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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169. Chapter One Hundred and Forty

“Not much,” I slowly said. “Twilight’s library had no books about them. I know of the alphyns, but that’s about it.”

“Head to your room. I will meet you there after dealing with Pertz.”

I looked around the small room we were in before shrugging. “I have no idea where we are.”

“The teleport room. Find a window. I’m sure you know the way from outside.”

That was definitely true, so we went our separate ways. She dragged Pertz off to the dungeons or whatever and I found a window fairly quickly and defenestrated myself. Sure enough, I quickly figured out exactly where I was and made it to my room. Celestia seemed to have been expecting me, because the window was open and everything.

Or maybe the maids were still trying to air out the sex funk.

As soon as I landed, I upended my bag of clothes on the bed and pulled out the carbon nanotube armor. I wasn’t expecting to actually need it, but I was really glad I brought it. The stuff didn’t fit perfectly anymore, but I’d rather deal with some slightly tight clothes than getting stabbed through the chest. I stripped everything else off and slid into the armor, then covered myself in the usual assortment of weapons.

By the time I was finished with that, there came a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. I pulled it open and beheld a great white horse. “Sup, honeybuns?” I asked, stepping aside for her.

She let herself in and politely kicked the door shut behind herself. “Things have been somewhat tense these last few days,” she sighed, hanging her head slightly. “To make the story short, one of the mages found a ritual in an old book and tried performing it. Nothing happened at first and he left for the day. The ritual he found takes six hours to complete, and he left the chalk engraved into the floor.”

“That’s bad, isn’t it?”

“The monster it summoned was intelligent and knew the symbols for more of its kind. Thankfully, this was at night, so we don’t think the casualties were too high. But the only agent I sent inside hasn’t returned yet. I don’t know if there are still survivors, I don’t know if the demons are organized, I don’t know how many demons there are, I don’t know how powerful they are, and I honestly don’t know if you will be enough to help me tip the tide.”

This is just sounding better and better. “So what exactly do you need me to do?”

“Assist me. Most demons are beings of magic, and can’t truly be killed. But if their summoning marks are removed, they’ll return to Tartarus. The issue is that their marks are warded by magic. Once the demon is summoned, you either need to know their return sign or be able to use some manner of anti-magic to remove their original mark. I sent my demon hunter in as soon as I realized what was happening, but I haven’t had any word from him. I don’t know their signs and I don’t have time to find them. So I will escort you and you will remove their marks.”

“Sounds like the exact opposite of fun. When do we start?”

She smiled and gently prodded at my stomach with a hoof. “As soon as you get in armor.”

“This is my armor.”

Her smile dropped and she raised an eyebrow. “I believe you’re confused. That is a bodysuit. Where is your armor?”

I pulled out a knife and sliced across my arm before she could stop me. Nothing happened aside from her ripping the knife away from me. “This is stronger than steel, Celestia.”

She blinked a few times, then pulled me closer with magic and inspected my arm. “What magic is this?”

“The magic of technology,” I said. “It’s called carbon nanotubes. Stuff’s really light and really strong. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty malleable, so bruises and broken bones are still possible.”

She wordlessly ran the knife across my chest, doing pretty much nothing. “Amazing. Did you discover this in your travels?”

“Nah.” She let my arm go, so I took the knife and put it back up. “You ready to go?”

“Where did you obtain this armor?”

“From the humans, along with this gun. You ready to go?”

She sighed and said, “Yes. But I believe we will have a discussion about your foray into the past when we return. And leave all weapons but your sword here; they’ll only weigh you down.”

“So demons can’t be hurt at all?” I asked.

“That is not quite the case. Silver and cold iron are the primary physical weapons in a fight against a demon. That is why Luna’s attire is made of silver, and why her guards are armored in it. Your weapons are of steel, or hot iron. They could damage a demon with enough force, but raw iron and silver cause them much more distress. I believe your magical sword will have a similar effect.”

“Oh. Neat. And what’s the purpose of the key?”

“The mage’s tower has many magical defenses. Several of those are barriers, both magical and physical, that go up when the alarm is raised. I would rather circumvent these barriers, not be forced to blow them down.”

“Makes sense. Shall we, then?”

“Let’s.” I held the door open for her and then we both went into the hall. “I’m going to conserve as much magic as possible, so we’ll be flying over. Teleporting that far twice in one day was tiring, but I still have plenty of energy in reserve.”

“I didn’t ask, but okay.” She stared at me for a few seconds before turning and starting to walk. I stepped up next to her and followed. “I don’t suppose you read over any of that stuff Twilight sent, have you?”

“I haven’t had time. I can fully debrief you later. You said something strange happened, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. You can fully debrief me later. And depanty me, too.”

“Happily. I take it you have recovered from Chrysalis’s ill effects?”

“Sorta. Turns out I was infected with a brain-eating fungus from the mushroom madremonte. It was fucking my shit up. Chrysalis probably didn’t actually do anything.”

She was silent for several seconds before shaking her head slightly. “I see.”

We got to a window large enough to fit her ginormous ass, but she grabbed one of my wings with her mouth before I could do more than put a foot on the frame. When I turned to look at her, she let my wing go. “We aren’t going that way.”

“Alright, first, gross. I don’t know where that mouth has been.” She rolled her eyes. “Second, why not?”

“I am a princess, Nav. Unfortunately, I can’t just go jumping through random windows.”

“...Why not?” She slowly lifted an eyebrow. “You’re the princess. You’re the princess. That means you get to decide what’s right and what isn’t, and what’s decorous and what’s not.”

“I’m not jumping out that window.” She dragged me back in with magic and continued walking. “I am the princess and I do get to decide what is and isn’t a part of accepted decorum. And I have decided that jumping out of a window is not part of accepted decorum.”

I scoffed and continued walking next to her. “You’re just saying that because you know how much I love it.”

“Forgive me for trying to turn you into a proper lady.”

“Fuck no I won’t forgive you for that. Rarity tried doing that shit and I made sure she couldn’t sit down for a few days.” Of course, that just made her try again. But ‘hurting’ her is funny, so whatever.

She looked at me askance. “If you ever have intentions of being my… special somehuman, which I hope you still desire, you’ll need to learn to moderate yourself.”

“Bitch, I was a queen. I know full well how to do that shit. I just don’t give two fucks about placating people I don’t care about by being someone that isn’t me.”

She sighed and shook her head. “Oh, to be young again…”

“Don’t give me that bullshit. You don’t care about most of the people here, either. You do what you do to keep up an image and to use people. Tell me I’m wrong.”

“...I am not a liar.”

“Liar.” At least she smiled at that one.

Further bantering was precluded by our arrival at a socially acceptable extraction point, which happened to be a large balcony. A passing guard rushed to us when he saw Celestia put a hoof on one of the rails. “Princess, do you require an escort?”

She turned to look at him while brushing my chest with a wing. “Where I am going, only Navarone can protect me. Everypony else would just be a distraction.”

He didn’t look very comfortable with that, but bowed anyway. “As you command, Princess.” With that, he carried on, his wings twitching slightly.

Celestia looked back at me, wearing her cute little secret smile. “How much do you know about pegasus rituals?”

“Practically nothing. I skipped a lot of that boring shit when reading just about every book in the library. Which turns out to have been a very bad idea, all things told.” Fucking Fluttershy.

She chuckled and poked me with her wing again. “This is called feathermarking. It’s usually a sign of utmost trust. It signifies a deep and personal relationship.”

“Ah. I did know something like that. Cadance mentioned it when I was helping Gilda preen.”

“As far as I know, it is not the case for griffins. They are a pragmatic race, not very prone to fits of romance. Usually. There was one who tried to woo my sister ages ago, but he was so hilariously bad at it..."

“Yeah, Gilda laughed at her and called her a square. Or something like that, I don’t remember. Anyway, shall we?”

She nodded, dropping the smile and lifting her other wing. “Yes, Shining Armor is waiting on us.” With that, she launched her extra large body into the air. After taking a moment to appreciate the view, I joined her. Of course, she very quickly outpaced me, then realized she was doing so and hovered in the air until I caught up. “Did I not make the urgency clear? Hurrying would be wise.”

“Did I not make my slowness clear? Hurrying would be impossible. These wings are fucking garbage. They get me from point A to point B. They do not get me from A to B quickly.” Unless those points happen to be extremely close.

“...I assumed you were exaggerating out of laziness.” With that, she used magic to pull me closer and then sat me on her back. “When we get in sight of the guards at the tower, remove yourself.” We finally took off in earnest. Honestly, I don’t know why she was bitching. If she had just jumped out the stupid window, we would have already been there, even at my slower pace.

But whatevs.

Normally, the silhouette of the mage tower on the mountain was fairly unnoticeable. The giant floating rock next to it was definitely more eye-catching, not that I had really ever paid it much mind until I actually visited the place. Now, though, the entire place was covered in Shiny’s gay pink bubble. It was obvious that something was going on, and I wondered how far the news that there were literally demons loose in the tower had spread.

Knowing Celestia, I’d say not very.

Once I was able to see a group of guards below us, I shot my wings out and caught some wind, taking me off Celestia’s back. I didn’t want her prickly little reputation hurt, after all. She paid it no mind, but slowed her pace to match mine as we flew down to the guards holding the line.

Though honestly, the line didn’t seem all that difficult to hold. Shiny’s shield was up, and that overpowered thing meant not much could get out anyway. Even with it, some of the guards looked concerned, and Shiny himself seemed fairly grim.

Celestia landed right in front of him and I quickly touched down at her side. He cut off the conversation he was having with one of the guards and one of his legs started to salute before he remembered he wasn’t a soldier anymore. He slowly lowered it.

“Has anything happened?” Celestia asked.

“A few more survivors trickled out,” Shiny said, looking to one of his sides. Three night guards were watching a group of very scared unicorns. “They had no useful information. We’re keeping them here for the moment to prevent a panic in the city.”

“None of them saw the inquisitor?” she asked.

“It doesn’t seem that way, no. Most were in too much of a hurry to get away. It doesn’t sound like anyone was killed, but, well…”

“There are worse things than dying,” Celestia quietly said, before turning to me. “Are you ready, Nav?”

“Man, being a hero fucking sucks,” I sighed.

Shiny blinked at my voice. “I… So Cadance was telling the truth,” he said. I grit my teeth and his ears twitched. “It’s good to see you again, Nav. I’d like to talk, once you get this mess sorted out.”

“Okay.” His ears twitched again and I figured he probably learned from Cadance what it means when a woman says okay with a very neutral tone. I slid the ring on and started walking into the no man’s land. Celestia strode next to me.

When she got to the bubble, she lowered her horn to it and used some kind of magic to open a hole. I just walked through the bubble itself, because my ring is super awesome. Once she was through, she used her horn to zip the hole back.

We were still a hundred or so meters away from the tower itself. I could very faintly hear some kind of stringed instrument in the background, but that was the only noise I could detect. “It’s quiet,” I said before we started walking again.

“It is,” Celestia confirmed.

“...Quiet is better than screaming.”

“Screaming means the victim is still alive.”

I chose to let the quiet return. We quickly walked up to the front doors of the massive tower. When we got to it, we stared at it for a few seconds.

Finally, she tilted her head slightly my way. “Nervous?”

“Nah, just annoyed. This was supposed to be my break after the bullshit of the Congo. Instead I’m fighting demons.”

She patted my back with a wing, but it didn’t feel very consolatory. “As soon as you’re ready, use the key on the door.”

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the large doors had a single keyhole right between them. My key wasn’t anywhere near a perfect fit, but it didn’t matter. Once it got inside, it turned and I could hear the locks grinding open. Sure enough, when I pulled the key out, the doors slowly pushed themselves open. The music immediately got louder.

Celestia’s horn lit up and some kind of shield fell over her, but it didn’t touch me. We walked in side by side and instantly beheld the first demon. Now, I consider myself a seasoned traveler. I’ve seen some weird fucking shit. So when I call something out on being strange, it means something. This motherfucker was strange as fuck.

Both of his legs were extremely long and one hundred percent flexible, like there weren’t any joints in them at all. There were multiple thin sinews on the back of each one, and he was holding one of his legs in such a way that he was playing the sinews like a harp. He’d bend and stretch the leg as needed to tighten or loosen the strings to make different pitches. Each arm ended in a single hook that looked like it was perfect for plucking strings. He had a single eye, but it was closed at the moment to focus more fully on the song. To make up for one eye, he had several holes in the side of his head that probably acted as ears, and each one seemed to protrude slightly in different directions. They were all twitching, but the one facing the door was twitching the most. All of his skin was grey. He had no hair or clothing at all, but he also didn’t have a dick, so at least it wasn’t too weird.

At the moment, he was lounging across the receptionist’s desk, playing a hauntingly bewitching tune with his creepy fucking legs. Celestia’s brow furrowed and she continued walking in. Since she seemed to assume it was safe, I went further in and realized the demon had an audience.

Several unicorns of all ages were sitting in front of him, completely entranced by the music. Each one was smiling and they were rocking back in forth in unison. None of them even noticed us enter.

Once we got a few meters into the room, Celestia started looking around the walls. From the sound of the song, it seemed like she didn’t have much time left before it ended. But for all I knew, the thing had been going on since the whole demon invasion thing started.

Unfortunately, it turned out that I was right. About a minute after she started looking around the room in earnest, the song ended and his eye opened, revealing that he had a goat iris. His mouth eased open and he sighed, revealing that his mouth looked pretty much like a gash across his face. When he smiled, bent and crooked teeth greeted us. “Celestia,” he purred.

“Apadiel,” she coldly replied. “You have no business here.”

“I go where my fans are,” he said, slowly waving one of his hooks around the room. “And I have many fans here.”

“For good reason,” I said, taking a step forward. He turned his eye on me. “That song was really good. You ever consider, I don’t know, not being evil?”

Celestia slowly face hoofed while he giggled and ran his hand across his leg strings. When the sound dimmed slightly, he said, “I am no more evil than you, stranger. But I do thank you for the compliment. Would you care to join the rest of my fans in glorious adoration?”

“Not particularly.” His smile slipped just a little. “It has a good sound, but not good enough to give up my soul or anything.”

He chuckled yet again and said, “Well, I’m afraid you likely won’t have a choice.” One of his legs stretched out yet again and he started playing another beautiful song. “Come to me, angel of music.”

I let a blank look come over my face and I slowly started walking toward him. He smiled deeper and finally closed his eye, focusing back on his music, trusting that I would fall under his spell. Celestia’s breath caught as I continued to him and I almost heard her call out before I flapped my wing slightly, hopefully signalling her.

The demon continued his song of delight as I paced through his audience. His eye finally opened when I stopped to stand right in front of him. “What say you, angel of music?” he quietly asked as he continued to play.

In one smooth motion, I drew my sword and cut all the sinews on his leg, instantly stopping the music. “I say that my name is not Christine,” I replied.

That opened the floodgate. He instantly started howling, then fell backwards off the receptionist’s desk. I heard the sound of a few dozen hooves slamming into the floor behind me, probably signifying that each pony in the audience jumped to their feet.

I was relying on Celestia to take care of that as I tried to handle the demon. He couldn’t run very fast with one stump leg, but they were still a lot longer than mine. It granted him enough speed to get to the door leading into the stupidly long hallways before I could, but some kind of magic forcefield stopped him.

Apadiel put his back against it and glared at me. “Keep that freezing iron away from me, whore!”

“Calling me a whore isn’t making me want to hurt you any less, demon,” I said. “According to Celestia, you can’t be killed. But the way I figure, there’s a first time for everything. So go ahead, keep talking smack and I’ll put it to the test. Or stop being a little shit head and let us send you back to Tartarus.”

His eye actually started glowing red and for a second I wondered if I fucked up. That was quickly confirmed by the hoof slamming into me from behind. One of the unicorns got past Celestia, or she was just trusting me to handle it, either or. As soon as I turned my back on the demon to deal with the new threat, Apadiel wrapped his undamaged freakish leg around my throat, then started tightening the sinew.

I wouldn’t mind dying with legs wrapped around my head, but not his and not like that. I kicked the pony in the face and then pushed myself backwards, into the demon. He caught me with his hook hands and drew me closer, so I reversed my sword and thrust it under one of my arms, catching him right in the stomach.

The leg immediately let me go and I stumbled away. Celestia finally got her shit together and added the pony that kicked me to the herd of others she was holding in place with magic. Before I could try to cut the demon’s head off, she said, “Nav, over here!”

really wanted to try killing that bitch, but I figured she knew what she was about, so I went over there. She was standing behind the receptionist’s desk, where a glowing symbol was drawn into the floor with chalk. It looked like some kind of weird H, with one of the sides jutting off randomly. “So this is his summoning symbol?” I asked, sheathing my sword.

“The symbol of Apadiel, demon of music,” she said. “It must be erased for him to be unsummoned.”

There was a scarf on the receptionist’s chair. I pulled it down and spit on it. Before I could started erasing the mark, the demon croaked, “Wait!”

“Now, Nav!”

But I was honestly kinda curious. I had never met a demon before, so I turned to look at him. “Why? You tried to ensorcell me.”

“We’re trying to escape! Nestorats rises in power and threatens us all…”

Celestia scoffed. “The petty struggles of power in Tartarus do not concern me, demon. Navarone, send this filth back where it belongs.”

That name caught my ear. “Nestorats?” I asked, taking a small step forward. “Is that perhaps a fire demon?”

“It is a monster!” he hissed. “Being on an island with that demon of fire is no punishment that I deserve! All I wanted to do was make music.”

“You enslaved my ponies, Apadiel,” Celestia said. “And you enslaved my sister when I sent her to bring you to me.”

“I make slaves no more than you, Celestia,” he growled. “You just content yourself with saying that you do it for their own good!”

“Enough of this! Navarone, send this demon back to Tartarus!”

I got the information I needed. Honestly, I didn’t want to send him back to hell, but whatever. “For what it’s worth,” I said, “I really did like the song. And I really don’t want to send you back. But I can’t have you entrancing people with music. That’s bad or whatever.”

He started screaming when I bent down to finally wipe his symbol away. His body faded slightly with each scrub until the entire symbol was gone. Finally, I stood back up to admire my handiwork. The demon was fully gone and the ponies were looking around the room in shock.

Celestia quickly took charge of that one. “You’ve been under a curse, my little ponies,” she softly said. “We removed the source. Please, exit the tower and head for the gate. My guards will keep you safe until we have saved everypony else.” Some of them started to ask questions, but she lifted a hoof. “Please, Navarone and I don’t have much time. Others might still be in danger.”

Some of them looked like they wanted to debate and a few were probably old enough that they weren’t used to being told what to do, but it’s hard for a pony to ignore a direct order from Celestia, so they all walked or galloped out of the tower, leaving just the two of us standing there.

When the last one was far enough away that they couldn’t hear us, she slowly turned her head to me. “Navarone, when I tell you to send a demon back to Tartarus, you don’t talk to the demon, you send it back to Tartarus! These things are not saveable, they are not redeemable, they are not safe! My sister and I put them there for a reason.”

“Celestia, you’re evil too.” She flinched back. “Just because your brand of evil doesn’t synergize with theirs doesn’t mean they can’t be useful. Like, take that dude we just sent back. If you could get him to not be a dickwad for like five minutes, he’d be fucking amazing in a theater. You’d probably need some good marketing or whatever to get past his creepy-ass looks, but I’d totes pay to see him play. Dude has some serious skill.”

She was silent for a few seconds before sighing. “Apadiel is a special case. He perhaps could be reformed. It was for my sister’s sake that we sent him to Tartarus. She was… displeased at having her will bent. It is something that I will consider. And that is the last I will speak of it.”

“Alright, whatevs. So that’s one down. Do we know how many are left?”

She slowly looked around the room before shrugging slightly. “I imagine no more than five remain. We caught the infestation fairly quickly. These symbols take power to put down, so only a few can be placed at a time. And few demons have enough friends to summon many that wouldn’t turn on them. Apadiel being here is actually a relief; it means we’ll most likely run into demons on the less evil side.”

“Ballin’. So where to next?”

She eyed the door and then the teleportation platform. “I don’t trust the platform at the moment. It might work, but it would likely be trapped. The stairs are in the hallway… Somewhere.”

“So… sweep and clear?”

“Sweep and clear,” she replied with a nod. “We will likely find more ponies trapped by the magical defenses. One will be able to give us directions.”

“...When’s the last time you walked through this hallway?” I asked.

“Oh, a few years. A few… hundred years. Why?”

“This place is a maze. You know that, right?”

She lifted an eyebrow. “A maze? In what way?”

“In the way that taking the wrong door will lead you halfway down the hallway, as well as show you dozens of rooms you would have otherwise never seen. It’s some kind of weird spatial anomaly that the unicorns twisted out and made sense out of.”

Her head slowly turned to the foreboding door. “Oh. Maybe I should have actually read the reports they were sending me when they remodeled.”

“God dammit, Celestia.” She sheepishly smiled. “Whatever. I got armor, so I’m taking point.”

“Very well. I’d also prefer your eyes ahead instead of on… certain parts of me.”

I rolled my eyes, though it was a very good point. When we were both ready, I pressed my key against the magic barrier and it shattered, making the hallway door slide open. Once we were both inside, something flashed and the door slammed shut.

“So what was that?” I asked, pulling my sword out.

“I can take a few guesses,” she said. “Some kind of magical defense I wasn’t aware of is most likely.”

“Yeah, let’s stay optimistic,” I sarcastically replied as I hefted the blade. She didn’t say anything, so I walked over to the door on my immediate right, the first door of literally hundreds. I knocked, waited a second, then opened it. On the other side was an empty research room. “It’s gonna be a long day.” Celestia just sighed, then we both jumped as another flash went by and the door slammed shut.

We repeated that for another twenty doors. Each one was an empty research room of some kind. They were all brimming with stuff that was out of the ordinary, but nothing Celestia seemed to think was dangerous.

After the thirtieth or so door slammed shut in my face, we both heard some kind of weird laugh that sounded like it was sped up several hundred times. Shit sounded super weird and that made Celestia sigh yet again. “Blisdon, demon of speed,” she said.

“Oh great, so they come in ‘gotta go fast’, too.”

That made the demon giggle again, of course. With him flashing all over the place, it sounded like it was coming from all sides at once.

Finally, he stopped several meters down the hall from us. Sure enough, it was a giant blue fucking hedgehog.

Nah, I’m fucking with you. Now kill yourself for reading my journal.

He was blue, but that’s as far as the similarities go. Both of his eyes were pure white, he had no nose, no ears, no hair, and no teeth. Each of his three legs ended in a sharp point and he had no arms. Every part of his body looked completely smooth and streamlined, to provide the maximum performance, though I had no idea how he could move so fast on three legs.

“Hello again, Celestia,” the demon said, then seemed to spring forward a few meters. “Have you come to give me another chance?”

“I have come to send you back to Tartarus, demon,” she said.

“I haven’t the slightest why,” he casually said, lifting one of his legs. I pulled up my sword to try to defend against whatever he might do, but he just stared at me. “I don’t remember doing anything to deserve an eternity of running away from monsters…”

“You stole just to steal. You hurt others just to hurt them. You misused your powers, demon, then ran as we tried to bring you to justice.”

“Your words are ever so wounding, my dear. I never truly hurt anyone!”

“You destroyed lives and relationships!”

He chuckled and disappeared yet again. “I didn’t physically hurt them…” Celestia started grinding her teeth. “But that will change soon.” Just like that, something jabbed against my side and I slammed into the wall, dropping my sword. The armor took the blow without cracking, but there was enough force in it to knock the wind out of me and possibly break a bone or two. “I’m not going back!”

I pushed myself away from the wall and grabbed my sword. “Apadiel wasn’t too bad,” I gasped, trying to catch my breath. “But you’re a douche canoe.” I saw a flash in the corner of my eye and swung my sword, but hit nothing.

“You’re too slow!” he mocked, running literal circles around me. After that, he vanished again.

Celestia immediately jumped next to me. “Are you injured?”

“Bruised badly and possibly something broken, but he didn’t puncture anything.”

“Remove your ring. I’ll heal you.”

“Not yet. Do you have some kind of molasses spell or something? Some way of slowing this asshole down?”

She bit her lower lip and started thinking. “I… might. It’s a temporal distortion spell that slows things down in its area of effect.”

“Then cast it behind us.” Her horn lit up. A few seconds later, it went much brighter and the tiles around her hooves cracked. Then some kind of… distortion appeared behind us. Before I had a chance to really look at it, the demon got stuck in it like some kind of shitty fly paper.

Of course, as fast as he was moving, he was still moving at a fairly decent speed in his distortion. But he was moving slow enough that I could stab the fucker, so that’s just what I did. Before he could fully even flinch back from that, I sliced two of his legs open as well.

Celestia groaned and pulled me out of the way with one of her hooves, then the field collapsed and the demon tumbled down the hallway, sliding to a halt several dozen meters ahead of us. The princess couldn’t move well at the moment, so I rushed down there to get to him.

Blisdon was struggling to stand when I got there. Two of his legs were fucked and he had a hole in his body, so it was a downhill battle. Not having arms didn’t help, of course. Neither did pushing his good leg out from under him.

“Talk shit, get hit!” I yelled, kicking him in the side.

Before I could keep tormenting him, Celestia finally caught up. The demon slowly looked up at her, a haunted expression on his face. “You know the problem with being faster than light?” he quietly asked. That almost proved too much for him, as he started coughing. But apparently demons are made up of some pretty strong stuff, so he recovered and continued, “You can only live in darkness…”

“That’s emo as fuck, ya damn crybaby,” I said. “Stop being a little bitch.”

Celestia actually smiled and patted me on the back with a wing. “Where’s your summon sign, Blisdon?” she asked. “When you return to Tartarus, you’ll be fully healed.”

“Fast or slow, I’d rather die than go back there,” he growled.

So I cut off his head.

Celestia gasped and his body seemed to spasm, then… glitched. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it seemed to phase out of existence for a moment and then reappear again, whole and undamaged. We all had a moment to look surprised before I stabbed him again, thankfully before he could react. This time, I made sure not to hit anything too vital.

“Alright, now I know what you meant,” I said. “My bad.” He was still struggling to get back up, so I slashed two of his legs again.

“Do not do that again,” Celestia calmly said.

“Got it. Is there any way to track this guy’s summoning sign, or do we just have to keep looking in every room until we find the damn thing?” She sighed and lowered her horn to Blisdon’s head. He tried moving away from her, but I put my foot on his back and forced him down. “They always gotta choose the hard way, don’t they?”

“It is in the nature of demons to resist,” Celestia said, pressing her horn against Blisdon’s face. “Which is why they must be kept safely in Tartarus, where they can only harm each other.”

The demon started reaching his good leg toward Celestia, so I pinned it to the floor with my sword, making his entire body spasm in pain. “Don’t try none of that begging bulltshit,” I said. “It didn’t do Apadiel any good and you’re more annoying than he was. Just keep that shit to yourself.”

“I can track his summoning mark,” Celestia finally said, standing back up. The demon started groaning. “Oh, grow up. You live in Tartarus, you can deal with a little pain.” That didn’t stop him from groaning, sadly. “Let’s go, Nav.”

“Should I leave him pinned to the ground?” I asked.

“No. Anything left on him will disappear with him back to Tartarus when we remove the mark. It isn’t far and I don’t think he’s going anywhere, sword or not.”

I shrugged and pulled the sword out, then slid it up. “So do all demons not have blood, or just these two?” I asked when we started walking.

“Most of them are sustained purely by magic when they’re in this realm. If you were to attack them in Tartarus, they would be more likely to bleed.” She pushed open a side door that led to a gym. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a group of muscle wizards in the tower or if the gym was just there so the unicorns didn’t get as fat as Celestia.

When we got to the group of treadmills, Celestia’s horn lit up and two of them pulled up and away, revealing a glowing blue mark on the floor. This one looked like a stick figure with tiny legs, huge arms, and a large mustache.

“The mark of Blisdon, demon of speed,” she said with a nod.

“I don’t know, are you sure?” I asked. “You think maybe there was another demon out there when you started trying to track his sign?” She rolled her eyes. “Just sayin’, bro.”

“Just erase the stupid mark… sis.” That made it my turn to roll my eyes. I walked over to one of the walls and grabbed a towel and a water bottle, then walked back and cleaned up the shitty drawing. We faintly heard a short howling from the hall.

“Two down,” I said, tossing the towel aside. “Was he one of the violent ones?”

“Not particularly,” she said as she moved closer. When she was right in front of me, she used a hoof to start peeling up my armor. That’s when I remembered that I was actually hurt and flinched in pain. “Please, remove your ring.” My side was already starting to turn purple, so I pulled the ring off. She sighed in relief and very carefully pressed her horn against it. Thankfully, she was so gentle that I didn’t feel the pressure until the wound was healed away. “Not broken, but cracked.”

“Which is bad enough, if you keep moving,” I said, stroking one of her ears. She smiled and took it for a few seconds before pushing my shirt back down and moving away. “So yeah, was he a bad one?”

“Yes, but not a violent one. He stole just to be mean and he would use his speed to put ponies in very compromising positions to ruin marriages and relationships. He almost caused a war before my sister and I could devise a way to get him into Tartarus.”

“Okay, that’s kind of impressive.”

She sighed and shook her head. “The sheeps and the dogs also agreed. Well, after they got over their outrage after seeing the dog CEO in bed with the underage sheep princess. The sheep weren’t under my influence then, so they would have been on their own against the dogs.”

“Huh. That would be… baa’d.”

Before I could even react, she put another bruise back on me.

At least she kissed it better after giggling at my pain for a lot longer than was necessary.

That gave us a semi-decent break after getting rid of two demons, even if they weren’t particularly difficult ones to remove. “So why is this usually hard?” I asked as we walked down the hall. We were still popping doors open, but we were only doing it to check for staircases; Celestia decided only one demon would probably be in the hallway.

“Two reasons,” she said, casually flinging open doors with abandon, because magic is stupid. “One, because not everypony has the skill strong enough to use grandmaster level protection spells or a magic ring that protects against all of their passive effects. And two, because most of the demons who get summoned and actually escape specialize in battle. The first demon summoned here probably wasn’t warded at all and the rest were summoned by the first demon. Trust me, if either of the demons we fought so far was actually dangerous, I would have taken your sword and held them off while you found their mark.”

“You couldn’t do it with magic alone?”

“Not and hope to fight another one a few minutes later. Their magic resistance is higher than that of an elder dragon. It would take both magic and the sword to be able to reliably fight a demon lord of war.”

“Demon… lord?” I asked, looking over at her. “Do they have ranks?”

“Of… sorts,” she said, waving a wing. “The demons we are facing here are all likely demon lords. They took some of the native residents of Tartarus and corrupted them over time, turning them into greater demons. Those greater demons create lesser demons. Most of their hosts are small due to the violent nature of the realm, but some have large armies.”

“Huh. Can the other demons leave Tartarus?”

“Yes, but their summoning signs are rare because of their attrition rate. Signs can only be unveiled by an oracle, who are few and far between these days. That means knowledge of their signs are passed on infrequently and usually, the weaker demons die before they can ever be summoned. The signs of the demon lords have never and will never change, so they are much more widespread.

“The demon lords can’t summon them?”

She shook her head. “They don’t know the signs either. Furtur, the demon of weather, once captured an oracle before we could track him and used her to get the signs for several of his followers. That was a very interesting fight.”

“Can they turn things into demons if they’re summoned?”

“No. Most of the ponies who summon them do so to be turned into demons so they can get revenge on somepony who wronged them. They usually get pulled into Tartarus and are either sold into slavery or given away as gifts.”

“Huh. Who needs slaves in demon world?”

“Unique pets are interesting, I suppose. And pets from the race that sent you to Tartarus to begin with are even better. I imagine some end up being turned into demons eventually, but at that point, there’s practically nothing left of the pony’s original mind.”

“Sounds like a well-deserved fate,” I replied with a shrug.

“Nopony should be forced to go through that, even if they were planning murder.”

“...Yet you’re okay with subjecting the native residents of Australia to it.”

She was silent for a few seconds. Luckily for her, she finally pushed open the door leading to the staircase. “Here we are.” She started to walk to it, but I put my hand on her side, making her stop.

“I’m a lot less important than you are,” I said, stepping in front of her. “And I’m a lot better protected.”

Before I could walk too far, she giggled and pulled me into a hug with her wings. “A long time ago, you told me you wouldn’t take a dagger meant for me,” she sighed. “I’m glad you think so much more of me now.”

“Celestia, why are you so squishy and adorable?”

“To catch my opponents off guard,” she said with one final nuzzle.

I just shook my head and finally started walking up the stairs. It seems they also took advantage of some of the spatial anomaly, because one small flight of stairs took me up to the next landing, where the door to the second floor was. “Is this it, or is it some kind of trap?” I asked.

“I have no idea.” She walked up to the door and tried it. The handle was locked, unsurprisingly. “Try your key.”

I did so and the door swung open, revealing another hallway. This one wasn’t nearly as bland as the super long first floor one, though. It had several decorations, like paintings and vases and shit. My hand found its way to my sword and I crept in, hopefully ready for some kind of ambush. Celestia followed me much less cautiously, presumably expecting me to have tripped any kind of trap.

“Sweep and clear again?” I asked after we got a few meters in.

“Yes. I could actively check for demons, but they would know they’re being hunted. I’d rather come upon them unawares.”

“...Even if it also means that we’re unaware?”

She opened her mouth to reply, froze in place, closed her mouth, shrugged, and then lit up her horn. “This spell will help us find them within a twenty meter radius. At the very least, it will save us from opening every door.”

That made me relax, finally. “Good. That means this won’t take nearly as long.” And it meant I didn’t have to keep my guard up nearly as much. I was still definitely on alert, but I wasn’t too worried anymore.

“Somehow, it doesn’t feel to me that you’re giving this a proper sense of urgency,” she quietly said.

“Man, none of this means shit to me. Sure, demons are bad I guess, but I mean, you know, whatever. It’s just another job for me. Doesn’t mean I have to have passion for it, you know? I’d much rather be in bed right now.”

She sighed and shook her head. “You are terrible at being a hero. I wish—Stop.” We both ground to a halt and I immediately pulled my sword out. “Three doors down. Left.” Her horn stopped glowing and she eased slightly behind me.

We waited like that for nearly a minute before I started moving down the hall, keeping my sword at the ready. She followed my slow pace, making sure to keep half or so a meter of space between us. “Didn’t you say they could sense that spell?” I asked when we stood in front of the door.

“Yes. Stand to the side.” I moved to the right of the door and she took the left. When we were both situated, she blew it open with magic. Nothing happened, so I darted in, sword raised.

What I saw actually made me pause. The floor was covered in sleeping ponies. Each one was connected to some kind of demon in the middle by strange, wispy tendrils. The demon itself was purple, but each of the tendrils had a different color. All four of its eyes were closed. The thing’s face had no other features. Its arms seemed incredibly soft, almost doughy, and ended with just a stump. It had six legs and each one seemed to have far too many joints.

At the moment, it was lying down, completely unmoving. Before I could get too far into the room, a new tendril appeared and shot toward my face. I tried blocking it with the sword, but the smokey thing wrapped around it and slid up my nose. Before I hit the ground, I saw another one going over my shoulder.

I immediately ended up in a dream, not that I knew it at the time. The area around me was dark, which immediately put my mind back at the bunker in Antarctica. My body started shivering as the temperature rapidly dropped and soon I could see my breath. After several seconds, my vision acclimated enough that I could just barely see around. Sure enough, dull grey walls surrounded me, leaving me with just one direction.

I didn’t want to move with no weapons, but staying still risked me freezing to death, so I started walking, wondering how I got wherever I was. Shortly after I started moving, the world seemed to grow a few shades darker and I heard laughter all around me. I couldn’t see anything, so I kept moving.

Soon, I started hearing very heavy footfalls behind me. I looked back and didn’t see anything, so I began walking faster. The feet sped up to match me and then something started scratching the walls as well. I wanted no part of that shit, so I just started running. The laughter picked up again as the feet started truly chasing me.

We’ve all had that dream where you’re running down a long hallway being chased by some kind of indeterminate evil thing. When you think back on it, it was obvious that it was a dream. But when you’re in the moment, all you can think about is trying to stay alive. You can’t spare any processing power on abstract thinking. Unfortunately, a few years either on a battlefield or training for one took the fight or flight part of my brain and hypercharged it, meaning I was even more focused on either running or fighting. And at the moment, I was doing my best to get the absolute fuck away from whatever the hell was chasing me.

Until I tripped and landed in a brightly lit hallway. Before I could even think, I pushed myself back up and whirled around, which made me realize a few things that seemed strange for all of an instant, before things seemed to normalize. First, that I was in a school surrounded by human children. Second, that I was a guy again, if a young one. Third, that I was dressed up like one of Rarity’s dolls. The high heels were what made me trip and my face burned as the kids around me started laughing.

“Nonny’s all dressed up!” one of the boys jeered, reaching over and flipping up my dress, revealing panties and stockings underneath. “I bet she wants a boy to ask her to the dance!” I looked down and balled my fists up, making them all laugh more.

“Or she wants to get invited to a slumber party,” a girl mockingly said, grabbing and tugging on the bow on the back of the dress.

Suddenly, something grabbed me by the back of the neck and pulled me back. “That is not the dress code, Anonymous,” the principal said. “That dress is far too short and low cut!” A chair appeared out of nowhere and she sat down, then dragged me over her knee. “Watch closely, students. This is what comes from disobedience!” They all laughed and cheered as the principal pulled up the dress and started spanking me.

It was enough to make my young body start crying in frustration and pain. The tears started pooling up on the ground and my mind quickly turned them into an ocean and made everything else disappear around me.

I was freely floating in an infinite expanse of water. All I could see was the blue water and the black sky above me. Something tugged on my leg and pulled me slightly, making me shout and take in salty water. Whatever it was let me go and I started flailing, hoping to make whatever it was fuck off.

That had the opposite effect. Both of my legs got grabbed. I tried pulling up on them to break away, but the things pulled back and started dragging me under. In my panic, I started screaming some more, taking on even more water as I was drawn beneath the depths. Soon, only my hands were above the water, twitching around to try to find any purchase.

Just before my arms slid all the way under, something wrapped around one of them. “Rise, my child,” something in my head whispered, and began pulling.

As I rose out of the water, everything started clicking. I remembered who I was. I remembered what I was doing. I remembered why I was there. I remembered that I was dreaming. And finally, I remembered the one who was saving me. “Flo.”

“This watery realm gave me enough purchase in your mind to save you,” she said. “You are in a deep, deep sleep. This demon seems to be feeding off of your dreams.”

“That is my job,” I growled.

“Indeed it is. So what are you going to do about it?”

My eyes narrowed and I concentrated harder than I ever had in a dream. The demon’s will was strong. Incredibly strong. But so was my hate for it. That, mixed with Flo’s assistance, was enough to let me break into the dream anteroom. My gaze slowly moved around, taking it in.

This anteroom was purple, the same shade as the demon. There were only a few dreams in there, presumably the dreams of the ponies held captive. Each one had a solid tendril connected to it that led to a central dream, one that was a multitude of shifting colors.

“Very, very interesting,” I slowly said. “Thoughts?”

“The same as yours,” she said. “The threads need to be severed and then you likely need to enter the demon’s dream.”

As an experiment, I jumped to a random dream and tried yanking the tendril out. I could hold it, but pulling it did nothing. Same result when I tried cutting it. “Hmm.”

When I looked in the dream (which happened to be a happy one, the lucky bastard), I saw the solution. A purple spectre was haunting the dream, acting as an integral part of whatever made the pony happy.

So I jumped in and killed the fucking shit out of it before it could realize I was there. That made the dream pop, ejecting me back into the anteroom.

I have no idea if the pony woke up or if he just fell into a normal sleep. But I figured if he did wake up, I should probably find Celestia pretty quickly, on the off chance she was asleep as well.

When I thought of the great white horse queen, my head quickly turned toward a golden dream and I jumped to it. Celestia was having tea and crumpets with me and her sister. Luna and I were wearing matching rings. The dream demon was acting as a servant. That was enough of a travesty to make me immediately jump into the dream, take the tea I was about to sip, and toss it in Luna’s face. She flinched back in surprise and didn’t even think to block the small fork I was jamming into her eye.

Celestia just watched in shock as I brutally murdered the shit out of her sister, my ‘wife’. When Luna stopped twitching, I casually tossed the fork aside and teleported onto Celestia’s back, then put a knife to her neck. “So do I have your attention?” I asked.

“Nav, what… you… why?!”

“This is a dream, Celestia.”

“You murdered my sister!”

I flipped off her back and stared in her eyes. Her horn lit up, but I snapped and made the horn appear in my hand. “This. Is. A. Dream.” Understanding slowly passed between us and she gasped.

“What…” She sighed and said, “Aislin, demon of dreams.”

The demon servant walked up to us, then. “Indeed it is, Celestia. I’m quite surprised your guard was able to get to you. But I’ll be harvesting her terror again soon, don’t you worry.” The demon started reaching for me, so I threw Celestia’s horn at it, killing it and making it disappear. I immediately popped out of the dream.

“Well, this is going to get interesting,” I said, looking around the anteroom. As I did, I noticed all of the dreams darkening, so I couldn’t just look in to see what people were dreaming. That made it slightly more dangerous, but I couldn’t die and I presumably had as long as I needed.

So I picked the first black dream I saw, jumped in, and murdered the spooky skeleton that was chasing the pony. Then I jumped into the next black dream and killed a few changelings. Then another, killing Luna. Then a bunch of other things, though it got harder to tell who was the actual target when I couldn’t see the spirit unless I was looking in. I solved that by making everyone explode.

That cycle pretty much continued until I got to the last pony dream. I made sure to save a golden one for last, because I figured a happy dream wouldn’t be all too dangerous. The only real downside is that the demon would be waiting for me in the last one.

As soon as I pulled my way in, the sky instantly turned black and I landed in a metal box that immediately closed on me and started filling with acid. I made it disappear before my shoes could melt all the way and made a firebomb go off around me. That didn’t work and something landed at my feet, so I teleported several dozen meters away and looked around the landscape. I was the only one standing in a quagmire of mud and shattered trees. Nothing else was around me in any direction.

I concentrated again and with Flo’s help, quickly located the other dreamwalker. With a thought, I stood behind her and stabbed her through the back of the skull, making the dream pop. Just like that, I found myself staring at the only dream left in the anteroom. It was a grey, lifeless blob now that all the tendrils had been cut.

Before I could force my way in, the anteroom itself popped and I flinched as something woke me up. My hands immediately found my sword and I pushed myself away and pointed the sword at… Celestia, it turned out. She looked at me with some concern until I relaxed and put the sword down.

“We are all awake but the demon,” she said, looking over at the purple beast.

“I was just about to wake her, too,” I said. “Or at least kill her in her dream.”

“That would be unwise,” a new voice said. Celestia and I looked over at the grizzled stallion. Shaved ponies are few and far between, and this was one of them. He had no fur or hair, and was instead covered by some kind of poorly fitted robes. The few parts I could see of him were covered in strangely flowing tattoos. They were continued as carvings on his hooves. One of his eyes was just a glowing ball of fire, presumably replaced some time ago. All of his teeth looked like either silver or iron, so he likely lost those as well. His horn looked awfully similar to Sombra’s, so I couldn’t help but wonder if he did dark magic to bond a dragon’s tooth to his head.

Celestia looked back at me. “Navarone, this is the inquisitor, my expert on demons.”

“Coolio. So can you do magic on this thing to find its sign as well?”

“No need. The sign is directly under it. Please take care of it.” She turned to the crowd of scared ponies that were torn between staring at the demon in horror and staring at Celestia in wonder.

As she started talking to them, the inquisitor and I walked over to the demon. “As I said, it would be unwise to wake this demon,” he reiterated.

“Alright then, I won’t.” He stared at me for another few seconds, presumably waiting for more. He didn’t seem to want to be useful, so I started carefully erasing the parts of the summoning sign I could barely see under the demon’s legs. “So what’s your actual name?” I finally asked, making some attempt at being friendly.

“Because if you wake—Wait, what?”

“I asked what your name was.” All the parts of its sign that I could see were gone and its body was starting to lose its coherence. It still hadn’t moved, so I carefully pushed one of its legs aside and started removing more of the sign.

“You... aren’t interested in demonology?”

“Nah. These things are evil. My people had a philosopher that had a very relevant saying: He who fights monsters should look to it that he himself should not become a monster. Knowing more about these demons would only tempt me to fight and act like them. I’d very much prefer not following down their dark path.”

He was silent for several long seconds. “And what does that say about me, human?”

“I dunno. Celestia trusts you, so you probably aren’t the wrong brand of evil. But I don’t trust myself with that kind of knowledge, because I’d probably end up using it in all the wrong ways.” Everything under its legs was gone, so I began carefully pushing the demon across the floor. It started shaking slightly, but didn’t wake up.

“I have heard another statement. To defeat one’s enemy, you must first know them.”

“Then I’ll trust the knowing part to people that won’t misuse their knowledge.” Enough of the demon was out of the way that I could see all of the remaining parts of the sign. I have no idea what it originally looked like since all the rest was gone, but it looked kind of like a closed eye. I quickly made it look kind of like nothing, and the demon fully disappeared.

Smiles are creepy when they’re coming from a shiny metal mouth. “You are a very interesting character, Lady Navarone.”

Before I could tell him not to call me that, Celestia turned back to us. “I’ll be sending these ponies on their way soon. Inquisitor, do you believe it is safe?”

“Likely, your highness. I believe the remaining demons are on the floors above us. I ran into several of them while scouting.”

“Excellent.” She turned back to her little horses and said, “We will escort you to the stairs. From there, you will have to travel on your own.” They all started looking at each other. “The path to the exit is clear. Head straight for it and take absolutely no detours. Once outside, go directly to the guards.”

One of the older unicorns in the group took a step forward and his horn lit up. “Will you need assistance cleaning up the rest of them, Princess?” he asked. “We may not look like much, but we are all fully capable of some of the strongest magics in the realm.”

Celestia smiled but shook her head. “No, but thank you, dearest subject. These demons from Tartarus are too much for any but the strongest of unicorns to handle directly with magic, and you have all been drained for too long by the demon of dreams. You may feel fine, but you would quickly become a liability in any battle.”

He sighed and nodded. “As you command.”

Celestia looked over to me and nodded at the door. I pulled my sword back out and started walking. The inquisitor guy followed closely behind me, then the unicorns followed him. Celestia brought up the rear, her horn once again glowing.

The hallway felt a lot more alive with the sound of several hooves clattering behind me, but it made me jumpier than it should have. After so many minutes of relative silence, hearing that much noise was discomforting. But we made it to the stairwell with no issues and the unicorns went on their way, mostly relieved at escaping.

As soon as we could no longer hear their hoof falls, Celestia turned to her agent. “So which demons are we up against?”

“I saw Blisdon, Aislin, Apadiel, and Ariel. I believe Aislin was the initial demon summoned, and immediately pulled in Ariel, who proceeded to summon more. Once he got enough bait, he began writing a full summoning circle.” Celestia gasped. “As far as I could tell, he had just started when I found him at the very top of the tower. Even for someone of his power, they can take up to three days to complete.”

“And I sent you in two and a half days ago,” she said. “We need to move. Quickly. He is at the top?”

“Yes. But I believe he knows we’re coming. He certainly saw me, which is how I was captured. He may have prepared… surprises.”

Celestia sighed and shook her head. “Nav, take point. Hopefully your ring and your armor will keep you safe. But please, hurry.”

“Thank god for tree stamina,” I muttered as I started taking the stairs further up. If the dude was at the very top, I figured it would take us several minutes to get up there. “So who is Ariel?”

The inquisitor fielded that one. “He is the demon historian. He has knowledge of all signs and is one of few that has alliances between all of the factions in Tartarus. That is why he is willing to make a summoning circle.”

“Which is…?”

Celestia said, “A way of summoning up to six demons in fifteen minute intervals. It is faster overall to summon them individually, but removing a summoning circle takes six hundred and sixty-six minutes… without the aid of an artifact such as yours. But if he chooses to summon six demons of war, getting close enough to erase it might not be possible.”

“Jesus. Why the hell aren’t these things used more often? They sound super powerful, if you can curb their evil.”

“Because curbing them is difficult,” the inquisitor said. “I have summoned demons in the past. They will always try to find a way to stab you in the back.”

“And it takes great power to summon them and then keep them in check,” Celestia said. “For every day they stay summoned, the seals around their soul grow weaker. It’s possible for them to break free of your control immediately, but that’s unlikely. After six days, most can break free easily. And unsummoning them is usually quite difficult, especially if you’re distracted.”

Gotta love stupidly overpowered rings, huh? “Decent enough reasons for me,” I said with a shrug. I probably would have kept talking to pass the time, but the inquisitor was huffing and puffing and it seemed rude to try to talk to him at the moment.

The tower was fucking huge. I didn’t keep a count of the number of flights we took, but shit was pretty annoying. And worse, I needed to use my key every couple of floors to turn off some magical defense. Finally, we crested the last bit and stood before the last door. The inquisitor almost fell on the floor in relief, but thankfully held himself together.

“So this last guy is in here?” I asked. The old guy shook his head, but couldn’t really talk well at the moment. “I thought you said he was on the top floor.”

“He is,” Celestia said. “This is only the top floor accessible by this staircase. And the last floor reachable by the teleporter. There is another layer above this one, hidden in a sort of pocket dimension.”

“...Why would they put that here?” I asked, rather pointedly looking at the directory that shamelessly listed things like ‘The Magic of Hoof Reading’.

“Because nopony would expect it,” she said. “This is where the least… respectable schools of magic are. Why would anypony expect anything important to be hidden up here?”

“Makes sense.” I pushed the key into the lock hole and the door pushed on open. Celestia had been about to say something, but as soon as the door opened, her mouth just dropped. Before I could ask what was wrong, she galloped into the hall and started running faster than either of us could. “What the fuck?”

The inquisitor leapt into action, either getting over his aching legs or putting it into the back of his mind. “After her!” He bolted down the hall, trying to keep up. Since it was apparently the popular thing, I joined in. At that point, I had no idea where Celestia went. But after nearly half a minute of sprinting full tilt down the hall, the inquisitor turned to a side room, skidding to a halt in front of the door. Since he was old and tired, I was able to keep up easily enough and stopped right next to him.

We beheld the scene before us silently for what felt like a lot longer than it probably was.

Celestia had joined the throng of mares (and one female gryphon) surrounding a large pink demon that happened to be extraordinarily well-endowed. This guy was what most boring people would expect when one says ‘demon’: He was pink and had horns. A shitty mustache and a goatee both sat shamelessly on his face. His smile was full of pointed teeth. His eyes were reptilian and glowing slightly red. Two legs, two arms, a pointy tail. The only additional part that most wouldn’t expect was probably the large dick.

All the mares were clamoring around that one certain addition. Celestia, being the biggest, easily pushed her way to the forefront of that little battle.

“Alright, what the fuck,” I finally found myself saying. It wasn’t a question, or at least it wasn’t meant to be.

The demon finally noticed us. When he heard my voice, he smiled even deeper and pushed Celestia away, making her pout adorably. He started walking over, making the inquisitor back away and try pulling me with him. I shook him off and put my hand on my sword.

“There’s no need for that,” the demon said, his voice sounding silky smooth in my ears. It almost made me pull my hand away from the sword, but not quite.

“If you keep walking toward me, I’m pretty sure there definitely is,” I replied, baring an inch of steel.

By the time I could say that, it was a little bit too late. He was standing a few feet away, letting me realize he was almost half a meter taller than I was. “You’re way too beautiful to be holding weapons, babe,” he cooed, inching slightly closer. “Why don’t you put those down and let me protect you?”

“Wow, that’s a good point. Let me think for a bit...” He inched forward again, prompting me to fully pull the sword out. “Oh wait, my mistake. That’s absolute bullshit.” His smile dipped just a little bit more. “Let’s go ahead and put this one to rest. Who are you?”

That made him look insulted. “A lady of beauty, but not one of learning, I see.” For some reason, that made me even more angry. “I am Anael the beautiful! Some call me the demon of lust, but I see no need for such a title. I don’t need to be a demon for my beauty to entice others!”

Okay, so this guy’s a cunt. “Uh huh. Well, unless you want a few extra holes in you, back the fuck up off me.”

“There’s no need to play hard to get, sexy. Why don’t you stop waving that thing around before you hurt yourself?”I went ahead and cut his head off, even though I knew it wouldn’t do anything. Sure enough, his body flickered and he almost immediately reappeared whole. “See there, hun? I can protect you just fine. You should join me, you know? I can make you feel better than anything else…”

Jesus, he’s a total Chad. “How about you go fuck yourself? I think I like that option better.”

He sighed and shook his head. “You’re killin’ me here, girlie. I can’t just stand here and only look at you! You’re so pretty I just want to see you moaning.”

“As fun as that would be, I’m gonna have to pass. How about you just tell me where your summon sign is so I can let you get back to date raping succubi or something?”

“I love it when they put up a fight! How about this: You let me make you mine and if you still want me to leave, I’ll show you where the sign is.”

“No.”

His enthusiasm dipped just a little. “How about I show you where the sign is, and in return you let me stick it in before you send me back?”

“No.”

“Not even a blowie?”

“No.”

“You’re killing me here, babe!”

“That’s the plan.”

“...A kiss. And that’s my final offer.”

As tempting as it was to tell him to go fuck himself, I didn’t want him to sic his gaggle of mares on me. I also really didn’t want to risk him trying to rape me or something retarded like that. There wasn’t much of a chance that he’d succeed, but still. So instead, I made a show of thinking it over, then sighed and nodded. “Fine. One kiss. My lips on your lips.”

“With tongue.”

“No.” He pouted. “Maybe. But probably no.” He looked very conflicted for a second before smiling again and holding out his hand.

I looked at it dubiously for a few seconds before putting up my sword and shaking it. He smiled and pulled me toward him, making me almost freak out. But he just pulled me over to put his arm around me, so I settled for just shivering.

All the mares surrounded us and most were glaring at me, but none said anything. “Right this way, beautiful,” he said, starting to walk. We went into the hall, making the inquisitor back away even farther. The demon didn’t even look at him and just picked a direction to start walking. “You know, it’s weird. Most babes like you don’t even talk to me before they’re all over me. They’re fun, but the ones like you are just perfect! I love playing the game, and breaking girls like you is always the best.”

“I hope you know how much of a rapist you sound like right now.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. And once you kiss me, you won’t care anymore. It’ll be the best kiss ever and you’ll never want to kiss anyone else ever again. It’ll be perfect, like a match made in Tartarus!”

Because that doesn’t sound like the worst thing ever. “I doubt it. I don’t really like kissing.”

“Impossible. All girls love kissing.”

I mentally slapped myself before I could tell him I wasn’t like other girls. That automatically means you’re worse than the other girls, just for saying it. I wasn’t an actual girl and even I knew that. So instead I settled for saying, “Not always those that prefer the gentler sex.”

“Gentle, hard, I’ll do it however you like. Though I just know you’ll love it both ways.”

Telling him I’m a lesbian probably would damper his willingness to actually show me to his sign, so I decided to keep that one to myself.

It didn’t take him too long to get to, anyway. He pushed over the door of the gender studies room and pointed at the center of it, where a giant fedora was drawn into the floor. After looking at it for a second, I saw a lot of squiggles that looked like an H had some kind of weird mutant child with a 4 and then that child converted to Islam. Shit was weird, but that was almost definitely his sign.

“I don’t know how you’re planning on erasing it without any magic,” he said with a shrug. “But I’ll love watching you bend over to try. Now how about that kiss, hm?”

I really didn’t want to touch any part of that piece of shit, but demons have weird rules and his sign was glowing brighter than the others, so I figured there was a chance that shaking on a deal meant he couldn’t be unsummoned without the tenets of that deal being fulfilled. So I rolled my eyes and put my arms around him.

Instead of leaning down like a normal person, this guy grabbed my ass and pulled my entire body up to him to kiss me. It felt absolutely awful and his wet man meat pressed against my stomach. And he immediately started using tongue, forcing his nasty forked tongue as far into my mouth as he could get. Since it felt like he hadn’t washed his teeth in centuries, it was just outright disgusting.

I’m a nice person, so I managed to endure a full fifteen seconds of that before pushing away from the bastard. He pulled back with a smile and held me in place, probably expecting a beaming grin on my face or something.

All he got was intense disgust.

It beat into him and the smile slowly disappeared. After about ten seconds, he put me down. “So uh… how was it?” he almost timidly asked as I backed off several steps.

“Terrible. Absolutely terrible. Your hands are callused and bony, your dick is wet and just in the way, you should never invade a lady’s mouth without permission, your breath is disgusting, and your tongue tastes like refried shit. Two out of ten, would not kiss again. Please do the world a favor and consider suicide.”

“I… I don’t…”

I held up a hand. “Don’t talk back to me after what you’ve done. Go stand in that corner and think about what you did!” I pointed at a random corner. He took a very long time to process that and I kind of wondered if telling jokes to a demon was a bad idea. But I was absolutely floored when he put his head down and marched to the corner in shame. What the fuck? All the mares immediately crowded around him, some trying to comfort him and some badmouthing me.

I shook my head and started to erase the mark, but the inquisitor suddenly appeared and grabbed my hand. “While they’re touching him, he can’t be so easily removed. Give me ten minutes and I will unsummon him properly.”

“‘Kay.” He started doing his thing, so I quietly pulled out my sword and watched the demon. For five minutes, he honestly seemed to be distraught. At that point, the female gryphon offered up her cute little butt and he seemed to regain some of his luster. When he started going at it and filling her up so much that I could see her stomach bulging, he seemed much happier.

Four minutes later, he disappeared while still in the gryphoness. She fell to the floor, gaping wide. The other mares looked around the room. Most fixated on one of four things. Either me with a sword out, the gryphon with a gaping hole, the creepy inquisitor that honestly looked halfway like a demon himself, or Celestia. One of those caused blushes, two caused screams, and one caused gaping mouths.

Once they all finished blushing at my sexy body, Celestia took charge. “My fellow mares, I’m afraid we’ve all been under a curse. We’ve all likely had… things done to us.” They all looked at the female gryphon, who appeared very pained. “But we are strong. We will persevere, even if a demon took advantage of us. And right now, I need you to keep yourselves together. The way is clear to the exit and we do not have time to accompany you. You’ll have to gather the courage to escape together.”

It took them a few minutes to put up the will to do so, which was understandable after what they went through. I have no idea if they remembered any of it or not, and I didn’t know which would be worse. Celestia actually put a ward up around their group, which made them all feel much safer.

When they were gone, Celestia sighed and lowered her head.

“So yeah, that one was particularly evil,” I said, patting her on the back. “I’m convinced. These things are assholes.”

“That is little consolation,” she sighed as her ears flattened against her head. “That beast is disgusting.”

“Yeah, he seemed a little on the rapey side,” I said. “Dude made my skin crawl.” She sighed again. “How did he even affect you, anyway? I thought you had some kind of magical defense or something.”

“Pheromones,” the inquisitor said. “I am very surprised you were not affected, my lady.”

“Don’t call me that. And I’m a lesbian. I guess it doesn’t work on girls that munch carpet.”

“Or it just doesn’t work on humans,” Celestia said, finally regaining some of her composure. “We must press on. Ariel likely knows we are coming.”

“So what kind of skills does he have?” I asked when we went into the hall.

“Nothing too offensive,” the inquisitor said. “He is just a historian and a diplomat, though I believe he has some magic.”

“He can definitely bore you to death,” Celestia said. Her horn lit up and she started walking left. “With luck, we’ll just go up there and erase his sign.”

“Can we smack him around a little first?” I asked. “I really wanted that day off.”

“We’ll talk it over up there.” The three of us walked up to the large window at the end of the hall, Celestia in the lead. “Here we are.”

“Oh, so we get to go home?” I asked. “Though I thought you were above jumping out windows.” Neither of them laughed, so I just rolled my eyes. Celestia pressed her horn against the glass and it started tearing open. Soon, it all disappeared entirely and a hole in reality showed up. Since I had a really good feeling my ring would make me walk face first into glass, I went ahead and removed it.

Neither of them seemed to want to make the first move, so I pulled my sword back out and ran through. Thankfully, I didn’t smash my face on the glass. Or worse, smash through it. Although given where I ended up, both might have been preferable.

I stood in a strangely windy open void of nothingness. There was no ground, no sky, no walls. Whatever I stood on wasn’t even solid, though I could still walk. And I could still roll, which I had to do immediately since something was swinging a mace at me.

When I recovered, I barely had time to deflect a spear thrust, then block a mace, which threw me several feet back. That finally gave me enough time to actually study my attackers. One was either covered head to toe in metal or was actually made of metal. His four legs carried his weight very evenly. One of his four arms carried a mace, one carried an axe, and two carried shields. The one next to him was some malformed cat person. She looked several times more bestial than Kat and had a very long spear in both of her hands. While I was studying her, she thrust it forward, just barely holding onto the back edge to give herself more room.

I jumped up and lifted my sword. Thankfully, Celestia shot some kind of lightning into the metal guy, which pushed his aggro onto her. The spear flying toward me was blocked by a flying card, which completely stopped the movement of the spear. She turned to face the inquisitor, who happened to have dozens of cards like it floating around him, all held in place by his magic.

A quick look around the void showed me that there were only three demons present. Two were fighting and one was standing in front of a massive glowing circle of runes. He wasn’t paying any attention to us and seemed to be slowly drawing shapes in the air. Since that was the threat I could actually do something about, I hopped back to my feet.

“Celestia, sword!” I tossed it into the air and then ran, without even looking to see if she got it. The big bad dude was several meters away, probably so he could buy himself an extra few seconds if anyone broke through.

Those extra seconds didn’t do him any good. I tackled the motherfucker onto the summoning circle. While I was on top of him, I was able to study him a lot better. This guy was yellow and covered in a robe. Each hand had ten fingers and it felt like he had two legs under the robe, though both bent the wrong way. His beard and eyebrows were flowing down the floor. He had three mouths, each of which had different kinds of teeth, one sharp, one dull, and one with strange whale-like things. Both eyes were stark white.

“It’s time for you guys to go home,” I said, followed by punching him in the face.

He didn’t try to block it at all. “I disagree,” he slowly said in what was probably the most boring, nasally voice I’ve ever heard. I don’t know how he managed to make a nasally voice without a nose, but he did. “Nestorats threatens us all. We deserve to be free from her curse.”

“And I think that your problems aren’t ours.” I stood up, dragging him with me, and then tossed the frail bastard aside. “So let’s make this little thing go bye bye.” Whatever the ‘ground’ under us was made from, it didn’t stop me from erasing the marks with my foot. The whole thing was an outer circle, followed by a string of random squiggles, followed by an inner circle, then four more squiggles. On both sides were two more marks. One was a fucked up looking pound sign and one looked like two cursive Ks fucking two cursive Ls.

Shit was weird and I soon stopped paying attention to what I was erasing. When half of it was gone, the light on the remaining runes started flickering, but the sounds of fighting continued behind me. I redoubled my efforts and quickly erased the rest of it. The sounds of battle disappeared and the other two joined me, breathing deeply.

“So that was a summoning circle, huh?” I asked, taking the floating sword from Celestia’s magic grip.

“It was,” the inquisitor confirmed. “He managed to summon Marchosias, the demon of battle, and Miczariel, the warrioress. Interesting choices, but they’re both excellent fighters.”

“Well, they went down like bitches,” I said, choosing to ignore the part where I almost got killed. “So where’s your sign?” I turned over to where I threw Ariel and he wasn’t there. “Oh. Where’d he go?”

“What do you mean?” Celestia asked. “You were supposed to watch him!”

“Hey, did you want that summoning circle gone or not? You had my sword and I wanted to get rid of those two fighter bastards. You’re the big stupidly powerful princess. Why didn’t you watch him?”

“Because I was cleaning up your—This is pointless! Inquisitor, did you see him?”

“No, your highness. But we should find him quickly, before he manages to hide and summon more assistance.”

“Well, he can’t exactly hide in this freaky void place,” I said, putting my sword away. “If we can’t see him, that means he’s back in the damn tower.”

Celestia started galloping that way, so we hurried to follow. She had to stop when she got to the entrance to the void, so we were able to catch up. When all three of us were ready, she lowered her horn and reopened it. I was the first one through again, due to having armor. The demon guy was at the very end of the long hall, writing something on the ground.

Before I could rush him, something started rising out of the ground midway between us. I skidded to a halt and pulled out my sword when what I realized was a demon started burning. Soon, it stood fully between us, staring at my little group with hate in her fiery eyes.

“You refused to listen,” Ariel said. “So I will show you what you have forced upon us. Nestorats, I bind thee!” Some kind of yellow haze covered the fire elemental. “Kill the biped!”

Oh balls. She held up a hand and a burning glaive appeared in it. With a very practiced ease, she fell into a fighting stance.

I fucking booked it. Celestia and the inquisitor had finally gotten out of the portal and were starting to notice that shit was fucked. Before Celestia could try to help me, some kind of lightning shot over my shoulder at her. She just barely got a shield up in time to deflect it. I quickly got to them.

“Nav, what are you doing?!” Celestia yelled, turning away from the historian to stare at me in horror.

“Running! Kill that bastard!” We both chanced a look down the hall, where the fire demon was very rapidly running after me. My eyes opened wide and I continued running past them, to the window. When I got there, I stopped and pulled my sword out.

“End of the line, I suppose,” I said to myself, turning to face the elemental. “I don’t reckon you’d want to talk?”

She didn’t even grace it with an answer. Her glaive shot directly toward me. I barely managed to deflect it, knocking sparks into the air. The fire around her weapon seemed to dim very greatly when my sword hit it, which gave me a small amount of hope. Hopefully, she would get a lot weaker if I actually managed to hit her.

Unfortunately, her arms were long and her glaive was longer, so she really had the advantage unless I wanted to try to get close to her burning body. She didn’t waste time pulling her weapon back, she just swung it at me, making me jump back and immediately press against the window. Since I had literally nowhere else to run, I went on the attack, moving forward and swinging my blade at her.

She almost contemptuously knocked it aside and tried another thrust. I barely dodged and swung down at her hands. She blocked with the butt of her glaive, then pushed back, pressing me back against the glass. Before I could recover, she spun it at me again in an overhead attack. I used both hands to block it, though it hit the glass behind me and put a large hole in it.

There was no way I’d have enough strength to push her back, so I forced her blade aside and then swung under it, toward her body. She jumped back, giving me a little breathing room. I pressed the advantage and tried stabbing up. Once again, she deflected it, then tried going after my legs with her blade. I managed to jump back one more time, letting her fall back into a fighting stance for a moment.

I finally had a chance to really study her, not that it did me much good. Both her arms and her legs ended in talons. Her arms had an extra joint each, and it looked like her legs had two. Both of her eyes glowed a bright yellow. Instead of teeth, her mouth just had fire gouting out like it was coming from a torch. The parts of her that weren’t burning orange were blackened from fire. The top of her head was just more fire, though I could barely see two horns poking out of the flames.

All in all, the bitch was pretty intimidating.

When I was done molesting her with my eyes, she moved forward again, pressing the attack. This time, she tried swinging her glaive from my left. I barely got my sword up in time to block it, and more of the glass behind me shattered. She pulled it back and tried from the right, which I also blocked and which shattered even more glass.

Finally, she did what I wanted her to: Thrusted dead on. I barely dodged it in time and the rest of the window shattered. I grabbed the glaive before she could pull it back and thrust myself out the window. Before she could even think to let go, we were both in the open air.

But before I could drop her, she yanked on the glaive, pulling me down, then grabbed one of my legs. There was no way I could carry both of us. She may have been made mostly of flames, but she was still fucking heavy. Also, she was made mostly of flames and that shit was fucking hot.

Once she got a hold of me, she dropped her weapon and tried pulling me closer. I punched her over and over with my free hand while the hand with the sword tried getting it at an angle to stab her. There was no way I’d survive the landing attached to her, if I even made it to the bottom to begin with.

The tower isn’t exactly a small place, so I had just long enough to finally push her away enough to stab her, even while she was scratching and burning me. When my blade pierced her burned hide, she screeched, which pushed even more flames onto me, though their intensity very quickly lowered and her grip around me loosened to the point where I could kick her off, pulling out my sword in the process.

She continued to the ground and I just barely got my wings up in time to avoid being pancaked. Instead, I landed a few meters away and nearly collapsed from the pain of the scratches and burns all over my face.

Unfortunately, I had almost no time to really recover. Her body spasmed a few times and then glitched to become whole. The flames instantly renewed and she jumped back to her feet. Her glaive flew from where it had landed dozens of meters away and fell into her hands. She readied it and charged me.

Being out of the hallway was both good and bad. Good because I had more room to back away and all I really needed to do was survive long enough for Celestia to remove this thing’s sign. Bad because it gave her more room to swing her long weapon, which was her main advantage.

The first strike was another overhead one that I jumped away from. It hit the dirt and then turned sideways to throw some dirt at me. I blocked the dirt with a wing and then jumped back again before she could try stabbing me. As tempting as it was to run, I had a feeling she was a lot faster and could easily chase me down. But I figured if I could get enough distance between us, I could at least take off and see what she’d try doing if I flew away.

Since her dirt did nothing, she darted forward and tried a fast stab. I thrust myself to the side and swung low, trying to catch one of her arms. She jerked her body up, barely evading the blow, and used the butt of her blade to push me back out of my range. That told me that she knew exactly what my sword was capable of and didn’t want to be hit by it.

So I backed up a few steps and then feinted forward. She tried blocking the sword, but didn’t catch the throwing knife that embedded itself in her side. I didn’t wait to see how she would take it, and lifted my wings to take off.

As it turned out, waiting to see how she would take it would have been a very good idea, because she took it pretty fucking well. As soon as I lifted my wings, she threw her glaive over my left shoulder and sliced one of my wings in half. It started hurting before the severed half could even hit the ground. By the time it did, my entire body started pulsing and I felt nothing at all. Some kind of blue filter came over my eyes and I heard a faint whispering.

She was weaponless and I had a very pressing and immediate need to put her down before I started bleeding out. So I jumped in and started cutting. The first attack missed. She tried grabbing my arm on the second swing, but I slashed that arm with a naga dagger that I didn’t even remember pulling. Her hand jerked back and I cut off one of her arms with the sword. She screamed in pain as the fires around her body started dying down.

I started to slam my blade into her main body, but some kind of force stopped me. After a few seconds, realization came to me and I knew that if I killed her, she would regenerate. But before I put my blade down, she came to the same realization and thrust her body onto it, killing herself.

Reality around her body glitched again and she reappeared a meter away, once again fully healed. Her glaive appeared in her hands and she finally smiled as she turned to me. My body wearily fell into a stance, though I knew there was no way I’d survive for long against her at that point.

And she was done playing around, too. She actually jumped forward, swinging her blade in a massive arc. I barely blocked it, but doing so in my weakened state threw me to the ground. She started laughing and lifted her blade for one more swing, one that I knew I couldn’t block even if I could get my sword up.

When her blade came down, it met a glowing pink shield. Shining Armor skidded to a halt in front of me and yelled, “Pull him back!” Two sets of hooves grabbed me and started dragging me away as the demon pounded the shield. “All unicorns, use ice magic!” Several dozen spikes of ice started slinging into that bitch. She blocked the first few, but there were far too many for her to stop them all.

I knew they’d kill her very quickly at that rate, so I did my best to find my voice. “Shiny, stop!”

He didn’t question it for a second. “Cease fire!” All the magic immediately stopped. “Squads one and two, shield!” A shield went up over the wounded demon, one that probably wouldn’t last long. “Three, get Nav back to medical!” The guards that were dragging carefully picked me up and draped me over a back. One of them grabbed my severed wing and carried it almost reverently. “Four and five, if it moves, ice it.” The group carrying me started cantering over to a tent set up away from the main shield, outside the perimeter.

Flo may have been a lot more powerful outside of her cage and in her element, but I knew she’d only be able to stop the pain for so long. So with that in mind, I let her pull me into a very uneasy slumber.

 
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