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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167. Chapter One Hundred and Thirty-Nine Part 1

When I got out of the shower, Taya was waiting in my room. Her eyes were fixed on the bloody armor on the floor until I walked in. “What happened?” she immediately asked.

“Shit hit the fan,” I said with a shrug. “Same as usual. We had to fight some duels, I had to beat the shit out of Pertz, then we had to kill half the village to get back to the ship. It was fun.” But not really. “So how was your day?”

“It could have been better. You didn’t get hurt?”

“Not particularly. The fall didn’t hurt you?”

She shook her head. “I think Twilight may have gotten hurt, though. I was with her when we did. What caused that?”

“A very bad error in judgment on my part. I spared someone that I should have killed. Now we don’t have a rudder and we don’t have a balloon. The elementals are ferrying us to the ocean and they might have to take us the rest of the way, too. But we got Pertz out alive, even if he’s pretty badly fucked up, so at least there’s that. Can you go find all of Twilight’s friends and fill them in on what’s going on, if they don’t already know? And tell them they’re free to go on deck for now, but head back below immediately if we get attacked.”

“I don’t mind, daddy. But I think Applejack and Rainbow Dash might be… busy.”

“Then don’t interrupt them. Twilight and Rarity should already know. Just let people know what’s what.”

“Alright. Where will you be when I’m done?”

“I need to drop my armor off to have it looked over, then deal with Pertz, and then I’m finding Doppel and continuing a discussion. When I’m done with all that, I’ll be back here.”

“Okay, daddy. I’ll see you when you’re done.” She hopped off the bed and walked out, brushing softly against me when she passed. Thankfully, she had the decency to pull the door shut behind her so I could get dressed without pervs trying to peep on me.

When I was done with that, I stuffed most of the armor in a bag and carried it down to the smithy. As much as I was initially against the idea of a mobile blacksmithing room, I’m really glad I let Watcher make it happen. The place was useful and if Jak ever finished his golem, I figured it would quickly pay for itself.

Smiles was in there, hammering out new bolt heads. The explosive rounds were irreplaceable without stuff we didn’t keep on hand, but they could start working on replacing the normal ones.

He was too absorbed in his work to look up when I entered and I didn’t want to risk interrupting him, so I waited until he quenched the bolt he was working on to ask, “Got a minute?”

He rubbed his forehead and turned around. “Yeah. What happened out there?”

“Pertz had to be convinced to come with us. And the villagers had to be convinced to let him go. I made a bad call and we suffered for it. But none of us died and none of us got seriously hurt, so whatevs. My armor did get banged up, though. Can you look at it whenever you get done with this stuff?”

He set the hammer down. “I can work on it now, if you need it. We can outsource labor for these bolts whenever we get to a friendly port for a few days.”

“Take your time. If I actually end up needing armor, I’ll use the carbon nanotube set. It’s stronger anyway, just less imposing. And thanks for the help today. You guys probably saved everyone from that elephant.” I could have tried to kill it, but my sword isn’t long and I didn’t have the naga’s ridiculous strength or size. And if the elephant had gotten past me, he would have trampled the others while they were distracted.

“Happy to help, but all I did was move the crank where Jak told me to.”

I shrugged. “Well, I was going to give you a hug, but if that’s all you did, I can give it to Jak instead. Where’s he?”

The poor guy actually looked really disappointed, so I almost felt bad about lying. But he kept talking anyway, so I figured he’d get over it. “On deck. He’s checking over the ballistas and helping with the mess.”

“Then I’ll leave him to it. I’d probably get a nasty sunburn really quickly out there, without the balloon or something covering me. Do you know how his golem is coming along?”

He shook his head. “He doesn’t tell me much about it. I don’t think he tells anypony much about it, actually.”

“He doesn’t. I also don’t really care, as long as I know it’s coming along. I can’t imagine he’s too happy about all the distractions.”

“He’s not. But I am. Being in that… that book for so long can’t be healthy.”

“It’s not. The lady inside is creepy and insane and the rules there are different. Shit’s weird. But whatever. Fix this armor up when you can and leave it in my room if the door’s open. It’s not a rush.”

He nodded. “Yes sir, I’ll get it done.” I left before he could walk over and grab the bag. After all, I didn’t want to hear him bitching about it still being covered in blood.

When I got into the hall, one of the soldiers was walking past. “Do you know where Pertz is?” I asked him.

“In the cargo hold, sir,” he said. “He’s got a full squad guarding him and I think Zecora and Kat are also with him.”

“Is he awake yet?”

“I don’t know. He looked hurt really bad, so I doubt it.”

“Tch, yeah. Bastard put up a fight. Guess I’ll go find out. Thanks.” He nodded and I went on down to the cargo hold.

Sure enough, a full squad was sitting on some of the boxes there. Two were playing dice and the third was watching Kat and Zecora. Or rather, I noticed after a moment that he was just staring at Kat’s ass. I couldn’t blame him, since it was a very cute ass. Kat was just standing over Pertz with her arms crossed, waiting. Zecora was digging through a bag of ingredients and muttering. The hole in the ship was to our right, on the bottom. I had a feeling that if the elementals hadn’t saved us, this ship would probably have been lost forever, along with all or most of us.

And Pertz was lying on the ground out cold. His legs were all tied together, his neck was chained to a hook on one side of the ship and his tail was chained to a hook on the other side. The fur was burned off most of his chest and back, his horn was cut off, there was a patched up hole in one of his shoulders, and he had a black eye. One of his ears had been sliced apart and my ring was placed in between the cuts. It looked like the flesh had been cauterized together afterwards, to make sure the ring couldn’t be easily removed.

“Any luck?” I asked when I was standing next to Zecora and Kat.

“I know of a potion that would keep him asleep for days at a time,” Zecora said, looking up at me. “But in his current wounded state, he’d likely never awaken. I believe I can make it milder and allow him to wake up sooner, but it cannot be used constantly; he will need a week to recover before he can safely drink it again.”

“How long we talkin’ here?” I asked.

“The stronger one… around five days. Six, if he’s this weak and can survive it. The weaker one would probably be three days. He would very likely survive that one.”

Kat purred and shook her head. “We went through too much trouble to take him alive for him to only very likely survive.”

“Gotta agree with Kat on this one,” I said. “Celestia wants him alive and he looks like absolute shit. Kinda forgot that potion made Spike super hot when I asked him to hold this bastard. He will survive these wounds, right?”

Zecora waved a hoof. “His wounds are easy. Nothing we did is fatal. Just very, very painful. He will likely wake up screaming.”

“Ugh. Bastard. At least we can gag him. I’d rather not hear his annoying voice again anyway. Alright, so potions aren’t an option. The ring should stop him, but I don’t want to risk the ship on a should. I might be able to use dream magic, but we don’t know what side effects that has.”

Flo spoke up using my mouth. “One of my sisters can keep him asleep, Nav. We can also help ensure that he survives his injuries.”

“Any objections?” I asked.

One of the guards spoke up, surprisingly. “Can these things leave a pony’s body, sir? If they’re stuck in him forever, it might affect them if he gets sent to Tartarus.”

“Nah, they can leave at will,” I said. “That won’t be an issue.”

“I have a concern,” Zecora said. “This stallion is insane and his will is strong. An elemental might find herself seeing things his way, if she is sympathetic enough.”

“What about three?” I asked. “If they had each other to keep themselves centered, it wouldn’t matter. And that’s definitely possible.”

Zecora nodded. “I believe that would be acceptable. Hopefully.”

“Alright. Anyone else?” They all shrugged. “Flo, would you kindly ask around and see who wouldn’t mind being a host to an evil dictator?” As soon as I finished asking that, three bursts of water flew up out of the hole in the ship and landed near us. They all immediately zoomed over to Pertz and flooded into him. “Guess girls really do have a thing for bad boys.” Flo slapped me in the back of the head, of course.

Once the elementals finished doing illicit things to his body, it immediately started healing. A single elemental accelerates the healing process. I guess three put it into overdrive, though they left large scars and none of his fur grew back.

Soon enough, his eyes opened. One was blue and one was pink. “So who’s in there?” I asked.

His face immediately looked conflicted, but soon both eyes went blue and he said, “River, Cascade, and Waterfall. This stallion’s mind is very… interesting.”

“Can you guys keep him unconscious indefinitely? And, you know, make sure he doesn’t die?”

“We can. Would you mind loosening these ropes? They’re cutting off circulation.”

“That’s the point,” I said. “If he manages to untie them, he won’t be able to go anywhere for a while. No offense to any of you, but this bastard is dangerous and unless he has a full one of you inside of him, I’m not going to risk untying him or making it easier for him to escape. Once we get to the coast, I’ll see about getting Celestia to expedite his trip home. Until then, just keep him alive.”

“Very well. But should his hooves become necrotic, we will take matters into our own hands. This stallion may be evil, but he is our charge, and we will not see him unnecessarily hurt.”

“Fair enough. But I’m trusting you guys to make sure he doesn’t become a threat. We risked a lot to get him out.”

His eyes turned pink and he actually smiled. “We won’t let you down.”

“Good. Then I’m done here. Zecora, if you think you can help patch up the ship’s balloon with any of your weird voodoo stuff, go lend a hand. Otherwise, do whatevs. Same for you, Kat. Well, minus the weird voodoo stuff.”

“Then I will go cleanse myself,” Kat said. “I detest being covered in blood. I just wish we had proper sweat tents.”

For those that don’t know (not there there should be anyone at all, you fucking dick bags), sweat tents are little saunas where the moisture and sweat collects on your skin and you scrub it off, taking the dirt with it. They stink and they suck. I had to deal with that shit when I was in Egypt the first time and it was unfun. I had no idea why cats liked them, since it didn’t work very well on fur.

At least we got her to stop licking herself in public.

“I believe I can assist with the balloon,” Zecora said. “Though it will likely be too badly damaged to do much until we reach a port.”

“Have some faith in Rarity. She’s mostly useless, but I’ve seen her work miracles with fabrics. And between her and Twilight, we can hopefully get something patched together that’ll let us get to the sky port in Canterlot instead of stranding us in fucking Europe for a week.”

“...Perhaps.” Honestly, I kinda doubted it too. Either way, the three of us left the guards to their charge. Zecora went up to the top deck, Kat went to her room, and I found Doppel in her room with the door open.

The maid outfit was on the bed and she was staring at it and stroking the hem. She looked up when I entered, but no kind of expression came on her face. “What happened with the ship?” she asked.

“The balloon got fucked. We just had to kill a lot of people. It was pretty bad. I don’t suppose you’d wanna do lewd things to me?”

“I…” She looked back down at her uniform and sighed. “Not now.”

God dammit, I didn’t actually want to continue this right now... “Do you need a hug?”

“I… I don’t know right now…” I stepped in and closed the door behind me, but didn’t make any further motions. After several more seconds, she sighed again and looked up at me. “When you brought that rogue changeling home, several things went through my mind. One thought was… how can she just turn her back on the hive like that? It’s our home! It’s where our loyalties absolutely must lie!”

“Doppel, home is where you make it, not where you were born.”

She looked back down at the outfit. “And when you married that changeling to the pony and I found out she decided to stay in Equestria forever, I thought the same thing, but I was starting to… see the merit.” Her eyes met mine again and it looked like they were watering up. “Chrysalis cast me aside, Nav. I was loyal to her and she told me to be your slave! And I obeyed without question. I hated it at first. It seemed like the worst assignment ever. But disobeying never crossed my mind.”

“Because you were loyal, or because you were afraid?”

She fell silent and looked to the window. After half a minute, she softly continued, “I met a changeling in Canterlot the last time we were there. He was… he was a royal guard. And he was openly and publicly a changeling.” Once again, her eyes returned to mine. “He taught me that we don’t have to be afraid of Chrysalis anymore. And now that we’re out of the hive, we don’t have to obey her anymore.”

“You’re damn right you don’t. I told you that a year ago.”

She shook her head. “You told me that, but I didn’t understand until just recently. That royal guard has contacts all across Equestria. He told me that changelings are defecting in droves. Chrysalis has lost at least half of her spies across just Equestria. From what he learned, one or two disappeared after they were poorly received, but almost all of them were accepted in their communities and then denounced Chrysalis. What you did by helping that changeling get married enabled dozens of us to come forward.”

“I had a feeling that would have some kind of consequences, but I wasn’t expecting that.”

“...None of us were. In the hive, the story is the other way around. Rumors about pony lynch mobs that attack those they discover are common. Same for all the other races.”

“Well, most of the other races were probably accurate.”

“They were. I was undercover in Gryphonia one day and one of our other agents got caught. They strapped her up in a public square and let everyone do what they wanted to her, then publicly boiled her alive at the end of the day.” Jesus. “But that’s starting to change. I feel… safe, now. Safe in disobeying her. Safe in leaving her. I… I don’t feel like I need the hive anymore. Going back there recently just cemented it. Nav, the hives are awful. And Chrysalis is evil. You should have let Celestia kill her. The changeling race would be better off without her.”

“Chrysalis is the one that wanted me to help those two changelings get married, Doppel. And she’s trying to change for the better. She very much regrets what she became. But until she does manage to turn her life around, she is still evil. Incredibly so. And she did mention wanting to bring you to the hive to recondition you.” She gripped the bed tightly. “But she decided against it.”

“She’s lying to you.”

I walked over to the bed and sat next to her so I could put a hand on her back. “It doesn’t matter if she is or isn’t, Doppel. Not right now, at least. Evil or not, she won’t hurt you. She won’t hurt any of the changelings that jumped ship. You’re safe to be you. You’re safe to do what you want. And while you’ll always have a place on this ship, you’re safe to leave it and find a place somewhere else.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Nav. And I know that if I’m on this ship, I have to follow your orders. But from now on, I’m doing it because I want to, not because Chrysalis told me to. She isn’t my queen anymore. And I’m done wearing this awful outfit.”

“...What if I order you to?” I slowly asked.

She smiled sweetly and then started tearing it up. When she was done, she looked over to me with a happy grin. “Then I’d tell you to shove it up your ass.”

I scooped her up in a hug. “Good answer. I was getting tired of French maid anyway. How about nurse? Or maybe schoolgirl?”

“If you keep this up, I’m turning into Taya when we’re in public and demanding you to fuck me. And if you started spanking me, I’d only beg you to do it harder.”

“You are sick and twisted and I love it. So what are you going to do with your newfound sense of freedom?”

“I dunno. I’ve never been free before.” She finally hugged me back and we sat there for several long and awkward seconds. “So uh… what do you do with your freedom?”

“Whatever I want, mostly. You know, topped with an unhealthy dose of doing whatever Celestia tells me because she can make my life absolute hell if she wants. You could find someone to date, fall in love with, and maybe have kids. Don’t know if you’re really into that.”

“No, I hate hatchlings… I might be willing to adopt, but probably not. I guess I don’t really know what I want to do…”

“Well, you’re welcome here until you figure it out. Your talents are really useful. And I don’t just mean that thing you do with your tongue.”

To answer that, she stuck that same tongue into my ear, making me squirm. She sucked in back in with a giggle and said, “I know what you meant, silly. But you haven’t had much for me to do lately…”

“Yeah, these last few encounters have been real shitshows. In general, I’d much rather have your services than Kat’s. Avoiding a fight is usually better than instigating one.”

“You know, you could have used me today…”

“Maybe. But I don’t think this one was avoidable. This shit was bananas. Pertz is insane and he needed to get his shit wrecked. Hopefully he’ll be a little more humble now. But if not, whatever. We’ll deliver his ass to Celestia and he’ll no longer be our problem. But I’m hoping to find more jobs for you in the future.”

“Having a purpose is always nice… And I think I’ll try to cut back on the mindless sex. I can’t live my entire life in a… a haze of pleasure and numbness. And soreness, too. Plenty of that, after four or five partners a day…”

“Jesus, I couldn’t imagine that. One particularly rough stallion was enough to leave me sore for a full day.” And the full orgy of changelings also left me walking funny for a little while. “Anyway, if you’ve taken to abstaining, I think I’m going to go find Pinkie. I always feel hollow after a battle and getting filled up helps. With the elementals and Twilight busy, she’s pretty much my last bet.”

“I would, but I was just with a mare a few hours ago and a gay stallion shortly after that, so I probably couldn’t get it up as a male right now anyway. And I have no toys, so I can’t really fill you up, so to say… I know you prefer mares, but you moan a lot more when I have more… natural equipment.”

“God dammit, I need more guys on this ship to fuck… You have it easy, what with being able to bang any of the soldiers or crew.”

She giggled and rubbed my back. “There’s always Sunshine Smiles! I think he really likes you...”

“No.”

“What about the captain? He’s about your equal in rank here, isn’t he?”

“Iffy, but doable. But he’s also usually busy. Those two are pretty much it. Jak wouldn’t be interested, I’m not interested in Spike and I honestly shouldn’t do anything with him anyway, and the rest are married, too far below me, or also not interested. It’s lonely at the top, I guess.”

“...Well, there’s Twilight, at least. I know she’s interested, given the questions she’s asked me about you.”

That gave me pause. “She was… asking questions?”

“Yeah. About your fetishes and what really gets you off, mostly. I thought it would lead to something funny, so I told her everything.”

I really need to choose my servants better. “She’s been experimenting. She doesn’t know much about sexuality and has been trying to… discover herself, so to say. There’s certainly advantages to having sex with her, but there are also downsides. But she’s also busy and currently without magic… Anyway, I guess I should just head back to my room and lament not being pretty enough. I’m sure you have more moping to do or something.”

She didn’t let go when I did, though. “I don’t mind helping you get off, Nav. I just can’t use what I know you want. But I promise it’ll still feel good!”

I sighed, rolled my eyes, and started pulling off my pants.

An undisclosed amount of time later, I was back in my room and feeling marginally better. Since I had nothing to hide at the moment, my door was open and I was just chilling on the bed, staring at the ceiling.

I gotta say, I was kinda surprised Applejack was the first one to join me. She probably stood at the door for a while before realizing I wasn’t paying any kind of attention, then finally stepped inside and quietly cleared her throat.

After blinking and realizing I wasn’t alone, I slowly looked her way. She was out of her armor and had nothing on at the moment. No hat, no hair bands. It was honestly somewhat disconcerting. The slightly manic look in her eyes also didn’t help.

So I sat up and patted the bed next to me. She eyed it for a moment and then slowly and achingly joined me.

We sat in silence for a few minutes.

Finally, I quietly said, “Duty is heavy.”

Another minute passed by.

She gently coughed and whispered, “Yep.”

I put my hand on her back. She shivered slightly. I continued, “It is the heaviest thing there is. And you can never have the luxury of saying you were only following orders, because you still chose to follow them.”

Her body pressed against mine.

“We don’t kill because we want to, Applejack. And we don’t kill because we like it. We don’t kill for sport and we don’t kill for fun. We kill… we do our duty because it’s the right thing to do.”

Her head fell onto the bed.

“There are no words that will make this feel better. Don’t think I’m trying to assuage your guilt. Or that I’m trying to comfort you. But Pertz was and is evil. He needed to be brought to justice. And those villagers were an obstacle in our way.”

She sniffled.

“And god help us both, but we’ll never forget them. You more than me, I know. My first still haunts me. I can still see his eyes, feel his spastic movements… It’s not something you forget. The pain dulls with time and it stops hurting as much when you do it more.”

It was quiet, but I heard her crying. I started rubbing her back.

“But the pain is good. It reminds you that you still care. It reminds you that you’re still normal. It means you can still go back. It sucks, I know. And you’ll remember it in your dreams and you’ll remember it when you’re trying to eat and you’ll remember it when you get home and you’ll remember it when you fall in love and you’ll remember it until you die.”

It was no longer quiet. That back rub turned into a hug.

“Being a predator helps for me, I think. I have the ability to disconnect. I don’t have to think about it in terms of killing a person. I just think of it as stopping an annoying problem. I still… I still think about it sometimes, but for the most part, I don’t feel sad about it anymore.”

At least she hugged me back, though it was uncomfortably tight.

“I know you don’t like me, and you have every reason not to. You have an inordinately good lie detector and everything about me is a lie. But that means you should know that I’m telling the truth here. Unfortunately, the truth isn’t very comforting.”

Rocking back and forth seemed a little unwarranted, but I wasn’t going to deny her anything at the moment.

“But the real truth is that you did your duty. You did it well. You followed my orders and you followed them well. And those orders made you do something unforgivable. But it’s not too late to take that armor off forever, Applejack. Absolutely no one here will say a word. We aren’t hurting badly enough for troops for me to ask you to compromise yourself.”

Silence fell on us once again.

It took her some time to stop crying. When she finally did, she let me go and slid off the bed. She stood there for several long seconds before walking to the door, where she stopped again. Finally, she turned her head to me. “Duty may be heavy, but I’m strong.” With that, she walked out.

Flo sighed in relief. “You handled that so much better than you handled Twilight.”

I know, right? Though a little bit less is at stake right this second than when I had to help Twilight.

“True. But when she tried to talk after the fact, you pawned her off on Aqua.”

Fair point. I guess it’s that whole ‘trying to change’ thing I’m doing, or something.

“Good.”

My next visitor was Spike, who was grinning and holding a plate. He casually leaned against my door frame. “Yo Nav, you hungry?”

“Not particularly,” I said to the ceiling, since I was back to laying down. “But I know I should eat. Is the kitchen chick working?”

“Nah, Sunny’s on deck. Gilda made this.”

That actually made me look his way. “Gilda?”

“Yeah. She’s a pretty good cook, actually.”

“...I know. She retaught me how to cook meat.” I finally sat up. “But it was a bitch and a half to get her to. I’m surprised she actually decided to cook.”

He chuckled and shrugged. “She made a bet. First one to finish cooks. I won. So yeah, I decided to take your advice.”

“Cool, cool. Which advice, again?”

His brows (or what would be his brows, if he had hair) furrowed, then the look of confusion disappeared. “I forgot that you don’t remember any of that. When you were out of it, you told me to uh… tame her. I figured, you know, she was into it and it would probably be fun, so I went for it. And, you know, actually went for it.”

“Neat. I’m too ugly for even Doppel, so I’ve just been in here, alone.”

“Huh. So yeah, you hungry?” Good, he doesn’t want to fuck me anymore.

“Yeah.” He walked the rest of the way in to hand me the plate. Unsurprisingly, it was just meat. Gilda didn’t seem to like cooking anything else. Or maybe she didn’t know how to. Spike started to walk out, so I said, “Hold on.”

He turned back. “What do you need?”

“We just killed a lot of people, Spike. I know you’re more of a predator than me, so it probably doesn’t affect you the same way, but if you ever need to talk, talk to me. If you let stuff like that brood inside of you, it’ll sap away at you. Trust me, I know from experience.”

The following silence wasn’t exactly the most comfortable thing I felt that day. Which is saying something, given that I just got done fighting.

Finally, he shrugged and said, “I think I’m okay.”

“Alright, cool. But if you’re lying because you don’t want to disappoint me or make me not want to rely on you, not cool.”

He shook his head. “No, I really think I’m fine. It felt good. Before that duel, I was worried and scared. But after that, I… knew. I knew that it was right. And I wasn’t worried or scared anymore.” He fell silent for a few seconds before pushing the door closed. “I was raised by ponies, Nav. For the longest time, I felt like I didn’t belong. I knew I was too different. But today, for the first time ever, I felt right. I felt like…” After floundering for words, he took a deep breath and slowly exhaled it as steam. “I felt like a dragon! My blood was boiling in that fight! I really, truly, finally felt alive!”

Oh. That’s not something I foresaw. “Good. But never for a moment, and I cannot emphasize this enough, never forget who you are, Spike. Never lose yourself to the bloodlust. Because it’s easy to do. Slipping away in a fight is the simplest thing in the world. But if you start becoming a threat to your friends, I can’t have you fighting with us. I’m happy that you feel right. That’s a good thing. But not everything that you were should be forgotten. Ponies have some good ideals. Dragons have some bad ones. Let the pony ideals guide your draconic nature.”

He just stared at me for a little while before saying, “That’s pretty gay, dude.”

“Go fuck yourself. Thanks for the food.”

“No problem. See you later.” He finally left and I started eating.

Taya finally rejoined me some time after he left. When she stepped in, I looked over to see who was joining me next. “I figured you would have been waiting on me.”

After hopping up to join me in the bed, she said, “I thought your session with Doppel would take longer. Guess she’s losing her touch.”

“No, she said I’m not pretty enough and sent me away.”

“Daddy, you’re beautiful,” she said with a gentle nuzzle.

“At least someone thinks so.” I scooped her up and draped her across me. “Anything interesting happen?”

“Well, as soon as I told Pinkie she could go out on deck, she disappeared. It was kinda weird. Fluttershy also went up, but she just walked. Twilight and Rarity are looking over the balloon now, but I don’t think they’ll have much luck. It looked pretty damaged.”

“That’s because it’s pretty damaged.” I sighed and relaxed slightly. “It might be a long trip home.”

“Well… once we can use magic again, we could probably teleport to a city and get what we need to fix it, right?”

“Teleporting that far will be a pretty tall order. We’ll see. It’ll probably take the waters a few days to decide what to do next anyway, so this will give them time. And as long as Celestia can get Pertz out of here as soon as we can send her a message, it shouldn’t matter too much anyway. I know I wouldn’t mind a few days of not being on constant alert.”

“And I wouldn’t mind spending a few days with you…”

And that’s just what happened.

We got to the coast on the third day of traveling. It was really early in the morning, so just about everyone important was asleep, since we had run into no trouble yet. I was on the deck, casually sharpening one of my knives and watching the approaching gorilla village. There’d be no avoiding them, this time. Not if we wanted to spend some time getting our shit fixed before hitting open water.

As soon as we got to the estuary, the cute unicorn mare that wanted my moist vag walked over to me. “My magic is back, Nav.” To show off, she pulled one of my sheathed throwing knives out and started waving it around.

“Excellent. When can you guys start patching the hole in the hull?”

“As soon as Captain Gourd and the others wake up.” She carefully put my knife back up. “When can you send a message to the princess to let her know we need help?”

“Around the time she wakes up. It’s, like, six in the morning or something here. That means it’s midnight there. Even if the message did wake her lazy ass up, she probably wouldn’t have the strength to teleport here and then get back at night. I’d prefer not hitting the ocean until she knows where we are and what’s going on, so we might as well let the others sleep for now.”

“Alrighty! What do you think we should do about the village?”

“Watch them. I doubt they’ll automatically be hostile. If they send a delegation over, we’ll talk. If not, I’m happy to ignore them.”

“...What happens if they try to kidnap you?”

“Their village is right there. If they try anything, we can turn them into dust. Besides, that happened because of Brook. Those monkeys didn’t revere humans on their own. I see no reason why these guys would.”

She looked over that way for a few seconds before shrugging. “I guess that makes sense. And wouldn’t they want Pertz gone, anyway?”

“Dunno. It might not affect them all the way over here.”

One of the guards we rescued happened to be on duty at that time and wandered our way when he heard us talking. “Those villagers are harmless, ma’am,” he told me. “Well, to us, anyway. They have no interest in provoking the ponies.”

“Think they’d try to talk to us if we sat next to them for a few hours?”

“Probably. They might offer to trade assistance or wood for various goods, if they’re in a decent mood. Silver knows more about them than we do, so she can probably tell you more. Well, if you can get her to come out of her room.”

“I imagine she’ll come out as soon as I stop sending food to her. But I honestly don’t care about them or their culture. If they can be useful, good. If not, they can stay out of my way. I think we have everything we need to patch the hole in the ship. None of us know how to fix the rudder, so extra supplies are useless. And I really doubt they’d have what we need to repair the balloon, so they’d be worthless on that front.”

The guard shrugged. “I just wanted to see her smile again. She’s always happy to talk about something she knows pretty well.”

Yep, sounds like a woman. “Feel free to ask her, if you want. Either way, I’m not worried about them.” The ship finally started slowing down. We were right next to the beach, close enough that we could easily get a group ashore if we needed to. And since those of us with wings could use them again, it would be even easier. “Amber, if those lazy bastards are still asleep in two hours, wake them up. Then wake up Rarity and tell her to do whatever she can to the balloon.”

“Okay. What should I do until then?”

“I dunno. Whatever you usually do, I guess.” I put the blade I was sharpening away and pocketed the stone I was using to grind it. “Me, I think I need to have a discussion with Brook. Flo, would you mind asking her to meet me in the map room?”

She murmured an assent, so Amber and the guard got to watch me walk away.

“So how do you think this is going to go?” I asked Flo.

“Honestly, I’m not really sure where any of us stand. Most of us are still undecided.”

“Hmm.”

Brook arrived in the map room shortly after I did. As soon as she oozed in, she ran a hand along one of the ship’s walls. “This boat is heavy.”

“I imagine. Can you get us to a friendly port, if we can’t fix our balloon?”

“Yes, but the going will be slower now that the chances of attack are much lower. That pace was exhausting and I don’t think there’s a pirate alive that would attack a ship crewed like this, or armed and armored like this one.”

“Excellent.” The next part of that conversation would likely be decidedly more difficult than a status report, so I decided to go ahead and take the only chair in the room, then wait for her to look at me with her slightly pink eyes. “What are you going to do about the fires?”

That pink drained away immediately. “My sisters and I will reach a consensus. That consensus is that we will help you. But we have not reached it yet, so until we do, we will not assist you in searching for them or saving them.”

I couldn’t stop my hands from steepling in front of me. “You all knew this was coming.”

“Just as we knew the sun would rise for the coming day, or that the tide would roll in. One does not typically stop to consider that which is inevitable, even if it affects them. Yes, we knew this was coming. And we dreaded it and we feared it. We didn’t want to think of it. And now the time is here and we must decide. And we must decide to help you. And we will decide to help you, even if it’s a… dangerous decision.”

“And do you consider doing nothing a better proposal?”

She slid over to one of the small windows and stared out at the African landscape. “Chaos has shown its hand. But it has not been… overly active in this cycle, so to say. Flo has shown us your interactions with it, and we have begun tracing threads.” Her head turned to me and her eyes flashed yellow. “Some threads we see have been extremely troubling.” With that, she actually started pacing. “Some of my sisters debate that biding our time is wiser than freeing the fires. Ever since you convinced me to leave my home, however, I agreed that they needed to be free.”

“Well, at least that’s two of you. And I know Aerie is down for it, so we can use her to find the bastards. But we’ll need the support of all of you guys to free them, according to what Flo was saying.”

“That is correct, though we have ascertained that one is actually currently free. And we know where the other two are, but we won’t tell you until we’ve decided to assist you.”

“Not that it would matter, given how crippled we are. Unless one happens to be at a nearby port or something. But nothing’s ever that easy.”

She finally stopped sliding back and forth across the floor, at least. It was kinda weird, since she didn’t actually turn when she got to a wall, her entire body just reformed so that it was facing the other direction. “I do not believe deliberations will take us too long. We all know that it’s the right thing to do, whether or not it will help stop Chaos. Our fiery siblings are violent and destructive, but their tendencies can be curbed. We will not be a part of freeing the airs.”

“Okay. Now, if Celestia—”

“That is not a point you wish to debate?” she broke in.

“It’s not. Now, if Celestia can’t get Pertz off the ship, would you prefer moving us across the Atlantic or up to Europe?”

It sounded like she wasn’t expecting me to just accept them not breaking out the airs. But she didn’t want to look that particular gift horse in the mouth, so she just said, “Moving up to Europe. Three of my sisters can keep him placated indefinitely, though they might eventually start to sympathize with him. Since he will not be an issue, I believe it wiser to get the ship to a port sooner rather than later, in case there is more damage than we realized and we worsen it.”

“Fair enough. Can you guys actually get tired?”

“Yes, though it’s not as a living being would. That is another reason I’d prefer Europe.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do. And if she does teleport Pertz away, we won’t even have to stop in Canterlot to head to the first fire. Which means no more pointless bullshit.”

As it turns out, I should learn not to open my fucking mouth.

“Hm. Will she give us some manner of reward for capturing him?”

“Man, I don’t fucking know. It’s not like you guys need money and I’m still hella loaded. I guess the crew could always use more.”

“We don’t need money, but independence, perhaps…” Her eyes flashed yellow, red, green, and then faded back to blue. “My sisters and I have no desire to end up as a part of her kingdom. We are too used to ruling to be ruled and have no desire to be told what we may or may not do.”

“I assume Flo told you some of my plans for the future.”

And her eyes flashed another set of colors, ending in pink. “She has. I would be delighted to assist humanity in rebuilding from the ashes. I would not accept being turned into a slave. I believe none of us would.” Her eyes flashed blue again and then she rolled them. “Well, most of us wouldn’t.”

“In my experience, slaves rarely work as well as those that help you willingly and happily. But I can’t dictate what other people will do.”

She finally smiled. “That’s a very wise statement. We will deal with the future as it comes. You are still undecided about whether you will attempt to bring humans back to life or not. It is understandable to be… concerned with its possible effects on the world. You humans are incredibly unpredictable, though I admit to having known very few of you.”

I snorted. “Well, according to the last ones I saw, I’m no longer human. So it’s not really ‘you humans’ anymore.”

She reached an arm across the room to press against my cheek. “Being human is much more than looking like one, Nav. It’s a mentality, a mindset. It’s a way of thinking that’s utterly alien to those that live today. Despite what you may have been told, you are very much still a human.”

“Being human also means being exclusionary, and if other humans choose to exclude you, you become something else.”

I tried pulling away from her hand, but she moved her other one to my other cheek. “Part of being happy is having a stable identity, Nav. You turned your back on being Anonymous. You don’t have to allow others to deny you your humanity.”

Man, people really like telling me stuff that I already know. “Brook, I’m really not down with all that Aesop shit. Or the whole physical contact thing. Those are both Twilight’s shtick.” She slowly pulled her hands away. “I mean, I appreciate the gesture and whatever. Shows you care or something like that, I don’t know. Either way, I ain’t about that life.”

She looked at me for a few seconds before her eyes flashed orange, whatever that meant. “You are not interested in bettering yourself, Nav? You don’t care for healing your shattered mind?”

“Well I mean, I do, but like, you know, not like that. That’s shit’s annoying, man. It feels patronizing.”

“...I see. And do you have a reasoning as to why?” I shrugged. “Hm. Perhaps I should have a conversation with Flo about what you do and do not find acceptable, and why.”

Flo actually took over my mouth to say, “It feels to him like you’re speaking down to him from an imagined position of authority instead of treating him like an equal.”

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