As soon as the last of us got inside, someone closed the doors. “Bar them,” Watcher ordered. And then they did that.

“Come out, Brook. I think it’s time we had a little… heart to heart,” I said. As in, if you don’t do as I say, I’ll rip yours out and show it to you. If you even have one.

She started dribbling out. “I see you have brought another host. Who do you contain, purple one? Perhaps I know her.”

“Aqua,” Twilight said. “She doesn’t know you.”

“But I know of her. Only in passing, however. I did not know of this Flo at all. So why have you come, Navarone? Do you seek to convince me to leave the only chance of rebuilding some semblance of human civilization behind?”

“Only chance my ass,” I said. “I went back in time. I saw them before they died. That armor you pulled me out of? Human armor, made by and for us. And I can go back in time and bring some of them with me. But I can’t do that if I’m trapped here, Brook. And I can’t do that without the support of the elementals.”

“Why would you need us? And more importantly, why would you want to bring those humans before the fall back, anyway? The only good thing they did was create us! They destroyed themselves, Navarone. I don’t seek to bring their culture and society back. I will bring back something guided by a goddess of love. A society of peace and perfection.”

“Then it’s not humanity! We are defined by our imperfections, Brook. Defined by our goodness and our darkness. Trying to build a society based only on peace and goodness defies humanity’s very nature.”

“Then perhaps you deserved to die.”

“Perhaps. But we didn’t deserve to be killed. Don’t think our death was solely our own doing, water. The element of chaos was the instigator of our undoing, not humanity itself.”

“He learned from watching you!”

“He learned from watching our darkness! He saw what he wanted to see, nothing else! With my own eyes, I have seen the glory of man, both right before the fall and earlier, in a time when chaos walked the world as a mortal man. We fought him, elemental. Those you seek to emulate fought him. Would you rot here, letting him do as he saw fit? Rotting in this lie?”

“We killed that demon long ago, Navarone. We killed him, not our creators.”

“He’s still alive,” I coldly said. “Still alive and still enjoying himself.”

“Liar! The earth elemental told us he had a way!”

“Then his way failed, water.”

“I don’t believe you for a second, human. You would tell whatever lie you needed to bring me from my paradise!”

“It’s true!” Twilight shouted. “He’s harming the ponies too, Brook! He’s already stolen several of our artifacts and spread them across the world. The spiders had one of them!”

“I’ve found evidence for him as well,” Watcher said, nodding. “He’s active in this world, Brook. I don’t know what he’s planning yet, but he’s here, alive.”

“Aerie says she fought him once,” Pinkie said, bouncing. “Or helped Flo and Taya fight him. Something like that.”

“True. He sent an assassin after us,” I said.

“Lies, again! I know he does his own dirty work,” Brook said.

“Millions of years changes people, sister,” Twilight said, her voice taking on a strange timbre. “It has obviously changed you, if you would go so far as to threaten an innocent life!”

“I did what had to be done!” Brook shouted, surging forward until Twilight’s magic put up a wall. Spike snorted green flame, glaring at her. “The monkeys must have a guide, a leader that knows how to lead, how to fight!”

“A leader that would drag them down the failed path of humanity?” I asked.

“With my guidance, no! You are the fire, I am the water. Together, we will temper the weak iron of these monkeys into a powerful steel. Do you not see the need, Navarone? They require you.”

“They require someone who gives a damn,” I said. “This week has been miserable.”

“Do you have no concept of the greater good?” Brook asked. “Sacrifice, Navarone!”

“Do you?” Pinkie shot back, jumping forward. “How many humans died in that great fire, Brook? Chaos is free! What is one race, one city, when compared to the world? Your assistance is required! Would you truly let the world burn around you in the hopes that you can keep your one small group safe?”

Brook changed to a much lighter shade before going extremely dark. “You freed an air.”

“Answer the question, water,” Pinkie said. “What is this one little haven of yours worth when compared to the world? You exist to safeguard life. The greater good means leaving these monkeys here and saving the world.”

“I would never leave them alone against the spiders!”

“They’re doing just fine,” Spike said. “Plenty of food. Plenty of clothes. And they killed most of those spiders alone when they attacked us!”

“That was one small group, dragon,” she said. “When they blot out the green in the trees, speak to me again.”

“Have you ever tried peace?” I asked. “If you ask them for it, they might be willing to make a deal.”

“Spiders know nothing of peace! They crave only war and destruction. And they lie. Should we attempt to make peace with them, they would turn on us the moment they thought us weak.”

“Surely a water elemental knows of peace,” Pinkie said. “Knows of it and craves it. In a world where chaos walks, should you not give it a chance? Weaken him any way you can before joining the fight?”

“Who said I would join you?”

You did,” Twilight answered. “You keep talking about the greater good. The need of the many over the need of the few. Stopping chaos benefits all life. Holding out here, alone, will benefit no one when he comes for you.” It’s getting confusing to tell who’s saying what. Too many damn elementals here.

Brook slowly drew backwards, condensing in thought. Finally, she dropped into a deep, dark shade of blue. “If you find peace with the spiders, I will leave these monkeys behind.”

“And how would we do that?” I asked.

“Go to their capital, speak with their goddess. Arachne is the only one of them with any power to control the rest.”

“Alright, sure. You know how we could get an audience with her?”

“I have no clue. She… refused my entreaties for peace.” I picked up on the undertones there, I think.

“Did she just say no or something?” Spike asked.

“She returned their heads on a platter.”

Spike gulped and slowly asked, “What… what did they do with the rest?”

“Shut up, Spike,” I said. “Where’s their capital?”

“You have maps, Queen. Use them.”

“Alright, whatevs. Hm. Spike, go get my armor from our room. It’s time I left this frilly dress the fuck behind.”

“I dunno,” he said, scratching as his neck. “I kinda like it.”

“...Go get my armor and meet me in the planning room,” I said.

“Which one’s that, again?” he asked.

“Dude, we were just there three hours ago. The one with all the generals and the maps and shit!”

“Just checking. I might get lost, but that’s what guards are for.”

“And don’t forget my boots. Fuck these heels!”

“You got it.” He walked on out.

“And we can’t stay any longer, either,” I said. “The guards outside think I’m in here with just strangers, they’ll be busting the doors down to check on me.”

“Then go,” Brook said. “Leave me.”

I shrugged and started walking. The others followed, of course. When I opened the doors, I saw the guards reaching for them. They relaxed as soon as they saw me. But since they didn’t say anything, I just kept walking, turning toward the planning room.

“So what’s living here like?” Twilight asked.

I waited until I was sure the guards couldn’t hear before responding, “Miserable. I can’t even pick up a plate without someone begging to do it for me. They won’t let me wash myself or dress myself.”

“...And the makeup?” Twilight asked.

“Ugh. I have handmaidens. Very girly handmaidens. Did you know you’re supposed to use one hundred strokes on your hair every morning?”

“What mare doesn’t know that?” Twilight asked.

“Yeah, it’s beautification 101, Nav,” Pinkie said.

Before I could reply, Sanguine Rose from the guard squad said, “They’re right, ma’am. I mean, most of us don’t bother since we’re wearing helmets anyway, but still.”

Oh come on, that’s just ridiculous! “Whatever. Guess I better make sure Taya knows that, since it seems a prerequisite of having a vagina.”

“So what else have you been up to?” Pinkie asked.

“This and that. Nothing too big.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” Twilight said, smiling. “Has Spike been behaving?”

“Like a proper gentleman,” I said. “The monkeys weren’t too pleased with him and were trying to… Well, I just told them he was my bodyguard. It’s been smooth sailing ever since.”

“Good. You even helped him get his wings!”

“Yep. And it wasn’t romantic,” I said. “Just one friend helping another.”

Just as I said that, the vizier fellow turned the corner ahead of us. “Ah, your highness! I was just looking for you. Oh, where’s your lover? Is he not with you?” I heard Pinkie burst into giggles behind me and I knew Twilight would have a very confused look followed by an enraged one on her face.

“Spike is doing something for me,” I said, dying a little inside. “Vizier, I have grand news. Our visitors are offering to take me to carry a message to the spiders. I’ll be leaving within the hour.”

He gasped. “How is this good news, your highness? The spiders are dangerous!”

“I carry an offer of peace, vizier. Perhaps they will listen.”

He shook his head. “Last time, they murdered our ambassadors and enslaved their guards!”

“And this time, I will have the assistance of a hardened group of warriors, given a task by the Goddess Brook. They will listen to our offer. Whether or not they take it is another story.”

He sighed, looking away. “It will be… dangerous, your highness. I request leave to go in your place. Or to go with you.”

I shook my head. “No, vizier. If something were to happen to me, I need you here to help lead your people. But to send the spiders anything less than our best would be an insult. I will go without guards, trusting Spike and these strangers as Brook trusted them.”

“...Very well, your highness. Though all of us will despair when you no longer grace us.”

“And I will miss you and the others as well, vizier. I will try to hurry back. But if Spike and I don’t make it, I want you to help lead the others. And don’t try to come for me, please. I would not want any of you hurt trying to save me.”

“No promises, your highness,” he said, finally smiling. “You are beloved by the people, now. They may well try to come for you even if you beg that they don’t.”

“Then I pray it doesn’t come to that. Now, I must gather maps to show our guests where to fly us. Go and inform the others that I’m leaving.”

“Yes, your highness. And if we should never meet again, it was truly an honor.” He bowed low and then scampered off. We continued walking in silence.

Until… “Your lover?” Twilight demanded, practically seething.

“Long story short, it was tell them Spike and I were dating or marry a monkey,” I said. “I’m not particularly a fan of marriage, so…”

“Uh huh. And how have you been… loving my dragon?” she asked.

“Kissing. Hugging. Pretending. No sex, though don’t tell the monkeys that. And uh… don’t tell Kumani that either. She might not be too happy.”

I’m not too happy about that!” Twilight growled.

“I am!” Pinkie shouted, bouncing.

“I’m not either, Twilight. But I’d be less happy about marriage or dealing with monkey suitors. Spike didn’t mind, I didn’t mind, and that’s the end of it. So drop it.” She grumbled, but she thankfully let it drop. “Besides, if you want to complain about someone stealing his innocence, go to Doppel.”

“I knew he was sleeping with that whorse! Oooh…”

I quickly decided against telling her that I had been the catalyst for that. And that I had been the cause of him losing his virginity before. Getting to the planning room cut off any ideas of replying anyway.

Thank God, it didn’t have any monkeys inside. “Where are the maps?” Watcher asked, looking around.

“In the cabinet labeled maps,” I said, pointing at it.

“...That makes sense, yes.” He walked over and started rifling through it… and then immediately stopped, pulling out the only map. “Is this really all they have?”

“They aren’t very militarily minded,” I said with a shrug. He just shook his head, pulling the map over to a table.

“Ooh, what’s this do?” Pinkie asked, looking at something that probably absolutely shouldn’t be touched.

“I don’t know. Don’t touch it.”

“Aww, why not?” she asked, touching it.

This is why no one likes you. Thankfully, nothing happened. I just glared at her. “Because I said so, that’s why. Who’s the queen?”

“...You are?”

“Damn right. Now… go give Twilight a hug!”

“Yes, your highness!” she happily said, giggling and bowing. Then she pounced upon Twilight, who was rolling her eyes.

“Can we take this map, ma’am?” Watcher asked.

“Nah. Let me just study it. Flo can memorize it.” Twilight and I walked up next to him, Pinkie practically riding Twilight (if you know what I mean). While we were looking over it, Spike walked in, a large bag over his shoulder. “Dude, I just asked for my armor. What’s with the bag? Hell, where did you even get that thing?”

“Asked one of your handmaidens. They uh… they helped me pack.”

“...Well, you never know. As long as my armor’s in there, I can deal with the rest.”

“Good enough. I made sure it was.”

“Then pull it out for me, will you? I don’t want to go back to the ship looking like this.” He shrugged and started reaching around in the bag while I turned my attentions back to the map.

“Looks fairly simple,” Twilight said. “And of course, we still have… you know who on board. So if we get lost, I’m sure they can guide us.”

“Hopefully.” Spike passed me the armor and I went ahead and kicked the heels off. “Would you kindly?” I asked, turning my back go him. He unzipped it, much to the blushing surprise of Twilight and the smiling joy of Pinkie. “What? You think I’d get into and out of these damn dresses on my own? You gotta be fucking crazy.”

I wouldn’t want to try it,” Watcher said, looking on as I started pulling it off. “Looks complicated.”

“Surprisingly so, yes.” Every one of them was watching as I pulled it off, actually. There were several blushes when it finally fell and I stood there in just the lingerie. “What? You’re all mostly naked!”

Each one looked away and Rose cleared her throat. “We uh… We don’t wear stuff like that except for… Well, sex, ma’am.”

“Most humans wear underclothes all the time. I just don’t as a guy because it’s uncomfortable. But this armor is built for a guy and it chafes, so I’ll just leave it on this time.” I did just that, pulling the armor up around the shit I had on. “Feels so, so good to be back in this again. Spike, you got your sword, right?”

“Sure did,” he said, patting his side where it was. Then he handed me Excalibur on its belt. I buckled that on, followed by the daggers and shit. Finally, I put the gun on.

“I feel… complete again,” I said, my hand going to the pommel of the sword. “Now, are you sure you got everything out of that room?”

“Pretty sure, yeah,” he said, nodding.

“Good enough for me. Shadow Fall, fly out with me and Spike. The rest of you, teleport back.”

“Why can’t you teleport with us?” Twilight asked.

“Those damn monkeys did something to me,” I said with a shrug. “According to Brook, I can’t be teleported for a while. You can study it on the way, see if you can reverse it. If you can’t, I’ll talk to Athena. I don’t really want to go into the spider place without being able to teleport.”

“That’s for sure… Well, I’ll see you back on the ship,” she said, nodding. Then her horn lit up, carrying away all of them except for me, Spike, and the pegasus from the squad.

“So are we flying back now?” Shadow asked.

“Not quite. I need to find a sink or something first, to get this damn makeup off.”

“Got you covered,” Spike said, pulling a flask of water out of the bag.

“Did you really pack that just for this?” I asked.

“No. One of the girls put it in there. Told me to keep you hydrated because of how hot and icky the forest is.”

“...Those girls have fucking problems, I swear.” He and I just shrugged and I grabbed a wooden helmet just lying there. He filled it with water and I began scrubbing that shit off my face. After a few minutes, the water was murky. I looked up and said, “Gone enough?”

Spike pursed his lips and moved in close, using his claws to very gently scrape some shit off. After a few seconds, he nodded. “Good enough.”

I looked over to Shadow. “Thoughts?”

“You looked much better before, ma’am.”

“Ugh. I swear, all of you are human fetishists or somethin’.”

“When you grow up in a world with so many races, you learn to appreciate all beauty, wherever you can find it,” he replied with a shrug.

“Man, whatever. Let’s just go.” I walked over to the large window that was in the room and pushed it open, then jumped out. It felt really, really good to be flying again after so long of using my wings for nothing but smacking Spike around. The other two joined me in the air shortly after.

As soon as I touched down on the ship, I got piledrived in a hug. “I thought you were dead!” Taya cried, holding me as tightly as possible.

“I got word back as soon as I could,” I quietly said, hugging her back and rubbing her hair. She couldn’t answer, since she was too busy crying. “Twilight, get our course set,” I said, carefully picking Taya up.

“Of course, Nav,” she said, nodding. I began carrying my daughter down below, not paying attention to anything else going on. Thankfully, if Kumani was on deck, she didn’t decide to go full bitch and try to stop me.

Anyway, when I got Taya to my room, I just sat on the bed and set her on my lap. “I’m just fine, Taya,” I said, petting her mane gently.

“Why do you keep leaving me?” she whispered.

“It’s definitely not on purpose, I can tell you that,” I said. “But I’ll let you go down with me to talk to the spiders, I promise.” Once again, she didn’t answer. I just continued petting her until she stopped crying.

“What… what happened to you?” she finally croaked.

“Got kidnapped by a bunch of monkeys,” I said. “They uh… they tortured Spike for a little while. Or at least, they tried to. And they turned me into a queen. Let me tell you, that was more than enough torture for me. But I did learn how to put on makeup. So now we really can sit together and talk about boys and put makeup on each other. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

She snorted a dark laugh. “No.”

“Good. Now I know how to punish you if you misbehave again.”

She looked up at me in horror, but the door opened before anything could be said and Twilight walked in. “Nav, do you have a moment?”

“I guess. I was just, you know, comforting my crying daughter. Not like that’s important to you or anything.”

She rolled her eyes. “If now’s a bad time, it can wait. I was just asking.”

“Oh no, you’ve already let yourself in, now. Taya’s just going to have to keep crying, the poor thing…” I grabbed her and snuggled her tightly. “I’m sorry, Taya. But you know how Twilight is.” Hopefully she’ll play along.

“I know, mommy… But she didn’t say I had to leave.”

“Oh yeah. I guess I can comfort you while she does whatever she needs to do.”

“Ugh. If you’re going to be like that, I can just leave,” Twilight said.

“Too late. Come on in.” I let Taya go again, leaving her to just lie on my lap. Twilight rolled her eyes again and finished stepping inside. “So what do you need?”

“I was going to do some tests with the teleportation blocker. Do you know anything about how it works?”

“Not a clue. You know magic is way beyond me. That’s why I keep so many cute and cuddly unicorns around… Like Watcher.” Both of them rolled their eyes.

“Then I suppose we’ll start from ground zero, in assuming that she was lying. Taya, do you mind moving?”

“You can teleport us both, right?” she asked.

Twilight shrugged and her horn lit up. A second later, Taya teleported a foot or two to the right, still on the bed. Then she hopped right back onto my lap. “Well, Brook wasn’t lying,” Twilight said. “Let’s try a simple diagnostic spell…” She moved closer and pushed her horn against my arm. And then she realized that I was wearing armor. “Hm. Nav, lean down.” I did so and her horn moved to my nose. She did magic to me and I started glowing brown. “Hm. The monkeys do have magic,” she said, backing away. “A magic I’ve not seen before… We need to talk to either the princess or Athena, Nav. I don’t know how to beat this.”

“Go get me some fresh fruit, then,” I said.

“...Is now really a time to eat?” Twilight asked.

“When Athena offered to let us come back, she asked us to bring fresh fruit. Bitch is a bird lady, so I assume she really likes it or something. Either way, I figure a bit of good will would do us well with her.”

“That makes sense,” she said, nodding. “I’ll be right back.” She quickly wandered off, leaving us alone again.

“Can I go with you?” Taya asked.

“Sure. You’ve been there before, after all. Oh yeah, did you see Spike’s wings?”

“...He grew wings?” she asked.

“Yep. He got them while saving me from something. It was pretty cool, too.”

“What was he saving you from?”

“Eh, giant spiders that were kidnapping me as a sex slave or something,” I answered with a shrug. “I had been killing them before, so it was only fair.”

“Oh. Do you always wait until I’m not around to get into trouble?”

“Well, yeah. I don’t want you getting hurt, after all. Taking you with me to the trouble would defeat the purpose.”

She petulantly hmphed, crossing her forelegs. Since it looked adorable, I just smiled and hugged her again.

By the time Twilight walked in, I was holding Taya down and blowing raspberries on her belly, making her giggle and squirm like crazy. “I’ll… I’ll get you for this, daddy!” she squealed, uselessly batting at me with hooves.

“Maybe. But until you do, it’ll be really funny and cute.”

“...Ready to go?” Twilight asked.

I snatched Taya back up, holding her in my lap. “Yep! What are we bringing her?”

“Bananas and pineapples. There’s a lot of fruit down there, but nopony really knows much about most of them. After the fruits you brought back from the Everfree…”

“Yeah, we don’t need any freaky half-breeds running around. Float that chest over, would you?”

“You’re not a queen anymore, Nav,” Twilight answered, not doing shit.

“Doesn’t mean you have to be a bitch about it,” I said, setting Taya aside and walking over to the chest. I hauled it over and onto the bed, then pulled off my gauntlet to open it.

“So how does this thing work, anyway?” she asked. “After you… well, after we thought you died, everypony tried to open it to get Athena’s book.”

“It’s gene-locked,” I said, wiggling my fingers. “If you’re not me, this thing will not open. And if you do get it open, first it’ll incinerate everything.”

“That’s not too—”

“And then it’ll explode.”

“...Oh. That thing is dangerous!”

“That’s why you don’t try to open it,” I said, pulling out the book. “Alright, stand next to me.” Twilight picked my right and Taya picked my left. I cracked the fucker open and we got sucked in by a weaboo’s wet dream.

A few moments later, we were standing within Athena’s personal sanctum. To one side, I could see a large paper golem leafing through a book, trying to read without eyes. Behind us, two golems seemed to be… sucking ink out of a book and wadding it up. Athena was standing with those two, holding her hands over the slowly growing wad.

“...What are you doing?” Twilight asked as we all walked closer.

Athena didn’t answer and Twilight lifted a hoof to ask again, but I put a hand on her head. She looked up and I shook my head. She shrugged and put the hoof down. We waited in silence as Athena began chanting, the wad of ink growing and growing until it looked reminiscent of the one that tried murdering me and Twilight on our first foray into the book world.

“So that’s how she made it,” Twilight muttered.

“Not quite, Sparkle,” Athena said, suddenly appearing in front of us. The large blob of ink settled on the ground, jiggling slightly but not moving otherwise. Athena’s head tilted, looking behind Twilight, where the fruits were floating. “My my… It’s been quite some time since I had anything fresh in this little dimension of mine. My servants lack subtlety and dexterity, so most things are crushed when I get them.” Twilight floated the fruits her way. “I take it you need something?”

“One friend can’t be nice to another?” Twilight sheepishly asked, smiling nervously.

“We do need something, yeah,” I said. “Can you cancel a spell some monkeys put on me?”

“Perhaps. Did they turn you female, or was that your gender stones?”

“Gender stones. The monkeys made it so that I couldn’t be teleported.”

Athena’s head tilted again and suddenly I was several feet backwards. “No, they didn’t. They made it so you couldn’t be easily teleported. How inconvenient. Why would they do such a thing, I wonder…?”

“They turned me into a queen against my will,” I said, walking back up to the group. “And there was a water elemental there that very much wanted me to stay. So I guess they made sure I would stay.”

“Hm. I suppose since you brought me something nice, dispelling it would be a simple thing.”

“...So?” Taya asked after a few seconds of silence.

“I dispelled it as soon as I saw that he was infected, child,” Athena said, grabbing the fruits in a gnarled hand and walking off. “Though why would you desire to be teleported by their spells is unknown to me.”

“Better than getting ripped apart by pissed off spiders,” I said.

Athena instantly stopped, slowly turning back to us. “...Spiders?” she asked.

“Yeah. Big motherfuckers. Chaotic evil. Reminds me of drow, ac—”

Athena suddenly teleported in front of me, stopping me mid-word. “I dealt with a giant spider once, long ago.” She reached behind me and gently caressed a wing, very carefully fixing a feather that was out of alignment. Then she turned back and started walking away. What the fuck is wrong with her?

“Do you think it might be one of these?” Twilight asked.

“I very much doubt it,” Athena said, waving the empty hand. “Arachne would have surely died long ago.”

“Not quite,” I said. “The person we’re going to meet is a goddess named Arachne.”

Athena stopped again, slowly turning back. “Truly?”

“Yep. Don’t know if she has any relation to the one you knew, though.”

“Unlikely. The world is a very unsafe place. But then, I did curse her with a never-ending life. I suppose surviving would be possible, if she was stubborn enough.” She held the empty hand out again and was suddenly clutching a large folded quilt. “Give her this when you see her,” she said, suddenly back in my face. I took the quilt with a shrug. “Good luck, Navarone. Should this be the same Arachne, I fear you might need it.”

“Is she a bitch or something?” I asked.

“She was human, once. Long, long ago. In my younger days, I was… hot-headed. She insulted me and the power of several others like me. I didn’t take it well. She tried to escape my wrath by killing herself, but I cursed her before she could die, forcing her into the body of a spider and giving her an ageless life. Not true immortality, for she can still die, but never of old age or disease. I imagine she will recognize that quilt. Perhaps she will forgive an old being for a mistake made long ago.”

“You could come with us,” Twilight said. “Give your apology in person.”

“If I left this realm, I would turn to dust almost instantly. Such is my age, child. I was never meant to live this long.”

“Then how did Arachne do it?” Twilight asked.

“I suppose that will be a question you have to ask her, now won’t it?” Athena asked. “Now leave me. I have a date with a banana to meet.” Ugh, ewwww. She disappeared and I led the way to the book, shivering slightly at the thought.

Since I had my hands full with the quilt, Twilight opened the book for us, sending us all right back into the real world. “Well, that was creepy,” I said, tossing the quilt onto the bed.

“What? She was just going to eat a banana,” Twilight said.

“A lonely old lady that really likes fresh fruit. She gets one that fits perfectly into a place on her that probably hasn’t been touched for years. And then she has a date with it. How’s that not creepy?”

I could practically see the ‘processing’ sign on Twilight before she flinched back. “Eeeewwww! Nav, you’re disgusting! Ugh!”

“Yeah, I know.” I set the book back down in the chest and closed it. “Now see if you can teleport me.” She rolled her eyes and moved me a few feet. “Bitchin’.”

“If you say so. Now, I’m going to go let Aqua scrub that image out of my mind.”

“Have fun with that.” I grabbed a certain alicorn amulet from the chest and then closed it, shoving it against the wall again while she left. When it was put away, I walked over to where I left the spare ammo and magazines. I dragged it over to the bed and sat down again, Taya sitting next to me. Then I started refilling the magazines we had used up.

“So what’s with this quilt?” Taya asked, poking it.

“No clue. Athena’s fucking weird, though. I’m sure she has a reason.”

“Shouldn’t we… I don’t know, open it? What if it has a threat on it or something?”

“...Not a bad idea. Go for it.” Taya’s horn lit up and pulled the thing forward, unfolding it… and unfolding it… and unfolding it. “Jesus fuck, how the hell did she fold the thing up like that?”

“Magic?” As good an excuse as any.

After longer than it should have taken, the full quilt was laid out before us, an extremely masterful work of weaving. Each square, about half a meter by half a meter per square, had some form of demi-human doing something cruel to a regular human. Murder, rape, torture, general violence… all was represented.

“What the fuck?” I whispered, taking it all in.

“This is… weird,” Taya said, her eyes unable to stay in one place.

“But beautiful, in a sick way,” I said, reaching a hand out to caress one of the scenes. As soon as my hand touched it, my eyes slammed open and a memory perfectly imprinted itself into my mind, as though I had witnessed the dark act of murder within myself. “Fold it back,” I hissed, jerking my hand back.

“What’s wrong?” Taya asked, using magic to grab the hand.

“It’s cursed,” I said, balling that hand into a fist. “Fold it back, Taya.” She blinked before starting to fold it back with magic.

When it was finally done, she set it well away from us, on the other side of the room. “Did it hurt you?” she asked.

“No. It just… gave me the memory. I don’t know why Athena wants Arachne to have that dark thing, but I’m definitely not going to hold onto it.”

A knock at the door cut off whatever response Taya would have made. She opened it with magic, letting in a random crew fellow. “We’re nearly there, ma’am.”

“Wow, that was fast.”

“It wasn’t exactly far away.”

“Eh, fair point. Taya, grab the quilt.” She picked it right back up and we both hopped off the bed. “How far out are we?” I asked.

“Ten minutes.”

“Plenty of time,” I said, heading to the door. The crew fellow backed out and let us both into the hall. Taya and I led the way out. When we got to the deck, we quickly found that pretty much everyone was out and about, minus those that were asleep. The spiders were all holding onto the masts on either side, watching those under them with passive interest. Three of the five squads were present, as were all of my ‘specialized’ troops. “Spike, get that bag stowed away!” I called. He still had the bag from the monkeys right next to him.

“You got it,” he said, grabbing it and cutting off his conversation with Applejack and Fluttershy.

“Watcher, when we get over them, I want a full shield around the ship at all times.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And I want every pegasus but Fluttershy going with me. Also taking Gilda, Kumani, Taya, and Twilight. I want to be able to fight our way out if we have to.”

There was a general round of nodding until Twilight said, “Nav, I have an… idea. You probably don’t like it, but… We should ask Celestia to come.”

I blinked a few times, thinking about it. Finally, I shrugged and said, “Go for it. Send a message on Spike. But tell her that this is my show. She’s there to represent Equestria and that she has no power to command my troops.”

Twilight nodded. “Of course. I just thought it might be nice to let Princess Celestia forge her own pact with the spiders, or at least witness the peace between monkeys and spiders.”

“I know. And having her magic will be useful, if it comes to that. Now write out the message and give it to Spike when he gets back up. If she’s not here when we leave, she’s not going.”

“I understand.”

“Good. You!” I pointed to one of the spiders on the masts. “I want to talk to you. Get down here.” It started scuttling down the mast and toward me. “Can you get us into the capital?”

One of its legs pointed up to the mast, where the spidery flag was still flying. “That grants you right to enter, mistress. But the right to enter is not the same as the ability to enter.”

“Explain.”

“The guards at the entrance will be… less than willing to let you in. Bribing them might be necessary.”

“Can we just kill them instead?”

Seeing a spider blink is really strange, because about half of their face moves at the same time. “Yes. But only if they try to stop us.”

“Hear that, Taya? Go triggerhappy all you want on this one.”

“Yay!” God, that’s creepy.

Spike got back up at that point and started walking to me, but Twilight jumped in front of him. “Spike, send this to the princess.”

He took the scroll, looking at it. “Nav?”

“Go for it,” I said, nodding. He shrugged and sent it on. “Spike, you’re sitting this one out.”

“Aww, why?”

“So you can take some time off. I know you need it.”

“And you don’t?”

I smiled. “There ain’t no rest for the wicked, and there ain’t none as bad as me. Helm! How far out?”

“Five minutes!” the driver called.

“Watcher, your troops ready to go?”

“Yes ma’am. You want Rainbow Dash going?”

“Yes. Dash, suit—Oh.” I looked over and saw that she was already in her armor, grinning victoriously. “Twilight! Can you cast that wing spell twice?”

“Not and still be useful, no. I might be able to cast it once and still help.”

“Cast it on yourself, then. Saves someone from carrying you. Dash, you carry Taya.”

“What?! Why do I have to do it?” she angrily asked.

“Because you aren’t a fully trained guard,” I said. “And also because I said so. We’re on mission time, Dash. Follow orders or stay here.” She grumbled, but nodded.

And then a massive explosion of light wracked the ship, followed by Celestia appearing out of nowhere. “Ah, it feels good to be in the air again,” she said when she appeared.

“Good timing. Celestia, crew. Crew, Celestia. You bring paper?”

“No, but I always keep some stored in case I need it.”

“Bitchin’. Long story short, I’m the queen of some neutral good monkeys. We’re making peace with male-hating chaotic evil spiders. You’re mediating and possibly also making peace or whatever. Cool?”

“Hm. Chaotic evil? Are you sure peace is wise?”

“Don’t know, don’t care. I just need a lawfully binding document to bring back so I can force an elemental to help me. Honestly, you’re mostly here as muscle.”

“Oh. In that case, I can help. Consider it a step toward paying off an immense debt.”

“Yeah sure, whatever. Taya, put this on.” I passed her the alicorn amulet.

“Are… you sure, mommy?” she asked, her eyes widening.

“Nope.” I put it around her neck for her.

“Is that the alicorn amulet?” Celestia asked, getting closer.

“Yep. Found it in a magical bazaar that appears only when it’s needed.”

“Oh, that place is still around? Hm. I need to contact some ponies… Did you happen to get the name of the shopkeeper?”

“Nah. It was some old bitch, looked like a gypsy. That reminds me that I got another artifact there, though. Have fun, mingle, learn the situation, whatever. I’ll be up in a minute.”

“It is about time I had a talk with my student,” she said as I walked back to the door going down. Thankfully, Taya didn’t follow me, not that it would have mattered. It just would have been inconvenient to walk around her. Anyway, I just grabbed the horn from my room and got back up less than a minute later, attaching the thing to my belt.

Everything was pretty much exactly the way I left it, thankfully enough. I walked back over to Taya and Spike. “So why’s Celestia here?” Spike quietly asked.

“Muscle. And I mean, come on. It’s Celestia. If that spider bitch is going to care about seeing any of us, it’ll probably be her.”

“Mommy, are you sure about that?” Taya asked. “I mean, didn’t Athena say Arachne was a human or something?”

“I dunno, I wasn’t really paying attention. Judging on that quilt, though, probably. Either way, maybe with both of us, we can overawe her or something.”

“That seems silly, mommy.”

“I’m a silly person. Spike, keep an eye on the ship. You’re the only one I’m leaving here that can fly.”

“No problem. No spiders getting past this dragon!”

“Good. Taya, that amulet making you evil yet?”

“Maybe. I guess we’ll find out when I try to take it off.”

“Alright. Just remember, if you try fighting, I’ll have to put makeup on you and dress you up in a frilly dress while we talk about boys.”

She shivered. “Mommy, you’re evil.”

“Yeah.” I turned back to the helm. “How close are we?”

“You can see it from here,” he said, pointing ahead of us.

I turned toward the front and blinked. “Man, how did I miss that?” A massive spire of wood and web jutted out from the ground, aiming high into the sky. “Hm. ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.’”

“What was that, mommy?” Taya asked.

“Just… something from my world. That thing is huge.”

“Indeed it is, Navarone,” Celestia said, walking to stand next to me. “Are you sure you want peace with these creatures? Violence is not generally my way, but I’ve spoken at length with Twilight about these spiders through letters. It might be best if we…”

I was shaking my head. “What gods are we, Celestia, to decide the fate of an entire species? Would you tear this tower down and repeat the dark past? Do as Chaos did and sow terror and confusion among a race?”

“...No. But I would like to know about that past you’re talking about. Anything you know or have legends about might be helpful in defeating him.”

“Then we can talk after we finish here,” I said. “As long as you’re willing to share information, that is. Nothing’s for free, Celestia.”

“I understand, Nav. Is it bad that I truly believe I would rather be here with you on this ship, rather than in Canterlot?”

“Abdicate the throne, then,” I answered with a shrug, walking away. “Watcher, any movement?”

“That tower’s crawling with them, ma’am,” he answered.

“Any hostile movement?”

“...They’re spiders, Nav. I think everything they do is hostile.”

“Fair enough. Helm, that’s close enough!” The ship began slowing down, leaving us a few hundred meters from the tower. “How do we get in?” I asked, turning to one of the spiders with us. I flinched when I saw her standing creepily close to my back. Fuck, how did she move so quietly?

“Down the top, mistress. Or find a hole somewhere on the side. The guards will be on the bottom, before you get into the actual tunnel.”

“...Can we make a hole?” I asked, putting my hand on my sword.

“That also works, yes.”

“Celestia, my right. Kumani, right behind me. Dash, my left. Everyone else, figure something out and make sure to look as threatening as possible. Guards, watch after Dash and Twilight.”

I got a number of nods, then turned and jumped off the side, drawing my sword and grinning a dark smile.

 
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