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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183. Chapter One Hundred and Forty-Nine Part 1

For one moment, it seemed that the entire world was silent. The flapping of our wings, the thunder in the distance, the ominous sound of wind spewing from the volcano… It all went silent for one single moment.

And then the noise came back, upset at the time it had lost. Spike began roaring in anger. Avian shrieks of pain started emanating from the volcano. Blood pounded in my skull and my ears. Horrible cackling came from the mage.

Before I knew it, my group landed behind them. They didn’t hear us over the other noises, somehow. Since I had a moment, I slid a gauntlet off and put my ring on. By the time I replaced the glove, Gilda’s agonising screams were silent. It sounded like Spike was crying.

I began advancing. My sword was in my hand, though I don’t remember drawing it. Zecora flanked me on my left and Spike on my right. The kobolds finally turned to us, smug smiles on their hideous reptilian faces. Those smiles took serious dips when they saw us.

The mage stepped forward and began speaking, but stopped when I pointed my sword at him. His eyes narrowed and he waved a hand at me. Nothing happened and I continued advancing. What would have been his eyebrows lifted and he thrust his staff toward me.

Each of his guards drew their weapons, two daggers made from bones. They began circling away from the mage, one walking left and one right. My escorts broke off to face them, leaving me standing against the mage.

He smashed his staff into the rock and left it standing there. He held the hand that had his staff next to the weapon at his side. It detached from its holster and floated to his hand. The head of the metal axe he now held lit up with fire for a moment before just glowing a bright red.

His face twisted into a dark grin as he held the axe up in front of him. When I finally got before him, he recklessly swung his fire axe forward, expecting its magic to deal with me easily. I casually blocked it with my ice sword. Steam appeared where they met and his mouth dropped.

While he was surprised, I kicked him in the chest. He flew half a meter back and hit the ground hard. As small as he was, I’m surprised he didn’t fly all the way back into the volcano. He staggered to his feet before I could completely close the distance and the hand without the axe shot toward me, presumably trying more magic. Nothing happened, so I finally swung my sword at him.

His axe barely lifted in time to block it and more steam shot into the air. He pushed back with what little strength he had and then ducked under the swing and darted forward to try chopping at me again. I spun to the side and clubbed him on the top of his skull with my pommel.

His body hit the dirt again. This kobold’s strength was very obviously in his magic, not his fighting ability. And even if it was, I was taller than him, had a much longer reach with a much longer weapon, and I surprised him by having a weapon that was just as magical as his.

The mage groaned and started to sit up again. I walked to his side and kicked him in the ribs. He gasped as all the air was knocked out of him and he fell back, the hand without the axe clutching at his chest. I finally stepped on the arm that had the axe and increased the weight on him until he was forced to let go.

Once he was defenseless, I sheathed my sword and bent down to grab him by the throat. At that point, he knew his only hope was to beg, so he began trying to speak again. I tightened my grip until he couldn’t force words out, then started dragging him. He tried tearing at my hand with his claws, but he couldn’t find any purchase on my armor.

“Nav, this is wrong,” Flo said, trying to calm my internal storm.

I stopped dragging him.

“He’s helpless. He can’t hurt you!”

I lifted him up.

“He’s obviously important to the kobolds, Nav. You can prevent more bloodshed!”

The kobold realized that he was above the lava pit and his struggling ceased. His reptilian eyes met mine and I thought I saw something in them. Something familiar.

“Killing him will not bring back Gilda!”

What I saw in his eyes was hope.

“No, it won’t.”

I dropped him.

“But it will serve as a lesson.”

Flo had no reply.

When I turned back to the others, I found the two kobolds on the ground. Spike had his claws on one’s neck and Zecora had a hoof on the head of the other.

Before I could tell them to kill the prisoners, the mage started screaming in pain. The two kobold prisoners began quietly crying. Since lava is a little bit hot, it didn’t take too long for the screams to cease. I began walking forward, but stopped when I stepped on something. It was the axe the guy I just killed dropped. He wasn’t going to be needing it, so I knelt down to take it.

“What should we do with these two?” Zecora asked when I stood back up.

The axe lit up with flames as I thought about killing them. It continued burning while I walked closer to them. The kobolds saw that and began shaking in fear, since they presumably knew what it meant. I didn’t want to make Spike a murderer, so I lifted the axe to do the job myself.

Before I could swing down, we all heard something very raspy coming from the volcano. I had no clue what the hell it was. I hadn’t heard anything like that before. It increased in volume and soon I heard something scraping as well. Zecora and Spike looked at each other. I lowered the axe and walked back to the edge to look in.

A mostly skeletal griffin was climbing the side of the volcano. My feet backed me away from the edge and I looked up. A few seconds later, I walked back forward and looked down again, just to be sure.

As the thing climbed, its body began healing. I watched its brain knit itself back together through empty eye sockets. Talons started growing at the end of its skeleton arms. Once its lungs were fully regenerated, the rasping sound became horrible laughter. Skin slowly stitched down its body. Two motes of fire took the place of its eyes. Once the body was complete, feathers and fur began spreading until Gilda was whole once again.

When the last little bit was back in place, she pulled herself over the edge with a mighty heave. “This body is unique,” the fire elemental said with Gilda’s beak. Now that he had a moment of peace, he was able to look himself over. “I believe I like it.”

“Are you Blaze?” I asked.

“I am… Navarone, is it? Her mind is addled.” The flames in her eye sockets turned several colors before settling back on orange.

“I am Navarone, yes. Do you know what I am?”

Gilda’s head tilted slightly and he looked around the mountaintop. His fiery eyes took in Zecora and Spike and their two charges before meeting mine again. “According to her memories, you are a human. But that is inaccurate. Humans are dead. And they did not have wings.”

“Not all of us are. Do you know why I am here?”

“I do not. This… bird-cat I am in was not graced with an abundance of intelligence, nor a large memory. She is a perfect host. And human or not, you will make a good servant. Being able to touch the world again will be nice.”

“Well, you’re definitely gonna get your wish. But if you think I have any intention of being your servant, you are very misguided.”

His eyes went red. “Do not make me teach you a lesson.”

“See that ship over there?” I asked, pointing at my flying fortress. His eyes followed my fingers and beheld it. “That ship is home to thirteen water elementals.” His flame eyes turned bright yellow and his head shot back my way. “Yes, I am here to free you.”

“After all this time… I’m to be freed!” The flames dimmed for a moment and turned blue. “But why would the water elementals help me?”

“Chaos still lives. He killed off most of humanity. He killed off most of the elementals. He’s destroyed a lot more since then. The waters and I are of the opinion that he should be stopped. So we’re finding all the allies we can. I assume you want revenge.”

“More than anything!” he growled. “But I won’t be a slave to a watery tart!” The flames around his eyes grew and went right back to red. “Never again!”

“I ain’t asking you to be a slave. I’m asking you to be an ally. You don’t have to follow orders, but you have to stay with us and help us beat Chaos.”

“...Do you believe he can be beaten?”

“I believe that we have to try.”

He started chuckling and his eyes lost their red hue. While he was doing that, Spike cleared his throat and asked, “Is Gilda okay?”

“Now’s not the time, Spike,” I said.

Thankfully, Blaze didn’t take too long to come to a decision. “Very well, Navarone. I will cast my lot with you. Never let it be said a fire turned away from a fight! After spending so long with those watery nuisances, I’m sure you’ll be aching to see a real warrior in action!”

“I actually met a sister of yours,” I said. “Nestorats.” The motes of fire shrank so far that for a second, I thought they actually went out. “I assume you’ve heard of her.”

“Is she… is she with you?” he weakly asked.

“Not yet. We have one more to get before we seek her out. I really hope you and the other fire we rescue can convince her not to try killing me this time.”

“I’d sooner date a water than even try talking her down.” That’s interesting wording, given what Mist said. His eye flames returned to their normal size and he shrugged. “But that’s an issue for the future. Maybe my sister will be happy to see me again.”

“Dude, I fucking doubt it.”

“If I could breathe, I wouldn’t be holding my breath. Now bring your waters forward to free me from this volcanic prison. I long to tear my way across the world again.”

“Before I do that, I have two questions.” His flames rolled. “Is that kobold mage going to come crawling out of this thing too?”

“He served his purpose.”

I’m gonna take that as a no. “Is Gilda still… I don’t know, alive or whatever? Like, can she take back over?”

“She could.”

“Will her eyes grow back?”

“That is three questions.”

“Can we not do the fucking bullshit dick measuring? Woop-dee-doo, you’re a fire elemental and a warrior and what the fuck ever. Don’t be a piece of shit. Either answer the question or don’t. I don’t need your bullshit attitude.”

One of Gilda’s talons clenched, tearing into the rock under it. “Pride was the downfall of humanity.”

“Yeah, so you better learn from our mistakes and stop being so proud. If you’ll recall, you are the one that got yourself locked in a volcano in the first place.”

He launched himself at me, but something grabbed his tail and held him back. I looked behind him and saw Flo holding him steady. “Please do not antagonize our long lost cousin so heavily, Nav,” she said. “He has had a very rough time of things.”

“Release me, water,” he growled.

She did not release him. “To answer your question, her eyes will grow back. I imagine this is a side effect of being burned almost to death. When she takes back over, she might immediately go into shock. Gilda loves the tough girl act. We’ll soon find out how much of that is real and how much of it is bluster.”

“Oh, it’s very real,” the fire said. “She is a fighter. Even now, she’s trying to take back over. But I am far more powerful.”

“Hm.” Flo looked at me and said, “The village is currently offering no resistance. Rarity is speaking with the chieftain now. I do not know how they will react when you return without their mage.”

“How pissed is Aqua?”

“She does not know. This volcano is poisoning you and Zecora, Nav. You need to get off of it.”

“That is a very good idea. Spike, you’re in charge of these two for now.” He grabbed the one he was holding by an arm and dragged him to Zecora, who released her prisoner to him. “You can fly down if you want. I’m walking down with Zecora and Flo.”

“I am remaining here,” Flo said. She still hadn’t released Gilda’s body. “I wish to have a short conversation with Blaze before my sisters join us.”

“I have no interest in speaking to you, water,” he said.

“I assumed your long time of imprisonment would endear you to the idea of conversation.” She shrugged. “No matter. You do not need to reply, you just need to listen. I will see you soon, Navarone.” Her eyes found mine and she flashed red for an instant. “And we will also have a conversation when I do.”

Oh boy, here we go… Zecora and I started walking down the steps that the kobolds carved into the volcano. Surprisingly, Spike followed us instead of flying down. “So what are we gonna do with these two?” Spike asked.

“Leave ‘em here,” I said with a shrug. “We came here for the fire. The waters are interested in the kobolds, not me.”

“What if they’re mad about… you know, the whole killing their mage thing?”

“Well, I’m pretty mad about the whole killing my griffin thing.”

“...She got better.”

“Their mage ain’t gonna get better. More their problem than mine.”

Zecora snorted. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, Navarone.”

“I’d rather live in a blind world that ain’t tryin’ to kill no one than a half-blind one that’s still runnin’ around throwing people into fucking volcanoes. I feel bad about some of the people I’ve killed. That mage ain’t one of them.”

“Perhaps,” Zecora quietly said. “When I finally got revenge on those who wronged me, it felt immensely satisfying. For a day. Then I realized what it truly meant. I cannot celebrate the deaths of any, even deaths of those who wronged me. I felt good in the beginning, but now I only feel a lingering hollowness.”

“I’m not celebrating his death. I thought he killed a friend of mine, so I killed him. There is no celebration here, there is simple tit for tat. And that’s all the talking about it I’m interested in doing.”

“It’s hard for you to understand, Zecora,” Spike said. “You aren’t like us. To a predator, killing is like…” He paused for a second to think. “It’s like… I don’t really know how to describe it.”

“A rush,” one of the kobolds said, the first words I had heard any of them speak. His voice was very raspy. But to be fair, mine was as well, from all that time spent standing in the heat of the volcano.

“Exactly!” Spike said. His voice wasn’t raspy at all. But then, I wasn’t exactly surprised that dragons have better heat resistance. “Killing gives us a rush.”

“Which is why your friend was thrown into a volcano,” Zecora said. “Which is why the mage then followed him. Rising above your predatory nature is important. Killing may give you a rush, but down that road lies darkness and death. You believed the mage killed your friend, so you killed him. What will you do if the mage’s friends try to kill you?”

“Try to kill them right back!” Spike happily said.

“And then their friends are angry and try to kill you. Violence begets violence, until you are all that is left. Forgiveness has to begin somewhere, unless you want to spend your life fighting. And in my experience, those who live by the sword often die by the sword.”

“Such a death is worth dying,” the other kobold said.

“Nav said I can’t use a sword anymore, so I won’t be living by that now,” Spike replied. “But that’s okay. I have fire and teeth and claws!”

“I’d rather fight to protect my friends than do nothing and let them die,” I said. “If that means avenging them instead, so be it. It just so happened that Gilda was a little bit less dead than I thought.”

“You do not see the… irresponsibility in that?” Zecora slowly asked.

“Look, the dude’s dead. Talking about it isn’t going to unkill him, Zecora.

“It might prevent another wrongful death.” Who said it was wrongful?

I sighed and ran a gauntleted hand down my face. It removed a lot of soot I hadn’t even realized was there. “If I had known Gilda was still alive, I wouldn’t have killed him. But if he hadn’t tried killing her, this wouldn’t even be a problem. The question shouldn’t be ‘why did you kill him’, it should be ‘why was he throwing a visitor into a volcano’. Way I figure, if a dude is rude enough to throw guests into volcanos, he’s probably a piece of shit in other aspects in life, too. Talks during movies, puts his nasty feet up on your clean couch, takes credit for things other people do, and it just generally an asshole. And honestly, you can’t fix an asshole. All you can do is cut them out of your life. So I did. Look, I bet when we get down to the village, they’re going to be thanking me.”

Somehow, I had a feeling that probably wasn’t going to be the case. Judging by Zecora’s silence, she was also fairly doubtful.

A squad was waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs. Two were watching the villagers, several of whom were staring up at us. The soldier looking for us saluted when we got to the bottom. “Everything’s going alright so far, ma’am,” he said. “How’s Gilda?”

“Crispy, but alive,” I replied. “Flo’s talking with her now. Apparently, the fire elemental we’re here to pick up is in this volcano and saved her before she burned all the way.”

He winced and the ears of the other two fell. “So the mage…?”

“Joined Gilda in the volcano. Apparently the fire elemental didn’t see a need to save him.”

“...Well then.” He looked behind himself at the village for a moment before looking back to me. “Orders, ma’am?”

“We’re going to join Watcher and Rarity. Spike, let them go.” Spike released the two kobolds, who darted away from us and into the crowd.

“Are you sure you should stay here, ma’am?” he asked. “After… that?”

“If something is going to happen, it is going to happen soon,” I replied. “I would rather be here for whatever may come. Lead the way.”

He saluted for a short moment before turning back to his two squadmates. “Lead the way through.” They started walking into the crowd, who very hastily moved to let us through. “Please stay close, my lady.”

I’m better armed and armored than all three of you. But it was his job to worry about my safety, so I did as he asked and walked right next to him. Spike and Zecora continued flanking me. The end result of all that is that I felt perfectly at ease walking through the village. I didn’t really think I needed to watch my surroundings for danger, so I did it out of curiosity instead.

None of the kobolds around us were wearing clothes, unsurprisingly. A few had piercings, but nothing too intensive. What I thought were the males were just slightly taller and more slim than the females. Each had a short, stubby tail. They were all covered in scales and most were either green or orange, with a few variations and mixtures here and there. They had elongated snouts full of sharp teeth. Their arms ended in long claws that had scary looking talons. Each foot had claws that were about as long as the ones on their arms, though the talons on those were mostly rubbed down from walking all the time.

The village was very practical. It didn’t look like they wasted much time on decorating anything. From the look of their teeth and the lack of any farming implements, I assumed they were a purely carnivorous race. That meant they probably didn’t have much time to spend decorating. Half the huts looked like they were supported by bone instead of wood, tied with cured ligaments instead of ropes, and roofed with leather instead of thatch or tile. Several of the females watched us from windows, spears clutched in their hands. A few males stared at us from rooftops, unstrung bows at their sides.

Every single villager not staring at us from buildings were staring at us from the dirt roads next to the buildings. We were also being followed by a large crowd. I most certainly did not feel welcome and as I saw a kobold in another building sharpening stone spearheads, I suddenly felt very concerned for Zecora’s safety. She was the only one of us not covered in armor and I couldn’t help but wonder how she felt.

The good news is that we probably would have been just as unwelcome if the mage was still alive. After all, I imagine none of the kobolds had ever seen another sapient race before. Now they had ponies, a dragon, a human, and a bunch of watery things to look at. Realizing you’re not alone in the world is a scary thing, sometimes. I was hoping it wouldn’t turn into a complete bloodbath, but that was still very much a possibility.

“It wouldn’t be, if you hadn’t murdered their mage,” Flo angrily muttered in the back of my head.

Well gee, Flo, if only there were a bunch of life-loving undying entities standing nearby that could have intervened to save my friend from being thrown into a volcano.

She did not reply.

The village was not all that huge. It seemed that the chieftain or whatever was in the center of it. About two or three minutes after we started walking, a water elemental spun her way through the crowd to get to us. Brook plopped herself down in front of me and regained her form before hugging me. Turns out, it wasn’t meant for comfort or anything like that; her body hugged mine and then surged over it. She engulfed Zecora next, and that’s when I realized that she was cleaning all the soot off of us. She hit Spike last and then reformed back in front of me.

“How is Gilda, Nav?” she asked, taking the hand of mine that was not holding the axe in both of hers. I don’t know why she did that, but I let her hold it.

“Alive, no thanks to your sisters. And no thanks to me, for that matter. Blaze saved her while she was in the lava.” She turned a much darker blue. “I would like to speak to you later about Mist and Naiad.”

She sighed and looked away. “It is… time I spoke to them. Until recently, I was in no position to do it.” She looked back at me and one of her hands moved to my face. “But you reminded me who I was supposed to be,” she said, her eyes going light pink. “Do you trust me to speak to them?”

“I do. But if they pull this kind of shit again, I’m going to be very pissed at them and disappointed in you.”

“I understand.” She pulled both hands back and looked over my shoulder, at the mountain towering over the village. “So Blaze is in there.”

“He is. Are all the waters here now?”

“Most of us. I am working on getting the rest here now. We should be capable of freeing him soon.”

“Excellent. I am quite eager to move on.”

“Understandable. I assume if he saved Gilda, he took her as a host. Did you get to speak with him?”

“I did. He was under the impression that I would make a good servant. His tune changed slightly when I told him I had thirteen water elementals. Then he was being a dick, but I don’t play that game and told him to quit his shit. He wasn’t appreciative of that.”

“No, he wouldn’t be. I did not know Blaze. Mist says he was a younger one, which likely means he’ll be more impetuous. Hopefully she will temper him. If not, I might have to put him in his place.”

“Sounds kinky.” She rolled her eyes. “If you need to borrow my sword, let me know.”

“That likely will not be necessary.”

“...Likely?”

“Do you need me to show you were the others are? I believe Rarity is still speaking to their leader.”

“Nah, my guys know the way.”

She nodded. “Then I shall gather up my sisters and work on freeing him. I would like you to be there when it is time. I believe it fitting for a human to be present at the first meeting between water and fire in so long.”

“Of course, Brook. Flo will let me know when it’s time.”

“I will see you then, Nav.” She carried on her way, through the crowd of villagers that had formed up behind us. My soldiers continued walking onward, once again moving us into the heart of the village.

When we got there, we found more armored soldiers. All of these were females, wearing armor made from bones and scales and holding fairly basic spears. Each had a small pack of throwing spears with them. They surrounded a hut with a relatively high roof, upon which perched unarmored male soldiers with bows. Every one of them was staring at the axe I had in my hand. Through the windows, I could see some of my soldiers.

My squad led the way up to the front door, which was open. The one guard in front of it tapped her spear on the ground when we got there. A servant stepped out and placed a claw on her shoulder. They both stood aside and nodded at us, though the soldier was still staring right at the axe.

Not even this hut was that large. As soon as I stepped in, I could hear Rarity softly speaking. We followed the sounds of her voice right to her and Watcher. The rest of his troops were in another room, cooling their hooves and waiting for shit to hit the fan.

The chieftain was a male, I think. Given that all their frontline soldiers seemed to be female, that actually surprised me. He had much more extensive piercings. Most of them were bone, but a few looked like they might have been gold and some were glass. He also appeared fairly young, though I obviously wasn’t the best at judging their ages.

As soon as he saw me, he held up a claw, stopping Rarity’s speech about friendship or generosity or whatever. “What are you?” he asked. “And why do you have that axe?”

“I am a human and I killed your mage.” Rarity’s mouth dropped and Watcher seemed to ease back a little.

“Oh.” He looked back at Rarity and coldly said, “Continue.”

If she wasn’t surprised before (she was), that definitely shocked her (even more). “I… I… What? Nav, you… What?”

“I believe she’s asking why you aren’t concerned with me killing your mage,” I said.

The chieftain looked back at me. “If I thought I could, I would kill you where you stand. But on this day, the sky brings visitors, the fire-rock was given a brand new being as a sacrifice, several new beings show us more powers than we ever believed possible, and legends so ancient we only have rock carvings of them returned to us. You murdered my friend and stole his axe and for that I would carve you in twain and throw you in the great deep. But I must live to guide us through these times.”

“Oh. Well, the being your friend threw in the volcano happened to be a friend of mine. So I threw him in right behind her.”

“Gilda’s dead?” Rarity gasped.

“No, actually. The fire elemental saved her. She got a little bit crispy, but she’s fine now.”

“So what’s the plan?” Watcher asked.

“Head back to the ship,” I said with a shrug. “The waters are doing their thing now and there’s no reason for us to be here anymore.”

“Yes ma’am. I’ll get my soldiers and Rarity out.”

“Good. Spike, fly Zecora out again.”

“You got it!”

The kobold punched the closest wall. “What about us?!”

“What about you?” I asked. Watcher was already walking out and using magic to herd Rarity next to him.

“You killed our mage, stole a holy artifact, and now you’re just leaving?!”

I looked over at Spike for a second. He shrugged at me. I looked back to the kobold and also shrugged. “Um. Yeah. I mean, what did you expect?” His eyes very rapidly went bloodshot and his claws clenched tightly. Since he didn’t have an answer, I started walking out. I’m actually surprised we all got to the doors without anyone getting attacked. We wasted no time getting up and into the air. All of Watcher’s soldiers were already flying back, each carrying their squad’s earth pony. The unicorns presumably teleported back.

When we got to the deck, Watcher was waiting for me. He saluted as soon as I touched down. “We’re all present and accounted for, ma’am.” I did a quick headcount and found that was correct. Even the naga was back on board.

“Where was he?” I asked, nodding at him.

“We left him outside the village, in case we needed a distraction,” he said. “As small as they were, we figured he could get a lot of attention. What’s going on with the elementals and Gilda?”

“The kobold mage threw Gilda into the volcano, where she was mostly killed. The fire elemental in the volcano managed to inject himself into her and keep her alive. He climbed out of the volcano in her body and healed it up. I spoke to him for a second. Dude’s a complete dick, but that’s pretty much what we expected. He agreed to work with us, and that’s what matters. The waters are working on getting up there and dealing with him. Brook wants me there when they free him.”

“Will you want an escort?”

“Just Spike. It’s poisonous at the top. Flo can probably protect me from them, but not too many others. He’s immune to that shit anyway.”

“Yes ma’am. Are you really gonna keep that axe?”

We both looked down at it. The thing looked like a fairly standard handaxe. The haft was made of some kind of ebony wood. The blade had carvings of fire on it and was blackened from burning. I closed my eyes and thought about some things that got my blood boiling. When I opened my eyes, it was on fire.

“I am going to keep it, yes,” I said. The fires flickered out as I calmed the anger.

“I did not realize it was a magic weapon. Twilight is going to be interested in studying it.”

“She’s welcome to. Speaking of which, I need to talk to her. She wanted to study a volcano.”

“Now’s the time, then,” he replied with a nod. “Are you sure it’s safe? After killing that mage and talking to their chief like that, they might not be so interested in peace.”

“That guy wasn’t dumb. He knows that if they do a thing, we’ll put their village to the torch. Or hell, since they like lava so much, I might just find a way to punch a hole in the volcano and let them have fun with that.”

His ears began twitching almost immediately, of course. “I will follow that order if you make it, but I will not like it, Nav. The kobolds mean very little to me, but all the same, none of us are murderers. I am okay with revenge. If they had killed Gilda and were violent and wanted to harm us, I would be fine with killing them. But as long as they only use soldiers, I don’t like the idea of destroying the entire village.”

“Fair enough. Genocide leaves a sour taste in my mouth, too. The elementals can look after themselves, and they’d probably be happy to protect Twilight as well. Their protection can be their own problem.”

“That seems fair,” he said with a nod. “I’ll assign a squad to watch the village and let the rest stand down for now.”

“And I’ll go talk to Twilight.” Right as I said that, Gilda landed on the deck. Her eyes were no longer on fire, though they did seem closer to orange than they were. “Then again, maybe not.” Her eyes slowly moved around the ship while I walked up to her. When she finally beheld me, I noticed that her eyes were kinda glassy. “How you feeling?”

She took a second to respond. “...Weird. I don’t… Something happened, but I don’t remember what. Where are we? What happened?”

Oh boy. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

She looked around the deck again before her eyes found mine again. “I think… something about scouting? I remember flying over an island, too.”

“Do you remember being captured?”

“No. But I know I would never let that happen!”

“I was hoping you could fill in some holes, but I guess that’s not gonna happen. Here’s what I know, then. Gilda, we’re over an island called Hawaii in the ocean west of mainland Equestria. I sent you to scout over the island. Something happened and the locals captured you.” She snorted. “They had you knocked out and tied to a pole. Before we could rescue you, they tossed you into a volcano.”

“They… they threw me in a volcano?”

“They did. Then I dropped the guy who pushed you in right behind you.”

“Heh. But how did I live, then? Did someone swoop in and get me?”

“No. You very much should have died. Do you remember why we came here?”

She blinked and her eyes went unfocused again before she finally shook her head. “Something about fire.”

“We came here to rescue a fire elemental. He happens to live in that same volcano. When you were thrown in, he saved you. I watched you climb out of that volcano, Gilda. I watched your body stitch itself back together. Hell, I watched your brain reform.”

“Huh.” She walked over to the edge of the ship and looked down at the volcano. I could barely see the water elementals around the top, but she could probably see them clear as day. “So that fire thing saved me?”

“He did. And I’m pretty sure he’s still inside of you.”

“...How’s that possible? Isn’t he made of fire?”

“Gilda, your entire body just melted and then unmelted. Asking about how shit is possible in a world with magic and ghosts and weird shit doesn’t really mean much. Just roll with it.”

She fell silent for several long seconds, still staring at the volcano. Finally, one of her talons went to my belt and she pulled out a dagger. Before I could do anything, she sliced her other talon off. It hit the deck and a new one almost immediately began growing back. My mouth and her beak dropped.

Then the pain hit her and she dropped the knife and clutched the healing stump with her remaining talon. Her eyes went wide and her head started jerking around. “Who said that?!” she demanded.

“That would be Blaze,” I said. “He’s the elemental who saved you.”

“Don’t you dare tell me what to do!” She went silent for another few seconds. “She’s earned it. You’re just a blob of fire!” Silence again. “I’m not your slave.” One more time. “...I’ll think about it.” She looked back up at me. “I don’t like this guy.”

“A few points. First, he can hear your thoughts. So if you want to talk to him, just think at him. Second, we can probably get him to leave if you want. That’ll be up to you. Third, he’s a dick. I’d be surprised if you did like him. Let me see your talon.”

It apparently didn’t hurt as much, so she slowly pulled her other talon away so we could see it. Sure enough, the thing was whole again. She used it to pick up the one she cut off. “Whoa.”

“That’s insane. Water elementals don’t have that kind of regeneration.”

Flo took over my mouth to say, “He is currently locked away in a volcano. At the moment, he’s incredibly powerful. Each elemental also grants their hosts different abilities of sorts. Since fire elementals are more combative than most, they’re extremely good at regenerating their hosts. Once he’s freed, the regeneration will still be powerful, but nothing like this.”

“Huh.” Gilda tossed that talon over the side, then grabbed my dagger to hand it back. “Well, I guess that could be useful.”

I slid that dagger back into its sheath. “But it takes a lot of energy to fix you up. And after all that, I imagine you’re about out of it. Go get some food and then some rest, Gilda. Try to get your bearings again and see if you can remember anything else. I’ll need Spike soon, but you can have Dash.”

“...Yeah, okay.”

She started walking off, but I quickly added, “And if you ever want to talk, I’d be happy to listen.” She stopped for a moment before continuing without replying.

Since that was taken care of, I walked back over to Watcher. He was speaking with Rarity and one of his squad leaders. “No, you didn’t fail, Rarity,” he was saying. “In fact, you did pretty much exactly what we needed you to do.”

“You needed me to do nothing?” she asked, deadpan. “I’m ever-so-pleased that I could help.”

“Cut the shit, Rarity,” I said, reaching out to boop her on the nose. She licked my finger before I could pull it away because she’s disgusting. “You kept them distracted and passive long enough for us to get what we needed and then get out.”

“We got what we needed and yet we’re still here.”

“We got what we needed from them. The elementals are still working on their shit. The point is, you were helpful.”

She stomped a hoof on the deck. “You murdered one of them and then used me to keep them from fighting you!”

“That is a huge oversimplification,” I said, waving a hand. “Why is everyone forgetting the part where he threw a random person into a volcano?”

“I’m not judging you, ma’am,” the squad leader said with a shrug. “Who does that?”

“Assholes,” I said.

“You mean like you?” Rarity sarcastically replied.

“Hey, he threw a random person into a volcano. I threw a person who throws random people into volcanos into a volcano. One is murder, one is justice. I mean, what would you do if someone threw Pinkie into a volcano?”

She sighed and said, “We’ve been over this, Nav. I would forgive them.”

“Even if they weren’t repentant at all and they were trying to throw you in next?”

The guard snorted. “I’d try to throw him in right back.”

“See, he gets it!”

She rolled her eyes. “I can certainly say that I see the appeal, but I like to believe I could get over my base instinct and reason with them.”

“Which is why you helped,” Watcher said. “We are soldiers. Our job is to act on those base instincts and deal with those who oppose us in very violent ways. The plan was to destroy the village if they hurt Gilda. You made that unnecessary.”

“And yet somehow, I feel that you wouldn’t have been overly bothered by the alternative,” she said.

“Do you know how hard blood is to get out of fur?” Watcher asked.

Rarity slowly lifted a hoof up to her forehead and massaged it for a moment. “No, I do not,” she finally said. “I swear, it feels like I’m talking to a brick wall!”

“No, just a boulder,” the guard said. “A Grey Boulder. And also Captain Watcher and Lady Navarone.”

“And on that note, I am returning below,” Rarity said. “Goodbye to all of you.” She turned around and walked off without another word. We all watched her leave, of course; her flank was too nice not to watch.

When she was at the door, the guard laughed and said, “I love watching her walk away.”

“I know, right?” I said. “That ass is straight up hypnotizing!”

“If only her attitude was better,” Watcher said with a sigh. Of course, we both looked at him in surprise. “What? I’m your vassal now, Nav. We’re done with the military protocol.”

“True, I guess.”

“Does that mean I can say that Nav’s backside is better than Rarity’s?” Grey Boulder asked.

“You aren’t her vassal,” Watcher said. “So no.” He lifted a hoof up to his chin for a moment before looking at my hips. His horn lit up and I felt myself lifted up for a moment and slowly spun around. When I was back to facing them, he looked at the guard and nodded. “You’re right, though.”

“Very funny, old man,” I said. I’m in armor, for fuck’s sake. Despite that, it felt like my face was burning, but I’m so shameless that it had to be my imagination. “Anyway, I came back to tell you to cancel the patrols tonight. No reason to send out the night crew, now.”

“All right, I’ll let them know. I’ll still have them on the deck, just in case. And I think Rainbow Dash would be upset if she didn’t get to try out her dragon eyes.”

“I can think of a few ways to calm her down, but whatever. I’m gonna go talk to Twilight and then get out of this bucket. Find me if anything important happens.”

“You got it, ma’am,” Watcher said with a nod. He had things taken care of, so I went on my way. They continued talking behind me, but I couldn’t hear them over the hustle and bustle of the ship.

“They’re talking about how they hope you put on a skirt,” Flo said. “Or maybe a short dress. Given how tall you are, they have perfect views.”

“I hate you, Flo.”

“Love you too, Navi!”

I had a feeling Twilight would be down in the hold, doing more magical experiments. That’s where I went first and that’s also where I found her and my daughter. “How did it go?” she asked when I stepped inside.

“Pretty good, all things told,” I said. “Gilda’s alive, we found the elemental, I got a new magic weapon that you can play with all you want, and we’re currently very close to a volcano if you want to go take a look.”

“And the village?” she asked, her eyes flashing blue for a short moment.

“Mostly fine. I can tell you about it all later. We won’t be here for too long, so if you want to explore the volcano, you better do it fast.”

She shrugged. “Alright. Is that axe the magic weapon?”

“Yep. I know it reacts to anger, but I don’t know much else about it.”

“Alright. Leave it here, against a wall. I’ll take a look at it in a day or two. Is it safe down below?”

“The air is poisonous,” I said. “Sort of. The gases coming out of the volcano will probably fuck you up if you stay there long enough. I think Aqua could probably keep you safe, if she cared enough.”

“She does,” Twilight said without even missing a beat. “I’ll head up to the deck and teleport down as soon as I finish up this experiment.” I looked over at the thrashing zombie bird on the table. Its head was detached from its neck and the eyes were trying to stare Twilight down while the body struggled to free itself of the bindings she had on it.

“You have fun with that,” I said, leaning the axe against the wall. “I’m gonna go change.”

I started to go, but some purple magic on my arm stopped me. “Before you go, I do need something,” she said. Her horn lit up slightly brighter and the rest of my body started glowing. She floated me over to herself and kissed me. “There! Now I have my luck back.”

“I think you were just looking for an excuse to kiss me,” I sarcastically replied. Taya giggled.

“I wouldn’t need an excuse for that, silly!” Twilight said. To prove it, she leaned me in and kissed me again, much more tenderly. After a few seconds, I pulled away. Then I leaned in one more time and she quickly kissed me. “Gotta make sure I have my luck!” she said with a giggle. She floated me back to the door. “I’ll talk to you later, Nav!”

I shook my head and walked away. Flo, did I make Twilight addicted to kisses?

“How much time have you spent teasing and tormenting her? I think it’s fair for her to return the favor.”

Whose side are you on?

“Whichever side I happen to prefer at the moment. Right now, teasing and tormenting you seems pretty fun.”

You crude little harlot. Her only answer to that was laughter.

No one bothered me on the way to my room and it was empty, thankfully. That armor was hot as hell and not really comfortable, so I stripped out of it as quickly as I could. We were currently at the juncture where just about anything could happen, so I knew I needed to be ready to hop back up and do shit at any time. Unfortunately, that meant I couldn’t just lounge around naked in my room.

Since I was tired of being hot and completely covered in clothes, I settled on a light blouse and an airy skirt. It was hot and uncomfortable out and I didn’t want any more layers than necessary, so that was all I decided to settle on.

Flo’s giggling did not comfort me. Neither did several of the snide remarks she made that I’m going to choose not to put to print.

And Aerie’s giggling that started up when I was fully dressed most definitely did not put me at ease. It quickly picked up and I felt her all around me, picking at my clothes and blowing them about.

She only teased me for a few very long and uncomfortable seconds before grabbing a shirt from my drawer and using that as her face. “You have found my fire.”

“Yes, I did. The waters are working on getting him out of the volcano now. You’re free to join them or you can wait for him to board the ship.”

“I have waited for so long. I will not wait one instant longer than I must. I will go to him and he will be mine!”

“Leave my shirt here, please. I need that.”

“No you don’t, silly. You like feeling their stares, having them look at you with lust. But your self-delusions are of no importance to me.” The shirt fluttered to the ground and all the light wind picking at my skirt and blouse disappeared in an instant.

Might wanna warn Mist she’s going to have some competition for Blaze’s attention.

“Aerie already warned her plenty enough, trust me. If he wasn’t such a jerk, I would feel sorry for him.”

Did you tell him Mist is coming to save him?

“No, I’m going to let that be a surprise. It’ll be fun.”

I snorted and sat on the bed. Before I could start thinking about shit to do, someone knocked. I jumped right back up and pulled the door open to behold Spike. “What do you need?” I asked.

“Twilight wants me to go with her to the volcano. I guess she’s gonna study it? I dunno. You need me for anything?”

“Nah. Just stay there until I join you guys, because I’ll be going in as well.”

“Alright, Nav. I’ll see you then.”

“Yep.” He walked back up to the deck and I sat on the bed again, leaving the door open.

As soon as I was down, Taya walked in and hopped up to my lap. “Why did you go down without me?” she asked.

“I wasn’t expecting any problematic resistance.” That’s not the only reason, but it was a reason. “And you left in a hurry, so I figured you wanted to stay here.”

She sighed and pressed up against my stomach. “I never get to do anything…”

“Well, Watcher and his guys didn’t get to do anything either. The only ones that saw any action were me, Spike, and Zecora. And you woulda been with Watcher for this one, so you would have been bored.”

Her nubile filly form rolled over onto her back, so her soft tummy was presented. “I belong with you, not with Watcher. Who else is gonna protect my mommy?”

“...Me?”

“Well, yeah. But it’s also my job! I gotta keep you safe and make sure you can always come back to give me belly rubs.” She shifted again, giving me a better view of her vulnerable stomach.

“There are plenty of people who could give you belly rubs, you know,” I said, not moving my hands.

“...Yours are special.”

“That might be true. But how many belly rubs have you gotten from anyone else? Maybe theirs would feel better.”

“Just Flo and Doppel. But your hands are soft and warm and firm! Flo is cold and wet and Doppel is just faking… You love me and you’re the best mommy ever, so your belly rubs will always be the best.”

“Well, I guess I’ll just have to take your word for it.” We sat in silence for a second or two before she squirmed. “Hm, did you want something?”

“...Yes.”

“Oh.” Another few seconds passed. Her eyes darted away from mine for a second before returning. “What did you want?”

She sighed and said, “Mommy, will you please rub my belly?”

“Of course, dear.” And so I finally began giving my good little girl the treatment she deserved. Her whimpers and moans of delight made me smile. Take it, you good little filly. Take it like the tummy slut you are! Go on, tell mommy how much you love it.

When I was good and done, she was a cute little mess. Her fur was all displaced and she had a dopey, faraway look on her face.

The look suited her.

She didn’t resist as I fell back onto the bed and pulled her into a hug. “I love you, Taya.”

“I love you too, mommy,” she dreamily sighed.

There wasn’t time to get too comfortable, because Kat chose to enter and disrupt my relaxation time. “Did you not need me today?” she asked.

“I didn’t. The goal was to avoid combat if possible and to kill everything if not. I went mage heavy to facilitate that. You weren’t needed this time.”

“I see.” She looked over at my armor, which was sitting in a corner because I was too lazy to lift it to the roof. It was unblemished because Brook cleaned it. “It appears that you did not have any difficulties.”

“I had to kill a guy, but the rest learned from his example and decided not to repeat his mistake.”

“Yes, that is typically how it works. Especially if he was one of their leaders or one of the tougher warriors. What were the locals, anyway? I still haven’t been out to look.”

“Kobolds. Basically miniature dragons without the fire breathing or wings. They weren’t so tough, thankfully. They had a mage, but his magic didn’t work against my ring. Turns out, they’re weak against being thrown into volcanoes.”

“Um. What’s a volcano?”

“You’ve never… Huh.” I guess it makes sense. It’s not like a slave in Egypt would know anything about volcanoes. “Do you know what lava is?”

“I’ve… heard the word a few times. Isn’t it liquid rock?”

“Basically. Alright, deep down under the earth, there’s so much heat and pressure that rocks melt and become magma. Eventually, the pressure gets to be too much and it has to release, so it goes up. All the ground and rock it displaces on the way up become the basis for the volcano. Magma then spouts out the top, becoming lava. That’s how islands form. We happen to be very close to a semi-active volcano right now. There’s magma in it, but it’s not currently blowing out the top. You’re free to head to the surface and look if you want.”

“I believe I will,” she replied with a nod. “Are we free to go to the island? I wouldn’t mind seeing some kobolds up close.”

“No. They aren’t too happy with us. I threw their magic user into a volcano and then took his magical weapon. All things told, we’re lucky we didn’t have to fight our way out.”

“Oh.” Her eyes looked down to Taya for a moment and a small smile appeared on her face. “You two are adorable.”

“Are you saying that I’m adorable and that she’s adorable, or that we’re only adorable together?” I asked.

“Well, you are definitely adorable. And so is she, when she’s not busy being horrifying. So the first one.”

“Cool. I think. Though I’m really not sure what about me is adorable.”

“I might tell you. Later. For now, your confusion amuses me. I’ll talk to you later, Nav.” When she walked away, I noticed her tail was curling for some reason.

“I’m not adorable,” my precious daughter cutely muttered, snuggling tighter against me.

I chose not to reply.

The next interruption I got was one that I was expecting. Flo knocked on my brain for a moment to get my attention, then said, “It’s just about time, Nav. We’ll be freeing Blaze in a few minutes.”

“Alright, I’ll head down in just a sec.” Taya shifted. “See you soon.” Flo didn’t reply, so I carefully moved my filly off of me and sat up.

“Can I go?” she asked.

“Not this time. The volcano is poisonous. Flo can keep me safe, but the other elementals have to focus fully on freeing Blaze. You’re welcome to watch from the ship, though. With luck, it won’t take long and we’ll all be back on the ship quickly.”

“Okay, mommy.” She hopped off the bed and pulled me off of it with magic. “Are you ready?”

“Not yet.” The heat from the volcano was blistering, so I didn’t really want much of my skin directly exposed to it. I grabbed a nice pair of stockings and pulled them up to my thighs, then slid on shoes. “Flo, think I’ll need my sword?”

“No. Blaze will behave and I can protect you from the locals, should they attempt anything.”

“Cool. Then I’m ready now.” Taya followed me out to the hall and then up the stairs to the deck. The same assortment of soldiers, crew, and Twilight’s friends were roaming around. Some were staring at the volcano, some were watching the village, and a few were actually being useful and doing chores on deck.

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