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.


123. Chapter One Hundred—New Crew

Needless to say, our appearance caused quite a commotion. Two squads of night soldiers stood arranged around the book, looking like they were about to confront an army. Three of the unicorns from the crew also stood at the ready, though they didn’t have any manner of armor. Applejack and Rarity were behind the soldiers, but neither looked like they were about to fight anything.

As soon as they all got over the shock of us suddenly getting spat out of the book, AJ and Rarity both ran at Twilight, hugging her and all that fun stuff. Watcher strode up to me. “What happened?” he asked.

“The book is a portal,” I answered, setting the shitty bags down. “It opens up to a massive library that’s dangerous as all fucking hell.” I turned back around and grabbed the book from its pedestal. “And very worthwhile,” I added, turning back and tucking it under my arm. “How long were we gone?”

“...We aren’t sure,” he said. “Your daughter did hear a scream from your room, but didn’t think anything of it until nopony could find you. At least six hours. Probably more. I knew you had to have teleported out or been sucked into the book. Magic scans didn’t show any teleportation residue, so we were hoping it was the book.”

“You hoped well,” I answered, stooping down to grab the packs again. “I’m going to go lock all this stuff up. Stand the troops down and meet me in your room in five. We got some stuff to talk about.”

“Yes sir,” he answered with a nod before turning to his troops. “Dismissed,” he called as I started walking out.

Before I could get too far, Twilight started walking next to me. “Can we… talk about that place?” she asked.

“Get some rest first, then find me,” I answered. “And get a shower while you’re at it. I think we’re both covered in dust.”

“...Alright,” she answered, still walking next to me. But since all the rooms are pretty much in the same area, it would be hard for her not to walk next to me to go get some rest and a shower.

When I ducked into my room, I found it pleasantly devoid of anyone. It’s not that I really minded company, I just didn’t want anyone to see all the stuff I got from the book realm. Since the coast was clear, I very carefully pulled all the books out of the bags and put them on the bed, spreading them out. And with no one to impress or any cold to keep out, I pulled the freaky cloak off as well, blinking as it quickly faded back to its normal brown. With a shrug, I set it next to the books. Everything settled, I started looking the books over.

The titles that I could read were Founding of EquestriaMy Diary (which happened to be Luna’s), and Magic and Its Uses: A Primer. The other three important books were the Arthur and Merlin book, Grogar’s thing, and the book about elementals that I knew Flo could translate for me. Then there were the three from the bag we found, the ones that I couldn’t read and knew nothing about.

A brief internal debate led me to wrapping all of the books but the one about elementals and the three mystery ones into the cloak. Those books, the invisibility ring, and Athena’s book all went into the gene-locked chest. I slammed the baton out and tossed it aside, not paying attention as it balanced itself out. The rest came with me in the cloak to Watcher’s room. I was planning on letting him read through most of them. Hell, I’d need a unicorn to help me read two of them anyway.

It didn’t take him long to get to his room, thankfully. Less than five minutes had passed since I got out of the book, I imagine. “So what’s going on?” he asked me when we were both inside.

“A few points of interest,” I said, setting the cloak on the floor so dust didn’t get all over his bed. “First, the place we entered was an archive of probably every single book ever written. And it doesn’t seem to have much order at all. But I was able to scrounge up some things.” I opened the cloak and set all five books in a line. “I’ve known for a while that Celestia was censoring history. We found two books that detail just how much she messed with things.” I pushed them forward.

“Hm. Luna’s diary? How did anyone get a copy of this?”

“The archivist is an immensely ancient and powerful mage that is essentially a goddess. I don’t know her methods, but I know that they work.”

“...What do you think Celestia would do if she knew we had these books?”

“No clue. Read these first, then give them back to me. I figure you could make more use of what’s in them than I could.”

“Yes sir. What about the others?” he asked, using magic to float those two books to his desk.

I held up one of the leather-bound ones. “I think this is the journal of someone called Grogar the necromancer.” His eyes widened. “You know of him?”

“Whispers. Rumors. And he was mentioned numerous times in Sombra’s journal. But to find that he actually kept something like a journal… Why would a lich need something like that?”

“Don’t know. But I want to know what’s in it. Whenever you get some spare time, get rid of any protective spells on it and get it back to me. I’ll get a translation spell and start going through it.

“Alright. What about the other two?”

“This,” I said, holding up the human book, “talks about the fight of the last human mage against Discord. It is almost definitely the oldest book in existence in this plane. And without a spell, it’s illegible. I’m going to need a translation spell to go through this one, too. When I finish, I’ll let you read through, see what we can find.”

“And that other one?” he asked, nodding at it.

“This…” Should I really let anyone know about true magic?

“You can trust him,” Flo whispered.

“This is a magic book,” I said. “But not magic how you know it.”

“Forbidden magic?” he asked, his head tilting slightly.

“Technically, yes,” I said. “Celestia and Luna forbade it after an incident involving Grogar. But this stuff is older than they are. The magic you use right now is a subset called spells, created by Celestia. But if you take away the spells, you’d still have magic. This,” I said, holding up the book, “details how to use true magic.”

He blinked a few times before it dawned on him. “Encapsulation,” he slowly said, nodding. “It decreases the power of unicorns, giving her an advantage.”

I shook my head. “Close, but not quite. Everyone can use magic. Griffins. Earth ponies. Humans. I think unicorns had a special affinity for it, but anyone could have used it. But now, only unicorns can use spells. According to the archivist, it’s because your horn acts as a component. I don’t really understand it, myself, and it’s not important.”

“It is important, actually,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s something we’ll be able to understand without reading through some of these books.”

“Yeah. If you want to know more, check out the diary. That’s where we first found that Celestia had the plan. Once we both read these books and commit them to memory, I’ll send Celestia a message, see if I can get some answers.”

“Are you sure that is wise?” he asked.

“Nope. But Twilight knows about all of this now, so I don’t think we’ll have to wait long for Celestia to know we know. And when that happens…”

“Things might get more interesting around here,” he finished for me.

“Maybe. Either way, I got a king and a princess in Gryphus that owe me some favors. I’ll be borrowing a printing press and making copies of all of these, then getting them stored away somewhere in the griffin kingdoms. So if worst comes to worst, the knowledge will still be out there.”

“Good idea. Are you going to attempt to learn this magic?”

“I’ll give the book a look, see if I can get anything out of it. I doubt I have the patience or the ability, the way it seemed in the book world. I think it works on belief, and I don’t believe in much. It seems like something that if you don’t learn it as a kid, it would be really hard to pick up as an adult. And with my general distrust in magic… Well, it’s worth reading through.”

“Magic is useful,” he said. “If you can learn it, you definitely should, trust or not.”

“Eh, maybe. Personally, I’m a little leery of anything that promises me power based on the principle of ‘clap your hands and believe’. And if I might start to rely on that to save my life… Well, I already lost faith in one thing. What I won’t lose faith in is a sword that I can see and feel the weight of. Or the enemy, who I can feel and hopefully kill.”

“Just give it an honest try, sir. That’s all I ask.”

“We’ll see. Anyway, read up on those books I gave you. Quickly, if there’s nothing else pressing going on. I need to see Jak, then get started on some reading of my own.”

“And you also need to see your daughter. She’s quite worried about you.”

“...Fuck, I should have done that first,” I said, putting the two books I was keeping back in the cloak. “I’ll see you later,” I said, tossing it back over my shoulder.

“Good luck,” he answered as I left.

On the way to my room to drop off everything I had, I passed numerous people doing whatever they could to stave off boredom on the long voyage. Most of them gave me odd looks, since they probably heard that I disappeared, if not where I went. And now that they all saw me, covered in dust, a weird paper belt, and an odd looking sack over my shoulder, I’m sure all kinds of questions had to be going through their mind.

Thankfully, all the soldiers were trained better than to ask. Not so thankfully, Fluttershy wasn’t. “You’re back!” the buttery mare quietly exclaimed, jumping right in front of me.

“Yep,” I answered, walking around her. “So is Twilight.” Thankfully, she immediately started walking next to me, so it wasn’t as awkward.

“Did you have fun?” she asked, sounding somewhat hopeful.

“Nope. Got my shit wrecked. Hard. In fact, I can still barely move my left arm. My right isn’t working very well either, but at least it’s going. And both of my legs still feel slightly wooden.”

“Oh no! Why aren’t you resting?”

“Got stuff to do.”

“Nav, as your friend—”

“—You can do me a favor,” I broke in. “Go let Dash and Pinkie out. Tell them if they behave, they’ll stay out. But if they keep up their shit, I’m locking them back in and they can sit the rest of the trip out.”

“Oh, Dash will be so happy! She loves flyi—No! You won’t distract me that easily, mister!” Since we were currently at my door, I pushed it open and walked on in. She followed me uninvited. “Now you get in that bed right this minute!”

“Is that an invitation?” I asked, setting the cloak next to the chest that was still out in the open. The paper belt joined it, followed by my damaged and filthy dagger. Then I put the books into the chest and pushed it closed. When I turned back to Fluttershy, she was blushing up a storm. “Look, I fully plan on resting, Fluttershy. I just need to talk to Taya and Jak first. And maybe take a shower, since I’m nasty. You know I can keep going for hours, if you know what I mean, so I’ll be fine. I just can’t let Taya wait.”

Her eyes narrowed slightly, but the blush was still there. “You can visit Taya for five minutes. But then straight to bed! Mister Jak can wait!”

“Alright. That’s actually a good idea.” She blinked, surprised she actually got me to agree. “I probably shouldn’t be walking around like this and seeing him can wait. But now I’m going to go see my daughter.”

She nodded once, still surprised, and just sort of stood there awkwardly as I walked out and then next door. When I knocked on the door, I only had to wait about five seconds before it opened, Taya looking up at me hopefully. Then, it took her less than a second to realize she was staring up at her current father. And then she was hugging me. “You’re back!” she yelled, hugging me around the stomach.

“Sure am,” I said, hugging her back as best I could. “Tired, dirty, feeling beat to shit, but back and victorious.” She pulled away at that point, looking up at me and actually seeing what I looked like.

Her eyes went wide and then nothing happened until she went crosseyed, looking at the ring on her horn. “Can I—”

“No,” I answered. “However, I will allow you to leave your room, but only to come to mine. I really need some rest and I’m sure you want to hear about what happened. So I’m going to go lie down for a while. You’re more than welcome to come with me so we can talk.”

She immediately smiled and nodded, then started following me. “So what did you do to Twilight for hurting you?” she asked. Fluttershy, who was still in my room, gasped at that.

“She didn’t hurt me,” I said. “That book the magic shop lady gave me had a world inside of it. We got dragged in when we opened it and had to fight our way out.”

“Wish I had been there…” Taya sighed as I practically fell onto the bed, my limbs instantly feeling grateful that I was no longer relying on them.

“No you don’t,” I replied, trying my best to get comfortable by removing a lot of the stuff I had with me. “That place was hellish.” I quickly told them both what happened while we were in that hellish world, leaving out Twilight’s sick fanfiction involving her brother that she swore she didn’t write. They both listened, fascinated and somewhat entranced, though Fluttershy seemed somewhat disturbed by all the violence.

“Oh, you poor thing!” Fluttershy gushed around the time I finished, gently patting my hair with a hoof.

“No. Just… no,” I said, calmly pushing her hoof away. “Yeah, it sucked, but it was well worth it. As long as this grey shit on my arms goes away, neither of us were permanently hurt. Although Twilight seemed pretty traumatized by having to kill things. Speaking of which, you should go comfort her, Fluttershy.”


“I have Taya. And I’m not particularly shaken up by it anyway. Sure, I’m feeling tired, but I’ll get over that. The emotional trauma of killing someone for the first time can really damage a person, if not handled correctly. I… did not handle it correctly.” Flo snorted. “You might can help her, or at least comfort her.”

“...You’re right,” she said. “But if you need anything, you better get somepony else to do it. Understand?” she asked in a threatening tone.

“Yes, mother,” I sarcastically answered, laying back and putting my hands behind my head.

“Good. Taya, make sure he stays here and gets better.”

“No problem,” Taya answered with a dark little smile.

Fluttershy nodded once, her smile returning. “Now you two have fun,” she happily called before practically prancing out and pulling the door shut behind her.

“That woman has problems,” I said when the door was closed.

“But she’s right,” Taya said. “You don’t need to be doing anything if you don’t feel well.”

“I know. I do have a few things that need to get done, but most of them can wait. Just prop my door open and if you see any soldiers passing by, call them in,” I said. “Maybe one of them wouldn’t mind being an errand—” As soon as she opened the door, Smiles stuck his head in. “...boy. Yes, Smiles?”

He let the rest of himself in. “You feeling okay?” he asked. “I heard you went on an adventure.”

“Yeah. And I’m just feeling tired. Kinda got beat to shit. You feel like doing some errands?”

“Sure. Better than you hurting yourself trying to do anything.”

See, when you say that, it makes me sound helpless. “Go let Dash and Pinkie out. Tell them they’re free unless they start being annoying again. And tell them that if they feel like complaining to me, they should know that I’m currently injured and that they need to go talk to Twilight first.”

“Alright. Anything else?”

“Yeah. Come back when you’re done. I got some stuff for you to take to Jak.”

“Yes sir,” he answered with a nod. “Just get better.”

“I’ll do my best,” I said. “Good luck with those two.”

“They might both have some special training since they’re elements of harmony, but neither could do much to hurt a well trained guard,” he answered with a smile. “They’ll be no problem.” Your funeral, I thought as he walked out.

“Why are you letting them out?” Taya asked.

“Because they’re friends of mine and I’m sure both are ridiculously bored right now. I understand why they did what they did, but they shouldn’t have done it. Besides, they’ll both be off the ship when we hit Gryphus anyway.”

“I guess… So where are the books you got?”

“In my chest. Only one of them is even readable right now, and I really don’t think I can learn magic. I’d be better off reading the others first.”

“I can help!” she eagerly said, smiling. Then her smile took a hit as she said, “That monster taught me some. It’s a lot harder, but I know you can do it!”

“We’ll see. But I’m not about to get started now, not when I’m feeling like this. My arms and legs both ache. Holding a book would be a pain.”

“You could just let somepony heal you,” Taya said, rolling her eyes.

“Twilight couldn’t heal it,” I answered. “Flo’s working on it right now. Some nerve damage or something. I should be right as rain soon enough.”

“You’ll need to eat,” Flo whispered. “You need the energy and I need the materials.”

“Gonna need to get Spike to cook something soon. I need protein.”

“You know, I could cook,” Taya said.

“Not meat. And you’re banned from the kitchens, if I recall.”

She kicked lightly at the floor and petulantly said, “It was just an accident…”

“It’s alright,” I said. “I love the taste of Spike’s meat in my mouth.”

Sunshine motherfucking Smiles picked the perfect moment to walk back into my room. As soon as he heard that, a smile lit up his face. “Really?”

“He cooks a good steak,” I coldly said, wiping that silly look from his face. “How did the girls react?”

He sighed and said, “They were pretty happy to get out. Rainbow Dash thought she was gonna come give you a piece of her mind, but telling her that Taya was in here, that you were hurt, and that Twilight needed her changed her mind.”

“Good. Now take my knife and that large sheet of paper to Jak,” I said, pointing at the items. “The knife’s a little damaged after all that use and I think he’ll be interested in that paper. If he doesn’t know offhand what it is, tell him it’s magic runes that create a golem.”

“Yes sir. You need anything else after that?”

“If you happen to see Spike on the way there, send him my way. Otherwise, that’s all I needed.”

“Alright. I’ll get this dagger fixed up and bring it back as soon as I can,” he said, tucking it under a wing. The large sheet of paper went on his back, folding over him like a saddle. “I’ll see you, sir.”

“See you,” I said as he left.

A few seconds later, Spike walked in. “You uh… you needed me?” Spike asked.

“Yeah. When Twilight and I got sucked into that book thing, I got fucked up. Can you cook some meat? I need the protein.”

“Oh. Yeah, I can do that. You want anything in particular?”

“Nah. Just something filling. Sorry if this interrupted anything.”

“I was just reading,” he answered with a shrug. “It should be ready in about fifteen minutes.”

“Bitchin’. Thanks, Spike.”

“No problem,” he answered. “See you then.” And out he went.

“Heh, maybe I should get him a little maid outfit,” I said, smiling. Taya gave me a strange look. “Eh, nah. It would ride up that little tail too much.”

“Daddy, you’re really weird,” Taya said.

“Yeah. Also, I really need a shower. You think Fluttershy would get all pissy if I took a quick one to get this dust off me?”

“You really should be resting…” she slowly said.

“Alright, fair enough,” I answered with a shrug. “So you want to know anything else about the book world?”

She nodded and started asking questions. Answering her questions gave me stuff to do until Spike got back, and answering his questions gave me stuff to do for another good while. Then the naga showed up, which gave me more time to burn.

Soon enough, I was feeling better and most of the color had returned to my extremities. Spike got called out by Applejack, who asked him to come spend some time with Twilight. After hearing from me what she went through, he didn’t waste any time consenting. And the naga was simple enough to get rid of. Soon it was just me and Taya again.

“I really need a shower,” I said when the naga was out. “So I’m gonna go do that. You’re welcome to stay in here if you want. But after the shower, I’ll probably go see Kumani.”

“...Alright. Can I look over the books?”

“There’s none in there you can read,” I answered. “It’s all in different languages. Except for the magic book, but you still aren’t allowed to study. You’re free to look over the other books I have in here, though.”

“Okay, daddy. Have fun.”

“Of course,” I said, pushing myself up. Though I wasn’t sure that would happen, given that Kumani might not be overly pleased. Still, I took a shower quickly and went on down to her place in the cargo hold, where she was actually looking over some of the letters we had done while I was teaching her.

“So you finally showed up,” she said, setting the pages down.

“Yeah. I was pretty beat to shit, stuff magic couldn’t heal. Thankfully, the damage wore off fairly quickly, but my arms and legs are still pretty grey.” She looked at them and blinked, since they were actually a few shades off from what they should be. “And you know how the ponies worry. I was stuck in bed for a little while.”

“...Yes, that is like them,” she said. “So where did you go?”

“Well, you know how I always tell you that books will take you to whole new worlds?” I asked with a small smile. She just sighed, nodding. “That happened literally. I opened one that happened to be a portal. It dragged me and Twilight in. We had to fight our way out.”

“I didn’t think you’d let a book get the best of you, even if you had to carry that useless unicorn with you.” I refrained from explaining that Twilight probably did either her fair share of work or more than I had. “Still, now that you’re back, shall we continue our lessons?”

“You actually want to keep learning?” I asked, honestly surprised.

“It is a challenge in an otherwise mostly challengeless life,” she answered. “And aside from having sex, there is little else for me to do right now. Though I suppose I could try to go find something to eat, but I do not think the griffins would like me hunting in their territory like that.”

“Awesome, then. Let’s get started, shall we?” And so I taught her another five letters, finishing off the night with a nice taste of dragoness, which led to something a little more fun for all parties involved. With her placated and it rather late, I went on back to my room, where Taya seemed to be struggling to stay awake while trying to read one of the many books I had. “Why are you still awake?” I asked, letting myself in.

She blearily looked up and answered, “So you can tuck me in.” Man, being a dad is getting weird.

“Well, come on,” I said. “My bed is pretty filthy from all that dust, so you definitely aren’t sleeping in there.”

She yawned and slowly stood up, stretching slightly, before heading out and leading the way next door. Since I knew she wouldn’t be expecting it, I picked her up and put her up in bed, smiling at the surprise on her face. “See you in the morning, daddy,” she said, as I tucked her in.

“Good night,” I answered, backing away since she was in. Then I flipped the light and closed her door, since I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do.

Her suitably in bed, I went back to my room and started putting shit away properly. It looked like someone had messed around with the baton, but that didn’t really matter. After taking a look at the two ratty bags that were both still full of minor magical artifacts, like gems and scrolls and shit, I shrugged and unhooked the canteens, tossing both of the bags into a corner. I didn’t bother messing with the other magic stuff, because I didn’t know what they did. One of the canteens was bone dry, but the other actually had some stuff sloshing around inside.

I set them both down, deciding to look over them later, and started putting more stuff away until finally just the chest was out. With nothing else to do and most everyone important asleep, I popped it open and pulled out the magic book.

Before I could start reading it, someone knocked on the door. “Come on in,” I quietly called, just loud enough to be heard.

Smiles walked in, the dagger on his back. “Finished repairing it,” he said. “Just a few knicks, nothing too bad. Whoever made it was a master.”

“Naga,” I answered, tossing the book on the bed and standing up to take the dagger from him. “And yeah, they’re good at making this stuff. We used to call it Damascus steel, where I come from. Rare, expensive. Worth the money, if you used the stuff a lot. Jak say anything about the paper I sent him?”

“Not much to me, no,” Smiles answered, shaking his head. “But as soon as he saw it, his eyes lit up and he snatched it away from me. Then he locked himself in his office. I didn’t even get to tell him what all you told me about it!”

“I’ll talk to him about it tomorrow, then,” I said, shrugging and setting the knife down. “Thanks for fixing this up. You should probably get to sleep, though.”

“I’m planning on it,” he said. “You need anything else before I go?”

“Nah. I’m feeling better now. I just needed an hour or two and some food.”

“That’s good… So what actually happened?” I gave him a very brief run-down of it, since I was kind of tired of talking about it. “That’s… actually pretty neat. Do you think I could go in there and meet this Athena?”

“Maybe. But I wouldn’t let anyone go into that place alone, especially if they might have to face off with more of the guardians. Even between me and Twilight, we barely made it. I wouldn’t want to try it without a unicorn.”

“True. But I’ll get out of your mane. Have a nice night, sir.”

“See you when I see you,” I answered with a nod, sinking back down to the bed. Out he went, leaving me to wonder just who that was and what he did with the flirtatious Smiles.

“Maybe he finally learned?” Flo mused.

“Maybe,” I answered aloud. “But whatever.” I grabbed the book and actually started reading, deciding I might as well give it a chance.

I didn’t get too far before another knock interrupted me. That was probably a good thing, because that fucking book wasn’t making any damn sense. I set it aside again and got the door personally that time. On the other side was a somewhat distraught appearing Twilight. “Come on in,” I immediately said, standing aside. She stepped in without a word, her head hanging low. “Have a seat anywhere with space,” I said, closing the door behind her. She practically collapsed onto the bed.

Given the look on her face, I knew that much conversation would currently be impossible. So I just pushed the book away and sat next to her, wrapping one of my wings around her. We sat in silence for a few minutes until she asked, “Does it ever feel better?”

“If you let it define you, let it always stay in your mind, no,” I answered. “But those things in the books, they weren’t real. They were merely illusions. And the hairless husks? Those things were already dead. You saw their blood as well as I. It was nothing but ink. They had long since died. We just did them the favor of putting them at peace. And it was also self-defense anyway.”

“I just… I can’t push it away like that!” she sighed, tears coming to her eyes. “Real or not, dangerous or not… I killed…”

“Yeah. But do you regret it? Honestly, think about it. Would you rather all of those things be alive, with the two of us dead?” She was silent for a little while, just thinking. When she didn’t answer after about half a minute, I continued, “That’s what would have happened. If we didn’t wipe them out, they would have done that to us. I’m pretty sure you prefer living.”

“I know… It’s just… Who were they? What if they had families?”

“Those questions will lead you to a very dark place,” I answered. “A place you will probably never escape from. And it doesn’t really matter if they had families or not, because they were already dead when we got there.” She sighed and I knew I had a very low chance of getting to her like this.

Flo said, “Take her to Aqua. There are few souls that are as gentle and understanding as a water elemental.”

“Let’s go for a walk,” I said, standing up.

“Do we have to?” Twilight asked.

“Yes. It’ll make you feel better.” She sighed and forced herself up. We left the room together and I started leading the way to the cargo hold, where Aqua should be. After all, it was still too cold for her to freely go onto the deck, though it was getting warmer and warmer as we went further south. “So what are your friends up to?” I quietly asked, trying to get her mind off it.


“I find that hard to believe. I figured Dash and Pinkie would be really happy after getting let out. And I know Applejack and Rarity were volunteering around the ship.”

She was silent for another few seconds before saying, “Well, Pinkie and Rainbow Dash were talking about getting back at you… But I don’t think they will.”

“I certainly hope not. I’d have them locked up again. What about Fluttershy? She been keeping busy?”

“Can we just… not talk?” she asked. In reply, I put my hand on her back and just started gently massaging it as we walked. Man, I hate dealing with depressed people.

Thankfully, the ship wasn’t extremely large, so it didn’t take us too long to get to the blue amorphous elemental. “Is there news?” she asked, slowly picking a shape and standing upright as a human.

“Nothing in particular,” I answered. “But I believe you might be able to help with a small problem.”

“And what problem is that, Navarone?” she asked, her eyes going down to Twilight. I reached out and poked Aqua so our minds could do some kind of weird mergy thing. She got the idea and some of her water traveled up my arm, sinking into my head.

From my time with Flo, I know that elementals are extremely good at helping others. Twilight is going through a bad time right now. Can you talk to her?

“I can certainly try,” she answered to me. “What is troubling her?”

She killed someone. And her role model was just proven to be sort of evil. She really needs some help, but I’m bad at that.

“I will talk with her. But I will need to be alone with her.”

Alright. Good luck. She released me, her water slurping back into her main body. “Twilight, Aqua would like to spend some time with you,” I said, letting the little horse go.

Twilight seemed somewhat alarmed by that, but just said, “Okay. I… guess I had some questions for her anyway.” Already perking up. Awesome.

“I’ll just leave you two be, then,” I said, backing away. When no one said anything to stop me, I just left without another word. Since there was really nothing else going on, I went back up to my room and just read that magic book all night, trying to get anything out of it.

I failed rather miserably.

Since there wasn’t a window in my room, I had no idea it was morning until my door got pushed open by a somewhat irate Rainbow Dash and a smiling Pinkie, both of whom stepped inside immediately after. “Where do you get off—” Dash started, only to get interrupted by Pinkie leaping across the small room and attaching herself to me in a vicious hug.

“...Hello,” I somewhat awkwardly said, tolerantly patting Pinkie on the back.

“Why’d you lock us up?!” Dash demanded, Pinkie still staying silent.

“Because you were fucking with my crew. And then me. That’s perfectly okay when you’re with your friends. These are trained soldiers and traumatized battle unicorns you’re dealing with. I wasn’t going to have you get hurt or possibly make someone snap.”

“Then why didn’t you tell us to stop instead?”

“Because asking you to stop wouldn’t make Aerie stop,” I explained. “Locking you up meant that all of the crew knew that you had nothing to do with any possible pranking that might happen. They could be mad at the air elemental that they couldn’t hurt instead of being mad at either of you.”

“Well then why didn’t you say so?!”

Because I just made it up off the top of my head. “You didn’t ask until now,” I replied with a shrug.

Her eyes narrowed and she said, “Yeah, well we all know your weakness, now.”

“My what?” I asked right before she pounced at me, joining Pinkie in her assault on me, cuddling up next to me. “That’s just silly,” I sighed. “My weakness isn’t hugs or warm mares.”

“No, but it is too much affection,” Pinkie happily stated, forcing herself against me tighter. Uh oh.

“I’m so sorry for upsetting you, Nav,” Dash simpered, her voice getting all weird and weepy.

“We’ll never do it again,” Pinkie added, actually sounding like she was closing to crying.

“Do… do you forgive us?” Dash asked, wrapping her wings around me and pushing her face against my shoulder so I could feel the wetness of the tears.

With Pinkie attached to my front like a leech and Dash attached to my back and side like a tick, there wasn’t all that much I could do. But thankfully, Pinkie left me enough room to pick the book back up, allowing me to read it while they did all they could to bother me.

After about half an hour, I sighed and said, “I’ll have you know that I don’t need to eat, drink, sleep, or even use the bathroom. If you want to turn this into a game of patience, I will win.”

“And until you do, we’ll be here to bother you,” Dash happily said, dropping the annoying persona she had on for a moment.

“Or I get you both locked back up again. I mean, it’s not like I have anything overly important to do.”

“And we have nothing to do!” Pinkie stated merrily. “Well, except play with everypony else. But you’re so much more fun!”

“Ugh. Fine. What will make you two go away?” I asked.

“An apology!” Dash answered.

“I apologize. Now fuck off.”

“That’s not a very nice apology!” Pinkie said.

“You didn’t say it had to be a nice one. You said that apologizing would make you leave.”

Dash snorted and said, “Well now I don’t feel like leaving.”

God dammit. Flo was just giggling at that point, so I knew she wasn’t going to be very helpful. “Alright, fine. I’m sorry for having you locked up. I know you were just trying to alleviate the boredom of a long trip and I should have spoken to you both about it before going to that extreme.”

“That’s better,” Dash said, letting me go and hopping off the bed. “I’ll see you two later,” she added, heading out.

Pinkie remained attached to my chest. “Aren’t you going with her?” I asked, already dreading her answer.

“Dashie wanted the apology, not me,” she answered.

Fucking really? “Fine. What do you want?”

“I want to play with Aerie!”

“...What the fuck do you expect me to do about that?” I asked. “I can’t control her. She’s her own person.”

“But you can make her come to you!”

“Yeah, and I bet Spike can, too.” And the other way around, unf. “If I get her here, will you leave me alone?”



A few seconds later, I could hear the rustling that told me an air elemental was present. “Yes?” she breathed over her ambient noise.

“Pinkie wants to play,” I answered as the pink menace let me go.

“Very well,” she thankfully answered. “Come along, pink one. I believe we can find a few targets…”

“No pranking!” I immediately said. “I don’t much care what you do, as long as it’s done away from my room and doesn’t involve pranking.”

“You suck the fun out of things, human,” Aerie disdainfully said. “Come. We shall find something to do.” She seeped out of the door and Pinkie happily bounced after her, not saying another word.

“Finally,” I grumbled when they were both gone.

“You don’t have to be so mean about it,” Flo answered, giggling.

“I bet I’m fucking covered in blue and pink fur right now,” I sighed, looking down at my shirt.

“It’s not so bad,” Watcher answered, stepping inside the door that was still open.

“Still annoying as hell,” I said. “You read any of those books yet?”

“Yeah. Spent a lot of time going over the diary and the history book. A lot of the language used is archaic, but understandable. And there were no protective spells that I could find in Grogar’s book. It’s… readable, but I would suggest against doing so for long periods of time. The writing is dangerous.”

“Noted,” I said as he flew the other three over to me. “Think you can give me a translation spell? I’ll get to work on the others, since this damn magic book is about useless.”

He nodded and hit me with a spell. I felt it settle into my mind easily enough. “You mind if I look over that book?” he asked.

I shrugged and tossed it over. “Go for it. Just get some sleep first. We’ll be in Gryphus soon and I’m gonna want all the books back so we can make copies.”

“Alright. I think there’s actually a spell to do that, but I don’t know it. We’d need empty books, anyway.”

“Twilight might know it. We can find paper in Gryphus. She’ll probably want a set of some of these books as well, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that just tips Celestia off faster.”

“Then should we risk giving them to her?” he asked.

“Getting copies made by her would be a lot faster and cheaper than getting them made by the griffons. I’m sure her price will probably be a copy of each one she makes. I’d rather get her to do it so we can get out of there quickly. No reason to be that close to Canterlot longer than necessary.”

“Yes sir.”

“You know when we should get to Gryphus?”

“A few hours, I believe. Do you have any orders for the crew when we arrive?”

“Restock on everything that we can get. Food, clean water, anything we need. Unless we pass a pony city along the way to the Pacific coast, we aren’t stopping again until we’re where we’re going. And once we do get to the coast, we’ll probably follow the ocean around so we don’t have to fly over Mexico.”

“Understood. I’ll have our quartermasters ready to go as soon as we get there.”

“And then get some sleep, Watcher. You may be strong, but even you still need some.”

“Yes sir. I know I need it. But when things get busy…”

“Yeah, I know. Just go talk to the quartermasters and sleep,” I said.

“Alright. See you when we get to Gryphus, sir.” I nodded and he left, walking back down the hall.

Since he read the two pony history books, I popped open my chest and pulled out the human history book, the one about Merlin, and started reading through it. Sadly, I was unable to get very far. An excited minotaur interrupted me.

“Forerunner, I have news,” he said, stepping inside unbidden.

“Good or bad?” I asked, putting the book aside.

“Probably good,” he answered. “But first, a question. Where did you find that paper covered in runes?”

“Ancient pocket dimension,” I answered with a shrug. “They were part of a golem that wanted very much to kill me. That page you got was the head, which I assumed was the part that controlled it.”

“You assumed correctly! I would very much like to visit this dimension, forerunner. Seeing these golems in action would probably enable me to construct one, though I doubt I would do so out of simple parchment.”

“Go next door and get Taya,” I said, standing up and walking to the chest. He did so without question and I pulled the large book out, setting it on the bed, then reaching for a spare sheet of paper and writing a quick note to anyone that might walk in. Jak got back quickly, Taya behind him. “Alright, we’re going into the book world,” I said. “Jak, how are you with a sword?”

“I prefer my own hands,” he answered.

“Good. Taya, the ring can come off while we’re in there.” She sighed in relief, taking the thing off herself while I buckled my sword belt on. “According to Athena, we should show up in her room, but I don’t know if that will hold true with you two there with me. So we’re going in hot. Ready?” I asked as I put my knife on the belt as well.

“Of course,” Jak answered. Taya just nodded, a dark smile on her face.

“Alright, stand on my sides.” They both walked up to me, Taya on my right and the hulking minotaur on my left. Then I opened the book, allowing the tentacles to take us away.

Thankfully, we landed exactly where we were supposed to. One of the paper golem things was actually stacking books into a shelf to our right. Taya and Jak watched it in wonder.

“Alright, now imagine that thing, but trying to kill you,” I said.

“Why isn’t it attacking us, then?” Taya asked.

“Because this is my domain,” Athena’s voice answered, though I didn’t see her anywhere. “Has it been weeks already, Navarone?”

“Nah. But Jak wanted to see the runes on the golems, so I brought him in.”

And just like that, she appeared in front of us, looking the minotaur up and down. “A runemaster?” she softly mused, her sudden appearance surprising both Taya and Jak. Taya’s horn lit up, but absolutely nothing happened other than some of the runes on Athena’s clothing lighting up. “Ah, a minotaur. Not a runemaster, then, just a rune copier.”

“A… what?” Jak asked.

“You know only what you have found, nothing more. None of your kind has done experiments, none of your kind has expanded the knowledge. You found relics left behind from a civilization long passed and never thought to look for more, or to expand. Such a shame, for your culture seems poised for greatness, if you would only take the plunge. But no matter.” With that last statement, she straight up disappeared.

“...What just happened?” Taya asked.

“That insolent wretch insulted me, is what happened,” Jak growled.

“She’s also millions of years old, more powerful than any living thing on the planet, and probably knows more about everything than anything,” I said. “Consider that less of an insult and more of a wake-up call. If you want to learn, there’s probably no better place than here.”

“Hm. Would she teach me?”

“No clue.”

A voice on the wind said, “Navarone destroyed one of my golems. Create me a new one and I will teach you.”

“Deal, forerunner,” Jak said with a nod. “Though I lack your skill with paper. Your new golem will be of metal or rock.”

“Acceptable. I need something more powerful to obtain books in locations that are dangerous. Need you anything else, Navarone?”

“Nah, we’re good,” I answered.

Her voice didn’t respond, so Jak walked over to a paper golem that had not ceased in its activity. It didn’t seem to mind being observed, thankfully. “I have not seen many of these runes before,” Jak finally said. “And I know little of this syntax.”

“Can you replicate it?” I asked.

“Given time. I will likely need to return here to make notes, however. With what I do know, I can do crude imitations, but I will need to test some of my creations alongside this. Will we be able to return?” he asked.

“Yeah. I’d prefer you didn’t take your time, either. The sooner we can get some metal monsters on our side, the better.”

“Agreed. But I am uncertain as to how many of these pieces fit together. It might take months, at least until I get the basic animations down. Let us return to the ship. I have much to do.”

“Come back over here, then,” I said, patting the return book. They both stood by my side again and I opened it, making it spit us back into my room. Thankfully, it was still just as empty as it had been before we left. I put the book back in the chest and then slid the ring over Taya’s horn before she could object or sneak away.

“It will be nice to have a project to work on,” Jak said. “Something challenging.”

“And as nice as it would be to have golems on our side, be ready to drop your work if we need something else,” I said. “Until then, though, you’re free to do whatever. Just make absolutely sure you get all of what you’re going to need when we get to Gryphus. No promises about hitting a friendly port for a long time.”

“Understood,” he answered with a nod. “Now, I will go and begin.”

“Good luck,” I said as he walked out.

“Now what?” Taya asked.

“I have books to read,” I answered, walking over to where I left the one about Merlin. “You’re welcome to look over these two,” I said, passing Taya the two Equestrian history books. “Almost no one has read either of those in over a thousand years, I imagine. I’ll be looking over them myself when I finish with this one and Grogar’s book.”

“...Alright. Are they interesting?”

“No clue. I know that one is Luna’s diary, and she was heavily into combat and war, so probably. You might even find some spells or something in there.” Her eyes widened and she snatched the two books from my grasp.

“I’ll get to reading!” she happily said, setting them on her back and quickly leaving before I could change my mind about possibly letting her study. As horrible as I am for thinking it, that was actually a good thing, because the Merlin story thing was really getting interesting.

Unfortunately, fate was conspiring against me in the form of Twilight, who showed up about an hour later. “What do you need?” I asked, feigning enthusiasm as I put the book away yet again.

“Elementals are amazing,” she said, letting herself in. “And Aqua is so nice! Well, once you get her out of her shell. Did you know they change colors depending on their mood?”

“Yeah. I’ve had one living in my head for over a year now.”

“Oh yeah. What’s it like?”

“Invasive. And she’s abusive, always hitting me and taking over.”

“Am not!” Flo said with my mouth, making Twilight giggle.

“See that?” I asked. “Taking control! Next you’ll see her slapping me across the face or something.” Instead, I reached out and grabbed Twilight’s ass. “Flo, stop that!” Since she wasn’t actually doing anything, it was pretty hard for her to stop.

Twilight was just blushing, but still smiling, and I slowly brought my hand back, making it look like I was fighting.

“That was him, you know,” Flo said with my mouth again.

“Liar!” I accused. “Don’t listen to her, Twilight. She’s just trying to get me in trouble.”

“It’s definitely something you would do, not an elemental,” Twilight said, still grinning. “But with your little dragoness problem, I suggest keeping your hands to yourself.”

“Yeah, Flo. Stop trying to get me mauled.”

“Just for that,” she said with my mouth again, “I’m going to slap Kumani on the ass the next time we see her.”

“Help me,” I whispered to Twilight, my eyes going wide in mock fear.

“You’re on your own,” Twilight said. “And since I’m pretty sure you brought it on yourself, I think it’s fair.”

“Traitor! After everything I’ve done to you, this is how I get repaid?”

“Done to me?” Twilight asked.

“Oral, vaginal, anal, hornal, handies. All the belly rubs. So much more. And don’t pretend you didn’t like it! I know you’re just as perverted as Celestia.”

She was blushing even more now, but still going. “I think you enjoyed most of those just as much as I did, so those are more fair trades.”

“You wound me! Calling my prowess into doubt… Why, if I wasn’t in a relationship, I would take you here and now to prove that you enjoy it far more than I!”

“Sure is a shame you’re in a relationship, then,” she sighed.

“No regrets. But anyway, we’ve gotten way off subject. Like, by a lot. What did you need?”

“Oh, right! I want to study those books we got in… that place. Where are they?”

“Two are next door with Taya, one is with Watcher, one is right here, and the others are in the chest,” I said. “You don’t really need the elemental book. We’re going to get copies made of the others in Gryphus. Say, do you know a spell to make that easier?”

“Actually… yes! I forgot about it, but it’s fairly simple. I’ll just need plenty of paper to use as copying material. It’ll probably take about fifteen minutes per book. Maybe a few minutes extra, if I’m going to make more than one copy. And I assume I will be?”

“Yep. Well, for some of them. You’re welcome to study anything that isn’t being used right now. Hey, maybe you could look through some of the mystery books and artifacts we found, try to figure out what some of them are.”

“Oh, that’s not a bad idea. If any of those strange magical gems are useful, you could keep them with you for your journey! And if any of those scrolls have spells or things like that on them—wait, spells didn’t exist back then…”

“They might be runes, though,” I said. “We can get Jak to look over some of them. Maybe they’d be useful to him, since he’s trying to build a golem now.”

Her eyes lit up. “Ooh, if only I could stay with you!”

I shrugged and said, “Nothing’s stopping you. As long as you’re willing to follow orders, you’re welcome to stay with the ship. Same for Rainbow Dash and Applejack.”

“...What about Pinkie, Rarity, and Fluttershy?”

“Rarity… maybe. Absolutely not, for the other two. Pinkie and Fluttershy would do little more than eat up resources and get in the way. Both might have a few uses, but I imagine they’d be a net loss.”

“Hm… Can I think about it?”

“You got until we leave Gryphus,” I said with a shrug. “I’m definitely not going to wait.”

She nodded. “Then I’ll have your answer before you leave. I suppose I should get to studying the artifacts…”

“They’re all still in the bags over there,” I said, nodding to the two bags we liberated from the dungeon. “I didn’t want to touch any of them, just in case.”

“Probably a wise decision. I’ll take them to my room, where I can set up a proper protective barrier.”

“Be careful, either way,” I said as she levitated the bags over. “I really don’t want any explosions on my ship, contained or not.”

“Don’t worry, Nav. I’ve never dealt with unknown magic artifacts, but I have dealt with a few dangerous ones. There are a few out there, just not many. I imagine a great many of the archmages at the college in Canterlot would pay quite dearly for these. Or that book.”

“They can pry ‘em both from my cold, dead hands,” I answered. “Well, except for the shit you find that’s useless. They can have those.”

After I study them all I want,” she gleefully answered. “Which I’ll go get started on now. I’ll see you when we get to Gryphus, Nav.”

“Have fun,” I replied as she left, leaving me alone once again.

Thankfully, this time I was able to read for much longer, until we got much closer to the city. At that point, though, I got interrupted by a redshirt. “Captain Gourd needs you on deck,” the crewman said.

I set the book aside yet again and stood. “How’s the weather up there?” I asked.

“Sunny. Cool, but not cold. You might want a windbreaker, but that’s all.”

“Man, and here I thought Canada was just a frozen waste…” I mused as I walked over to the place where I kept the cold weather gear. It didn’t take me long to find something light enough to just block the wind. When I started out of my room, the crew guy was no longer there. It didn’t matter, since I knew the way to the deck.

And on that deck was three griffons, all of whom turned to look at me as I emerged from belowdecks. “Ah, human Navarone,” one of them said, a small smile on its face. “On whose authority does this ship seek to enter Gryphus?”

“Mine,” I answered. “We’re going to be there just to drop some passengers off, pick up supplies, and I might visit the king if he’s available. We should be gone in less than twenty-four hours.”

“Very well. Everyone knows you are friends with the king, so you may dock at the castle, though you will be forced to move should an actual diplomatic vessel arrive.”

“I’m okay with that. Any fees we need to pay?” I asked.

“Not at the castle. If you need to dock somewhere else, there is a fee depending on the amount of time spent there.”

“Awesome. You need to do any kind of customs check?”

“We don’t, though we will need a full roster of everyone on the ship before we can let you dock. Anyone with a criminal record will be held for trial.”

“I doubt that’ll be a problem. Captain, you got a roster anywhere?”

“Yes sir. Give me a moment.” He teleported out and was back just a few seconds later, a clipboard in the air next to him.

It floated over to the griffin, who took it in his talons. He passed it to one of his companions, who held it up as another pulled out a large, old book and began going through it, scanning over the roster.

“Just a formality,” the leader dude said. “It’s rare that we find any pony with a crime record, and it seems that your crew is made up mostly of ponies.”

“Most of which are guards,” I said. “Or at least, ex-guard. And of everyone else I have, I think only one of them has even been here.”

“Clean,” the griffin with the book said, snapping it shut. “No criminals that I can see.” The fellow with the list handed it back to the captain.

“Excellent,” I said. “Captain, you still know the way to the palace dock?”

“Yes sir, but I wouldn’t mind a guide just in case.”

“Well, you three are welcome to stay,” I said. “We don’t have much in the way of hospitality, but you’re welcome to what we do have.”

“I will stay,” the leader said. “Though I would prefer news rather than hospitality.” He held up a clenched claw to the other two, then waved them off. Their wings spread and they took off, soaring back to the city. “What brings you from the north? And why have pony trains been heading that way?”

“A huge fucking city just appeared out of nowhere up there,” I said. “Something called the Crystal Empire or something. It’s ruled by Cadance and Shining Armor, now.”

“Out of… nowhere?” he asked, confused.

“Well, sort of. More than a thousand years ago, it vanished after its leader was locked away. It just reappeared all of a sudden. With it came its evil leader. I imagine I’ll have a good talk with King Bloodbeak about it. He’ll likely want to send a diplomatic team up there soon to establish relations with his new neighbors to the north.”

“I imagine so… How could anything stand to live in that cold?”

“Magic,” I answered with a shrug. “Anything big going on in Gryphus?”

“Politics, as always. Ever since that massive change all of a sudden, things have been… interesting. Before, nobles plotted in secret, trying to obtain more power and influence. Now they do it openly. Slander and accusations fly freely and the commoners eat it up. I can’t decide if whoever thought up this strange system is mad or a genius.”

“If you ever figure it out, let me know,” I said. “Any new inventions?”

“Dozens, many with little to no practicality. Why use an engined wagon if wings are so much faster? What use is farming on such a massive scale if sinking your talons into prey is so much more rewarding? And what use is this… electricity when candles are so much easier to use and portable?”

I wonder if everyone thought like that, in the beginning. “Electric wagons means moving goods is easier. Having farmers means that the main population isn’t dependent on a fresh supply of animals and it allows those that would normally spend all their time hunting to do something else. Candles are messy and they’re a fire hazard, while electrical lights are clean.”

“True, to all points. But why fix what is not broken? What is wrong with the way we had things before?”

“It isn’t fixing what’s not broken, it’s improving what wasn’t efficient,” I rebutted. “How large of a population can you sustain off hunting alone? How much trading do you have to do with Equestria for plants and other kinds of food? Better farming would increase your nation’s independence and would make your food supply more stable. How hard is it to pull a cart that’s full of heavy supplies? Or worse, pulling one like that in the air? Having a wagon with an engine allows the engine to do the work for you. Lazy, perhaps, but considerably more efficient and safer. And candles must be replaced often. Electrical lights do need to be replaced, but much less often.”

“...Maybe. I suppose those are things to consider, at least. And it’s not magic, which is definitely nice.”

“Amen to that. What about other news? Anything from Equestria?”

“Plenty of rumors. And plenty of concrete evidence, too. Equestria is in an upheaval. The princess of the night seems to have disappeared after confessing to many crimes, though I don’t know what exactly she did. Celestia is catching her own fair share of trouble, but I don’t know the details. And of course, there’s all manner of rumors about you. There were many that thought you were murdered, when you suddenly disappeared.”

“Huh. Might have to dispel that rumor. Any events going on nearby that might affect us in the time we’re here?”

“Not that I know of. But don’t be entirely surprised if some of the politicians attempt to contact you. After all, getting the support of someone as famous as you would be useful.”

“Hopefully I won’t be here long enough for that to be a problem. Either way, I’m planning on ignoring everyone that tries petitioning me.”

“A wise idea. But it seems that we are almost there, so I shall take my leave. I have plenty of other work I need to do.”

“Thanks for the news, then. And have a nice day.”

“You as well, Navarone,” he answered before running to the edge and leaping off, soaring away.

It didn’t take us another twenty seconds to dock against the castle, our ship anchoring into place next to the skydock. “Orders, sir?” Captain Gourd asked.

“Send the pegasi out for supplies. I want to talk to someone official before I start sending everyone else walking out through the castle. Besides, no reason to get everyone lost in there.”

“Yes sir, I’ll send the word.”

I nodded and turned to go before someone called for me. “Yo Nav!” Gilda said. I looked her way. “I’m about to head off for a bit, see some griffins about my ranch. You need anything before I go?”

“You know where we could get supplies?” I asked.

“Yeah, there are a bunch of shops out there.”

“Lead the pegasi to them, if you can. After they all know where to go, you’re free to do whatever you want. Just don’t take too long, because I’m planning on leaving this place in less than a day.”

“You got it. I just hope they can keep up!”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re fast.” She just stuck her tongue out at me. I rolled my eyes and started walking to the castle, where a small delegation was waiting for us.

“Ah, Navarone,” the person up front said. “No wonder you were given permission to dock here. Will you be needing anything?”

“I have news for the king, if he is available,” I said. “And I’ll need a guide through the castle for some supply runners, if one can be provided. We have our own accommodations and we don’t plan on being here long. Oh, and if we could get a train schedule, that would also be nice.”

The dude looked back at the four people behind him. To one, he said, “Go inform the king that Sir Navarone would like an audience.” That fellow nodded and began loping back into the castle. To another, he said, “Act as a guide.” The one addressed sketched a quick salute and jumped up, flying onto the ship. And to the last, he said, “Go down to the train station and pick up a schedule.” That fellow just jumped off the side of the dock, soaring off without any acknowledgment. “Do you need anything else?” he asked me.

“Not right now. Though if there isn’t a train leaving for Equestria by tomorrow, I might need an address to a hotel or something. I got some passengers on the way there, but I’m not going to wait for a train if one isn’t coming soon.”

“As long as you don’t mind where in Equestria you go, that will not be an issue,” he said. “Train lines have gone up quickly and efficiently, after some strange pony inventions made setting tracks in mountains easy.”

“Once I’m gone, they aren’t my problem anymore,” I answered with a shrug. “How long do you think it’ll take the king to send a reply?”

“Within the half hour, I’m sure,” he said. “I do not believe his schedule is overly busy today, so he will likely be able to meet you quickly. If you do not require anything else, I have other duties elsewhere.”

“I’m good. Thanks for the help.”

“Happy to assist, Sir Navarone,” he said with a small bow. I really should put an ad or something in the paper explaining that I’m not a knight anymore, I thought as he walked off.

“Wouldn’t do any good,” Flo replied. “You have the demeanor of someone important, so it’s more likely that others will treat you like you are.”

“Feh.” When I turned back to the ship, Twilight and her five friends were on deck, staring at me. “I got someone headed down to the train station now to get a schedule,” I said. “With luck, we’ll get you on the first train headed south.”

“Psh, not without a party!” Pinkie said. “It might be soooo long until we see you again!”

What a shame that would be. “If I have time,” I said. “I’ll need to meet with Bloodbeak as soon as I can.”

“With a name like that, why would anypony want to?” Rarity quietly asked, shivering in disgust. The griffin on deck sent a very extreme glare her way.

“I would very much suggest watching what you say and where you say it,” I told her. “What would you do if some strange foreigner showed up in Equestria and started badmouthing Celestia?”


I think one of them was about to say something else, but Watcher butted in. “Sir, permission to head the shore party?”

“Sure,” I answered. “As soon as someone gets the paper we need, have them return immediately. I want to get those copies made quickly.”

“Yes sir. Hopefully the pegasi will be able to get most of the other supplies.”

“Hopefully, yeah. Oh, before you go, send someone down to Jak, see if he needs anything for his project. Tell him we probably won’t be seeing civilization for a while, so if he wants any metal, he better pick it up now.”

“Yes sir, though I think he already sent Sunshine Smiles.”

“Better safe than sorry.” He nodded and turned to one of the people next to him, giving out orders. I turned back to the girls. “Make sure you’re all packed up and ready.”

“None of us have anything,” Twilight said.

“Well, that was pretty easy, then. Find something to do that isn’t standing in the way, then. I’m sure Watcher wouldn’t mind a few extra hooves in ferrying supplies, if any of you are interested.”

“I have a party to plan!” Pinkie said, shaking her head.

“I wouldn’t mind helpin’,” Applejack answered with a shrug. “Better than sittin’ around here, just twiddlin’ my hooves.”

“I’ve been assisting your crew with mending clothes,” Rarity said. “And I still have plenty of work to do, though I believe Spike could likely assist…”

“Hey, do whatever you want,” I said. “I need to prepare some things for my meeting with the king. Twilight, be ready to copy those books as soon as you can.”

“No problem,” she answered. “I suppose in the meantime, I can go back to studying those artifacts.”

“Have fun with that,” I said. “I’ll see you all before you leave, if not sooner. But I really need to get ready.” Thankfully, they understood that and let me go. Honestly, I didn’t really need to do much, but I also didn’t want to spend too much time dealing with those six. It gets awfully annoying, at times.

I went undisturbed in my room for about fifteen minutes, when a crewman popped his head in and said, “A griffin up top has a message for you, sir.”

“From the king?”

“He didn’t say.” I fucking hope so. If it’s just from some damn politician, I’m throwing the fucker off my ship. After maybe plucking a few feathers.

Either way, I set the book aside and buckled on the sword belt as I walked up to the top. Sure enough, a griffin was waiting for me. “I have a message from the king, Sir Navarone,” he said.

“Well, let’s hear it,” I answered.

He blinked a few times before realizing he was supposed to keep talking. “Er, right. He would like to see you at your earliest convenience.”

“Lead the way, then,” I said with a nod.

“Right this way.” He started heading off to the castle and I followed. Thankfully, my crew let me go with no problems. “I’m surprised he was able to make time this quickly. Was he expecting you?”

“Not that I know of. Someone may have reported that we were flying in from outside the city, but that was only about forty minutes ago.”

“Strange. Maybe he just had more free time than we thought.”

I didn’t see any reason to answer that, so I didn’t. We continued in silence to the same sitting room I often met the king in during my time with Cadance and Shining Armor. To my surprise, he actually turned the desk around, per my suggestion, so he knew exactly who walked in. “Ah, Navarone! It is good to see you again, though I can only wonder what brought you by.”

“Happened to be in the neighborhood, after meeting with your new friends to the north.”

“I’m sorry, my what now?” I had his full attention now, as he put down whatever he had been looking at.

“There’s now a new country above yours, something called the Crystal Kingdom or Empire or some bullshit. It’s run by Cadance and Shining Armor.”

“...I see. I suppose I should call an emergency parliamentary session and request that they send a diplomatic team north. Can you give us directions?”

“Yeah. Follow the train tracks. I know I saw them snaking down this way a few times while we were going south. I bet they’d be very willing to trade for food and farming supplies right now, since they’re pretty close to starving and have no agricultural base set up.”

His eyes widened and I saw a smile creeping onto his old face. “Excellent, a chance to earn goodwill early on. I can only imagine that is why Celestia did not inform us of them.”

“Eh, maybe. I’m calling myself done with politics until my trip is over. Though if you could do me a favor and hold onto some really important books for me, I’d be very grateful.”

“Of course! What is in them, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Old history books that Celestia had burned because they didn’t paint her in a good light. One proves that she and her sister wiped a form of magic out that any race could do. The primer I found for that magic was actually written by a griffin. Another speaks of the true founding of Equestria and how Celestia pretty much despised the normal ponies early on. A few other things like that.”

“...How did you come by these?” he slowly asked. “And can you be certain of their veracity?”

“Magic and yes. On the off chance my ship doesn’t make it, I don’t want these books to be lost and forgotten. I’ll be dropping a set of copies off everywhere I have someone I can entrust them to.” Which is pretty much only Gryphus.

“Would you mind if I made further copies? If you found a primer for that magic, I could see it being… useful to learn.”

“It’s extremely difficult to learn, but do what you want with them. I don’t really care anymore. Just be prepared to put up with a lot of people calling the stuff in the history books lies, because it all definitely goes against common theory.”

“We have ancient libraries as well, Navarone. Once I read the books you give me, I will have those old buildings ransacked for any hints of corroboration. Even if I don’t find it, I do trust that you would not deceive me, but I would not give the books out as freely. When will you deliver the copies?”

“Soon as I can. Sometime before I leave. I’m having a unicorn make copies, but I need to get paper first. I have supply runners working on that now.”


“Do you have any court mages that know a translation spell? I’m going to be giving you a few other books in dead languages that might be of interest, but they won’t be very useful if you can’t read them.”

“If I don’t have any ponies like that here, I will hire one from Equestria to come up to use the spell on someone so the books can be transcribed. Are those more of the Equestria history books?”

“I don’t know what three of them are because I still haven’t looked. One is an extremely ancient human history book that talks about a great enemy that’s still alive and trying to kill things. And one is a book that talks about the journey I’m on right now, presumably explaining the reasoning behind it. I ask that you not make copies of that one, or show it around to anyone else. I need that to be a secret, unless I die.”

“Very well, then. A secret it shall be. I have to admit, I haven’t felt this excited for something since I thought you might be interested in my daughter.”

“I hope I won’t disappoint you this time, then,” I answered with a smile. “Speaking of which, how is she doing? Weren’t there assassins after her?”

“We’ve foiled one attempt already. Kat assured us that more would come, since this contractor has the weight to hire many groups. I’m worried, but confident that she will be safe. And of course, she continues to develop new machinery unabated.”

“That’s good to hear. She just needs to advertise them better so they won’t be as looked down upon.”

“I will make that suggestion, but I am leaving everything involving your machines to her. They are certainly interesting, but more than my old mind can understand or choose to deal with.”

“To each their own,” I replied with a shrug. “Any news from down south?”

“Some. Luna has vanished. Apparently Canterlot is awash with gossip about how you were murdered or stolen away by Luna before she disappeared. Your hasty exit definitely made many tongues start wagging, though both captains of the guard and the two remaining princesses assured them that your trip was premeditated and just happened to coincide with Luna’s confession and subsequent disappearance.”

“Heh. Almost makes me tempted to see if I could get an interview with a griffin newspaper, just to stir shit up. I won’t, but it would be pretty fun.”

“I definitely suggest against it. Though if you wouldn’t mind, I would like a picture taken of you before you leave, just to cull the rumors. There is no love lost between Celestia and I, but any trouble started in her nation might well spill over into mine.”

“Sure, I can do that. Just let me know when, because I’m not planning on leaving the ship again until we leave, other than for that and to drop the books off. I heard politicians were on the prowl and I don’t want to deal with that.”

“Smart. But if you are still here come this night, you and any of your officers are welcome to the dining hall. I can’t promise the ponies will be overly pleased, but I remember you enjoying yourself here last time.”

“That is an offer I might well take up. And hopefully the books will be done by then, too. You can get the picture then. Hell, maybe if I’m lucky, my passengers will have found a train and fucked off as well.”

“Are you truly so eager to leave my hospitality?” he asked with a raised brow.

“Not so much that as it is… Well, I left over a month ago to go on this long journey and I’ve already completed one part of it, but it really feels like I haven’t even started. The first leg was just to pick up more crewmembers and then I found Cadance and Shiny up north. It just feels like it’s been too easy.”

“I understand. But I have a feeling there will come a time when you’ll miss this.”

“Oh, I know that well. But at the same time, I feel the dread before the storm. You know it’s coming, you know it’s going to be bad, and you just want to get it over with.”

“Yes, I also understand that… I will not seek to delay you, either way. But sadly, our time together will have to be at an end. I was able to make some small amount of time for you, but other things had to be put aside. We might be able to talk more before you leave, but I’m afraid that I will have even more work to do with the news you bring.”

I nodded and said, “Thanks for giving me what time you could. And have fun with your work.”

He just snorted. “Farewell for now, Nav. I trust I will see you come dinner?”

“Your trust is well-placed,” I answered with a nod. “Until then.”

“Until then,” he answered with a nod of his own. And then I was back into the hall, my guide leading me to the ship.

I got back with little fanfare, thankfully, and went right back to my room, where it seemed that Twilight and Spike were waiting for me. “Waiting long?” I asked, pulling off the sword belt.

“We have a problem,” Twilight said, using magic to pull a page from Spike’s claws and thrusting it at me.

“I can’t imagine it could be too serious,” I joked, taking the page and beginning to read.

‘My faithful student, I have a new task for you and your five friends. Accompany Navarone on his journey. Equestria is currently unsafe and the Elements of Harmony have been compromised. Navarone is correct: Discord is free. Nav will know what that means when you tell him.

‘Things are not safe here right now for you and your friends. They may not be safe anywhere. But Nav has a plan. Judging by the note left by Discord in the box where the Elements were, it is a plan that Discord knows about. But we’re forced to play his game, and he wants you going with Navarone.

‘I know that it is a lot to ask, especially for your friends with responsibilities in Ponyville. But it’s extremely important that the Elements be found. They are supposedly on the path Nav is set to follow. I can only hope they are not hidden well, for I know first-hoof how wily Discord can be.

‘If you have any questions, respond as quickly as possible. With Discord free, I don’t know how long I may have before he decides a more personal, vengeful visit is in order. Without Luna here to assist me, I would likely be powerless to repel him. Even with her, it may well be impossible. We require the Elements.

‘Love and best wishes, Princess Celestia.

‘PS: Show this letter to Navarone. I fear it may be the only way to convince him to take you and your friends.’

I slowly put the letter down, my eyes going unfocused for a few seconds. Then my eyes slowly turned to Spike. “Take a letter,” I said. Thankfully, he already had writing stuff ready, probably anticipating a response. “Dear Princess Celestia. No. Love, Nav. PS: Fuck yourself with a rake.” Twilight gasped in horror as Spike finished writing with a flourish. “Send it on,” I told him with a nod.

“No!” Twilight yelled as Spike burned it to a crisp. “Nav, what have you done?!”

“Chill,” I sighed, sinking on my bed and clutching at the letter, my eyes looking over it aimlessly.

“Chill?! CHILL?! Princess Celestia just told us of a threat that could disable the Elements! And you refused to help her! HOW COULD ANYPONY BE CHILL?!”

“Because I was just fucking with her,” I answered, my voice low and depressed. God fucking dammit. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. “Tell your friends. They’re here to stay.” She slowly deflated, breathing a sigh of relief. But then my head shot up and I darkly said, “But so help me, if they don’t follow my orders, every single one of you will be confined to your quarters for the entire fucking trip. Do you understand me?”

She sighed and nodded. “I understand,” she quietly answered. “None of them are going to like this… What about Fluttershy’s animals? Or Applejack’s farm and family? Or Rarity’s boutique?”

“Don’t know. Don’t care. Not my problem. Get out.” I tossed the paper at her before she could move. “And take your shitty fucking news with you.” She grabbed it without a word, leaving. Spike turned to follow, but I said, “Not you, Spike.”

“What do you need?” he asked.

“You know if Watcher’s on the ship?” I asked.

“No clue.”

“Well, go find the captain. Tell him to meet me in the command room right now. And then look around for Watcher. If you can’t find him, send the first soldier you see to the command room. Then you can go do whatever.”

“Alright…” He didn’t move, though. “I know it seems… Well, I know it doesn’t feel right, Nav, but I don’t think you’ll regret having the girls here. They’re our friends, after all. And even you have to admit that things were pretty dull on the ship. Maybe they’ll liven it up.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it, they won’t,” I growled, pushing past him. Thankfully, he didn’t reply.

About two minutes later, Watcher and Gourd both entered the command room. “What’s going on, sir?” Watcher asked.

“Bad news. Celestia finally got off her fucking ass and realized Discord was out and about.”

“How’s that bad? It means we’ll have her support,” Watcher said.

“No. It means Twilight and her friends are staying with us instead of leaving.”

Watcher’s hoof slowly reached his face, massaging it tenderly. Flash Gourd just said, “What’s the problem with that?”

“Twilight, Dash, and Applejack, nothing,” I said. “They’ll pull their weight. But if I don’t put a knife in Pinkie’s throat before one month is out, I will be surprised. And both Fluttershy and Pinkie are banned from leaving the ship for any reason without my permission.”

“...Why?” Gourd asked.

“Because Pinkie’s a fucking troublemaker and Fluttershy is dangerously naive. I’m not having Pinkie cause an incident and I’m definitely not going to be forced to rescue Fluttershy because she did something fucktarded to help an animal. If they don’t like it, too damn bad.”

“Why are they coming with us?” Watcher finally asked, recovering from his little facehoof.

“Discord stole the Elements of Harmony or some bullshit and left them on our path.”

“...Nav, that means this entire trip is a trap.”

“I know,” I sighed. “But what else are we going to do? Flo, if you have any ideas, I’m listening.”

“All we can do is continue the course,” she calmly answered. “Free the elementals, find the Elements of Harmony, and hope for the best.”

“Then we’ll just keep going,” I said, nodding. “Even if we do have to carry dead weight.”

“We’ll need extra supplies now,” Watcher said, resigned.

“There’s no room in the cargo hold for anything extra,” Gourd said. “With the naga, the dragon, and the water thing, on top of all the other supplies we have, we’re out of room. The only thing we could do is use spare bedrooms, but we don’t have many of those anymore.”

“Do what you can,” I said. “I’m not planning on picking up any extra crew. I’d rather have extra food than empty rooms. Watcher, did you get the paper?”

“I did. It was already sent to Twilight’s room, along with the book I had.”

“Then I’ll drop the ones I have off as well. We’ll leave either after the king’s dinner or after all of our supply runners get back, whichever happens last. I can’t afford to insult the king by not accepting at least some hospitality, so I have to have dinner with him. And both of you two are welcome as well, he said.”

“I need a break after all the time I’ve spent reading and working,” Watcher said. “I’m in.”

“And eating here will save supplies on the ship, so I’ll go,” Gourd said. Then he chuckled. “Never thought I’d actually get to eat dinner with a king. You definitely have a weird life, Nav.”

“Sure do,” I sighed. “If you two don’t need me for anything, I’m going to go drop the books off in Twilight’s room and then consider drinking myself to death.”

“I believe I can handle all of my tasks well, sir,” Watcher said.

“And I don’t have much to do right now anyway,” Gourd added with a shrug. “So have fun with that.”

“Fun. Right.” Thankfully, there was no one in my room. Even more thankfully, there was no one in Twilight’s room when I dropped the books off.

Not so thankfully, Flo refused to let me touch a drop of liquor.

I was just spending time with Taya instead when Twilight found me again, floating two large stacks of books behind her. She set them both down on my floor and then just sat her ass down next to them. “So what are we going to do?” she asked.

“I’m not changing my plans at all,” I said. “You and your friends are along for the ride, nothing else. If you start making yourselves useful, I’ll see about giving you tasks and responsibilities. But until then, stay out of the way of the crew, follow orders as they’re given, and don’t be annoying as fuck.”

She sighed and nodded. “I’ll be sure to tell them. But to be fair, none of them want to be here either. Oh, Pinkie’s happy that she’ll get to see new places and spend more time with all of us. But Fluttershy’s crying about her animals, Applejack is really worried about her family and her farm, and Rarity’s worried about her business and cat. Rainbow Dash is practically pacing a hole in the deck, angry about missing her chance to join the Wonderbolt Academy that Spitfire promised her a place in. You don’t want us here… and we don’t want to be here.”

“Then leave,” Taya flippantly answered.

“We can’t,” Twilight answered, looking away.

“You try telling Celestia that you don’t want to be here?” I asked. “Or mentioned any of your reasons for not wanting to stay?”

“Of course! She promised to make sure Applejack’s farm and family would be fine and to send somepony to take care of Fluttershy’s animals. But there isn’t much she can do about Rarity’s business or Rainbow Dash’s chance with the Wonderbolts. And… we can’t go back to Equestria, Nav. If there’s a threat to everypony out there… we have to deal with it. It’s our duty, like it or not.”

Like I give a fuck. “Whatever. You’re here to stay and that’s that. We all know it sucks and that it’s bullshit, but there’s not anything we can do about it. That said, any letter you send to Celestia after now goes through me first. I don’t want her to know what we’re doing.”

“That’s just paranoid, Nav!”

“Yeah, it is. But after all the shit she’s pulled, are you surprised that I don’t trust her?”

“...No. But every letter?”

“Yes. Even your stupid bullshit friendship letters.” I mean, I already had Spike reporting if she sent anything about the elementals, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

She sighed yet again and nodded. “Alright. It’s your ship, even if it’s a wasteful rule.”

Damn right. “And you should probably be the one to tell Pinkie and Fluttershy that they are now banned from leaving the ship without my permission or without the thing being in the process of getting destroyed.”

“What?! Why?”

I rolled my eyes and explained my reasoning, about how I knew neither one of them would be much more than trouble.

“But Fluttershy has saved our lives with her animal skills before! And Pinkie’s helped us by being… well, Pinkie!”

“That’s nice. However, I have soldiers for those kinds of things. Soldiers that I would rather trust to kill an enemy than talk it down. There will be instances in which I will allow them off the ship. But generally, I want them both safely aboard where they can’t ruin anything.”

“...Pinkie’s not gonna like it.”

“Too bad. It’s for her safety as much as it is ours.”

“I’ll tell her. But you will have to deal with the feedback.”

“I’m okay with that. Hell, if you want, you can tell them that none of them are allowed off the ship without my permission. Well, except Dash, but only because I know she wouldn’t obey anyway. It’s just that the others are smart enough to not leave the ship, so I don’t feel the need to expressly mention them.”

“But… why would Fluttershy leave the ship anyway? You know how she is!”

“What do you think she’ll do if she sees an injured animal right next to the ship?”

“...Go save it?”

“Correct. And do you know how easy that means she will be to capture? All someone has to do is realize she helps any animal she sees and that someone can capture her ten minutes later by breaking a bird’s wing and chucking it next to the ship.”

“But why would anypony do that?”

“Don’t know. But it’s a risk I’m not taking. I have a feeling it’ll happen anyway, but hopefully this will prevent it for at least a little while.”

“You’re so… so… paranoid! When did you get like this?”

“...Did you even hear Luna’s confession?”

“One pony can’t do that to somepony, Nav! Yes, what Luna did to you was absolutely horrible and yes, you have every right to be angry and upset about it. And yes, what Pinkie and Rarity did to you was also bad, but this is something else, something… I don’t know! How did this happen to you?”

“Those weren’t the only three that abused me like that,” I quietly answered. “One was a naga, who was later put to death for her crimes. And one was a cat, who I’ve since forgiven. But ever since I met Celestia and Luna, they have been using me. Toying with me. They’ve used coercion to make me do several quasi-legal tasks. Threats of imprisonment. Of being made to disappear. Shit like that makes a man paranoid, Twilight.”

“...Daddy, why didn’t you kill them?” Taya asked.

“Because they’re important and powerful,” I answered.

“And if all of that is true,” Twilight slowly said, her voice truly sounding either sad or horrified, “they’re monsters.”

“The truth sucks, don’t it,” I joked, smiling for the first time in a while.

“I… I need some time to… think,” Twilight said.

“Take all the time you need,” I told her. “After all, we’re going to be on this ship for a long time.” She slowly stood, unable to look at me, and started walking back out. “And hey, while you’re at it, think about how she changed history to suit her needs and destroyed real magic.” Twilight seemed to sink even lower after I said that, and left without speaking.

“...So they’re staying on the ship?” Taya asked.

“Yep,” I answered, walking over to the pile of books. “Here to stay for some time.”


“Because I’m life’s bitch,” I replied, grabbing the original copies and carrying them to the chest. They all fit in easily enough, though I knew most of them would be coming out later so their respective readers could look them over.

“So now what?” Taya asked when they were all secure.

The door being pushed open cut off my answer. “There’s another griffin here for you, sir,” the soldier said. “It’s a messenger from the king. Apparently it’s about dinner?”

“Go tell Watcher and Gourd. I should probably dress in something nice…”

The guard didn’t answer, just pulled away from the door and went down the hall. Taya did, though. “Why? You’re friends with the king, aren’t you? Just go like that.”

“This is more of a public event. I may be a dick that doesn’t care much about decorum, but I’m not about to risk embarrassing my friend by not dressing appropriately. So out you go. I gotta get changed.”

She sighed and hung her head, but then looked up and said, “Can I have those two books back, then?”

“Sure,” I answered, popping the chest and handing the two relevant ones over. She gleefully took them and fucked off, leaving me to find something suitable in peace.

It didn’t take me long, since I was no longer an irritable teen looking for a chance to complain to anyone about how suits are absolutely pointless. Even though, you know, it’s true. Just in case, I tucked a knife away before grabbing the large stack of books and heading up to the deck, where the captain and Watcher were waiting. Watcher had his armor on. Gourd was nude.

“Ready?” I asked them.

“As ever,” Watcher drily answered, his horn lighting up and taking the stack of books from me.

“...Should I have dressed up?” Gourd asked, looking me up and down.

“The king does not mind,” the griffin said, walking up to our little group. “Is your party ready, Sir Navarone?”

“Yep. Lead the way,” I answered.

“Very well. Come, then.” He led the three of us off into the palace, the stack of books floating lazily behind us in Watcher’s magic grip.

Dinner was pretty awesome. The king took the books with the promise to look over them. He also got his picture, for what little it mattered.

Shortly after we got back from dinner, we cast off, flying west-southwest, toward the coast. Every head was present and accounted for, our stores were full, and the crew was, for the most part, in good spirits.

Except for a certain six, who had heavy hearts. And another certain three, who feared the trouble those six would cause.

But on the ship flew, undeterred by either the good spirits or the sorrows aboard. Onward we flew to new adventures in lands unknown ahead.

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