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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164. Chapter One Hundred and Thirty-Seven

When I woke up, it was still dark outside. The world was still wavy, but I was seeing fewer strange symbols around me. Ava was still attached to my neck and a quick look out the window showed that I could also see the spirits swimming through the air around us.

Spike was asleep on the floor, curled up in some makeshift bedding. There’s no telling why he thought he needed a blanket, but whatever. I didn’t want to wake him and I really didn’t want to be cooped up in my room anymore, so I grabbed a towel and a set of clothes and started silently padding to the closest shower.

The halls were empty, of course. The few soldiers and crew members that were awake were probably on the deck, making sure nothing accosted the ship. Everyone else was sleeping. It felt like it should have been eerie for my drugged up mind, but everything felt very right.

The water from the shower felt amazing. Each drop was tingly and sent ripples of sensations out through my entire body. While I was paying attention to what I was feeling, my body cleaned itself on autopilot. I suppose once you do something enough, you can just do it without even thinking about it, even while you’re drugged up.

Or maybe especially while you’re drugged up. I didn’t even notice that I was done until I was drying myself off. What brought me out of autopilot was drying between my legs, when it clicked that I was trying to dry something that was no longer there. My mind jerked back on in an instant, making me flinch slightly.

Then I shook my head and finished drying off my body. I let my hair stay wet, since there was so much of it. That shit took ages to dry and it wasn’t worth my time. Instead, I let it hang limply and got dressed so I could walk around the ship without eliciting any inappropriate responses.

Once I was adorned in the proper clothing, I quietly ambled on up to the deck. In one way, it felt strange to be up there without weapons or armor. But in another way, it felt very right, like having weapons at the moment would be wrong.

The guards were all intently focused outward and I wasn’t wearing shoes, so I was moving too quietly for them to really hear. None of them noticed me until I walked up to the front of the ship. As soon as my presence was noted, Watcher’s second in command walked right up to me, a mare named Sentinel.

“Can I help you, sir?” she tersely asked.

From her tone and the way she was standing, I picked up on something I should have noticed a while ago. “You don’t like me,” I said, looking down into her eyes. She didn’t make any kind of response. “You think I’m… unprofessional. Too young to be leading. Irresponsible. And a bad influence on… the one you admire.” That actually made her flinch very slightly. “You’ve plotted against me. Tried to poison Watcher’s opinion of me.” I looked back out into Africa. “No, I don’t need any help. I’m right where I need to be. The spirits are calling.”

“...Sir, I believe you should be lying down. You seem paranoid and your eyes are still black.”

“Your first born will be a filly. She’ll craft beautiful glass figurines.” Her head tilted slightly. “Return to your post, Sentinel. You’ll be needed soon. And tell Dense Fog to aim low.”

She sighed and shook her head. “Your safety is your own problem. If we get attacked, I’m not risking my neck for you.” I said nothing, so she went back to her proper post. The other guards shared looks, but none of them spoke up.

About ten minutes later, I looked to my right, where Ava was connected to me. “Can you understand me?” I asked. Her eyes flickered and she grasped the chain. “I can see you, for the moment. Can you hear me?” After several long seconds, she actually nodded. “Can you speak to me?”

She tried pulling on the chain again before seemingly giving up on it. “Why am I attached to such a blasphemous fallen angel?” she asked with a Russian accent so thick I could barely understand it.

“The same reason I’m attached to a Russian ghost: You did something and now we’re stuck like this. Also, I’m not an angel.”

“You were not… sent by God to save me? And the others in the bunker?”

“No. I was there because of a coincidence.”

“There is no such thing as coincidences, only God’s handiwork.”

Yeah, okay buddy. “Whatever you want to call it, the result is the same: We’re stuck. Those shamanic ghosts think that can be fixed, but it sounded like they wanted us to become one.”

“More blasphemy spouted by the great enemy. Don’t let yourself be seduced by them.”

Her English is surprisingly good for that bad of an accent. “Uh huh. And what do you have to say about talking purple unicorns that can do magic? Or talking blue pegasi that can fly? Or giant talking spiders?”

“...The lord works in mysterious ways.”

“By that logic, he can work through the great enemy, too. What makes you think this isn’t his way of freeing you from your prison? Because tugging at that chain hasn’t done either of us any good. Me, I’d prefer not being attacked by ghosts all the time. And I figure you’d prefer a second chance at an actual afterlife instead of being stuck in this hell.”

“I would certainly expect the jailor to be reluctant to lose her prisoner.”

“I want you gone. Preferably completely gone, but if there are actual advantages to having a soul, I might be willing to consider somehow melding us. That would likely be better for you, since it might let you get to some kind of pleasant afterlife.”

“I am destined to be in Heaven with Artyom no matter what I choose.”

“Yeah, how’s that whole being dead thing working out for you so far? Or is your so-called heaven not all it’s cracked up to be?” She didn’t respond. “You were trapped in that bunker for a very long time. If you get cut off from me, what makes you think you won’t be trapped somewhere just as unpleasant for even longer, until you get another lucky break?”

“And why would becoming one with you have any different outcome?”

“Because freaky ghosts wouldn’t be actively hunting either of us. If I die of natural causes, you’d probably be free to go to an afterlife. That seems better than definitely being stuck here forever.”

“...You are extremely sinful. I might be tainted by association.”

“God’s pretty big on the whole forgiving thing.” When he’s not murdering the shit out of you for wearing mixed fabric or making girls that get raped marry their rapists. “And you’re already associated with me by even being attached. I don’t know how this would be worse. Besides, the goal of Christianity is to spread.” Like a disease. “Shouldn’t you be leaping at the chance to try to convert me or the ponies?”

“...I will think.”

“Take your time. I figure we probably got plenty before it’ll matter.” And if I can find her in the dream realm, then I can keep trying to convince her.

My main concern about possibly taking her soul is how much it would change me. Just having her attached gave me several new mannerisms and abilities. She obviously had all her mental faculties, so there’s a chance she would just jump into my body and take over entirely, essentially killing me.

But that would have to be a concern for another day. Possibly something Twilight, Zecora, or Athena could help me figure out. Even if I did know, stressing about it while I was still tripping seemed like a bad idea.

While I was talking to Ava, one of the water elementals apparently snuck up on me. After a few seconds of nothing more being said, Ice asked, “What language was that?”

“English. How’s Flo? And River?”

“English… I will have to learn it from you later. Flo and River are both slowly regaining their color. We believe they’ll be fine in a few hours. Who were you talking to?”

“Ava. The ghost that attached herself to me in the bunker. This drug lets me see her.”

“Interesting. Could I see her through your eyes?”

“Perhaps. But Flo and River both tried getting into me and you saw how that turned out for them. I’d advise staying away from me. In fact, I’d ask that you leave anyway. Your constant movement is not helping keep my mind at ease.”

“Ah. My apologies. Should you require anything from us, Aqua has made herself at home in Twilight’s room tonight and I will be staying with my host. I believe Cascade is still with Zecora at the moment, as well.”

“Brook will be needed soon, but she will know when and will join me on her own accord.”

“Oh. Is something going to happen?”

“Yes, but your presence is not fated. Rest well and easy, Ice.”

“Huh. Well, farewell for now, Nav. I would hug you, but… Well, you know.” I turned back to face the wastes and he left after a few moments of staring.

About fifteen or so minutes after Ice left me, we started approaching a large copse of trees. My currently enhanced eyes picked up a few things the ponies couldn’t see. I took a very deep breath and I felt the drug kick in even harder. I had a small inkling of what was about to happen, but I wasn’t entirely positive. So I let the drug take over.

I smiled and softly said, “Deep Fog, load incendiary on your ballista.”

“Um. I’m going to have to ask you why, sir.”

“I’m not quite sure yet.” That wasn’t entirely true. I could see the ambush coming quite well, but I didn’t know what exactly would be attacking us yet. “But that’s an order, I’m afraid. Do it and be prepared to fire very low.”

“...Yes sir.” Since Sentinel didn’t contradict me, he started loading the heavy incendiary round that would destroy the shit out of some trees, if fired at their base. When it was loaded, he started turning the elevation crank so it could fire fairly close to straight down.

By the time he was finished, we were very close to the trees. I casually walked over to stand next to Sentinel, who barely spared me a glance. “Do you have any pointless orders for me too, sir?” she asked.

“I have one that isn’t so pointless.”

“And what is that?” she sighed.

“Take two steps away from me.” She rolled her eyes and did so.

As soon as she moved, I jerked my hand in front of where she had been standing and grabbed the intruder by the throat. It squawked in surprise as I lifted it up and slammed it onto the deck, making the spirit visible. All the ponies on deck jumped in shock as the dwarf-like thing was revealed.

It had the general body shape of a monkey, minus any tail. It was covered in fur and its face was much more elongated, with large fangs jutting out. As soon as I slammed it on the deck, its claws started reaching for my arms to scratch me, but I positioned myself above it and met its pearly white eyes with my black ones, making it freeze.

After several long seconds of a staring contest, I calmly said, “Prepare to repel boarders.”

“Against invisible opponents?” Sentinel asked.

“No. Would you kindly stomp on this thing for me?” She immediately crushed its head with one of her shoe-clad feet, splattering my face with its blood and chunks of bone and brain. I tossed its body off the deck and stood back up. “Would you care to give the order?”

“Prepare to repel boarders!” Sentinel shouted. “Squad four, protect the helmspony! Squad five, the door!”

Before squad five could move, I pointed at Deep Fog. “Stay right where you are.” Sentinel huffed, but nodded at the guy before running to the door leading down. I sidestepped to the closest ballista to me, one that happened to be loaded with a boarding round, so the bolt had a metal hoop at the end where a rope could be tied.

The ponies got in position just in time. Some kind of strange imps jumped out of the trees and landed on our deck. Each one had teeth and fangs that shined like iron and feet that were just hooks of bone. Their bodies were covered in patchy fur and their arms ended in horrific claws that seemed to twitch toward living things. Their blood-red eyes locked on every target they could before advancing on all the living things on deck. After a quick headcount, I realized there was one for every one of us.

The one attacking me was probably the largest one there. He squared up to me and would have almost been able to look me in the eyes if he wasn’t too busy trying to slice my face open with his claws. I leaned away from the blow like I was barely paying attention, then ducked under the next one from his other hand. He tried a kick next and I grabbed the hooked foot, then slammed the end of his hook right into the ballista bolt’s hoop.

The monster had time to give me a very confused look before I pulled the lever on the ballista, shattering his pelvis and sending him flying away with the bolt.

My side was having very mixed results in the fight. The three ponies guarding the helmsman had two of their attackers down and were about to start pummeling the third. The two guarding the door were holding theirs back. Poor Fog, though, was having a very difficult time of things. His opponent had him on the ground and was starting to lean toward Fog’s neck with his fangs.

I grabbed one of the regular bolts and walked over to them. Right before the vampire could get a taste, I slammed the rod through his chest, piercing his heart. From the looks of things, that wasn’t necessary to kill this certain type of vampire, but I figured it wasn’t a bad idea anyway. Since he was dead, I made sure to push the body away from my pegasus and said, “Now would be a good time to fire that incendiary round, soldier.”

Deep Fog stared at me like I was fucking nuts, which seemed fair to me. After all, I was doing stuff that to them probably seemed fucking nuts. He sighed, shook his head, and said, “Yes sir.” I started walking toward Sentinel’s squad while he did that. The explosion from the bolt started knocking down the trees around us, one of which contained the nest of these things.

As a unicorn, Sentinel has much less experience in hoof-to-claw combat, so she wasn’t faring too well. Her earth pony partner was handling himself much better, but he couldn’t really disengage or beat his opponent to help her out, so she was pressed up against the door and struggling to stay alive.

Well, right up until I knelt down and pulled the vampire’s feet out from under him. Seriously, I have no idea what evolution was thinking with these guys. Giving them feet with absolutely no traction seemed like a terrible idea to me. But it worked out well for Sentinel, because it let her deck-stomp that motherfucker.

Once her opponent was dead, she helped her last squadmate beat the shit out of his, then ordered him to make sure the rest of the ship was secured. When he saluted and started helping the others throw bodies off the side, Sentinel started staring at me.

“You knew that was coming,” she said.

“This drug is… showing me things,” I said. “Flashes of events. Hints of knowledge. I knew something was coming, but I wasn’t sure what. It’s not really letting me say too much, either. Whenever I try to predict something, it comes out in a riddle. I’ve never seen or heard of either of those monsters before, but I know one was a tikoloshe and the others were asanbosams. One’s a water spirit and the others are a kind of vampire.”

“And the incendiary round?”

“Burned out their nest.” One of the elementals rushed over the side of the ship and went straight to one of the few injured ponies to heal him. We ignored her as she worked.

“You should have told me,” Sentinel said. She sounded a little upset.

“You wouldn’t have listened. You would have forced me to go below.”

“...Your assistance was welcome.” She looked away for a moment before looking back. “And for the record, I never doubted your combat ability. Or your combat leadership skills. I doubt your ability to lead a proper military expedition.” I stared at her. After a few seconds, she shifted slightly. “And you are correct. I don’t like you.” My gaze beat down on her, making her eyes dart away for a moment. “And I do… admire my commander. We all do.” Another several seconds of silence went by. “But I might admire him… a bit more than is proper. And I probably shouldn’t have said that.” Fifteen more seconds passed us by. “Why are you staring at me?!”

I blinked. “Sorry, I zoned out. What were you saying?”

She jerked back a little. “Tch. I’m going back on watch.”

As tempting as it was to watch her cute butt stalk away, Brook stopped in front of me and I had to pay attention to her instead. “You should be resting,” she said.

“With many rulers, it is a gradual thing,” I said. “For you, it was not. It was a conscious choice. I can see her soul still attached to you.”

“The cryptic nonsense the drug is trying to spout is unnecessary. Return to your bed.”

“Felicia the Hallowed.” Her entire body instantly turned white and her face disappeared. “The living are an enigma, Brook. We truly are. But making yourself empty and callous to stop yourself from feeling pain at their passing is unwise. To some of us, self-sacrifice is important. It isn’t emotional, it isn’t something we think about. It’s just an unconscious decision that we are going to save someone no matter what. Mourn their passing and revel in their memory. Do not kill your emotions to hide your pain. Do not refuse to live out of fear of living.”

Truth be told, I had no idea what the fuck I was talking about. The drugs had taken over shortly after I got on deck and for the most part, I was just along for the ride. Whatever I was talking about was definitely having an effect on Brook, though.

“Your words are empty,” she finally hissed, though we both knew that was a lie. “Fight this magic, Navarone. Anonymous. Remove its roots on your mind!”

“It will wear off soon, water of life.” She flinched back yet again. “To one that is ageless, such a time scale seems barely worth noticing. Do not fear the truth, for it will set you free from a prison in which you long since forgot you resided. You are your own warden, and only you may unlock your cell.”

“Listen to yourself, Anonymous. You’re speaking nonsense.”

My hands reached out and attached themselves to where her face should be. “Gaze into my eyes, Brook! Know my words for the truth they are! Hide not from your past, hide not from your loss! You are the last water precursor left. You are the progenitor of your family. You are the oldest among sisters, the last of the greats, the wettest of the wet. In this time of much turmoil, they need your guidance, not your coldness. They need your love, not your emptiness. They need Brook, water of life, goddess of motherly love, sister of patience. They do not need Brook the analytic.”

She pulled away from my hands and slapped me across the face.

I ignored it. “Despite what you believe, you can feel love for your subjects and still lead them. You can order them to sacrifice themselves and still mourn their loss. There is much, much more to being a good leader than giving the right orders. But you already know that. You tried to forget it. You refused to meet Celestia because of it. Chrysalis shocked you because of it. It will never be too late for you.”

She turned blood red and coldly said, “It was too late the instant she gave her life for me.”

The world suddenly seemed to whirl around me and I felt myself falling. A tendril of water caught me right as my hands slammed onto the deck to keep me up. Before she could pull me to my feet, I threw up. I thought it would be normal bile, but this stuff immediately started smoking and then it burned a hole through the deck. As soon as she saw that, she yanked me away and brought more water to my mouth to rinse away any possible leftover acid.

When that was done, she gently set me on the ground and then lowered herself through the hole the acid made. Given the lack of screaming, I figured there probably wasn’t a bed directly under me, so it wasn’t really something I needed to worry about at the moment.

The drug finally released me, so I figured my work up there was done. Judging from the sliver of light I could barely see on the horizon, the sun was going to rise soon. I had a feeling I would be in no real shape to actually fight or stand guard while under the influence of that shit, but I really didn’t feel any need to head below just yet. Taya wouldn’t be awake, messing around with the laptop would wake Spike up, schlicking would probably wake Spike up, and there really wasn’t all that much else I could do.

A few minutes after Brook vanished, one of the crew members slid up next to me. “I heard you were giving fortunes yesterday, sir,” he said.

“I was. Most were apparently unpleasant.”

“Are you… still doing that today?”

“No. That phase seems to be over. But I’m still noticing things. I’m still able to see through time. I just don’t understand much of what I do see.”

“...Oh. Can you tell me anything?”

I looked over his shoulder at the variety of ghosts holding onto his tail. I stared at the female spirit clinging to his neck, crying ectoplasmic tears. I watched his eventual death of old age. I saw scars appear and disappear. I could feel life return to his eyes and then slowly fade with time.

“The ones you killed haunt you still, waiting for some form of absolution. The one you held dear clings to you, crying. You’ll die of old age, but it’ll come after a life of much pain. You will find love again, but you’ll lose her in time.”

“Huh. And all that’s guaranteed?”

“I don’t know. I can just tell you what I see. Zecora might still be pretty deep in the throes of this shit. Ask her. But know that telling actual fortunes has a very steep physical price on us. My last one made my eyes start bleeding.”

“Oh! I didn’t know. Sorry for trying to make you do that, Nav.”

“Chillax, bro. Ain’t no thing but a g-string.”

“...I don’t know what that means.”

“It means don’t worry about it. I wouldn’t be out here if I thought this shit was going to hurt me more. Now, you should go talk to Sentinel.”

“Why? Is she the one?”

“Psh, no. But she’s in a bad mood and might be down for an angry roll in the hay. Or maybe not.” I shrugged. “Whatever.” We were right next to one of the masts, so I jumped onto the rigging before he could reply and started climbing up. He probably wanted to stop me, but I wouldn’t have listened and he sure as shit wasn’t going to go up there to pull me out. I climbed the net all the way to the crow’s nest.

Truth be told, the view from there wasn’t much better than the view from below. A few extra meters only really adds so much when you’re already so far above land, after all. But the isolation made the trip more than worth it.

Fucking mini-horses, always up in my shit… Since they didn’t have fingers or magic, they couldn’t easily get to me up there. They could yell at me all they wanted, but I sure as shit didn’t have to listen.

Though after vomiting acid, coughing up poisonous smoke, and bleeding from my eyes, it might not be bad to have someone around.

But that could wait until an hour or so after sunrise. As it was, I watched the landscape before me dance around, then watched time glitch several times, letting me see battles taking place on the plains. Watching tons of different races vie for land and resources was surprisingly interesting. Right as I was thinking about going down, I saw a small skirmish between three human tribes.

That one wasn’t expected. I couldn’t stop myself from watching until the end of that fight, where a single survivor was all that remained. He reached down to pick up a weapon from one of his friends, then slowly turned to look at the river. After a few seconds, he looked up and met my eyes. They stayed locked on mine until he faded from view.

“Spooky,” I muttered to myself, shivering slightly.

“What was?” Gilda asked, making me jump.

“When did you…”

“Like, half an hour ago,” she said with a shrug. “I’m on watch.”

“And you didn’t… I don’t know, think to say hi?” She shrugged again. “Do you mind if I pet you?”

“Do you mind if I claw you?”

“Yes. Yes I do.”

“Then yeah, go ahead and pet me.”

I spent the next several minutes making Gilda purr. It was adorable. But I didn’t tell her that, because I had a feeling she would have molested me and I didn’t really want to have to take another shower.

When I was finished with her cute little belly, I started climbing down. Before I could get a meter away, her head popped over the side. “So what was spooky?” she asked.

“I saw a group of humans killing each other and the last survivor stared at me until he disappeared.”

“Oh. Spooky.”

“I know, right?” She pulled her head back and I continued climbing down.

When I got down, everyone in the day group was in their proper positions, minus me and Spike. I was completely unfit for service at the moment, so they could fuck right off with trying to make me do anything. There was no telling what Spike was doing, but I resolved to find out.

Well, right after I got done dealing with Ames, who decided to waylay me before I could get below. “Are you feeling better, sister?” he asked.

“Somewhat. Not better enough to hold a sword or fire a gun. I’m heading back below so I don’t get in the way up here.”

He nodded. “Then rest well and easy. Battling on while unwell is a guaranteed way to ensure you stay unwell.”

“I certainly plan on it.” He turned and went back to his position, so I continued below unabated. When I slipped into my room, Spike was still asleep on the floor. After a short mental debate, I decided to leave him there. But just to fuck with him, I carefully draped a pair of panties over one of his ear spines.

That done, I sidled out and quietly closed the door, then walked to Taya’s room. Surprisingly, it was cracked open. I knocked, which pushed it open the rest of the way. She was sitting on the bed reading a book, and smiled when she saw me.

That smile disappeared when she saw my eyes and she gasped. “What happened?!” she demanded, jumping across the room to get a better look at me.

“Long story,” I said. She jumped up and put her front legs on my chest to prop herself up. I guess she was trying to get a better look at my eyes or something. “Zecora, Flo, and I got summoned to talk to some locals yesterday. We got drugged and shit got pretty weird. I was seeing into the future yesterday. I’m still seeing weird stuff now, it’s just not as clear.”

“Like… what?”

I slowly looked her over to take everything in. When I did, I sighed and leaned down to hug her, then I lifted her up and carried her to the bed. I laid down and continued hugging her until she shifted awkwardly.

“I see that you feel detached,” I said. “Not a part of the ship. Not a part of the crew. Not a part of… my life. I see that you think I don’t love you. I see that you think I don’t like spending time with you. I know that you feel guilt for killing, despite what you told me. I know you feel haunted by the ones you killed. I can feel that you’re scared of your own power, while still thrilled at how strong you are. I can see when you were born and when you’ll die. I can see your sorrow at the death of your parents. I can see oh so much, Taya. But all I need to see is you. I came here to see you. I’m feeling very lost right now, Taya. Very lost and very alone. I love you, and right now I need to be with you.”

After several long seconds of silence, my daughter hugged me back. “I love you too, daddy…”

And I knew that it was true.

Strangely enough, spending several hours with her was extremely centering and helped calm me down while the drugs worked their way out of my system. I still saw a lot, but being around someone I trusted and loved was enough to make me feel safe, no matter what or who the visions were showing me. And of course, Taya enjoyed having her belly rubbed for nearly an hour while I just stared at the ceiling, not even realizing what I was doing.

About two hours after I joined her, Twilight slowly pushed the door open and stepped in. “I was wondering where you went,” she said. “I found Spike in your room, somewhat… indecently attired. I very much hope that was coincidence and not a sign of something inappropriate.”

“Well, you found me,” I said, my hand leaving Taya’s stomach. “I’m still drugged up, but it’s much weaker now.”

“That’s excellent news! Do you still feel impaired, or are you just seeing distortions?”

“Both. My body feels heavy and you look very slanted. But I can’t see Ava anymore and the only symbol I can see on you now is the crown.”

“Well, at least it seems to be wearing off. Can you hear Flo yet, or is she still indisposed?”

“As far as I know, she’s still out of it. I haven’t heard anything from Zecora, though.”

“Zecora’s a few hours behind you, it seems. I checked on her when I couldn’t find you. I assume from your change of clothes that you showered. Did you run into anyone else that gave you more prophecies?”

“Not… quite.” Her head tilted slightly. “I went out on deck after I woke up and saw some stuff about Sentinel, and told her that her firstborn would be a filly. I also predicted an attack on the ship and helped fight it off. I told a crewman that he would remarry and then die of old age. And I told Brook some stuff about her past that I had no way of knowing.”

She blinked, then looked pensive. “Aqua was wondering why she was upset. What did you tell her?”

“That Felicia the Hallowed sacrificed herself of her own free will and that Brook had no reason to try to kill off her own feelings. Her sisters need the loving water precursor, not the analytic machine. I have no idea who that is or what it meant, though. She definitely got upset and ran as soon as she could justify it.”

Twilight’s eyes turned blue and she slowly face-hoofed. I guess Aqua just wanted to express her displeasure, because I’m pretty sure that was something she could have done internally. “And why did you do this?” she asked around Twilight’s hoof.

“I dunno. Blame the drugs.”

She lowered the hoof and looked back up at me. “Do you remember anything about this Felicia person?”

“Nope. Do you?”

She shook her head. “I do not. I imagine Brook would be the only one of us who would. Mist and I are the second and third oldest, so we shall speak to her. Expect whatever you did to have consequences.”

“She’s not gonna… hurt me, is she?” I slowly asked.

“No. Good consequences or bad, she will not harm you.” Her eyes flicked to Taya for a short moment, who was presumably glaring at her. “I imagine such an attempt would end poorly for all involved.” She sighed and sagged a little. “Truth be told, I imagine it might well have been for the best. I’ve had a sister discreetly watching Rarity since your words to her yesterday. She already spoke to Spike and seems to be much happier. It seems the drug likely intends positive effects, not negative ones.”

Twilight shivered and took back over, then said, “Tell that to Spike.” Aqua didn’t reply, or at least not to us. “They’ll handle Brook. I think you did the right thing, either way. Now, do you feel comfortable in here, or do you want me to help you move somewhere else?”

“I’m fine right where I am,” I said, putting a hand on Taya’s chest. “If no one’s replaced the medic watching Zecora, find Doppel and tell her to watch out for Zecora. That way, it won’t have to be a soldier that should be on watch or sleeping.”

“Rarity, Fluttershy, and I think Cascade are with her at the moment. They don’t have much else to do at the moment, so they’re happy to help. Applejack and Rainbow Dash are taking your place on the deck. Pinkie’s doing her thing somewhere.”

“At least they’re finding something to do,” I sighed, leaning back. “This really is no place for them, for several reasons. You know that, right?”

She also sighed and looked away. “It feels… wrong,” she said after a few seconds. “It feels like we should still be in Ponyville. I do think we’re growing as ponies here, but I feel like our place isn’t with you. But then, I’ve felt very disconnected from things for a while.” She looked back at me. “Where we’re supposed to be is exactly where we end up, I suppose. Fate’s funny like that.”

“I like to say I don’t believe in fate, but it seems disingenuous to say that after spouting tons of prophecies. And with your ass tattoos, I guess fate is kinda proven in a way. For you guys, at least. I guess that’s why ponies are so closely aligned with order.”

She grinned. “Good to know you’re keeping up with your philosophy. Ponies are born with skills that they grow into. It just takes time. Pluto and Day Carts both agree on that.”

“Humans are not,” I said. “And I wouldn’t go so far as to say ponies are either, but then, I’m not one. I’m definitely not arguing tabula rasa versus innatism while I’m tripping balls, though.”

She flinched when I called her an innatist. “I don’t believe in that innatist drivel! I’m a nativist, Nav.”

“Whatevs. Point remains, humans are neither. We’re genetically disposed toward certain behaviors, but most of what we learn and how we act is gained when we’re a kid. You can get around bad genetics with good training and you can get around good genetics with shitty parenting. Anyway.” I scooted over on the small bed, creating space for the purple horse. “Get up here so I can rub your belly too.”

“...Some debates aren’t worth having,” she muttered as she jumped up and settled in.

Taya probably didn’t enjoy sharing my belly rubs, but I had two hands anyway, so she could suck it. Making two ponies sigh in delight is more adorable than one, and adorableness is good when you’re trying not to freak out. And easing back to sleep with two safe, warm mares next to me was nice.

What was not nice was being woken up by a massive splash of water that made all three of us cry out. It turned out to be a newly reanimated Flo, but I think a more gentle approach would have been preferable.

She immediately engulfed us, though I like to think I got the most attention. She just told me that pride comes before the fall. I told her that it’s called summer these days and then she hit me.

Anyway, after two of us got done trying and failing to flail around, we sat in a warm, only slightly uncomfortable silence. Shortly after that silence started, I realized that nothing was shifting randomly anymore and all the symbols were gone. The heaviness was still there, but I think that’s just because I was covered in a big fat water elemental.

I want it known that she also hit me for that.

“Looks like I’m free,” I said, prompting a small squeeze from my stalwart watery companion. “I wonder… were you drugged, or were you just reacting to what was happening in my mind?”

“That’s a good question,” Flo said. “One to which I’m afraid I don’t have an answer. I remember nothing from it. But now that I’m back with you, I can see everything you saw while you were under its influence. I must say, it has quite an interesting take on things.”

“You say that like it’s alive,” Twilight said, shifting slightly in Flo’s grasp.

“Isn’t it?” she asked. “I believe the first drug Navarone was given gave him true sight. It was some form of plant, and I don’t consider it sapient. But the second drug was some kind of fungus, and we already know what those are capable of. I believe this one jacked Nav and Zecora into some kind of global consciousness that’s completely alien, something animal minds weren’t made to comprehend. I know from experience that some fungus lifeforms nearly span full continents, and that was back when I was active in the world. It seems possible and in some ways probable that such a thing could exist, especially if it’s allied with the spirit of death.”

“That’s a very… unique take on things,” Twilight slowly replied. “But could a mushroom truly be capable of rational thought?”

I fielded that one. “Absolutely. I met an actual mushroom lady recently. Spoke to me and everything.”

“Oh, right, the madremonte. Well, it’s an interesting theory. I’ll have to talk to Zecora about it.” She rolled off the bed and out of Flo, then walked up to the door. “I’m going to go check on her right now, since you’re fine. If you start feeling any aftereffects and need any help, please let me know.”

“‘Kay. Have fun.” She waltzed on out, leaving me and Taya covered in Flo. “So can you get off me now?” Flo oozed off me, but stayed on Taya. “Did you pass the deck on your way down?”

“I did. They seem to be handling themselves well, and it’s nearing night now. You might as well stay below. And I somehow doubt Sentinel would appreciate a guest appearance tonight.”

“She can fucking cry about it. I run this ship, not her, and I haven’t swung my sword at someone in too long.”

“...You killed something last night.”

“No, the drugs killed something last night. I was just along for the ride. And I didn’t kill it with my sword, either. It’s weird, but I feel like I’ve been idle for too long. When’s the last time I actually got to kill something?”

“South America,” Flo quietly answered, cuddling Taya tighter. “Unless you count your time in the changeling army.”

“That wasn’t me either,” I said, slowly meandering to the door. “I feel like I haven’t swung a blade in too long, even in practice. Or pulled a trigger in anger.” I looked back to Flo and my daughter. “Is it bad that I feel that way?”

Taya immediately nodded. “Yes.”

“But not too unusual,” Flo said. “This isn’t an effect of the drugs, if that’s what you’re asking.”

She knew that wasn’t what I was asking. “We’re north of the equator, right?”

“...We are,” Flo said. “And you might be needed on deck. You were last night, even if Sentinel wouldn’t admit it. I will join you, once you have readied yourself.”

“Then I’ll go get ready.” As soon as I let myself out, Taya jumped out of Flo and quickly joined me as I went into my room. Spike was gone, as was the little nest he made on the floor. He left the panties on the pillow.

My daughter didn’t say a word until I was fully geared up. Once I was, she stood in front of me and just stared for several long seconds. I’m also fully capable of being weird and creepy, so I stared back.

Finally, she asked, “How much of that was true? What you said when you were drugged.”

At the moment, I didn’t remember any of the actual prophecies I had told. I honestly didn’t remember much of anything until after I woke up on my bed with Spike on the floor, honestly. But I knew exactly what she was talking about.

I knelt down and put my hands on her shoulders. “Taya, you are my daughter. You are my daughter. I love you. I’m not… I know I’m not the best at showing it. In fact, I’m probably pretty close to the worst. But it’s true.” One hand brushed some of her hair aside, then cupped her cheek. “I love you, Taya. And I will, no matter what. I will always protect you, I will always trust you, I will always put my hope in you, and that love will always persevere.”

She pulled away from my hands and slowly panned her head around the room, either unable to meet my gaze or trying to find something to say.

I didn’t give her time to think. “Those drugs showed me something, Taya. I don’t remember exactly what, but I remember the gist. I’m tired of this.” Her head jerked back to me, only to see my hands encompassing the room. “This emptiness. This loneliness. I’m tired of this darkness seething inside of me and eating at me. When we get out of Africa, when you have magic again and we aren’t always on guard, I want to have some long conversations with you and some of my friends.” Probably separately. “Nothing changes until we change it. I’ve said this before and I think it failed. Help me change, Taya. Help me love you better.”

Her eyes seemed to tremble for a few seconds before she looked away. That aside glance didn’t last long and she was soon staring back into my eyes. “Okay.”

I waited for more and got nothing. After about half a minute, I shrugged and said, “Alright then, cool. I’m going to the deck.” She said nothing as I walked out. Flo joined me at the stairs up and we carried on to the crunchy outer layer of the ship. “So that went well,” I said right before we walked out.

Flo did not reply.

Up on the deck, all seemed to be going fairly well. Kat was standing with her squad, idly looking over the crossbow in between watching over the side for any possible problems, not that we were really expecting any. Rainbow Dash and Applejack were sitting next to each other near the broken railing, talking about something or another. Their squad was rolling some kind of dice on the deck, occasionally looking around to make sure nothing was happening. Ames was practicing sword forms with Spike, since there wasn’t really much of a chance of any kind of surprise attack with no trees anywhere in sight.

None of them noticed me and my presence didn’t seem that urgently needed, so I walked up the side stairs to talk to the helmsman, who happened to be the mare I accidentally put in a magical coma. “Good to see you awake,” I quietly said, walking closer to her.

She smiled and leaned on the wheel slightly. “And it’s good to see that you’re feeling better. I heard something strange happened.”

“That’s a word for it. We flying fine?”

“As far as I know,” she replied with a shrug. “Honestly, most of us expected to have fallen into the river by now.”

“I figured a unicorn would have a little more faith in magic,” I said, putting a hand on a stretch of railing.

She poked at her horn with one of her hooves. “It’s hard to have faith when our magic doesn’t work. Or at least, doesn’t work properly. Didn’t you try flying earlier?”

“Yeah. It didn’t work very well. But that’s expected, for me. These wings are very much unnatural. I’m still not entirely used to them. Besides, I’m not allowed to have nice things.” She looked away and muttered something. “What was that?”

She looked back and smiled all nice and big. “Nothing!”

Flo sighed and said something in my head. “She said that you could have her, if you wanted.”

Of course she did. “Anyway, I’m here to join the watch for a while. If anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be up here.”

“Alrighty! I know I’ll feel safer with you watching over me…”

“Good to know at least a few people here appreciate security,” I quietly said, unholstering my rifle. I absentmindedly stroked her back as I walked past, making her quietly squee. Flo chose not to comment on that.

The guard squad that was positioned up top idly watched me as I slowly walked around, looking for things to shoot. None of them said anything, even though Flo told me I gave one of them a horrible prophecy the day before.

For better or worse, night fell without me firing a shot, as I kinda expected it to. The guards changed quickly, without Spike or Ames even realizing I was on deck. Or if they did realize it, they didn’t say anything to me. With the new guards came a zebra that looked positively exhausted.

Zecora went straight to me, so I assume someone told her I was planning on being on the deck for a while. Her eyes were no longer pitch black. Instead, they were slightly bloodshot. “How you feeling?” I asked.

“Tired. But… better.”

“Yeah, I fucking bet. Did you manage to get any sleep at all?”

“I don’t… I don’t think so. I can’t imagine sleeping would even be possible while in that state!”

“It was. Well, I passed out the first time, but the second time was when I was coming down and covered in mares. You think they’d sell us some of those plants if we asked? I’d love to sneak that shit into Celestia’s breakfast.”

Her look of exhaustion turned into one of horror. “There would be no survivors.”

“Nah. I’d tickle her under the chin and then play with her horse pussy. We’d be fine, though we might drown in mare cum.”

That look of horror disappeared and she shook her head. “No. And that’s disgusting. Now, did you see anything important?”

“I dunno,” I said with a shrug. “I don’t remember jack fucking shit about what I saw.”

“He did,” Flo replied. “I remember it all. He spoke to Ava, discovered Twilight will be a princess, managed to stop an attack on the ship, revealed some of Brook’s past, and told several prophecies. It was quite an interesting experience.”

Zecora looked over at her. “And is that all you remember, elemental? Did you have no visions of your own?”

“Now that… I do not know. I know that Nav doesn’t remember any of his. It seems safe to say that if I did have any, I likely wouldn’t remember them.”

“Hm. I remember mine perfectly, but such a thing takes a special kind of mental training. Despite not having actual experience with the drugs, I was trained on how to interpret their visions. I suppose that helps me remember what I saw and attach meaning to it.”

“Twilight wrote down all of Nav’s,” Flo said, laying a watery appendage on my shoulder. “I believe she’s planning on sending copies of everything he said to Celestia and the mage tower at Canterlot. I’m sure she would be happy to share them with you, if you ask.”

“I will do that, after I get some rest. I cannot remember what I said word for word, but it might be wise to add the gist of my prophecies to her list of what you said. At the very least, it will be interesting to compare similarities.”

“If you find anything important, let me know,” I said.

“I will.” She looked away, at the land around us. “I believe we are two or three days away from my old home, now. I see landmarks that I recognize.”

“Then get plenty of rest,” I said. “I ain’t going down there without you, not without a good reason.”

“Then I shall head to bed. I believe running into trouble at this juncture is unlikely, but keeping an eye out would be wise anyway.”

“And at this rate, I might be interested in making my own trouble,” I said. “I wouldn’t mind some fresh meat.”

She wanly smiled. “Unwary hunters in Africa often find themselves the prey. I will see you come the morrow.” She finally left, slowly stalking down the stairs.

That just left me, Flo, and the creepy mare up top. The two guard squads were down in the lower portion of the ship. Sentinel probably heard me talking, but she didn’t think I was worth bothering with.

“So when’s your relief?” I asked Amber, the chick at the helm.

“Oh, some time in the morning,” she said with a shrug. “I woke up just before you came out, so they said I could stay up here for a while. It’s been a while since I was able to do my part, so I don’t mind.”

I’m sure that’s the only reason. “Then I suppose I’ll be keeping you company for the night. I like holding the line.” At least, it’s certainly better than going on the attack.

“I’m happy for the company,” she said, her tail shaking slightly.

...At least you’re here to make sure she doesn’t do anything lewd. Flo did not reply. But she also didn’t have much time to, because another elemental oozed over the side of the ship next to us.

“I would like to have a discussion with you,” Brook said, placing a hand on my shoulder. Before I could politely decline, she started dragging me across the deck, to the back of the ship. Flo wordlessly followed, which was my sign that I probably wasn’t going to get out of it.

When we were away from the mare, Brook set me down next to the railing and stood in front of me, so I had basically no way to escape that didn’t involve falling into a river at what would probably be a deadly height. “So I take it you don’t want to discuss the weather,” I said in a voice I hoped was calmer than how I felt.

“It’s a lovely day,” she replied. “Discussion over.” I immediately tried sidling away, but she pushed a hand onto the railing on both sides of me, cutting off my escape. “I made an error in judgment, Anonymous. That isn’t, perhaps, a completely accurate statement. I made one error in judgment long ago that resulted in many errors in judgment. I am not angry because these errors were pointed out. Nor am I angry at you for facilitating the drug that did it. This is not a discussion of blame, nor is it a discussion that should cause you distress.”

“...Is it one we couldn’t have?” I asked. Flo slapped me on the back of the head. “Just asking, geez.”

“I should not have hurt Spike,” Brook said, turning a much darker shade of blue. “I should not have threatened him. And I would have carried that threat through. I should not have used my power over him against you. I should not have tried to force you into something you did not want. And I should not have been supremely unpleasant to deal with.” Her color returned to a much more natural shade of blue. “For all of these, you have my apologies.”

I stayed silent for a few long seconds. Not because I was speechless, but because I wanted to let her stew. When she finally shifted down a few shades of blue, I said, “I don’t think I’m the person you should be apologizing to.”

“You are one of them. I wronged you. And I want to know that the words you spoke to me under the influence of that drug made me think. They made me… remember. You created me to love, Anonymous. I was one of the originals. I forgot myself and my place in the world. I long ago forgot what it meant to truly care about someone and not just care about keeping the living alive.”

“And uh… you’ve remembered that now?” I hesitantly asked.

She turned a light shade of pink and hugged me. “I have, Anon. I haven’t been pink in so, so long…”

“It suits you,” I quietly replied, hugging her back.

Before that day, I didn’t even know water elementals could cry.

Several hours into the night shift, two more waters approached me and Flo. “We’ll be leaving the ship soon,” Aqua said. “Our last sister is getting very close.”

“We’ll damn sure miss you,” I said. “Any thoughts about how long it might take you to get to her?”

“If all goes well, less than a day,” the other one said. I think it was Cascade. “But if conditions are not ideal, it could take longer.”

“It’ll take us probably another day or so to get to Zecora’s village anyway,” I said with a shrug. “So we can probably meet you back wherever we drop you with no problems. Or if you get done soon enough, you could probably join us in case we need backup.”

“We will come at your call,” Flo said, gently stroking one of my wings. “We can travel down the river faster than your ship can fly it. Should you require aid, we will help.”

“Good to know. When are you guys leaving, exactly?”

“An hour,” Aqua replied. “We will tell Sentinel as well, to warn her that she will lose our eyes. Ice will tell his host. I have already informed Twilight.”

“Totally tubular. Also, Brook spoke to me.”

“Good. I will see you when we return, Nav. Flo, be ready.”

“Of course, sister.” Cascade slid over the side and Aqua started moving to the front of the ship, where the bat horses were.

“Gonna suck to have you guys gone,” I said, turning back to face the wastes.

“And I will hate being away from you,” Flo sighed as she draped herself over me. “Especially with danger looming on the horizon. It almost feels as though some twist of fate is conspiring to keep us apart when you might need me the most.”

“Remember how I said it feels like we’re living in a cartoon or some bullshit? You being away from me means one of us is going to get in trouble and the other is going to be the big hero by showing up and saving the other at the last second.”

She giggled and started playing with my hair. “I hope I get to be the big hero. You fit the damsel in distress role so well.”

“Yeah, okay, miss ‘stuck in a rock prison for millions of years’.”

“Antarctica.” I huffed. “The monkeys.” I rolled my eyes. “The spiders, when you were the monkey queen.” I shrugged. “Trixie, the second time.” My wings twitched. “Sombra, at the end. Miguel. Blueblood. The giant spider when you found me. The gay river serpent. Chrysalis, the first time you met her. When Taya fried you. The dingonek. When you got shot. I’m sure there are others, of course.”

“...Shut up, Flo. You’re not my real mom.”

“No, but I love you more than she did.”

I sighed and leaned against the rails. “The sad part is that’s true.” She stopped playing with my hair and hugged me instead. “You’re definitely as overbearing as a proper one.”

“I know you hate it, but that’s just how I show my love for you. You’ll come to accept it some day.”

“Alternately, you could come to accept my needs and stop making me feel uncomfortable.”

She was silent for a few seconds before saying, “Nah. This is more fun.” Then she hugged me tighter, to really make me suffer. “You don’t mind if I keep cuddling you until I have to leave, right?”

“I’d prefer you didn’t, but I understand that you’re only asking rhetorically and don’t really care how I feel as long as you feel justified by pretending I’m normal and care about what normal people feel comforting.”

“Good!”

And so she cuddled against me for an hour. It was annoying.

When the elementals finally left the ship, I felt myself actually relaxing. I know Flo is supposed to be all kind and loving and shit, but having her actually near me can be draining. And I’ll have you know that she actually didn’t hit me for that. She did sigh in disappointment, though, but I’m very used to being a disappointment.

...She did hit me for that.

Anyway, that left me with just the creepy mare on the top floor of the ship. And Flo in my head, of course, but that’s a given. I looked alone, and that was enough to push Amber into some kind of action. She called me over shortly after Flo left.

“What do you need?” I asked, casually slinging my rifle. She was still facing the way the ship was pointing, but her eyes were occasionally darting to me.

“Well, I’ve been standing like this for a while. And… well, my neck kinda hurts. Do you think you could maybe… I dunno, rub it?”

In response, I slid one leg over her back, so I was basically sitting on her. She flinched in shock, then squeaked when I began slowly massaging her neck. Once she realized what was actually happening, her tail started wagging and she sighed in delight.

Now, I didn’t have anything like Spike’s skill at massaging, but my soft fingers gave me several advantages ponies didn’t have. Or at least, they gave me much finer points to tease and prod with. I quickly had the poor mare cooing in contentment as I eased the pain of a night on watch.

I stopped much too quickly for her comfort, which was around her shoulders. It was tempting to keep going further down, but I honestly didn’t want to give her too much of a wrong idea and teasing mares is funny when they can’t do anything to me.

She turned to presumably thank me or ask me to keep going, but before she could, someone on the lower deck called out, “Flyers!”

I had my rifle up before I was off her back, then stood next to her. “Keep your head down. Call if any get close.” Her head ducked almost below the wheel and she eased over to press against my side. “Hostile?” I called down.

“Unknown! They’re coming this way!” I followed that trooper’s gaze and saw them myself. Whatever they were, the three of them certainly looked evil. Each had one eye, large ears, several pointy teeth, bat-like wings, smooth skin, long arms that ended in very pointy fingers, legs that ended in sharp talons, and a large… phallus hanging limply between their legs. When they sighted our ship, they immediately made a beeline for it.

Two of them went to the lower deck and one of them decided to head up top. I was hesitant to shoot, because I wasn’t sure if they were hostile. Their looks seemed to indicate that yes, they definitely were. Splitting up also didn’t help their case. But we were getting close to Pertz and I didn’t want to risk attacking any of his people unprovoked just yet.

These guys didn’t give me a choice. The one heading toward us swung about in the air at the last second and kicked me square in the chest with his large taloned feet, denting my steel armor and throwing me back. Amber yelled in surprise and the wheel jerked, throwing the guards on the lower deck around.

The bat thing landed and grabbed the mare by her tail, then yanked her away from the wheel. She immediately started struggling to get away, but hooves aren’t very useful when you’re on your stomach and the thing above you has twice your reach and hands. He quickly pinned her as I got up and he readied his member for use before I tackled him off. I would have shot him, but I dropped the gun when he tackled me and I didn’t have time to pick it up or draw my sword.

We hit the deck with me on top. His one eye narrowed on me and he used his long arms to try swiping at me. I took the blows on my armor and punched his teeth with a gauntleted fist, cracking several of them. He snarled and grabbed my arms, then twisted us over so he was on top. When he leaned in to try to bite me, I headbutted him with my helmeted head. He roared and let go of my arms to grab at his head, leaning back as far as he could.

Amber, who had been recovering from what had almost happened, finally got a hold of herself and ran over. She spun around and kicked him right in the back, pushing him on top of me again. But he was in so much pain that I just rolled him off and jumped up. While he was moaning in pain, I put my boot against his chest and drew my sword.

“Get back on the wheel,” I told Amber. She jumped to obey, hurriedly getting us back over the river. From the silence down below, I took it things were going well. “Sentinel, status?”

“Clear, sir!” she called up. “Bodies over the side. Need help?”

“I got him pacified. You mind coming up here?” A few seconds later, she was standing next to me and looking at the fellow with me. “Thoughts?”

“Rapist monsters,” she said, shaking her head. “I never thought I’d see the day.”

“...Really?”

“Well, no. I just never really expected to see one actually designed around raping.” She prodded his side, making him flinch. “I say we just put it down.”

“If it isn’t sapient, I agree,” I said. She shrugged, so I took my foot off its chest and kicked it, making it yelp. “Can you talk?”

It grunted. I lifted my sword up and started to bring it down on its neck, when it quickly shouted, “No!” My sword stopped. Despite its guttural sound, that was very much a word.

My foot went back on its chest. “So you can talk.” It stared at me. “But you’re not very talkative.” It didn’t reply. “Well, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to talk to someone that just beat the shit out of me, either. But I ain’t got no use for a silent rapist. Sentinel here probably considers you just as useless. So unless you can think of a reason for me to spare you, you’re about to come to a grisly end.”

It was silent long enough for me to lift my sword up again, making it growl one word: “Pertz.” That got my attention. The sword stopped and went back at my side. He fell silent until I started lifting the sword again. Then he finally started actually talking. “He master. I scout. I take. He like. You no kill, or he mad.”

“Uh huh.”

Sentinel and I shared a look. “He’s too stupid,” she said, shaking her head.

“Well, I happen to think it’s rude to stop by someone’s house without sending word that you’re coming,” I said.

She scoffed. “Do you really think this thing will go back to Pertz, or remember enough words to deliver a useful message?”

I looked back at the demon thing. “Does Pertz have medicine? Healers?”

He nodded. “Great shaman. Make feel good.”

“Good. I need you to remember something important for me. I’m going to let you go, but you have to go back to Pertz, okay? You have to tell him that the sun is coming to visit. Can you remember that?”

He hesitated for a while before nodding. “Sun coming. Tell Pertz.”

“And you won’t forget?” He hesitated for even longer. “That’s what I thought. Well, I think I’ll make sure you go back to Pertz.” Before he or Sentinel could react, I sliced off half of his penis. She gasped in surprise and he was silent for several long moments before screaming. “I bet he’ll go see that great shaman now, don’t you think?”

Sentinel stared at the wound for an uncomfortably long time before slowly nodding. “Yes sir, I imagine he will. Do you want me to throw him off?”

I sheathed the sword and removed my foot. “You get one arm, I’ll get the other.” The bat didn’t even try to resist as we dragged him to the side and then tossed him off. Before he hit the ground, his self-preservation kicked in and he started unsteadily flying. Sentinel turned to go, but stopped when I spoke up. “I imagine you have an opinion about what I just did.”

She didn’t turn, but said, “I am a very opinionated mare, Nav.” She hung her head for a moment before turning her head back to look at me. “And my opinion of you is rising.” With that, she turned back and walked away.

As I grabbed the dick to toss it over the side, Amber happily said, “That was a perfect punishment, Nav.”

As someone that once had a bologna pony, I wasn’t sure I agreed. I also didn’t quite agree with permanently disfiguring someone as a punishment. But I learned to silence my conscience a long time ago, so I quickly got over it, tossed the one-eyed trouser snake over the side, and went back to standing watch.

At least the ice sword minimized the blood.

Thankfully, the weird bat monsters put a damper on Amber’s horniness, or at least her desperation, so she didn’t bother me again. Honestly, I was starting to wonder how long she would let me string her along before actually expecting something, but I figured it would be in poor taste to ask.

Morning came with an adorable changeling in a somewhat ruffled maid outfit carrying breakfast up for me. “A certain pony told me you haven’t been eating,” Doppel said when she arrived. “That same certain pony authorized me to threaten you if you didn’t, and gave me permission to carry through on that threat.”

“You can tell Taya that no magic means I can tickle her all I want,” I replied as I took the tray off her back.

She blinked before shaking her head. “It was Rarity, actually. She said she’d design whatever outfit I described for her and then make sure you wore them the next time we went to Canterlot. Well, assuming you didn’t eat.” Which I was already doing, so it was a moot point.

“She likes being controlled by a strong stallion. Do with that information what you will.” I turned away from her and walked to the far end of the ship, then sat with my back against the rails. Apparently she decided to follow me, and sat next to me, then started picking idly at her skirt. “Do you need something?”

“You’re my master, master. The better question is, do you need something?”

I ate in silence for a minute or two. She continued picking at her skirt and occasionally looking up at me. When she looked up again, I met her gaze and she immediately looked away. “What’s wrong?”

“N-nothing.” She started to get up, but I put a hand on one of her hooves. It wasn’t enough to stop her or even impede her, but she eased back down.

She hadn’t brought much food up, so I continued eating as she sat there, staring at the deck. When I finished, she tried jumping up to grab the tray and leave, but I put my hand right back on her hoof, stopping her before she got up. “Dopple.” She slowly looked up at me. “What’s wrong?” She started to look away, but I gently cupped her cheek and made her face me. “Talk to me.”

“When… when you were… when you needed me, I wasn’t there. When you had to rely on someone… you couldn’t rely on me. I was… I…”

“You were with a stallion.” Her eyes dropped and her lower lip trembled. “Doppel, nothing changes until we change it. I am going to ask you a question. Do not tell me the answer, not now. Wait a few days. Think.” Her ears started twitching. “You aren’t in the hive anymore. You have choices in life, now. I will not pick for you and I will not judge you either way. You can either choose to serve me or you can choose to serve yourself. You can stay as a… vessel of pleasure. Collect stallions and mares alike. Fulfill your growing needs. Wear out your body in the most enjoyable, sensual acts possible. Or you can serve me. I will rely on you. You will assist me. You will still have needs and you can still meet those needs, but I… or someone else, perhaps, will come first. As your master, I give you this choice. Live for me or live for you. Which do you want?”

She stood there in silence for a very long time before carefully pulling away from my hand, grabbing the tray, and walking away. When I was done staring at her ass (and giggling to myself about how funny she was walking), I stood up and turned to the wastes so I could watch the scenery.

“Flo, I’ve been idly musing,” I said after some time of quiet. She grunted. “You already know it all, but talking out loud helps me, I suppose.”

“For what it’s worth, it’s an interesting thought,” she said.

“Africa was the birthplace of humanity, or so the theory of evolution goes. And in this day and age, it’s a place where magic doesn’t quite work properly. There’s also a lot of empty space here. If opening a portal to another time is possible, would it be worth having my kind live here? As the cradle of our rebirth? Celestia would be no threat, not without magic against our technology.”

“Perhaps. You would have to find a place to cast the initial spell, and then find a way to move them here quietly. And while Celestia’s influence could be a bad thing, it also has… uses. Especially if you decide to become her official consort.”

“Yeah. It might be something worth talking to… some others about.”

“You think Twilight wouldn’t tell Celestia your plan?”

“I think Twilight has earned my trust. Or at the very least, has earned the right to have trust placed in her.”

“You did promise to have a talk with her while you were under the influence. And you gave her the name of your sister to invoke should you prove… reluctant.”

“Of course I did… I thought this choice was mine alone to make, once. Save humanity or let them rest. But this is a large world. This choice will affect everyone. Is that something I can truly decide on my own? Is that fair?”

She didn’t reply for some time. After slowly calculating, she asked, “Is it fair that they weren’t given a true chance? The world turns, Nav. Things change. Life survives. Life adapts. The world will not end if humans are brought forward in time. Change is the greatest constant in life. And, despite what some of my sisters believe… and despite what I once believed, change is beautiful. It’s exciting. It’s important. A being that cannot change cannot survive.”

“True. But still…”

We fell into silence for longer this time. Eventually, she spoke up again. “You are a catalyst, Nav. A harbinger of great things. Evil or good, I don’t know. But they will be great. They have been great. Your choices have changed this world. Your choices will continue changing it. From curing Twilight’s racism to changing the entire system of government in two nations, you have changed this world. And you have changed with it. You talk like the choice of bringing humanity back is something every race needs to decide. But in the end, even after they talk and talk, the choice will be yours. The unicorns are loyal to you. The idea is yours. Nothing will happen without you. Save the great minds a headache and do what feels right to you. It will be the right choice, no matter what it is, for you will be the one who made it. As a catalyst, that is your right. That is your destiny.”

I spat over the side. “Fuck destiny.” With that, I finally started walking back to my room.

“You were right about one thing, at least,” Flo said. “You barely survived the crucible of the world and are now being reborn in humanity’s original cradle. I have a feeling that by the time we leave, you might be something approaching human again.” My wings twitched, so she chuckled and added, “In mentality, at least.”

There was no need to respond to that.

Once I got to my room, I quickly stripped out of the armor and started looking for some very light clothing. I was tired of being hot and wanted something cool. My eyes lingered on some of my older clothes, but I sighed and decided on a sun dress instead. It killed me a little on the inside, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t airy.

Since my armor had gotten dented against the bat things, I took the breastplate and walked over to the blacksmith’s room. I passed some of Twilight’s friends on the way and exchanged pointless pleasantries with them (and a thump on the nose in Rarity’s case), but made it without any time consuming distractions.

Unsurprisingly, Smiles was the only one there at the moment. Jak was almost definitely dealing with Athena’s insanity. Thankfully, I didn’t need Jak for a quick repair. Smiles was reading when I stepped in and didn’t hear me enter, so I set the armor on the table next to him, making him flinch and look up. “This got dented,” I said.

He blinked a few times, looked me up and down, then his eyes flashed blue for a moment. He quickly shook his head until they turned gold again and said, “Alright. I’ll have it fixed in an hour or two. What happened?”

“We got attacked by some kind of weird flying bat things. One kicked me.”

“Oh. Did anypony else get hurt?”

“Nah. I’ll come by in a bit and pick it up.”

“I can leave it in your room when it’s done, if you’d prefer.”

I shrugged and said, “Sure. Not like you got much else to do.”

He slowly looked around the room and that’s all I really paid attention to before I unceremoniously left. Just because he wasn’t currently being creepy didn’t mean I felt like giving him a chance to be.

When I got back to my room, what I considered an unlikely duo was waiting on me. Applejack was making herself at home on the bed and Rarity was rubbing at a slightly red nose. I entered and crossed my arms, waiting.

“That was quite rude of you, you know,” Rarity said when she realized I wasn’t going to make the first move.

“So was lifting up my skirt to see what kind of panties I was wearing.” None, for the record, which is why I thumped her.

“A fashionista has a right to know if her friend is properly matching her—”

Applejack reached over and put a hoof on Rarity’s side, making her stop mid-lecture. “I ain’t much one for beatin’ ‘round the bush, Nav. What in tarnation were you talkin’ about two nights ago? Ain’t nopony’s tellin’ us nothin’, aside from you gettin’ drugged.”

“Well, truth be told, there isn’t much more to tell. Zecora and I went to talk to a big-wig zebra shaman. He drugged us, I spoke with the spiritual incarnation of death itself, he sent us back to the ship, and then Zecora and I told prophecies about pretty much everyone we saw for the next day or so. Flo also got hit, but it just seemed to knock her out.”

“Huh. Well, that explains why I ain’t bein’ told nothin’. I don’t get that at all.”

Prophecies, you say?” Rarity quietly asked, finally lowering the hoof from her nose. “What you told me didn’t seem very… prophetic.” I shrugged. “Well, I say that, but… I did happen to do what you told me I should. And it was very… effective.”

“Good. I have no idea what I told you.” She blinked. “I don’t remember any of it. Zecora does, but that’s because she has training.”

“So you ain’t gonna be no kinda use tellin’ me what it meant?” Applejack asked.

“Nope. Ask Zecora or Twilight.”

She softly snorted. “Well, it weren’t no kinda nice prophecy anyway. And I don’t reckon it really matters what it meant. If it happens, it happens, nasty or not.” She shrugged. “Ain’t no use in trying to understand fate and destiny.”

If you have no ambitions in life, sure. “Any other questions?” I asked. Rarity’s mouth opened, so I quickly edited myself. “Any other questions about the prophecies?” She shut her mouth and rolled her eyes. Applejack shrugged. “Alright, cool. AJ, you want to cuddle and let me rub your belly while Rarity watches and is jealous?”

“Maybe later.” She hopped off the bed and stretched. “If you’re down here, somepony’s gotta take your place up top. I reckon that somepony’s probably gonna be me. Unless you’re headin’ up there?”

“I was on watch last night. I’ll probably rest my eyes a bit and let Smiles repair my armor before heading back up.”

“Alrighty. See you in a bit, then.” She walked past me and left, leaving a noticeably irate Rarity.

“Don’t you glare at me in that tone of voice,” I said, putting my hands on my hips. She started glaring harder. “Don’t test me, woman.” She bared her teeth. “Keep it up, I dare you. I will cuddle the everloving shit out of you.” She scoffed. “I will tickle you under the chin and call you my prettiest little pony, then brush your hair and cuddle you. Just fucking try me!”

“Do it, filly. The princess sent a letter saying you wouldn’t!”

I was on that bitch in an instant.

When Smiles walked into my room two hours later, he was probably extremely confused about why I was cuddling with a very pissed off Rarity. I had her tail in one hand and she was too afraid of me ruining it to try running, so she was taking her cuddles like a good little girl, the slut.

“So should I ask, or just set the armor down and leave?”

Rarity huffed, crossed her forelegs, and looked at the ceiling. I smiled and said, “Just put it down and walk away.” He did so. Right before he got to the door, he turned back, opened his mouth, closed it, turned back around, walked out, and pulled the door shut behind him.

“I hate you,” Rarity muttered.

“And I thought we were friends,” I said, gently rubbing her tummy with the hand that didn’t have her tail.

“You make me do things I hate and I torture you for them. That’s hardly friendship!”

I patted the belly. “It’s a give and take relationship. Now, when I let your tail go, what are you going to do?”

“Fight the urge to strangle you and settle for slapping you instead.”

“Wrong answer.” I’m a lot faster than she is. As soon as I let her tail go, I rolled over on top of her, pushed her fully onto her back, lowered my head to her stomach, and blew a loud raspberry on it. She quickly started squealing and shaking her hooves, trying to dislodge me. I did that until her hooves started slowing down, then licked her on the snout and ran like hell.

She was too confused and tired to say or do anything, so I made it to Zecora’s room before she even poked her head out. Zecora’s door was ajar, so I let myself in and quickly scanned around. There was a single surprised mare in there who was looking up from some notes, so I closed the door behind me and casually nodded. “Sup?”

Apparently she decided that it was above her pay grade, so she got over her surprise and decided against asking. “I am reading over the notes Twilight took while you were in the trance-state.”

“Neat. I got some intel you might be interested in. Don’t know if it’s important or not.”

“Any information is likely more than I have.”

“Last night, we got attacked by some kind of flying bat monsters. One eye, big teeth, batty, had a penchant for rape.”

She nodded once. “Popobawa. Disgusting monsters.”

“Right. Well, we took one alive. He had some interesting stuff to say. First, that he’s working for Pertz as a scout. Second, that Pertz has a great shaman working for him.”

“Both things of note… I can’t imagine you got much more.”

“Nah. I did tell him to deliver a message, though. He’s to tell Pertz that the sun is coming.”

She pursed her lips slightly. “I see. So you let him go.”

“After… dismembering him. I figured it wise to make sure he went to the shaman.”

“Hm.”

“You disapprove.”

She nodded. “I do. I consider it unwise to warn someone who consorts with monsters that we are coming and that we were sent by Celestia. But it is done. I am more concerned at the moment with the fact that he has a shaman by his side.”

“You can whoop his ass, right?”

She tried hiding her small smile by looking at the window. “Perhaps. I have neglected my combat skills of late. But members of my profession do not fight each other, so the point is moot.”

“...Would their shaman still consider you a shaman?”

Zecora sighed. “Should the worst come to pass, I will be ready. But I fear that if he has resorted to recruiting even the popobawa, we will likely be unable to fight our way out.”

“At this rate, I think we have to disprove his godliness. We can’t just go in there and walk out with him. The dude will still be deified. And if we kill him, he’ll be a martyr and still deified. We need to make his slaves lose faith.”

She looked back at me, all traces of a smile gone. “I agree. And if we can’t, it is likely that every one of his subjects will need to be killed. I would not ask such a thing of you, nor anyone on this ship. But they will be dangerous. Belief is not so easily put aside, I’m afraid. Unveiling him as a scam is the best way.”

“Well… here’s hoping we don’t fuck up, I guess.”

“...Indeed.”

We fucked up so hard.

 
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