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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135. Chapter One Hundred and Twelve—Through the Eyes of a Dragon Part 1

When you left to go underground, I went to all the troops that were inside and told them you were heading below. That didn’t take long and most of them didn’t really seem to care, but the naga narrowed his eyes and said he should have went with you.

As soon as I told the last pony, I walked back over to the entrance to the mine and just waited, listening. I told you I was going to listen for you at the entrance, and I meant it. Not too long later, I heard something breaking several hundred meters in, then the sound of shouting.

Without even pausing to alert the others, I started running through the mine, following the echoes and the shouting. The mine wasn’t very deep, so it didn’t take me long to get to the end. “What happened?” I shouted, looking everywhere for you. The mean pegasus and several miners were there, but I didn’t see you anywhere…

“The floor collapsed under her,” Crabapple said, tapping a large metal door. “And then this slammed closed.”

“Then open it!” I told her. “We have to save her!”

“If we could open it, I already would have, dragon,” she said, glaring at me. “Navarone opened it herself. She said she had the magic touch, whatever that meant.”

“But… Nav doesn’t have any magic.”

“Then I suppose we’ll have to wait for a unicorn to open it, now won’t we?” she asked, turning around and starting to walk off. “Start digging around it. Maybe we can still salvage this operation.”

“What about Nav?” I demanded.

“Her safety is her concern, not mine,” Crabby said, not even turning.

I felt my face becoming hot and my eyes narrowed. She was walking away, though, so she didn’t see it. Since that wasn’t doing me any good and it was making some of the miners look away in fear, I turned back to the door, thinking about what you would do in that situation. I know you wouldn’t leave anypony behind, and I wasn’t about to let you go without a fight.

There weren’t any obvious places on the door where I could get a grip on it, so I started shooting fire at it, hoping I could melt it. “We tried that,” one of the miners told me. “Tried fire, tried ice, tried lightning, tried teleporting to the other side… Only your cute boss could open it. She just put one of her paws on that little pad there on the side.”

“...This?” I asked, walking up to the hand-shaped pad on the wall.

“Yeah, that thing,” he said, nodding. “Pulled her glove off and touched that. Then the door opens and something exploded and pulled a lot of air in.”

“...Wonder how I didn’t notice that.” I put my claws against the pad, tensing for an explosion. Nothing happened. “How did you open this thing?” I muttered, trying my other claws. “Do you know how deep it goes?” I asked, turning back to the miners.

They all shrugged and one said, “Probably pretty deep. But we have to keep digging. We can’t upset Miss Crabby. Can’t you just get somepony to teleport her out?”

“But what if she’s hurt? I need to help her!”

“Don’t know what to tell you,” the miner sighed, shaking his head. “We tried a lot of things to open that door. Good luck. Come on, guys. Let’s get back to work.” The miners all shrugged and went back into the hall they had dug. The sound of digging and working soon resumed while I tried everything I could think of to open the door.

My claws did no damage to it, there were no hinges to attack, my fire did nothing to it, and punching it didn’t work. I was about to start body slamming it when I heard shouting coming from back up the tunnel. As much as I needed to help you, I did promise you I’d help defend the mine, and those shouts sounded urgent.

So I sighed and whispered, “I’ll be back, I promise.” Then I started running back to the surface, wondering what all that noise was. As soon as I got there, I saw the naga, his large sword raised. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“Where’s the human?” he asked me, looking back down the mine. “There are monsters coming.”

“Nav’s… She fell down a shaft and nopony can get to her,” I told him.

His eyes narrowed and he growled, “What? Fly down to her!”

“There’s a door blocking her off. We couldn’t open it, no matter what we did. We’ll have to get somepony to teleport her out.”

“That is… troubling. I believe we’ll need her enchanted blade.”

“Why? They’re just monsters, right? I mean, we have plenty of trained soldiers and you…”

“These are undead, dragon,” he hissed. “And I cannot fight in the cold. Go join the others outside. I will guard the door.”

“...What’s fighting undead like?” I hesitantly asked.

“I will let you know as soon as any get inside. Now go! And don’t forget your damn sword.”

I gulped and nodded, running over to where I left my sword and shield. Using them felt weird after all of Kumani’s lessons, but they were a gift from you and… Well, using them may have felt weird, but it also felt right. With both of them on me, I ran over to the heavy doors leading outside and forced them open, joining the other guards on our makeshift snowy battlements.

“‘Bout time you showed up,” one of the stallions said. “Where’s the boss?”

“Nav fell down a mine shaft and we can’t get to her,” I told him. Everypony’s heads shot straight toward me when I said that, shock in their eyes.

“What do you mean, can’t get to him?” one asked. “You have wings!”

“The shaft is blocked by a heavy door. Believe me, I tried everything I could. We’ll have to wait for a unicorn. Twilight’ll know what to do, I bet.” Some of them sighed and looked out at the approaching fiends. They were moving slowly and I could barely even see them. Normally, everypony always glows in the dark when I look at them, but these things… didn’t. I could only tell they were there by some movement I could barely see. “So… how do we fight these?” I asked.

“With magic,” one guard sighed.

“But none of us are unicorns,” I slowly said.

“If they don’t have arms, they can’t fight,” one of the guards said, taking command. “And if they don’t have legs, they can’t walk. Can’t fight, can’t walk, they aren’t threats. So break arms, break legs, then move on. There are only a few dozen and they’re scattered, so they shouldn’t be that much of a problem. These look like common shamblers, so there’s no chance of disease or any overly dangerous attacks. Just hold your ground. Squad two, head to the back, make sure nothing’s coming from behind us. Report back when you check it out.” The two guards nodded and started running around to the back of the base. “Spike, vanguard. Nothing can get through your scales, so front and center.”

“Are you… sure?” I asked, moving to the center of the group.

“Yes. Mostly pony undead, a few diamond dogs. Single minotaur. None have weapons. You’ll be fine, and we’ll be backing you up. Is this your first fight?”

“...My first big fight, I guess.”

“Deep breaths, then. You are surrounded by the most well-trained guards in Equestria. Most of us have fought undead before. Follow your orders, stand in the center, attack legs, and you’ll be fine.”

“Right.”

“Say it, Spike.”

I took a deep breath and slowly said, “Follow your orders, stand in the center, attack legs, and I’ll be fine…”

The two scouts came running back around. “Clear on this side,” one of them reported.

“Excellent. Looks like the first one will get here in about half a minute. Take up positions on the battlements, Spike in the middle! They get to the edge, break their legs as they try to get over the wall. Spike, you cut whatever you can off them. I know you’re a dragon, but resist the urge to bite, or you’re going to have a bad, bad day.”

“...Right.” I really wanted to ask why I shouldn’t bite, but the first undead was right in front of me, now. Before I struck my sword down on top of its head, I couldn’t help but take a moment to study the broken pony. Glassy blue eyes stared back at me with a hollow expression fixed in pain. Her teeth were yellowed and broken, perfect for biting. Most of her flesh had rotted off, leaving a few scraps of furless skin hanging onto her skeletal frame.

I… hesitated, a mix of fear and revulsion stopping me. But then I remembered what the guard told me. Follow orders, stand in center, attack legs, I’ll be fine. Then I remembered what you and the naga taught me, all the training we did. It all kicked in and… my sword came down, slicing through her front legs as she struggled to get up onto our low wall.

She groaned and slid back off the wall, her legs remaining stuck onto the wall… before they started moving. I shouted and jumped back, surprised by that. “Get back in line!” the guard yelled. “They’re hooves, not claws! Harmless! Push ‘em off and keep going!”

After taking several deep breaths, I stepped back up and used my shield to awkwardly push them off, not wanting to touch them. Both flopped around on the ground next to their owner, but I couldn’t keep watching them because a skeleton stepped in front of me, trying to climb the wall.

That one looked a little bit more flimsy, so I remembered your training and waited for him to get up onto the wall, then slammed my shield into him, breaking him into several pieces and sending each one over the wall.

“There you go!” the guard said, taking a second to break the paw of a diamond dog trying to get over next to him. “Nothing to it.”

It really… didn’t seem so bad. The manticore we killed together had more blood, and that wasn’t so bad. These undead were weird, but dealing with them was easy. Just cut, push, and wait for the next one. After about half an hour, forty or so undead were squirming around in front of our base, moaning and groaning in imaginary pain.

“So now what?” I asked, looking over the side.

“Five bits says dragon fire can kill them,” one of the guards said.

“Let’s find out,” the guy in charge replied. “Spike, light them up, would you?”

“Won’t that really stink?” I asked, not really wanting to smell that. As it was, the undead didn’t really have any kind of smell. It was weird, since they were mostly rotting bodies, but I guess since it was so cold, they weren’t rotting that quickly.

“It’s better than having to babysit them out in this cold,” the commander said. “Just burn them.”

“Alright, I guess,” I said, shrugging. I walked over to the side and stuck my head over, then shot down flames. The undead began cooking and melting. After a few seconds, I heard a popping sound, followed by several more, and stopped. “What was that?” I asked.

“Their skulls popping,” the commander said, waving his hoof in front of his nose to try to block the smell that started seeping up. “Keep hitting them. Looks like some of them stopped moving, so I think it’s working.”

“Really?” I poked my head over the side to see several of them no longer moving. “Cool!”

“...Sure. Just keep burning them so we can go inside.”

“Alright.” More flames shot down at them until none of the undead were moving anymore. The front of our wall was scorched and there was a deep hole in front of us, but that didn’t really matter. “So now what?” I asked when they were done.

“We go back inside so we don’t have to smell this,” the commander said, walking back to the door and letting himself inside. The other ponies aside from those on duty followed him. I shrugged and joined them inside. The commander was waiting for me inside and while I closed the door, he asked, “So what happened to Navarone?”

“I, too, am interested,” the naga said, slithering up to us.

The mean lady in charge of the mine joined us and said, “I am more interested in the undead. Are they dead, and are there more?”

“Yes and maybe,” the commander said. “Now, Navarone?”

“I asked her to investigate something we found,” Crabapple said. “It was a door. She was able to open it somehow. The room inside was small. After a few minutes of looking around, the floor underneath her broke. Before we could get to her, the doors slammed shut.”

“And the doors can’t be opened?” the commander asked.

“Correct. We could not open them and this dragon couldn’t, either.”

He nodded and looked aside. “Squad three, get down to the tunnels. Watch the door, see if it opens. Report to me immediately if it does.”

“Yes sir,” they both said, nodding. Then they started trotting off into the mine.

“We’ll wait for the ship to get back to get to Navarone, then,” he said, shrugging. “I have a feeling there ain’t nothing in this world that’s dangerous to that human. Nav’ll be fine.”

“It is my duty to protect her,” the naga rumbled, looking over toward the mine. “I do not like this.”

“You’re welcome to go check the door out,” the commander said, nodding to the tunnels.

“Very well, though I can’t stay long. I do not like the cold.”

He started slithering off and I began following him, hoping I could figure something out. The commander stopped me before I could move far, though. “Not you, Spike,” he said. “Head outside and help keep watch. I want to know those things are coming before they’re five minutes away and dragon eyes are supposed to be good.”

“I… couldn’t really see them very well,” I admitted, scratching at the back of my head. “Normally, everypony I look at glows in the dark. Those didn’t, somehow.”

“Interesting. I’d still rather have you out there, since you can’t get cold. So just keep the two on watch company.”

I sighed and nodded. “Alright, I guess…” He nodded and I went back outside. The two guards out there were grateful to have me, since I’m apparently so much warmer than they are. It was nice to have the mare snuggled up against me, but… Well, I’d prefer someone else with me instead.

The ship got back several hours and shift changes later. I really wanted to fly up to meet them and tell them what happened to you, but the mare pressed against my side made me stay back. She seemed awfully content with me next to her, for some reason.

A minute or two after the ship stopped above us, one of the guards opened the door and said, “Spike, get in here. And Rose, don’t even think about it.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the mare sharply said, taking a step away from me. I blinked a few times before shrugging and going inside. The stallion shook his head and pulled the door closed behind me.

Twilight and Watcher were standing with the naga and Crabby. “So Nav fell down a shaft hidden by a door only she could open,” Watcher slowly said, looking at the mean old mare.

“That is correct. What are you going to do about the undead?”

“They were taken care of easily, but if they attack again, the same might not be true. I will take command here until Navarone can be retrieved. We broke one of the elementals out today, so our job should be finished soon.”

“But how are we going to get Nav?” I asked. “Did you try teleporting her?”

“I did,” Twilight said, nodding. “But it’s like something is blocking me. Or… well, we thought Nav was dead once. As much as I hate to say it, he could well be dead.”

I shook my head. “She’s not dead. I know she’s not. Don’t you think Celestia could help us?”

Twilight nodded. “I was going to write up a letter for her soon. I’ll need you to send it, of course. And somepony will need to tell Taya.”

“I will leave that to her teacher,” Watcher said. “I certainly wouldn’t want to tell her any bad news.”

Twilight sighed and hung her head, but nodded. “Alright, I’ll tell her. We’ll also need to tell Ice and Aerie. Maybe they can help us get the door open or something.”

“How’re we gonna get Ice down here?” I asked. “Can we… teleport him?”

“Aqua says he can survive a few minutes in the cold. Long enough to get him down here.”

“Then go write the letter and tell them,” Watcher said. “Oh, and you should probably also tell Nav’s dragon.”

“Tell me what?” I asked.

Everypony looked at me with a strange look in their eyes before Watcher slowly said, “I meant Kumani.” A blush came to my face, but no one mentioned it.

Twilight just nodded and said, “I’ll be down in a few minutes, then.” She teleported away, leaving me with the others.

“Spike, your fire was able to kill the undead?” Watcher asked.

“Yeah. Oh, I forgot about that! Wait ‘til Twilight hears, she’ll be so proud!”

“I rather doubt that,” Watcher dryly answered. “Now come with me. We need to set up wards around the perimeter to detect any undead.”

“Why do I have to go?”

“Because it’s cold and you’re warm. Crabapple, do you have any complaints of sickness from your miners?”

“Nothing but the normal illnesses you find in cold places or mines. My physician has reported nothing abnormal.”

“Check with him again. Tell him to keep an eye out for ponies coughing up black phlegm, having nightmares or abnormally bloodshot eyes, or randomly fainting. Let me know immediately if he reports them.”

“Very well. Go set your wards, commander. I will see to my miners.”

“Come on, Spike,” he said, walking off to the door. Since there wasn’t really any other option, I followed him. As soon as he got the door shut, he hopped off the side of the wall. Once again, I followed. “Now, I need to ask you something. Do you smell anything weird in the mine?”

“What do you mean? A bunch of sweaty stallions live there and most of them don’t shower enough. It always smells weird.”

“Not that, Spike. Do you smell anything that shouldn’t belong? Anything rotten?”

“Aside from the undead today, no. Why?”

“Dragons have stronger senses and would pick it up before we would. If there’s a necromancer out there, one that’s still active, he could be slowly infecting the crew and the miners. If that is the case, I need to know immediately. I was told the undead you faced today were the weaker kinds, which means they weren’t carrying infections, but where there are weak undead, there are strong undead. And that usually means a necromancer, unless it was already killed or left the area.”

“If there is one, what do we do?”

“Leave and not look back. Inform Princess Celestia so she can send a proper battle group to kill it. Although if we can save Nav and get his ring and sword, we can probably kill it, assuming we can track it. I doubt there is one, though.”

“Why?”

“No victims. Most necromancers want to practice their craft. Not many things come down here. And if there are living penguins, there’s a good chance the necromancer cleared out. Otherwise, there would be undead penguins.”

“Why would somepony want to hurt penguins?”

Watcher sighed and looked at me. “Spike, stop saying words like somepony. It’s bad enough those terms exist in the first place. A dragon using them? Just stop.”

“What’s wrong with them?”

He rolled his eyes and began to explain how it was racist or silly or something. I wasn’t really paying attention, thinking about something he said.

“Wait, what do you mean if we save Nav?” I broke in.

“Spike, there’s a very good chance that Navarone is dead. I and everyone else in the crew very much hope not, but it’s a real possibility that you need to be prepared to deal with. If we can’t get that door open and not even Celestia can teleport him out or even tell if he’s alive, we’re going to have to move on.”

“I know she’s alive, though!”

“And why do you keep calling him a her? You know he hates that.”

“...I got used to it while we were with the monkeys, and he hasn’t asked me to stop.”

“Your funeral. And you need to learn that your gut feeling isn’t always right, Spike. Sometimes, it’s even the opposite of what you think it is. Nav’s tough and he’s survived some stuff I didn’t think was even possible, but he isn’t invincible.”

“Well, none of that will matter, because I’m sure the princess will be able to help her. I bet Twilight has that letter ready, too.”

“We still have wards to place,” Watcher said. He had already placed a few, I think. Or at least, I got the weird feeling under my scales I always get when unicorns use magic around me. “Fighting the undead didn’t bother you, did it?”

“Well… some of them looked really creepy. It felt weird to be killing something pony-shaped. But Nav told me something once. ‘If it attacks you, it loses its right to sapience’. I’m not really sure what that means, but I think it fits here. And besides, they were already dead, right? I was just helping make sure they didn’t hurt anypony.”

“Just remember that you were fighting the weakest of the undead. When we get attacked tomorrow, expect to see stronger ones.”

“What makes you think we’ll be attacked tomorrow?”

“That’s how the undead and necromancers usually work. Small groups of weak undead like these travel around, scouting. If they find something living, they attack it. When they get killed, their deaths alert the necromancer that something living is nearby. He then sends attacks toward them to see how they react. And if there isn’t a necromancer, the other undead will sense that fighting occurred nearby and start moving toward us. The more of them we destroy, the stronger the sense will become, pulling them from further and further until all the undead are killed, the living leave the area, or the undead win.”

“That doesn’t sound very fun,” I slowly said.

“There’s a reason necromancy is banned.”

We didn’t talk much anymore, until the last ward was placed. When it was and we started going back, I asked, “So what if there’s not a necromancer?”

“Our job ends when the contract ends. We’ll continue defending the mine until we can leave. At that point, it will no longer be our problem.”

“But won’t the miners be in danger?”

“Not if Crabapple hires guards. And if they do end up in trouble, it won’t be our problem. There’s something you need to get into your head, Spike: We aren’t heroes. We aren’t the good guys. We also aren’t the bad guys. We have a goal and we’re going to accomplish that goal. Once our contract is done, Crabapple and her miners will no longer be our problem and neither I nor Nav will care about them or what happens to them.”

“That’s not true!”

“If thinking that makes you feel better, feel free. But if you hold Nav on that high of a pedestal, don’t come crying to me when something finally knocks him off of it.”

I don’t know what his problem is. You really need to talk to him, Nav. And what does putting somepony on a pedestal mean?

Anyway, we got back to the mine at that point and I didn’t feel like talking to him anymore, so I just went back in. He stayed out to talk to his sentries, I guess. As soon as I stepped inside, Twilight thrust a piece of paper at me.

“Send this to the princess, Spike,” she told me.

Before I could stop myself, I looked around to ask you for permission, but then I remembered that… Well, I shrugged and sent the letter away. “When do you think she’ll come here?” I asked.

“Princess Celestia is very busy and I’m not certain what time it is in Equestria right now,” Twilight said. “If she needs to come by personally, she’ll get here as soon as she can. Until then, all we can do is wait.”

“Shouldn’t we try to open the door, though?”

“Ice, Aerie, Kumani, and Taya are all trying to figure it out right now,” she said, nodding. “I was planning on joining them after I got that letter sent.”

“Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”

“Not so fast,” she quickly said before I could start walking to the mine. “Spike, Watcher needs you up here. I know you want to help, but you need to stay up here for now. And I know you had a busy day, so you need to get some rest.”

“But what about Nav? What if I can help?”

“You already tried, Spike. And you can help more by being ready to… to fight, as much as I hate to think about it. If we have to leave the mine behind, we can’t help Nav at all. You need to be ready to help Watcher defend us. That’s the best way you can help Nav right now.”

As much as I wanted to go and try to help you… I knew she was right. I hated it, but Watcher needed me more. My shoulders sagged and I sighed. “Alright. But tell me if anything happens! I want to help her.”

“We will,” she said. “I’ll see you later, Spike. I have a strange door to study!” She sounded way too excited by that, which is when I remembered that she was getting to study some abandoned ruins while also helping a friend.

Since there wasn’t really anything else for me to do, I just walked over to my bunk, next to yours. Despite all I had done that day, I didn’t really feel tired. My eyes kept drifting open and I found myself staring at your empty bunk.

That was a long night…

 

 

I broke in at that point. “As… interesting,” and kinda creepy, “as it is to hear everything that happened, can you stick to the important parts?” I asked, rubbing Taya’s back gently. It sounded like she had fallen back asleep at some point.

“Oh yeah, sure. I mean, you did ask what happened…”

“I meant a more general overview. By all means, keep going, but stick to the important parts.”

“Okay, I guess…”

 

 

Twilight and most of the others went back on the ship the next day, heading on to the next elemental. Taya stayed behind, refusing to leave. Watcher wanted her with us anyway, to help us fight if we had to. We also kept one of the other unicorns from Watcher’s group.

With three unicorns to work with, Watcher was able to keep up a spell around the mining base that kept the temperatures outside not too unbearable, not that I really minded either way. The cold was fine for me, though I did prefer the warm.

...Some of the mares still stood next to me while we watched out for anything.

Not too long after lunch, Watcher’s head jerked up from whatever he had been reading. “We got company,” he loudly said, hopping up. All his guards joined him as he started walking to the door. Taya and I shared a look, since we didn’t know what we were supposed to do. She shrugged and started following as well. Since everypony else was doing it, I grabbed my sword and shield and joined them. The naga grunted as he was left behind, though he pulled out his sword just in case.

Right before Watcher got to the door, it slid open, one of the sentries looking in. “Undead, sir,” he said.

“We know. Numbers? Types?”

“A little over sixty. Got fliers and a few tools, but no sappers.”

“Easy enough.” The sentry stepped back, allowing us to get outside. We all did so, and I closed the door since I was the last out. “We’ll let them get close. I’ll deal with the fliers. Spike, middle. Taya, far right. Black, far left.” Taya and the guard unicorn went to either side and Watcher stood next to me at the center. “My wards aren’t picking them up anywhere around us, but check out our sides, Nightshade.”

She spread her wings and jumped up without saying a word, flying around the building while the small horde grew closer. After a few trips, she landed back in her spot on the line. “Clear. Just one group.”

“Taya, fire works well. Don’t bother with lightning or ice. And don’t do a thing until I tell you.”

“Alright.”

I pulled my sword out and shifted my shield somewhat nervously, seeing some of the undead spread their decayed wings and jump into the air, actually managing to fly. Some of the diamond dogs in the group had weapons. Most were rusty and notched, but that doesn’t mean they can’t cut. My scales kept me safe from regular undead, but ones with weapons…?

“You’ll be fine,” Watcher quietly said. “Just stand in the middle and let them come toward you. Take out what the unicorns miss. Either use fire or the sword. We’ll clean them up either way.”

“Right. Just stand here… and wait.”

“But not for long,” Watcher said, suddenly grinning. I felt the light itching under my scales and then some of the monsters flying at me burst into flames from the inside, falling to the ground. They hit right in front of the wall we were on, knocking some snow onto us. It slid right off when it hit me, but the others weren’t so lucky.

“Thanks for that, sir,” one of the guards muttered, wiping the stuff from his face.

“If you’d prefer, I can let them get to us next time,” Watcher replied.

“Nav’s bad habits are rubbing off on you, sir.”

“Nah, he’s just reminding me what it’s like to be young. Not too much wrong with that, is there?” The guard snorted, but didn’t reply. He also didn’t really have time to, since the walking dead were really close to us. “Taya, Black, light them on fire!”

The enemies weren’t organized or in any kind of line, so the fire from both sides of our line wasn’t too effective. If we had more unicorns and Watcher had them start sooner, I doubt any of the undead would have made it to us.

But we didn’t and they did, so I lifted my shield to block a rusty pickaxe being wielded by a mangy undead dog. The force it used to swing the pick at me was enough to shatter the rusty weapon when it hit my shield. All the training I did kicked in and I pushed back with my shield, then slammed my sword down into his skull.

Since that didn’t kill it, I kicked it away from me and breathed fire down at it. That kept the ugly thing down. However, he was replaced by an undead pony trying to crawl over the edge. I sliced off its front legs and pushed it back over, leaving it to harmlessly shift around in front of the wall.

After about half an hour, the small area in front of our wall was full of undead like that, just writhing around with either missing limbs or broken limbs. Taya and the guard unicorn started burning them when it was clear that the main threat was over.

“So why are these things so dangerous again?” I asked, using snow to clean my sword. “They haven’t even hurt anypony yet!”

“Because this is just the beginning,” Watcher said. “Back when necromancy used to be more popular, there would be hordes that would fill the horizon, they were so large, full of different kinds of undead. Some that exploded, some that flew, some that could use some weak magic, some that could use tools. Plenty of other types. And there were thousands of them. These small numbers here aren’t that bad, especially since they’re going up against trained soldiers. But remember that we are in the middle of nowhere. All the bodies this necromancer got had to be stolen or bought, unless there were more expeditions down here than I thought. I don’t really expect the numbers to pick up that much, but I do expect to start seeing more types.”

“Well, if there aren’t more numbers, does that mean they won’t really be that dangerous?” I asked. “I mean, these were really, really easy.”

“Wait until you see a group of fliers, each carrying a sapper, and then tell me they’re easy. They could destroy this wall and half the base with no problems. When the ship gets back, I’ll be taking Gilda and Kumani on a scouting trip.”

“Why can’t I go?”

“Because someone needs to stay here to help defend, and I don’t trust Kumani to follow orders. Nav trusts you and I’m starting to trust you. Besides, if we got a reply from the princess while we’re flying, you’d probably torch me.”

“Heh, yeah… Why do you think she hasn’t responded yet, though?”

“Could be busy. Could be interference with the communication. She could have gotten the message while she was asleep and not noticed it yet. What’s most likely is that she’s doing research and doesn’t want to get back to us until she has a solution. Twilight did tell her that there are undead down here, right?”

I shrugged and replied, “Dunno. She seemed pretty excited about that door. She might have forgot.”

“Then let’s go write a letter. It’s a different time, so if she was just asleep before, she might notice it now.”

“Anything that helps Nav is good in my book,” I answered with a nod.

He looked around the battlements to his group. “Regular sentries, back to your duties. Everyone else, get back inside as soon as those bodies are burned.”

There were a few salutes, but most of the guards were too cold to really care all that much. Watcher and I just went on ahead back inside, with him seeming to slump slightly when we left the cold air behind. “Are you sure you should be out in that?” I gently asked.

“I shouldn’t. Nothing should, aside from you dragons.” He started walking over to your bunk. “I left all my paper on the boat, but Nav keeps plenty of it around. I always see him writing something…” He started using magic to poke through some of the bags around and on your bunk.

“Should you really just… you know, take stuff?” I nervously asked.

“Here, let me just ask Nav. You mind if I borrow some paper, sir? What’s that? You’re too busy needing to be saved by the person I’m writing a letter to? Guess that means you don’t mind.” After a few more seconds of searching, he found some blank paper and one of those neat pens you invented. “Here we are.” He clicked the top and started writing with magic. It took him nearly a minute to write the entire thing. When he finished, he folded it up and passed it to me, dropping the pen back in your bag. “Send this to Celestia.”

“Alright.” I took the letter he was holding up for me and lit it on fire, sending it to the princess. “Now what?”

“Now I go get under some blankets. If she responds, let me know.” With that, he walked off to the bunk he claimed. I started to turn to sit on mine, but I stopped when I saw something sticking out of the bag he pulled the paper from. Since I knew you wouldn’t want anypony to possibly find something they shouldn’t, I took it upon myself to examine the paper more closely.

It was something written in your neat handwriting. Pages and pages and pages… When I realized what it was, I immediately… Ahem, I immediately put it back, not even considering taking a look at your personal thoughts and opinions. I would never betray your trust like that, Nav.

Several hours later after I sat around and did absolutely nothing I shouldn’t have, Watcher unexpectedly put his hoof on my shoulder. “Put those papers down and get outside,” he told me.

“What’s going on?”

“Your turn on the watch and there’s a single undead coming. Take it out so I don’t have to send a unicorn.”

“Just one?”

“Yeah. Sometimes they travel alone like this. It’s just a common walker, according to the wards.”

“Alright, I guess.” I grabbed my sword and shield again and made my way to the door. When I got out, I saw that the sentries already waiting were staring at the slowly approaching undead.

“Hey Spike, wanna have some fun?” one of the sentries asked when I got outside.

“...What kind of fun?” I cautiously asked.

“We were talking about how many snowballs it would take to knock that thing down. We can’t leave the base because it’s so cold out there, but you could.”

“So go hit it with snowballs!” the other sentry said, a smile on his face.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” I asked.

“Psh, what’s the worst that could happen? Do you really think a skeleton pony could get through your scales?”

“Hm… I guess that could be fun,” I replied, shrugging. “How many do you think it’ll take?”

“Three bits says you knock the things head off with a single hit,” one of them said.

“Four says it doesn’t even notice no matter how many you hit it with.”

“Let’s find out,” I said, smiling. Then I vaulted over the battlements, walking toward the skeleton. As I walked, I scooped up a clawful of snow and breathed a tiny amount of steam on it to make it icy instead of snowy. After that, I compacted it, making a cheap-shot snowball that hits as hard as a rock.

Speaking of that, I don’t think Rainbow Dash ever forgave you for knocking her out of the air with one.

Anyway, when I got about five meters away from the skeleton, I reared my arm back and slung the iceball right at the thing. It slammed into its head and snapped it right off. For some reason, I found that really funny, and burst out laughing as the main body continued slowly walking toward me. Unfortunately, I knew I needed to kill it, headless or not, so I hit the body with a nice blast of fire, killing its bones.

But… My eyes moved to the skull, still moving about and trying to get to me. A grin came to my face and I picked it up by the back, so it couldn’t bite me. I walked back to the base, carrying it. When the two sentries saw it, they burst out laughing too.

“Well guys, it took me a single snowball to break off his skull,” I said, putting the moving skull on the wall. “Can we keep him?”

“Now, now,” one said, smiling. “You know how much of a responsibility pets are. You gotta feed him, clean up his messes, hide him from Watcher… But then, who could say no to that cute little face?” He reached up a hoof to poke the skull on what was left of its nose, but the thing snapped at him, making him jerk his hoof back. “Aww, so adorable!”

“Did you think of a name yet?” the other one asked.

“I was thinking…” I started, but was interrupted by the door to the base opening.

“You take care of that—The fuck is this doing here?” Watcher asked, using one of the words you told me not to say.

“Can we keep him?” I asked, putting on the smile that Twilight could never resist. Watcher was stronger, apparently, and hit the skull with a small blast of fire. “Aww…”

“If you want a pet, try picking one that doesn’t eat ponies,” he said. “I encourage having fun, but not when having fun is dangerous or puts my soldiers at risk. And don’t think I’m not aware that you two were encouraging him.”

Before I could answer, I felt a burning sensation in my stomach, followed the annoying sensation of a letter materializing inside of me. It quickly exited me, as normal, and I caught it before it could go anywhere. “Answer from Celestia,” I said, recognizing the paper she uses.

“Good timing,” Watcher said, tugging the paper from my claws. “If it needs a reply, I’ll let you know.”

“Can I read it?”

“If there’s nothing too sensitive in here, yes,” he said. “But since some of what I requested were dark and illegal spells, I doubt that’ll be the case. I’ll give you the gist.”

“Make sure to tell me anything about Nav.”

“Right, right. Stay out here and keep an eye out. And you two, you’re going to be keeping him company for an extra rotation. Consider that your punishment for playing with the undead.”

“Aww…” they both groaned as he went back inside, closing the door behind him.

“So now what?” I asked.

“Well, we should go back to watching…” one slowly said.

“But his wards would tell us anything’s coming well before it gets here,” the other added.

“And we’re going to be out here for an extra rotation now.”

“So I hope you don’t mind being close and personal.”

“What?” That’s all I had time to say before they were both standing next to me, pressed against my sides.

“You’re warm,” one answered with a shrug.

“Troops in the field have to share heat,” the other added.

“And since you have all the heat, you can share with us.”

“But… neither of you two are pretty enough!” I hastily said, pushing them back.

“Hey, when you’re in the field, you take what you can get,” one said.

“Just close your eyes and pretend. That’s what we do when it comes to that.”

“You two are weird!”

“And you’re warm, so let us cuddle with you.” They both moved up against me again. I just sighed in defeat and went to watching the horizon.

Thankfully, Watcher came back out not too much later. As soon as they heard the door opening, one of them jumped away from me and started walking to the other side, pretending he was just making a round.

“Well, Celestia can’t find Nav either,” Watcher said. “She also can’t teleport down here and be able to teleport back, since the sun never shines down here. She’ll continue searching up in Equestria, but we’re on our own down here. She suggested we talk to Athena.”

“Wait, why didn’t we do that sooner?” I asked. “Let’s just get the book!”

“It’s in Nav’s chest.”

“So? We can just break it open!”

“It’ll destroy everything inside if tampered with.”

“Oh. That’s—”

“And then it’ll explode.”

“...Huh. You’d think she would put really important stuff like that in a place we could actually get it, in case something happens.”

“I will certainly make that suggestion if we find him.” He held up a scroll. “Now, send this to the princess.”

I took it and did so, then said, “So what does that mean, exactly?”

“It means, in Nav’s eloquent terms, that we’re fucked sideways. Or rather, he’s fucked sideways. There are a small number of people that can open the door. One was apparently Nav, who got trapped inside. One is probably Athena, who we can’t access. One might be Celestia or Luna, neither of which are available. And finally, there’s Twilight, who is busy with the elementals.”

“Wait, why can’t Luna help?”

“Because if we asked Luna to help save Nav, we’d very probably need to ask her to help save us from Nav. And given her history, I don’t even want to think about what her price might be. Now, I’m going back inside. If Celestia replies, let me know.”

He started going back in, but I quickly stopped him. “What about the undead?” I asked.

“I’m to keep her updated,” he replied, not even turning back around. With that said, he stepped back in and closed the door.

As soon as it shut, both of the stallions were back up against me again. Once more, I sighed and went back to looking around.

 

 

Once again, I broke in, still rubbing at Taya’s back. “Really now, how much of that was actually necessary, Spike?”

“Well… the two stallions made me kinda uncomfortable.”

“They were just messing with you, dude. I’m getting tired, so get on with it. Oh, and you better not have read my fucking journals. You’re not too big for me to spank you yet.”

He got all shifty-eyed and said, “Nav, I would never do that!”

“Uh huh. Then I’m sure they’ll all be in the right order when I look through them again?”

“Of course! They uh… Er, I might have taken them to my room for… safekeeping, though. So… some might have gotten moved around while I was carrying them?”

I just sighed and shook my head. “Spanking later. Keep going. But please, relevant things only.”

He sighed and continued.

 

 

The next day was really more of the same. Another group of undead began approaching the base a few hours before lunch. Once again, Watcher got us all outside. This time, we had Gilda with us. “Fliers,” one of the sentries said. “And it looks like they’re carrying sappers.”

“Just great,” Watcher sighed. “Spike, Gilda, fly up and intercept them. Gilda, distract them while Spike uses his fire to kill them.”

“I’m tough, but I can’t last long out there,” Gilda said. “Moving around like that’s gonna make it worse.”

“Then do it quickly,” Watcher said. “If those things get close, we won’t even have a building to warm up in. Just make sure you aren’t too close when you’re hitting them with fire.”

“Alright, but first dibs on cuddling with Spike.”

“Wh—” Before the word could even leave my mouth, she had already jumped up and started flying off.

“Lucky,” some of the guards muttered, eyeing me with smiles.

“Off you go,” Watcher said, nodding to the fliers. I sighed and spread my wings, taking off as well. The undead were steadily moving toward us, unable to go too quickly on mostly rotten wings. Honestly, I was surprised they were able to fly at all. Twilight would probably tell me it was magic. You’d probably tell me it was bullshit.

Anyway, by the time I got to them, Gilda already had them turning to follow her. Since they weren’t paying attention to me and we weren’t directly over the base yet, I hit them with some fire. Thankfully, I remembered Watcher’s warning about not being that close.

There were only five fliers, three of which were carrying really fat things that were so distorted I couldn’t even tell what they used to be. My fire hit all five of the fliers, since they were close to each other, and sent them all tumbling to the ground. As they fell, the three fat things blew up, pushing me several meters back and almost making me fall out of the air before I corrected myself.

“Nice shot, big guy,” Gilda said from behind me. “Now let’s get back to the base.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said, turning around to fly that way. “What is it with everypony and cuddling me lately?”

“Well, you’re cute. Nothing wrong with wanting to cuddle with a cute guy, is there?” My ear spines shot straight down and I felt a really annoying heat all over my face, making her start giggling. Fortunately, we weren’t that far from the base, and we landed before she could say anything. As soon as we did, though, she hopped up on her back legs and hugged me from behind. “Mmm, much better,” she sighed in my ear.

“Don’t take too long,” Watcher warned. “We still got the others to deal with.”

“Hey, I don’t see you exposing your under-wings to this bitter cold,” she said, hugging me tighter. “Besides, as strong as this big guy is, I don’t think he would mind fighting like this.”

“Very funny,” Watcher said. “Get off him when they get close.”

“Fine, fine… Clam jammer.” Those last words were muttered, though I didn’t know what they meant anyway. At least she got off me when the undead got close.

Fighting them was more of the same, so I’ll spare you the details. Once again, none of us were injured.

“This is getting annoying,” Watcher said, helping burn the undead bodies.  “We’ll have a bit more help when we deal with it tomorrow, though.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“The miners apparently have a supply ship coming. Crabapple didn’t get the news until just recently, but it appears that their airship is complete. However, we’re still on contract, so we’ll have to stay on station until that expires. Either way, it’s coming in tomorrow, so I’ll have our ship stay here so we can make sure this place stays defended.”

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