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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126. Chapter One Hundred and Three—...said the spider to the fly

“Now this is just a small misunderstanding,” I said, slowly reaching into my pocket.

“You are here to kill me!” the head spider bitch hissed.

“Now that’s a matter of opinion,” I answered. “I mean, yes, we were contracted to… well, kill you, but… CATCH!” I popped the top off the flash bang and tossed it. All of her eyes opened wide as I turned away, every spider in the room immediately rushing me…

...Only to burst into screams of pain when the thing went off, blinding everything that wasn’t looking away. I swung back toward the spider bitch to see her trying to get away, back into her sanctum. Kat was sprinting at it and Doppel was in the air, back in her natural form.

Since we needed to kill her and kill her quickly, I pulled up my rifle and snapshot, taking out one of her legs with two shots. I heard a small explosion and saw a little aura of darkness surround me from Watcher’s spell. It didn’t stop her in time, though, as she got through the doors and forced them shut before Kat could get to her. She slammed against them fruitlessly, trying to open them. Of course, they didn’t budge.

“Doppel!” Her head jerked my way, her eyes wide and full of fear. I pointed at Kat. “Grab her!” She nodded and swooped down, grabbing Kat as I jumped into the air. We flew toward one of the windows and straight through, not wanting to risk any kind of trap. There were only two guards in the room and each one was attending their mistress, asking her what happened.

Kat and I landed several feet away and both guards jumped in front of the priestess in defensive postures. Doppel, of course, flew several feet behind the two of us and just watched.

“You just had to make this hard, didn’t you?” I sighed, lifting my rifle and shooting one of the guards in the face. The nail slammed into its head with a sickening crunch, quickly dropping it.

Before I could shoot the other guard, its spinnerets shot, slamming into the rifle and pulling it right out of my hands. Seeing our only defense gone, it sliced the line and charged. Both of my daggers immediately came into my hands and Kat pulled two out as well. The guard slowed, seeing us both considerably better armed than it had expected.

“You’re not going to win this fight,” I said, slowly starting to circle one way. Kat caught on and began going the other, both of us slipping into fighting stances as we walked. “Just walk away. Or kill her yourself and claim a place in the new society.”

“There is no place for such heresy!” she answered, charging me since I was the one talking. My wings shot out and I jumped up, trying to get on top of her. It seemed the temple guards were better trained than the surface guards, as she quickly caught me and slammed me onto the ground, immediately going for a bite with her fangs.

I could feel the piercing pressure from inside my armor as she bit down as hard as she could, but she could not get through the carbon nanotubes. Still, getting slammed down and then getting bitten hurt, even if it didn’t cut through the skin.

But it hurt the guard a lot worse, since she forgot about Kat. I felt a few extra pounds of pressure on her frenzied biting attempts as Kat jumped onto its back. Then the spider screeched, jumping up and throwing Kat off in pain. The kitty turned the surprise jump into a flip and landed it well as the spider rolled onto its back, curling up and shaking as it died.

That left the injured priestess alone against the three of us. She stood to her full height as Kat and I approached, her daggers dripping with spidery ichor. “Whatever she’s offering, I can double it,” the priestess said.

“How can we trust you?” I asked, stopping.

“We can’t,” Kat answered. “I made that mistake once. And I know a liar when I see one. She’ll stab us in the back faster than our current employer did.”

“Kat’s right,” Flo whispered.

“That’s a shame,” I said, continuing my advance toward the spider that was starting to back away on her seven working legs. “Go with some dignity.”

“In the name of Arachne, I curse you all!”

“My god forsook and cursed me long ago,” I contemptuously answered. “Don’t think any curse you have could make my life worse.”

“You will regret this.”

“I can add it to the list of everything else I regret. Now shut up.” As I went to slash at her, she blocked me with one of her legs, shooting one to stab me. I didn’t bother even trying to block it, just letting it impact mostly uselessly against my armor. It still felt like a sledgehammer on the chest, but it didn’t go in. It did allow me to cut the tip of one leg off, though, which was nice.

“They always try begging,” Kat sighed, effortlessly dodging a few blows. “Then threats. Then they just say whatever they can. I couldn’t tell you how many last words I’ve heard.”

I finally got close enough to slam one dagger into the spider’s actual body. It spasmed wildly, the legs on my side jerking like crazy. Then I felt the body jerk again as Kat’s knife found its mark. She ripped her blade down and I ripped mine up, slicing the spider wide open. We both quickly backed away and found that she was actually still somehow alive.

“Hm. Think we need a distraction?” I asked.

“What did you have in mind?”

“Want to send this whole hive up in flames?”

“With us in it? No. Let’s just kill her and get out of here.”

“Alright, that’s probably a good idea.” I walked forward and kicked one of her weakly struggling legs aside, then slammed my knife right in the middle of her mass of eyes. The spider’s body jerked one more time before her legs slowly curled in. “There.” I pulled the knife out and shook the filth from it, walking back over to Kat. “Thoughts?”

“Get out of here before the guards start swarming us,” she answered as Doppel brought my gun to me. I checked it over for damage and determined it to be in working order.

“Good enough answer for me.” I pulled the radio out of my pocket and said, “Spike, Nav. We need extraction.” We waited thirty seconds with no answer. I knew the message went through, because I heard it on the other two radios. “Spike?” I asked. Nothing.

“There’s a reason those unicorns didn’t come to our aid,” Kat slowly said. “This priestess knew we were coming…”

“Which means we were betrayed,” I sighed.

“Twilight is still alive,” Flo said. “I’d feel Aqua’s pain if she died.”

“At least some of them are alive,” I said with a nod. “Flo can feel Twilight. But we’re going to have to assume they’re too busy for us. Which means we need to get the hell out of here on our own.” At the pounding I was just able to hear at the door, I knew we didn’t have much time. “To the doors,” I said. “When they break open, I’ll toss another flash bang and we make a run for it. As soon as we get into the main cave, we fly for the tunnel out.”

“Nav, wait,” Doppel said, looking around the room. I followed her gaze and saw what she was looking at. “Isn’t that…?”

“A gold necklace?” Kat asked.

Around one of the spider statues in the heavily decorated room was one of the elements of harmony, whichever one was the butterfly. I ran over and snatched it off the statue, shoving it into a pocket. “Good eye, Doppel,” I said. “Now, to the doors.”

They both shrugged and we all started running to the door. When we got there, it was starting to bend slightly. I motioned Doppel to the wall on one side and motioned Kat to the wall on the other. I joined Kat, setting my rifle into shotgun mode and pumping it.

“Hold onto this,” I told her. “Pull the trigger and it’ll shoot a burst of air. Pump it twice and it’ll be ready to fire again. That should be enough to blow these spiders backwards.”

“I’ll cover you as we’re flying,” she said, nodding.

“That’s the plan.” With her having that, I reached into my pocket and pulled out another flasher. “Doppel, you fly ahead of us. Eagle, humming bird, hawk. Whatever can fly quickly. Scout the way, make sure the tunnel to the surface is clear.”

“Yes, mistress,” she said with a nod.

“Just, you know, wait until I throw this.” Before she could answer, the door exploded inward. I immediately pulled the pin and lightly tossed it through, looking away. It burst a second later, making me seriously question my homemade timers. But since we didn’t have time for questions, I just started running through the freshly incapacitated spiders, Kat right at my side and Doppel already way ahead, flying at the speed of Kenyans or eagles, whichever is faster.

We were quickly stopped by the door going outside the temple. Doppel was flitting about it uncertainly. “How do we get through?” she asked as Kat and I pushed against it to no avail.

“The wall,” Kat said after a few seconds of thinking. She slashed a hole through it, proving it wasn’t very thick, and then made it large enough for us to fit through. Doppel went first, then Kat, and I decided to take a moment to look back. The guards were recovering and I knew they would soon be on our tail, looking for revenge. So I shrugged and pulled out my cannister of mustard gas, not that there was too much of the gas inside of it. I just pulled the top off and rolled it into the biggest cluster of them, then let myself out as the screaming began.

“What was that?” Kat asked.

“Parting gift,” I answered, picking her up and wincing at the sudden pain in my chest. “Keep that rifle ready,” I groaned. My wings spread and I took off, thanking whoever that there were no guards in the immediate area.

“So was it the daughter or the mother, do you think?” Kat asked.

“Both, I bet. The daughter came to me last night and asked me to be her sex slave. I turned her down. She didn’t seem that happy. But someone has to be attacking our ship, or we would have gotten help and teleported out by now.”

“So what do we do?” Kat asked. “If the mother betrayed us, I can’t imagine she’ll be giving us a pass now.”

“If she doesn’t, I’ll stick my foot so far up her ass she’ll taste it. Then I’ll drag her aboard and use her as a fucking hostage.”

“You know, we could have just done that first to avoid all of this.”

“Maybe. They might not even care that she’s a hostage. That’s a last—Shit!” I felt rather than saw a web being shot at me. Kat looked over my shoulder and pulled the gun up, steadying it on my back. A second later, she pulled the trigger and I heard a screech of terror.

“How do I pump it?” Kat asked.

“The pump!”

“...Oh.” She quickly pumped the thing back up. “Twice?”

“Twice.” She shot again, making another spider fly off.

“Nav, can you, I don’t know, GO HIGHER?!”

“Everyone’s a critic,” I muttered, getting some proper air as she once again pumped the thing. Even beating my wings was putting pain in my chest, so I figured something in there might be broken. “Looking good?” I asked after a few more seconds, with us flying in the middle of the large chamber.

“No. But better. I suspect that we have a very small window of time to get to the tunnel. So uh… fly faster.”

My wings can only really move so quickly, but I started pushing them as much as I could, a cutting pain digging into me. Unfortunately, with both me and Kat to support, I couldn’t get anything like the speed one of those damn spiders had. My only saving grace is that we were high enough that their shots of web were inaccurate and easy for Kat to help me dodge.

Soon, we were under the long tunnel going up. “How’s it look?” I asked, hovering under it.

“I think we can make it,” she answered. “Just go as fast as you can. I’ll keep them off you.”

“See Doppel?” I gasped.

“She’s up there.” At that point, I could only take her word for it and I was in a hurry anyway, so I just shot up, thankful that there were no spiders near the tunnel that seemed interested in stopping us. As we started going up, though… “Left!” Kat shouted. I tucked that wing in and forced myself left, barely able to dodge. Kat traded air for web, the string missing us and the spider shooting to the ground as I struggled to recover.

Soon, we were moving again. “How good are you at aiming?” I asked, knowing I couldn’t risk another fall like that.

“I’ve never done it!”

“Target shooting 101: Look through scope. Put spider in scope. Pull trigger. Now flip the switch next to the trigger all the way down.” She did so. “Pump twice and shoot any of those bastards that pop into the tunnel.”

She shrugged and started aiming down. I heard two shots pop from it as we struggled to get out of the hole. “That one’s not moving again,” she smugly said.

“Above!” I shouted. She flinched and turned, aiming up at one of the black spiders coming down. She shot twice more, both shots impacting. Not enough to immediately kill, but the spider fell past us, screeching.

“It broke!” Kat shouted.

I took a look to find the rifle was empty. “Pull slide back. Pump twice. Flip switch up. Keep firing!” She did as I said, putting it back to shotgun mode.

“Almost there!” she excitedly said.

“We’re going to have to stop to go out the door,” I warned.

“No we won’t. Just keep flying.”

“What?”

“Trust me,” she said.

“...Don’t get us killed.”

“I won’t.”

Since I knew what we were flying at was mostly web, I started picking up speed. If Kat failed whatever she was planning, I was hoping I’d be able to fly through it anyway. Or at least, enough to get the attention of my crew so they could bail us out.

“Getting close,” I said when we were about ten seconds off.

“I know.”

“Really close.”

“I know.”

“Kat…”

She aimed the gun dead up and pulled the trigger, blowing a massive hole in the webby roof, wide enough for us to fly through. I shot out of the building and into the brilliantly sunny day, Kat held tightly in my arms. She held the rifle in a one-pawed grip, hugging me tightly with the other. “We did it!”

“...Did we?” I asked as we flew higher, my eyes going to the ship. It looked like some very pitched fighting was happening on board, shots of unicorn magic flying everywhere and the naga acting as a maelstrom of death. It was obvious that my crew was winning, but every spider they were fighting was black.

“Let’s help them!” she quickly said. I don’t really think they needed help, but I started flying that way anyway. Doppel joined us in the air as we flew, turning back to her buggy form.

Sure enough, by the time we got over there, Ames was throwing the first of the bodies overboard. They all looked up as we landed, faces wary and then happy. Taya barely let me set Kat down before she was hugging me around the leg. “Mommy!”

I rubbed at her head warmly. “I’m back. Now what happened?”

“Waterdancers,” Watcher said. “Crossed thin webs across the lake at night. We didn’t even realize there were spiders crossing the water until there were lines on the rails.”

“Losses?”

“More wounded and poisoned. Zecora’s on them. How’d your mission go?”

“Priestess is dead. Jak, get a ballista loaded. I have a new message for our spider friends.”

“Not very friendly,” Taya muttered, watching Ames throw another body off the side.

“You want high explosive?” the minotaur asked as he walked over to one of the weapons.

“No, no. Tell her the mission is complete and we’ll be down in fifteen minutes for our reward.” Everyone on deck slowly turned to look at me, confusion on their faces. “We killed the spider priestess chick. Sure, this one betrayed us, but to be honest, who wasn’t expecting that?” Twilight, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash all raised a hoof. “So nobody with common sense. Now, we pretty much have her by the… neck? Whatever, she has no choice. The priestess is dead, all these troops are dead, and we have her fort hostage. I think she’d rather give us a guide than risk pissing us off, at this point.”

“And I’d rather have our ship sanctioned than have to fight more of these groups,” Watcher said. “They’ll wear us down over time. We’re trained, but ponies aren’t made for fighting, especially prolonged fighting.”

“So get that message sent,” I said. “And get us lower. I want a full team going down there, not just pegasi. If she’s not ready by the time I get on deck again, we’re going in there and getting it ourselves.”

“Who do you want going with you?” Watcher asked.

“Taya, the naga, two squads, Kat, three ship unicorns. Everyone else needs to watch the ship. Doppel, give Gilda your radio. Gilda, overwatch. See anything coming our way, radio it in.”

“Why can’t I go?” Kumani asked.

“You use that fire breath, you’ll bring the whole place down on top of us. And I’m bringing the naga, so we need a heavy hitter here. Now, I’m going below. It’s getting hard to breathe in this thing and my chest fucking hurts.”

“How do I work this thing?” Gilda asked, looking at the radio Doppel gave her.

“Spike, show her,” I said, pushing past everyone to the door leading down. That flight was not good for whatever was wrong in my chest. I knew Taya would be following me, so I figured she could heal whatever it was right up.

Sure enough, she did. I got into my room with her right behind me. “Are you hurt, mommy?” Taya asked.

“Something’s wrong with my chest,” I said, pulling the breastplate of the armor off. I didn’t have anything under it, so Taya got a full view of my heaving bosom that really wasn’t all too large. Of course, the massive bruise already starting to cover the area the spider bit me made it even less sexy.

“I don’t think it’s supposed to be that color,” Taya said.

“You’re right. Would you kindly?” Her horn lit up and nothing happened. “Taya?”

She shook her head. “Too many protection spells, mommy. I didn’t think they’d block against healing, but…”

“That spider bitch isn’t gonna pull anything,” I said, walking over to my lockbox. It popped open easily enough and I pulled out the ring, letting it dispel all the protection on me. When I pulled it off, Taya healed me right up. “Much better,” I sighed, dropping the ring in the box and closing it again.

I sat on the bed to rest for a few moments, since I really felt the need to just sit in silence. Taya hopped up and hugged me, her furry body rubbing against my feminine body in a way it definitely shouldn’t have. But I didn’t really want to upset her by making her move, so I just hugged her back.

“So when are we leaving?” she asked after about a minute.

“Now,” I said, gently pushing her away. “Just gotta get the shirt back on.”

“Why, if you know she won’t do anything?”

“Because better safe than sorry. And my only set of female clothing is still in their caves, unless Rarity finished modifying one. So either I find some makeup to put on you while we talk about boys or I get that shirt back on and we leave.” Her eyes widened and she grabbed the armor with magic, thrusting it into my hands. “Or we could talk about girls instead, if that’s what you prefer,” I said, pulling the armor on. “Doesn’t really matter that much to me.”

“Do… do other girls… really find girls attractive?” Taya asked.

“Yeah. Rainbow Dash does. And of course, some guys find guys attractive, like Sunshine Smiles. How have we not talked about this?”

“...I didn’t know you were serious.”

“Huh. Well, there you go.” I grabbed my sword belt and strapped it on. Then the daggers came out of my pockets and went to their proper places. Kat still had my gun, so I didn’t do anything with it yet.

“Is it common?” she asked as I was putting that stuff on.

“Not as common as liking the opposite gender. After all, a society’s gotta breed to survive. Now let’s go. You can question your sexuality later.”

“Okay, mommy.” That mommy bullshit’s starting to get annoying. Hope we can get out of South America quickly.

Kat was outside my door, the rifle in her hands. “I assume you want this back?” she asked.

“You assume right,” I said, grabbing it and popping the mag out. I just tossed it onto my bed and then pressed another home, racking the slide back and chambering a round. “Now let’s go.”

“That’s a really good weapon,” Kat said as she and Taya followed me. “Could you make me one like it?”

“I’m afraid not, but Jak or Smiles can make you a weapon like Spike’s. Long ranged, relatively quiet. Shoots bolts. Not as useful as this, but still powerful.”

“I will certainly ask them about it, then,” she said, nodding. “I remember your crossbow and seeing you use it, but it never really struck me how powerful it was until that thing saved us.”

“Yeah, it’s OP as shit.” We got onto the deck before she could ask what that meant. When we got there, I found that the crew took ‘take us lower’ as meaning ‘land us in the lake.’ Personally, I thought that was fucking retarded, but it was already done, so whatever. Then I saw the shield over the entire ship and realized why they had done it. “That shield better go down into the water, too,” I said as I walked over to the edge.

“It does,” Watcher assured me. “Your yellow friend told us about spiders that live underwater.”

Him mentioning Fluttershy reminded me of the necklace I had in my pocket. I turned to Twilight and dragged it out. “Found something for you,” I said, tossing it her way. She looked over at me, saw it flying, and snatched it out of the air. “Priestess had it.”

“Celestia was right,” Twilight whispered, her eyes wide.

“Yeah, sure, whatever. The landing party ready?” I asked Watcher.

“Yes sir. Some will have to teleport unless you want them to swim, though.”

“Those that have to teleport, teleport. But some can be carried.”

“Yes sir. Better to save the magic.”

I turned to Kat and was about to lift her up when Spike said, “Hey Nav, can I go?”

“No, you… Actually, Kat, did you get hit while we were down there?”

“Once or twice. I’m not really hurting, but I’m also tired. And you know I’m not as good in a straight up fight. Spike would be more intimidating than I am.”

“Alright, yeah. Kat, you’re on radio duty for the boat. We need help, we’ll call you. Gilda sees something, she’ll call you.”

“Works for me,” she said with a shrug. Spike claw-pumped victoriously.

“No fire,” I warned him. “And leave your crossbow here. You’re getting too big for me to carry all that shit and it’s hard to teleport a dragon.”

“You got it.” He walked over to one of the walls next to the stairs down and set his crossbow and the bolts against it. Soon, he was naked but for his sword and shield. He came running back over, claws clicking on the ship’s boards. “Ready to go!”

“Good. Watcher?”

“All set and waiting on you.”

“To the shore,” I said, grabbing Spike. I jumped off the ship and carried him right to the edge, a few meters away. As soon as I touched down, six unicorns and two earth ponies teleported across and two pegasi landed. The naga slithered out of the water a few seconds later, as I was setting Spike down and as Taya walked up next to me.

The spider bitch was nowhere to be seen, nor was any of her entourage. “So what do we do?” Spike asked, one of his hand-like claws on his sword.

“Never easy, is it,” I sighed, unholstering my rifle and pumping it. “Watch the walls. Careful where you walk. If we’re attacked, go for lethality. I’m done playing games.”

The naga drew his large weapon and said, “Let them come. Their blood is amusing to spill and easy to clean.” Spike blinked a few times at that before nervously drawing his weapon.

“Let’s go. If we get inside, watch the ceiling as well. These things can climb anything and appear from anywhere.” They all nodded and we began walking, me at the front.

The spiders on the wall just watched as we walked through the gate, not making any attempt to stop us. Honestly, I had no clue why there was a gate in the first place, but I was too busy listening and looking to think about it. Several spiders watched as we moved, but none made a move. Spike was swiveling about like crazy, trying to watch each of them.

“Relax, Spike,” I said, my head barely moving to watch the spiders. “Don’t show that you’re nervous. You got plenty of people watching your six. Pick a direction and look that way. We’re in control here, not them.”

“...Right. Okay. It’s just… spiders, Nav.”

“You’re a dragon, Spike. They couldn’t even pierce your scales.”

“Really?”

“Really. One of these things gets close to you, just grab it by the legs and slam it into the ground.” I don’t know if he totally believed me, but he relaxed a lot more after that. Still nervous, but he was hiding it better. Which was good, because we were starting to go up a ramp that looked like it was freshly made.

“Sticky floor,” the naga grumbled.

“The entire cave was like that,” I replied. “You get used to it.”

“Twilight always made me clean up my messes,” Spike said.

“Leaving a bunch of sticky white messes on the floor?” I asked, smiling.

“Only once. That milk was awful. Twilight was so mad! She refused to let me have any more for a week.”

“How old did you say you were, Spike?” Ames asked.

Before Spike could answer, we found a portal going in. “Through here,” I said, once again leading the way.

Or at least, I was, until the naga’s large hand grabbed one of my wings. “I have a sword out. You do not.” He pulled me back and pushed himself ahead, leading the way. The rest of us followed behind, into the dark, webby room. “I do not have a bad feeling,” he slowly said, continuing through. “I think these women might have learned their lesson.”

“I’m not in a hurry to damage their pride and piss them off again,” I said, walking up next to him. “So be careful what you say.”

“There is no need to dance around the issue,” Ames laughed. “They lost. We won. Let them come at us again. We will bloody them just as we have three times already.”

“Confident, male?” a spider voice asked. A few of us looked that way to find the spider leader in her ornate armor standing at the end of our room. How did we miss her?

“Indeed I am, female. Would not you be, in our position?”

Her eyes narrowed and she said, “Come. We will talk in my throne room.”

Before I could tell her to fuck herself and that we’d talk here, she’d already scuttled through the door it seemed she came out of. “Good job, you made her lead us to a trap,” I said, setting my rifle to shotgun.

“I see no problem with that,” the naga answered with a shrug. “Let us end this, then.”

I just shook my head and started walking that way. “Sure it’s a trap?” Spike asked. “Should we just be… going in like this?”

“No. And yes. Drop the jumpiness. You’re well-trained, Spike. Act like it.”

He gulped and nodded. “I can do this.”

“Damn right you can. And I want you at my back in case anything happens, alright?”

Spike blinked in surprise and nodded. “Alright, Nav. I got your back.”

Truth be told, I didn’t want Spike anywhere near me in a fight, but he needed to know I trusted him. Not like I was thinking this would go bad, of course.

Shows what I get for thinking, huh?

When we got into the room, the head spider bitch was at the end of the room, in front of some kind of freaky chair. Next to her was another spider, chained to the floor. Ten guards were on the walls, watching us but not moving.

“I’m sure you’re wondering why your ship was attacked,” the leader said.

“You betrayed us,” I answered matter-of-factly, stopping. My troops arrayed themselves behind me. I could practically feel Spike breathing on my back, he was so close.

I did not,” she said. “My daughter did. She betrayed both of us, in fact. Didn’t you, dear?” The spider chained to the floor groaned.

“That’s nice. As long as we get our guide, I don’t care.”

“It’s a shame you didn’t kill the priestess…” she said, with what might have been a smile on her face.

“Like hell we didn’t. I drove a dagger through her face myself.”

There was silence in the room for almost ten seconds before the spider chick jumped up and screamed, “YOU WHAT?!”

My gun instantly pointed at her and my entire crew got ready to fight. “We got ambushed at the temple. I disabled all the guards and killed the high priestess.”

“...Impossible. I don’t believe you.”

I was about to tell her to go to hell when someone burst in through a side door. “Mistress! The high priestess has been ass—Is now a bad time?”

Spider lady’s eyes were about to bulge out of her head. “How?”

The spider messenger looked at us and then pointed at me. “Her, mistress. She and one other broke into the temple, killed over half of the priestess’s personal guards, and killed her. A few guards gave chase, but they evaded capture.”

“That’s… wonderful news. Captain!” One of the guards on the wall turned to face the leader. “Call all of our raiders back immediately. We take power tonight!”

“Yes, high mistress,” the captain answered, bowing slightly. Then she scuttled up the wall and into a hole in the ceiling.

“You have done us a good service, outlander,” head spider lady said. “Truth be told, I planned to open the trapdoor on the floor and impale you all on the spikes below, but I believe a reward is more apt. Never let it be said that I am not generous. You may have my daughter.”

“No.”

“...No?”

“I want to fly around this continent without getting attacked. That’s what I want.”

“Then you shall have it, either way. All of my soldiers about the area are moving inward. I will give you five troopers to stay with you and act as mediators, should you run into other groups. Your ship will be left alone, outlander.”

“Excellent. So what are you going to do with her?” I asked, nodding at her daughter.

“Let my cannon fodder relieve stress upon her. They won’t be allowed to kill or permanently harm her, but I believe that will teach her a proper lesson. If you or any of your crew would like some time with her, I will allow it.”

I slowly turned my head behind me. “Any takers?” I asked. Spike slowly raised his hand, a slightly confused look on his face, but the naga grabbed it and forced it down. I turned back. “We’re good.”

“A shame.” She turned to her wall. “You five. Go with them. Guard their ship as if it was me.”

“Yes, mistress,” they all said, then crawled down the wall toward us.

“You may keep these soldiers, if you desire,” spider lady told me. “Permanently, I mean. I believe I will have all that I need once I take the city.”

“...I’ll think about it,” I said, resolving to kick them off the ship as soon as possible.

“Messenger!” The spider that brought the message about the priestess flinched at the lady’s tone. “Retrieve one of my flags from storage, along with the items the outlander left below. Bring them to the ship on the lake.”

“Yes, mistress,” the messenger said, bowing and quickly crawling away.

The lady once again turned to me. “Fly that flag and you shouldn’t even be attacked. But again, if you are, the troops will mediate for you.”

“Thank you. Now, we’ll take our leave.”

“Arachne be with you, outlander.” Not like Arachne did the priestess any good.

“...Right. Let’s go.” I led the way back out of that room, my large group following me. As soon as we got outside, I said, “So Spike. Mind telling me what the hell you were thinking?”

“I was… trying to ask a question, Nav. What did she mean by spend time with her?”

“She was asking if you wanted to rape her,” I said.

His eyes jerked open wide and a massive blush spread over his face. “I-I-I d-didn’t… I didn’t… We have to save her!”

“Like fucking hell we do. Keep walking and don’t even think about going back there. The spider bitch tried to have us all killed. Personally, I’m a fan of being alive and I get a little upset at anyone that tries to change that. So yeah, let her get raped a few times. Maybe that’ll teach her not to fuck with her betters.”

“That’s… evil!” Spike gasped.

“That’s fair,” the naga corrected. “She attempted to kill us. Is it not fair that she is punished for it?”

“But… but not like that!”

“It is our way, lizard,” one of the spiders following us said. “Males that fail us are whipped and given to females as toys. Females that fail us are given to males as toys, usually just long enough to teach them a lesson.”

“That’s just…” Spike stopped, unable to go on.

“I know,” I said. “But there’s nothing we can do anyway. So just chill and don’t think about it. That’s what the rest of us will be doing.”

“Doesn’t really seem right, ma’am,” one of the troops said. “But as the naga said, it’s fair.”

“As somepony that’s been raped, I kinda disagree,” one of the ship unicorns said. “But like Nav said, there’s nothing we can really do about it. And I guess it’s a kind of justice… even if it’s a dark kind.”

Spike just sighed. The rest of the walk back was in silence.

When we did get there, we found the messenger chick waiting with three bags and a roll of something. “These are your belongings that you left in the fortress below,” she said, waving one of her many legs at them. “And this is the flag that should take you safely through the land.”

“Thank you,” I said, taking the flag from her. “Unicorns, grab these bags, if you would.” They lit up and floated over to some of the horny guys. “One of you teleport up and tell Watcher to drop the shield.” One of them did just that. A few seconds later, the shield dropped. “All aboard,” I said, lifting my wings and grabbing Spike. I quickly flew across, followed the rest of the pegasi and then the unicorns with the earth horses. The spiders shot webs at the deck to pull themselves aboard. Ames swam over and climbed his way up.

“News?” Watcher asked.

“We’re sanctioned,” I said, holding up the flag. “Someone get this thing on the mast. We’ll take off as soon as we get it up there. Unless we took any damage?” I asked.

“Can we take half an hour?” Gourd asked. “We want to refill our water supplies and Gilda wanted to fish.”

“Go for it. Watcher, put that shield back if you can. I don’t trust these spiders.”

“Even them?” Taya asked, looking at the five standing next to us.

“No farther than I can throw them,” I said, pointedly looking at them while I said it. I think they got the message.

“The point’s moot,” Watcher said, shaking his head. “We’re tired, s-ma’am. We can put it up if we have to, but we’ve been fighting a lot. Taya and Twilight could maintain it, but I’ll just put out double watches.”

“Works for me. Kat, up in the mast. You have good eyes, right?”

“Yep. I can get the flag up there, too. Even still have the radio.” She took the flag from me and started gracefully climbing the mast, heading up to our flag.

“Alright. Kumani, I’m going to take a shower and then we’re going to fuck like rabbits.”

“Sounds good to me, Nav,” she said, nodding. “Though I’d prefer to make love, if you don’t mind. Rabbits are too fast.”

“Fair point. See you in ten.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

Of course, Taya followed me down to my room, though I don’t really know why. She just watched in silence as I started pulling my stuff off. After a few seconds, she said, “So you’re going to… with Kumani, as a girl?”

“Yeah. Done it a few times. I really don’t prefer it, but I’m staying in this body until we’re off this continent, so I might as well enjoy it while I can.”

“...How does it work?”

I sighed and sat on the bed, pulling my pants off and then opening my legs so I could point things out if I needed. “There’s a thing called oral in which the other person applies their mouth and tongue to your private area. So basically, licking. Or you could also use toys on each other. Or go with tribadism, which is rubbing vaginas together. I think that’s a lot harder for ponies though, with how your bodies are. And of course, there’s just good ol’ fashioned fingering, where you use hands or hooves to stimulate your partner. And for you, I suppose there’s magic. Or if you want to be really nasty, you could use your horn.”

“Huh. I think… I think I prefer boys. That’s okay, right?”

“Yeah, perfectly fine.” I closed my legs and stood up. “I’m taking a shower and then spending some time with Kumani. Watch out for those spiders. And stay ready in case Watcher needs you.”

“Okay, mommy.” She stayed a few seconds longer before wandering out as I looked for a towel.

About forty-five minutes later, we were on the move again. About an hour after that, Kumani finally let me leave her room. I was barely able to walk and extremely sensitive, but I felt very, very good. The spider threat seemed to be gone, I just had sex (and it felt so good), and we were on the move, Flo and Aqua leading the way.

I was on the deck when Watcher approached me. “A word, ma’am?” he quietly asked. There was no one else around us, so I suspected he wanted it to remain private.

“Go for it,” I said, turning his way. His eyes narrowed slightly when he saw my flushed face and the smile I was wearing.

“I advise more discretion in your future dealings with Kumani. There is nothing wrong with having sex with her, but you do not need to advertise it so blatantly. It is extremely unbecoming of a commanding officer.”

I blinked a few times, surprised. “You guys actually care about that? Or hell, think of me as your commander?”

“After you’ve been leading us as you have, do you truly need to ask? You are a very effective, if noticeably untrained, officer. You handle combat well and you handle things outside of combat well. You don’t seem to know much about supplies other than that they’re important, which is still very useful for an officer to know. However, your behavior is frankly rather disgusting at times. How you and Kumani act is disturbing. Look at Zecora and I. We meet for the occasional romp, but you would never know it by looking at either of us.”

“Are you in a relationship with her, or are you just porking her?”

“That is a fair point, but there is a difference between simple public displays of affection and her brazenly molesting you in front of the troops. I understand that discretion and shame have both been beaten out of you, in some ways literally, but that is hardly an excuse to act as you do. After all, shame and embarrassment has not been removed from most of the crew and my troops, and I know you know how to behave in public, so it is not a difficult thing that I ask.”

“Is it actually affecting anyone?” I asked.

“Not yet. But at least ten of my troops have mentioned it and Gourd told me his crew has as well. Three things can happen. One, the troops believe that it is okay for them to act in such a manner, and begin doing so themselves. Again, there is nothing wrong with sex, but we do not need pregnancies on board and the gender disparity among my actual troops is discouraging.” Five mares, ten stallions. “They would have to dip into the elements of harmony. Two, jealousy begins flaring. If you can have such a relationship, why can’t they? That’s just bad for a trooper to feel for his or her officer. And three, I’m just paranoid. But three never happens.”

First time for everything. “I’ll attempt to rein myself in, Watcher.” Or let Kumani put the reins on me, if you know what I mean. “But as you said, shame has been quite literally beaten out of me, thanks to your princesses. Find a newspaper or a magazine or something, roll it up, and smack me across the face with it every time I do or say something I shouldn’t in front of the crew.”

“Remember that you told me to do that, ma’am,” he said. “Because if you get angry when I start doing it, you’ll have only yourself to blame.”

“Noted. Anything else?”

“Zecora believes we’re getting near the site of her plant, but we’ll probably have to go off course. Can she have the crew fly us there? Or do you want to do it on the way back?”

“I’d prefer to do it on the way back, but we probably won’t be leaving the same way we came in. If she thinks we’re close, I’d rather do it now. Tell her to go for it. Just… not next to me. No offense to her, but hearing those rhymes just hurts my human ears.”

“Get her in bed for five minutes and it starts being the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard,” he said, actually smiling. “I’ll tell her and the helmsman. With luck, we can get there before nightfall.”

“How far away is that plant supposed to be?”

“Relatively close. We still have five or six hours before night, so we should definitely get there with plenty of time to spare. Which is good, because I don’t want a major detour.”

“Me either. And sooner started, sooner finished.”

“Yes ma’am.” He didn’t bother saluting before walking away, something I honestly didn’t care about. I just turned back to watch the ship fly ahead, already starting to veer to change its course to the one Zecora was setting.

Truth be told, I didn’t want to lose Zecora’s help on the ship. I knew I took her on with the condition that she’d leave soonish, but she had already saved my life at least once and the lives of some of my crew a few times with her alchemy skills. I was definitely not looking forward to losing her.

A few minutes after Watcher left, Rarity approached me yet again. “I’ve completed all of the clothing modifications, Nav,” she said.

I turned around. “So I got some clothes to fit me as a chick now?” I asked.

“I meant the red hand,” she said. “I’ve gotten it onto all of the uniforms now. And your female clothing was done yesterday, though I admit that it’s woefully lacking in anything I’d ever put on it for a beautiful customer such as yourself.”

“Rarity, I’ve slapped you across the face for this once. I’m not above doing it again.”

She took two quick steps backwards. “Do you happen to remember what you told me before you slapped me?”

“That I’d slap your shit if you didn’t stop?”

“...Well, yes. But more along the lines of your gender stones? Here’s a little hint to help you remember: You said if you ever wanted to truly be a little girly boy, you’d just use the stones and stay that way.”

“This is different and you know it! I’m this way right now because I don’t want to risk pissing off our spidery guests. You know they’re watching, Rarity. Watching and waiting for a chance to stab us in the back. If they see me change into a guy, they’ll be all over us and get us attacked by the roving bandit groups around here.”

“Then go below. Or just don’t open your mouth. There’s hardly any reason to change your gender for this, Nav.”

“Better safe than sorry.”

“Oh? Are you sure it’s not some hidden desire that I might be able to assist you with? You know I would be happy to help, Nav.”

“Rarity, I can run faster than you can. I will quickly catch up to you and give you a spanking on the middle of the deck. So unless you want everyone to hear your moans and find out your fetish, I suggest you stop talking.”

She blushed a bright red, looking away. “Very well. But truly, should you wish to talk, find me.”

“You got it.” That’ll be a conversation I’ll never have. “Where’d you put my modified clothes? It’s hard to breathe in this armor.”

“In your drawer, of course. Didn’t you see my note?”

“...I don’t look in there often. Though to be fair, I really should stay in this armor for some time. It’ll be a lot safer. If I have to, I’ll just pull the shirt off or something.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you about that, actually. What is that made of? It looks as if it was designed by an actual human!”

“It was designed by Kincaid and created by robots. The fiber is something called carbon nanotubes, which is considerably stronger than steel.”

She stepped closer and lifted a hoof to feel it, finding how giving it was. “Soft, but stronger than steel? How?”

“Science. I wish I could explain it, but I don’t know either. Truth be told, I doubt you could construct anything like this with your technology.

“...Perhaps. But I can use silk to make something similar, and we happen to have an abundance of spider silk right now. Which reminds me of another thing. Those spiders with us, can you give them orders?”

“I can indeed, yes.”

“Can you ask them to give me a lot of web? It’s one of the strongest fabrics out there, while also very soft and expensive. If I could obtain a lot of it, I’d be able to trade them for supplies next time we stopped for long enough to sell them. And I could make plenty of clothing for the crew, clothing that might be as protective as their armor.”

“You just want their white sticky wads all over your face, don’t you?” I asked.

She blushed yet again. “While it has been a… while since I relieved stress, I would not turn to a… spider to do it. Let alone a female spider. No offense to Rainbow Dash or mares like her, but I do not see the appeal. Squishy, wet, slimy... Why a stallion would ever want anything to do with that is beyond me, but I’m quite grateful that they do.”

“That’s considerably more than I ever wanted to know. Now let’s go talk to those spiders.”

“Very well. Just… lead the way. Their silk is useful, but… I am not a fan of spiders, you see.”

“Me either. You get over fear quickly when you have no choice but to act unafraid.”

“...Perhaps. But as you said some time ago, I quite like my irrational fears. They keep me alive and healthy.”

“I believe I said hate, not fear.”

“What is hate, but fear with anger?”

“...I would love to debate that point, but let’s go find some spiders.”

“Shouldn’t be hard,” she said, pointing to the one that was very obviously on the deck. Very obviously, because there was a large empty space all the way around her and most of the soldiers on deck were surreptitiously staring. I started walking over, Rarity behind me.

Three of the spider’s eight eyes moved to face me when I got next to it, but most of its body didn’t move. “I want you to help Rarity with something, if you are able,” I said.

“What do you require, mistress?” the spider asked.

“How much silk can you generate? And how quickly can you make more?”

“That depends entirely upon how much protein we have, mistress. If you sacrifice two or three of these ponies, we could cover the ship in it three times over. But right now, we could likely fill a few rooms, if they were the right size.”

“A single one of you could do that, or all of you could do that?” I asked.

“All of us. We need to keep reserves, after all. If you want to mine silk, there is plenty discarded on the ground from past battles.”

That must have been a fuckton of battles. “Well, Rarity is a seamstress. She would like some of your silk, if you’re willing to provide it.”

“Of course, mistress. Shall I get the others?”

Rarity nearly choked, but recovered and said, “N-no, dear. One… one at a time is plenty enough…”

“Then where do you want my silk?”

Rarity gulped and looked up to me. I rolled my eyes and looked around the deck until I found a few guards not doing anything. They were watching the exchange, ready to jump in if needed. I waved them over. “Go with Rarity, if you would,” I told them. “She and our little spider friend here want to attempt something.”

“Yes sir,” the leader of the squad said to me with a salute. “Lead the way, ma’am,” he said to Rarity.

“Ah, yes. Thank you, fine gentlecolts. Right this way.” She started leading them below, seeming to feel much better with a bunch of strong men around to attend her every need. And also a pony-eating spider.

...Of course, that only made me wonder where the other spiders were. I walked over to the first person I saw, Gourd, and asked, “Where are the creepy crawlies?”

“Under us,” he said. “And I don’t like it.”

“In the cargo hold?”

“No. Under the ship. Said they wanted to check out the view and that they could ward off attacks easier by being seen.”

“...How the hell did they get down there?”

“Webs. Sent a pegasus down there to check on them a few minutes ago. They’re just drifting under the ship, held on by web.”

“That’s creepy as fuck. Well, I know just how to keep an eye on them. You know how far we are from the plant thing Zecora wants?”

“No sir. Pretty close, I think.”

“Good, good. I’m going below for a moment. Anything happens, find me.”

“Aye, sir.” That done, I went below, hunting for a certain annoying bubblegum horse.

Now, one does not simply find Pinkie, no. It became even harder than before, now that she had the assistance of an air elemental. Finding Pinkie was nearly imposs—She was in her room, as it turns out. “Whattaya need, Navi?” she happily asked when I stepped inside the open door. She seemed to be playing battleship or something with no partner, though I had a feeling that was just because Aerie was invisible.

“You want to go make some friends?” I asked.

Her face lit up with a bright smile. “Yeah!”

“Bitchin’. There are four spiders hanging out under the ship. I’m sure they’d love to be your friend.”

“I hope so! Ooh, do you think they’d like any gifts?”

“No, you’re fine just as you are. Just make sure to take Aerie with you, so you can introduce her as well.”

“What are you doing, Navarone?” Aerie whispered, her body suddenly swirling around my head. I tapped my temple, hoping she’d get the message that she was temporarily invited inside. It seemed she did, because she whispered, “Roomy,” a second later.

“He’s using Pinkie to keep an eye on the spiders,” Flo said.

“Hm. This is what you keep your sanctum like, water?” the air asked. “Too… ordered. Boring. But then, that’s what I’ve come to expect from you poor souls. I don’t know how you get by like this…”

“We manage,” Flo dryly answered. “Now you have your reason. You are excused.”

Aerie let herself back out just as quickly, my body shivering as she quickly left my area to float around Pinkie. “Come, pink one,” Aerie said. “Let us see what fun we can have with these spiders…” Pinkie happily skipped out, already giggling in delight.

I wonder if those spiders will ever forgive me.

“Probably not. Now let’s get out of her room before we find something we don’t want to see.”

There’s nothing wrong with a sex toy collection. Hey, maybe she’ll even let me borrow some if I need to stay in this body for a few more days.

“I meant something more along the lines of evil party plans, for the party that will last forever.”

“...Yeah, let’s go.” I quickly let myself out, heading back to the deck. Spike and Ames were training, but I didn’t want to do much in my somewhat unfamiliar body, so I didn’t join them. Kumani was still below, probably sleeping or something. I think Taya was either studying or with Twilight, practicing.

Before I could resolve to do nothing, Dash accosted me. “Yo Nav, you mind if I do some flying?”

“Go for it. But make yourself useful. Talk to Zecora, ask her where you can go to scout for her plant. And take Gilda with you. Make sure she has a radio. We don’t know what else lives in this place, and anything that’s badass enough to survive against these spiders is probably badass enough to survive against you.”

“...Are you saying I’m not badass?”

“Dash, why would you want to have a bad ass? Having a sexy one is much better, and trust me, that’s not something you need to worry about.”

“...Wait, I’m confused. Are you saying I have a nice ass or that I don’t?”

“Go talk to Zecora, Dash.” She blinked a few times before shrugging and flying off to the helm, where Zecora was giving directions to the driver. A few seconds later, she was flying off to presumably find Gilda. I stopped paying attention at that point, and just walked to the tip of the ship, watching wherever we were flying and wondering what kind of plant we were looking for.

That also gave me one of my first real looks at the landscape under us. Sure, we had been flying over it for a while, but I had been considerably more concerned with other things, such as not getting turned into a sex slave or whatever. Now that we were a decent distance away from the spider city, the webbing was dying down, getting replaced mostly by jungle and mountains, in some places. The entire place was heavily overgrown, with no signs of occupation at all other than the occasional spattering of webs.

It was eerie. The other land we flew over was empty for a reason. The arctic circle was a frozen wasteland. The plains of southern Gryphonia and northern Equestria were apparently called the wastes, because they were so inhabited by monsters that it was considered a waste to attempt to settle it. The ocean was the fucking ocean. But this… this seemed like prime real estate. Plenty of land, plenty of trees. Presumably plenty of food, if you know how to look for it.

I could not help but wonder what kind of race might be living below, unseen by us in our ship. The spiders probably knew, but they were all below. I had a feeling they probably wouldn’t be hanging out down there if anything was a threat to us, so it wasn’t really that much of a concern.

About fifteen minutes later, I saw Gilda and Dash swooping back in. Gilda landed next to me and Dash continued on to the helm. “You ain’t gonna believe this, dude,” she said.

“What ain’t I gonna believe?” I asked, turning to her.

“There are things down there that look kinda like you, but smaller and furrier and with no wings! Kinda wanted to snatch one up to see what it tasted like, but I figured Dash woulda freaked. You want to go grab one?”

“...There are monkeys down there?”

“That’s what they’re called? Well, whatever. You hungry?”

“Leave ‘em alone. I wouldn’t be surprised if those things were sapient. How many did you see?”

“Eh, not many. And they were hidden really well, too. Looked like they were watching the ship or somethin’.”

“Wonder why. You find the plant Zecora’s lookin’ for?”

“Oh, that thing? Yeah, we found it. Didn’t look like much, though.”

“Good. Any trouble around it?”

“Nah, I don’t think so. It’s in the middle of a clearing or something, though. Odd, but whatever. I think I saw a few more of those money keys around it, though.”

“Monkeys,” I corrected without thinking, turning back face outward. “Can you point it out to me?”

“Should be…” One of her talons shot forward, pointing at an inconspicuous part of the forest. “...there or so. Dash’s telling them where. She was always better with directions and that stuff.”

“Excellent, so we’re nearly there.”

“Yep. Hey, why’s your voice so high, anyway?”

“I currently have a vagina.”

“Oh. Cool. So you want to go eat one of them monkeys or what?”

“I just told you to leave them alone.”

“Fine, fine.” She muttered something that I pointedly ignored. “So what happened in that spider place?”

I shrugged and turned back to face her, leaning against the railing. “We got to assassinate the shit out of a priestess, earning the eternal damnation of her warlike god.”

“You get to have all the fun, don’t you? So how did it go?” Since we had some time, I told her the story, leaving out the offer the daughter chick made to turn me into a pleasure slave. After all, I didn’t think that news needed to get back to Kumani. “These spider things are weird, but pretty cool. You think any of them would be down for a quick fling?”

I blinked a few times in surprise before shrugging. “No clue. There’s one with Rarity. The other four are hanging out under the ship. Feel free to ask.”

“I think I’ll do that. Bring Dashie, too. I know she likes being tied up and played with, and I bet these spiders are good at that…”

“Go for it. Let me know all the details.”

“Will do. See you, Nav.” She spread her wings and took off again, then quickly dove down under the ship.

Dash landed next to me a few seconds later. “Where’d Gilda go?” she asked.

“Went to go ask the spiders a question. How long do you think until we get there?”

“At my speed, probably ten seconds. At this slow ship’s speed? Eh, about five.”

“Alright. Thanks, Dash. I got to get a shore party together. You found the place. You want to go?”

“Sure. But why haven’t you been letting me do any of the cool stuff with you? I would totally be useful against those spiders!”

“Because, and try not to take this the wrong way, you’re way too quick to react and your reactions are always the exactly opposite of what they should be.”

“What’s that supposed to mean!?”

“It means you’re impulsive and that you need to work on that. If you can prove to me you won’t fly off the handle at the slightest thing, I’ll start trusting you with more. But until then, you’re going to be doing nothing but scouting, guarding the ship, and coming on unimportant assignments.”

Her eyes narrowed. “We’ll see about that!”

“Yeah, if you work on it. Otherwise, there’s nothing to see about. Now, I gotta go. If you’re going, consider this your trial run. You do good here, follow my orders, and don’t blow up, we’ll see. Alright?”

She snorted, presumably very pissed, but she nodded. “Alright. Don’t even think about leaving without me!”

“I won’t.” Much. “Now go get ready.” She nodded and galloped off to the stairs heading down as I walked over to where Watcher was standing. “There in about five. I’m not expecting much trouble.”

“What you expect and what you get…”

“...Are often very different things,” I finished with a nod. “Still, Gilda and Dash both said it looks clean. Want just one squad. I’ll take Dash, Spike, Twilight, and Applejack as well. This should be a milk run.”

“And if it’s not, you’re bringing a lot of greenies. Sure you want them at your back?”

“I trust Applejack and Twilight’s smart. Spike’s too worried about failing me to mess up. Just keep an eye on us with your scope. You see us getting in trouble, bring some reinforcements.”

“Alright, sir. Seems like a bad idea, but they gotta get experience working as a military unit somehow.”

“Yep. Get a squad together. I’ll see about finding the others.”

“Yes sir.” He saluted and walked off to some of his troops.

I looked over to where the naga and Spike were still practicing, Ames kicking Spike’s ass. “Naga, Spike!” They both looked up. “Cool it for a sec. Spike, you’re going on the shore party. You got five minutes. Get ready.”

“And me?” the naga asked.

“Staying up here. We aren’t landing, so getting you down would be hell. Just stand next to Watcher. He’ll be watching and is gonna extract us if we get into trouble.”

“Very well. And when are you going to turn your back on that weak feminine body, human?”

“When it stops serving a purpose. Trust me, I’m definitely looking forward to turning back. Now, I need to find a few others. Spike, get ready.”

“You got it, Nav. Do you know what’s down there?”

“Nope. Bring your shield.”

“...Alright.” I left him there and went below, first heading to Twilight’s room. As expected, she and Taya were both there.

“Twilight, got a job for you. Meet us on deck in five.”

“How long should it take?” she asked, looking up from whatever they were doing.

“No clue. Taya, find something else to do.”

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“Not this time.” She just sighed. “Five, Twilight.”

“Alright, Nav. We should be able to stop in just a minute.” I nodded and started looking for Applejack. Surprisingly enough, I found her in Rarity’s room, watching the spider along with the other soldiers.

“Applejack, get suited up,” I said. “Meet us up top in five.”

“Reckon I can do that. Armor?”

“Yeah. And your rope, if you want.”

“Easy enough. See you in five.” She hopped up from where she had been chilling as I just left that room behind, heading down to mine to pick up my gear. It took me less than a minute to grab my weapons and some ammo. Picking my gun up reminded me that I needed to refill the magazine we emptied on the spiders, but it could definitely wait.

When I got to the deck, everyone but Applejack was up there and it felt like we were starting to slow down. “Just about there,” Watcher said when I walked up to him. “Gilda and I aren’t seeing anything down there.”

“You also didn’t see the spiders until they were attacking us,” I said.

“Yes, I’m well aware. But we also happen to have four of those spiders under us.” The ship began shuddering to a stop. “Looks like we’re there. Applejack going?”

“Give her a few. She was the last I told and she has to put on armor. And I’d rather keep an eye on the area for a few minutes anyway. And Zecora also has to get ready to go.”

“True enough. Not like there’s really a reason to be in a hurry.”

“Yep.” I walked on over to stand at the front of the ship again, looking over the assembled group. Most of them looked up toward me. “This is just a quick stop, guys. Get down there, see what we can do about getting Zecora what she needs, and get back up. There shouldn’t be any trouble down there.”

“What does Zecora need?” Spike asked.

“A special kind of medicine that only grows here,” I said. “Don’t ask me how she knew it grew here, because I have no clue.” Some of them shrugged. “But she’s saved my life and a few of your lives on this trip, so I figure it’s only fair that we help her out. Just a small detour, after all.” As that last word left my lips, Applejack and Zecora both came onto deck, AJ in her armor and Zecora with a tribal-like set of bags on her back. “You two ready?” I asked.

“Yep,” Applejack said with a nod, joining our group. Zecora just nodded, knowing my aversion to hearing her speak too much.

“Alright then. Twilight, think you can teleport us all?”

“Um. I don’t want to risk it. Last time I tried a group teleportation spell like that, you kinda got left behind. In front of a horde of dragons.”

“Oh yeah. That. Pegasi, grab an earth pony and fly. Spike, I’ll carry you. Twilight, teleport Zecora down.” Twilight nodded as I grabbed Spike and the two pegasi grabbed the two earth horses. We all jumped down as Twilight, Zecora, and the guard unicorn teleported down. Soon enough, we joined them on the ground. “Spike, sword out. Troopers, watch the treelines. Dash, overwatch. Applejack, Twilight, on Zecora. Spike, watch my back. Zecora, get to it.”

They all started doing as I said. Dash didn’t get too high, just high enough that she could lazily circle the area, watching the trees and looking for anything that looked like it might want to eat us. Zecora, Twilight, and AJ went to the center of the clearing, where an extremely large flowerbud lifted from the ground by a disturbingly thick stem. The entire thing seemed mottled and broken, deathly. The thick stem had little bristles all across it, each of which I could only assume was heavily poisoned.

Zecora pulled out a book and she and Twilight started poring over it, looking for some hint of how to open the flower without murdering someone. As they did that, I slowly walked around the large field, looking back and forth between the flower and the trees, wondering if my solution would work.

“You smell… nice,” Spike said about five minutes after we landed.

“...Why are you smelling me, Spike?” I asked, looking back at him.

His little ear spines jerked and then slumped, a small blush on his face. “I… I didn’t mean to! It’s just strong and you were holding me…”

“Ah. What does it smell like? I didn’t use any kind of different soap or anything.”

“It… kinda reminds me of Doppel, I guess.”

“Oh, fuck me… I forgot to take a shower after spending time with Kumani. I keep forgetting how sensitive your noses are compared to mine.”

“No, I know how you smell after you had sex when you’re… male. You smell different. Better. Sweeter.”

“Alright, that’s creepy. Keep that shit to yourself.” He blinked a few times and then shrugged, rubbing at his nose. “Now let’s go see what the damn hold-up is, shall we?” I didn’t wait for an answer, nor did I expect one. It didn’t take me long to get to the flower thing. “Ladies. What’s going on?”

“Well… We have to kill somepony to make this thing open, Nav,” Twilight said. “We’re trying to find some other way in this book, but there’s nothing here.”

“Hm.” I looked up at the flower with its sickly appearance. “Does it specify that it has to be a pony?”

“Well, not exactly. It says that only the lifeblood of an innocent creature can sustain the flower’s lust for violence.”

Innocent creature… I looked at the ground around the plant before spotting what I was looking for and began walking that way. “How do you complete the ritual?” I asked, standing right next to it.

“You just… kill somepony near it and the blood will… seep over. It’s disgusting.”

“Hm.” My booted foot stepped down on the disturbingly large beetle that was resting there with a nasty crunch.

Twilight looked down, unimpressed. “What was the point of that?” she asked.

When I lifted my boot, she and I both saw that the goo from the bug was starting to pull away from me and the ground and fly toward the plant. “I take it the book didn’t specify that the life had to be sapient, did it?” I asked.

Twilight looked away, blushing a bright red.

“Gotta think outside the box, Twilight,” I said, shaking the rest of the beetle off my boot.

“That solution is both elegant and dark,” Zecora said. “Truly, the differences in our minds is stark. It seems my rhyming days are truly at an end. No longer the rules of rhetoric must I bend. Navarone, you will, of course, eternally have my thanks. I will be pleased to help you against your enemy’s ranks. But if we ever pass by my heart’s true home, I would like to shortly cease my life-long roam.”

“Alright, that’s cool with me,” I said, nodding. “No promises we’ll be hitting up Africa any time soon, but if we do, we can chill at your pad for a while. Drinks on you?”

“Once again, I have no idea what you said. I can only hope that my home is not dead.”

“I’m sure it’ll be just fine, Zecora,” Twilight said reassuringly. “And I bet they’ll be so happy to see you!”

“Self-imposed, my exile was not. They’d be happy to see me rot. Homecoming will not be easy or safe, but all should be well with this ship to strafe.”

“We got your back, don’t you worry,” I said, nodding. “Now would you mind hurrying up and getting this flower thing back on board? I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this.”

“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked.

“Just… something I picked up,” I said. “A feeling I get when I’m being watched or something bad’s about to happen. Get that flower ready to go quickly, Zecora. I’m gonna go look around. Spike, come on.”

He started following me again as we walked. “So what’s that feeling like?” he asked as we walked.

“Just a… hollowness in my stomach. Different from hunger. A kind of nervousness, maybe. I don’t know how to describe it.”

“Hm. I don’t feel anything.”

“Good. Maybe it’s just me.”

“It’s not,” Flo said.

Thanks for making me feel at ease, there. She didn’t reply.

“Yo Dash!” I called. She looked over my way. “All clear?” She nodded, not bothering to answer with words. I shrugged and looked to the troops. The squad leader was looking at me. When he saw that I saw him, he shook his head, frowning. I immediately unholstered my rifle and pumped it, ready for… something.

“Trouble?” Spike somewhat nervously asked, lifting his sword and shield.

“Be ready for anything,” I said by way of answer. “I’m not the only one feeling it.” I noticed him getting much closer as we walked after I said that. I very much hoped that was nerves instead of him thinking he would be protecting me.

Thankfully, things were silent for about five minutes as Zecora did her thing with the flower, prepping the area for it to finally open. And when it did, the silence in the clearing immediately died as the plant opened, screaming like a fat black woman getting murdered. Everyone jumped, looking that way.

And of course, that’s when all the darts from the trees shot at us. My armor protected me from most of them, but several hit my head, which was unprotected. I imagine the same thing was repeated all across the clearing as all the troops and the girls were also hit. As soon as I realized we were under attack, my hand shot down to my radio, yanking it up. “Under attack!” I said into it. “Get… get someone… down…”

I slowly looked up, seeing that everyone in the field had collapsed but me and Spike. “Nav, what’s happening?!” he squeaked, holding his shield up as several darts just bounced off his dragony hide. The poison coursing through my veins disallowed me from answering. Instead, I just began falling forward, where Spike caught me before I could hit the ground. “Nav!”

The last thing I saw before Flo claimed me was a monkey appearing out of nowhere, grabbing me.

Whatever dark poison struck me, it blocked my mind even from seeing Flo. She was presumably able to stop all dreams, but I couldn’t speak to her or see her. So it seemed like no time at all that I woke up in a bed. At first, I felt relieved, because I assumed my crew had come to my rescue.

But then I realized the bed I was on wasn’t anywhere near as comfortable as my own bed. And that I was not nearly as naked as I usually am when I sleep. I sat up, feeling all up and down me. My body was covered in a flowing night gown, nothing underneath. Fuck, where the hell am I? Flo?

She didn’t answer. I quickly looked around the large and fancy room, seeing only wooden furniture that looked specially made for me, but no way of defending myself. It all looked too sturdy to break and too heavy to use as a bludgeon.

Sitting in bed wasn’t going to do me any good, so I got out, looking around the room. None of the drawers had any of my belongings, though each seemed to have some manner of clothing. Absolutely all of it was made for girls, presumably someone my size.

Since the night gown I was wearing left very little to the imagination and I had a feeling I’d need all the dignity I could get to talk myself out of whatever situation I might soon find myself in, I pulled the soft dress off and rooted around until I found the plainest dress I could. It was some kind of silk, dyed yellow. I snorted as I realized I found a frilly sun dress.

But since I really didn’t care what I was wearing, I just shrugged and pushed the drawer closed, then walked to the door. Surprisingly, it wasn’t locked. I slowly pushed it open, wondering what new horrors might wait on the other side.

Beyond the door were three rather small monkeys. Two were holding some kind of spears that I realized doubled as blowguns. The third was a wizened older one that smiled up at me when I opened the door.

Honestly, I probably should have expected what came next. “Hello, my queen,” the older one said, bowing low. The two guards followed suit.

I just sighed, slowly facepalming when I realized what a long day I had ahead of me.

 
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