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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87. Chapter Seventy-Two—Coming home this Christmas day…

For once, I got my wish. Nothing big or important happened for over a month. It was… boring.

So I was quite happy when I got a long letter from the unicorn university telling me they had a breakthrough and that I needed to go to the tower in a few days. And in a stroke of somewhat interesting luck, Derpy brought me a useful letter in the mail: Two tickets to one of the Wonderbolt derbies on the same day from Fancy Pants.

I now had an alibi for going to Canterlot on that day, so if the princesses really are watching me, they’ll see me going to a Wonderbolts thing with a friend, probably Dash.

To that end, as soon as I got the tickets, I tracked down Rainbow Dash. Let me tell you, she is not easy to find. In the end, I found her sleeping in a random tree in the middle of Applejack’s massive orchard.

Since my wings couldn’t exactly maneuver that well in such a tight place, I climbed up the tree until I was on a branch right next to her. She was happily snoring away until I pounced on her.

She let out a cry of terror and batted her hooves at me aimlessly until she realized it was just me. Then she gave me a very deadpan stare. “You realize I was sleeping, right?”

“No, your snores didn’t give it away. You want to go to a Wonderbolts show?”

That put some life in her. “When?!”

“Two days. I got some tickets in the mail and figured you’d be down to go.”

“Awesome!”

“Only one catch, though: We’re in the VIP section. You’ll have to at least pretend to be good company.”

“Psh, no problem! I can pretend for a bunch of old rich ponies any day! Just as long as I don’t have to pretend to be your special somepony, that is.”

“Ouch, my feelings. Nah, we’re going as friends, I assume. I figured I could finally see what the fuss is about since I got the tickets free anyway.”

“Hehe, free VIP tickets to a Wonderbolts show…” She seemed to finally notice that I was sitting on her. “So are you gonna get off me or what?”

“I don’t know, Dashie. You’re pretty comfortable. I might just lie down and fall asleep…”

She gave me another deadpan look before rolling over, sending us both falling off the branch. She caught herself, but I hit the ground. She landed, standing with hooves on either side of my body before sitting down on my stomach. “You’re pretty comfortable too, Nav. A little bony, but I could make it work.”

“Hey, I don’t have anything to do all day. If you want to cuddle, I won’t say no.”

She narrowed her eyes. “You asked for it.” Her wings shot out and she leapt into the tree to get her blanket before flitting back down to me. She did a little catlike circling thing before laying down on me, using a wing to throw the blanket over the two of us. I ran a hand through her mane as she curled up on me and promptly started snoring again.

It’s a nice day out. The grass is soft. Dash is soft. Just two bros, drifting away… It’s nice to have little moments of calm like that.

Of course, the effect was ruined when I heard a loud click and saw a flash. I looked up to see a smirking Applejack with a camera. That didn’t bother me at all.

It apparently bothered Dash, though. She flinched awake at either the click or the flash and looked up blinking. First, she saw that she was sleeping on me. And then she saw Applejack’s laughing form. And of course, it didn’t take her long to see the camera somehow magically held in Applejack’s hooves.

Dash jumped off me and pounced at Applejack. “Gimme that!”

Applejack jerked the camera away. “Nope! I always knew you two were close, but I didn’t think it was like that!” She was dodging around Dash’s attempts to seize the camera.

“It ISN’T like that!” Dash yelled, redoubling her efforts.

“Sure looked that way to me!” AJ laughed, starting to run away.

Dash let off an exasperated sound and took off, tearing after her. I just rolled my eyes and pulled the blanket off before neatly folding it, grabbing it, and following the two of them at a leisurely pace. It looked like Applejack was running into town. With as fast as Dash is, she would be able to easily catch up with her. But with as strong as AJ is, she could probably withstand Dash.

I fully expected to find the two of them having friendly hate sex on the road into town. Perhaps fortunately, I didn’t. It didn’t take long to find out where they went, though; I asked the first pony I saw and got pointed to Sugarcube Corner.

I wandered over that way, still going at a relatively slow pace. I was in no hurry; I really didn’t have anything to do that day aside from go home and spar.

When I stepped into the little shop, the arguing inside stopped and they all turned to me. I continued walking inside and set the blanket on a table. “Ladies.” Inside were Pinkie, Applejack, Mrs. Cake, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy. “Am I interrupting something?”

Pinkie put on a massive grin and shook her head. “Nope. We were just talking about you!”

“Nothing bad, I hope.” I looked over at the camera being held away from Dash by Pinkie. “Taking pictures, I see? There are some that consider that impolite.”

I didn’t take any pictures!” Pinkie said. “But I know somepony else diiiiid! And my my, Nav. You and Dashie here seem to be… getting along quite nicely.”

Dash started growling, but was leaving the talking up to me at this point. “We are good friends,” I calmly admitted. “We do all kinds of things together.”

“Like sleeping together?” she innocently asked. Mrs. Cake started blushing at that. Fluttershy’s ears dropped. Applejack grinned and Dash just narrowed her eyes.

I scratched at my chin. “Well, there was that one time when we were drunk… But according to some reliable sources, we wrestled a lot first. Apparently we passed out in the middle of it and had to be put in bed. And Dash was using me as a pillow earlier. It’s nothing you, Applejack, and Fluttershy haven’t done.”

Fluttershy let out a cute little sound at that and they all looked her way, eyes widening.

I continued, “When I was injured a year ago, she cared for me. I was out cold for a few days, and she was kind enough to let me use her bed. Of course, it was the only bed in the house and she had to sleep somewhere… And you, Pinkie. You’ve done it a few times yourself.” I poked Applejack on the nose because she was closest. “And you did it when we were with Zecora. Rarity was there as well. Nothing wrong with sharing body warmth, is there?”

AJ looked over to Dash. “Well when you put it like that…” she commented.

“So you two aren’t dating?” Pinkie asked, actually sounding kind of sad.

“If we are, it’s news to me,” I answered.

“Aww… I was gonna give you two a party!”

I shrugged. “Them’s the breaks, Pinkie. I’m sure you won’t have to think hard to come up with another reason to have a party.” Dash was looking rather relieved, at this point. “Now, I have something I need to get back to. Dash, don’t forget our trip in two days.” The others all jerked toward her again as her relieved look disappeared. I had just said we weren’t dating, but then I just implied that we had a date. I quickly let myself out before any of them could say a thing.

I knew that was mean, but I couldn’t help it. Besides, Dash needs to learn to win her own battles. I smiled when I heard the sound of arguing pick back up again as I walked on home.

 

To be honest, I had no idea what to bring with me. I mean, there were so many things I wanted to take but so few that would work. I wouldn’t need the magic resisting ring, and I could actually lose it if I had it with me. I knew I couldn’t bring any of my important weapons because if I was seen, I would lose them. I had no idea what season it would be when I got there or where I would be, so I didn’t know what clothes to bring. And of course, I couldn’t let anyone know I was planning on going anywhere.

In the end, I settled for a very large coat that could cover my wings, the wallet I still had from home, and a string of throwing knives just in case. I also packed a small bag with a spare set of warm-weather clothes, just in case. I really had no idea what to expect; according to what the time guys said before, I had a pretty large margin of time that I could appear in. And there really was no telling where I would appear.

If, of course, they could do it at all.

 

The big day dawned with Rainbow Dash banging on my door. “COME ON NAV, WE’LL BE LATE!”

I crossed my arms, standing behind her. “Dash, I’ve been outside for hours.” I have no idea how she didn’t notice me standing there when she landed.

She jumped around. “There you are! Come on, Nav!” She stretched her wings and jumped into the sky, quickly outpacing anything I could do.

I sighed and just stood there, waiting. Two minutes later, I heard her flying back before she was on the ground. “Come on!”

“Dash, the show doesn’t start for six hours. It’ll take us less than an hour to get there. What do you want to do in Canterlot for five hours while we wait for the show to begin?”

She blinked a few times. “Six hours?” I nodded. “I’m going back to bed. Come and get me when it’s time to go.” She jumped back into the sky and presumably flew back to her cloud home.

I rolled my eyes just as an angry Doppel slammed the door open. She glared at me. “Why are you banging at the door so early in the morning?”

I pointed to the rainbow streak we could barely see flying away. She rolled her eyes and shut the door, presumably going back to bed.

 

The two of us got to Canterlot an hour early, because I wanted to get something to eat on the off chance I ended up in the middle of the ocean or something. Dash was definitely excited to see the show, but she was doing her best to hide it and behave.

“You know of any good places to eat here?” I asked as we walked the streets. I had two pockets full of gold, because I knew that shit was really lucrative when I was on Earth. I was hoping I could use some of it to bribe any cops if they ever saw my wings.

“Nav, I don’t get to Canterlot that often. You come here more often than I do.”

Well shit, I only know of a few places that serve meat: The palace if you catch them on a good day, the Shady Trough if they’re actually serving food, that place I almost stood Luna up at, and a predator only place. I couldn’t get into that fancy place without a reservation and I wouldn’t bring Dash there anyway. I wouldn’t betray the Shady Trough to someone that’s more loyal to Celestia than to Luna. And there was no way in hell I was going to the palace when I was in Canterlot to go home.

So we just ducked into the first restaurant that seemed moderately busy.

“…”

“…”

The entire inside of the place was pink. Hearts were everywhere. It seemed like a very couples-oriented place.

“In hindsight,” I said, “the name should have tipped us off.” The sign outside called this place the Loveboat.

“Let’s just go.”

Just as we were about to turn around and walk off, we heard the unwelcome call of a friend of ours. “Oh Naaaav! Rainbow Dash!” I had no idea what Rarity wanted and I was very happy to just keep moving.

“Ignore her,” I hissed.

Unfortunately, Dash didn’t have my sense of self-respect or self-preservation, and chose to turn around. It was either leave her there and risk losing my alibi or stay and have to deal with this place.

I continued walking.

Until Dash’s mouth shot out and grabbed my wing, jerking me back. “She needs our help,” Dash whispered when she let me go.

I sighed and looked back. Rarity had a very false smile on her face, presumably for the comfort of her date—a rich looking young unicorn stallion who didn’t seem that impressed with the looks of Dash. When he saw me, though, his mouth dropped.

Now, as I’m sure you might be able to imagine, the waiting staff at this place was a little confused by me and Dash. First we walk in, looking like a mismatched pair. Then we try and walk out, only to get stopped. Then we started fiercely arguing in whispers about the merit of helping rescue Rarity from a bad date.

Eventually, one of the serving staff decided to approach us. “Can… I help seat you?” the ridiculous looking pink mare asked. Dash and I stopped arguing and looked at her to find that she was wearing a shitty Cupid costume.

I sighed and shrugged to Dash. “Can we join our friend over there?” she asked, pointing to Rarity.

“Well… We do have double dating tables… I’ll just have to ask them if it’s okay and then we’ll get you seated together!” She happily pranced away.

Dash and I looked at each other. I said, “This is your fault. I want you to remember that.”

“Relax, Nav! I’m sure we can do this.” I can. You… maybe not so much.

She did this to herself, though. The preppy mare led us to the table at which a genuinely smiling Rarity and a shocked random unicorn were now sitting. The chairs in this place were uncomfortably close to one another, as Dash and I discovered when we tried sitting.

“Fancy seeing you two here,” Rarity happily said. “Especially in a place like this! Why, what ever is the occasion?”

Dash looked to me. “Yeah Nav, what’s the occasion?”

God, you ponies suck. I grinned at Rarity and said, “It’s our one year anniversary.” I wrapped an arm around the somewhat confused looking Dash and brought her in close. “Thought I’d bring her someplace… special.” Special is one word I’d use to describe this place. “And who’s this?” I asked, looking to her date. Black coat, blue eyes, grey mane, and a white crescent as a cutie mark. If I had to guess, I’d call him a night guard.

“Graphite, sir!” he answered. “I’ve heard so much about you! I didn’t know Rarity knew you, though.”

I wanted to say something about that, but the waitress came back. “Can I get you something to drink, sir, ma’am?” Rarity and her date already had some kind of shake or something to share.

Dash and I both opened our mouths to answer, but I graciously let her go first. “Berry smoothie.”

The mare nodded. “It’ll be out in a minute!” She then trotted away, a smile on her face.

“…What about me?”

Rarity grinned. “Nav, dates here share drinks.”

Dash’s ears twitched at that. I quietly whispered, “If you give me pony AIDS, I’ll pluck you.”

She answered with, “Bite me.” I reached down and nibbled on her ear. Her face blushed bright red and she pushed me away.

“You two sure are close,” Graphite commented.

“Yep. Shame my Dashie here doesn’t share my love of showing it off.” I knew I was racking up the hate, but her expressions were just so amusing. “So, what do you do?”

He opened his mouth and a string of words came out. I recognized the word banker. Rarity was discreetly grimacing as he spoke. Some time during his monologue, the waitress dropped off the smoothie thing. Three of us used our eyes to silently beg her to ask us for our orders to make the guy shut up. She was too vapid or evil to care, and walked away when she realized he was in the middle of talking.

As soon as he finished, though, the waitress showed up before any of us could say a word. Thankfully, it looked like we didn’t have to share food as well as drinks.

When she walked away, Graphite looked at me with a sycophantic grin. “I’ve heard a lot about you, Sir Navarone, but I never expected to meet you. What’s it like, being so close to the princesses?”

I opened my mouth to answer, but Rarity broke in with, “I need to go to the little mare’s room. Come along, Dash!”

“Why am I going?” she had time to ask before Rarity grabbed her hoof and dragged her off.

The stallion looked rather confused at that. I shrugged and said, “Mares. To answer your question, it sucks.” He gasped. “Having friends in high places often comes with the price of having enemies as well. I’ve been the target of one assassination attempt already.” Though I don’t know if those thugs wanted to kill me or just hurt me. “And to be honest, the princesses aren’t good friends at all. Being on a pedestal for six thousand years removes your ability to empathize well.” I shrugged. “It has its good moments, but there’s a reason I don’t live in Canterlot.”

“I… see? So uh, how do you know Rarity?”

“Met her in Ponyville. I assume you met her at one of the parties here?”

He nodded. “Does she spend a lot of time in Ponyville?”

Hm… Should I fuck Rarity over or help her out here?

I wasn’t expecting an answer, but Flo gave me one anyway: “Help her out, Nav. She’s obviously distressed about this stallion. We don’t know why, but she is.”

“Nah. I met her during one of her infrequent visits.” No reason to tell this guy where she lived. For all I knew, he could be a serial killer.

“Oh… She hasn’t told me that much about herself.”

“Have you tried asking?”

He blinked. “Well… No, actually.”

“There you go. If there’s one thing mares like, it’s talking about themselves.”

I was going to say more, but Rarity and Rainbow Dash rejoined us. “I trust you two are getting along?” Rarity asked us, her eyes clearly saying that she hoped the opposite was true.

I made eye contact with the guy and flicked my eyes to Rarity. He nodded and asked her, “So Rarity, can you tell me more about yourself?” There, maybe that will get him to shut up for a while.

Of course, it just opened the floodgates that are Rarity as she delved into one of her favorite topics.

Dash and I immediately zoned out. I whispered, “So how was your trip to the mare’s room?”

“I am never helping Rarity again,” she answered with a shudder. I don’t know if that shudder was for the horrors she faced in the bathroom or if it was because my hand was gently tweaking her feathers.

Thankfully, despite Rarity’s bad habits and annoying qualities, she is still a lady. So when the food arrived and we began eating, she had to keep her fucking mouth shut while chewing.

The same was not true of Rainbow Dash. When Rarity stopped talking, Dash started going on about the Wonderbolts show we were about to see. It’s interesting how she can make flying in circles sound fun. It wasn’t so interesting how she managed to spray half-chewed food everywhere.

When Rarity gently shut her eyes and lifted a napkin to dab at a piece of broccoli on her face, I figured it was time to stop it. “Dash, maybe you should… tone it down a little.”

I heard Rarity mutter something that sounded like “Understatement…”

Dash looked over her handwork and let out a nervous laugh. “Heheh… Yeah. Sorry, Rarity.”

“It’s quite alright, dear,” Rarity answered with a fake smile.

Now that the floor was clear, Graphite said, “So you two are going to the show as well? The VIP room, I trust?” I nodded, dreading what he was about to say. “Well, this was supposed to be a surprise, but I suppose now’s as good a time as any.” His horn lit up and two tickets appeared. “Rarity, would you like to go as well?”

“Oh! Er… Yes, of course.” She didn’t sound that excited. I can’t believe ponies are so stupid that they can’t recognize lies at all. She laughed nervously. “I guess we’ll be joining you two.”

“How fun,” I quietly said. As long as we can ditch them after the race, there won’t be any problems. I had been planning on letting Dash just fly home and telling her I would go back after I took care of some business. If Rarity and that random guy came with us, that would be inconvenient.

When we all had finished and were about to leave, the waitress came back by and asked, “Would either of you couples like to join our contest?”

Before I could say no, Dash asked, “What kind of contest?”

The waitress grinned. “A kissing contest. The most passionate kissers of the week get free tickets to one of DJ Pon3’s concerts.” She actually said Pon-three. I wanted to reach over and smack her.

I held my temper and was about to say no, but felt Dash grabbing my shirt and pulling me down. She whispered, “Sorry,” before pressing her face into mine and kissing me.

That lasted nearly ten seconds before the waitress cleared her throat. “Uh… I don’t have the camera yet!”

Dash blinked and pulled away from me, breaking the kiss. “Oh… Heheh… Let us know when you’re ready?”

The waitress smiled and walked off. I looked down at Dash. “What the hell?”

“Sorry Nav, I just really like Vinyl’s concerts.”

I rolled my eyes. “Dash, I can get free tickets to any of Vinyl’s stuff at any time.”

She blinked. “Oh… Heheh, sorry Nav.”

The waitress popped back up with her camera, ready to take the picture. Dash was about to wave her away when I put a hand on each cheek and brought her mouth to mine, forcing my tongue through her surprised lips. She struggled for a second before getting into it and moaning, her tongue twisting with mine. I saw a flash from the waitress and held the kiss for a few more seconds before pulling back from Dash.

She was lightly blushing and had her eyes gently closed and tongue slightly extended. A small strand of spit connected our faces until I broke it. Her wings were twitching, trying not to extend. The waitress had a big smile on. Rarity looked shocked and Graphite looked slightly interested.

“Wow…” the waitress whispered before turning to Rarity and Graphite. “Do you want to enter as well?”

Graphite smiled but Rarity quickly said, “No! No thank you. I’m not… interested in that kind of music.”

Graphite sighed and the waitress shrugged. “Well, everypony knows where Sir Navarone lives. If you two win, we’ll get the tickets to you!”

“Awesome. Thanks, ma’am.” She walked off, humming a happy song. I looked over to make sure Dash was recovered. She was much better than she had been, at least. I put a hand on the top of her head and rubbed at it, grinning. “You ready to go, Dashie?”

She shook herself. “Yeah…”

With lunch done and the bill paid—by me and Graphite, of course—we started walking to the stadium. Personally, I’m not a fan of walking the streets of Canterlot for a number of reasons. One is that I’m famous and tend to get stares. Another is that Luna made them all dream about fucking me, which is just awkward. And finally, I almost got fucking murdered in that city.

Of course, I wouldn’t burden their minds with that. Besides, I’m pretty sure being with a group was enough to discourage anyone that might try anything less than pleasant on me. And if not, throwing knives and night guards materializing out of thin air would.

Graphite and Rarity kept up a conversation as we walked, Dash and I doing our best to stay out of it. Aside from the guy being very talkative and a little bit of a fanboy, I didn’t see any problems with him. I mean, wouldn’t date him, but I don’t see what Rarity’s problem is.

Hell, with as much as neither would SHUT UP, I figured they were a good match.

When we finally got to the stadium, I think Dash and I were both about ready to strangle someone. Graphite led the way up the staircase on the stands toward the VIP box, thankfully quiet.

The guard at the door to the VIP room gave us all a cursory glance before his horn lit up and he pulled the rope away. We let ourselves in and walked up the short staircase to find a few rich looking fuckers already there. Fancy Pants was one of them. Many of the others were fawning over him.

He looked up when we walked in and smiled when he saw me and Rarity. “Ah, Rarity and Sir Navarone!” The sycophants fawning over him looked up and smiled when they saw Rarity. I made sure that none of them liked me, so they didn’t pay me any mind.

They crowded Rarity, pushing me and Dash away. They tried to push Graphite away as well, but he latched onto Rarity. I just shook my head as Fancy Pants joined us. “I’m surprised to see you here, Nav. Usually my invitations to you go ignored.”

“Not ignored,” I said. “I give them all to Rarity. I’m only here because I need an alibi. If anyone asks, you saw me here and after this I immediately went home.”

“Easy enough to remember. And who is this? I thought you said you had given up on mares.”

“That’s Rainbow Dash, a friend of mine.”

His eyebrows lifted. “The Wonderbolt trainer?”

Both of us jerked back. “I wish!” Dash said. “Who told you that?”

“Why, Rarity of course. Then what do you do, Miss Dash?”

“I’m a weather pony in training to become a Wonderbolt myself. And I’m the only pony to ever do a sonic rainboom!”

“Well, that’s quite a feat. I’m surprised they haven’t snatched you up already. If you two are interested in meeting them, some of them usually come up to the VIP box after a show.”

Dash’s ears perked up and she smiled widely. “Of course we’ll stay!”

“I might not be able to stay for long,” I said. “I have something important I need to do.” It does mean I can just ditch Dash easier, though.

“Just remember,” Fancy said, “you still owe me a sparring match.”

“Yeah, yeah. I would offer to do it now, but I have none of my weapons.”

He lifted an eyebrow. “That’s somewhat surprising. I wouldn’t imagine I’d ever see you without them.”

I shrugged. “It happens. I didn’t figure I’d need them for what I had planned. When’s this show supposed to start, anyway?”

Fancy looked out the window into the stadium. “I’d say now.” We heard an announcer start doing her job. It sounded kind of like Luna but with an accent. We all lined up along the window. Fancy said, “I’ll be rooting for Misty. I’ve heard she’s been doing extra training this season.”

The toadies all nodded, but Dash spoke up, “Nah, Spitfire’ll win this one for sure. Misty has been doing extra training, but that’s only to make up for an injury she got near the end of last season.” Rarity gave Dash a rather knowing smile at that.

Lo and behold, Spitfire won. After about fifteen seconds. “…Is that all?” I quietly asked as the crowd roared. No one in the stands was moving, so I assumed there was more.

Fancy Pants looked over to Dash. “You know the Wonderbolts quite well, Miss Dash. That was a good call.”

Good enough to get her crowded by the group of boring ponies, at least. They all began talking at once, Dash looking rather confused. Rarity took that distraction to stand by me. “I’m terribly sorry for dragging you two into this, Nav. Though I have to say, the two of you make an adorable couple.”

“Don’t push it,” I told her. “After this place, you’re on your own with him. I have business in Canterlot and I’m not dragging him with me.”

She grimaced. “I’ll figure something out. I just didn’t want to face this alone.”

I shrugged. “Whatever. So is that little race all they’re going to do?”

“No, of course not. That was just the opener.”

Dash pushed her way out and jumped behind me. “Help,” she whispered.

I put a hand on her head and rubbed at her ears, smiling. “She’s with me,” I told them. They backed the fuck off and went back around Fancy Pants. They probably would have crowded Rarity, but she was still next to me. “Fucking toadies,” I muttered, turning back to the events outside the window.

The rest of the show was relatively interesting, though not something I’d pay to see. I’ll admit to being impressed, but honestly I don’t enjoy watching things like that. Every time there was a race, Dash correctly guessed the winner. I personally found that rather creepy, but the others apparently didn’t agree.

Either way, when the show finally ended, I figured I had an hour or two before I needed to get to the unicorn tower. All the toadies were talking about something or another amongst themselves. Graphite was still doing his best to attach himself to Rarity. I was talking to Fancy and Dash about knight shit and the war games.

A few of the Wonderbolts walked in during all that. I had no idea who was who, but Rainbow Dash seemed to know them all. She whispered, “Spitfire, Soarin, and High Winds.” I actually did recognize two of them. Spitfire was the pegasus from the Maris tournament and Soarin was the pegasus from Flankfurt tournament. The third was a random mare with poofy blue hair.

They blinked in surprise when they saw me. Spitfire grinned and said, “Hey big guy, didn’t expect to ever see you at one of these shows.”

I shrugged. “I figured I’d see what all the fuss was about. Gotta say, I’m impressed. Lord knows I couldn’t do what you three can with my shitty wings.”

Soarin smiled. “You may not have good wings, but Celestia are you quick on your feet! And light, too. The only time I knew you were coming at me during the tournament was when you vaulted over me. Then the only thing I saw was a flash before you bolted back down the dark hall.”

“Eh, I gotta get by somehow. Sorry for, you know, cheating like that in both tournaments. I kind of ruined them for everyone else, I think.”

Spitfire waved a hoof. “Nah, it’s cool. Somepony had to win, and it usually isn’t a pony that wins anyway. Hey, I don’t know if you ever caught our names. I’m Spitfire. That big lug is Soarin. This quiet little thing is High Winds.”

I nodded. “Nice to formally meet you all. I’m Navarone. This here’s Rainbow Dash, that’s Fancy Pants, and that mare is Rarity. And that guy is Graphite, I guess. Fuck all if I know the rest.” All of those names were accompanied by gestures.

“We’ve met Rainbow Dash a number of times now.” Dash jerked when Spitfire said her name, a smile forming on her face. “Same for Sir Fancy Pants. Hey, what did everypony think of the show?” There was a mixture of polite clopping and light praise. “That’s always good to hear.” She didn’t sound that happy to hear it, though.

“Used to more boisterous crowds?” I quietly asked as Soarin and High Winds strode up to the small group of rich ponies.

“Something like that,” she answered with a nod. She looked over to Dash. “You know, if you really want to become a Wonderbolt, the academy is opening next spring. We’ll be accepting a lot of new pegasi. With your history, I imagine you’ll have no trouble at all.”

Dash’s grin grew three sizes that day. Seriously, it creeped me out. Spitfire seemed to agree, because she chuckled nervously. “When can I apply?” Dash very quickly asked. “And where?”

“Just send your application to our chapter house in Cloudsdale.”

Dash looked like she was about to go into the whole ‘Omigosh’ thing again, so I broke in before she embarrassed herself. “So what’re the perks to the job?” I asked.

Spitfire grinned. “More bits than you can shake a stick at and all the adoring fans you could want. And I gotta say, these outfits can make a mare look sexy.”

“I’ll say…” I muttered, giving her an appraising look. “If I didn’t have something really important to do soon, I’d ask if you were going to be busy for a while.”

She grinned. “And if you did, I’d say no.” She shrugged. “We might do an event in Ponyville soon, if you’re still interested. Until then, I have fans to attend to. Talk to you later!” She walked out of the VIP box, leaving me and Dash standing there.

“Well, she was nice,” I said, looking down at Dash, who was looking at me with horror. “What?”

“Did… did you just… proposition Spitfire?

“Yeah. Looks like she was interested, too. Shame I have somewhere to be. I need to tell Rarity something and then we can leave.”

“…Yeah…” She sounded too shocked to say much else.

I walked over to the bored looking Rarity. She perked up when she saw me approaching and met me halfway, away from her date. “Hey marshmallow, I gotta go. Dash is probably leaving with me. We’ll take you with us if you think that guy is a serial killer or something.”

“No, he eats eggs… But you are not going to leave me alone with him. Give me just one moment and I’ll be along.”

I shrugged and went back to Dash. “We’ll be going shortly, hopefully.”

She snapped out of her stupor. “Nav, can I ask a huge favor?”

I shrugged. “Nothing stopping you from asking.”

“If you do… that with Spitfire, think you can get me in on it?”

“I can ask. No promises. That’s assuming either of us remember or if I ever see her again.”

Rarity joined us at the perfect time. “Come on, let’s go.” She nervously looked behind her. “Quickly.”

I led the way out and away from the mostly empty stands. We stayed quiet until we got out of the stadium entirely. That’s when Dash turned to Rarity and said, “So what’s the big deal, anyway? What was so bad about that stallion?”

“What was so bad? What was so bad?! Did you see his tuxedo? Horrible! He has no fashion sense at all! And all he did was talk and talk with no consideration for me at all. It was only after we left him alone with Nav that he even thought to ask a thing about me. That’s not even talking about his choice of venue! Did you see that restaurant? That’s a place for teenagers, not mares! And especially on the first date! The nerve of that stallion…”

Dash and I shared a look. We both rolled our eyes. I said, “Well, this is the part where I leave you two. I have business to take care of.”

Rarity and Dash both scoffed. “Where you go, I go,” Rarity said. “I will not risk bumping into that stallion without you.”

Dash nodded and said, “I signed my entire day away for this trip. Besides, I always wanted to see what kind of business you get into when you’re not in Ponyville. You always come back with the most awesome stories!”

“I’m also interested,” a third voice said as Fancy Pants stepped out of an alley. We all jumped at his voice. “I apologize for the scare. I always try to get away from those insufferable ponies after a show. I mentioned having business to discuss with you and they quickly found someplace else to be. And then I remembered you mentioning you needed an alibi, which means that I’m quite interested in what you’re up to.”

I quickly grinned. “Now now, what I’m up to is none of your concerns. It’s private, is all.”

Fancy grinned, rubbing a hoof under his chin. “I wonder what the princesses would say when I told them that you had some private business in Canterlot that you wanted them not to know about.”

I narrowed my eyes, the smile dropping. “Fine. None of the three of you can tell anyone about what I’m going to do. Let’s go.”

I spun about and began walking to the gates out of town. Dash quickly hopped up next to me, Fancy and Rarity falling in behind me. “So where we going, Nav?” Dash asked.

“Unicorn tower. I asked them to research something for me. They told me they had a breakthrough. I’m hoping that means what I think it means.”

“…What do you think it means?”

“That I’m going home.”

She stopped, getting Fancy Pants to bump into her. Then she jumped in front of me. “What?!”

“Temporarily.” Probably. “Now let’s go.”

She huffed and rejoined my side. “You better come back,” she warned. “If you abandon Taya like that, we’ll find a way to get to you.”

I had no intention of abandoning her on purpose, of course. What we intend and what happens is not always the same, though.

“I always did want to visit the tower,” Rarity said after a few minutes of walking. “Twilight goes on about it sometimes. I admit, she makes it sound extraordinary.”

“It is,” Fancy said. “Unicorns from all walks of life go there to learn and commit themselves to magic of all kinds. Most become masters in their craft and move on into the world to either teach or practice, but some dedicated ponies stay there all their lives to learn more and more. But to open a portal between dimensions… That is powerful magic. Navarone, why don’t you want the princesses knowing about this?”

“Because they would stop me.” Probably. “If it is possible to go home, I will. Imagine being ripped from your life, your family, with no chance to say goodbye. Imagine how they feel about that, let alone me. I owe them an explanation of what happened.”

He shrugged. “My lips are sealed, Navarone.”

Dash bumped against me. “You already know I won’t tell anypony if you don’t want me to. If the princess doesn’t ask, it’s not lying.”

“Your secret is safe with me,” Rarity added when she realized the other two were staring at her. That was easier than I thought.

“So Navarone,” Fancy said, “tell me about your world.”

“It’s like this one, but with about six billion more people, with all the consequences that involves. We have more technology than you can possibly imagine. It’s alright, though there are a bunch of stupid jerks. I don’t think you’d fit in well, though.”

He shrugged. “Maybe not, but I wouldn’t mind visiting anyway. I would like to see some of that ‘technology.’ I wonder if it would be a match for magic.”

“My money is on yes. Given the choice between science and technology versus magic, I’d pick science every day. I’m pretty sure most humans would.”

Dash scoffed. “I still want to see those planes that go faster than I do. I won’t believe it until then.”

“If I do go back, I’m going to do my best to bring some stuff back with me. Hopefully I’ll be able to.” Like a laptop with a fuckton of music and ebooks, a solar charger, a pack of pens, some mechanical pencils with a shitload of lead, and a few other things.

The conversation devolved into Dash imagining what she would do if she had a load of tech, though she got a number of details incredibly wrong. Although if I somehow ended up in the future of when I left, we might have giant robots.

When we got to the tower, Dash and Rarity looked up at it in awe. I put my ring on and the other three were given a number of protection spells. I wasn’t really paying much attention as we walked up the blackened path to the tower. I was quite excited about the prospect of going home.

Flo whispered, “Nav, if you do get back home, there is a good chance I will not be able to speak. I want you to know that if your wings get seen and you end up in a lab or something, they will probably find signs of me in your blood. I will do my best to stay hidden, but I don’t know how well that will work.”

That’s not a bad thing, though. I’ve had a lot of weird shit done to me. Why would it matter if they find you?

“It is just a warning. I know your blood is very different and that will probably be enough to throw them off my scent. If they mention anything strange, that is why.”

I’ll keep that in mind. When we got inside, the same secretary was sitting at the front desk.

She smiled when she saw me. “Oh, Sir Navarone! And you brought friends this time. I trust you’re here for the experiment?”

“The one I wanted researched, yes. When is it?”

“Oh, about half an hour. If you’ll follow me over to the teleportation pad, we can get you into the Orb in no time.”

My eyebrows lifted. “We’re going up there?”

“Well, of course! If this experiment works, it will be the first sanctioned attempt at traversing time. And over such a long period… Why, I imagine everything about this will go down in the history books.”

“Well… That’s interesting to hear, I suppose.” Just as long as no one learns about it until it’s too late. “So can you send us on up?”

“Yep. Come on over.” She led the way to the teleportation pad, Rarity and Dash looking around in wonder at the place.

“So why can’t we just fly there?” Dash asked.

“No fly zone,” the pegasus secretary answered. “Nopony can fly over the tower unless they’re doing a sanctioned experiment. We’ve taken down dragons before as they tried to fly over.”

Dash let out a low whistle. “Wow. Sounds like you can put up quite an obstacle course…”

I knew the look she had. “No, Dash. I don’t think there was much left of that dragon when they removed it from the air. It’s not worth trying.”

She sighed. “Fiiiiine. I guess seeing the biggest spell of all time is cool too.”

We all got to the pad and the secretary smiled up at me. “I’ll see you soon, I hope,” she said before saying, “Orb.” She pulled the lever and we teleported up.

Rarity sighed. “Nav, do you rut every mare you meet? Surely I’m not the only one to notice this!”

Dash grinned. “He hasn’t rutted me yet! Heheh, what does that say about you, Rarity?”

I grinned and stepped off the pad, walking to the unicorn guards at the double doors. “We’re here for the experiment,” I said.

They looked me up and down. “We need to test if you’re a changeling.”

I pulled out a hidden throwing knife and slashed my hand open. As soon as they saw the blade, they jerked back, ready to attack. When they saw what I was doing, they just gave me a bored look. “Sir, we had an easier way to do that,” one said.

I shrugged. “It worked. Test the others.”

Their horns lit up and rays of light shot out to hit the others. Nothing happened. “Very well, you may proceed,” one said, the doors opening automatically.

We let ourselves in. There was a sign in front of us that had directions. Two offices were on either side of the tunnel we just stepped into. I narrowed my eyes as I looked at the map. This place is a copy of the Ministry of Truth in Morrowind. Holy hell. I mean, that was my first thought when I saw it floating up like it was, but to have it confirmed? Fucking ponies, man.

I followed my memories, letting it take me to what should have been a prison cell but was instead a large hollowed area where they presumably cast spells of titanic proportions.

Rarity was talking to whoever was listening about how the barren rock walls were boring, but not unsalvageable.

Dash whispered so only we could hear, “Hey Nav, do you… think I could go with you?”

“No. It’s enough of a risk for me to go at all, with my wings. I’m not bringing a pony.” She sighed, but didn’t try to fight it.

I got the first look at the hollow chamber. Every single inch of the walls was covered in glowing sigils and glyphs, each presumably for protection. The floor was perfectly white stone that looked like marble. Engraved into it with fire was a massive polygon that slowly shifted its shape as I watched it. The smell of incense and spell ingredients hung heavily in the air. A large circle of unicorns stood around the polygon, each of their horns glowing and chants coming from their lips. Upon each face was a look of intense concentration as they pooled their magic together for one ultimate spell.

As soon as we walked in, the unicorn from the temporal mechanics room met us by the door. He whispered, “Good to see you here. We have no idea how far back this spell will send you, so we’ll use a few spells on you beforehand so that you’ll be able to speak whatever language is there and breathe the atmosphere. Everypony in the room is going to get both spells, because this spell… This isn’t your average spell. Anything in that polygon will be torn from time and hurled backwards in time, while anything in the spot you arrive in will be torn and hurled forward. It’s entirely possible we’ll hit a city and bring back ten other humans. The spell should wear off in a week. IF… If it succeeds at all. Sir Navarone, are you absolutely certain you want to do this?”

“Hell yes. Do I just stand in the circle?”

He nodded. “If you have any items you want to leave behind,” he nodded at a box on a table next to the doors, “put them in there and place your ho—hand on the top. It will seal it so that only you can open it.”

I walked over to it and put my ring inside. I closed it, put my hand on the top, and took a very deep breath. It’s finally happening. I nodded and walked over to the circle, doing my best to walk as quietly as possible. When I stood in the center, I gently pulled my pack up and took out my jacket, throwing it over my shoulders.

Let’s do this.

Of course, it’s never as simple as that. As the chick downstairs said, they were planning on starting in half an hour. Everything up until then was just the preliminary. That meant I was standing in the middle of a shifting polygon with chanting unicorns all around me for thirty minutes. It was kind of boring, and the excitement I felt made the time flow very slowly.

Finally, the chanting began to increase in volume and the light from the horns fully lit up the room. I found myself smiling as the time seemed to speed up, something finally happening. Five minutes sped by, the unicorns still channeling power.

Finally, something happened. Not something momentous or extraordinary or any kind of wonderful.

Something terrible.

The screaming began. I jerked my head to the door to find the tentacle beast from before fighting the guards, with Rarity, Dash, and Fancy Pants backing away toward the circle.

Several unicorns flinched at the noise, their horns spiking in light as their chanting suddenly stopped. I saw a number of fluctuations in light as the spell seemed to unravel around me. My eyes went wide as the monster threw one of the guards into the ground in front of Rarity, making the three of them turn tail and bolt right toward me.

I held up my hands to stop them, because I’m pretty sure at this point I was fucked. Right as soon as they pushed through the unicorn wall into the polygon, the spell imploded.

 

 

A note from—You know who I am.

 

Flash back five minutes, to the point right when the unicorns started picking up the spell. I was watching—of course I was watching, I had to make sure they didn’t succeed. If those fools knew what they were attempting, if they knew the consequences...

They did not.

I was using my magic to cancel theirs, siphoning their spell energy into nothingness.

I was too focused on their efforts—and too far away, trying to guide an effort in a room with enough wards to give even me trouble—to see the true danger. It wasn’t until I felt the spike of fear that I knew what was happening.

My concentration was shattered for one little second.

It was time enough for my oldest enemy to work. Random chance…

I imagine they could hear my rampage all the way from Canterlot. When my anger was spent—and Trixie was horrified beyond all belief—I sat and thought, something I told myself I would never do again.

I thought back to the time before the Incident, to the time of Man.

And I remembered. I remembered the cause of what I did.

As I cried for the first time in my very long life, I finally realized that I was the cause of my greatest mistake.

 

 

With a flash of lightning, we were no longer in the chamber. We reappeared in a barren clearing, three feet into the ground on all sides of the polygon, snow and dirt forming a wall all around us. Glad I brought the coat... I could see roots cut clean in half where they were bisected by the spell.

Dash had been flying when we teleported. As soon as we appeared, she tumbled to the ground, unable to keep in the air. Rarity was panting and wide-eyed, trying to look all around her for the monster. Fancy Pants was trying to regain his composure.

I was fucking pissed.

“My. One. Chance. GONE! FUCK!” I sank to the soft ground. “I just… wanted to go home. Was that so much to ask?” Rarity said something, but I wasn’t listening. I held up a hand to silence her, hearing something infinitely more important. Something I hadn’t heard since… “Car. Nobody move.”

I grabbed my pack and vaulted out of the pit, running in the direction of the sound. I heard some movement behind me, but I zoned it out, concentrating on finding any signs of a road. Soon, I found it: A long black road stretching to two curves in the forest around us.

I knelt down, listening for the car. It’s coming toward me, I think. Here’s hoping courtesy exists whenever we are.

When I saw it coming closer, I stood on the side of the road and held out my thumb, hoping the person inside would be kind enough to stop. Joy of joys, he was. The strange looking car slowed to a stop right in front of me before the old man inside opened his door and stepped out.

“Jesus, boy!” he said, looking me up and down. “When was the last time you ate? You run away from home or something?”

God dammit. I had forgotten how short I was. I probably looked like a fucking teenager. “Not quite. Can I use your phone?”

He looked at my gaunt cheeks again. “Boy, get in the car. You need to eat.”

I shook my head. “I have… some friends here. I can’t leave them.”

“My car is bigger than it looks, kid. If they’re in as bad a shape as you, bring them here and I’ll get them all something to eat.”

“That would not end well. Look, please just let me use your phone. I can make it worth your while.”

He ran a hand through his greying hair. “Alright. You stand right there and call whoever you need to call. I’ll be listening. Keep whatever money you got, though.” He pulled out a very futuristic phone from his pocket. “You know how to use one of these?”

I shook my head. “I’ve… been away for a while.”

He rolled his eyes. “And they called me old fashioned when I got this thing. What’s the number?”

Here’s hoping this guy still has his number. I rattled one off that I barely remembered. “That area code’s in Texas, ain’t it?” he asked as he passed me the phone.

“Yeah.” I put it up to my ear, listening to the dial tone.

“How the hell did you wind up in Maryland?”

“Long story.” I heard someone pick up the phone. “John?” I hopefully said.

“…Yeah?”

“It’s…” I almost said Navarone. “Anonymous. I need to cash in on that favor.”

“Holy shit, Anon? I haven’t heard from you in years! How’s it going, man?”

“Badly. That’s why I need the favor. Do you still own that horse ranch?”

“No. I thought you heard. I sold that fucker twenty years ago.” Twenty years?!

“Holy… What year is it?”

“You alright, man?”

“…Yeah. Listen, can you get a horse trailer to Maryland?”

“Anon, are you on drugs?”

“Look, I know it’s a lot to ask. I can make it worth your while. But you fucking owe me.”

“That was forty years ago, and an accident to boot!”

“Bitch, you fucking shot me!”

He sighed. “Fine. I’ll see what I can do. Where do I need to get it?”

“Hold on.” I looked up at the old man. “What’s the nearest exit?”

He smiled. “Kid, I don’t think you know how lost you are. There’s nothing in twenty miles either way.”

“I’ll be fine. What’s the nearest exit?”

“Look, I can let you stay at my place until your friend gets here. Is that okay?”

I sighed. “Fine. What’s the address?” He told me and I relayed it to John.

“Shit…” he said. “I can be there in three days.”

“Can you make it two?” I asked.

“No. You’re lucky everyone’s off for Christmas or I couldn’t come at all. Now I need to go set this up. I’ll talk to you later, Anon.”

He hung up before I could say anything. I took a look at the phone, seeing a date. Thirty-five years. Shit, son. I passed it back to the old man. “Are you religious?” I asked him.

His eyes went up to my hair. “I’m about to hear something very strange, aren’t I?”

“What makes you think that?”

He sighed, leaning against his car. “Kid, I can take one look at your eyes and know you aren’t human.” …I knew I was forgetting something. “Having your hair turn white in front of my eyes is just confirmation. So what are you?”

I sighed and grabbed the edge of my jacket before pulling it off, stretching my wings out. His mouth just dropped. “I take it you recognize me now,” I said, folding my wings and putting my jacket back on. “Needless to say, I would ask that you stay silent about me and my friends. Again, I can make it very worth your while.”

His mouth was working, but nothing was coming out. Finally, he let out a strangled, “How?”

“They all say that. Can I count on your help, and your silence?”

He took a deep breath before nodding. “Yes sir. Just… my family might not be so accepting.”

“You got sunglasses?” He woodenly nodded. “I’m a blind beggar you found on the road. I assume if you live out here, you have a place my friends can hide?”

“Yes sir… But who are your friends?”

I looked into the woods and saw them watching from the shadows. I waved them forward. Fancy Pants was the first to move, taking a stance in front of Rarity and Rainbow Dash as they all walked out. Thankfully, one of them had the sense to tell Fancy and Rarity to lose the clothes.

I’ll admit, I was tempted to leave the three of them behind. If I didn’t have to deal with them, I could get a bus and ride down to Texas and find my family that way. But since I wasn’t going to be here long and I had a favor to cash in anyway…

I looked back to the old man to see that he had fallen to his knees, a hand over his heart. “My God,” he was whispering over and over. It felt kind of bad to be using religion to get help from this guy, but on the other hand, I really didn’t want to end up in a government lab. I figured letting him think I was an angel would work.

Rarity opened her mouth, but I quickly lifted my hand to mine, hopefully getting her to not say a word. She seemed to get the message and closed it again.

“These are my friends,” I told him, walking over to him and putting a hand on his shoulder. “As I said, there’s a reason I wanted silence. I imagine that there are a few parties that would be very interested in having us. And there is one almighty party that desires us to be free until our job is complete.”

He licked his lips nervously, still looking at the ponies. “Why… why are you here, if you are needed in Texas?”

“I have heard a phrase from some of the younger souls, as they come off the mountain of Purgatory. The lord works in mysterious ways. Maybe you were meant to find us, to help us.”

His nervousness vanished. “Of course! Thank you, o lord, for the chance to serve!” The ponies were suitably confused by that, but with a shake of my head I got them to look somewhat unconcerned. “Come, I’ve kept you all in the cold for too long.”

He walked over to the driver’s side of the sedan and opened his door. I walked over to the ponies and quietly said, “Follow my orders. Do not talk. Do not ask questions. Do not use magic, if you even can. Come.” I led them to the back door and opened it up. “It’ll be a tight fit, but you can manage.” Dash gave me a flat look. “Get. In.” She rolled her eyes and hopped in, scooting as far over as she could. Thankfully, it had a flat seat. Rarity went next.

Fancy was last. He whispered, “I hope you know what you’re doing, old boy,” before joining the other two. It was, as I said, a tight fit, and the car was rather off balanced. I closed the door and got in the front seat.

“Never thought I’d sit in a car again,” I sighed as I put the seatbelt on.

“What’s Heaven like?” the old man suddenly asked as he turned the car on.

“Depends on who you ask. Me, it’s business as usual. A human soul, though? I’ve watched poets become speechless. Human words simply can’t describe it. You’re used to this place, this dull Earth. The differences are infinite.”

“…And hell?”

I sighed. “Humans aren’t supposed to pity those that go to hell. They had their chance and they wasted it.” I closed my eyes, turning my head away. “We have no such compunctions. I pity my lost brothers and sisters and I pity the humans that rot with them.”

We drove in silence for some time after that. “What’s… God like?”

“He is a father and all humans are his children. He is the most perfect father you can imagine. Where are the sunglasses?”

“Glove box. They aren’t the best, but they’ll do.”

I pulled them out and put them on. “It’s strange. Normally when I’m sent on a mission, I don’t have to worry about showing off who I am. I also don’t usually have to worry about any lesser celestial beings traveling with me. Something big must be happening that I wasn’t informed of.”

“Whatever you need help with, Eustace is your man,” he told me. I assumed his name was Eustace. “Muriel will probably worry over you as soon as you step in the door.” Don’t tell me they have a dog named Courage. “No offense, sir, but you don’t look that healthy.”

“I look that way for a reason. What better way to gain help from kind mortals than by letting them think I am helpless? It worked on you, did it not?”

“…I suppose it did. The lord does work in mysterious ways…”

There was so much I wanted to ask, but I couldn’t without showing my ignorance and lack of divinity. I didn’t think it would matter that much, but I wasn’t going to take a chance.

He asked, “So what are these three horse-like things?”

“Two unicorns and a pegasus,” I answered. “They prefer the term ponies. They’re quite intelligent and rather even-tempered. I won’t need any food, but they probably will.”

He smiled, looking in the rear-view mirror at them. “This sounds silly, but can they talk?”

“Of course no—”

“Yes,” Rarity answered.

Eustace jerked the fucking wheel and slammed on the brakes. Thankfully, we were on a backcountry road in the middle of nowhere, so no one was coming.

“You had one job, Rarity! Eustace, calm the fuck down. If you send us into a snow drift, I do not want to pull this car out.”

She sniffed. “Well excuse me.”

“Fancy, if you want to practice some domestic abuse, I’m looking the other way. Dash is too. Eustace, are you okay?”

He was taking deep breaths, looking in the mirror. “I’m… I’m good. That’s just about too much for this old heart to take, is all. What about the other two?”

I sighed. “Cat’s out of the bag. Eustace, meet Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Fancy Pants. If you ask about the names, I’ll smite you. Ponies, say hi.”

“I’m terribly sorry for scaring you,” Rarity said with a smile. “I’m Rarity.”

Fancy went next. “Thanks for the help, old chap,” he said. “I’m Fancy Pants.”

“Dude, that was awesome!” Dash said, presumably meaning the part where he jerked the wheel and tried to kill us. “Oh, and I’m Rainbow Dash, best flier anywhere!”

Eustace took one more deep breath before nodding. “Hello. I’m Eustace MacCraig. Sorry for the scare, there… It’s been an interesting day.”

“Excellent,” I said, nodding. “Now let’s get back to moving before a very well-meaning cop discovers us and finds out things he shouldn’t.”

“Yes sir.” Eustace maneuvered the car back around so we could get back to driving before taking off. “So what’s flying like?” he asked when we were again moving.

Dash smiled. “It’s a load of fun, especially when you start going really fast! Not that Nav here would know anything about that.”

“Nav?” he asked, eyeing me askance. “I don’t remember that name from the Bible.”

“And if everything in the Bible was true, then God was the worst tyrant to ever exist,” I answered. “Contrary to popular belief, the greatest trick Satan ever did was not convincing people he didn’t exist, it was whispering deceit into the minds of those that copied the lord’s word. Besides, you don’t expect billions of angels to be named in that document, do you?” This religious talk is getting annoying.

“Well… No. If the lord knew his holy word was tainted, why didn’t he have it fixed?”

“Faith. Would He have allowed the devil to corrupt His word with no reason? If the document was perfect, there would be no reason to believe, for all would know. Worshipping him is a choice, and there is no choice between a fact and a lie.”

“That… makes sense, actually.”

I smiled. “Good.” Now if only it made sense to me.

A few minutes later he began slowing down. “Sir, if we explain the situation to my wife and kids, we can probably convince them not to say anything.”

“I won’t take that chance. If it would truly be a bother for me to stay in the house with you and them, I can stay hidden with my friends. I can sit immobile for days at a time if I need to.” Though that was with Flo in my head. It might be harder now.

“They’ll be fine. But your friends need to get out now.” He began pulling over off to the side. I could barely see an old abandoned building out in the woods. “They can take shelter in there until your friend shows up.”

I pulled myself out of the car and opened the door for Fancy Pants. “Take care of them,” I said, helping him out. “There shouldn’t be any snakes this time of year, but there might be spiders or some poisonous bugs. I’ll see what I can do about keeping you three fed.”

He nodded, turning to help the other two out. “We’ll be fine, Sir Navarone. And for what it’s worth… I’m sorry for ruining this for you.”

“Sorry won’t give me another chance. Make sure Rarity keeps her fucking mouth shut when we meet the next person.” I got a glare for that but I didn’t care. “Hopefully he’ll be here in three days. Keep away from the road unless I come for you.”

He nodded. “Yes sir. Come along, you two.” He herded Rarity and Dash into the woods. I followed them up to the edge to grab a long stick before walking back to the car and getting back in.

“Who ever heard of a blind man without a cane?” I asked to Eustace’s confused look. He grinned before pulling up a few hundred feet further and turning down a side road that turned out to be a driveway. He stopped the car in front of a nice looking house that already had six other cars around it. We sat in silence for a moment before I said, “I have to thank you for doing this, Eustace.” I reached into a pocket and grabbed one of my coin pouches, pulling two bits out. “I know the price of gold is probably different from the last time I was here, but this should be more than enough to cover whatever we use.”

He took the bits, wide-eyed. He looked at one of them, turning it over in his hands. “Sun and moon?” he asked.

“Usually we’re given local money, but it appears that whatever screw-up brought the three ponies with me also extended to my money. If I had to guess, I’d say that was either Aztec or Egyptian money. Either way, it should be worth a fortune. Now, are you ready?”

“Yes sir.” We stepped out of the car. I held my makeshift cane up to try to get a feel for it. He stepped around to the back of his car and popped his trunk. I heard rustling bags and saw him pulling out groceries.

“You need help?” I asked.

“And ask a blind man to carry my groceries? There’s not much, just a few things we needed for Christmas.”

I shrugged and followed him up to the door, holding my cane out in front of me as I hoped a blind person did, using it to feel the ground. When we got to the porch, I used the hand rail, happy to have one for the first time in four years. I mean, why have one if most of the population doesn’t have hands?

He opened the door and we let ourselves in. I gently kicked it shut behind me. “Muriel?” he called. “I’m home. And we have another guest.”

An old woman bustled out of a side hallway, the smell of cooking following her. “Took you lo—Hello.” She stopped when she saw me. “And who are you?” she asked in a kind tone.

“Michael, ma’am,” I answered with a nod in her direction. “I hope you don’t mind, but your husband decided to help me out until a friend can get here for me.”

“I… see.” Her eyes went to my cane and then to my very bony and gaunt hand. “Oh, you’re so… skinny…” I didn’t comment. “Well, I don’t like that he just took you in like this without asking us, but I’m sure he had a very good reason.” She narrowed her eyes and looked over at the old man. “He better have.” She looked back at me, the somewhat happy look back. “Thankfully, we have plenty of room. Come, leave that stick at the door and I’ll introduce you to the rest of the family.”

“Well, I would leave it, but I don’t really want to bump into anything,” I answered.

Her eyes shot up to my sunglasses and she blushed. “Oh, I see—er, I mean… Oh lordy…”

I grinned. “It’s okay, ma’am. Any words at this point that aren’t ‘give me everything you have’ are more kindness than I’m used to.”

She sighed. “Well, let me at least get your coat…”

“I’d rather keep it, ma’am,” I quickly said. “The robbers… didn’t exactly leave me with much. Just this bag and what I have on.”

She sighed, shaking her head. “It’s a wonder anyone can get along at all these days… Robbing a blind young man… Well, come on, then. I’ll introduce you to the others. Eustace, you put those groceries in the kitchen and join us.” She walked up to me and gently took my hand in hers. “Just follow me, Michael.” She pulled me back down the way she came. I trailed behind her, trying to act like a blind person and hopefully doing a good enough job to fool her. “So where are you from?”

“Texas, ma’am. I’ve been traveling for so long I don’t remember much about it, though.”

“I see. We’re turning a corner now.” She led me into a big dining room with a very long and rather full table. The muted conversation stopped when we walked in. “Everybody, this is Michael. He’ll be staying with us for a few days.”

One middle-aged man stood up and walked over to me. “Michael, is it?” he said.

“Yes sir,” I answered, not looking directly at him.

“It’s not polite to look away from people when you’re talking to them, boy,” he said.

Muriel jerked back, but before she could say anything, I answered, “I’ve been told that. But when you don’t see anything when you’re looking, it seems more of a pointless nicety.”

He nodded. “Welcome to the MacCraig family.” He wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “Come on, let’s find you a place.” He started pulling me down the table. “So where you from and where you going?” he asked.

“Texas. Hopefully going back to Texas. Mister Eustace was kind enough to offer to let me stay until a friend can come and get me.”

“What brings you all the way out here?” he asked as he pulled out a chair for me.

“Some people with less than scrupulous morals,” I said as I was helped into a chair. “Thank you. I was given the option of getting in a car or being given a new hole to breathe through. I chose to go for a ride. When I was politely asked to get out, I was out several hundred dollars, along with almost everything I had.”

He pulled out the chair next to me and sat down. “That’s a right shame. I can’t imagine who would… Well, you’re here now. Guess God really does look after the blind.”

“And I thank Him for it,” I said as Eustace walked in.

“I hope everyone’s ready to eat,” he said as he walked to the head of the table. “Shall we say grace?” You know, I honestly didn’t even notice the fucking feast in front of me. I guess I’m a better blind guy than I give myself credit for.

We all joined hands, the very cute girl next to me smiling as she took mine. Eustace said a very nice prayer that I didn’t really pay much attention to. When he finished and the food started getting passed around, some teenager asked me, “So why would a blind kid travel alone? Isn’t that just asking for trouble?”

“To prove I can,” I answered. “And I’m not a kid, just very short.”

He muttered something, probably because the guy that was sitting next to me was glaring at him. “Don’t mind him,” he said. “You got any stories to tell?”

“Most of my stories are either not suitable for dinner conversation or something that would be better suited for kids… Unless you mean personal stories. Tales of a blind man stumbling about in the world aren’t that interesting, trust me.”

“I’m a kid at heart,” he answered with a shrug.

I grinned. “Then let me tell you some tales of Navarone, knight of a forgotten land…”

Dinner was pretty awesome, and eating duck and turkey for the first time in years was even better. It’s a shame it was ruined by the door being kicked in. I immediately shot to my feet and bolted that way, beating everyone else in the family to the main hall. I saw black-clad people with long guns and respirators.

Oh fuck me. I turned and bolted the other way, hearing yelling behind me. I got to the end of the hall and ran into two more of the troops. The guns pointed straight at me and I knew it was over.

“Hands up,” one of them ordered. I slowly put them in the air. “Now turn around and start walking back where you came from.” I did as he ordered, slowly moving down the hall. The other two troops were aiming their guns into the dining room, probably daring anyone to move. When I got to them, one of them grabbed me and pushed me into the dining room.

I turned to face them. “You’re making a mistake,” I said.

“We know exactly what we’re doing,” one of them answered. It sounded like a woman. “Sunglasses off.”

I gave her a disarming grin. “You wouldn’t deny a blind man a comfort, would you?”

Her gun pointed right at me. “I suggest you start doing as I say. Take off your sunglasses.” After a moment of thought, I sighed and pulled them off, showing her my cat-like eyes. She nodded at seeing them. “Now the jacket.”

“Come on, lady!” She flipped off the safety. I sighed and slipped it off, spreading my wings. “I don’t suppose you’ll let a servant of the lord do his work in peace, would you?”

“I would not. You can come quietly or we can make you come. The choice is yours.”

I narrowed my eyes. “You’ll regret this.”

“I have to die first. Get moving.”

I looked over my shoulder at the family that was now very shocked and confused. “Your kindness will be remembered. And thank you, Eustace. Tell no one I was here.”

He nodded. “Yes sir. We’ll stay quiet.”

I slowly walked up to and past the woman with the gun, it trailing me the entire way. If I thought fighting back would have done anything, I would have stabbed her with one of my hidden knives. As it was, I had a feeling trying to fight would get my shit wrecked and it might hurt some of the nice family behind me. So I just kept walking in silence until I was outside.

There were more troops outside. As soon as I stepped out, their guns jerked up at me. I started to stretch my wings because they had been cramped in the jacket, but a gloved hand grabbed one and wrenched it down. “You try and fly away,” the woman said, “I’ll break them.” I lowered my other wing and she let me go. “Keep walking.” I did. The troops herded me to a large black troop transport. She stopped me right before I stepped inside. “Turn around.” I did. “Why did you need a horse trailer?”

I very quickly thought of a lie. “Do you know how uncomfortable it is to sit in a car with these things?”

“This is your one warning. If you lie to me again, I will shoot one of your wings. I’m interested in seeing what color ‘angel’ blood is. Why did you need the horse trailer?”

I focused in on my throwing knives, tensing myself to move. “I told you why.” The gun angled to my left wing and that’s when I moved. I twisted my body and brought a hand to my sleeve, pulling out a knife. Her gun went off and a bullet slammed into the edge of my wing before she tried to correct her aim and bring her rifle to bear on me. I had my knife out before she could get it up and slammed it through her jacket armor into her arm, leaving it there and drawing another. The other troops were quickly spreading around me and trying to get a shot as I grabbed the soldier by her rifle and pulled her to me, putting my knife against her neck.

“You move, she dies,” I said, slowly backing the two of us into the troop transport. They all stopped. “I don’t want to hurt anyone, but by God, I fucking will.”

“I suggest you let me go,” the woman I was holding said.

“I know this is a bad idea, you don’t have to tell me,” I whispered.

“There’s a man standing behind you with a gun to the back of your head,” she said. I heard the hammer pull back on a pistol.

“Let her go,” an older voice said. “We will not hurt you if you do.” Now I remember why I hated this place. I let her go and pushed her back. “The knife, if you would?” I sighed and let it fall, holding my hands up. The woman bent down and grabbed my knife, holding it with her noninjured arm. “Turn around. I want to look at your face.” I did as he said and saw an old white guy that looked sort of like my grandfather dressed in a suit. He very slowly nodded. “I wouldn’t believe it if I couldn’t see it…” he whispered. “What is your name?”

As I was staring down the barrel of a .45, I considered my options. Eventually, I said, “Anonymous, Navarone, Michael. Take your pick.”

He decocked his gun before putting it in a holster. “When my old friend called me and said someone was pretending to be me, I didn’t believe him at first. But when our satellite showed us what you were, my organization deemed it important to investigate. Your three pony friends should be apprehended by now, unless they put up more of a fight than you did. Speaking of which…” His eyes went to my holey wing. “I suppose we should look at that. Are you going to continue to try resisting, or are you ready to go quietly?”

“Stop pointing guns at me and I’ll play nice.”

He looked at all the troops and waved his hands down. I heard the woman say, “You sure, dad? He fucking stabbed me.”

The old man grinned. “You were threatening to shoot him. I say it’s somewhat fair. You, Anonymous, do you have any more weapons on you?”

“Yes. A strip of throwing knives across my chest.”

“Well… I imagine you’re already cold. Take them off quickly and get your shirt back on and then we’ll look at that wound.” I pulled a hand inside my shirt and unbuckled the strip of knives before taking them out and throwing them on the ground. “I suppose that is one way to do it. Jessica, if you would?”

She sniffed. “Medic, front and center.” I turned to the group of soldiers and saw someone with a red cross band on his arm coming over. “Patch up his wing. And then see to my arm.”

“Don’t worry about me,” I said. “My blood is not normal and I barely feel pain. I’ll be fine.”

The medic looked to Jessica. “Follow your orders, medic,” she said.

He shrugged and turned to me. “On your knees, angel.” I rolled my eyes and knelt down for him. I heard him digging through a medic bag before pulling something out. “This will sting.” He sprayed something over my wing and I felt it start taking effect. “I would just use synthskin, but over feathers?” I felt an ungloved hand wrap around the top of the wing, holding it steady as a bandage rolled around it. “It’ll do for now,” he said before walking over to the girl. “Your arm?”

I stopped paying attention as I stood. I was instead watching a few troops escorting the three ponies out of the woods. Dash was on Fancy’s back, presumably knocked clean out. They walked over to the transport. The lead soldier saluted. “Blue one tried to fight, ma’am,” he said before dropping the salute.

Fucking Rainbow Dash. “Is she still alive?” the woman asked.

“Yes ma’am. She should wake up some time later with a killer headache.”

“Good. Everybody load up! We gotta get to the airship in twenty unless you feel like waiting out here in the boonies for twenty-three hours.”

The soldiers quickly loaded up, forcing me and the ponies to the front of the transport. The four of us ended up stuck in the middle, all the other seats full. “What is going on?” Rarity hissed at me.

I was about to answer when that bitch spoke up, “No talking!” I rolled my eyes and did my best to brace myself as the truck picked up speed.

I didn’t know where we were going or what we were doing. I saw my knives being passed around by the troops. I don’t know if they were planning on keeping them as trophies or if they just wanted to look them over.

After nearly an hour, the back of the transport finally clanged open. The restraints on the troops lifted up and the ones near the back filed out. We were in the way of the others until bitchy mcbitcherson ordered us out. Dash still hadn’t woken up, so Fancy Pants continued carrying her.

Everyone in the very large room was staring at us. The old man from before walked up to me. “Please, follow me,” he said. “I know you have questions, but so do we. You can ask yours after we ask ours. Come.”

I sighed and followed him, the ponies trailing after me and looking around at all of the strange sights. There was definitely plenty to see: Airships reminiscent of those from Halo, a number of troop transport ships, all kinds of computers and things like that, and a bunch of humans all watching us.

The old man led us into and down a hall. I was ushered into one room and the ponies into another. The old man went with me. Inside was a table and two chairs, an interrogation room if ever I’d seen one. “Sit, sit,” he warmly said, taking the seat on the side of the room with the one-way window. I stiffly sat in the other chair. “In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am Doctor Anonymous, the man you are pretending to be.” He grinned. “Well, you’re a much younger version of me, at least. It’s interesting. Why me, of anybody?”

“I’m not ‘pretending’ anything, doc. I’m you, if you are who you say you are. First crush, a girl named Katie Thomson. She said she liked you but you were too shy to tell her anything back. Second crush, another Katie. You lusted from a distance, still too shy. First username, nunchakunature, suggested by AoL because all the ‘cool’ names were taken. Password: dead babies. Social security:” I rattled a number off. “I can keep going, if you want.”

He looked somewhat troubled. “I’m convinced. Either you’re truly me or you’re the enemy. And I don’t think the enemy knows me that well just yet. Go ahead, convince me. Tell me your story.”

I smiled.

“Now this is a story all about how

My life got spelled, thrown all around

And I'd like to take a minute just sit right there

I'll tell you how I became the knight to some mare.

 

In great ol' Texas, born and raised

Inside of my house, reclusing most of my days

Chilling out, maxing, doing nothing you see

And shooting some shit on my sly PC

When a damn unicorn, magicked up to my doom

She started playing magic in my living room

Got in one little spell and boy was I scared

She said "I've definitely got to show you to my master, the mare!"

 

When I was shown around, I've met a stranger

A dark pony and powerful which screamed at me danger

I wasn't too bright and I was unprepared

For the nightly princess, a lunatic mare.

 

My body and mind was torn and reshaped

As I got yelled all around "Yo, Nav wanna rape?!"

Looked all around, now I'm stuck forever

To stand in my armor as the knight of some mare.”

 

 

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