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.


179. Chapter One Hundred and Forty-Seven Part 1

We left Canterlot around noon, which gave me plenty of time to do some things I had planned on the first day. There were a few things on my agenda of various importances. The most important one was a discussion with Mist, so I made sure that came first by getting Flo to tell her to meet me in my room.

I kinda expected her to slide through the window, but instead, Mist slid up to my room and knocked on the open door. “Come on in,” I said. At the moment, I was in there alone. The way I figured, if Mist had kept it a secret until now, she might continue to want to do so.

“Flo said you needed to speak with me,” she said, entering my room. “Is there some way I can assist you?”

“Maybe. Close the door, if you don’t mind.” She did so without a word, though she turned a slightly darker blue. “Flo tells me that you happen to know the fire elemental we are on the way to pick up.”

She turned slightly yellow. “Oh. So it seems that Naiad cannot keep her silence. Well, it is no matter and will be public knowledge as soon as we save him. Yes, I do know this fire elemental. His name is Blaze.”

“Hm. And I was told you happened to be his warden. I’m not entirely certain he’ll be happy to see you, in that case. Are you sure it’s wise to get him first, if he might be angry when he sees you?”

She blinked in surprise and turned several colors very quickly before settling on a very light pink. “Naiad must have misunderstood me. I was not keeping him prisoner, I was keeping him protected. We were secret lovers and I didn’t want any of my sisters to… With the war, I was concerned for his safety. I was afraid to share that information for so long, but now… Well, I suppose it no longer matters, these days.”

“Um. How is that even… You know what, never mind. So were you planning on telling anyone this or were we just going to have to figure it out last second?”

She blushed and turned a few shades closer to red. “I don’t see how it’s anyone else’s business. If I had a hostile relationship with him, I would warn you. But as it is, our love will shine through and he’ll join us as soon as he sees me again.”

It’s fucking shit like this that gets people killed, oh my god. “In the future, if you happen to have any information about a potentially dangerous situation we’re going into otherwise blind, please share it with the rest of us,” I said. “Just because you don’t think it’s important doesn’t mean it might not pan out to be that way.”

She turned a lot more red. “I see no way this could become a dangerous situation. I will soon be returning to my lover’s arms. It will be a painful reunion, but one well worth having. It will be glorious and sweet and romantic, not any kind of dangerous!”

Are you actually retarded or are you just pretending? “Alright, whatever. Do you mind telling the rest of your sisters the truth? And uh… Aerie? She might be a little jealous.”

“I will happily tell them, not that it’s their business. And that airheaded hussy can be jealous all she wants. Blaze is mine and he will always be mine.”

Alrighty then. “Thank you, Mist. That’s all I needed.”

Her color turned back to its standard blue. “Very well then, Navarone. Forgive my… passion. It has been some time since we have seen each other and I will be happy to see him again.”

“Well with luck, you should be reunited within three weeks.” She turned very pink. “It’ll be interesting to see you together.”

She sighed wistfully and turned to the door. “Never let anyone tell you that love doesn’t hurt,” she said as she oozed out.

When she was gone, I slowly let out a breath. Okay, so, thoughts?


No what? Like, she’s not in love?

“No, I have no thoughts.”

That also works. Before I could hop up to move on to my next task, the most bipedal of my vassals entered, carrying what looked like a brand new and very different crossbow. “That looks interesting,” I said.

Kat held it out for me to take. “This is what I commissioned from the metal workers,” she said as I took it. I stood and held it up to my shoulder to get a feel for it. “It’s much smaller and lighter than Spike’s. I had Sunshine Smiles draw it up for me based on the design from the other one and then had metalcrafters with more and better tools build it for me.”

“It’s also curvier.” The thing was just a tiny bit too small for my arms and it didn’t fit very comfortably against my body. “It doesn’t feel right, to me. How do you like it?” I asked as I handed it back.

“It fits me much better than the other one,” she said. “That was large. Bulky. Far too heavy. This is much more… elegant.” She held it up, aiming it at the window.

I slowly walked around her, looking at how it molded against her body. “A smaller, curvier build for a smaller, curvier person,” I said when I was behind her. From the looks of things, she wasn’t even aiming down the sights. “You’re holding it very strangely. Can you actually shoot like that?”

“This is how I held yours and I did well with it.”

“Do you mind if I do something weird?”

“I do not.”

I stepped in closer, so I was pressing into her from behind. My body didn’t fit too well against hers, but it was well enough that I could wrap my hands around her paws on the crossbow and slowly move it to where I would hold it if I was her. “How does this feel?” I asked.

“I… You feel very nice against me,” she purred, her tail wrapping around one of my legs.

“Um. I meant the crossbow. This is how I aim. That’s what the sights up front are for.”

“O-oh. Uh… I thought those were for decoration…” She went silent for a moment. “Why do I need to aim?”

I finally stepped away from her. She lowered the crossbow and turned back to me. “Really? How else are you going to hit anything?”

She shrugged. “I can just tell. I see where the bolt is pointing and just know where it’ll go.”

“Huh. A true predator’s instincts, I guess. How well does this thing shoot?”

“Very. I took several of Spike’s bolts and tested it before paying the other half. It’s yet to draw blood, but I have no problems hitting targets.”

“With luck, it’ll never have to draw blood. But we’re not allowed to have nice things, so I have a feeling you’ll be very happy you invested in it soon. Next time we’re at a friendly port, I wouldn’t mind firing it.”

“Why wait? We can clear the deck and shoot it now. It’s a beautiful day out, too.”

“Nah, I don’t like shooting on the ship. If we were over an ocean, maybe. Here, you never know if you might have a train or a pegasus or some kids just wandering through woods on the other side of that bolt.”

“Oh. Yeah, that does make sense. I’m sure you’ve probably noticed, but cats aren’t good at thinking about the bigger picture. We find something we want to do and we just do it.”

My wings twitched and she flinched. “I’m aware. That is something you will need to learn to curb. I’m happy to have you on my side, but it can be difficult to make use of you when I know how much of a wildcard you can be.”

“I am learning to hold back, but it is a… process.” She sighed and walked over to look out the window. “Fighting one’s own nature is difficult.”

Don’t I fucking know it. “Bettering yourself is always worth it. Of course, you have to decide for yourself if you actually are bettering yourself and not just changing yourself to better fit what I want.”

“What is better for me is what you want,” she said. “You are my lady, my liege, my mistress.” She finally looked back at me. “Your needs and wants supercede mine. Watcher and Gourd would say the same.”

“Hell no they don’t. You are your own person, Kat. What you want for yourself is what matters, not what’s most convenient for me.”

She shook her head and said, “You are our noble now, Nav. What I want for me is what’s most convenient for you. You do not yet understand what it means to be a noble. Your vassals live to serve you. That is the reason we wake up in the morning. We signed our lives completely and totally to you. What I want no longer exists. What Gourd and Watcher want no longer exists. You are now our lives. That is what it means to be a vassal. That is the responsibility you agreed to when you swore us in.”

“That’s bullshit and—”

I wanted this!” That stopped me in my tracks. “So did Watcher. So did Gourd. The three of us spoke before we all came to your room that day. Watcher outlined exactly what we would be agreeing to. I told you once that if you ever created your own nation, I would come and serve you. I meant it. I will serve you in whatever capacity you will have me and I will become whatever you need me to be. I want to serve you. I want to be yours. None of us took that oath lightly. And none of us plan on rescinding it when this journey is done.”

We shared a fairly lengthy and uncomfortable silence. The certainty and earnesty in her gaze honestly shocked me. It’s hard for me to imagine ever being that loyal to someone. That probably says a lot about my character, not that it mattered at the moment.

I finally asked, “Why?”

“Their reasons are their own,” she said with a shrug. “They didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask. I have a few reasons. The only choices I have ever made in life were destructive. Every time I was allowed to choose my own way, I chose wrong. Every time, I chose destruction. That led me down a dark path, a path that I learned to revel in, despite myself. Now, I want to give to the world. I want to know what it feels to create, not destroy. But even after I became free, all I knew was violence. So I decided that if I couldn’t create, I would follow someone who could, someone who could use my destructive abilities to help others. Someone who could make the right decisions for me.”

“...And you settled on me for that?”

She nodded. “There were no doubts in my mind. Out of everyone in the world I have met, out of all the leaders and the commoners and the villains and the heroes, I feel that you have the most potential. I will follow you in creation. I will follow you in destruction. I will follow you and I will be what you want and what you need.” She stepped forward and placed a paw against my heart. “I will follow this wherever it takes me with no regrets and no reservations.”


We stood in silence for several more long seconds before she pulled her paw away, blushing. “I’ll… see you later…”

She tried moving past me, but I grabbed the same paw she had against my heart. That stopped her, but she still didn’t look at me. “Thank you, Kat. Your trust means a lot to me. I’m just not… For a very long time, I never got praise. Now that I do, I’m having a hard time handling it.”

The silence came back, but it didn’t last nearly as long. When I released her paw, she turned back and hugged me. That shocked me, and I didn’t have time to hug her back before she left.

Despite still having a few things I needed to do, I couldn’t help but sit in my room for about fifteen or so minutes, thinking about what just happened. It was unexpected, to say the least.

“Is this really what it means to be a noble?” I finally asked aloud.

“What has changed?” Flo asked. “They were already following you. Kat was already becoming what you wanted. How is this different? Making it official with laws and oaths means nothing, not when the result is the same. Do you think any of them took that oath lightly, Nav? You are worthy of it. And the longer you spend in charge of them, the more worthy you will become and the more they will mold to fit what you need. They do it willingly and happily. That is their choice. Trying to fight it means undermining the last choice they made, the choice they made to trust wholly and totally in you.”

I let that sink in for a few moments before slowly sighing. “My life has taken so many turns. How much of who I was is left, Flo? How much of me is something my parents would recognize? How much… Would my own twin sister even know me now? Would she see me as her brother, her blood? Or would I just be a stranger to her?”

“You have left your old life behind, Nav. There is no shame in it. When you first got to Equestria, you helped Luna run a haunted house. Do you remember the mirror room?” I did. Forgetting it would be difficult. “Despite Luna’s insanity, the script she gave you was accurate. You will always be you. Revel in what you are. Don’t think about what you were, don’t think about what you’ll be. Don’t think about what others will see you as. Be someone you can be happy with. By the time you become it, the skin will fit you so well that you won’t even notice the changes. And if it means leaving others behind, either willingly or not, so be it. Life moves ever forward, Nav. Never backward. They might recognize you. They might not. You can’t let your old memories stop you from moving forward, because you will never be able to go back to them. Remember, but do not let who you were shape your path.”

I slowly breathed in. I slowly breathed out.

I stood and walked out. Nothing else I had planned was urgent, so I slowly ambled to the deck, then wandered to the far front of the ship. No one bothered me, though a few of my guards nodded as I passed. I paid them no mind and found myself standing at the tip of the ship, my ship, and just staring ahead.

Some amount of time later, I was forced out of my thoughts by arms wrapping around my stomach and picking me up. My wings and back were pressed against something fairly hard and warm. Flo calmed me before I could begin struggling and my assailant giggled. “I didn’t think you’d be that light, Nav,” Spike said.

“Some of us aren’t made of scales and muscles. You can put me down now.”

Instead of putting me down, he sighed and looked over my shoulder. “I love this view. Standing up here at the front of the ship… It makes me feel like the king of the world, you know?”

“Yeah, it really makes you feel like you’re flying,” I sarcastically replied. “Are you planning on putting me down?”

“I dunno. I’d say you really missed me, if you’re even changing your wing to remind you of me.”

“Spike, put me down.” He laughed again and finally put me down. I turned to face him and found that he was smiling widely, of course. “I’m surprised I didn’t see you in Canterlot.”

“I woulda been there for your ceremony, but no one told me there was going to be one! I stayed in Ponyville to see some of my friends there. I didn’t know you were a noble until the ship came and picked us all up!”

“Well, whatever. I’m a noble now.”

“And congratulations on it, Nav! You really earned it. I just know you’re gonna do so much good now that you have all this extra power. I can’t wait to watch and help!”

“Which is something I need to speak to you and a few others about. You mind finding a few people and getting them to meet me?”

“Of course! Who do you need?”

“Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Gilda, the naga, and you. Tell them to meet me in the planning room in ten minutes. If you can’t find them, I’ll deal with them later.”

“Alright! What are we gonna talk about?”

“Getting paid. I’ll explain in detail when you’re all together, so I don’t have to repeat myself.”

“Okay, I’ll go look for them,” he said with a nod. With that, he turned and started walking back to the ship’s innards. Once he got inside, I stretched and then went directly to the planning room.

Gourd and Silver Quill were sitting in there, using the large table to go over a list of goods and expenses. They both looked up when I entered, of course. “Hey Nav,” Gourd said with a nod. “You need anything?”

“Nah. I’m just doing a small meeting. It shouldn’t take long and it should be quiet. It might also involve Silver, so it’s a good thing you guys are here anyway.”

“Did I do something wrong?” she asked, her eyes going wide.

“Not as far as I know,” I said with a shrug. “But you’re my accountant and I’m going to be talking about paying them, so you might have some input. And they might end up coming to you when we’re done talking, so there’s that.”

“Oh. Well, I’ll be here!” I nodded and they both went back to working. I walked over to the large table and leaned against it, so I was facing the door.

About eight minutes later, all of the people I named except the naga were present. He was nowhere to be found, which needed looking into later. Dash was bouncing from hoof to hoof. Gilda was leaning against Spike. Applejack just looked bored.

I crossed my arms and started talking. “A few days ago, I became a noble. When I did, I told Watcher and Gourd to make sure each of you got paid for your services as guards aboard the ship. Did that happen?” They all made noises of agreement. “Good. Applejack, Dash, I know neither of you particularly want to be on this ship, but—”

“I love it here!” Dash quickly said. “Adventuring is awesome!” Applejack rolled her eyes.

“...Applejack, I know you don’t particularly want to be on this ship. And Dash, I know you’re forced to be here even if you like it. You’re both pulling your weight, and I’m happy to keep paying because of it, as long as you’re both willing to keep working. You’ll get the same rates as the guards under Watcher’s command. With that pay will come more trust, of course. You two will be my employees for the duration of the trip, or until you decide you no longer wish to be. Are you interested?”

Dash’s hooves all clicked together and then she lifted one of her front hooves in a salute. “I’m your mare, Nav!”

Applejack didn’t bother with the theatrics and just nodded. “Money’s not bad. I don’t need it, but my family does. I ain’t gonna be salutin’ you, but I’ll keep workin’.”

“I don’t particularly care about getting saluted, but Watcher might.” I looked over my shoulder at my accountant. “Silver, can you add Rainbow Dash and Applejack to the payroll?”

She blinked her way out of her work and looked up. “Sorry, what?”

“Rainbow Dash and Applejack are guards now. Make sure they get paid.”

“Oh. Of course. Anything else?” I shook my head and she continued what she was doing.

“What about me?” Gilda asked. “You make me come up here just to talk about them?”

“Patience is a virtue,” I said. “And you’re next anyway. Now, I know you don’t need the money and I doubt you’re interested in taking orders from a pony. I can’t make you a vassal since you’re a noble lady of another nation and I probably wouldn’t if I could. That puts you in a weird grey area. I’ll pay you if you want and call you a scout, or you can just keep being what you are and I’ll help shore up your funding if you want to get something reasonable and don’t have the bits on hand for it.”

She shrugged. “I don’t really care. I signed on for adventure. Honestly, I was expecting more treasure and less world saving, but I’m still having fun. Those giant spiders were the best! So do whatever. As long as the adventures keep coming, I’m here to stay.”

“That works, I guess. You’re another unique case, Spike,” I said. “I’m willing to pay you as a guard if you want, but there’s a problem. You’re a dragon, so you’ll grow with your hoard. The pay isn’t too terribly great, but it might be enough. It might also be enough to start striking at your greed. So I have a few options for you. If you think you can control yourself, I’ll add you to the payroll as well and that’ll be that. If you think it might be a problem but you still want money, I can have Silver start adding up weeks and keep a track of how much you should have earned and give it to you in a lump sum once the journey’s over. Or you can just forego getting paid, like Gilda.”

He clacked his claws together a few times, just thinking. Finally, he shrugged. “I’m a dragon, Nav. I’ll live long enough that I won’t miss a few bits. But having those bits now might mean I’ll miss spending time with you. So don’t worry about paying me. I’ll keep growing naturally so I can stay on the ship for as long as possible!” Dash and Applejack both smiled. Gilda snorted and rolled her eyes.

“That works for me,” I said with a shrug.

“But I do have a question,” he said. I nodded for him to continue. “You said you can’t make Gilda a vassal. And Applejack and Rainbow Dash are Elements of Harmony, so they probably shouldn’t be your vassals either. But what about me? Could you make me one?”

“In theory, I could. And at the end of this journey, we’ll sit down and talk about it at length. But until this journey is over, I will not make you a vassal.”

His ear spines sank a little. “Oh. Why not?”

“When I offered you a place on this ship, I told you that I wanted you to find your place in the world. Well, our destination after Hawaii is Iceland, the homeland of the dragons. And after that, it’ll be Tartarus. But after that, who knows? There’s still plenty of world left to cover, Spike. You may think your place is at my side, but I won’t let you tie yourself down with oaths that are hard to break until you know for sure. Your life is too long for that.”

His ear spines shot back up and a very light blush hit his face. “Oh… Uh, do you think we’ll see Kumani again?”

“I don’t know.”

“If we do, what are you gonna say?” he asked.

“I don’t know and I don’t want to talk about it. That’s all I had for three of you. Dash, walk with me.” Dash flinched and Spike sighed. I walked past the group and she fell in behind me.

We stayed silent until I got to my room. When she followed me in, I pushed the door shut. As soon as it clicked, she said, “It wasn’t my fault!”

I sat on the bed. “What happened?”

“Oh. You uh… you don’t know?” I crossed my arms. “Well, it’s not a big deal…”

“You can either tell me or I can assume the worst and base your punishment on that.”

“Punishment?! But it was Gilda’s fault!”

What was Gilda’s fault?”

She sighed and hung her head. “We went to a griffin bar that had something called mead. It was like that apple stuff you gave me when you first got here, but with honey. We both drank a lot. When we left the bar, a stallion tried flirting with me. I told him no, he insulted me, Gilda decked him, I may have kicked him a little while he was down, then guards showed up and we flew back to the ship.”

“So you both got drunk on illegal alcohol and then assaulted someone.”

Her ears shot straight and her head jerked up. “You can’t get mad at me for drinking! You made me do it too!”

“Before I knew it was illegal, but that’s not the point. You assaulted someone.”

Her ears started twitching and her eyes got shifty. “I said I may have…”

“I’ll give you three choices of punishments, Dash.”

She jumped forward, getting in my face. “Why are you punishing me?! Gilda started it!”

I put a finger on her nose and pushed her back because her breath stank. She glared at it, but didn’t do anything. “First, what makes you think I’m not going to punish her too? Second, you represent one of the ideals Equestria was founded upon. You are supposed to be above this, Dash.”

“Hey, I’m loyalty, not… I dunno, putting up with insults or whatever! I was loyal to Gilda by backing her up against that jerk!”

“You were disloyal to Celestia, by breaking one of her laws.” She flinched. “You were disloyal to this ship, by putting it in danger as you sought refuge here.” Her ears sank. “You were disloyal to Gilda, by allowing her to break the law and put herself at risk.” She hung her head again.

“What… what are my choices?” she quietly asked.

“You can choose between traditional, weird, or kinky.”

“W-what? What are the actual punishments?”

“Not gonna tell you. You just gotta choose one.”

“Can I… can I think about it?”

“No. Here and now.”

She nibbled at her lower lip for a moment before nodding once, a determined look coming to her face. “Kinky. I can take anything you can throw in me!”

I smiled ever so sweetly. “Why Dashie, what makes you think I will punish you?” Her ears really started twitching. “Let’s go talk to Doppel, shall we?”

Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped for a second before she rapidly shook her head. “No! No, anything but that! I’ll take weird!”

“Don’t be racist, Dash,” I said, hopping to my feet. “Now let’s go pay our resident adorable bug pony a visit.”

She sighed and followed me down the hall to my lovely little maid’s room, though her hooves were dragging. Doppel’s door was mostly closed, so I knocked. That pushed it open. We both got to see her with her front half on the bed and the back half sticking out. Her tail was pushed back and… Well, let’s just say it was obvious she had a visitor recently.

“B-back so soon?” she murmured, not even turning to face us.

“Yeah, finally back on the ship,” I said. She gasped and tried spinning to face me, but her back legs didn’t work right and she face planted. “Relax, Doppel. I have a job for you, but you don’t need to get up right now.”

She rolled over onto her back and looked at me. “What… what do you need, master?” she panted.

“Dash here has been naughty,” I said, placing a hand on her neck and pulling her into the room. Dash blushed as soon as she caught a whiff of the place. “You’re in charge of her for a week.”

“A week?!” Dash shouted, turning to me with wide eyes.

“Yes, a week,” I said. “You should have known better. And you shouldn’t have tried lying about it.”


“Yep!” Doppel said, grinning. Since she was looking at us upside down, it looked a little more sinister. “Your butt, being penetrated! You can count on me, master!” she finished with a salute.

“Good. Two more things. First, if she refuses any of your commands, let me know and I’ll handle her. Second, come find me when you’re cleaned up and can talk for a few minutes. Nothing too important, just a few job specifics.”

“Of course, master. Now get in here, Dashie. Time to clean me up!” Dash’s ears shot down and she took a step back until I poked her in the back. She took a slow, deep breath before walking in further. Doppel grinned even wider.

“By the way, it’s mistress now,” I said right before Dash started. Doppel gasped and lifted a gnarled hoof to her mouth. “See you in a few!” I left before she could reply, quickly heading back to my room. For those that are paying attention (I don’t know why I’m saying this, because I’m just going to kill you now since I’m standing behind you with a knife), you’ll notice that I most definitely left the door wide open.

I figured that would take a few minutes, so I started looking for Gilda. She wasn’t in her room, not that I figured she would be. She also wasn’t in Spike’s room. After a few more minutes of searching, I found her down in Kumani’s old room, with Twilight, Taya, and the guard medic. Twilight was in the process of using magic on a small rodent skeleton. The guard was reading a scroll with strangely shifting writing.

Only Taya and Gilda looked up when I entered, unsurprisingly. Taya smiled and walked over to hug me, a hug that I happily returned. While doing my motherly duties, I looked up at Gilda. “So I heard you and Dash had some issues in Europe.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I got a little mead in us both. When we stepped out for some air, a stallion tried picking Dash up. She said no, so he called her a walking pride parade freakshow. I lost my temper and punched the guy, then Dash started really whaling on him. Someone called for the guards and I dragged her off and carried her to the ship.” She shrugged. “I didn’t think about that being her first time with mead. I didn’t wanna actually hurt the guy, just make him back off.”

“It’s alright. No harm done, just don’t do it again. And if Dash asks, tell her I punished you but don’t tell her how.”

“Uh. Okay. Why?”

“Because she blamed it all on you and then tried lying about it, so I’m punishing her. You were honest and upfront, so I’m willing to let it slide this time.”

“Oh. Cool. How are you punishing her?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Before she could worry about it, Twilight’s horn flashed a sickly dark green and an orb of oily smoke shot into the skeleton. The bones absorbed the smoke and turned black and started leaking more smoke and twitching horribly. A few seconds after that started, the eye sockets picked up a glowing red light and the skeleton got to its feet and started ambling around the table.

“It… it worked!” Twilight said, her eyes wide. Then she smiled and reared back to clap her front hooves together. “It actually worked!”

The rodent’s head shot toward her and then its body followed suit, jumping for her neck. I let Taya go and jumped forward to slap it away. Twilight shouted and fell backwards. The skeleton slammed against the wall and started to shatter, then instantly reformed, just long enough for the guard to shoot it with a beam of light that made all the bones break into dust.

He rushed to Twilight and started looking her body over. She started to stand, but he put a hoof on her chest. “Did it get you?” he asked.

“N-no, I’m… Thank you. And thank you, Nav.”

“Of course, ma’am,” the guard said, backing away and finally letting her stand. “You gotta be careful with these undead. Don’t ever think they’re tame until they follow an order.”

“R-right…” She shook her shoulders a few times before nodding. “Back to square one, I guess. I’m running out of skeletons…”

“I thought you said you were able to raise things already,” I said.

“I can raise minor, impermanent zombies,” she said. “That was the second spell in the book Princess Celestia gave me. The first was how to control them, of course. In terms of undead, zombies are weaker and easier to reanimate than skeletons. I believe it has something to do with having a brain or some other kind of organ, even if they’re partially decomposed. This was what the book called a dire skeleton, or a skeletal minion infused with some kind of dark magic. It’s harder to raise and much more difficult to control than a minor zombie or even a standard skeleton.”

“Won’t a zombie just become a skeleton after long enough?” I asked.

“I thought the same thing,” she said, smiling. “But as it turns out, this magic has some manner of preservative effect on corpses. The only way to effectively kill the basic type of zombie without magic is to damage the brain enough, which is why I believe the brain is what makes a zombie easier to animate than a skeleton. The book does not go into detail, but I’ve started making a few hypotheses. I read through the entire thing and there’s another spell later about raising corpses that don’t have a head, so I assume there is another organ you can use in place of it. It’s all very fascinating!”

“And incredibly evil,” the guard said, not looking up from his scroll.

“I disagree, actually,” Twilight said. That made him look up and frown. “I believe it has been used for many evil purposes and I believe that some of it is evil, but none of this is. The last spell in this book details how to rip a soul from a victim and use it to fuel your own magic or create what’s called a blood golem from it. That is evil and I refuse to learn how. But when you just animate a corpse, the soul is completely absent. It is just an animated body that is compelled to do violence by default. But when controlled, you can put it to any manner of use. Since it has no soul, it can never naturally fight back against the necromancer’s will, so once you place it under your control, it stays that way until you release it, it dies, or another necromancer takes control of it. Just because they’ve been used solely for violence does not mean that is their only use.”

“But their default action is violence,” the guard said. “That makes them naturally violent. When raised, they will attack any form of animal life until they are forcefully stopped or placed under control. It’s true that violence isn’t necessarily evil, but I would much rather have a thinking pony doing my manual labor than an undead abomination that is only held in check by the good graces of a necromancer. And just imagine the possible horrors that could come of making this kind of magic widespread enough that enough unicorns could access it to make undead manual labor worthwhile. It would be chaos, with all the crazy unicorns in the world suddenly summoning monstrosities to attack villages.”

“Devil’s advocate, here,” I said. “I’ve seen what crazy unicorns can do without necromancy. I’d rather be chased by undead than destroyed with lightning. At least I can outrun a zombie. And hell, how often do random unicorns go on rampages? Any of them can learn how to make a fireball, and yet you don’t seen random smoking ruins of villages everywhere you go. You can use this shit for evil, but you can use regular magic for more destructive kinds of evil.”

“And yet Celestia chose this to make illegal,” he shot back with. “Why do you think that is?”

I shrugged and replied, “Because she’s an easily spooked, bigoted reactionary that despises anything she finds personally distasteful and refuses to consider the possible upsides for something that could so easily be converted to evil by someone that isn’t her. I won’t deny that basic necromancy makes doing evil shit on accident easier, but I do think low level evil necromantic shit is about on par, danger-wise, with low level regular evil shit. Once you get to the upper levels of necromancy, then you can truly be more evil and dangerous. I couldn’t see one unicorn using regular magic to raze a city, but one unicorn raising all the dead in that city and unleashing them could probably take it out. Or worse, building up a strong skeleton and golem army, arming and armoring them with good steel, and then letting them loose on the world.”

That is why it was banned,” Twilight said with a nod. “Well, one of the reasons it was banned. If I remember my forbidden history books correctly, two of Grogar’s apprentices appeared in Equestria about three hundred years before Sombra attacked him in the north. They had a full army of undead, and raised as many of the fallen defenders as they could. Even with that, they only took out a few small villages and half a city before Princess Luna stopped them. It was frowned upon before then, but that made Celestia ban it entirely.”

“...When did you learn that?” I asked.

She shrugged. “The next time we were in Canterlot after visiting Athena’s realm. I broke into some of Celestia’s hidden library chambers. I actually found this necromancy book, but I didn’t think to look in it.”

“You naughty little filly,” I said with a smirk. She giggled. “Anyway, back to the point. This shit has great potential for evil, but I could see it being used for some good. Like, for example, unshackling a ghost from someone. At least this actually has a practical use, unlike summoning fucking asshole demons.”

“That’s not entirely true,” the guard said. “I’m probably not supposed to tell you this, but you’re my lady now so it’s not like the princess can hold it against me. After Celestia found that a changeling poisoned Blueblood, she realized Chrysalis would probably attack Canterlot. So she sent us to escort some horrifying fellow called the Inquisitor to one of the larger changeling hives, where we summoned a demon to wreak havoc. She was hoping it would make Chrysalis call the attack off to deal with it herself, but you know how that turned out.”

“Alright, so that’s incredibly evil,” I said with a nod.

Even Gilda nodded and replied, “I hate changelings and I still think that’s pretty fucked up, dude. If one of those things did that to Nav,” they all looked at my wing, “then there’s no telling what they did to a hive.”

He shrugged. “Celestia had us do a lot of evil things. Although it got considerably worse after Luna returned. If there’s some kind of afterlife, I will suffer eternally for the things I have done in the name of peace. Anyway, back to work.” He grabbed the scroll and went back to reading it over.

“And on that note, I need to get back to my room,” I said. “I have people waiting on me.” Probably. “Twilight, if you let my daughter get eaten by a skeletal hamster, I’m turning you into a mindless sex slave.”

“‘Kay.” She started poring over her book again and Taya began using magic to assemble another skeleton. Gilda watched, her tail idly wagging across the floor. I had no idea why she was there, but I learned to stop questioning things ages ago.

When I got to my room, Doppel was trying on some of my longer socks. She looked up when I entered and then went back to seeing how far up her legs they would stretch. I hopped onto the bed and eased back. “So I’m an actual, literal noble now,” I idly said.

“I heard. I bet you hate it, huh?”

“Oh yeah, it sucks hella hard. But since I can have vassals and guards and all that shit now, I decided it was past time I got my finances in order. So if you want to become official, I can have you added to the payroll, so money will be deposited into an account for you at the same time all the guards get paid. Or I can make you a vassal, if you really want to stay with me forever.”

“Hm… For now, I think I just want to get paid. But I’ll think about being a vassal later. Is that okay?”

“Oh yeah, that’s perfectly fine. It’s a huge step and I’m surprised three people already made it.”

“Okay, mistress. Then I’ll take half of what the guards get. I won’t need money as much as they do, but it’ll be nice to have some if I ever do. And these are really comfortable!”

“Yeah, socks are great. Is Dash behaving?”

“Yes. She’s a surprisingly obedient little filly. I think she might actually enjoy this week!”

“Yeah, she’s super subby. Anyway, that’s all I needed. You’re free to go back to doing whatever.”

“Are you whatever, mistress?”

“I said whatever, not whoever. But I mean, if you’re offering…”

 She transformed into a shape I knew very well and my smirk turned into a full smile. She… He kicked the door shut and pounced.

Once I was able to walk again, we both wandered on down to the naga’s room. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to seek him out, but he definitely wasn’t in there. “So, thoughts?” I asked. At the moment, she was disguised as Rainbow Dash.

“Nope. He didn’t tell me anything.”

“Huh.” Since all four people were still in Twilight’s new lab, I poked my head in there. A skeletal hamster was trying to run in a wheel, but his bones kept getting caught in the empty spaces, breaking them. They instantly healed up and he tried to continue running. Twilight was watching and taking notes, Taya was sitting with Gilda and talking about the best methods of breaking a jaw, and the medic was using a small magnifier to look into a shimmery emerald. “Hey guys, anyone know where the naga is?”

“Three of us are girls, Nav,” Twilight said without looking up.

“Go fuck yourself. Anyone feel like giving me an answer that isn’t just sass?”

The medic spoke up with, “He said he was going to the blacksmith, if you needed him for anything.”

“Thank you. Keep on keepin’ on, guys.” Twilight snorted as Doppel and I went on our way. My changeling turned into a hummingbird long enough to land on my shoulder, then transformed into a hamster and scuttled down my shirt to nestle herself between my lackluster boobs. I didn’t comment, even though the furry warmth felt strangely good.

When I got to the blacksmith, it was just Smiles doing his normal routine. Well, the normal routine that doesn’t involve sexually harassing guys or trying to have sex with me. In this case, he was using Ice to quench nails. I thought about asking if that damaged him before deciding that I honestly didn’t care.

It was too loud for him to hear me walk in, but his elemental has superhuman senses and was also facing the right way, so he alerted Smiles that he had company and the dude stopped hammering and turned to face me. “Hey Nav,” he loudly said. Then he blinked and rubbed at one of his ears for a second before continuing more quietly. “Sorry, I forget how much that messes with my volume. What do you need?”

“I was looking for the naga. You seen him?”

“Yeah, he’s with Jak in the book world. I was talking to him for a while about uh… being gay, actually. It was kinda weird. The book is in Jak’s room, if you want to see him now.”

“He… spoke with you about being gay?” I asked. Truth be told, I never expected to hear that one. “Was he mean or anything?”

“No, actually. I was surprised. I’ve heard him speak up about it before and it was always pretty nasty, so I kept quiet around him. He wasn’t respectful, but he was at least more open to it.” He shrugged. “I answered his questions as best I could. It started with how I became interested in stallions. He didn’t get the answer he expected, so that turned into how and when I noticed I was into them. It made me think about some stuff I never really paid much attention to. Did you know naga consider that unnatural and disgusting?”

“I did. I told him to stop being a dick about it when he was in Ponyland. I guess he chose to actually educate himself. Props to him, I guess. When I come from, most people preferred keeping their prejudices instead of learning why other people are the way they are. I don’t suppose he asked you about laws, did he?”

“Yeah. One of the things he asked was when it became legal for guys like me to marry other guys. I had no clue about that. Do you know if it was ever illegal?”

“I think so. But I meant laws that actually mattered. Like, the legality of cutting off someone’s hand in front of a squad of guards.”

He blinked. “Oh. No.” He blinked again. “Wait, did he actually do that?”

“Yeah. Anyway, not important. I need to speak to him. Carry on or whatever.”

He shrugged and turned back to his anvil. “Door’s unlocked. Let me know if Jak needs anything.”

“Yep.” The hammer started ringing again, so I went further into the smithy. Jak’s room was a fucking mess, surprisingly. I figured the dude would be something of a neat freak, but he had random scraps of metal everywhere, notes dropped all over the place, unfinished plates of food here and there, unwashed clothes dumped on his bed, and the fucking portal book was on the floor.

“He needs a maid,” hamster Doppel said from my shirt.

“Or a smack in the mouth from someone that is a lot less scared of him than I am,” I replied. She shifted around a little, which tickled and made me squirm. When she was done, I grabbed the book, knocked some detritus off a table, and set it on there. “Now’s your chance to back out,” I said. “Shit’s weird in there.”

“I’m happy right where I am,” her squeaky voice said. I shrugged and opened the book. We both got sucked in and my shirt immediately tore in half as she was forcibly reverted back to her real body. I wasn’t wearing a bra and I started to cover myself before realizing that I didn’t actually care. She hit the floor with a painful sounding thunk and quickly sat up, rubbing her head. “What happened?”

Athena appeared in front of us and placed a finger on both of our foreheads. The one against mine was her natural finger and the one against Doppel’s was the one with the weird metal thing on it, both of which elongated several feet so Athena didn’t have to bend over. Doppel and I completely froze in place and could only move our eyes.

“Navarone. You brought me a changeling. Interesting. I suppose I should warn you that their abilities do not work here.” Her finger slowly traced down my body and stopped at one of my nipples, making my skin crawl. “Is there a reason you come to me with your chest bared?”

Whatever she was doing to freeze my body wore off on my mouth, so I said, “Doppel was disguised as a hamster and nestled in my shirt. Coming here reverted her and it tore the shirt off.”

“Oh.” She looked down and slightly behind me, where the shirt was presumably sitting on the floor. “Interesting.” She suddenly appeared behind me, though she somehow kept both fingers where they were. “Are you aware that one of your wings has been corrupted?”

“I am aware of that, yes. I don’t suppose you could fix it?”

“I could remove it and assist it in regrowing over the course of a few months, but I believe it very unlikely that it would grow back feathery. Such a shame.” She reappeared in front of me. “Is there some way I can assist you?”

“I was looking for the naga.”

Her head tilted very slightly and the three of us appeared next to Jak, the naga, and the metal golem. “You have found him.”

“Thank you.”

Her fingers released me and Doppel and she appeared behind me again, to place both hands on my shoulders. “You are very tense, Navarone. You will see me before you return to the real world.”

“...Okay.” She vanished, though some feeling of her hands on my shoulders lingered. It made me shiver, though that might have also been the slight chill against my bare chest.

“What do you need, lass?” Jak asked, hefting an unnecessarily large wrench. I don’t know why he had it, since I didn’t see any bolts anywhere, but whatever. While he asked that, Doppel was getting to her feet and stretching.

I paid her no mind and said, “I just needed to speak with the naga for a second. It probably could have waited, but I’d prefer to get all of this settled now.”

“What do you need, sister?” the naga asked, making no attempt to hide the fact that he was staring straight at my chest.

“Since I got turned into a noble and everything’s becoming big and official with all its own paperwork, I wanted to know if you were interested in being paid like a guard. I went ahead and had Watcher send some gold your way for all the work you’ve done before now, but unless you want to be put on the roster now, you won’t be getting paid again. If not, that’s cool. If so, I need to know now so I can get you added.”

A flash of fire caught all our eyes and we looked down at Doppel, who was presumably attempting to transform. She tried a few more times to no avail. When she was done, the naga and Jak both went back to ogling my boobs. “I do not need payment, though the money you had delivered was welcome. I will continue without need for paperwork.”

“Alright, cool. Jak, how’s the monstrosity coming?”

“Well, lass.” He smacked the thing in the head with his wrench. “He’s comin’ along real well. I don’t suppose you’re aware that you’re missing a shirt.”

“Yeah, I noticed. How much longer do you think you have on this thing?”

“This one? Oh, I’ll probably never be done foolin’ with this thing!” He chuckled and placed an oversized hand on one of its arms. “He’s my baby, true as true.” I slowly lifted an eyebrow and he started laughing some more. When he finished that episode, he shook his head and wiped a tear away. “Oh lassie, you’re so adorable when you’re confused. This lad here’ll be my eternal prototype, always changing with my whims and thoughts… But I’ll start working on a new one within the week, one we can take outside the book and use however you want.”

“And how long—”

He reached a hand over and tousled my hair, which did basically nothing since it all hung down to my ass and was in a ponytail besides. “Can’t rush perfection, lassie. Now you leave us old fellas to our work. We got toys to build for you!”

I don’t know if I should feel offended because that was sexist or because it was just condescending. I chose to get over myself instead and shrugged, making them both grin because my boobs bounced with my shoulders. “Alright, whatever. See you both on the other side.” Doppel and I started walking away, leaving Jak to his work and Ames to whatever the fuck he was doing.

“This place is really fascinating, mas—mistress,” Doppel said, looking around.

“It’s cool on this side. Not so cool when you’re fighting your way through it with nothing but a knife and a moody, adorable unicorn.”

“Yeah, I bet—Wait, do you mean Taya or Twilight? Because I thought it was Twilight, but that fits both.”

“It was Twilight.”

“Just checking. Yeah, I bet that was unfun.” She stopped next to one of the large paper golems and just looked up at it. “Did you have to fight one of these?”

“Yeah. Be thankful for your carapace. Papercuts are a very serious concern for those of us without fur or armor all over us.”

“Huh.” She hurried to catch up as I walked to the staircases going up. I really didn’t want to see Athena before I left, but I also wanted to be able to come back and not have to deal with the possible consequences of disobeying her.

When I saw her through the book’s natural gloom, she was sitting straight up and just staring at me, hands on her knees. She creepily watched us approach. Or rather, watched me approach. As far as she appeared to be concerned, Doppel might as well have been a gnat.

“What did you need from me?” I asked when I was an acceptable talking distance away. Then I remembered that her culture was much closer than that and what was acceptable to me was probably super rude to her. That said, I didn’t move closer.

She lifted a hand and a bed appeared next to her, then she used that hand to pat the bed. “Lie down, Navarone.” I looked at Doppel and found that she was completely frozen in place. I looked at the bed and slowly lied down on the edge.

She disappeared from view and I got my hopes up just long enough to feel something carefully combing through my hair. “This is too pretty to keep like this, don’t you think?”

I actually quite like it. “I… am open to new ideas,” I said, shifting slightly in discomfort.

She began whistling like a bird as she pulled the rubber band away from my hair and started brushing it. Once it was fully unwrinkled, she started doing a few other things. It was difficult for me to tell what exactly she was doing because I was facing the wrong way, but her bony hands did not feel very nice against my scalp.

When she was finally done, she ran one of those creepy hands slowly down my side, ending at the start of my pants. My eyes involuntarily closed, trying to hide me from what I thought was about to happen as her hand stopped at my hip. Then it suddenly disappeared and I didn’t feel her on the bed anymore. My eyes opened just in time to see her face leaning into mine. She very gently kissed my forehead while grabbing one of my hands with one of hers.

“I always found someone else playing with my hair very relaxing,” she quietly said, pulling back. With that, the three of us appeared next to the portal book and I was suddenly standing again. “I will see you next time, Navarone.”

She let me go and walked around the pedestal, then opened the book to face me and Doppel. We both got ensnared by tentacles and dragged back into reality.

When my changeling reanimated, she gasped for breath and started coughing. While she was getting over that, I placed a hand on my chest and leaned against the table. “What the fuck just happened?” I asked, trying to reconcile whatever the fuck that was in my head.

Before Doppel could reply, the book opened again and spat out a dress that looked like it had been fashioned from what was left of my shirt, along with some other kind of fabric. To get my mind off the absolute horror I was feeling, I grabbed it and held it up to get a look at it. The thing seemed like something like one of the muses in that old Hercules movie wore.

Doppel was all the way or mostly recovered, so she looked at it as well. “Huh. Mistress, what the buck—” She took her eyes on the dress and moved them up to me. Instead of stopping at my face, they went to my hair. “Uh… huh.”

“I’m not even gonna ask.” I slung the dress over a shoulder and walked out. She followed me back into the smithy, where Smiles was back to work.

Once again, Ice saw us when we came back and he stopped his host, but moved up to look at me before Smiles could do anything. “Are you okay?” he asked. “You lost your shirt and…” His eyes also went to my hair. “Wow. That looks really pretty.”

“Thank you. And yes, I’m physically fine. Athena doesn’t believe in personal space and I have a hard time telling her no, because I happen to like all of my blood inside of my body. Although the shirt thing was actually Doppel’s fault, not that it matters. Anyway, I’m going to go curl into a ball and cry for a little while, because that was incredibly traumatizing.”

“Oh. Um. Do you want a hug?”

“Yes.” Sunshine Smiles literally flew across the room to hug me. Ice slid behind me and braced my body to stop me from getting knocked back into Jak’s room. I was honestly too shocked and disturbed at what Athena just did to even be mad about it, so I hugged him back. Warmth, squishiness, and comfortably soft fur is exactly what I needed after being held and touched by Athena’s cold, mutated, bony hands. I sighed into the pony’s back as my body actually started shaking slightly, the tension and fear seeping out of me.

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