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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155. Chapter One Hundred and Twenty-Nine

Aside from several dozen more lights, the hive didn’t seem to have changed at all. The buildings were the same, there wasn’t any real noise, and changelings still walked the streets like normal. Although as I got closer, I did notice one strange thing.

“Is that a pony on a leash?” I asked as we flew. The stallion’s tail was wagging as he happily followed the guard leading him.

“It is,” she confirmed. “I found that it was inefficient to have all the changelings come to one or two sections of the city to eat, so I started sending the food to them. All it takes is letting the love poison wear off from its original target, and then using it on a guard. Then we just have the guard tell the pony that they always wanted a perfect pony pet. It seems to… change their minds, and they exude love for anything that gives them affection. And of course, the guards can play with their pet how they like.”

“That is extremely creepy. Is the mental change permanent?”

“I don’t know. I also don’t care. When Celestia gave me these prisoners, she told me I could do with them as I would, as long as I didn’t harm any of their bodies permanently. This may harm their mind, but I believe it is a change for the better. After all, these ponies were prisoners for a reason. It is likely their original minds had little worth saving.”

I might have to keep Kat on the ship… “Whatever.”

“You do not approve? And yet it was your idea to give us these prisoners in the first place. Is this not less cruel than keeping them locked up and constantly away from their poisoned loves?”

“I’m not evil, Chrysalis. Not like you and Celestia. I’m definitely not a good person, but I’m not evil. I don’t like seeing anyone suffer. I know you and your kind are parasites, but I just wish there was a better way. A more mutually beneficial way. Because this idea I had was evil, and it makes me feel dirty. I definitely don’t approve, despite knowing it’s the only way we have.”

“If you live as long as we have, you’ll come to understand that Celestia isn’t evil. She’s amoral. The needs of the many over the needs of the few. It benefits her ponies to have us placated more than the loss of those prisoners hurts her ponies.”

“I like that you stopped trying to hide that you’re evil.”

She sighed. “When I was first given this curse, I never expected my future to be laid out like this. I tried to be a kind mother. Truly, I did. But seeing so many of your children starve hardens your heart. And in time, I came to enjoy the suffering of those that caused my children to die. I may have become evil, but never think for a moment that I started that way.”

“I never did. But I gotta say, this conversation escalated far too quickly, for us not even having made out yet.”

“That can certainly be fixed, my lovely little human.”

“Please don’t do that ‘my little whatever’ bullshit Celestia uses on her horses. It’s really degrading.”

“It’s meant to be endearing, not condescending.” She finally started landing, since we were getting close to the palace gates. “But I can certainly see how you could consider it that way.” When we hit the ground, she fluttered her wings once before continuing to walk inside. I followed, of course; what else was I supposed to do, after all? “So what brings you to the hive, Navarone? Doppel told me that you need to dig for something. You told me you need something to defeat Discord. Did you find proof of some manner of artifact near here?”

“Not an artifact. A prisoner. The last time I was here, giant ants attacked. When we followed their tunnel, we found a big cavern with a giant spider in it. That thing chased me and ended up cracking open a tunnel that I fell through. On the other side was an ancient prisoner, bound by Discord for ages. She believes that she and her sisters can help us beat him.”

“...When we scouted through there the next time, we didn’t see any offshoots from that cavern, aside from the one leading to the ant nest.”

“It’s a self-repairing prison, according to her. The damage healed itself.”

“I see. And you’re sure you weren’t just delirious?” she asked. “Getting hit by a giant spider could do that.”

“Oh, I’m quite positive. I found several of her sisters already. They’ll be the ones freeing her.” We were walking deeper and deeper into the palace. All the changelings we passed eyed the two of us, but none seemed to bow or make any motion of obeisance.

“They have their work cut out for them,” she said with a small snort of derision. “We collapsed those tunnels and that cavern after we looted everything of value from the ant tunnels.”

Oh boy. “Why?”

“Our food supply supports our current population and the current land we have right now is sufficient. Leaving that tunnel open would risk other monsters accessing our home, with no one to guard the old ant mound. Collapsing it was the best option. Should we ever need to greatly expand, we can clear it and smooth it out ourselves, then retrofit the old ant mound to better suit our needs.”

“But in the meantime, I’m shit outta luck,” I sighed.

“Not entirely. As I said before, the might and resources of the changeling race are behind you. If it needs to be cleared, it will be cleared. However, you will not be needed for the clearing process. I will grant you diggers and permission to mine in my territory under the condition that you stay in the hive with me until the task is finished… and longer, if you so desire.”

“Alright, I can agree to that.”

“Excellent. Now, I wasn’t expecting to house so many ponies for so long. We do not have enough mushrooms prepared to feed them all for a week or two. They might be better off staying on your ship, if it’s not an inconvenience.”

“That’s understandable. I know a lot of them were looking forward to seeing the hive, though. I’m sure they won’t be too pissed about it as long as they can come down here every now and then.”

“They shall be granted that. I can find guides as well, so they needn’t fear getting lost or… worse. But they will likely see some disturbing sights. I still remember Twilight’s reaction when she saw the feeding chambers.”

“She isn’t here. The ones I have right now are more diplomatic. They already know about the feeding chambers anyway, but they don’t know about the… pets.”

“Hm.” She finally stopped at a door and opened it. There were two sapients on the other side, tinkering with some wires in some kind of box. “I need you two to lead a group of…” She turned to me. “Is thirty enough?”

“They can make repeat trips, if not.”

She looked back to the others. “Lead thirty drones to the surface, and then to the ship. Talk to…” She looked at me again.

“Watcher. He’s a dark grey unicorn, probably wearing armor. Older, white hair.”

She looked back. “Talk to him and tell him that his ponies are welcome in the hive, but Navarone and I will need to have a talk with him before they can explore. Use the drones to ferry all those that would like to enter the hive to the front of the palace, then lead Watcher to the throne room.”

“Yes, your majesty,” they both replied, sketching quick bows. We continued on our way through the halls as they hastened to obey.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t bred a competent ambassadorial party yet, so I have to use those that aren’t doing important tasks.”

“What about the guy you sent to spy on the governor in Detrot?” I asked. Disturbingly, the halls we were passing through were bare of anything. No decorations, no light, no color. It was a stark contrast to the brilliant castle I had just left behind.

“He has already been reassigned. Though I can’t help but wonder how you know about him. He said his cover was blown by one of the elements of harmony. One that he found himself quite obsessed with. I didn’t know Celestia had them trained so well.”

“Long story. What about the two that were trapped in Atlantis?” We hadn’t even passed any changelings on the way. I didn’t really figure she had much of a need for servants, though. Everyone else would be at their assigned stations, unwilling or unable to leave until their hours were over.

“They’re still recovering. In fact, I imagine they’d be quite happy to see you.”

“Well, I am pretty hot. I’d be happy to see me, too.”

“They definitely remember how you called them cute,” she said with a smirk.

“I mostly said that to annoy Twilight,” I replied, feeling a small blush come to my face. “But changelings are kinda adorable, honestly.”

She snorted. “And of course, all of the other changelings would also like to see and thank you, now that you’ve brought dreams to us.”

“If you’ll believe it, that was actually Twilight’s idea. Not the changelings in particular, but giving dreams to all the races. Celestia was against it.”

“Yes, I can certainly imagine that she wouldn’t want her ponies to share anything nice. Do you have little Luna’s power to enter dreams?”

“Yeah. I’ll probably be doing some dream policing while I’m here, if you don’t mind.” Her ears twitched. “We usually try to keep nightmares away and foster good dreams. Or at least, Luna does. I often go for wet dreams.”

“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me. But I would greatly prefer you not entering my subjects’ dreams. Especially if they are having a nightmare.”

“Uh, alright I guess. That’s definitely the natural way, at least. I might poke into the food ponies’ dreams, though. That should give me a decent indication of their mental and emotional states, to see if their subconscious is affected by the love poison as well.”

“Do you really want to know?”

“I don’t, but I feel a… need to. It’s my fault that they’re here. If they’re truly miserable, I should try thinking of another way for you guys to get food. Criminals or not, I don’t like causing suffering.”

“Hm. When such thoughts consume me, I try to think of the greater good. Yes, they might be suffering on the inside, but they’re helping changelings. And Celestia called for volunteers from prisons, so it’s not like they can really complain.” We finally saw a single drone hastily moving through the halls. He didn’t even look at us as we passed each other.

“And are the ponies in your breeding chambers also volunteers?”

“...We no longer use free ponies for that. And those we used before were pumped so full of opiates that they never felt any discomfort, not that there would have been much… Well, for the mares, at least. The stallions likely would have felt some initial pain, not that we often sought those out.”

“...Do I even want to know where you got opiates? Or how you know what those are?”

“Our females naturally secrete them from ovipositors that seem to only affect other races. Those we use to hold our eggs always seem extremely blissful and happy to do whatever you tell them to.”

“Your race scares me more and more every time I learn about it.”

“There is more reason than one that we live in the darkness, Nav. I left all this information out on purpose in our previous talks about the changelings. There is security in secrecy.”

“And probably a kind of solace,” I quietly said. “How many people do you know outside of changelings that are willing to hold a conversation with you? Celestia and Luna, maybe? One or two dragons? Are you worried about scaring me away?”

We walked in silence for several seconds before she scoffed. “Of course not. I’m not ashamed of what I am. If it drives you away… All the better. I have left very few alive that have seen me in a moment of weakness. If you left me and never returned… I suppose it would be one less to worry about. Besides, I’ve already seen the worst your species has to offer. I and mine pale in comparison.”

“I love you too, Chryssi.”

“I despise that nickname. My name is only one more syllable. Use it.”

“I thought your real name was two syllables.”

She stopped and very slowly turned her head to face me. “I suggest you consider your choice of words much more wisely in the future, Navarone,” she coldly replied. “There are two types of beings that know my real name: Those who are dead and those I will one day kill.”

“I’ve called you friend before, Chrysalis. And I meant it. I really want to know more about you and your past. But if you don’t want to tell me, if you never want me to know, say the word and I won’t ask. But I won’t judge you out loud for anything you’re willing to tell me.”

She stared at me in silence for an uncomfortably long time before turning her head back and continuing to walk. “So I take it Watcher is your second in command?”

“Something like that, yeah. I convinced one of Luna’s night guard groups to go with me when I left. Watcher’s in charge of it. The dude’s hella efficient. He’s definitely been around the block more than once and he’s been invaluable. The crew follows their captain, the soldiers follow Watcher, but they all follow me. Though honestly, I have no idea why. I kinda got a feeling Watcher could be leading the show a lot better than I could.”

“Perhaps. Not having met him, I couldn’t say. But if he is competent, I’d say it’s likely he’s letting you gain experience in leading. He would step in should you do something catastrophic, but until you do, he’s content to let you call the shots.”

“Sounds about right. And of course, the others I have with me probably wouldn’t follow his orders.”

“Like your dragoness toy?”

“She left after I got a vagina and then got lost in an abandoned human bunker full of horrible spirits that wanted me to join them in their hell.”

“It’s just like a dragon to leave your side when you need him most.”

“...Kumani’s a girl.”

She snorted. “Him, her, what does it matter? Dragons are unreliable. I’m not in a hurry to trust any of them again.”

“Well, I didn’t really need her all that much anyway. Or at least, there wasn’t anything she could do to help. Where I was, nothing could help me.”

“Oh? And where was this horrifying bunker?”

“The very southern tip of the planet, surrounded by a ton of regular undead. Celestia apparently sent a cleanup squad after we left to deal with it all.”

“Hm. There’s nothing I need down there anyway.” We finally entered the throne room from a side door that practically disappeared when she closed it behind us. I had actually never been there before. It was the only place in the palace aside from her own room that had decorations. Some kind of subterranean flowers lined the walls and glowing mushrooms were growing from alcoves near the ceiling. The walls were actually glittering from what I first thought was glass but then realized were actually gemstones.

We continued walking to her throne up on a tall dais. It was some kind of black stone with plush green cushions. I was only a little disturbed by the chain leading to a manacle attached to one of the legs. I would have been a lot more disturbed if there had been someone attached to it.

“I don’t think you’ve ever seen this room before, have you?” she asked as she fluttered up to take her place on the chair.

“I haven’t. It’s nice.”

“Nice compared to Canterlot?”

“Compared to that overdesigned pastel hellhole, just about anything’s nice. I fucking hate Canterlot. Don’t get me wrong, mind; that hallway we walked through was really dull. But this place is simple yet pretty. I like it.”

She smiled. “At least I’m not the only one that shares that opinion of Canterlot. My eyes see colors as fairly muted, and yet even I found that place far too colorful and bright.”

“That’s interesting. How do you know you see color differently than me? Or the ponies? Doppel didn’t even know what a smell was.”

“We might have this discussion later. As long as you’re willing to put out, at least. I still remember the last two times we met. A beautiful queen like myself is not used to being turned down.”

“It certainly wasn’t easy. And I regret it, now that I don’t have a penis anymore. We’ll have to figure something out.”

“I already have plans. Do you or your second in command require anything? Food or drink? I know how you surface races like gorging yourselves.”

“Hey, that’s not entirely fair. Every time I see you, you demand love from me.”

“I hardly make any demands. And I eat to satiety, then stop. I and my spies have seen ponies eat well past fullness, often becoming nice and plump for their efforts. Like Celestia. Before our… treaty, such ponies were usually our first targets, as it was harder for them to flee and easier for us to break them.” Before I could comment on that, she idly mused, “Though breaking the stronger ones is also rather fun…”

“Well, I’m not looking to get broken. And plumpness has its benefits, not that I can really take advantage of them anymore. Nothing like being able to grab her tail with one hand and use the other to make that booty jiggle while you rail her from behind. But if it makes you feel any better, I’m on the opposite spectrum. I’m pretty much emaciated.”

“So you’re saying that you would, in fact, like something to eat?”

“Nah. My body’s different. I don’t really need to eat that often, though Taya’s doing her best to make me. That mushroom shit you have is just awful, though, so definitely fuck that.”

“We started letting the ponies cook, so it has improved. One of them was a chef in his past life.”

“...How did a chef end up with a life sentence?”

“His forte was meat of sapient creatures.”

“Shouldn’t have asked…”

“Changelings are fairly inedible and the pony food sources are too valuable, so we only let him use mushrooms.”

“How would you even know that… actually, never mind.” She chuckled. “Alright, your giggle is far too adorable to be coming from something as evil as you are. What’s your secret?”

“Practice, of course. I have a proper evil laugh too, but nothing throws opponents off as much as doing something cute.”

“...You’re joking, right?”

Her smile deepened. “As I’ve said before, I wasn’t always evil.”

“I swear, everyone here has such interesting fucking stories to tell, but no one ever tells them. Luna’s apparently the amazonian warrior goddess, Celestia’s the political queen of the world, you’re you, Reginald’s apparently Luna’s warrior buttbuddy… Jesus, why aren’t there whole books full of your stories? Aside from Celestia’s whitewashing, of course.”

“That is the main reason. I was just as instrumental as all three of them in recreating civilization, yet I was completely forgotten. And don’t even get me started on Reginald. That monster abandoned my changelings when we needed him most and I will never forgive him.”

“Well, history forgot about him, too. And after he learned about what Luna did, he went off to hunt her down.”

“I’m disappointed he’s even alive, but then, killing him would be difficult. I’d like to have his mind broken and make him a willing food source just so I can make him lick my hooves every morning when I wake up, but he’s too dangerous for that.”

“And too large.”

“Yes, and too large… Now, do you mind being manacled to my throne when your second in command comes in?”

“Uh. I’d really rather not.”

“Just wondering.”

“...You’re not gonna be trying to do that weird shit to me the entire time I’m here, are you?”

She smiled ever so sweetly. “That depends entirely upon you, my dear Navarone. There are many things I’d be all too happy to do to you, but you are too useful to risk upsetting. But I happened to learn a fun spell that allows a nonchangeling to turn into a different species. I believe Celestia has used it on you in the past. I was considering toying with it…”

“I really, really don’t like being a pony,” I said, shuddering slightly and ruffling my feathers.

“Hm. I was considering using it to do some more public things without you losing any face. I suppose we can discuss it more later.”

“I mean, if you really want me to fuck you in public with a strapon as a horse, I’m willing to do that for you. I can be a good friend.”

Her smile dipped slightly. “As I said, we can discuss it later.”

I kinda wanted to keep teasing her, but the arrival of Watcher and Taya unfortunately ruined it. Just like they ruin everything else.

Watcher did the good diplomat thing and stopped a respectable distance away to bow lightly. Taya wasn’t having none of that shit, though, and just walked right on up to stand next to me. Chrysalis barely gave her a glance before nodding to Watcher. “Welcome to the hive,” she said. “I assume you are Watcher?”

“Yes, your majesty,” the old guy said, standing back up. “Has Navarone already discussed our plans with you?”

“He has,” Chrysalis said with a nod. “There are a few problems. We collapsed the tunnels where the… prisoner was found, so they’ll have to be dug out again. My changelings will assist. However, it will still likely take at least a week, even with your magic, and I don’t have enough pony food to sustain so many extra ponies for that long. I would prefer your troops stay on the airship until it’s time to dig, or until they would like to visit the hive. Navarone will stay with me in the hive as a liaison.” The only liaising we’ll be doing is in the bed. Unf. “If any of your soldiers would like to go sightseeing in the hive, they’ll need a guide. And they’ll also need to keep an open mind. The last time we had ponies here, some of my changelings were attacked.”

“My soldiers all have more common sense than Twilight Sparkle, your majesty. And none of us have any interest in seeing the food hall. Though I did notice a strange sight on the way in. I assume you’re using some ponies as mobile food distribution?”

“Astute. It is more efficient to bring the food to my changelings than have them go to the food. You needn’t worry about any of my changelings mistaking your troops for food, though. As long as they don’t cause trouble again, at least. I must say, I’d be quite disappointed if Navarone brought even more trouble to the hive.”

“We’ll be docile, as long as we’re left alone,” Watcher evenly replied. “We’ve all fought changelings at least once, and have no desire to do so again. Your kind are difficult and worthy opponents. We all prefer you as valuable allies than dangerous enemies.”

“Just as we prefer the ponies,” Chrysalis said with a nod. “If you would like, I can direct you toward the miners and let you assist them with planning the new tunnel. While you do that, your soldiers can get the full tour to get it out of the way.”

“That is acceptable, your highness. They’ll probably want to break into groups, though.”

“All the changelings know the city perfectly, so I have plenty of guides. And there are only so many locations they can go that are worth seeing, or wouldn’t cause a drop in efficiency to see, so it shouldn’t take too much time away from the guides.”

“Then by your leave, I will take Taya and my second in command to the miners.”

“Why do you need Taya?” I asked. She, of course, looked surprised by that as well.

“She will help with the digging,” Watcher said. “And of course, I believe the queen would like to have you alone. Or at least, I imagine that’s the kind of liaising she meant.”

“Again, astute,” Chrysalis said. “Return to your soldiers. I will have a runner bring you to the miners.”

Watcher bowed again. “Yes, your highness.” He stood back up and started walking out.

Taya sighed. “Daddy, why do you get to do everything without me?”

“This time, you can blame Watcher. But when you get to be my age and have a kid of your own, you’ll understand.”

“...I don’t think I want any foals.”

“Alright, so maybe you won’t understand. Either way, Watcher needs your help. Go be a big girl and help him.”

She hung her head and started walking back out as well. When she got to the door, she turned back to Chrysalis. “You better make my daddy squeal.” Before either of us could respond, she walked on out.

“Well, that was creepy,” I said, ruffling my feathers again.

“Your daughter is disturbingly mature for her age. I think I’m going to have her unfriendly eyes in my head the entire time I’m ravishing you…”

“So you’re saying you’ll be thinking of her the entire time you’re fucking me? I see how it is. Maybe I should go with Watcher and send her to you…”

“...Would you actually let me ravish your daughter?”

“If she wanted it and you were gentle, yes. I’m a terrible, terrible parent.”

“I don’t see how. It’s obvious you just want the best for your daughter. So of course you’d be willing to let me do it.”

Oh yeah, that’s totally it. “Uh huh. So, are we gonna send someone for Watcher or what?”

Her horn lit up and a small chime went off somewhere in the throne room. A few seconds later, a changeling entered from another hidden side door. “There are ponies in the front courtyard. Take the one called Watcher and whoever else he wants to the mining building. They have permission to use the miners to dig where they want.”

“Yes, your majesty,” the changeling said with a bow. It shortly exited the throne room from the main door, and then Chrysalis’s horn lit up again, making the chime go off.

Of course, another changeling appeared from yet another hidden door, making me wonder just how many of those things she had. “There is a group of ponies in the courtyard. Find fifteen sentients and take them to act as guides in the city. Do not take them to the food halls and do not take them anywhere the food ponies are not allowed. Listen to everything they say and report anything suspicious to me when their tours are finished.”

“Yes, my queen,” the fellow said before scuttling out.

“So now what?” I asked.

“Now, we have a long, hard conversation,” she said, fluttering down from her throne to land next to me. I leaned in for a kiss, but her horn lit up and we appeared in a sitting room that I hadn’t seen before. A very gaudy couch sat next to an empty fireplace and a large bookshelf full of shitty romance novels stood against the wall. When she gazed around, she pursed her lips and summoned a decent chair for me, setting it across from the couch. “I imagine a pony in Celestia’s castle probably just fell to the floor,” she idly said as she walked to the couch. “Sit.”

“When you said we were going to talk, I was kinda expecting sex,” I commented, walking to the chair.

“I can’t help but wonder what kind of thought process led you to that conclusion.”

“...Really wanting to have sex?”

“Pervert.” She took a moment to settle herself in amongst the plush cushions. “Though I suppose calling this a conversation is somewhat of a misnomer. I will be talking. You will be listening.”

“Well, you’re already doing better than Celestia, at least. She usually forces me to cuddle when she wants to do that.”

“Cuddling is not conducive to this type of… discourse. And I fear I might want to strangle something during the coming talk, so it might not be wise for you to be within my grasp.”

“If you try to strangle me, I can’t promise not to spank you.”

“Noted. Six thousand years ago, the alicorn race practically ruled the planet. Discord came and started destroying us. Some, he drove insane. Others, he broke into three, the original ponies.” She sighed and looked into the dark fireplace. “And he turned some into changelings.”

“Man, what a dick.”

“Celestia was a prodigy of healing magic at that time, though she was practically still a filly. I was her teacher, a midwife. A midwife that… wanted foals, but could never have them. We had heard of Discord’s actions, of course. And we saw their aftermath and did what we could to help the survivors. But a mother went into labor and we were the only pair in the area left to help her. It was a hard delivery… I still remember her pain and Celestia’s worried face. The mother didn’t make it, but the foal did. The last born alicorn. Little Luna herself… though that wasn’t her name at the time.”

“Oh, so that’s what Celestia meant when she said they weren’t actually sisters.”

“I don’t believe she ever actually told Luna. We barely had time to clean her before Discord himself showed up at the front door with an army of his monstrosities behind him. I knew I couldn’t do much, but I had to protect them… I made Celestia take the foal and run.” Her hooves started shaking slightly and her voice deepened. “When I finally met Discord, it was… a monster. You call me evil, you call me cruel. Discord is apathetic. Life means nothing to it. But it knew my weakness. It knew that I was barren and that I wanted foals of my own. It knew that and took advantage of it…”

As much as I kinda wanted to try to comfort her, I had a feeling that might end poorly. There wasn’t really much I could do anyway, aside from try to hug her or something.

“He offered me an army of foals. To make me the mother of all changelings.” She went silent for several long seconds. “I agreed,” she finally whispered. “With that came more caveats than I could have ever expected… He made me the mother of monstrosities. Parasites that survive by sucking happiness and life out of the world. Beings designed to be a mockery of all my kind once stood for. All for his sick amusement.”

Fuck it, yolo. I slid off the chair and hugged her. She barely seemed to notice, though her voice didn’t waver as much when she continued.

“There is nothing good about my kind, Nav. Changelings exist to destroy. All they… All we do is take from the world, and give nothing back.”

“That’s pretty much true of everything,” I quietly said. “Only you can define what’s worth leaving in this world, and only you can leave it. But I mean, it’s kinda hard to give anything back to the other races when you’re living in the darkness.”

“...A part of me hoped we would die like this. Isolated and alone, where no one would mourn us. Where we couldn’t hurt anyone…”

“If that’s really what you wanted, you wouldn’t have helped Celestia and Luna beat Discord. You wouldn’t have followed the ponies in the Great Migration after Grogar fixed the ice caps. You sure wouldn’t have attacked Canterlot.”

“Only a part of me wants that,” she sighed. “Discord did… something to me. I’m cursed with life. The changelings have died out before. But even without them… I can’t die. Can’t starve, though I can go so hungry I’d like to. I slowly brought them back from just myself.” Well, that explains why some of them are so stupid. “Call it selfish if you want, but I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to be the only one of my kind left…”

Even if your kind is evil and parasitic? “I know exactly how you feel,” I sighed. “It’s… lonely.”

“I agreed to this fate. You did not,” she said, pulling away slightly.

“That doesn’t make you any less of a victim. You may have agreed to it, but only because he tricked you, capitalized on your weakness. You don’t have to be the monster you think you are. You don’t have to be the monster you see in the mirror. You might have been alone once, but you have a kingdom now. You have a stable food source. And right now, you have someone willing to help you remember who you were once. It’s not too late to be Moonbeam again.” As soon as I said that name, she flinched.

“I… tried. The last time you were here. Do you remember?”

“Yes. You were doing well.” Not really, but baby steps.

“It’s not… I’m so used to having to yell and hurt my subjects to make them follow orders correctly that I… slipped into bad habits. I tried, but without someone here… It’s been so long since I tried to be a good mother that I honestly forgot how…”

“Being nice isn’t something you forget. It’s something you repress. You just gotta get back in the groove and it’ll come naturally.”

“That’s why I wanted you to stay, Nav…”

Oh boy. “Well, I’m here now. Any time I’m not giving to Taya is yours, until we finish mining. I want to help you, Chrysalis. I want you to be happy.”

She was silent for a few moments before relaxing. “It’s weird, how I always seem to find wisdom and comfort in those that are so young…”

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number, baby. “Spending so long on one mindset narrows your perspective. It’s not because I’m young, it’s because my mind is so alien. Where you see closed doors, I see opportunities. You can change. All it takes is doing it.”

“Which is no small thing, of course.”

“But do you think it’ll be worth it?”

It took her a while to say something, and when she did, she finally returned the hug. “I think it’ll be worth it to try.”

“Good.” We fell silent for around a minute. “So uh… when I let go, are you gonna kill me for using your real name?”

“If I had time to properly dispose of the body, I would,” she sarcastically replied as she used magic to lift me to my feet, placing me a meter away from her. “As it is, we have royal duties to which we must attend.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to keep cuddling?”

“What I want is so very rarely what I need,” she said, standing. “Our destination is on the far side of the hive, so we need to leave now.”

“We could just teleport, you know,” I commented as we started walking.

“I am rarely as lazy as the ponies. And spending time above the hive is wise. It occasionally enables me to find problems before they become serious. This will also enable us to see how the ponies are doing.”

“Alright, whatevs.”

She shook her head sadly. “Navarone, you are ranked too highly to use such… subspeak. You should stick to speaking properly.”

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

“There are times when your obstinate refusal to see sense infuriates me.”

“That’s part of the reason I do it, silly. You’re cute when you’re mad. And when you’re not.”

“...Somehow I have a feeling I’m going to regret asking you to stay by my side.”

“You know you love it.”

“Feh.” We were nearing the end of a hallway. Instead of a staircase or even a wall, there was just an empty doorway leading outside. She stopped at it, just staring into the hive. After a few moments, she quietly said, “Thank you for listening, Nav.”

“Thank you for telling me.”

“...And if you tell anybody else, I’ll wipe your mind and use you as a cuddle pillow.”

“There are worse fates.” She snorted, spread her wings, and jumped out of the window. When her skinny ass was out of the way, I joined her in the air. “So how’s the electricity going? I see some more lights this time.”

“It’s going well, though we’ve hit a few bottlenecks. It’s difficult to generate without enough running water or a stable heat source. We don’t have any coal or oil. We’re using magic in some places, but I would rather avoid it.”

If only you could use pump stacks to bring magma up here. “All you really need is heat. Wood can work on a small scale. Or, if you have enough time and care little enough about the lives of some drones, you could divert an entire surface river toward the cave. Or just start mining out and try to find more underwater rivers to tap into. Or, god help you, just dig deep enough until you actually find magma, then harvest it down there and use wires to transfer the energy to the hive.”

“Part of why I was so quick to agree to help you is because I was considering opening that tunnel back anyway to see if diverting the ant water source would be possible. We’ll just do it ahead of schedule.”

“Might want to make sure you aren’t going to kill Appaloosa, though. I don’t know where they draw their water, so if you divert something too badly, you might seriously mess with them.”

“That will be taken into consideration.”

“I mean it, Chrysalis. Part of being a better person is respecting your allies.”

“I said that it will be taken into consideration, Navarone.”

“Yeah, and what you meant is that you’d immediately disregard their needs.”

“Do not put meaning in my words where there is none. You don’t like those mudponies anyway.”

“That doesn’t mean they deserve to have their livelihoods destroyed.”

“Tch. It won’t interfere anyway. Do you really think even ponies would be dumb enough to build on top of a giant ant mound?”

“...Is that a trick question?”

“Fair enough.”

We were starting to come up on one of the walls of the cavern, which kinda made me wonder just where we were headed. There weren’t any buildings or changelings out here, but there did seem to be some kind of well-worn path heading to where we were going. “If you’re taking me to a rape dungeon, please be gentle and know I don’t like anal at all.”

“Noted.”

When we got close enough, I was finally able to tell that the path led toward an ornate door inlaid into the rock. It was the only side passage I had seen in the hive that had a doorway, so I figured it had to be something special or important. Or, as I kinda suspected, it actually was a rape dungeon, and she just wanted to be able to lock it behind her.

Whatever it was, I felt some kind of foreboding building up in me as I got closer.

“This shouldn’t take too long,” she commented as we started landing. “But I ask that you not speak unbidden while we are inside. This is a place of resting.”

“...Alright I guess. Don’t really know why you want me around if I can’t talk, but whatever.”

“You may speak when spoken to, but silence rules within.” We touched down and she inserted one of her hooves into the lock. After a few seconds, the door clicked and she slowly pulled it open. When it was wide enough for the two of us to fit inside, the lock released her and we walked on in.

Rather than the electric light that seemed prevalent in the main hive, this place was lit by candles and lanterns. My head started aching as soon as I got in, so I figured some of them were probably heavily scented, though I couldn’t smell anything offhand. The right and left walls each had a single column. The left one had dozens of tiny words carved into it from top to bottom. There was only a single changeling in the entrance room, and he bowed as soon as he saw Chrysalis.

We continued walking, and as soon as we got close to the changeling, he stood and started leading the way further into the strange area. The arched doorway led straight to a larger room, also lit by candles and lanterns. A changeling so old that his carapace looked somewhat grey stood in front of a column in the center of the room. His horn was glowing and a small spot on the very bottom of the column was lit up to match. The younger changeling from the door led us to him, then bowed again and walked back to the entrance room.

It didn’t take too long for the old guy to finish. When he did, he turned and saw us. He didn’t even bother bowing. “It is done, your majesty.”

“We will put it in the Hallway of Remembrance shortly, elder. Take us to the records. I need to review them.”

He nodded once and started walking to the only other door in that room. I decided to walk behind Chrysalis so I could stare at her ass, since it’s not like I was doing anything anyway. The next area branched off into three doors. The old guy and Chrysalis started walking to the one on the left. I took a second to look at the other two. The one on the right was some kind of studded metal door and I felt a strange heat coming to my skin when I gazed upon it. The other door was made of white marble, and seemed to draw my eyes.

I unwittingly felt myself walking toward that one, the sense of foreboding I felt disappearing. Something about it seemed to pull me in, make me wonder what was on the other side, though each step I took made my head seem to pound more and more. I heard someone calling something from the other side, something that sounded kinda like my name.

When I got to it, I saw that it had the same lock that the previous door had. I started to turn to ask Chrysalis to open it for me, but the thing slowly swung open on its own. Despite knowing that was a bad sign, I couldn’t stop myself from walking in, the headache growing worse and worse.

This next passage was a long hallway, lined by the same kinds of columns from the main room and the one in the center of the other room, but each of these were covered in words. There was no light, though my eyes ached from the pounding in my head anyway.

But that didn’t matter, because my feet were taking me to the end of the long hallway instead. The columns weren’t whispering to me. They weren’t calling my name, bidding me ever forward.

The heat I felt from looking at the other room was starting to be replaced by an eldritch chill that seemed to crawl over my skin and settle into my bones as I wandered further into the darkness. I felt myself wanting to stop and wished Flo would help me or kill the agony in my head, but my body was moving on its own, dragged by something outside my understanding.

Or perhaps by something that wanted me dead.

As I got closer to the end, the whispers started growing louder, though I still couldn’t really understand what they were saying over the pain in my head. I did start making out more voices, though. Many, many more. Dozens. Hundreds. Thousands. And whatever they were saying slowly started to coalesce as all the voices began to join as one.

When I finally got to the end of the hallway, I beheld a great abyss, a chasm of darkness with no end in sight. No roof, no walls, no floor, no light. And the voices were finally coherent, making me realize something very horrifying.

Ava and Nav sound eerily similar.

The voices were just chanting “Ava” over and over again. Thousands in unison, each one a screw digging into my already aching head. My hands went to both sides of the doorway, trying to hold myself up against the tide of thoughts crashing into me.

After battering me for what felt like an eternity, the restless spirits finally started falling silent. But I still felt their eyes upon me, until the last voice ceased its whispering. My head suddenly stopped hurting and I felt a sense of clarity.

Then all the voices spoke up at once. “Return to us, Ava. Die with us, Navarone.”

The voice was too compelling. I felt my fingers slipping from the doorway and I started falling into the pit of darkness.

Something arrested my fall moments after it started and dragged me out of the darkness, only to drop me on the floor. My eyes barely registered a look of rage across Chrysalis’s face when she moved into view, before she saw my eyes. “What…? Nav?”

One of my hands grabbed her closer hoof and she flinched back, trying to pull away. “What is this place?” I hissed.

“This room is where we remember our dead. That… chasm is where we throw their ashes. Why are your eyes blue? And why are you so cold?”

“I’m possessed,” I sighed, letting her go and relaxing on the floor. “When I went through that bunker in the south, some kind of spirit hooked onto my body. She… takes over occasionally. And it looks like the undead can influence me through her.”

“Well, they almost killed you. That fall would have been quite lethal. Though I don’t know why the changeling dead would bear you any ill will.”

“It’s a long and sad story that I don’t want to talk about while I’m on the floor.” I started to stand, but she put a hoof on my chest.

“I will send you back to the palace. I’m not going to risk them tricking you into the crematorium next. Though I don’t know how you even got the lock open.”

“With enough concentrated hate, anything is possible. Are my eyes green again?”

“Yes. I will see you shortly.” Her horn lit up and I teleported right onto her comfy bed.

“Well, that was a nice way to get out of doing stuff,” I said, relaxing.

“I would hardly call it nice,” Flo replied. “You nearly died. I couldn’t even take over to stop you. You might not be so lucky, next time. I suggest staying away from cemeteries and memorial halls.”

“Well, if she had told me that’s where we were going, I definitely wouldn’t have gone, just in case. Remind me to punch Watcher again, too. Haunt minds my ass. Also, is there a reason you’ve been so quiet? Dealing with Chrysalis was weird on my own.”

“You did a good job on your own. That’s mainly the reason I stayed silent. If you don’t need my advice and my commentary might be distracting, why would I speak up? You took a few risks that I probably wouldn’t have tried, but they paid off. But that isn’t what should be concerning you right now. We absolutely must find some way to deal with Ava. It might be time to risk going back into Athena’s maze.”

“If she didn’t know how to get rid of it, what makes you think there’s a book in there that’ll tell me how?”

“Not tell you how, no. But maybe there’s one that will lead you to someone who can. In the… visions you had in the maze, Grogar seemed disinterested in harming others unless they sought to harm him. There’s a chance he might be willing to help you, if he’s still alive.”

“And there’s a chance he might disintegrate me on sight. And even if he wouldn’t, I’d still have to get to him, and if he’s still alive, he probably picked the most dangerous place possible to put down his new base so less people would bother him. Something definitely needs to be done, but I don’t think going to Grogar is the right idea.”

“It’s the only idea we have.”

“There might be a coven of necromancers in the mage tower.”

“Necromancy is banned. And even if it wasn’t, I rather doubt there would be any ponies that know more about it than Celestia or Athena. At least, not any with a normal life span. Grogar is supposedly a lich, so he’s had plenty of time to dedicate solely to necromancy. He’d probably know more than anyone else that we know about. It’s not a good option, but it’s the option we have.”

I sighed. “God dammit. Think I should send a letter to Celestia first?”

Of course, Chrysalis chose that moment to walk in. “A letter about what? And to whom do you speak?”

“An artificial intelligence created by humans that lives in my bloodstream. I want to ask if Celestia knows where Grogar the lich is, or if he’s still alive.”

“He hasn’t been alive for a long time, but I believe he is still active. The last I heard of him, Celestia sent him an ultimatum demanding that he go to Tartarus. That was… ages ago. Why would you want to see him?”

“To see if he can pull this asshole ghost out of me. Celestia couldn’t, an ancient goddess of knowledge couldn’t, and she refuses to leave on her own. But I’m not gonna go into Tartarus for it.”

“Wise. It sounds like you have been busy since last we spoke.”

“Oh yeah. Found a magic antique store that gave me stuff to help in my fight against Discord, got attacked by an assassin from Discord, helped Cadance kill Sombra in the Crystal Empire, found out the secret behind South America, became a queen, was a pawn in the clash of goddesses, got cursed by Discord into a female body, found Atlantis, got sucked into an ancient evil human bunker, and then got embroiled in Canterlot politics.”

“So the Crystal Empire is back… Interesting. Well, you might as well start from the top.”

“Want to lie down? This bed is pretty comfy.”

“I know how your dirty hands like to reach and grab. I would like to stay unsullied for the moment, thank you. It will make claiming you all the more sweet when it’s time.” She used magic to drag another ornate and fluffy couch over so she could drape herself over it.

“Hot. Don’t really know how to begin.”

“The important things that happened after we last saw each other in Stalliongrad.”

“Alright. Once upon a time…” She used magic to slap me. “Just joking, god. A few days after you tortured me by telling Kumani why I left, shit got weird…”

 
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