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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171. Chapter One Hundred and Forty-Two Part 1

Fleur got me out of the hospital wing before letting my arm go. I have a feeling she wanted to get me out before I saw anyone that might have been injured because I failed against Nestorats. The thought was appreciated, if unnecessary.

When we got to one of the side areas of the hospital, she pulled me closer and placed my hand on her back. “Your hands are quite delightful, Nav,” she said, flexing the muscles under my hand. “Have you ever considering becoming a masseuse?”

“Yes. But I don’t want to make a living by touching ponies. That shit’s weird.”

“Hm.” She smartly stepped away from my hand. “Understandable, I suppose. Anyway, come along! A certain Photo Finish owes me quite a few favors.”

“...I recognize that name.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “I thought you weren’t interested in fashion at all. Though she is a household name, in some places…”

“You drugged her a few years ago, didn’t you? At a house party, with Rarity and a male model.”

A blush almost immediately came to her face. “I… I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about!”

“And then you got Rarity and that model arrested for treason.”

Both of her ears shot down. “You… you must have me mistaken…”

“I happened to be a pony model once, you know.”

“I… see.” I stared at her for another few seconds, watching the blush slowly creep down her face. “I… I have made mistakes in my life, Nav. You… you know that. I was a very different mare, once. Jealous, vain, exceedingly bitter… I have done many things that I regret. That was… perhaps one of the worst things I’ve done.”

After a few more seconds of staring, during which her eyes sank to the floor, I quietly said, “I am no stranger to sins and regrets. Shall we move on?”

“...Happily.” She started to walk off, head still down, so I swooped in and hugged her. She flinched, but leaned into it after a few seconds. When she got too comfortable, I let her go and we continued on, her head held high once again.

God dammit, Flo. Why did you let me start actually liking her?

“Because the happier you two are together, the more likely she is to put you in a beautiful dress, of course. And that makes you suffer, which makes me happy. Everybody wins.”

Except for me!

“Wearing a beautiful dress makes her happy, which makes you happy, because she’s your friend. So you also win, silly.”

I hate you.

“I love you too, my adorable little human.”

As much as I wanted to keep bitching at her, I knew she would start punishing me if I continued. She denies it, but I know her better. So instead I asked, “Why are we going to a photographer to get me clothes?”

“Because she knows who’s who when it comes to fashion, of course. And she can very easily and cheaply commission any manner of outfit we need. Since you need several, this is the easiest solution. I know money is hardly a problem for either of us, but I find it wise to take recommendations from those who know their trade.”

“Makes sense, I guess. She won’t try to take pictures of me wearing any of these things, will she?”

“Unlikely, but possible. Generally speaking, fashion magazines showcase fashions for the everyday mare. You… aren’t exactly an everyday mare.” We walked a few more steps, then she added, “But if she offers to send you to Shutter Speed, say no.”

“‘Kay.” I kinda wanted to ask, but I also didn’t really care. “As long as I don’t end up in any kind of fashion magazines or whatever, I’m good. And as long as she doesn’t dress me up like some kind of retard, of course.”

“Then you have little to fear, I imagine.”

We finally got to the front entrance, where all the common ponies entered and left the castle. I don’t know why she decided to use that path, when we could leave from any one of them, but Fleur’s all about drama and making herself known, or at least, the habit was so ingrained in her that she did it without thinking.

As soon as I got to the doors, both of the guards shot their superfluous spears down. “Just a moment, Navarone,” one of them said. “Princess Celestia and Captain Midnight have both authorised us to give you two personal guards, if you would like them. They are not required, but will be assigned to you if you are interested.”

“I can see Captain Midnight offering them, but Celestia? Did she say why?” I asked.

“You have had… difficulties in Canterlot in the past. And you will not make many extra friends by bringing in Pertz. You are currently injured and lack mobility. She believed you might benefit from having some ponies guarding you. She doesn’t believe any guards will be necessary, but for your peace of mind and hers, she decided to make the offer.”

“Huh.” I turned to my current companion. “Thoughts, Fleur?”

“They wouldn’t hurt,” she replied with a shrug. “You are currently… mostly unarmed. Having royal guards with us would ward off any possible attackers, and remind the common ponies, and many undesirables, how much power you truly wield in this city. That is never a bad thing.”

“It can most definitely be a bad thing, but the good outweighs it.” I looked back at the guard that spoke. “I’ll take them, if there are any that wouldn’t mind going with me.”

“Yes sir. You’ll find that the day guards are much more professional than the night guards you’re used to working with.” I kinda wanted to bring up how badly the unprofessional night guards curb stomped the day guards during the war games, but that would have been impolite and I didn’t want to wreck the reputation that I just got restored. So instead I stayed silent. “I’ll go arrange it right now. Please wait right here.” He bowed slightly and walked off, leaving just one guard at the door.

“So why do you carry spears?” I asked the remaining one. “I mean, you don’t even have hands. Can you actually stab anyone with those?”

“We learned to not ask questions, sir. My personal guess is that they’re just for show. We’ve never actually been trained with them.”

“Might be good for a charge,” I quietly said. “Let me see.” He passed the spear to me with a shrug. I hefted it to get its weight, then walked over to his side. “Hold still.” Fleur and the guard both watched as I carefully slid the dull end of the spear in a small weak spot under the guard’s armor. The thing was easily twice as long as he was, so I didn’t push it too far in, just far enough in so it didn’t sag down. The end result was about a meter of spear sticking out in front of the guy, ready to be stabbed into someone in front of him. “Yeah, that would be great for a phalanx, if you strapped it into place.”

“I… don’t think my spear is supposed to go there, sir,” he slowly said.

“If you were charging an army of changelings, would you rather do it with only your hooves to fight, or would you rather have a sharp, pointy stick in front of you?”

“Well, I mean, I’d rather have the stick…”

“Good, then you have some common sense. What humans would do back when we still used spears is make what’s called a phalanx. It would have ten or more people side to side in front, holding shields and keeping spears in front of them. Those spears would act to guide attacking enemy soldiers into a killing lane. From there, ten men behind the men with shields would stab into that lane, creating a fairly efficient killing ground. It worked great against disorganized masses of enemies that came at you from the front.”

“That sounds… really smart, sir. But what did you do about mages? Or other humans with wings?”

“We didn’t have those. This was purely infantry, or essentially earth pony versus earth pony. I imagine infantry battles here would be very different, given those factors. Still, having a formation when dealing with weapons like yours is usually better than charging in a disorganized mess.”

“Hm… What about the war games? The way you and the night guards fought was extremely disorganized.”

“No, it just seemed that way to an outsider looking in, one who isn’t used to thinking in terms of small unit actions. Those tactics wouldn’t work in a full scale battle. The goal of tactics like that is to avoid a full scale battle for as long as possible to wear your enemy’s numbers down, so when you do have a large battle, you’ll have the upper hand. Anyway.” I pulled the spear back out of his armor and held it up for him. “I suppose that’s the difference in a predator’s thinking versus the prey’s thinking. Or a warlike species versus a peaceful one.”

He slowly took the spear back, though he didn’t look away from me. “As far as I know, the griffins fight about the same way we do.”

“Huh. Well, cats and dogs fight more like humans. Maybe it’s just more of a mindset. When you go through two wars in the span of twenty years where millions of people died, I guess you start to realize winning a fight quickly and efficiently is a lot better than winning it honorably.”

The guard flinched slightly when I said millions, and his eyes moved to his spear. “Millions dead… using spears?” he quietly asked.

“Oh god no. We don’t have mages, so we made up for it with science. Namely, the sciences of bombs and explosions. There at the end of the second war, one of the combatants made a single explosive that destroyed just about an entire city. And they made two of them. For reference, imagine sitting on the mountain in the Everfree, facing Canterlot, then closing your eyes for ten seconds. When you open them, the entire city is just gone and all that’s left is a storm of fire and poison that travels for hundreds of kilometers, slowly and painfully killing almost everyone it hits.” He didn’t seem interested in imagining that at all. “Before that, we did it more piecemeal, with about fifty to five hundred kilogram bombs that could raze entire city blocks. That’s the kind of mindset that I approach fighting with. That is my legacy. And that is why anyone that tries to fight a war against me is going to lose.”

Both the guard and Fleur looked somewhat disturbed. Given how many of the books she read, Fleur probably already knew at least some of that. I guess hearing it directly from my mouth gave it something more of a grim reality.

So I reached out and booped the guard on the nose. “How long do you think it’ll take to get my escorts?”

“Already here,” the other guard said, walking back up to his post. He was leading two more nondescript day guards, neither of which were carrying spears. “Have you had escorts before, sir?”

“Not out and about in Canterlot, no.” Or at least, not overtly.

“They’ll follow almost any of your orders, of course. You’ve led troops before, so you know what is and isn’t acceptable. For the most part, they’ll follow behind you and whoever you’re with and step in if they think any situation might be dangerous.”

“Sounds simple enough. Here’s hoping they won’t be needed.”

The main guard nodded. “That’s always our main hope, sir. It’s been nearly five years since we’ve actually had to protect somepony, and that was just because Blueblood brought it on himself.”

“I hope you let the other guy get a few hits in before you stepped in.”

He grinned. “No comment. Be safe, sir.”

“Hope so. Shall we, Fleur?”

“Happily.”

She led the way into the city. As soon as we got out of the gates, she started prattling gossip out. Unimportant bullshit about who was secretly seeing who and various scandals. At the time, I figured she was just mindlessly talking to pass the time, but now that I think about it (and now that I’ve seen the newspapers), I realize she was saying all that shit to give the tabloid writers stuff to talk about instead of me.

Fleur is a lot smarter than I give her credit for.

I have absolutely nothing to say about my time with Photo Finish and those… people she had measuring me. Flo is telling me to stop being a baby. I’m telling her that I feel violated and very uncomfortable with all the places measuring tapes were shoved. Of course, she doesn’t pity me because she’s literally a soulless machine.

She didn’t have a reply for that.

The trial for Pertz pretty much started just after the crack of dawn. Ostensibly that was so both sides would have plenty of time to submit evidence, even though everyone went into it knowing the dude was guilty. The real reason, or at least, what I figured was the real reason, was so fewer of his possible supporters would be willing to show up. A lot of the rich assholes didn’t tend to wake up until later, so the hope was that they wouldn’t attend.

As my escort of two guards led my way into the courtroom, I saw that hope was very much dashed. The rows were packed with rich assholes and a few off-duty guards here and there, either placed there by Celestia to keep the crowd from getting rowdy or just to see that bastard get nailed to the fucking wall. There were still enough rich fucktards that I was glad I wore my armor and had my sword on me.

Since I was probably going to act as one of the witnesses, I got to sit right up front, next to Shining Armor. The guards left me when I got in place, since they were only there at Celestia’s order, presumably for show.

“I didn’t think you were going to make it,” Shiny quietly said when I sat down.

“What’s the point in sitting around a courtroom for half an hour just waiting? I’d rather get there on time, since fancy and important things usually start late anyway.”

He snorted. “In your world, maybe.”

Before I could reply, the fancily dressed guard at the front of the room stomped a hoof on the ground. “All rise for Princess Celestia of Equestria.” All the little horses started standing, so I joined them since it was the cool thing to do. Right after he said his little thing, Celestia entered from a side door and walked to the large box in the front of the room.

When she was in place, she nodded smartly. “As you were, everypony. And Nav.” We all returned to our seats. “Bailiff, would you please send for the prisoner? And Shining Armor, would you please contain him as soon as he enters?”

They both said, “Yes, Princess.” Both their horns lit up. The guard’s magic made a bell ring in the back. Shiny’s put a bubble up in front of the back door. A few moments after that, the door opened and Pertz walked through, head held high despite the chains covering him or his missing fur and horn. Before he could do anything, the bubble surrounded him and started pulling him down the path.

As soon as the audience saw him, they started muttering. Some sounded dark, some sounded shocked, and some sounded pleased. Pertz ignored them and fixed Celestia with a cold stare as he was floated forward.

When he was in front of her podium thing, Celestia calmly said, “Pertz, you are accused of murder, assault, treason, ponynapping and unlawful imprisonment, disturbing the peace, genocide, rape, stealing, tax evasion, use of unlawful magic, and smuggling. If you would like to save us all several hours of our lives, feel free to plead guilty. Otherwise, pretend you’re innocent and we can bring in all the witnesses. If you would be so kind as to plead guilty, I’ll let you pick from a few punishments. If you drag this out, I’ll pick for you.”

“I have done nothing wrong, Princess Celestia. This monstrous brute assaulted me and stole me away from my trading station,” he said, turning his head slightly to me for a moment. “I demand that he be punished.”

“So you’re choosing the hard way,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Very well. The witnesses will address each of the crimes in time. Prince Shining Armor, would you like to go first?”

“Happily, your highness.” He stood and walked up to the bailiff.

“You know the drill, sir. Head up, back straight.” Shiny did so, standing very rigid. The bailiff’s horn lit up and he started walking around Shiny, poking him in various places with it. “This spell robs the one imbued the ability to lie. Prince, what is your name?”

“Shining Armor.”

“And your profession?”

“Prince of the Crystal Empire.”

“Please take the stand, Prince Shining Armor.” What, no test to make sure it works? Whatever.

Shiny walked up the rest of the way to the stand next to Celestia. I don’t really know who was supposed to ask him questions, because Pertz didn’t have a lawyer and there wasn’t a prosecutor. Celestia answered that one by asking, “What crimes has Pertz committed that you are personally aware of, Shining Armor?”

“Assault and murder, treason, ponynapping, and smuggling.”

“And how are you aware of these?” Celestia asked.

“On the last shipment Pertz sent back, one of my troops found a disturbingly large quantity of illegal items. He was shipping back ivory, strange poisonous mushrooms, and one living zebra. I have the official cargo manifest here.” His horn lit up and a paper appeared floating in the air next to him. “It was signed and stamped by the guard leader on duty.”

Celestia floated it her way and quickly read over it. “As well as the products he was supposed to ship. That adds pony trafficking to the list of crimes. This proves smuggling. What about the others?”

“After his attempts at smuggling, I was ordered to send a squad of guards on another boat to bring him back to Equestria, since it was decided that he had been away from home for too long. The guards never returned. My assumption was that he assaulted and murdered some and ponynapped the rest, though I have no proof. None of the guards were able to send out any kind of distress signal due to the lack of magic in the area. Of course, attacking any royal guards is treason.”

“Thank you, Prince Shining Armor.” She looked over to Pertz. “Do you have anything to say about this?”

“Those items you claim were smuggled were requested by ponies in power, Princess. I was assured that there would be no problems.”

“There is one pony who can give permission to break certain laws, Pertz,” she replied. “And that pony is not the one who gave the permission. Have you nothing to say to the other charge?”

“This prince has no proof,” Pertz said, shrugging.

“Hm. Prince Shining Armor, you are free to return to the audience.” He slid out of the stand and walked back to the bailiff, who repeated the process. He then returned to his spot next to me. “Next, Silver Quill. Would you mind coming to the stand?”

My eyebrows raised slightly. I hadn’t noticed her in the crowd and I didn’t realize Celestia took her off my ship. But sure enough, the mare stood up and slowly walked to the front of the room, very carefully avoiding stepping near or looking at Pertz. She also stopped in front of the bailiff, who repeated what he did to Shining Armor. Soon, she was seated behind the podium, though she chose to look only at Celestia instead of looking around the room.

When she was settled, Celestia calmly asked, “What crimes has Pertz committed that you are personally aware of, Silver Quill?”

“Treason, assault, murder, ponynapping, unlawful imprisonment, disturbing the peace, and genocide.” Honestly, I was surprised she made it through the whole thing without stuttering. I’m also surprised (and happy) that she didn’t add rape to that list.

“Can you tell us the details of these crimes?” Celestia asked.

“I was the secretary of the trading ship that was sent to bring him back to Canterlot. There were three guards and a merchant on my ship. When we arrived at the village Pertz corrupted, his subjects forced all of us into cages. The merchant demanded to be freed at once, so Pertz ordered his legs broken and told him to walk home. I… I don’t know what became of him after that, but I never saw him again.”

Celestia nodded. “That covers treason, assault, murder, ponynapping, and unlawful imprisonment. What about disturbing the peace and genocide?”

Silver Quill took longer to reply this time, and eventually looked to me instead of Celestia. “I was a prisoner there for months. While there, I witnessed… awful things. He made us watch as he ordered attacks on neighboring villages and he made us look at the… at the awful trophies his monstrous goons brought back. He destroyed a peaceful land and killed as many of the inhabitants as he could…”

“Well then.” Celestia looked back to Pertz, who was glaring at the poor mare on the stand. “And what do you have to say to these accusations, Pertz?”

“I never laid a hoof on those guards, your highness. Or the merchant. And I never killed any of the innocent villagers around me. I can hardly be blamed for the actions of others, can I?”

Celestia sighed. “Pertz, if you continue insulting my intelligence, I’m going to end this farce of a trial and just send you to Tartarus. I’m honestly doing this more to appease your noble friends, but they’re going to complain no matter what the outcome of this trial is, even if you turned into a demon in front of us all and murdered somepony. So please, continue testing me.” He chose to remain silent, though there was a lot of muttering going on behind me. “Oh, are you done?” He grit his teeth. “Good. Silver Quill, you may return to the audience.”

She stepped off the stand and walked to the bailiff, who removed the truth spell on her. When it was gone, she looked back at the princess. “Can I say something, your majesty?”

“Of course, Silver. Just please, keep it quick.”

“Happily.” She finally looked at Pertz. “You’re a monster and I hope you die painfully.” There were some gasps as she looked at me. “Thank you for saving me, Navarone. You are a true hero, and I owe you my life.” And finally, she looked at the audience. “Any of you that think this… filth should suffer any fate but being put to death are delusional and should try living outside of Equestria for just one day.” Instead of taking her place back in the crowd, she just walked out of the courtroom, leaving even more whispers behind her.

“And on that note, Navarone, would you mind stepping forward?” Celestia asked.

“Not at all,” I said, hopping up. “Anything to help put this piece of shit away forever.”

Pertz growled. “You would invite this monster to testify against me? After what he did to Prince Blueblood? And me?”

Celestia nodded. “I will happily hear testimony from Navarone, royal savior, defender of harmony. And Navarone did nothing to Blueblood. A changeling spy poisoned them both. Navarone’s unique biology allowed him to ignore the poison. It’s hardly his fault if Blueblood didn’t have the same defenses. After that, Blueblood challenged Navarone to a duel and then summarily lost. Then he attempted to murder Navarone in cold blood at a party. So I don’t believe Nav did anything unlawful to Blueblood to disallow him from speaking out in this trial. Nor did he do anything unlawful to you.”

By that point, I had already been enchanted with the stupid spell thing and was sitting behind the podium. It was definitely meant for ponies, so I was sitting up about as high as Celestia. I preempted Celestia’s question with, “I know he’s guilty of assault, treason, kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment, disturbing the peace, genocide, rape, and use of unlawful magic.” I was actually kinda surprised that the spell let me say that he was guilty of rape, since he wasn’t technically the one doing the raping, but I didn’t retract my statement.

“By all means, explain,” Celestia said, nodding me on.

“When I got to his village, I identified myself as an agent of the crown, and he seemed to recognize me. Despite that, he denied my authority, refused my orders, and tried to fight me. There’s your treason. When I first met him, he was standing in front of several dozen cages full of all different kinds of sapient creatures. Silver Quill and three royal guards were among them. I think some of them were fairly highly ranking people in their own villages, which gives you kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, and disturbing the peace by kidnapping leaders. When he denied my authority, he accepted a duel, on the grounds that if he lost, he’d go with me. He got his shit kicked in hard and he still refused to go, then attacked me with some magic that I’m pretty sure is absolutely not legal. At the very least, it wasn’t natural. So there’s your assault and unlawful magic. When I beat the shit out of him, his subjects all swarmed me and my soldiers, then got killed pretty much to a man, giving you your genocide.”

“That’s all but rape,” Celestia said. “Please explain that one.”

“Oh, right. This wasn’t really him, but it was one of his subjects. He employed some kind of weird African bat creature that are about as large as I am called a popobawa. They did their best to rape one of my crew members. And from what my local guide told me, that’s pretty much their thing. He made use of them, knowing this. Don’t really know if that counts, but, you know, just in case.”

“It does,” Celestia firmly replied. “Though the genocide one is pretty iffy.”

“Well, I have secondhand evidence for that one,” I said with a shrug. “Pretty much every little village we passed through knew of him and that his warlike army was killing pretty much everyone they could find. The last village we passed through actually named me a hero for stopping him.”

“Hm. And for reference, how many soldiers attacked you and your party?”

“My guess is over three hundred. We probably killed or critically wounded the vast majority of those. I had eight others with me. It was very much a one-sided bloodbath. I think the worst injury we got was a pretty bad bruise, or maybe light burns from some friendly fire. Their numbers included hyenas, gorillas, rhinos, zebras, crocodiles, hippos, popobawas, elephants, and one very pissed off witch doctor.”

“I see. Thank you for your service, Navarone.” She finally looked back at the piece of shit. “And what do you have to say in defense, Pertz?”

He took several long seconds to compose himself, though he spent most of those glaring at me. Finally, he looked back at Celestia and said, “When you sent me to Africa, you told me to send back trade goods and spread civilization. I did both of those. I do not tell you how to rule Equestria. Why do you want to tell me how to obtain goods that you yourself requested?”

“You know, it’s strange. I seem to recall you missing your last three scheduled shipments. And then kidnapping or killing the party I sent to ask why.”

“I had difficulties obtaining goods for some time. You told me that I was allowed to send goods back on my own schedule if I had troubles.”

“With the caveat that you send me a missive if you had difficulties twice in a row, Pertz. I did not give you permission to take over an entire village, I did not give you permission to install yourself as a… as a superstitious god, and I most certainly did not give you permission to learn or use any manner of outlawed magic.” He opened his mouth to reply, but she slapped a hoof against her podium thing. “You will be silent or you will be silenced.” His mouth closed in a grimace. “You took a royal duty, given in good faith, and perverted it monstrously. You absolutely destroyed any semblance of civilization in the heart of Africa and you ruined any chance that they will ever trust ponies again. You assaulted my subjects and the instrument of my will. You defied my authority. You caused so many atrocities that naming them would take over an hour. You ruined lives. And before you were even sent to Africa, you conspired with Blueblood and other nobles against me. You hid your wealth to avoid paying any taxes. You hosted parties of illegal extravagances. I ignored them because you were behaving, despite that, and every pony has a vice. But you, and many of the nobles in this room, are guilty of so, so much. And it has finally caught up with you in particular. What say you?”

“I say that you have gone mad with power, Princess Celestia. I am innocent of all crimes. I have done many of the things you accuse me of, but none of them were criminal.”

“Enough.” She slapped a hoof against the podium again. “You are to be banished to Tartarus at first light tomorrow. Until then, you will be locked in solitary confinement in prison tower C. No visitors will be allowed. Prince Shining Armor, please escort him away.”

“Happily,” he said with a grim smile. His horn lit up brighter and the bubble jerked toward one of the side doors. Before Pertz could begin yelling at any kind of unjust treatment, a magical gag covered his mouth.

“Bailiff, please remove your spells from Navarone.” I stepped down from the stand and let the bailiff do his thing. “Navarone, go with Prince Shining Armor to assist him. I will join you shortly.”

“Of course.” Shiny had already made it out, so I hurried to the door they left from and quickly caught up. As soon as I got next to him, I slid my ring on. “So that went swimmingly,” I happily said, patting his back.

“I certainly won’t complain about the results,” he replied. “But the method… well, it left something of a sour taste in my mouth.”

“Yeah, justice isn’t as sweet as people say,” I said. “Honestly though, this was a foregone conclusion. Celestia may be a tyrant, but she’s not a stupid one. She knows that, given a trial with a jury and an actual judge, he might get away with it. He’s guilty of some pretty fucked up stuff. Better to have him in Tartarus than getting off because he has friends in high places.”

“True. But a proper trial with a proper jury and a proper defense is still better, even if he has a chance of getting off. I’d rather everypony have a fair chance than be left to the whims of one pony, ageless ruler or not.”

“And for the most part, that’s true. Everyday pony Joe Blow gets arrested, he’ll never see Celestia. He’ll be tried according to the crime he committed by a jury of his peers. But a jury of this dickwad’s peers would let him off, because they’re assholes. There’s absolutely nothing worse than a vindictive rich piece of shit that has a grudge against you, trust me. They can usually bend the law in whatever way they want to get their way. At that point, your only hope is to have a richer friend watching out for you.”

Shiny sighed, hanging his head slightly. “Such is the curse of nobility, I suppose…”

“Nah man, that ain’t about nobles. It’s about money. A rich business owner has a lot more sway than a destitute lord. Money brings power, and power corrupts. It’s possible to be rich without being a piece of shit, but it’s really easy to be rich and a piece of shit. Especially if you were born into it and raised with it.”

His ears started twitching. “You aren’t really making me happy about being a rich prince, Nav. Or about having a growing princess…”

“She isn’t the one you need to worry about. The nobles in your place are corrupt as fuck, dude. I could tell that in a brief conversation with just one of them. I bet they’ve already started trying to rebuild and consolidate their power. They’ll take whatever they can get and leave you as puppets, if they can. And then they’ll give themselves all the advantages and shit all over the poor people. It’s a cycle in human history and it’s a cycle in pony history.”

“How do I… how do we even stop them from doing something like that?”

“Get yourself a Cardinal Richelieu. Namely, someone who can put all the nobles on their heads and occupy their time with so much bullshit that they can’t come after you.”

“...So an advisor.”

“Yep. I’ll be honest, Shiny: You really can’t rule both the rich people and the commoners. You can either choose to rein one in or rein the other in. There’s just not enough time in the day to do both and you need full support from at least one group. You have to rule one and find ways to manage the other. Which is what the advisor is for. They can be your manager.”

“Hm…” He finally fell silent, just contemplating.

Pertz was struggling in his bindings, but there wasn’t really anything he could do in that bubble. He had no horn, he was chained up, he was in Shiny’s stupidly overpowered bubble, and I had my ring on so I could step in if if even looked like he might break free.

After a few minutes of quietly following next to Shiny, I finally asked, “So where are we really taking this guy?”

“Prison tower C. Didn’t you hear Celestia?”

“You need to learn to think like a politician. A piece of shit politician, at that. This guy just called her insane in a room full of his friends. She told that same room full of friends that she knows how many of them were breaking laws and could be easily and quickly arrested. She also throws this guy in prison with no real due process. Then she tells them all exactly where he’ll be and that he’ll be alone, in solitary confinement. I’m pretty fucking sure she’s setting a trap to see if they’ll stage a rescue attempt.” Pertz started struggling harder.

Shiny took a few seconds before slowly nodding. “That makes sense, actually…”

“And why do you think she’s setting this trap, instead of just arresting them all?”

“To… make sure she gets as many as possible?”

“And?”

A few more seconds passed as he thought. “To justify it?”

“Bingo. If anyone tries springing this shithead, they’ll be in the upper crust, believe me. Or they’ll be working for someone up there. Celestia has a lot of power, but that doesn’t mean she wants to just step on everyone’s feet, and throwing a dozen high ranking and rich nobles in prison just because she says she has proof of a few small illegal things would piss a lot of people off. But if she has proof that they tried springing a known dangerous traitor that’s on his way to Tartarus…”

“She’ll have every reason in the world to arrest them!”

“And seize their properties and titles, increasing her own power by getting rid of people that want to oppose her.”

Before he could reply, a loud crack from a teleporter went off right behind us. I ripped my sword out as I spun, getting ready to stab someone. Shiny hopped forward, then slung around, keeping me just in front of him, so my armor could tank any blows.

Thankfully, it turned out to just be Celestia. “Extremely astute, both of you,” she said with a small grin. “At least a quarter of the nobles in that room have plans that are far above their station. I believe several of them might actually be stupid enough to attempt to rescue him. Which is why he won’t be there. Prince Shining Armor, you may leave. Navarone and I will continue escorting Pertz.”

Shiny didn’t move. “I’d rather go with you, Princess. Just in case.”

“I know his abilities far better than you do, Shining Armor. You needn’t worry about our safety. And of course, Navarone is fully protected as well.”

“Yeah man, chill,” I said, finally putting my sword back. “This dude tries anything, we’ll put his ass under, no problem. Just keep heading to that prison tower thing. It’ll need to look legit to fool anyone, after all.”

“...Alright. But where will he be kept?”

“He’s going straight to Tartarus, actually,” Celestia said. “He is extremely dangerous. I refuse to take any chances. Nav and I will take him to the gate as soon as you leave. He’ll be tossed in as soon as we get there.”

“Well, alright. Be careful, Princess. I know you’re powerful, but if he’s really as dangerous as you say…”

“He won’t be a problem, Shining Armor. Please don’t leave any of your bubbles in the prison cell. If anypony does try anything, I want to be able to enact my countermeasures without worrying about hitting your magic.”

“Of course, Princess. I’ll see you both later, I guess.” After a few seconds of looking at Pertz, he shrugged and trotted off, horn no longer glowing.

“Let’s carry on, then,” she said, her horn lighting up. Pertz started moving as she turned and began walking. I followed next to her, the criminal trailing behind us.

“That was pretty good timing. Were you watching Shiny?”

“Pertz, actually. I was making sure he didn’t do anything. I was going to wait longer, but that seemed like a good opportunity.”

“Well, at least you know how to make an entrance.”

“Yes, a few thousand years gave me plenty of practice.” We turned down a side hall. “Now, would you mind removing your ring?”

“We gonna teleport?” I asked as I pulled it off.

“Not quite.” Her horn lit up brighter and my sword pulled free. Before I could do anything, she used it to slice Pertz’s head off. My mouth just dropped. She casually slung the sword clean of blood and then slid it back in my sheath, letting the body just fall to the floor. After a few seconds of shocked silence, her horn lit back up and his twitching body disintegrated, taking all the blood with it. “I’ll see you at dinner, Nav. I have some plans to make.” She leaned in and kissed me on the cheek, then teleported away.

After several more seconds, Flo quietly ahemmed. “So that just happened.” It knocked me out of my stupor.

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it did.” I wiped a small splatter of blood off my arm and started walking down the hall.

“As much as I detest the thought, it… was the best decision, all things told,” Flo quietly said.

“Yeah, it was. We don’t need him becoming a demon in Tartarus, or more bullshit that I have to deal with when I go to get the fire there. Still… summary execution, man. Jesus. That’s some cold blooded shit.”

“Well, Celestia’s pretty cold blooded. Yes, this was a very dark outcome, but are you truly surprised to see her do something like this?”

I walked in silence for a few minutes. “Honestly, not really. But why the hell did she have to use my sword to do it?”

Flo didn’t reply.

My goal was to spend all of that day in my room, hoping to not have to deal with reporters. I also only had one set of clothes at the moment, since the others weren’t done. The armor wasn’t really the most comfortable thing out there, so staying in was a much easier alternative.

I was doing pretty good with that goal up until around six or so, when a gentle knock sounded against my door. It wasn’t until it was open that I realized I was just wearing panties, not that it really mattered anymore.

The maid on the other side certainly didn’t seem to care. It was the one that had already seen me completely naked, so I don’t suppose a small piece of cloth really fazed her. “Princess Celestia says you are to join her at dinner, Lady Navarone. I believe she needs to talk to you.”

I took a moment to think over those implications before nodding. “Alright. When?” She probably wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to say anything about the dude she violently murdered in front of me.

“As soon as you ready yourself. Would you like me to escort you, or do you know the way?”

“I know the way, thank you.”

She bowed slightly before trotting off, moving to her next task. For once, I didn’t take a moment to watch her ass as she left. Instead, I just threw on the one set of clothes that I had and went to meet Sunbutt.

Of course, she was in her own personal dining hall. Food had already been served, surprisingly, but there was a place set out for me and it didn’t appear that she had begun eating yet. “So kind of you to join me,” she warmly said as I sat myself down next to her.

“And it was kind of you to invite me. Palace food is definitely better than travel fare, even if it is cooked by a dragon in a puffy pink apron.” The jury’s still out on why Spike chooses to keep wearing that thing. “Of course, I need plenty of food to help my wing keep healing.”

“Which is, in part, why I invited you. I’ll need to check it before we retire. Does it still feel fine?”

“Yeah. Several loose feathers, but I guess that’s what comes from being in a cast.” I made a show of shaking it, which knocked a few feathers out. She lifted an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything. “I’m saving up for a human feather pillow. Gotta be the most unique one out there.”

“I’m sure.” Her horn lit up and food started levitating, which I took as a sign to mean the meal was truly ready to begin. “I’m sure you’re wondering why the table is already set.”

“I was just assuming you got impatient.”

She was silent for several seconds, either chewing or thinking. Finally, she said, “I have a task for you. It might lead to some dark and highly immoral things. If you don’t want it, I will not blame you and I’ll find another way to accomplish it. If you do accept it, it is absolutely imperative that it be accomplished according to my guidelines.”

I met her silence with some of my own. After nearly half a minute, during which I actually got to eat some, I quietly said, “I’m listening.”

“I want you to guard prison cell C tonight. Before you go, I’ll show you a few pictures. If any of those ponies try anything, I need you to kill them. If any other ponies try doing anything, capture them if possible and kill them if not.”

I was silent for a little bit longer before lifting an eyebrow. “How is this dark or immoral?”

“Because if any of the ponies on my list are there, I need you to kill them, regardless of whether or not they try to surrender or run. They must die.”

The silence came back as I contemplated and ate. Honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Anyone that attempted to break Pertz out really had it coming. But I knew I was being used. “Why?”

“Because what you told Shining Armor today wasn’t entirely accurate,” she said with a sigh. “Arresting nobles that attempt to free a traitor condemned to Tartarus is a decent way to seize their titles, but it’s not a particularly good way. After all, they’ll still have rights and can still appeal to an actual court, who would likely be susceptible to bribery. If any of the ponies on my list are foolhardy enough to risk freeing Pertz, they must be put down.”

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