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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163. Chapter One Hundred and Thirty-Six

That morning, after we all got settled into our positions on the deck, Zecora walked over to my place next to the broken railing. Together, we watched something slightly smaller than an elephant slowly walk through the plains. The thing had a single horn coming out of its nose, like a rhino, but it was covered in fur and had stripes down its back.

“Emela-ntouka,” Zecora said. The animal yawned, showing off its large and flat teeth. “Despite its outward appearance, it doesn’t eat meat. However, it will kill anything that disturbs it. Including elephants.”

“Then I say we don’t disturb it.”

“A wise course of action.” She turned to look at me. “If my memory is correct and if things haven’t changed, we are nearing a tribe of very powerful and very well-respected shamans. We absolutely cannot offend them. I doubt they will bother us, but if they make an effort to speak with us, we need to stop.”

“Are they on the river?” I asked.

She nodded. “They have guards from all over Africa, as well. It is the one place where Pertz has never gained ground, and it’s very likely the last place on our trip that I would consider safe.”

“Unless we piss them off.”

“Unless we anger them, yes. This location is where many novice shamans go to start and complete their training. It is likely I would be recognized should I enter, so if I am not needed, I will remain below. It’s better that my presence in Africa not be known until after it is too late for Pertz.”

“No problem. I’ll send someone to get you if you’re needed. I guess you can go nurse Watcher or something.”

She rolled her eyes. “That old stallion doesn’t like being nursed. He’s almost as bad as you are.”

“At least I’m adorable, so looking after me is tolerable.”

“To Spike, perhaps. You will know their land when you see it.”

“Coolio. You mind letting the captain know before you head below? I don’t want him getting worried if someone lets themselves on our deck. I’ll tell everyone here.”

“Of course. I’d also advise telling the water elementals.”

“I imagine Flo is already taking care of it. Hopefully these guys won’t ask for anything weird, like unusual slaves to keep around as novelties.”

“Shamans are not very materialistic. Few of us care for status. Fewer of us care for slaves. Their most likely request would be food or conversation. Wisdom is hard to come by, and warriors often have their own unique version to share.”

“Well, I don’t mind talking. I certainly wouldn’t mind getting some wisdom in return. Any guesses on how far out they are?”

“Two or three hours, likely. If you should meet one face-to-face, be wary of their power. Celestia believes those she sees as inferior to have no abilities that could threaten her. She is very incorrect. These beings possess many powers and abilities. Some can even see into the future.”

“Huh.” I thought back to what Luna told me a very long time ago, about how it was possible to see into the future with the right tools. I couldn’t help but wonder if she came here to study. “Think they’d be willing to share what they see?”

“Sometimes. Now, I must warn the captain and return below. If you do have to meet with them, I will need to have a few potions brewed to counteract the effects of some of what you may inadvertently inhale. Many shamans use various herbs to enhance their abilities. To one not accustomed, their effects may be… traumatizing.”

So they use psychoactive drugs. Fun. “Then I won’t keep you. Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll have moved their settlement.”

“Perhaps.” She looked down the river for a moment before turning and walking to the staircase leading up.

Flo, you got all that?

“Yes. I’ve already begun warning my sisters. And Ice. I believe these shamans might represent the threat my sisters and I have been concerned about. If they truly do have magic, hopefully they will leave us alone.”

And if not, hopefully they at least won’t try to hurt us. I’m going to go ahead and warn the troops. I figure if we don’t look like we’re threatening them, they won’t try anything on us.

“Likely. But Zecora seems to think they’re safe, so I don’t think they’ll be an issue.”

Just in case, I went ahead and knocked on some of the wooden railing in front of me. That superstition fulfilled, I started walking around to warn the guys on deck about what we were going to run into.

I don’t think any of us, Zecora included, suspected what we’d really find.

We spotted the shaman town around midday. The ground for nearly a mile around it was charred black. Even the river had a much darker hue, as though something had actually stained the ground at the bottom. To my eyes, it seemed like there was some kind of pall of darkness over the place, but no one else noticed it.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” one of the guards next to me muttered.

“Keep it to yourself,” I absentmindedly replied. But I felt it, too. This place was absolutely creepy.

All the huts were made of some kind of leather and many were decorated with bones. At the center of the town was a large gibbet with an old zebra locked inside. Guards of various races dotted the area and several were watching us. A single elephant with two very large, carved tusks was wandering around the outskirts. Ashes shot up into the air with every step he took. Several people with beads, bones, and various detritus tied into their hair seemed to glide from hut to hut, not sifting the ashes at all. None of them looked up at us.

Shit was weird.

And shit got even weirder when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to look and saw a cat I didn’t recognize standing directly behind me. He had a wooden staff in one hand and was covered in a dark cloak. As soon as I realized he was there, his stench hit me and I just barely stopped myself from gagging.

The guards noticed him at that point and they all jumped back, then got into defensive stances. The cat paid them no mind and just stared into my eyes. “Can I… help you?” I calmly asked as I took my hands away from my gun.

“Death rides in your wake, soulless one,” the cat quietly replied. His eyes glanced over my shoulder for a moment before returning to me. “Your presence is demanded below. You will bring the entity that guides your path and you will bring our lost sister, the one who will translate our customs. Three will go and three will return. Or perhaps four will return, if you will allow yourself to see.”

“Alright, let me stop you right there. Can you be more specific about who I’m supposed to bring? I don’t really want to deal with stupid riddles if I don’t have to, especially if I might get them wrong.”

He blinked. “Oh. Sorry. Bring Flo and Zecora.”

“Cool, I can do that. We’ll be down in a few minutes.”

He nodded. “Good.” Then he looked around the ship. “So uh… You have any food? And maybe an actual shower?”

“Sure thing. Hey Spike, take this guy to get a shower and then show him the kitchen.”

Spike sighed. “Why do I have to do it?”

“Because I told you to. Now stop bitching and do it.” He sighed and rolled his eyes, then beckoned the cat to follow him. They walked down together.

“Flo, get ready to go,” I said aloud. “I’m gonna go put my weapons up and get Zecora. Maybe she can make sense of this bullshit.”

She didn’t reply, but one of the guards did. “Are you sure you should go down there, sir?”

“I probably shouldn’t, but that dude showed up on the ship without anyone noticing. I’d rather not test the rest of their abilities. Besides, I’ll have Zecora and Flo. What’s the worst that could happen?”

The squad around me shared looks amongst themselves as I started heading below. My first stop was Zecora’s room.

She looked up from her alembic when I entered. “Is there something you require?”

“Shit got weird. Some cat shaman magically showed up on our deck and asked for you, me, and Flo all by name. We’re heading down to the village as soon as we all get ready.”

Her lips compressed slightly as she took that in. “I see. Did he say anything else?”

“Well, he said death rides in our wake and then called me soulless. He also said that three of us would go, but four might come back, if I allowed myself to see. He tried using some kind of stupid riddle crap to tell me who to bring, but I told him to stop his shit and speak like a normal fucking human. It all sounded like some quasi-mystical bullshit made up to sound important but probably doesn’t actually mean anything.”

She nodded. “That is the way of the shaman. Obfuscate as many things as possible so you can hide behind riddles if your advice is wrong. Thanks to your words and some of my own life experiences, I realized such things are wrong.”

“Well, at least there’s that. Any thoughts?”

“No. I will ready myself quickly. I ask, but do not require, that you leave your weapons here. Going in unarmed will make the guards less wary of us and we likely couldn’t defend ourselves against the shamans anyway.”

“I was planning on dropping everything off. Don’t let Twilight or Taya know we’re going. They weren’t on deck, so they don’t know. If they find out, both will demand to go.”

“Very well. My potions aren’t quite complete and I can’t leave them to simmer without me. They are beyond Nightshade. Hopefully they won’t be needed.”

“Yeah, hopefully. I’ll be on deck when you’re ready.”

She nodded. “I will not be long.”

I set all my weapons down in my room. After a moment of thought, I decided to leave Twilight’s toy in. She probably wouldn’t have considered that an important enough reason to take it out and I really didn’t want her to bump me up a few sizes at once. It felt uncomfortable enough with being the right size.

Flo was already waiting on the deck. She slid up to me and slowly engulfed my lower body and wrapped my upper body in a hug. Zecora showed up about a minute later.

When all three of us were ready, one of the crew unicorns tossed the rope ladder over. “Good luck,” she said with a smile as Flo started dragging me down the ladder.

“Here’s hoping we don’t need it,” I replied. The land below us looked forbidding enough that I figured we probably would, though.

As soon as we hit the dirt (or ashes, as it was), a nearly skeletal dog approached us. He pointed at me with a slender paw and then patted himself on the chest. When he started walking away, I figured we were supposed to follow him.

So I didn’t appear weak, I stepped out of Flo and took the lead, right behind him. Zecora and Flo joined us and we walked into the mass of yurts. As we got closer and then into the tents, the stench got worse and worse. I figured it would be rude to say anything, so I just started breathing with my mouth instead. Flo couldn’t smell and Zecora was probably used to living in a third world shithole, so neither seemed bothered by it.

What was more disconcerting to me is the pressure I started feeling in my head as we went deeper and saw more of the shamans. Each one stared at us. Or rather, after taking a moment to actually examine them, they were staring at me. The darkness around the place seemed to deepen as the pressure increased, adding to the rest to bring my paranoia to ridiculous levels.

Finally, we stopped in front of a very well-decorated yurt. This thing was covered in carved skulls of more races than I’d ever seen. Each was covered in strange spirals and odd patterns. It also looked like there were faint motes of light hidden inside each eye socket and it felt like they were all focused right on me. That was the only source of light in the deep darkness that was now surrounding us.

The dog we were following reached behind me and slowly waved his hand over my shoulder, then pointed us to the tent’s flap. I shrugged and let myself in. Flo and Zecora followed, of course.

Together, we beheld a single ancient zebra. His eyes were totally black and all of his teeth had been replaced with silver. Shadows were whirling around him, even though there was a steady source of light in the room. His face was covered in some kind of paint, with symbols covering his fur. He stared up at us from the far corner of his mostly empty yurt, then slowly pointed to a place in front of him. “Sit, lost traveler. Sit, entity. Sit, soulless one.”

His voice was like fucking gravel. It shocked me, so Zecora made the first move. She sat in front of him, slightly to the right. I shook myself out of it and sat next to her, in the middle and in front of a small brazier. Flo joined me on my left.

When we were down, he began talking again, though his voice changed completely. “I stand between the living and the dead. I walk the path of life and death, guiding lost souls to eternity. I see those that others cannot. I hear things most ignore.” His head tilted slightly and he pointed at me. “Soulless one, you should not be. You are empty. You are dead inside. You are a prison.” His gnarled hoof lowered. “One who should have long ago escaped this world is locked in your barren body. The dead want her. And they want your abomination of a body to cease its stringed movements.”

“Well, you can have Ava. But I’m gonna have to draw the line at making my body stop moving. Also, why do you call me soulless? I mean, I’m not the best guy in the world, but I’m not that bad.”

He blinked and shook his head. When he started speaking again, his voice had changed. “You have no soul. No anima. Your body is a simulacrum, a mere animation of that which once was. You are held together by some strange magic and a will not your own. You are a golem. A soul tried hiding in you to escape its current prison, but found itself locked in a new one. She cannot escape.”

“Uh… huh.” I idly looked at Zecora and then at Flo. Both were watching the old guy. “So can you get her out of me?”

He reached down to a small bag next to himself and removed some mushrooms. He lifted them up to his eyes before nodding and tossing them into the brazier in front of us. They immediately burned a bright green and the tent quickly filled up with their smoke.

Zecora sighed and muttered, “Things are about to get strange.” Compared to what, exactly?

“She cannot escape your empty body, Anonymous,” the zebra said. “She pulls and pulls at her binds, but the necklace connecting you keeps her in place.” After a few seconds of breathing in the smoke, I started hearing crying behind me. The guy’s voice changed yet again as he continued, “She does not know that for her, escape would mean an even darker fate, though it is one that could be temporary. Those of the first race that survived after the end of their species suffered a cursed existence. When those billions of lives were snuffed out in so short a time, the lines between reality and irreality were frayed. Many of those who had died began seeping over into reality, then became trapped there. Your prisoner will remain bound to you until your body dies. Then she will remain shackled to reality until one such as I can free her.”

The crying was much louder now, and it sounded like it was directly behind me. Zecora finally gave in and decided to look. When she did, she grabbed my arm with a trembling hoof.

I sighed and looked back as well. Some kind of spirit was floating behind me, pulling on a chain that went from a shackle around her neck to a ghostly shackle around mine. “Well ain’t that some shit,” I quietly said. When Ava realized we were looking at her, she gasped and started pulling harder. “Can she understand us?” I asked.

“Perhaps. She could certainly understand you, if you spoke in the language you both shared.”

“Flo, can you translate for us?” She didn’t answer, so I looked over at her. Instead of being blue and human-like, she was very grey and just shaped like a blob. Every few seconds, a bolt of light shot out from her center and prodded the outside of her watery shell. “I’m gonna go with no.” I wasn’t quite sure how to speak English instead of horse-ish, so I looked back at the shaman. When I did, my mouth dropped.

He wasn’t surrounded by shadows anymore. Now, I could clearly see that they were spirits of various types of creatures. Each one had an arm or a leg inside of him, presumably to control him. Once they realized I could see them, the largest one slowly floated in front of me.

“I am death.” It had the shape of a human. “I am the ferryman between light and dark.” Its visage had vaguely skull-like features and its body looked very bony. “I shepherded your race and all those that followed into the afterlife.” Though it spoke, its mouth didn’t move at all. “Your kind created me, gave me a shape.” Its head moved in closer and a green light started shining from its eye sockets. “In its fear of the unknown, humanity created an afterlife worth fearing.” One of its arms reached out behind me and grabbed the chain connecting me and Ava. “Your soul already resides within that afterlife, Anonymous.” He lifted me up by the chain and held us both off the ground, choking me and making Ava start sobbing. “And yet this body remains animated.” I had no idea what touching him would do to me, so I clawed at the shackle around my neck instead, trying to get air. “As long as you stay soulless, the great enemy who created you will have power over you.” His eyes looked over my shoulder, then back at me. “This great enemy is mine, as well as yours.” He dropped me and Ava. “You are soulless. You have a soul shackled behind you. Two problems. One solution.”

“W-what?” I gasped. I knew he was talking and I knew it was important, but it felt like my mind was starting to change. The lack of oxygen didn’t help, of course.

“Find her where reality is malleable, Anonymous. Speak to her where you have power. Find one who has power over the dead. Speak to her where the souls of the lost reside, where no truly living being can travel.”

My eyes looked back up, but everything I saw made me fall to the floor in shock. All the spirits were slowly circling now, moving incrementally closer. Zecora was watching them with an unreadable expression on her face. Her eyes were now fully black, just like the old shaman. Various symbols dotted the air around her and the stripes on her fur seemed to dance and writhe as I watched.

She hurt to look at, so I moved my vision back to the shaman. There were no spirits around him now, so he was slumping down slightly. After a few seconds of me watching him, he pulled another handful of plants out of another bag and tossed them onto the fire. They were consumed in a blue flame and yet another cloud began filling the room.

“W-w-what is this?” I whispered as I lifted a hand to my face. My fingers were twisting and moving on their own accord. My entire body felt like it was shaking and my mind was going a mile a minute.

Zecora finally spoke, and said, “Many herbs exist that will give any being true sight. But there are side effects. We will likely be hallucinating for at least a day, shown things that do and do not truly exist. Our bodies will feel as though they are miles away, controllable but unresponsive.” She looked over at me. “I advise against looking in a mirror.”

“Oh god… Can you… can you fix this?”

She shook her head. “I am just as lost as you are, now. I will not attempt to make a potion in this state. I might poison us as easily as I might cure us.”

I looked over at Flo again. She was still just a blob. “Flo, can you hear me?” No response. One of my hands carefully caressed her and she started oozing over to me. I looked back up at the spirits, many of which were less than a meter away.

Death finally lifted a hand, stopping them. “You will return to your ship,” the large spirit said. “Continue on your journey. But remember this, Anonymous. Remember my words. If you want to truly exist, you will heed them.”

“Go to hell,” I growled. For some reason, that made him laugh. He started spinning around the old zebra again before seeping into the guy. The other spirits joined him moments later. After that, the old guy slowly disappeared, just dropping right out of reality.

“Can you walk?” Zecora asked. She was already standing up, somehow steady.

I very carefully stood, which made the whole room start dancing. Closing my eyes didn’t help, so I looked back at the mare and did my best to ignore the strange shapes dancing around her. “Hopefully. Will they let us just leave?”

“Yes. We must return before we peak. We likely have fifteen to thirty minutes. Then our minds will be gone for two or so hours.”

“...Gone how?”

“Hold onto my back. When we get outside, things will be strange.” She looked over at Flo, who was still grasping my arm. “Will she follow us?”

“I… think so.” My first step was more of a stumble, since my feet didn’t seem to want to cooperate. But when I actually concentrated on it, I was able to follow Zecora to the closed tent flaps. Sure enough, Flo continued holding onto me and moving across the ground. Normally, she didn’t collect any kind of dust or dirt from the ground. Now, though, she was quickly caking herself in detritus.

Once we got to the flaps, Zecora looked back at me. “You will see many things soon, Navarone. Remember that you survived the poultice I gave you after the cursed dagger. This will be nothing worse.”

“Yeah, thanks for reminding me of that while I’m tripping balls, bitch. I can fucking taste colors. I don’t need to remember watching Kumani rip the wings off my back so she can hold me forever.”

“...Right.” She looked back to the tent flap for a moment, took a deep breath, then turned back to look at me. “I suppose I should warn you that this is the first time I’ve actually—”

I pushed past her and out of the tent. The darkness that was infusing the place before was gone, replaced by a harsh sunlight that pushed into my overly sensitive eyes. After taking a second to wince back, I gripped Flo slightly tighter and finally stepped into the light.

Despite the darkness being gone, it was actually worse in the camp now. Every one of the shamans had at least one spirit trailing behind them. None of them were touching the shamans, but all were following and each one was staring at me. Or rather, they were staring at the bright spirit chained to me.

The spirits weren’t even the really weird part. Each shaman had different moving symbols around them, all representing god knows what. My eyes were noticing patterns where normally I wouldn’t see anything and each one seemed to draw me in until I could wrest my gaze away.

Someone in the camp was playing drums and I could feel each beat reverberating down to my very soul. Or lack of one, according to the grim reaper lookalike. That’s actually what knocked me out of the shock and made me come back down for an instant.

Zecora was standing by my side, slowly taking in the whole camp. Flo was still an amorphous blob. I took a deep breath and started carefully walking to where our ship was anchored. Each time I lifted a foot, my mind seemed to soar, only to be brought back down when my shoe hit the dirt.

One of the guards walked right in front of me as we were leaving, close enough that I brushed against him as we passed. My body jolted upright as his fur brushed against my arm, sending a flash of sensations through my mind. He didn’t even notice and just kept going without paying me any mind.

After an eternity that probably only lasted ten minutes, we got out of the hellish camp with its freaky skulls and strange inhabitants. “Think you can climb?” I asked when we got to the ladder.

Zecora didn’t answer after several seconds, so I looked over at her. Her eyes were fixed on the ship, open wider than they had been yet. I took a deep breath and followed her gaze, then almost immediately regretted it.

Hundreds of spirits were floating above us. “What in the fuck?” I whispered.

She didn’t look away, but answered, “This is a ship of great violence, Nav. It ferries a crew of veterans with an impressive kill count. You murdered a clan of pirates to claim it. Before you did so, they killed many. Many spirits made from violent means often find themselves attached, willingly or not, to objects that had an impression upon them immediately before dying.”

“Great, so our ship is fucking haunted. Just what I wanted to find out. I’m haunted, the ship’s haunted, my sword’s probably haunted, my armor’s definitely haunted. Next thing you know, I’m going to get pregnant and have a miscarriage or an abortion and then my fucking vagina’s gonna be haunted. Great, just fucking great.”

If she was coherent enough to talk, I figured she was good to climb. I attached Flo to one of my legs and started pulling myself up the shitty ladder. From its extra erratic motions, I figured Zecora was right behind me.

The climb normally isn’t all that bad, due to my weird alien-esque physiology, but this time it was awful. Every time the ladder moved, the landscape below me scattered like crazy until I could get my focus back, and we were jolting the ropey piece of shit a lot. I was actually out of breath when we got over the top, so I just pulled myself over and fell onto the deck, not even trying to keep myself up.

For some reason, I was very surprised when several people immediately ran to my side. Spike got there first, and knelt down so he could prop me up. “What happened?” he asked, flashing his ungodly horrific teeth. I flinched back, so he leaned forward to examine me better. “What’s wrong with your eyes?”

Now, I should mention that dragons usually look scary. That’s a given, since they’re pretty much killing machines. But Spike is different, since I know him pretty well. At the moment, though, he was freaking me out. I could see spirals on each individual scale, his teeth were shining brightly in the sunlight, I could see a faint haze coming from his mouth as combustible gas escaped, and his wings were stretched over me in what he might have thought was protective but just seemed enclosing to me.

Needless to say, that gave me absolutely no chance to catch my breath. Zecora came to my rescue when she got over the side by pushing him back. “Give her room, dragon,” she said. “All of you, back away.”

Everyone on the ship knows about Zecora, so she usually commands a lot of respect. Especially since we just got back from some weird shit that she would know all about. They all backed off, though Spike took a second or two longer to pull away from me.

“What happened?” he asked again, staring at her now.

“We were given a substance that is relegated to only the most powerful shamans. Nav and I are hallucinating very powerfully right now, and will be doing so for nearly a day. It would likely be wise for us to get to our rooms.”

With Spike away from me, I quickly calmed down and sat up. “Tell the captain to keep us moving. Watcher’s in charge until I’m better. Find River and ask her to come to my room, find… Cascade I guess and ask her to watch over Zecora, then find Naiad and tell her that Flo got fucked up.” When I started to stand up, Spike quickly put a claw on my shoulder to support me. I shivered and immediately stepped away. “You’re probably the third most terrifying person here right now, Spike. Each scale looks razor sharp, you look like you’re about to cook me, and your eyes are seriously creeping me out. So please stay away.”

I had a feeling that if I was looking at him, he’d appear very hurt. As it was, he just sighed and said, “Okay, Nav…” One of the guards thankfully jumped forward to walk next to me as I started going below. I put a hand on his back to keep me steady.

Thankfully, the bat ponies didn’t have horrifying teeth. Their eyes were creepy, but the rest of their bodies were adorable and overall nonthreatening. Even if, you know, all of these were well-trained and very experienced soldiers.

The only person in the hall was Rarity, and she gasped when she saw my eyes. “Nav, are you okay?”

As soon as she said something, the world seemed to shift and I saw a… flicker. In an instant, I knew exactly what to say. “It’s not too late, Rarity.” A flash of purple and green came into view for just an instant.

She blinked. “W-what?”

My eyes seemed to zoom in on hers and she flinched back. All I saw was blue as her pupils shrank to pinpricks and locked onto mine. “He will forgive you, if you ask. The pain you caused, the scars he bears, the confusion in your minds. It will all go away with a few simple words. Take the plunge. Bring the one with whom you shared your pain, for she will help bear your burden.”

“I… I don’t…”

The world shifted again and everything seemed to whirl. Despite standing still, my body started falling until the guard caught me. “Let’s get you to your room, sir,” he quietly said, gently pushing me onto his back. Rarity didn’t even watch us leave. She just stared at where I had been standing.

Strangely enough—as if shit wasn’t already strange enough—Applejack was in my room, apparently waiting on me. When she saw the guard carrying me in, she jumped forward to help deliver me to the bed, then put a hoof to my shoulder.

“What happened?” she asked. “Y’all alright?”

Once again, the world flickered and her face became bestial, with blood-red eyes, sharp fangs, and an elongated snout. Despite that, I didn’t feel any fear. Instead, I took her hoof in my hand and said, “When my life is given as yours, remember the truth.”

She furrowed her brows and looked at the guard. “What’s wrong with him?”

The guard shrugged and said, “He got drugged by some tribals.”

Applejack turned back to me and froze. My eyes ensnared hers and my world became red. “When we share a silence in the darkest of lands, the night will come for us upon wings of blackness. Truth will fall to lies and be lost until the brightest of fires is caged.”

My eyes lost focus and I fell back onto the bed, letting the room swirl and dance around me. Applejack quickly backed away. “I… was gonna ask somethin’, but now might be a bad time.”

“The metal master dances with the shadow of time,” I said, seeing a minotaur surrounded by books. “Ask the princess-to-be to ferry you through the portal into death’s pocket.”

“Alright, I’m not sure how you knew I wanted to speak to Jak, but thanks. I think. But I don’t know who the princess-to-be is.”

She waited for a response, but my tongue suddenly felt too heavy to move. I lifted my hands up, only to find they were twitching and shaking too badly to touch anything safely.

After a few seconds, she quietly said, “Take care of yourself, Nav.” With that, she left, leaving just me and the guard.

“You uh… you want me to leave, sir?” he asked, taking a short step backwards.

“You killed them, Grey Boulder.” He froze as I burned. “None of them escaped that school. You held the torch. You fanned the flames. You listened to the screams. The sun wanted exactly one light extinguished and ordered them all to die to cover her sin.”

“I…”

My head slowly turned to him and he flinched back. Gold shrouded my vision as his eyes zoomed in. “Your time of redemption will come. You will save one thought lost and nearly lose yourself in the process. Upon your return from the trip to the lands of deepest darkness, retire to the land of your birth and foster love with the one you forsook long ago.”

Something entered the room behind him, making my eyes shift and breaking the spell on the guard. He fucking bolted from the room, leaving me alone with a water elemental.

“I have been told you are unwell,” River said.

I leaned back into bed so I didn’t have to watch her constantly moving body, then slowly exhaled a scarily large breath. When I was more properly centered, I said, “Yeah.”

“Mind or body?”

“My body feels… energetic. Sensitive. Out of control. Far away. My mind is… coming and going. I said some things to… I don’t even remember anymore. Things that made no sense. I think I scared some people.”

She moved closer to my bed and reached a tendril out to caress my forehead. “You are feverish. And your eyes are straight black.”

“I was drugged. I think.” My body suddenly felt icy and I asked, “What time is it? Did we free Flumen yet?”

Her tendril jerked back. “Only we knew the name of our lost sister. Did Flo tell you?”

“...No. I’m adrift in the river of time.” The cold disappeared and was replaced by heat again. “I feel Blaze locked in the tropical volcano, Char bound in the lake of fire, and Nestorats embroiled in the madness of war.” The heat waned and my vision dimmed slightly. “I see Slab embedded in the mountain to the east. I sense the talons of chaos stroking fate and provoking madness. The pawns are coming together, led by the soon to be free puppet.”

She moved forward and leaned over me, forcing my eyes to lock with hers. “Nothing you’re seeing is real, Nav.” Both my arms lifted up to hold her body. She said nothing as they slipped inside and her cool form molded to fit them. They instantly stopped twitching. “Flo is lost at the moment. I will soothe your soul in her place.”

The water around my arms slid down and engulfed me entirely, until my entire body was submerged in blue. After several seconds, blue turned to brown and she rolled off me and onto the floor.

“It’s gonna be a long damn ride,” I sighed.

The entrance of another caught my ears and then my eyes. Twilight looked at River with some concern before looking over at me. When she saw me, my eyes opened wider and I saw… infinity might be the closest word for it. She seemed to age a hundred years in an instant, growing several inches taller and sprouting two large, purple wings. Despite her age, she still seemed young, though much wiser. The crown on her head was fitted with a strange purple star.

Then she spoke and the illusion shattered. “Aqua told me something happened to you, Zecora, and Flo. What happened to this elemental?”

The strange feeling overcame me again and I said, “There will come a time for a choice, princess of magic.” Her brows furrowed, then her face seemed to relax as my eyes focused on hers and the world became purple. “You will be forced to decide between doing what is right in the most evil way possible or losing one you care about. Will you sacrifice yourself for your friend? You, who will live for eons, who is the chosen of the sun, who will command respect and love. Will you choose to live with the evil choice you made, or will you choose to live knowing you failed to save one you loved?”

When that was over, I fell back and started coughing. A dark black smoke came out of my lungs with each cough, until Twilight rushed over to me.

“Nav, what did you just do?” she asked.

“Don’t know,” I hoarsely replied. “I’ve been… doing that. Four times now. I just… I see something about a person and start talking. The shame on Rarity, the bestial features on Applejack, the horror on Grey Boulder, your wings and crown…” She put a hoof on my shoulder and leaned closer in to my face. I reached around her neck and hugged her. “I’m lost in time, Twilight. I keep slipping, getting lost! I clearly remember your coronation, but your wings aren’t even there yet! I can’t… I can’t stay centered!”

She put a hoof on my shoulder and carefully pushed me away so she could look at my eyes. I could barely meet her gaze, since I was watching all the symbols around her. The book, the crown, the heart, the skull, the ring… I could see the struggle in her face between wanting to be alone to learn and wanting to spend time with her friends, the inner war between two desires. I could see the fight between her fear of her own body and her need to give in to her budding sexuality. I could feel her dejection from Celestia avoiding her and her questions.

“What happened to you, Nav?”

“We were… we were drugged by a zebra shaman. He gave us something Zecora called true sight.” I looked over her shoulder and said, “Celestia loves you, Twilight. She wants what’s best for you, even if you can’t see it.”

She shook me slightly and said, “Focus, Nav! What happened? Where’s the shaman?”

“Disappeared. He was taken away by the souls of the dead. Long ago, at my first Halloween here, I explained humanity’s relationship with death to you, Twilight. I met him. I met the grim reaper himself, created by humans out of fear of our own demises. Your friends want you to be happy. They understand you’re not like all of them and know you need time to yourself to read. Don’t think you’re neglecting them.”

“You met… death itself?”

“And he showed me that Ava is still trapped in me. She’s chained to my body, unable to leave because I’m soulless, a mere simulacrum of the true Anonymous.”

She blinked. “Is that your name?”

“When I die, there will be nothing waiting for me. I am a puppet. But that can be fixed. I think… I’ll need your help.”

“You’ll have it. Now, can you tell me anything at all about the visions you’re having? Are they true, or guaranteed to happen?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you see anything about yourself?”

My head slowly panned across the room. On my sword, I saw the crown of the once and future king, along with a veil of darkness. My ring was being worn by a strange talon and the symbols etched into it were burning. The gun was cracked and held together by some kind of putty and duct tape. The baton I got from Athena’s realm was slowly spinning in circles.

When I lifted my right hand up, I just saw my fingers twitching randomly. When I lifted my left hand, I saw a ring embedded on one of my fingers. “Zecora said… not to look in a mirror,” I said.

“I’m going to assume she had a good reason for saying that. Do you remember what you told Rarity, Applejack, and Grey Boulder?”

“No. It just came out.”

She stood there for a moment and a few sparks came out of her horn. When they stopped popping out, she sighed and said, “I’m going to go get some paper and a pen. I’d like to write down any prophecy you say. I’ll be right back, I promise.”

My voice left me again, so I couldn’t ask her to wait. She walked out, probably planning the best way to study my horrific suffering. Of course, as soon as she stepped out, a smiling Pinkie stepped in. She didn’t say anything at first, just walked over to the window and opened it.

“Aren’t they so pretty?” she finally asked, looking out.

“...Who?” I asked.

“The air dancers,” she said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I didn’t start seeing them until Aerie became my best friend forever, but I love watching them swim through the air! And now you can see them, too.”

I turned my head to look toward the wall, where Ava was clutching at the chain. “Can you see her?”

“Yep! I knew you wouldn’t believe me, so I didn’t tell you. I’ve seen others, too. They follow you a lot.”

Something suddenly flew through the open window. I couldn’t really tell what at first or if I was even really seeing something, but then I noticed that there was a certain fluctuation in the air around Pinkie, right before her hair started moving slightly.

“Aerie said you were telling fortunes, so I came to get mine!” She hopped across the room to my bed and stuck her face right in front of mine. “Am I gonna win the lottery, Navi?”

My mind clicked again and the world seemed to shift. “You are happiness, mare of pink. You win the lottery every time you see someone smile.” Her eyes seemed to zoom in even more and my world became a pretty baby blue. “But that’s not enough for you, is it? You attempt to fill your life with mindless laughs and friendly banter, but your heart is missing something. Something it will never find, should you stay your course. The thing in your head will make finding true love impossible. You will never be lonely, yet you will always be alone. There will come a time to choose between your friend and your love. Between one seen as monstrous and one seen as beloved.”

The world whirled and my body seemed to seize up. The twitchiness ramped up until my whole body was shivering. Pinkie watched with an unreadable expression on her face until my body stopped.

“That was a horrible fortune,” she quietly said.

“But interesting,” Twilight butted in from where she was standing at the door, writing something on a mobile desk. “Close to the one he gave me, minus the princess part.”

Pinkie gasped. “You’re gonna be a princess?!”

“He seems to think so.” She put her pen down and walked over to my bed to put a hoof on my forehead. “How are you feeling?”

“Like death,” I gasped. “I can feel them watching me from the window…” Sure enough, when I looked over there, several ghosts were very much staring at me.

“Who is?” Twilight asked, also looking over there. Of course, she didn’t see anything.

“The air dancers, silly,” Pinkie said, jovially tousling Twilight’s hair.

“Air… dancers?” she asked, looking to me.

“Spirits,” I replied, still staring at them. “They follow the ship. Some, we killed. Some, the pirates killed. Harmless, I guess…”

“Huh.”

“They’re really pretty!” Pinkie said, walking over to the window. She booped one on the nose and it seemed to dance away, making Pinkie giggle.

My eyes slowly moved to Twilight’s, a silent entreaty for help. She rolled her eyes and said, “Pinkie, would you mind leaving Nav alone? He’s really sick right now and anyone else being in the room increases the chance of him having an… episode.”

She sighed. “I guess. Being trapped in the ship is just so boring, though!”

“You’ll live,” Twilight said, then pointed to the door. “Now out.”

Pinkie sighed one more time and left. Aerie followed behind her, having not said a single word.

When they were gone, Twilight looked down at River, who was still blobbed up on the floor. Her head tilted and she said, “Aqua will be by shortly to pick her up. Flo is still just like her, but they’re pretty sure it’s temporary. All the same, they’d like to have them around the other elementals.”

Right as she finished, everything in my mind became clear for an instant. It felt like all my mental problems were solved, all my worries were gone, and everything was right in the world. Then my vision went black.

“Uh. Nav, why are your eyes grey?”

The next two or so hours were awful. Strange and occasionally awful visions came and went randomly. My body was in full panic mode the entire time, pumping adrenaline through me and making me struggle to breathe. A small lucid voice in the back of my head kept having to remind me who and where I really was. I wasn’t in control of my body and could barely move, so at least I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else.

When I came to, I was naked and coated in sweat. The good news is that I was still in my bed. The bad news is that the world was still wavy. In fact, it actually got worse, the fake patterns reaching deeper and deeper. I turned my head to look around and the lag between moving my head and my sight changing made me hit my head on what I found out was Twilight.

She looked over when I hit her and I guess she saw my eyes back to their normal color. She smiled and asked, “Feeling better?”

“No.”

She slid off the bed and said, “Yes you are. For the last few hours, you couldn’t answer any questions. You’re coherent enough to respond, now. And you had all kinds of interesting things to say, too!”

I slowly sat up, shivering slightly at the feel of air against my wet skin. “What happened?”

“You entered some kind of strange fugue state and said several things that sounded prophetic. I wrote it all down word for word. Most of it sounds crazy, but I’ll send a copy to Celestia and one to the unicorn tower to see if they can make any sense of them. Are you still… lost in time, so to say?”

I blinked a few times, staring at her. Then I saw something and flinched slightly. “Your wedding will be beautiful. Cadance will officiate. I… I can’t see who the groom is, though.”

She shrugged. “That’s something to look forward to, at least. You seem a little bit more stable than you were before the fugue state. I had someone speak to Zecora before she also entered that state and she said it would start tapering down slowly. Maybe your tree biology is making it faster.”

“How’s Flo? And River?”

Her head tilted for a second and she said, “The same, though some color is starting to return. Zecora was still in that strange state last I checked.”

“Ship?”

“Fine. Some kind of flying monster attacked, but Kat and Spike killed it. It’s getting close to night and I know Spike said he wanted to check on you before he went to sleep. Do you mind? I know he’s worried…”

I fell back onto the bed and sighed. “I think I can handle him now. Does Taya know?”

“Not yet, though that might change before I go to bed. I just knew you’d be worried about her worrying about you, so I was going to wait until you were mostly better to tell her. And I know how you feel about being...” Babied? “...nursed. I imagined that would do little for your already fragile state. Now really, how are you feeling?”

“I’m still seeing… things. Everything’s shifting and spiraling. Patterns where there aren’t any. My mind is still pretty far out there. I’m stuck thinking about… things I’ve said. And done. And why I’ve said and done them…”

“Well, I’m here for you, Nav. If you need to tell me anything—”

“I’ve never felt like I belonged.” She blinked. “And I don’t just mean here in the horse world. Back in my own time, too. I distance myself from everyone, putting a barrier up no matter who they are. And now, no one even knows my real name. I’m so used to being abandoned or left behind that it doesn’t feel like anyone’s worth getting to know, because they’re just going to leave me, too. Or I’ll leave them…”

She was silent for several long seconds before quietly saying, “I felt like that, once. Judging by what little I know of your foalhood, your reasons are likely much better than mine.” She stopped talking for another few moments before sighing and saying, “Friendship is hard, Nav. And dangerous. You force yourself to open up in ways you never thought you could. You make yourself vulnerable.” She looked away for about half a minute before turning her eyes back to my soul. “And you become stronger for it. For a long time, I believed that ponies were the friendliest race of all and that we could change the world for the better because of it.” Her head started shaking a little and her voice became slightly strained. “You and Spike taught me that isn’t true. All sapient races crave friendship. All sapient races crave acceptance. Everyone craves and needs love. For a very long time, I was afraid to admit that to myself.”

My mind told me to do something, so I lifted a hand to hold her cheek.

She smiled and leaned into it. “You’ve opened so many of us up, Nav. For the first time ever, I feel like I belong in the world, not just in Equestria. I feel like we as ponies belong to a collective group of sapience that can get along. Because of you. And I want you to know that you belong right there with us. And not just know it, but feel it. Nav, humans are the parents of all sapient life in existence. And like any good parent, knowingly or not, happily or not, easily or not, you taught your children how to get along. Whether or not you think it, you taught us by example. You came into this world alone and afraid. Fully ignorant. But only once have I seen you treat any race differently, and that was out of fear instead of ignorance. I don’t think you’ll ever realize the amount of respect you command among all the elite of the world because of that.”

For a while, all I could do is sit there in silence. Finally, my hand fell back. I don’t know if I was tired or if my body and mind were in a collective shock.

She chuckled and gently pushed me back onto the bed, leaving a hoof on my shoulder. “I know thinking is hard for you at the moment. And I really doubt you would have told me what you just did if you weren’t drugged. But you have friends that love you, Nav. Me. Spike. Celestia. Cadance. Chrysalis, as weird as that is to say. You have a daughter that loves and needs you. I understand being afraid of being abandoned. But if it happens, it happens. I know you’ll think this is a mindless platitude, but enjoy the time you have while you have it. Keeping a barrier up seems easy, but it’s exhausting. You have friends that want to help you. You have friends that want to hear what you have to say. You have loved ones that you can confide your fears in.”

My mind took a dark turn toward the haunted bunker from hell and my eyes seemed to open wider. She saw that and moved her hoof from my shoulder to my cheek.

“I know you think ponies are weak, Nav. That we can’t handle big problems. In some ways, that might be true. But for you, as friends, we’re as strong as you need us to be. Because friends share strength. You don’t have to tell us anything you don’t want to tell us, but we want to hear anything you can say. You’re important to us, and I want you to understand that.”

She finally shut up. Everything about me felt stunned. Her eyes were drawing me in, their sincerity doing something I thought could never happen to me again. For the first time in a very, very long time, my heart seemed to… feel again.

“I…” Words failed me, so I turned to her for strength in the only way I currently could: pulling her into a hug. Of course, she practically fell on top of me, but she hugged me back. “I can’t… talk right now, Twilight. I can’t think. I can’t… I can’t go back there. Not now. And I might forget this, when I’m… okay again. But I’m going to make a promise that I want you to hold me to. When I’m back, I want to tell you about me. If I forget, tell me… tell me it’s what Jane would have wanted. I might be angry, but I’ll listen.”

“I will, Nav. You might not feel like you belong right now, but I hope I can help you realize you always did.”

“I hope so, Twilight. I’m… tired. Of being alone. Of… pushing others away.”

“Then it’s time to let your friends help prop you up. We’ll share the burden to finally let you rest.”

Holding onto her was proving too much for my beleaguered body, and honestly, it felt like everything that needed to be said had been. Those two things in mind (at least, long enough for it to count), I let her go.

She pulled away from me, a large smile on her face. “You look relaxed, Nav.”

“I feel like I’m… soaring.”

“Having a weight lifted from your shoulders is like that.” Her eyes pulled away from mine and glanced at the window, where the sun had gone down. “Unfortunately, it’s late.” She looked back at me. “Aqua could keep me awake in theory, but refuses to do so when I don’t have magic in reserve. I’m not going to leave you unwatched. Can you handle having Spike in here? Or do you think he’d scare you? He really wants to make sure you’re okay and I think letting him see you in your moment of weakness would make him feel more… trusted, I guess?”

“I can handle him. The visuals are getting worse, but I think my mind is back. Mostly. For now. Just send an elemental or something if I start screaming.”

“Of course. I’ll be here when he first comes in, at least. Aqua, do you mind?” Her head tilted and she nodded. “Do you care if he sees you naked or not?”

“No.”

I felt her slowly redressing me with her eyes, from bottom to top. When she got to my head, she asked, “Do you still feel terrible about being a mare?”

“Yes. Mostly accepted, but I can’t handle this bullshit monthly subscription to Satan’s waterfall that I never ordered.”

“What in—Oh. That.” She went silent for some time, possibly thinking of something to say. Sure enough, she eventually nodded slightly and said, “A few months after I first got into Celestia’s special magic school, I had to take a combat class where younger unicorns are paired up with older ones to show them the ropes. I got a teenaged colt that didn’t think too highly of mares. On our first sparring match, he refused to even put up a shield, thinking I couldn’t hurt him. I put him on the ground, breaking his ribs. After calling for the medical teachers, my professor walked up to the colt and said something I’ll never forget. Mares go through heat every month. Mares give birth. Mares send their sons to war. Mares watch their fabled beauty decay. Mares are made of pain, and that is their strength. That is our strength, Nav, even if you don’t feel like you’re truly one of us.”

I was silent for a few moments before blurting out the first thing that honestly came to my mind. “That’s fucking retarded.”

She flinched back a little, but couldn’t really retort since Spike walked in.

He saw me and a relieved smile came to his face. My eyes glanced at his teeth, but quickly jolted to his eyes. When I looked at Twilight the first time, I thought I saw eternity. I thought I saw agelessness. But when I looked into Spike’s green eyes, I saw a truly endless chasm. In some places, it was deeply dark, and in others it was so bright that it hurt to see.

Occasional spires of land seemed to shoot up from the bottom of the chasm, linked together by bridges of action. On each spire, I could see Spike standing with another being, followed by a bridge being forged to span another stretch of eternity. As the spires became more numerous, Spike grew and grew, becoming ancient and huge.

The figures seemed to range from species to species, some familiar faces and some unknown. I appeared more than once, as did Twilight, Celestia, and Luna. After enough spires rose and were left behind, I began to notice a trend. The appearance of me or Twilight prefaced light in his life. Luna and Celestia brought darkness.

Never once did he appear on a spire alone.

After thousands of spires passed, a touch from Twilight brought me back to the present. I came to, gasping for breath and wresting my gaze from Spike’s.

“Are you okay?” Twilight asked, trying to get me to look at her.

I couldn’t, though. Mere seconds after I was able to look away from Spike, my head forced my eyes back onto his and my world became green. “Born in captivity, raised for obedience, trained in servitude. Pawn of the greats. Remember that being king of the skies means being the slave of the sun and moon.”

Even as I said it, I knew my words would hurt him and I tried stopping myself. One of my arms clutched at my chest, trying to forcefully pull the words away before they could come out.

Nothing I did could stop the flow. “Your path is not forked. No great choice awaits you. You mold yourself to another and become their hands. The sun, the moon, the mother, the outsider, the gold, the warrior, the lover. You will know many masters. They will draw your path and you will blindly tread it.”

The hand at my chest moved to my face, but refused to cover my eyes or mouth. It felt like tears were coming from my eyes, but I couldn’t rub at them or look at my hands to check.

And the words kept coming. “You will be evil. You will be good. You will become a villain. You will become the hero. You will be, for ages and ages. You will question and you will bicker, but you will do. You will hate yourself and those who guide you, but you will do. You will love. You will lose. You will pretend to live, but never truly make it. You will fall into deepest darkness and soar in brightest light. Your future is vast and endless, true spawn of man, but never for a moment think that it is your own. There is one more chance to claim it as your own, but you already know the choice you will make. The last true choice you will make.”

Just like that, the green left my vision and the world became red. Spike fell backwards, clutching at his chest, but I could barely see him. My eyes were burning and my chest felt like it was on fire. Both of my hands covered my eyes as I writhed on the bed, mouth open for a silent scream of agony.

I’m sure Twilight had a big moment of panic, not quite knowing who to help, but she quickly decided that physical pain was more urgent than emotional trauma, so she ripped one of my hands away from my face and gasped in horror. “Your eyes are bleeding!”

Apparently that shocked Spike back out of his little mini-crisis thing and he rushed over to the bed. After confirming that I was, in fact, fucked up, he jumped to a drawer, grabbed the first shirt he saw, tore a strip off, and then rushed back to tie it around my head to cover my eyes.

I heard Twilight run out while he applied pressure to the makeshift bandage. A minute later, two sets of hooves rushed back in. One was Twilight, who said, “He was looking at Spike and then it just started happening!”

Watcher’s medic, a stallion named Black Fate, said, “Zecora’s also having several very strange effects. I’ve been watching her with an elemental for the past two hours.” He quickly walked over to my bed and said, “Let him go, Spike.”

“Are you sure? She’s—”

“I’m a medic, Spike. I need to see the wound.”

Spike’s grip on me eased, but Twilight cleared her throat and started talking before he could let me go fully. “Nav’s been seeing things about everyone he’s looked at so far. The side-effects have gotten… considerably worse.”

“I know. Zecora had some very unpleasant things to say about me. But Rarity came to check on her. When Zecora looked at her, she had nothing to say. So I tested it with Applejack as well. It appears that once the drug tells the so-called prophecy it has for a given individual, it has nothing more to say to them. Navarone will very likely not enter a prophetic state upon seeing me.”

After a few seconds, Spike finally let me go. “Just be careful, sir,” he quietly said.

The medic gently removed the cloth from my eyes. I didn’t try opening them. “Can you hear me, sir?” he asked.

“Yes. Do you want me to open my eyes?”

“If you can.” I slowly opened them both, wincing slightly at the light. Bleeding apparently made them even more sensitive. “Does everything appear to look alright?”

“I… think so. Shit’s still wavy as fuck and I can still see things that aren’t there.” I flinched slightly at the spirit that appeared over his shoulder. “Your son doesn’t blame you. He knows whose fault it was.”

His mouth tightened. “Zecora already told me, thank you. And plenty more besides. Close your eyes again.” I did so. I heard him reach into a bag, then uncork something. He started carefully washing my face with a wet rag, getting all the blood out. “Have you had a seizure yet?”

“He did,” Twilight said. “After looking at Pinkie.”

“That was Zecora’s latest side-effect. She’s seen fewer ponies, I suppose.” When all the blood was gone, he took out a dry towel and wiped the excess water away. “These effects are getting worse and worse. I tested the black smoke she coughed up and found that it was poisonous. I can’t in good conscience quarantine them while they’re in this state, but I recommend something like a blindfold. It’ll probably stop the visions they’re seeing.”

Twilight sighed and said, “As interesting as this is, it would be for the best. I don’t want either of them hurt. And that last one was… particularly unpleasant.” Spike coughed quietly.

Black Fate pulled something else out of his bag and said, “Spike, do you mind? Without magic, knots are slightly more difficult.”

“Yeah.” A few moments later, he gently lifted my head off the bed and loosely tied something around my eyes. “Too tight?”

“Just fine,” I said, opening my eyes to try to see. Whatever it was, it blocked all my sight, for better or worse. My body still felt far away and my mind was still rolling, but at least I wasn’t seeing weird shit anymore.

The medic put a hoof on my shoulder. “I plan to spend the night in Zecora’s room, sir,” he said. “She doesn’t have your… innate resistances. Or experience, apparently. If you begin feeling ill or start having any kind of pain, send someone for me immediately. And of course, have at least one person with you. Preferably two, but one will do for now. Okay?”

“Okay.”

He increased the pressure on my shoulder for a moment before letting go and backing up. “Call me if you need me, sir.” With that, he walked out.

“Does it still hurt?” Spike asked.

“Spike, I’m… sorry about what I just said. I… I don’t even know what it means.”

He put one of his claws on my shoulder, but didn’t say anything. Twilight did, though. “Nav’s been saying a lot of stuff. Zecora, too. I spoke to Applejack and everything she told me sounded like nonsense.”

“Grey Boulder? Pinkie? Rarity?” I quietly asked.

Spike’s grip tightened on that last one and he started talking before Twilight could respond. “Rarity spoke to me earlier, actually,” he said. “She brought Fluttershy. She finally… said some things about what she did to me.”

Twilight sighed. “Well, what you told Rarity wasn’t really a prophecy. It was just… good advice.”

“What did you tell her?” Spike asked.

“No clue,” I sighed. “What I said to you is already fading.”

“He told her to talk to you,” Twilight said. “It’s good to know she took the advice. She’s been walking on eggshells ever since you left with Nav. I didn’t show her the note, but I think she knew. Only time will tell if what you said to the other ponies comes true. Unfortunately, prophecies are usually impossible to decipher until they’ve already come to pass. If, of course, these are actually prophecies and not just flights of fancy brought on by a psychoactive drug.”

“Magic exists in this world, Twilight,” I said. “Magic that you and Celestia know nothing about. Zecora seems to think these drugs open the doorway to another realm, or something like that. I know I can damn sure see dead spirits. After learning about true magic and seeing what the monkeys can do, I’d advise keeping an open mind.”

“Oh, I am,” she said. “Keeping an open mind doesn’t mean mindlessly believing something we have no proof of. You and Zecora can see what you think are spirits, but you’ve told me before about human drugs that made people see things. For all we know, this is the same.”

“...And for all we know, those human drugs were the same doorways. We lived in the same world, after all, just across time.”

“Very true.” She fell silent for a few moments before saying, “I need to get ready for bed. Spike, can you watch Nav for a while? When you need to sleep, find someone else to watch him.”

“I can do that, Twilight. If she isn’t seeing things, it probably won’t be too hard.”

“Good. Nav, do you need anything before I go?”

“Don’t let Aqua control your dreams tonight. You’ll dream about infinite, messy, greasy hay burgers.”

“...Goodnight, you two.” She walked out and closed the door behind her.

For a minute or two, all I could hear was Spike slowly breathing. Finally, he gingerly sat down on the bed next to me. Before he could speak, I said, “Gilda wouldn’t be opposed. You just need to be more active in it.”

“Um. What?”

“I can feel it, Spike. I can feel your need, your desire. It’s in the way you move, the tint of your voice. You need release, but you’re a predator. You need to fight for it. Ever since you learned about Dash, you’ve been thinking about your time with Gilda. Do it. Tame her. But know that she won’t be yours. It’ll just be fun for her.”

“And you can just… just sense that?”

“...Yeah. I guess I can.”

“Cool! What else can you tell?”

“More than you’d like to hear. More than I’d like to say.”

He went silent again for a little while. Eventually he said, “You already told me some stuff I didn’t want to hear. Might as well say the rest.” Things got quiet for half a minute. I put my hand on his back and he stiffened slightly. Another thirty seconds went by. He cleared his throat.

“You’re nervous.” He shifted. “Not about me being out of my mind. About me. You’re a dragon. Raised by ponies. You know I’m different from them. Less touchy. Less feely. You don’t know how different, even now. Every time you do something near me or to me, you feel like I push you away. You want my approval but don’t know how to get it. You’re afraid that I’ll keep pushing you away until I’m too far to follow. You consider me one of the best friends you’ve ever had, but you’re worried that to me, you’re just another person.”

He sat there for another minute before speaking up. “Yeah. That… that sounds about right.”

My hand slipped off his back and found one of his claws. “I am different from ponies. I do think you’re strangely touchy and feely sometimes. And you don’t know how different I am from the ponies. But I rely on you, Spike. In a lot of ways. When I was alone in this world, you helped me adjust. When I was new here, you helped teach me how to live. I’ve helped you and you’ve helped me. You’re a friend to me, Spike. Don’t worry about changing yourself to make me comfortable. I became friends with Spike, not with Navarone’s ideal version of Spike. You will do things that annoy me. I will do things that annoy you. It will take more than either of us would do on accident to end the relationship we have.”

The silence returned with a vengeance. After a few minutes of silence, he just said, “Oh.”

“I can keep going, if you want. I didn’t even mention the part where you’re even more confused about how to act around me now that I have a vagina. Or the part where you like how I smell so much you’re worried about losing control whenever you see me.”

“Hey, I can’t help that!”

I let go of his claw and put both hands behind my head. “Fucking predators, man. I guess we’re all ruled by some animal instincts, but you guys have it hard. Kat has all the sadism of a cat with the intelligence of a man. Gilda has the sadism of a cat with the power of an eagle and the intelligence of… well, she’s not really all that bright, but she’s still at least sapient. And all of you are slaves to pheromones. Sucks to suck, I guess.”

He snorted. “You’d know a lot about that, wouldn’t you?”

“Sucking? I’ve been on the business end of that several times, yes. Two princesses, a queen, several common peasants. So yeah, I might know a thing or two. And I might have distributed some sucking as well. But there’s nothing wrong with that, now is there?”

“You tell me, mister straight human with the body of a mare.”

I shrugged. “I do what’s fun. If it feels good and everyone consents, what does it matter?”

“I’ll be sure to remember that if you ever get your real body back.”

“Is that an offer I hear there, Spike?”

He went silent for a moment before shifting on the bed. “If I’m ever going to do something like that, it would definitely be with a friend that I trust.”

“Uh huh. Well, I promise to be gentle while making you scream my name. Though you’d probably have more fun with Rarity, now that she apologized. I know she likes being spanked. You could work off a little of your frustration with her…”

“No.” The way he said that, I decided not to keep pushing. Besides, another wave was hitting me. My body started shaking like crazy. “You cold?” he asked.

There was no way I could answer him, though the answer was no. It felt like spiders were crawling up and down my entire body and something was yanking on my spine to make my entire body move. After several seconds, he jumped off the bed and just like that, it stopped, leaving me panting.

“What happened?” he asked, putting a claw on my shoulder.

“Don’t… don’t know,” I gasped, one of my hands going to my chest. “Where’s Red? I need her to…” My voice tapered off as I realized something.

“...Who’s Red?” Spike asked.

“I don’t know.” I knew exactly who she was, but I hadn’t met her yet. And I knew that it would be at least a year before I did meet her. I also knew that she would replace someone I grew very close to, for the most part.

“What did you need her to do?” he asked.

“Bring me water,” I slowly said, trying to get her out of my mind. “My entire body feels dry all of a sudden.”

“I’ll be right back, I promise.” As soon as he let me go, I completely forgot who Red was. By the time he was out the door, I forgot I had even mentioned her.

Sure enough, he did get right back to me with a large pitcher of water and a glass with some kind of straw. He started to pour me a glass, but I dropped it and held my hand out for the pitcher instead. He knew I couldn’t see it, but he sighed and handed it to me anyway. Moments later, it was empty and I felt much better.

When I handed it back, he asked, “So why did you ask for Red?”

“Who?”

“You wanted her to get you water.”

“...I did?” He sighed and walked away for a moment before coming back, presumably having put the pitcher down. “I’m sorry, Spike. This stuff is fucking with me hard. For the first hour, I was completely lost in time. I guess I’m still getting aftershocks.”

“You need to try to relax, Nav. Stop thinking so much, you know? It might help.”

“Have you ever tried to relax, Spike? It’s a paradox. This shit has me all over the place. Thankfully I can’t see anymore, or I’d still be seeing all kinds of awful stuff, but my body still feels really strange.”

“Hm.” He reached over and carefully stroked my lower leg. “Did that hurt?”

“No. Feels… tingly. Other people touching me feels really weird.”

“Uh huh. Remember how you said I could rub your belly?”

“Now… might not be the best time.”

He grabbed my feet and twisted, spinning me over so I was lying on my stomach. “I’ll start back… Nav, why is there something… something in your butt?”

“Twilight is sexually dominating me and wanted me to get used to anal and I probably shouldn’t have told you that.”

“Huh.” He straddled my back and moved my arms so they were on either side of me, then leaned back. I heard him take a deep breath before feeling a small blast of heat on my back. When it disappeared, his extremely warm claws started prodding my back. “Too hot?”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Used steam to warm my claws up. Doppel suggested it.”

“...It’s not too hot.”

“Good.” With that, his claws stopped prodding and started kneading, making me gasp. “I’ll stop when you tell me to,” he said. “Belly rub or not. But if I don’t get there today, I will later.”

I didn’t reply. I didn’t want to reply. At that point, my entire body felt amazing and he had just started. Of course, I knew I would probably enjoy it a little too much…

But what better way to help someone relax than giving them an orgasm? Or two. Or five...

He rubbed all around my wings before slowly moving his claws up them. He stopped right before the feathers, though. “Nav?”

“Don’t ask. Just do.”

[Sex incoming, if you hadn’t guessed. ctrl+f “Sex is over” if you’re afraid of the most fun two adults can have together]

He let go of the left wing so he could use one hand to hold my right while slowly tracing it. Every now and then, he’d correct a feather that was out of place or brush off an imagined piece of filth. It felt amazing and I was holding back moans before he even finished that portion.

Once all the feathers were preened, he hugged it for a moment to get his claws back, then I felt another small burst of heat. When he gripped the wing again, his claws were freshly warm. He started running both hands through the inner wing, slowly rubbing every cluster of nerves.

After the second one, I wasn’t holding the moans back anymore. It would normally feel pretty fucking ballin’. But on the drugs, my entire body was strangely sensitive, so that ballin’ turned straight orgasmic. My legs started twitching very quickly and when he hit the biggest node, I actually came.

This wasn’t a normal female orgasm, that cut through my entire body and made me completely warm. This was mind-blowing, something that made all of me stiffen up and start shaking in pleasure. I swear it lasted half a minute, especially since he kept rubbing that cluster the entire time.

When it was mostly over, he chuckled and shifted, letting his engorged dragonhood press against my back. “Remember when you said that I didn’t know how to act around you? Sure it isn’t the other way around?”

“Kill yourself,” I happily sighed, fluttering the wing he was holding.

He laughed again and let that wing go, only to grip the second one to repeat the process. My body was still sensitive after the first one, so I flinched in shock. He… he spanked me, planting a bright red mark on my ass and making the plug in me jerk around. “Now you lie there and take this massage like a good mare, Nav. Stop jerking around.”

“No… no promises.”

“Well, I like watching you jiggle, so I don’t mind spanking you more.” And I don’t mind being spanked, with the plug back there… Good lord, that was intense! Not that he needed to know that, of course.

He went back to rubbing my wings, so I couldn’t reply even if I wanted to. The next orgasm hit when he was halfway through and it was just as strong, making me actually cry out. My legs squeezed against nothing and my body tried pulling away from him, but he let go of my wing and spanked me again until it was over. Of course, each slap strangely made me feel better and better, which might have been why he did it.

Once those throes of pleasure left me, he finished up the wing and moved on to my lower back. Of course, that meant he was now straddling my ass. Because of the drug and the previous orgasms, my body was extremely sensitive, so the lower back rub made me moan and probably made me even more wet between my legs.

Thankfully, that’s not too large of an area, so he quickly moved on, straddling my thighs to rub my butt. “It’s strange,” he said as he slowly pressed against the tender flesh. “So much of your body feels hard, but then this area is nice and squishy. Other races are fun.” I saw no need to reply to that. Dragons had their fun points, but I definitely prefered squishy to leathery.

When he finished playing with my lower cheeks, he started fondling my thighs. That place was extremely sensitive, so my legs automatically opened, granting him access to the warm wetness within.

Which he completely ignored, of course. He massaged the back of my thighs and then moved on to my lower legs, making me grunt. There wasn’t much for him to do on my legs at that point, so he finished up by trying to give me a foot fetish.

I’m really not into feet at all, but the way he was rubbing them almost made me wish I was. It felt amazing, even though they weren’t particularly sore. And the warmth against my soles heated up my entire body even more.

Once he was done molesting my poor feet, he carefully spun me over onto my back, so my wings wouldn’t get twisted up. When I was properly situated, he gently sat on my stomach. “You have a nice smile, Nav. You should do it more.”

“You have a nice go fuck yourself,” I replied, trying and failing to hide the silly smile I had. “You should do that more.”

“Nah. Not when you and Gilda are around.” As much as I wanted to flip him off, my arms didn’t want to move at the moment.

He started with my shoulders. They were already pretty loose from the back massage, but I guess he wanted to be thorough. Once he gave up on that, he moved to my upper chest. The muscles there don’t do too much work for me, so he got them loosened up quickly.

Then he moved to my breasticles, of course. My nipples had been hard since he started, and he damn sure made sure to take advantage of that. Despite being made for ripping flesh, his claws were extremely gentle as they slowly rubbed my nipples and areola, making me quietly whimper.

Truth be told, I never paid those weird protrusions much attention. As a guy, they served no purpose. But as a girl, apparently I had been extremely neglectful. Those things were super sensitive and I could feel my body tremble as he played with them. Honestly, I wanted to tell him to start sucking on them, but I figured that would be rude.

And, you know, I doubt I could have found my voice anyway.

Once he finished the boob job, he scooted back further and started rubbing my stomach. It felt pretty fucking meh, all things told. Or at least, the upper stomach did. Once he started getting lower and lower, it actually started feeling good. Not something I’d go out of my way to get, but still strangely neat.

When he finished there, he stopped for a moment. “Thoughts?” he asked.

“Don’t waste your time in the future.”

“Worth a try,” he said. “We can come back to a certain part of you later.” Apparently he decided to skip over my fun hole and upper thighs so he could concentrate on fully teasing me first. So I guess he decided to go for my knees and shit, because there’s totally enough nerve endings there to make it worth it, right?

Right guys?

I wonder about Spike sometimes.

When he got a complete lack of results down there, he moved back to the place I had been craving his touch since right around the time he started. “I’m feeling kinda tired—”

“I’ll cut you,” I broke in.

He slowly eased my legs open and leaned in. I could feel his warm breath pushing against me, making me squirm and moan. He chuckled, throwing more warm air against me, and then let my legs go.

Since apparently I hadn’t suffered enough, he started slowly rubbing my left inner thigh, massaging it to loosen up my tense muscles there. Every touch tingled and made my sensitive flesh crave more. He moved to the other thigh and I actually came again, sending more juices trickling out onto the bed. He whistled lowly and continued massaging my inner thighs.

When he did as much as he could there, he stopped for a second. “So are you sure—”

“I have a knife. I will—Aah!” He replied by shoving two fingers in me. My legs immediately tightened around him, trying to stop him from escaping.

He giggled and started giving my insides a proper massage as well. The need that had been building inside of me the whole time was finally being fulfilled and my body showed it by squeezing that poor claw of his as much as it could. When he had enough playing around, he curled his fingers and pulled up, rubbing against my g-spot and making me scream in pleasure.

Right as he did that a second time, another wave of visions and convulsions hit. I was already shaking so badly from what he was doing that he didn’t even notice I was seizing up from the drugs. As scary as it was, it also essentially turned him into a vibrator.

The pleasure was so intense that I couldn’t even prophesize properly. I could see the battle in my mind clear as day, the horrible life-and-death fight between me and Nestorats, the blood of the deep warrior leaking next to me as he paid his debt, and then the clarion call of victory as my army celebrated. I could see the armies of the damned spread beneath me as we marched on Mount Oberon.

I could see the choice I would be given as we prepare to assault the fastness of the sun. But god help me, I couldn’t see the options I would take.

All of that hit me right as I was in the middle of the strongest orgasm in my life. After such a horrible day and after going so hard for so long, my body and my mind had enough. I blacked out from pleasure and fell into one of the best nights of sleep I’ve ever had.

[“Sex is over”]

 
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