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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125. Chapter One Hundred and Two—Come into my lair...

Several shocked expressions looked my way at that line. I was too busy calling orders to pay much attention to them. “Fluttershy, below!” She squeaked and fucking vanished, the door to the lower level slamming shut. “Cut these damn ropes!” As I said that, I pulled out my sword and started doing just that. Unfortunately, the things were fucking hard. “Watcher, make sure the propeller is secure! If we get bogged down, we’re fucked!”

“It’s secured!” he called, his horn glowing brighter.

“Taya, Twilight, to the middle!” They jumped to obey, thankfully not questioning me. “Everyone, pick a unicorn and guard them! Unicorns, get to cutting these fucking ropes!” Those that were shocked before jumped at that order and all the horns on the deck lit up. Unfortunately, not much seemed to be happening, since the ropes were just that fucking strong.

“Can we fly?” Gilda asked, her wings already spread.

“Last resort only! These spiders will shoot you out of the fucking air, I bet. Protect the unicorns!” Her eyes narrowed, but she followed the order, standing next to Twilight.

The ship seemed to fold into silence, accentuated only by the odd twang of the occasional cut rope as the unicorns, the naga, or I managed to pierce one. Of the thirty or so that struck at us, I think we managed to cut off less than half before the first spider the size of Big Mac pulled itself over the side.

It just had to be fucking spiders, didn’t it? I thought to myself as I bisected several of its legs before it could get all the way over the side and kicked what was left over the side.

Something yanked me backwards by one of my wings as another one landed where I had been standing. One of the unicorns shot it over the side as well, though I saw another rope quickly attach where it had fallen.

“Go for killing blows!” I shouted over the din of battle, unicorns shooting and the ponies doing their best to hold their ground.

Sadly, I didn’t have the luxury of cutting more ropes, since the battle had definitely started in earnest. Massive spiders were crawling over the edges, their chitinous eight legs clicking nastily on the deck as they moved in to surround the crew, most of which was situated in the middle of the deck.

“Naga, to the helm!” If the spiders captured the helmsman, they could force us to fly anywhere they wanted us to.

Ames didn’t answer with words. One of his massive hands grabbed a spider by one of its legs and dragged it into his sword, then started slithering to the stairs heading up to the stallion that was protecting the wheel.

Shouting orders drew the attention of all the spiders to me, and since I wasn’t in the middle with the others but instead closer to the edge, they quickly began converging on my location. I shuddered in my armor as I saw their eight-eyed gazes shift to me, mandibles clicking in what I could only assume to be sick glee.

In response, I sprinted to the main group of unicorns, most of which were shooting (hopefully) lethal bolts of magic out into the mass of spiders. A blast of something caught one of my wings and jerked me to the side before I could get there, and I was spun to face one of the giant spiders right in front of me.

Before I could react, it lifted on its four back legs and moved its spinneret to face me, where I learned that the ropes they were using were web. My sword jammed into its abdomen before it could shoot off any more of its webs to ensnare me, making its body twitch and then its legs curl up around me and the sword still inside.

I had a minor panic moment when I thought it was trying to bring me closer to bite me, but then I realized that it was just dead and that’s what spiders do when they die. One of my hands pushed it back, forcing it and its nasty legs away from me. But before I could get to the group, another spider replaced it.

Instead of trying to spin me up, this one just pounced on me, dragging me to the ground. Two of its front legs began striking over and over at my armor, trying to get to the sweet, juicy meat within. The other two front legs were holding my arms down, making me unable to strike at it.

In response, I pulled my legs up and kicked the motherfucker with both legs, pushing it up and off me. Of course, spiders are, as ever, strong and fast, so it was back on me just as quickly. This time, however, I had my sword up. When it pounced on me again, it got a body full of ancient, hallowed steel. I rolled over, pulling its already curling body with me, and jerked the sword out, then stood.

About five of the spiders were still left, all up on the helm with the naga and the helmsman, both of whom seemed slightly overwhelmed, though they were doing well anyway. As I sprinted up the stairs, the naga killed another one and the unicorn crushed one, leaving just three left.

Their eight eyes didn’t do them any favors against me, and I caught one off guard, cutting straight through its backside and leaving it writhing on the ground, fluids of some kind leaking out of the back. The helmsman used magic to slam one of the remaining ones into the other as they both tried to take on Ames. The naga took advantage of that and sent one off to the void, nearly cutting the entire thing in half.

The two of them turned to the other, who seemed to have some broken legs, just as I jumped and used my wings to push myself on top of it, forcing it to the ground. “Hold it down!” I shouted, wanting it alive.

Both of them seemed to understand, and Ames quickly slithered close, then used his tail to wrap the spider up, despite its furious writhing.

“Helm, straight up! As high as we can go!”

The dude blinked a few times, the combat fervor in him and his bloodlust high, before nodding and numbly turning back to the steering wheel. Soon, we were soaring straight up, though there were still a few webs hanging from the side.

“Twilight, get up here!” I shouted over the sounds of the wounded and the clicking of the spider’s legs on the deck. A second later, a visibly disturbed Twilight teleported up to where we were. “Hold this thing down!” I ordered. Her eyes widened and she did so, each of its legs flattening against the ground.

Ames and I hesitantly pulled back from it, not sure if either of us trusted that it would actually be restrained. Despite the awful hissing sounds it was making, it didn’t seem like it was going anywhere.

“Naga, guard it. Twilight, make sure it doesn’t go anywhere.” They both seemed to understand and I ran to the divider between the helm area and the deck area, looking at the damage. Then I immediately discarded it as currently unimportant. “Watcher, cleanup! Throw all the spiders off the side, dead or alive! Earth ponies, find all our wounded, get them to the center! Gilda, Kumani, cut those fucking ropes!”

Each person I called scrambled to do as I said. Well, not each person… “What do you mean, throw the live spiders overboard?” Dash demanded. “You can’t do that!”

“Fucking watch me,” I growled, not even looking at her as I started looking for webs on the side of the ship to cut. She either realized it wouldn’t do any good to debate the point or she realized there were better things she could be doing, because she shut the fuck up.

About five minutes later, our ship was too high to attack and presumably clear of any spiders but our prisoner. All the webs that we could find had been sliced through. “Ship’s clear!” Watcher called.

“Applejack, go find me the strongest rope or chain you can find,” I said, walking over to Watcher.

“You got it,” she answered, awkwardly running below. She still wasn’t quite used to that armor.

“Losses?” I asked Watcher.

“Five injured. Two are poisoned. Never seen anything like this poison, sir. Zecora, Kat, and Nightshade are looking it over now.”

“They gonna make it?” I asked.

“Probably. Did you catch one alive?”

“Yep. Up top, next to the helm.”

Watcher nodded, then turned to where Zecora was working. “We got a live one at the helm,” he called over her way. She looked up, then motioned Nightshade up. “If they can get the poison, an antidote should be easy.”

“Good. No deaths? No kidnapping?”

“No sir. We were extremely lucky. I think they were looking for prisoners. Probably expected us to be a merchant ship, not a military ship.”

“If they’re intelligent. It’s possible they’re not.”

“Something unintelligent wouldn’t attack like that.”

“It’s never simple, is it?”

“No sir.”

As he said that, Captain Gourd walked up. “All present and account for,” he said with a nod. “Orders?”

“Hold at this height,” I said. “No moving. Double watches. Comb the ship, make sure we got them all. That includes inside; I broke into this ship once, so I know it’s possible. We don’t know what they can do with magic, so we’ll assume it’s compromised until we do a sweep.”

He nodded. “Aye aye.”

“Yes sir,” Watcher said, then went to call orders.

Before I could do anything else, Applejack stopped right in front of me, a coil of rope on her back. “Whaddaya need?” she asked.

I nodded to the stairs heading up. “Tie the prisoner up. I want absolutely no chance of it breaking free. I don’t care if it’s uncomfortable or not, make sure it stays tied.”

“Easy enough,” she said, already trotting that way, the rope bouncing to match her gait.

With her gone, I started looking for something to clean my sword. Instead, I found a daughter attached to my leg. “That was fun, daddy,” she said, smiling as she hugged me.

“You have a really weird definition of fun,” I said, hugging her with the arm without the sword.

“You probably would have enjoyed it more if you weren’t in the middle,” she matter-of-factly said.

“...If you say so. Can you get this goop off my sword?” It had all crystallized from the cold, so wiping it off would have been hard. As she did magic to it, I finally took a moment to actually look at the pale blue substance. It seemed surprisingly similar to that of everything else, just blue instead of red or green.

When the sword was clean, I put it away. “What about your armor?” she asked.

“Might as well get it off of that, too. Did any of them get close to you?”

“Nope! I was right next to Twilight, so we were perfectly safe. We even got to save you!”

So that was who tugged on my wing. “Thanks. I definitely wouldn’t want to get tackled that close to the edge. Now, go help with the wounded. I’m going to see how the prisoner’s doing.”

“Ooh, can I help with it instead?”

“No. Helping our people is more important, but I can’t do much for them. You know some healing and can help.”

She sighed and nodded. “Okay, daddy.” Then she let go of my leg and trotted over to the wounded, most of whom had already been healed. With her heading over there, I walked over to the staircase going up and made my way to the helm, where Applejack was quickly trussing up our guest. The spider was, of course, still struggling like mad against the ropes and Twilight’s magic.

“Any problems?” I asked.

“Just won’t sit still,” Applejack said. “But we’re gettin’ it tied.”

“Good.” I walked over to the front of the spider, making sure my metal boots clanked menacingly on the ground. “Can you talk?” I asked it.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting any kind of answer. Everyone jumped when it hissed, “I will tell you nothing, ape!”

“We’ll see about that. Kumani!”

The dragoness stopped looking for more webs and quickly showed up next to me. “What do you need, Nav?” she asked.

“When this thing is tied up, drag it down to the cargo hold. Avoid undue damage, if possible. Naga, go with her.”

“Sure you don’t want me to break any legs?” Kumani asked.

“No, I’ll leave that up to Kat, if it comes to that.”

Twilight gasped, jerking her head my way. “You’d let Kat near her?!”

“I have ways of making this thing talk other than Kat, don’t you worry,” I quickly said, not wanting to hear Twilight start whining. But if the key didn’t work on it… Well, Kat might.

Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. “Alright… What do you want me to do after it’s tied up?”

“Talk to your friends. Let them know we’re all fine. But keep them below and absolutely make sure they don’t go to the cargo hold.”

“Alright, that’s easy enough…”

I nodded and went back down to the deck, where Kat was idly standing around, apparently not as good with poisons as the other two. “What do you know about spider anatomy?” I asked her.

“Almost nothing,” she answered with a shrug. “Eight legs, eight eyes, poison, webs.”

“Go talk with Fluttershy. Learn as much as you can, but don’t tell her why. I might have you try to interrogate one, if I can’t get it to talk.”

“I… don’t think Fluttershy likes me.”

Probably because she read my journals. “Too bad. I want to know if these things can be tortured or not. Fluttershy’s probably the only here that knows much about spiders. Just tell her I sent you.”

She nodded. “Alright, whatever. Hope I don’t have to drag her from under a bed…” She went to the stairs heading down, which left me without anything to do. Since I wanted to pretend to be a good leader, I walked over to the two remaining wounded, the two troops that were poisoned.

Nightshade was standing with them, Zecora having already went below for her equipment. “They gonna be alright?” I quietly asked her.

“Yes sir,” she answered with a nod. “We thought it was more dangerous at first, but it looks like a standard paralyzer. We’re thinking they wanted prisoners.”

“Excellent. Say, doesn’t your group have an actual medic?”

“Yes sir. He’s lying right there,” she answered, pointing to one of the paralyzed fellows.

“...Inconvenient. Do you think Zecora can make a lot of antivenom? I really don’t want to risk getting anyone paralyzed until she can make some more.”

“I really don’t know, sir,” she answered.

Too many unknowns… “Well, carry on,” I said with a nod. She saluted and went back to doing nothing. I went on down the stairs, heading to my room. I suspected the ship was cleared, and Watcher told me as much when I passed him going down the hall.

Taya was waiting in front of my room. Together, we went on inside. “So when are you gonna talk to the prisoner?” Taya asked.

“When it’s in the hold,” I answered, pulling the gauntlets and helmet off. “And I don’t want you anywhere near it. We don’t know what these things can do, so we’re going to assume they’re dangerous even with ropes all around them.”

She just sighed as I grabbed the gene-locked chest and popped it open. “So how are you going to interrogate it?” she asked.

“With the key, if it works. Flo, do you think you can hijack her mind like we did for Eva?”

“Probably. But it would be a lot harder. Fighting through resistances is… difficult. You’d be better off asking Watcher if he has someone that can force through memories. And for the record, I don’t approve of using Kat for this.”

“I don’t either. She’s a last resort.” With the key in hand, I closed the box and pushed it back where it was supposed to go. “I’m gonna go see the prisoner. If there’s an emergency, I’ll be in the cargo hold.”

“Are you sure I can’t go?” Taya hopefully asked.

“Yes, I’m quite sure.” I walked back out. Taya sighed and walked to her room while I walked the other way, toward the hold. They were dragging the spider down as I walked, with it still struggling. Watcher and his command squad were with Kumani and the naga, making sure it didn’t break free.

When it was settled, we all backed away from it. “You want me to question it?” Watcher asked.

“You got a mind reader?” I asked.

“I can do it, but I have someone in my squad that specializes in it. He’s asleep, though.”

“Leave him, for now.” I approached the spider that watched me, hate in each of its eyes. “What’s your name?” It didn’t respond. “Alright, fine. Be that way.” I held my key up. “Didn’t care about your name anyway. Why did you attack?”

“For slaves,” it answered, its eyes glazing over.

“Figures.” Its eyes blinked a few times, confused. But after a few seconds, it just looked back up at me with hate again, dismissing the trance. “Are all of your kind hostile?”

“To outsiders and to males, yes,” it hissed.

“...Why males?” I asked without thinking.

It answered anyway. “Weak! Contemptuous! Cowardly! Good for breeding and pleasure, little else.”

The naga started growling and said, “And yet you were captured by them. Who is the weak one here, female?”

“Three against one is hardly fair, naga!” the spider hissed.

“And thirty against twenty is?” I asked with a smirk. It refused to answer, just went back to glaring at me. “Alright, is there anything your kind wouldn’t attack on sight?”

“Sanctioned traders. Guests of a powerful house.”

“Hm. So how do we become sanctioned? Or a guest?”

You don’t, male.”

“...How would a female become sanctioned? Or a guest?”

“Speak with the head of a house and hope she doesn’t have you killed on sight.”

“What’s a good way of not getting killed on sight?”

“Proving your power.”

“Would killing thirty of your soldiers count as proving our power?”

“Your ship has killed twenty-nine, not thirty.”

I heard at least two grins behind me and Kumani said, “That can quickly be fixed.”

“Indeed it can,” I said. “Answer the question.”

“It might, depending on the mood of my lady. But if a male goes before her, that male will be enslaved and used for her personal pleasure.”

“Lovely. I bet she’s just the sweetest lover, isn’t she?” The spider didn’t answer. “Someone go get me a map.”

“I will never tell you where we live!” it hissed as Kumani shrugged and started walking out the hold.

“You’ve been plenty forthcoming so far. Keep this up and I might actually give you back to your lady alive.”

She flinched, jerking the ropes. “I’d rather you just kill me now! There’s nothing you could do that would be worse than what she’ll do to me!”

“Good. Maybe she’ll be in a better mood after torturing you. Watcher, you got any questions?”

“Do they have magic?” he asked me.

“Well, spider? Does your kind have magic?”

Something dribbled from its mouth, something I could only assume was it spitting in disgust. “What need have we for magic?”

“How can we get into contact with your lady?” Watcher asked. I repeated the question.

“You don’t.”

Well, that’s comforting. The arrival of Kumani with the captain and a map cut off our questions. She passed it to me and I laid it down on the floor in front of the spider. “Where is your lady on this map?” I asked.

“How am I supposed to point?” the spider replied.

“Kumani, pull one of her legs free. But if it does anything other than move to the map, break it immediately.”

“You got it,” she answered with a nod, stepping up to the spider.

When the leg came free, I immediately asked the question again. The spider slowly pointed her trembling leg at a spot on the map, using its spiked tip to poke a small hole through the location. As soon as the hole was there, Kumani grabbed the leg and forced it back into the rope.

“...Where did we even get that map, anyway?” I asked. “Isn’t this place unexplored?”

“Flo,” Gourd answered, using magic to pull the map over. “Looks like there’s a lake right next to it. If we had to, we could settle the ship there.”

“Got anymore questions?” I asked.

“Permission to wake my mind-reader up?” Watcher asked. “He can search through her memories, get a more accurate view of everything.”

“Go for it. I need to find Twilight. Kumani, naga, take turns watching her. She breaks a leg free, break the leg. She breaks free completely, kill on sight. Anyone but me or a soldier comes down here, tell them to fuck off.”

“It will be my pleasure,” Ames said, drawing his large sword that he somehow found time to clean.

“Well, if he finds it fun, he can take first watch,” Kumani said. “I’m heading topside. This thing stinks.”

“Do you want us to start flying this way?” Gourd asked, looking up.

I looked back to the spider. “How far can you see?”

“At night, to the horizon. At day, not very well.”

“Who knows what time it is?” I asked.

“They already know we’re here,” Kumani said. “Does it really matter if they see us even if they can’t get to us?”

“Yes.”

“Midafternoon,” Watcher said. “We have several hours until dark.”

“Start flying us there, then,” I said. “Save us some time, later. Watcher, go wake that guy up, get him started on her.”

“Yes sir.” Soon enough, it was just me, the naga, and the spider left in the room.

“I do not like this, human,” he said.

“Me either. And I have a bad feeling about it. But you gotta do what you gotta do. Keep your eyes on her.”

“I would jump at the chance to wound her, don’t you worry.”

There wasn’t anything I could say to that, so I started tracking down Twilight. She wasn’t hard to find, thankfully, since she was just in a room with some of her friends, reading a book. They all looked up when I entered. “How’s the prisoner?” Twilight asked.

“Just fine. My key worked on her, thankfully. I need you to help me plan a surprise tonight.”

“What kind of surprise?”

“Do you still know that invisibility spell?”

I don’t think there’s a better show of power than a ship bristling with weapons suddenly appearing almost directly above your seat of power. Almost, because we were over the lake instead. After determining that the spider could read and doing a small amount of scouting, we quickly determined the best course of action: Using a ballista to shoot a note directly at the leader’s room.

“Nice fucking shot,” I said to Jak, who was aiming the device. He managed to get it to stick into the tree in front of where the spider chick presumably lived.

“I’ve had a bit of practice,” he gruffly answered.

“Definitely stirred them up. Be ready with an incendiary in case they get hostile,” I said.

“Aye. Smiles, you heard him! Er… her.”

“Yes sir,” the bat horse quickly answered, grabbing one of my homemade rounds and fitting it to the groove. “Loaded and ready.”

I nodded and went back to where Watcher was standing. “How long should we give them before firing a warning shot?”

“Given that structure looks like it was built with web and wood, I’d say your idea of a warning shot would almost immediately destroy it, killing everything inside. But give them half an hour.”

“Got it. If I’m not on deck, give the order. I’m going to go get suited up.”

“Yes si—ma’am.”

“Don’t get too used to it,” I said, my higher voice doing a fairly decent job of getting across my annoyance.

“Still better not to let her think you might be faking. Though why you couldn’t just use a proxy…”

“What female here is in a command position?” I asked. “And really, who would you trust with it?”

“I could trust one of my troops…”

“But?”

“But yes, I’d rather it be one of us. It’s a good thing you have those stones.”

“Yeah. I’m going to go see if I can fit into anything that doesn’t make me look like shit. Find me if anything happens.”

“Alright.”

When Taya saw me heading below, she immediately joined me. Together, we went back to my room. “So, Taya. You’re good with fashion and shit, right?”

“Ugh.”

“Want to help me pick out an outfit?”

“Daddy, please…”

“Oh, we can put makeup on each other and brush each other’s hair and talk about boys!”

“Do girls really do that?”

“I dunno, maybe? But seriously though, what the fuck am I supposed to wear?”

We both looked around my room, not seeing much in the way of choices. Though that was probably because all of my clothes were put away, and thus not readily on display.

Thankfully, Flo came to my rescue. “There are really only two choices,” she said. “Do you remember the outfit that fashion designer made for you in Flankfurt?”

“...Yes, actually. Did I pack that?”

“You did. Said you didn’t have much else, so you might as well pack it just in case.”

“Huh.”

“What, daddy?” Taya asked as I walked over to my drawers.

“Flo reminded me of something. But that’s not very protective, is it?” I asked, reaching around in one of the drawers.

“Then there’s the other choice,” Flo said. “Remember your carbon nanotube armor?”

I slowly looked up to face the wall, blinking a few times. “Holy shit, I actually have that. How strong do you think it is?”

“Nav, I have all the files from your computer. That armor is hundreds of times stronger than steel.”

“Then why the fuck didn’t you tell me this before now?!”

“No one knows what it is but you. Steel armor cuts a very imposing figure, something to shy away from in battle. The other armor would make you more of a target, and its helmet is… lacking.”

“Man, whatever. Do you know where I put it?”

“Bottom drawer.”

“Thanks, babe.” I reached down there and grabbed the bulky suit.

“So what’s that, daddy?” Taya asked.

“A suit of professionally made carbon nanotubes, which are very tough, light, and protective. Human science thing. Wish I could get the tech to make more.”

“Why can’t you?” Taya asked as I started putting the suit on over my clothes.

“Don’t have the tools needed to make the tools needed to make the yada yada. This world’s so far behind on tech that it’s not even funny. Feels… loose. And tight.”

“It was specially fitted for your male body,” Flo said.

“Nothing I can do about it. And it’s better than trying to squish into the metal armor.” The carbon stuff had some give, letting my newfound breasticals and more curved ass fit instead of just making it hard to breathe or move. “What do you think, Taya?”

“Plenty of pockets,” she said, looking me over. “And you’re sure this stuff is safer than steel?”

“Yes.” I reached over to where I left the sword belt and buckled it on. Then my knife went on, followed by a string of throwing knives. I slipped two spare magazines into some pockets and checked my rifle, making sure there was one up the spout. It wasn’t pumped, so it was safe, but at least it was ready to fire if I needed. “Let’s do this.”

“And I’m going with you, right?” she quickly asked.

“Hell no. Let’s go.” She grumbled as we walked up to the deck. Kumani and the spider were both already up there, with the spider still very tied up.

Kumani smiled when she saw me. “You look cute, dear.”

“I don’t know if I should be insulted or not. But as ever, you’re beautiful.”

She smirked and grabbed me as I tried to go to the side. Before I could protest, she pulled me up for a kiss. Her tongue snaked down my throat for a second or two before she pulled it back out. “Maybe when you get back, I can see if you still taste so good even when I’m not in season.”

“Maybe,” I neutrally answered. Sure, sex as a chick was interesting, but I’d much rather have my dick. She pecked me on the lips again before letting me fall. One of her claws gently traced my wing as I walked over to the edge, pulling up my rifle. “Movement?” I asked Jak.

“They know we’re here,” he answered. “And they don’t seem to like it.”

“Any sign of them having siege weapons?”

“None yet.”

“Hm.” I pulled the rifle up, looking through the scope. The bolt with the message was gone and spiders were crawling all over the fort, most of them with some kind of purpose. As I watched, one of them gripped what looked like our bolt, with a note attached. It used all four of its front legs and tossed the thing halfway across the fort, where another spider caught it. “Watcher, get ready for something.”

“I see it,” he answered as the spiders continued tossing it. Soon, it was flying straight at us. He ripped it from the air before it got too close and brought it in. I walked his way and he read it aloud: “Prove it.”

“Jak, pick a target and burn it to the fucking ground.”

“With pleasure. May I?” he asked, holding his hand out for the rifle. I passed it over, letting him use the scope. “Beautiful contraption,” he muttered. “Nice scope. Looks like six times.”

“Should be at six, yeah. But I think it can go up to ten, not that it could ever shoot that far. It can also look through walls.”

He turned my way, eyebrows raised. “Can you turn that on for me?”

“Sure.” I toggled the weak x-ray for him. “It’s not very strong, so it might not get through this, but…”

“Smiles, two points left, four points down.” The ballista quickly reaimed. “On my mark. One. Two. Mark.” It fired, launching its explosive ordnance toward whatever target he specified. The minotaur chuckled as the bolt exploded.

“What did you blow up?” I asked when he handed the rifle back.

“I have no idea. But there were a lot of them inside.”

I detoggled the x-ray and looked back through the scope. The movement we saw before was nothing compared to what those things were doing now. They were coming out of everything to try to put out the fire. “Someone bring me a pen and some paper,” I called, holstering the rifle.

Spike, who was no longer delegated to protecting those on the lower decks, quickly pulled both out of nowhere. “Need me to write?” he asked.

“Go for it. Simple message for you. Tell them they have fifteen minutes to produce a leader I can talk to before I turn that fort into a smoldering pile of ashes.”

“Doesn’t that seem kinda… harsh?” he asked, looking up.

“That’s the point. Write it.” He shrugged and did so, then handed the note to Smiles, who attached it to another bolt. Soon, it was flying back to the same general area as the first one. “Watcher, prep your pegasi. We go in five. Spike, crossbow up, aimed to protect us. Jak, you know how to fire this thing?” I asked, holding up the rifle.

“I believe I can figure it out, yes,” he answered, taking it from me. “Trigger to fire, pump to bring ammunition in?”

“Close. Pump readies it to fire. Two pumps and it can go through a full mag. Semi-automatic; you keep pulling the trigger until it clicks. Range is close to max, but we’re way above them anyway, so you should be fine aiming dead at them. Hear that, Spike?”

“Yeah. I don’t know if I can hit anything from this range, though. That’s… pretty far.”

“I trust that you can do it, Spike. Don’t let me down.”

“...Alright, Nav.”

“Jak, if they attack us, make sure you burn their base down before you start firing.”

“Aye. Smiles, load incendiary.”

“Yes sir!”

“Kumani, get that prisoner ready to transport,” I said, walking back to the stairs leading down. Kumani shrugged, not having much of anything to do. “Kat, come with me.” She jumped to obey, following me as we went below. “You’re in charge of the radio again,” I said. “I’ll be bringing one with me just in case.”

“Do I have to? The screeching sound on it makes my hair stand up straight.”

“Spike and Jak are sniping. The naga might crush the poor thing. Kumani’s coming with me. Who else on board has anything approaching fingers?”

“Doppel could.”

“Just use the damn radio,” I said, pushing it into her paws. She reluctantly took it, eyeing the thing with distaste. “Hopefully I won’t even need it, but better safe than sorry.” I put another one of the set onto my belt. “Need anything else while we’re down here?” I asked.

“Just a question, one I hope doesn’t offend,” she said. “When you get back on the ship, can I see your female body? I won’t touch, of course! I just want to see it.”

“Sure. Might even do a little strip-tease, if you promise not to tell Kumani.”

“I’m not interested in… that. I just want to see how female humans look.”

I shrugged and brushed past her to my door. “Whatever. Just remind me before I get out of this thing.” She followed me to the top, where very little had changed aside from all the squads standing on deck. Each group’s pegasus was standing at the railing, with Kumani at the center with the spider. “Movement?” I asked.

“Looks like a delegation is coming,” Watcher said.

“Let’s not leave them waiting. Kumani, be ready to blast flames. Jak, Spike, overwatch. Kat, see anything sneaking up on us, radio in. Gilda, be ready to move in for support.”

“I’m going, too!” Dash called.

“Naga, hold her here.” She squawked as one of his arms grabbed her. “Match my pace. Let’s go.” I put a boot to the rail and jumped off, quickly spreading my wings and sailing. The others grouped into some kind of formation behind me.

I wasn’t in any hurry, since I was pretending the spider bitch wasn’t worth my time. Even at the slow pace, though, we made it at about the same time as the delegation from the spider fortress made it. Of course, we were as close to the lake as possible. As soon as we touched down, the pegasi took up positions around me, making sure nothing could sneak out of the water behind us. Kumani put her foot on the spider’s back, making sure it didn’t go anywhere.

Soon, the spiders stood off from us. The one in the center of their ten-spider delegation was a spider in ornate armor, covering her entire body and up to the first joint of her legs. “I see you have something of mine,” she croaked, her voice unused to speaking.

“We won her in battle,” I said.

“Name a price. An example must be made.”

“I want the status of a sanctioned trader or a guest of your house.”

“No. That will require much more than the life of a slave. I will pay goods for her head, not favors.”

“How about information, then?” I asked.

“Ask your question, then, ape-female.”

“How can I go about getting the status of sanctioned trader or guest of your house?”

Half of her eyes closed as she thought, or at least I was hoping she was thinking. After a few seconds, she asked, “Why do you require this status, outlander?”

“You are in no position to be asking questions. We put three bolts into your fort. If you cross me, you will find out personally what they do to armor.”

“Fair trade,” she snarled, her eight eyes narrowing. “If you wish for my assistance, you will assassinate my rival.”

“Why not just go to your rival for help, instead?”

“Because she is stronger than I and would refuse to even see you. Your precious ship will not fly underground, so you will not browbeat her as you have me.”

“Kumani, the prisoner.” The sexy dragoness grabbed the ropes and tossed the trembling spider toward the others. Their group quickly converged on it, making sure it didn’t get away.

“Take her to my harem,” the lady said. “Give her to the males. Tell them she is a gift to do with as they please.” The prisoner immediately started screeching in horror. “If she is alive in the morning, give her to the captain. I believe some of her cannon fodder males have some pent up aggression.”

Man, I didn’t even know spiders could cry! The prisoner sure was doing her best at it, anyway. Two of the lady’s entourage dragged her away without a care in the world, though. “How do we meet this rival of yours?” I asked.

“The entrance is within our fort. You and two others will act as sanctioned traders, going below. My troops will accompany you to my remaining hold in the city. Killing the high priestess is your concern, not mine.”

“Why only two?”

“Because that is the law, outlander. Are those terms acceptable or not?”

“Very well. It will be a minor delay, nothing more. I suggest having your troops ready for the hostile takeover when she is dead. Should I die within those depths, there will be nothing left of this fort.”

“Do not assume yourself too powerful!” the spider hissed. “You may be strong, outlander, but our priestess is guarded well. You will be hard-pressed to even gain entrance within her abode.”

“I’ll figure something out. How open are your caves?”

“It is a massive chamber with sprawling spires, busy markets, and a thriving undercity. There will be plenty of room for your wings… should you dare use them.”

“Can we bring weapons?” I asked.

“My troops are supposed to search every trader that enters our hives for weapons. So carry nothing visible, or you will be arrested on sight and sold into slavery. Probably sex slavery, for one as… delectable as you.”

Comforting. “We will return within the hour,” I said, spreading my wings. We all took off without another word, leaving the spiders behind. As we flew, I made a few plans. When we got on the ship, Watcher immediately walked over. “Kat, get Doppel and meet me in the planning room. Watcher, Gourd, let’s go.”

“I’m going,” Kumani said.

“We’ll talk.” No she isn’t. “Jak, keep an eye on those spiders. Any sign they might be attacking, get us immediately.”

“Aye, Nav.” Then I led the way to our rather nice planning room. Kumani, Taya, the naga, and Rainbow Dash invited themselves, making the room somewhat crowded.

“So what’s the news?” Dash excitedly asked when we were all in.

“We gotta do the head spider bitch a favor before she’ll sanction us. Assassinate a priestess or something. Unfortunately, we gotta be underground for it to work.”

“Could be a trap,” Watcher said.

“I know. Only three of us can go.” Everyone started talking at once, all volunteering. I held up a hand to silence them. “I’m taking Kat and Doppel.”

“WHAT?!” Dash yelled. Kumani also said something, but it was drowned out by Dash, who then launched herself in the air to fly right in front of my face. “You’d trust them over me?!”

“Kat is an assassin, Dash. And Doppel can turn into anything she wants, so she can get us into places. If we’re going to be doing assassinations, I want stealth and quick, clean killing, not mindless bravado.” Kumani opened her mouth, but I continued, “And do you really think they’d allow a dragon to go unwatched down there?” I asked. “Think. When we’re down there, we’re not supposed to have any weapons. That’s so they don’t have to watch us all the time. But a dragon is a weapon. You go with us, there’ll be eyes on us at all times. Doppel and I can fly and I can carry Kat. This is the best we can do.”

“No unicorn?” Gourd asked.

“Any unicorn that has ever teleported someone can use a spell to look through someone’s eyes and see what they see, hear what they hear. If everyone teleports us before we leave, we can get a unicorn on site immediately if we ever get in danger.” He nodded. “Watcher, you’re quiet.”

“Is this really necessary?” he asked. “Can we go to someone else? Get an easier task? Or just go without her protection?”

Flo hijacked my voice. “We don’t know where the elemental is.” Everyone blinked at the completely different tone coming from my mouth. “If we have to search for her or dig, we’ll be sitting ducks with the spiders around us. And we also have to find Zecora’s cure. Going to a rival is possible, but the spider implied that she was the only group on the surface. Who else are we going to cow into helping us?”

Watcher nodded. “Then yes, Nav. That is probably the best solution you have. What do we know about the priestess or the city?”

Before I could answer, Kat entered, Doppel behind her. “What do you need, mistress?” Doppel asked, grinning at my changed form.

“Doppel, can you walk on eight legs?”

“I’ve been practicing,” she answered with a nod. “It’s awkward, but I can pass as a spider.”

“What about their voice?”

“I haven’t heard one talk yet. It shouldn’t be too hard to match my vocal cords to theirs, but I’ll need some practice to get it right.”

“Good. Kat, Doppel, we’re playing exterminator.”

“Weapons?” Kat immediately asked.

“Something you can conceal. No visible weapons allowed in the city.”

“Good. I don’t have any highly visible weapons anyway. When do we leave?”

“Soon as we’re ready. Doppel, you need anything?”

“I’ve… I’ve never killed anything, master…”

“And you aren’t going to start now,” I said, making her sag slightly in relief. “You’re just going to help us get to where we need to go. Kat and I are going to be the ones killing her. Get a pack and put something warm in it. It might be cold below. And lose the maid outfit. You’re going as one of the soldiers here, minus the armor.”

“Yes, mistress,” she happily said. “Do you need anything else?”

“Watcher, last minute tips or advice?”

“I’ll have some protection spells ready for you three before you leave,” he said. “And Twilight might have some more, if she isn’t too tired from holding that invisibility spell. Oh, and they probably don’t know what that gun is… or what any of your bombs are.”

“Very good points,” I said, nodding. “Anyone else?”

“I don’t like it,” Kumani and Dash both petulantly said.

“I don’t either. But we’re going to do it anyway. And stealth is more important than hard-hitting, so we’re doing it my way. Kat, Doppel, go get ready and meet me on deck in ten.” They both nodded and quickly left. I followed. Kumani and Taya went with me, of course, though Kumani stopped me before I could get below to my room.

“You told that spider lady an hour, Nav. We have time for a going away present, don’t we?”

“The sooner we get this done, the better,” I said, shaking my head. “We can have all the fun we want when I get back.”

She sighed and then just pulled me in for a long, deep kiss. When she finally pulled back, she just said, “Then hurry back.”

“I’ll do my best,” I answered, turning to finally go back down into my room. When Taya and I got there, Twilight was waiting.

“What’s going on, Nav?” she asked. “The girls and I are feeling kinda out of the loop.”

“That’s because you don’t need to be in the loop,” I said. “Long story short, I’m leading a small shore party to take care of a little administrative issue. I’m going to need a few protection spells and someone to watch through my eyes to make sure I stay safe, though. Coordinate with Watcher on that, if you can.”

“If you’re doing administrative work, can I go? You know how good I am with things like that.”

“I’m afraid not, though I’d definitely like you there. We can only bring a certain number, and I just think they’d be more useful than you would be.”

She sighed and nodded. “Alright… Do you need anything else from us before you go?”

“Just the protection spells,” I said. “Oh, and would you mind asking Rarity to modify a set of my clothing to match this body? I imagine I’m going to need to keep up this act until we find what we’re looking for.”

“I can do that,” she said with a nod. “How long do you think it should take you down there?”

“No clue. Just be watching, as I said. Hopefully we won’t have any problems, but these spiders are fucking assholes.”

“I will. When do you need those spells?”

“Meet us on the deck in a few minutes,” I said.

“Alright. See you then.” She lazily teleported out, leaving just me and Taya.

“Alright, go ahead and yell at me,” I said, sitting on the bed.

Instead, she hugged me. “Be careful, daddy.”

I blinked a few times in surprise before hugging her back. “I will do my best, Taya. And until I turn back, it’s mommy. Need to keep up the act and I don’t want anyone getting suspicious.”

“...Okay, mommy.” Thankfully, she let me go so I could get ready.

I stood back up and walked over to my gene-locked chest again. I popped it open and pushed in the ring and the gender stones, then grabbed a few flash bombs, a molotov, two shrapnel bombs, and what should be a mustard gas bomb. Then I pulled out two extra magazines for the rifle. All of my weapon belts fell off, getting tossed to the bed. After some consideration, I grabbed two daggers and tucked them into pockets that looked like they were made to hold machetes or hatchets. Just in case, I grabbed a bag and packed the female outfit that weird fashion designer in Flankfurt made me and another two sets of clothes. Finally, I grabbed the other two radios and set them to the channel Kat and I were on.

“Now, you can watch me until bedtime,” I said. “Don’t stay up later than you should.”

“I won’t.”

“Not like you’d really see too much anyway. I’m going to be sleeping at night anyway. Now, can you think of anything else I might need?”

“Should you talk to that bird lady, see if she can help you with anything?”

“Athena freaks me the fuck out and I don’t trust her or her magic. I do trust you and Twilight and your magic, though. So I believe I’ll be fine with what I have.” She smiled at that, for some reason. “Let’s go, shall we?”

“Alright, mommy.” Hearing that is so weird.

I led the way to the deck, where most of my crew was waiting. “Doppel, Spike, come here for a sec,” I said, pulling out the radios.

“What do you need, Nav?” Spike asked.

I passed one to Spike and one to Doppel. “Spike, you’re in charge of communications between us and the ship. Doppel, keep that thing on hand in case we need to talk to you. Our range is probably gonna be shit in the caves, but they might work. Do you guys know how to use them?”

“Uh… I assume it’s harder than breathing fire on it.”

“If you burn that thing, I’m going to spank you so hard you can’t sit down for a week,” I said, pulling out the one I was going to use. “Press this button here,” I said, pressing that button there. “And just talk into it.” They both jumped as their radios burst to life, repeating what I said with a very small delay. “This is the volume dial. Turn it all the way down and it shuts off. Turn it back up to turn it on. Not that hard, right?”

“This thing’s pretty cool,” Spike said, looking it over. “What kinda magic does it run on?”

“It doesn’t. Doppel, Kat, you both packed?”

“Yes, mistress,” Doppel said, nodding.

“Far as I can tell,” Kat answered.

“Jak, any movement?”

“Nothing our way,” he answered, handing my rifle back.

I slung it over my shoulder and looked to Watcher and Twilight. “Whatever spells you got, now’s the time to give ‘em.”

“Translation, basic protection, advanced protection, veil of darkness,” Watcher said, his horn lighting up and several spells hitting the three of us.

“Veil of darkness?” Twilight asked. “Never heard of that one.”

“It’s a rare spell. When any of the three of you draws blood, a shroud of darkness will seep from your pores, allowing ease of escape. It won’t last long, but it can be repeated every hour.”

“Any blood, or does it have to be someone else’s?” I asked.

“Any blood.”

“That spell is… evil!” Twilight said.

“Spells are neither good nor evil,” Watcher answered. “Their use depends on the user. Give them your spells.”

She sighed, shaking her head, then said, “Protection from poison, master’s protection, deceit’s end, illusion busting.”

“Deceit’s end?” I asked.

“My fur is white.” My hands immediately lit up faint green, just barely visible under my gloves. “It’s the lie detecting spell,” she explained. “And illusion busting allows you to destroy an illusion by touching it. It won’t work on changelings, but you probably won’t run into many of those down there.”

“Awesome. How long will these last?” I asked.

“Three days, for mine,” Watcher said.

“Mine should last a week,” Twilight said. “Or until you put your ring on, whichever comes first.”

“So we’re good for a while, then. Hopefully we won’t be down there that long. Hey wait, what if one of us tells a lie? Will the spells pick that up?”

“...Um. Test it?” Twilight said.

“Purple is a pretty color,” I said, looking back at the other two.

Nothing happened until Twilight kicked me. “Jerk!”

“You know you love me. Now, you two ready?” They both nodded. “Doppel, pick a pegasus and change.” She shrugged and turned into a random night guard. “Alright. If they kill us, turn that fort into ashes. Watcher, take over the mission and use Twilight to find the elementals. Just… start somewhere else.”

“Yes sir.”

“Nav, while you’re down there, keep an eye out for any of the elements of harmony,” Twilight said.

“They’re necklaces, right?” I asked.

She nodded and added, “With our cutie marks on them. The princess said Discord hid them on our route. There might be one in the cave.”

“I’ll keep my eyes open. Now…” I gently lifted Kat up, holding her in my arms. “I’ll see you all when we get back. Make sure those fucking spiders don’t get the ship.”

“We’ll be fine,” Watcher said. I nodded and jumped off the side, flying on down. Kat quickly decided holding on would be a good idea. Doppel followed us as we flew to where we had met with the spiders. They weren’t there anymore, so I just set Kat down and started walking toward the base.

They fell into step on either side of me, slightly behind. “So what can we expect?” Doppel asked.

“They hate men,” I answered. “So be careful about saying much about them. And they respect strength, so don’t take bullshit from anyone. Kat, did you bring any food with you?”

“I did, yes. I know you don’t eat often and feeding Doppel is always enjoyable, so I was the only one that needed anything.”

“Excellent. We don’t know much about them and they know just as little about us. Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll assume we can spit acid or something.”

“Mistress, your spit is acid,” Doppel said.

“It’s a human thing. Anyway, just go in there like we own the damn place because we have them by the balls.”

I heard Kat shiver and say, “I don’t even want to think about that. Fluttershy was very vocal about… certain aspects of spiders. These things are creepy.”

“As long as you can torture them if you have to, I don’t care.”

“That might be a problem,” she said. “Spiders don’t have pain receptors.”

“...Huh. Well, maybe these do. She was talking about the small ones. These aren’t the small ones. That prisoner we had was scared enough of it, that’s for sure.” We passed under the gates on the outskirts of the fortress, the eyes of the guardians on top on us. As soon as we got into the courtyard, a much smaller spider stopped us.

“Right this way, mistress,” it hissed, its voice lower than the others. Male, maybe?

“We’re following,” I answered, pulling my rifle to a ready position and pumping it twice as the spider started leading us further into the area. After a minute or two, we came to a building with two larger guards standing on the side of the wall, watching us.

Our guide lowered his face to the ground and quietly said, “We have permission from the lady to enter.”

“Then enter, slave,” one guard said. Neither moved from their positions as we walked through.

The building we stepped inside had a single group of females and a hole heading straight down, covered in webbing. The male led us to the group and then bowed his head down again.

“We’re your escort,” the soldier up front said. “Are you ready to go?”

“Yeah. Does that hole stay the same width?”

“Yes. Your wings will carry you.” I slung my rifle again. “Follow us.” She led her group of five to the side and they started climbing down. I shrugged and grabbed Kat. Then Doppel and I jumped in, using our wings to slow our fall so we didn’t pass the spiders.

“Reminds me of home,” Doppel said as we fell with style.

“I hate tunnels,” Kat sighed, snuggling against me.

“Hey, at least there aren’t murderous ghosts at the end of this one,” I said.

“Got that right,” she said.

If I had to guess, I’d say the height was about the same as the fall to the changeling hive. The sights at the bottom were very different, though. And instead of the spiders continuing down to the bottom of the cave, they just started crawling across the fucking roof.

Eight legged freaky bastards. Gravity exists for a reason! I swear, I’ll turn my back on one and just have to burn the entire cave down when it disappears entirely.

“Nav, this is a bad time for arachnophobia,” Flo said.

Yeah, well, fuck you. This is a bad time for them to have eight legs and eight eyes and freaky fucking bodies.

“Just look around,” she said. “That’ll put your mind at ease.”

Since I didn’t have much else to do, I decided to look around the spider city we were flying over. Web, of course, was very prominent in the area. Bioluminescent lights of some kind gave the entire chamber a dull light that allowed us to see fairly clearly. It was then that I discovered that most of the spiders in the hive were very different colors than just black, unlike our guards.

“Hey, what’s with all the colors?” I asked our guides.

“Our house was exiled to the surface, so we lost the right to our colors,” one of the spiders testily answered, not looking back. I quickly decided not to ask any more questions and went back to looking around.

The constructions weren’t elegant or large, like the changeling city had been. Most were small and squat, dotted around the walls, ceiling, and the floor. Though buildings weren’t large, several were tall, spires rising from the bottom of the chamber to the top, or long, starting from one side and leading to another. The chamber itself wasn’t a clean shape, so there were bends that we couldn’t see around. And there was definitely a lot of movement, unclear wads of spiders writhing and moving about below, their many legs and moving parts confusing to the eye.

It was somewhat horrifying, honestly.

Our guides led us down one of the spires to the ground, where it seemed most of the traffic was. Because of that, we still flew above; I didn’t want to be in the middle of that crowd, that’s for damn sure. There were plenty of looks toward us, but as soon as they realized we were following the surface guardians, they stayed silent.

“I don’t like this,” Doppel whispered, her eyes looking down upon the masses.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“They only feel… hate. There’s almost no love in this room at all, Nav. Just lust, hate, and fear.”

“And did you notice that most of what we’ve seen have been females?” Kat asked.

“No, I didn’t notice that,” I said. “I can’t tell the difference.”

“Males are smaller and their… backsides aren’t nearly as large.”

Fat bottomed girls, you make the spider world go ‘round. “Then yeah, just a few males. Just be ready for anything, alright?” Neither answered.

It took us about fifteen minutes to get to our destination, one of the larger buildings in the area, but still on the ground. It was constructed almost entirely of web and honestly, I didn’t want to put a foot anywhere near that thing. However, that’s where our guides went, so I reluctantly landed and we followed. At the entrance were two more black spiders who just passively stared at us.

Thankfully, I didn’t have any part of my body exposed to the webs under our feet as we walked into the room. Kat did and she shivered like crazy when she felt it sticking to her paws. Our guards stopped in the front entrance hall, where we met yet another female.

“You must be my mother’s guests,” the chick said.

“I certainly hope so,” I said, pulling my rifle out again. I didn’t quite like the way the soldiers were arranged with us in the middle. “We’re here as traders.”

“There are no spies in this home,” she said. “No way something could eavesdrop.”

“That’s certainly good to know. I was told there was a high priestess we were supposed to meet. When will we be allowed to look for her?”

If I had to guess, I’d say the motion the spider’s mandibles made was a smile of some sort. “No one is allowed to see the high priestess of Arachne. Especially not guests.”

“Well, that’s certainly inconvenient. But we’ll manage. Are we allowed the free run of the city?”

“To a limit, yes. But breaking the law is common in this city, as I’m sure you’ll quickly find. Come, guests. I will show you to your rooms.” Personally, I didn’t want to get shown to any kind of room, but I bore it and followed her, not wanting to risk pissing any of those things off. The other two fell in behind me yet again. “So what manner of creature are all of you, anyway?” she asked as we walked. “I’ve seen ponies, but none like that.”

“Human,” I answered. “We’re extinct, though, so don’t expect to see many more of me.”

“How are you extinct with one still alive?” she asked.

“Because I can’t breed. No partner. As soon as I die, that’s the end.”

“And I’m a cat,” Kat answered.

“I’m a bat pony,” Doppel said. “Just a regular pony, but with an enchantment to make me look different.”

“It seems the world is changing,” she said. “The last influx of pony slaves we received didn’t mention any of you three.”

“Ponies are racist and ignorant,” I answered. “Of course they don’t know much about other races. That won’t be a problem, will it?”

“It might. The law is that no spider is to bother a trader. But as I said, laws were made to be broken.”

“If anyone tries anything with us, they will quickly find that these traders will not hesitate to fight back.”

“Many find the act of breaking a slave that fights back is more enjoyable than teaching one that doesn’t.”

“Given that those on my ship can see through my eyes and teleport to my position immediately, imprisoning me would be nearly impossible and very inadvisable.”

She didn’t say a word until we got to our rooms, which were just large pods cut into the silk building. One on either side of the hall and one in the middle. “These are your rooms,” she said. “Inside you should find everything you require. Would you care to inspect them?”

“Might as well,” I said, walking up to the one in the middle. The other two shrugged and went to the other rooms. Within the room, I found a bed, a lot of empty space, and a male spider with his head to the floor. “And you are?” I asked, crossing my arms.

“Your pleasure slave, mistress,” he responded.

“Ah.” I tossed my bag of clothes onto the bed and went to check out the other door. It led to a small bathroom, though I didn’t suspect there was any running water. When I finished looking around in there, I went back to the bedroom.

“Do you require servicing, mistress?” the spider asked, still not looking up.

“Nope.” I left the bag there and went right back to the hall, where our host was still waiting. “Can you get rid of that slave in there?” I asked.

“Is he not to your liking?” the lady asked. “I can bring in another, if you like.”

“No, no. I don’t want any at all. First, my tastes are of a more feminine nature. Second, there’s no sport in sleeping with a slave. Third, I definitely don’t want anyone at all in my room as I sleep.”

“Very well. I will have him removed.”

Kat joined us a few seconds later. “I want that slave gone,” she said.

“You as well? Does he displease you?”

“I was a pleasure slave once. I want nothing to do with one. Ever.”

“Then he will be removed. Will the third want hers removed as well?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if she was already utilizing him, actually,” I said. “She’s a total fucking slut.” I heard Kat making some kind of noise that reminded me almost of purring, but more angry. To calm her, I wrapped an arm and a wing around her, drawing her close. “So what will we need to do as traders?” I asked as Kat snuggled against my wing, relishing in its feathery grasp.

“I will not advertise that you are traders,” the spider said. “Hopefully, most will assume that you are guests instead. If word does leak that you are traders, you will meet with representatives of many houses, each to see if you can supply what they want.”

“And what will they want?”

“Exotic slaves would be at the top of the list. They bring much status. New weapons would be second, things we can actually use. Then gold and other goods. Maybe food, though many do not like the taste of cooked food of any kind. Are the two of you together?”

“No,” I immediately answered. “Do you know the priestess’s schedule?”

“Everyone does. She’s in the temple at all hours, attended solely by her guards. Her orders are passed out through them. Even if something does get to her inner sanctum, there are still fifty guards between her and the door.”

“Could we go through the wall?”

“Maybe you do not realize, but we can feel the vibrations in the webs. If something pierced the wall, all would instantly know.”

“Does she ever step outside the temple for any reason? Public speaking? Riots?”

“Never.”

“Hm. We’ll have to stake the place out, look for a good staging area and vantage point. Every place has a weakness.” And if all else fails, I can just have Twilight teleport to us and get us inside that way. “Where is the temple?”

“The very center. I’m sure you saw it when you came in. It is the biggest of the spires going from the top to the bottom.”

“We’ll find it,” I said with a nod, pulling my wing back from Kat. “We won’t need a chaperone, will we?”

“You won’t. But do not fly everywhere. That will raise much suspicion. Note that there is a curfew for males without official papers in an hour. I will give you those papers before you leave so you don’t have to uncover yourself every time guards ask your business.”

“Good. Doppel!” I heard a squeak from her room and she quickly extricated herself, blushing.

“Yes, mistress?” she breathlessly answered.

“We’re moving. Get your radio and let’s go.”

“Yes, mistress.” She went back in, her tail moving in a way that showed us all what she had been up to.

“At least one of you is enjoying my gift,” the spider said.

Neither of us replied.

A minute later, Doppel rejoined us, cleaned up better. The radio was on a string around her neck. “Ready, mistress!”

“Good. Get us those documents so we can leave.”

“Come with me, then.” She started walking back off. “And what is that thing over your shoulder, anyway?” she asked, presumably talking to me.

“A weapon.”

“...What kind of weapon?” she asked.

“Hope you never find out.” She didn’t ask me any other questions.

When we got to the end of a hall, she said, “Remain here.” We stopped as she started crawling up the wall and into a hole that I didn’t notice until she went up it. A minute later, she came back down, one of her legs holding a page. “This is your documentation,” she said. “If any guard stops you, show them this.”

I took the paper and looked it over. Then I realized that I didn’t care and just folded it, sticking it in a pocket. The thing felt like vellum, but I honestly didn’t care as long as it got me past the guards. “Is there an absolute curfew when no one is allowed to be out?” I asked.

“No. The citizens would riot.”

“Alright, good. Anything else we should know before we go out?”

“Not that I can think of, no.”

“Then let’s go,” I said, turning back and walking down the hall. It took me exactly one turn to realize I didn’t know where I was going. “Kat, lead the way.” Cats don’t get lost, right?

Sure enough, her sexily wagging tail led us right to the main entrance. The guards that led us from the surface watched as we walked in and then out, heading back into the underdark.

“So what now, mistress?” Doppel asked.

“Kat?”

“We need to examine the area, find points of entry. See if there are any weaknesses. Basic things. We’ll need to get started now if we have to walk there.”

“Let’s go, then. Stick tight together. I don’t want any spiders getting between us.” They both nodded and we started walking toward the massive spire we could see from where we were. Every single spider we passed stared at us. Hell, we got stopped by guards five times.

But we finally got there, standing at the base of the massive tower. “Hm. And touching this alerts the guards?” Kat asked.

“Apparently. We’ll do what we can to make the hit tomorrow. See any windows?”

“There’s no way fifty guards could maintain this entire building,” Kat slowly said, looking it up and down.

“Those are her personal guards. There’s no telling how many others are in there.”

“Hm. Let’s walk around, see what we can see.” We started doing so. Since the base was so large, it took us about fifteen minutes, where we were stopped three more times by guards. “No windows. They have to get in somehow… Surely there’s another way in besides the main entrance.”

“Hey, the spider lady said there was an inner sanctum,” I said. “And we’ve seen spiders crawling up and down this thing, which means the guards don’t care about the outer wall. So I imagine we can get in by just going in the front door. The inner sanctum, though…”

“Then let’s go,” Kat said with a nod. We walked back to the front door, where two fantastically colored guards stood.

“Can we go in?” I asked.

“Do you have permission?” one of them asked.

“We have documentation,” I said, offering it it.

The guard snatched the paper away and began looking it over. A few seconds later, she thrust it back at me. “This allows access to the city at all hours. Not to the temple.”

“Alright. Who can we go to get permission to enter?” I asked.

“Either enter with a temple guard or get permission from a guard of the inner sanctum.”

“And the temple guards are those with your colorations?” I asked.

“Yes, outlander. Now leave.”

We walked back off, heading around the side again. “Doppel, can you match that coloration?” I asked.

“Give me a few seconds. And make sure nothing’s watching.” Thankfully, the temple area didn’t seem too busy, so she was able to change without getting spotted. Soon, a temple guardian was standing before us.

“Lead the way, then,” I said, waving her off.

“You just want to stare at my spinnerets, don’t you, mistress?”

“Even as a spider, dat ass is nice, Doppel,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Now hurry up.” She started walking and we followed.

The two guards at the front stiffened to attention when Doppel came into view. “I am escorting these two inside,” Doppel said.

“Very well. Remember that the curfew rules are in effect. They have ten minutes.”

“They will be out soon, then,” Doppel said. “Now come, you two.” We continued following her inside and got a look at the inner walls of the temple. Many spiders were inside, paying obeisance of some kind. We paid them no mind, because fuck spiders.

Doppel continued leading the way to the inner wall, one with a different color of guards. Given the size of the ‘building’ and the amount of available space, that could only have been the inner sanctum. And given that the walls were reinforced with various metals and shining jewels, I was pretty sure we found our target.

“Now how do we get inside?” Kat whispered as we started walking around the large structure. We couldn’t see too far up the side since it was darker in the temple than it was outside, but what we could see wasn’t too promising… until we found a window. “There,” she said, nodding at it.

“I see it,” I whispered. “Let’s keep looking for others. We don’t have time to check it out.” And if we get caught… She nodded and we continued walking around. In total, we spotted three windows by the time we got back to where we started.

“This just became possible,” Kat said with a nod. “Still difficult, but possible. Now let’s go back.”

The way the guards were looking, I was thinking getting back out would definitely be a good idea. They didn’t seem overly tolerant in the first place and I had a feeling that if we overstayed our welcome, we would be faced with a troublesome time. The rest of the spiders within were getting the same feeling, so there was a mass exodus to the exit around the time we were leaving.

It made slipping out easy, at least, but it also meant we were surrounded by freaky spiders so Doppel couldn’t change back immediately. We had to go around the side again for her to be able to turn. And when we did get over there…

“Well now,” we heard a spider hissing.

“Poor little yearling, missing curfew,” another said.

“What a treat you’ll be, hmm?” a third added.

When we got to where we could see them, we found three large guards around a very small (compared to the others) spider, around the size of Taya. It seemed like a male, though I wasn’t really paying attention.

“Please! It was just by one minute!”

“One minute too many, boy!” one of the guards hissed.

“Time to go,” I whispered, wanting to leave before they started anything.

“No.” Before I could stop her, Kat began walking toward the guards. “You will not harm him,” she said as they started closing in.

The three guards froze and slowly turned our way, twenty-four eyes glaring at us. I could see that each of their fangs were dripping venom and their front two legs were raised partly ready to strike. “Who are you to stop us, outlander? This prey broke our law and must be punished.”

Now, I try not to be a bad person (usually). I try to do the right thing and yada yada. But I wasn’t feeling so very charitable at the moment. Still, Kat looked like she was about to do something really stupid, the way her claws were starting to poke out, so I thought up a lie and I thought it up quick.

“That ‘prey’ is our guide,” I said, pulling out our documentation and putting a hand on Kat’s shoulder. “We do not know our way around the city, so we hired him to guide us.”

One guard skittered right up to me and snatched the documentation out of my hand. Four eyes started reading it while the other four stared at me. “And why was he so far from you?” she asked.

“He got ahead of us, for which he will be punished,” I said. “His legs move faster on these webs than ours.”

The leg with the documentation thrust it into my chest and pulled off. I grabbed it before it slid to the ground. “Do not lose him again. Come, sisters.” She pushed past me, heading back the way we came. The other two followed her, though both were watching the little boy with hunger in their eyes until they got out of sight.

“Kat, what the absolute fuck is wrong with you?” I sighed, rubbing at my temple.

“I was a slave once and lived in fear, as he does. I do not like this place. I do not like these things. And I hate slavery.”

“Don’t. Pull. This shit. Again,” I said, poking her in the chest a few times for emphasis. “You know why we’re here, and it’s not to free any slaves. Now let’s get the fuck out of here.”

“What about him, mistress?” Doppel asked, looking at the kid. He was staring at us with wide eyes, uncertain that we were real or that we really just saved him.

“...We dug this grave,” I said. “Guards might spread word that we have a guide. Kat, grab him. We can throw his ass out in the morning when he won’t get torn to shreds.”

She nodded and wrapped a furry paw around one of his front legs. That’s when he reacted, flinching. Then he jumped up on his back four legs and wrapped his upper four around her. I had my rifle primed to shoot before I realized he was just hugging her. “Thank you,” he whispered, holding on tight.

“Your responsibility, Kat,” I said. “Now let’s fucking go.” We all started walking back to our temporary abode, our spider guest sticking very close to me and Kat. What do you think?

“I think you did the right thing, though it probably wasn’t a very intelligent move on Kat’s part.”

Definitely agree, then. Think he’ll be trouble?

“If the lady of the house asks, tell her that he will be a pet for someone on board with younger tastes. I imagine she’ll be perfectly fine with that.”

And then question why he’s not there in the morning.

“...Then tell her that he’s for Kat.”

“Kat, if the lady of the house asks, tell her that you’re a pedophile. It’s better than explaining what actually happened.”

She looked at me as if I pissed in her cornflakes. “That’s disgusting.”

“These spidery bastards are fucking sick and disgusting,” I whispered. “They’d be fine with you being a child fucker. Tell them you’re an abolitionist and they’ll kill you on sight! And then they’ll kill us by association. I’m not saying that you’re going to fuck him. I’m saying that you’re going to tell her you are if she asks.”

“...Very well,” she sighed. “It is my fault he is here. I shall take the downfall for it.”

The spider spoke up again, surprisingly. “I don’t mind pleasing you, mistress,” he said, looking down.

“Kat, don’t you say a fucking word,” I warned her.

“If I cannot save them all myself, I can happily water the seed of dissent,” she said.

“Death or enslavement?” I asked. “Which do you prefer?”

“Death. Every tom and molly on that march to freedom would say the same. And I know you, Nav. You would say the same.”

“...True. Especially enslavement like this. But for the love of a god I now despise, wait until we’re private.”

“Fine.”

The rest of the way back was in relative silence, aside from the many, many times we got stopped by guards.

When we got back, Kat immediately went to her room, Doppel quickly went to hers, and I wasn’t in much of a hurry to leave mine. The spider chick didn’t invite us to dinner, for better or worse.

Late that night, Flo jolted me awake. “You are not alone,” she whispered when consciousness flooded my mind. Since nothing I had was comfortable for sleeping in and since I didn’t trust the webby sheets on the webby bed, I was completely naked and uncovered, my female body bare to the spider before me.

As soon as I realized what my guest was, I grabbed both of the daggers I had left next to my bed, leaping to a fighting stance. “Come, assassin! Let’s dance!”

Two of the spider’s front legs lifted. “Calm, human,” the chick said. “Do you not recognize me?”

The voice was familiar enough, at least, but not enough for me to lower my daggers. “The lady’s daughter?” I asked. “I admit, you all look alike to me.”

“I am,” she said, lowering her legs.

“What do you want, then?” I asked as I lowered the knives. I didn’t let them go, of course.

“Something you said… interested me,” she answered, slowly moving closer. “You said your tastes were more feminine.” Oh God… “I admit, I have the same… fascinations. You are strong and powerful, beautiful in a way. So commanding, so assured. And your body!” One of her front legs shot forward and caressed one of my breasts, making the nipple immediately perk up. “I desire you.”

Her leg moved lower until I dropped a knife and grabbed the exploring tendril. “I’m taken,” I told her, pushing her leg back. “Happily dating.”

“She is not here. She is not in front of you, begging for a night of lust and passion. She can’t desire you as I do, can’t need you as I need you!”

“Humans are extremely monogamous. As are dragons, of which I am dating.”

“Then leave her! Leave her and become my slave. I will be your mistress and love you as you deserve. Never a night without passion and lusts unrivaled by any. Poisons designed to increase sensitivity coursing through your veins, making my every touch a fountain of pleasure. Trained slaves attending to your every need while I am away. The joy of serving your mistress in her needs. Does that not sound appeasing?”

“...No thanks. Now, I need sleep.”

“You would never regret it, I promise!”

Jesus fucking Christ. “I’m not interested. Get out.”

“So be it,” she hissed, almost instantly angry. “Remember this moment, human. Remember the choice I gave you.”

“I certainly will do that,” I said, nodding and immediately deciding to do my best to forget that moment. Her eyes narrowed as she scuttled out petulantly. Both of my daggers went back to where I had left them and I went right back to sleep, wondering what new horrors the next day would bring in creepy spider land.

I woke to something prodding me in a place in which I absolutely should not have been prodded. My eyes jerked open and I used my legs to trap the spidery limb in place as I sat up and grabbed the small thing around the face, dragging it forward. “Don’t. Touch. That,” I hissed at the little boy that was now trembling in my grasp. All of his eyes squeezed shut and his legs curled up in fear. Since it seemed he got the message, I dropped him on the bed. “What do you want?” I demanded.

“M-m-mistress K-kat needs you!” he answered, still afraid.

I sighed and grabbed one of my daggers, walking next door. I didn’t bother to put any clothes on, because why would I? The spiders didn’t know the difference, Doppel already knew what it looked like, Kat wanted to see it, and I’m a perverted exhibitionist anyway.

“What do you need, Kat?” I asked when I got in there. She was already suited up and looked ready to kill.

“We need to get—Whoa. That’s what you look like under clothes?” she asked.

“Yeah. Soft and squishy. Want me to bend over for you?”

“No, no. We need to get ready and go soon. Most assassins strike at night, so guards will be at their most lax during the day.”

“What kind of ass-backwards logic is that? Guards would be more alert at day, wouldn’t they?”

“You’d certainly think so, yes. Experience dictates otherwise. There is a place for nightly assassinations, but not against these things. Go get Doppel. I don’t want to see anything I should not.”

“And you don’t care if I do?”

“You came to me, naked, across the hall with who knows how many of these spider things out and about. Do you have any shame at all to lose?”

“I’ll go wake her up.” I turned back and almost tripped over the spider brat that was standing right behind me. “Kat, what the hell is he still doing here?” I asked.

“We took him from the temple area, Nav,” she said. “If we’re going back anyway, we might as well drop him off there.”

“Alright, fair enough.” I walked across the hall to Doppel’s room, where she was still asleep and cuddling against her spider slave. “Doppel, wake up.” She jerked and flinched awake, blinking and looking around. Her eyes were their natural blue before she blinked a few times and they changed back to their disguised form. “Get ready. We’re going soon.”

“Yes, mistress,” she said, pushing away from the slave. “Did you know these things have two tongues? No dick, but those tongues!”

“I don’t know, I don’t want to know, and you aren’t going to tell me. Get ready.”

She nodded and hopped up. The slave woke up, but didn’t move from the bed. “Do I have time for…?” she asked.

“You have until I get dressed, and you know I don’t waste time.”

She shrugged. “Maybe later.” I nodded and went on down to my room. It didn’t take me very long to get dressed, thankfully. Soon enough, I had everything in pockets and ready to go. When I walked over to Kat’s room, I found them both waiting there.

“Planning time,” I said. “Boy, watch the door. You see anyone coming, say something. But eavesdrop and I’ll cut those long things off of your face. Got it?”

His eyes widened and he frantically nodded, scrambling to the door. “You didn’t have to threaten him,” Kat said.

“Yeah, but it was funny. Plans?”

“If we can go for a close kill, let me take it,” Kat said. “I specialize in those. If we’re at range, you can take it.”

“Alright, simple enough. Evac plan?”

“Don’t get caught. We are very noticeable in this place.”

“Remember the veil of darkness spell,” I said. “Watcher told us it works on any blood. So if you have to, just make yourself bleed. This will be the regroup position. Now, I have some tools on me, some explosives. One creates a blinding flash of light. If we get caught and you two see me throw something into the air, close your eyes and turn your head away. When you hear it go off, run. Hopefully that’ll give us enough time to let the unicorns evac us if possible.”

“Easy enough. Do you know if they’re watching us?”

“Radio check,” I said, pulling mine out. Kat and Doppel pulled theirs out. “Spike, Nav. You listening?”

I heard some static over it before faintly hearing, “I’m here.”

“You speaking into the radio?” I asked.

“Yeah. Practically—” It cut out, static overwhelming it. After a second, it cut back in, “—actually. You fight yet?”

“Negative. Are the unicorns awake?”

“Yep.”

“Hi, mommy!” Taya’s voice broke in.

“Hello, dear. Spike, we’re making our move. Make sure the ship’s on alert. If we’re getting betrayed, this is the time.”

“Can you repeat that?” he asked.

“Full. Alert,” I said. “We’re moving in. Betrayal possible.”

“Alright, I hear—” … “—luck, Nav.”

“We’ll need it. Nav, out.” I pocketed the thing. “Our radios work and we’re being watched. Now, shall we?”

They both nodded and we made our way back to the temple district, our spider pet trailing behind. We weren’t stopped as many times as before, but we got just as many stares. Soon enough, we stood before the tall building.

“Now go home, kid,” I told the boy.

He stared at me with all of his eyes. “I don’t have a home.”

“Then go to your parents.”

“...I don’t have parents.”

“Then get away from us.”

His eyes flicked to Kat, who sighed and said, “We could take him with us, Nav.”

“No.”

She shrugged and said, “Sorry, kid. Nav’s the boss.” The spider walked away without another word, its head and body low.

“We clear?” I asked, looking around for anyone that might still be staring.

“I think so,” Doppel said, starting to change. Soon, a temple guard stood before us. “I’m definitely going to have to try sex in this form,” she said, stretching her many legs.

“Find a guy who really likes legs and he’ll be in heaven,” I said. “Now, lead the way.”

She nodded and started walking off. We followed behind, looking out for guards. We got inside the temple as easily as we did before to find just as many spiders lurking about inside. Some were praying to a large statue, some were talking, some were plotting, and some seemed to be trading. None were watching us, which put a strange feeling in my heart.

“This is off…” Flo whispered.

I put a hand on Kat’s arm at the same time she put one on mine. “I have a bad feeling about this,” we said together. We shared a look and bolted for the doors just in time for them to slam shut.

Soon, a number of guard-colored spiders began descending from the ceiling on strands of silk as an extremely ornate and wizened spider walked out of the main doors of the inner sanctum. Each of the other spiders in the temple stopped what they were doing and took up attack positions, all facing us.

“I’ve been waiting for you, assassin,” the high priestess of Arachne hissed with a voice as ancient as your mom and as cold as Luna’s heart.

Well, shit.

 
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