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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17. Chapter Thirteen—I didn’t go to school for this

Half a month after that little episode, I woke up on a train. The thing is, I didn’t go to bed on that train. In fact, I had no knowledge of boarding a train. Hell, I didn’t even have any knowledge of being asked if I wanted to go on a train ride. A quick look out the window told me I was most definitely no longer anywhere near Ponyville. I was still a human, at least, which I consider a plus. I also had a splitting headache, which kind of sucked.

I quickly looked around me to see if there was anything of use. The first thing I found was a metal flask, which I quickly took a sip out of, thinking it was water.

It was not. Some manner of alcohol greeted my lips. At least it made my head feel a little better. I pocketed it and tried to remember what had happened the night before.

The last thing I remembered was eating dinner with Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, after one of our dancing lesson things which were now more about a few friends getting together than actual dancing. I remembered getting up to head home, and Pinkie Pie trying to convince us to stay a few more minutes for some contrived reason or another… I know I got outside, and after that was nothing.

As my eyes adjusted to the dim light of the cabin, I ascertained another shape in a bed across from mine. I rolled out of the bed and almost fell on my ass, but managed to slip my feet under me at the last moment. Twisted my wings up, though… I still forget about them, some mornings.

After getting my feet and stretching, I checked the shape. Yeah, that’s Fluttershy. I poked her to see if she was anywhere near awake. She groaned and shifted, muttering something that sounded like “Five more minutes.” I poked her a few more times until she sat up, bleary-eyed and confused.

“What the hell happened last night?” I asked.

“I… I don’t know. The last thing I remember was eating with Pinkie Pie!”

“Dammit, I hope I didn’t get kidnapped again… This shit has got to stop happening!”

“I’m sure it’s not as serious as ponynapping! Wait, have you been ponynapped before?”

“Long story. I can tell you after we figure out where we are and where we’re going. You good to walk?” Yeah, Fluttershy is never going to hear that story.

“I think I’m fine. My head hurts, though…” she said as she tenderly got to her feet.

We appeared to be in the middle cabin of a long train. I looked through the windows on both sides and saw more carts on each side. “Should we split up and search, stay together and search, or wait here and hope for the best?” I asked.

“I… I think we should stay together. You know how most ponies are when it comes to you, after all…” More like she didn’t want to be alone, but whatever. I know Fluttershy wasn’t particularly brave, and I didn’t hold that against her. She had a point, if nothing else.

“Fine, we’ll wait here. Wish I had some kind of weapon, though…” I flexed my hands, letting my eyes run over the cabin again. It wasn’t a very ornamented place, with relatively simple paneling and whatnot. I was thinking we were supposed to be sleeping the entire trip, but whatever caused the knockout didn’t work as planned. I found a few interesting items in a box above my bed: My crossbow, a quiver full of bolts, my knife, more alcohol, another long brown cloak full of pockets, and some snacks.

I checked the little inlet cabinet above Fluttershy’s bed and found yet another cloak and some more snacks. I just shrugged to Fluttershy and left the stuff on her bed for her.

As for me, I started suiting up, hiding stuff in the cloak pockets. I checked the crossbow for any damage, finding that the sights were a little bit off. I couldn’t correct them until I was able to shoot it, but it was good that I knew they were off. The bolts were fine, though the quiver I had wasn’t the one I would choose for any real dangerous situation: They were all practice bolts; enough to wound, but not kill unless you got a lucky shot.

Fluttershy was asking what I was doing when the cart door slid open. Before it was even finished opening I was looking for cover to load the crossbow. My search was halted by the train juddering heavily and slowing down, and before I could resume my hunt, it was invalidated: “Oh good, you’re both already awake!” Pinkie Pie said way too loudly and way too happily. Fluttershy and I both flinched at the twinges in our heads.

“I assume there’s a good reason we’re on a train,” I said. She opened her mouth, but I continued, “And before you start yelling at us again, we both have goddamn headaches. Keep your voice down.”

She rolled her eyes and continued, quieter this time, “I needed some help back on the family farm. But I didn’t want to unduly worry anypony, so I didn’t tell anypony. But I couldn’t just let my family suffer, so I had to get some help, but I didn’t know how without saying anything. Then I realized, you’re both my friends, and you wouldn’t mind helping me! But uh, I think this is a problem Navarone is more suited to fixing…”

“So why am I here?” Fluttershy asked.

“I didn’t know how to make a legitimate excuse to the others without including both of you, of course. So we’re officially on a dance trip! Applejack was the only one that didn’t completely buy it, so she made sure you would have something to help you just in case, Navarone.”

“So let me get this straight. You kidnapped us both, even though you knew we would say yes to helping you. You bundled us onto a train somehow. You got all my gear and a few cloaks, as well as some useful stuff from Applejack that I admit to being happy to have. None of our friends thought that was odd, except Applejack. You know we both have wings and can leave if we want, leaving you to deal with whatever it is by yourself. And yet you still expect us to willingly help you.”

“That about sums it up, yeah. You’re really good at recapping, Nav!”

I gently massaged my temples. “Fluttershy, am I the only one seeing anything wrong with this?”

She just shrugged at me and mouthed, “Pinkie Pie.” I rolled my eyes.

“What the fuck ever. Tell us what’s so important that you had to kidnap us for.”

“I think my family was abducted by naga.”

“Oh, fuuuck…” I moaned. “Why did I bother waking up?”

“I don’t understand,” Fluttershy said. “What’s a naga?”

“Of anyone, I expected you to know what a naga is,” I said. “They’re fucking snake/fish people. Intelligent, tool using snake people. Body and lungs of a snake, scales and gills of a fish. And they have human arms, I think. I didn’t know there were any here. And what the hell are they doing near a waterless rock farm?”

“There used to be a massive spring system near my family’s farm. It dried up before I was born, but the naga stayed there for some reason. We never asked why; they left us alone and we left them alone. Sometimes they would come by the farm to talk to my dad, but they never stayed long. But these past few months, I was getting letters from my family talking about them more than usual. Then the letters just stopped. That was a month ago…”

“So, how do you want to do this?” I asked. “Find their nest, fuck shit up, and pull off a full Rambo style rescue op? Or do you want to try to talk to these scalies first, see if they’re up for ransom? Or do you just want me to sneak in and steal them away into the night? Let me tell you, if you want me to kill them, you got me the wrong set of bolts.” As it turned out, the Rambo plan would have been a terrible idea.

“I want to get my family out with as little risk to them as possible. We’ll try asking the naga, first. If that doesn’t work, you can try sneaking them out. Thanks for agreeing to help!”

Oh yeah, it was looking to be a long, long day.

 

“Why am I the ambassador, again?” Fluttershy asked. “I don’t know anything about the naga!”

“Because you’re the animal expert. I’m sure you’ll figure something out,” I told her. “Besides, it can’t be me because I’m the trump card and it can’t be Pinkie Pie because she has to show me where to go to rescue you if everything goes wrong.” I don’t think that made her feel much better.

We were in the field right outside of Pinkie Pie’s farmhouse. We discovered her family was definitely missing, and had been for a little while. There were no bodies anywhere that I could find, so that wasn’t really an issue. I managed to sight my crossbow in, though I knew if I was going to be looking through caves I wouldn’t be using it. Hell, even the knife was to be relegated to emergency use only. If it came to that, I was going to be using a club.

Looking around the farmhouse, I could easily see why Pinkie Pie left the place. It was absolutely miserable. There was almost no sun, the earth was dry and cracking, there was constantly dust in the air, and it was hot even though we were nearing autumn. It looked like someone had plowed the earth in some places, but without a tractor that would have taken forever, as dry as the place was. Who the hell farms rocks? I mean, who buys them? When I asked, I just got that ‘stop being stupid’ look.

“So, how do we go about summoning these naga for a meeting?” I asked. “Do we just hope they come to us?”

“My dad taught me a trick, back when they were still friendly, in case I was ever far away from the farm and needed help. He said not to use it unless I really needed it, but that they would come if I wanted them. I never tried it, but here goes…” With that, she let out a clear, loud whistle that pierced my ears, and almost made me want to slit my own throat. After delivering it, she rushed me into the farmhouse, where we watched from the windows to see what they would do with a noticeably nervous Fluttershy.

Nothing happened for a good long while, and I started to think nothing would. Then an errant thought came to my mind… They were hiding in a spring system. Those go miles underground, in all directions. Oh, shit… “Pinkie Pie, is there a well anywhere near here?”

“Yeah, there’s one right behind this building. Why… Oh!

We barely had time to hide before the naga got out of the well and into the building, trying to find what called them. They were oddly dressed in silky clothing, and each was bristling with some manner of weapon. One had two axes strapped to his back, one was holding a massive spear, one had a sword and a shield, one had a huge sword on his back, and one had spiked gloves.

I want to call them the ugliest creatures I have ever seen in my life, but I’m sure they would think something similar of me if they saw me. They were all rather massive, each taller than I by at least a foot, and all wider in body than I. Trying to fight them would have been a bad, bad idea, at least in a fair fight. They had relatively human-esque faces, with a barely defined snout jutting somewhat out of their faces. Their torso was human in appearance, with human-shaped arms. Where their legs would be, a long tail snaked out behind them. What I could see of them was covered in scales. I was assuming the entire group in front of me was male. One of them was snarling and had some disturbingly sharp teeth sticking out.

It didn’t take them long to look out a window and see Fluttershy. Thankfully, they somehow missed both me and Pinkie Pie. They chatted to themselves in guttural English, muttering at the indignity of being summoned in such a manner by a lone flier. They thought about just leaving her, but decided since they had come all that way to see what she wanted.

When Fluttershy turned around and saw a group of naga coming out of the farmhouse, her eyes got very wide and she almost fainted. Of anything she expected, that was definitely not on the list.

I wasn’t able to hear the conversation that took place, but this was the gist, as reported to us: Where are the farmers? With us, for their safety. Safety from what? We can’t tell you. Can we see them? Who is this… we?

Fluttershy is not a good liar. In fact, I would go so far as to label her perhaps the worst liar I have ever run into in my life. So it was no surprise to find myself and Pinkie Pie rather roughly nagahandled out of the farmhouse.

They didn’t know what to make of me. “What is this?” they asked of Pinkie Pie, who they did recognize.

“Name’s Navarone,” I answered for her. “I’m a mercenary.”

“What pony would hire a mercenary? And… what are you?”

“I’m a human. And a pony that wants to see her family again.”

“You don’t look very dangerous, for a mercenary. I hope she didn’t pay much for you.”

There were five of them and one of me. I didn’t feel like being a hero. So instead of challenging him, I just said, “Looks can be deceiving.”

“Tell me then, mercenary, are your services for hire?”

“I’m in the middle of a job now. It’s bad for business to take on a job before the other is completed.”

“A good code to live by. What if the payment of our job was what you needed to finish the other?”

“You’ll have to ask my employer about that. Depending on the job, I might agree, but it’s up to her whether I have the option.” I looked to Pinkie Pie.

“Uh… Okay?”

“What’s the job?” I asked them.

 

As it turned out, there were two groups of naga in the area: an older group that had been here for a long time and a new group that was trying to push the old out. The new group was rather violent in their methods, and the older group didn’t want Pinkie Pie’s family hurt. Their differences were vast, yada yada, go with this group of warriors and fuck their shit up.

We were allowed to see Pinkie Pie’s family before the group left, to prove the farmers were still there and being treated well. Personally, I didn’t care, and was busy preparing for the coming battle. So while Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie were getting accolades from an exuberant farm family, I was getting ready for war. A war, mind, that I had no idea how to fight. Reading a lot of books and watching movies doesn’t really prepare you for seeing someone roll out a tarp of weapons.

I also saw my first naga female. Their tails were a hell of a lot longer and they actually had some manner of breasts, too, which they didn’t bother to cover up. They were mostly smaller than the males, but they were all still taller than I was, though a few of them matched my body size. I can’t be tougher than everything in this world, but it still feels sad that even their women could probably overpower me.

My part in the little plan they had was simple on paper, hard in practice. You see, the naga can’t exactly sneak around or be stealthy. They don’t have feet, so any movement rasped their tails against the ground. And they were pretty shiny anyway; any light hitting off them would reflect from their skin or clothing.

It was quite different for me, however. My predisposition for running the fuck away meant I was pretty good at hiding and sneaking around. So my job was to go in ahead of the main group and do as much damage as fast as I could, as well as deep six any officer I saw.

I was given a short sword and a much better quality knife for the job, something that probably qualified as a dagger. The knife I had from home was made for show, not for real use. Especially not for use against scales. The crossbow, I kept. Since the other group was relatively new to the area, they weren’t in a cave system yet—they were still above ground, so the crossbow might be useful when taking out sentries.

I tied some of my bolts with cloth, to light on fire if I needed to. The naga had plenty of flint to spare, and gave me a striker. I dipped the tips in the alcohol to ensure they’d burn easier and longer.

Now, I was under no illusions that I was or am a real fighter. I am not. I knew that if I went up against a real fighter, I would lose. The short sword was more for show than anything else. I have no practice with a sword, but I do know how to slit throats. I mean, how can you fuck that up? Blade goes across throat, right?

When the real fighting started, I was going to be sneaking around the battlefield and stabbing enemies in the back, then darting away again. And if all else failed, I would drop the cloak and fly away. None of these naga had bows, so I was assuming none of the other side did either. I didn’t want to give that advantage away unless I had a good reason, though; none of the naga on my side realized I had wings. They didn’t know what a human was, and probably just assumed the bulge under my cloak was normal.

 

When we got to the camp and I saw what it was, though, I smiled. There was a rough palisade around the thing, with only two entrances, and only a few guards posted at each. It was newly night at that point—we had left early so there would be enough heat on the ground to hopefully mask my arrival to the naga’s snake-like infrared vision.

The only guards that seemed to be alert at all were the guards on the entrances; there was no one paying attention in the camp proper. I snapped my fingers, seeing an easy solution. The soldiers looked at me, alarmed. I smiled and whispered, “When you see an easy way in, to not take it would be a sin!”

I dropped my cloak and unfurled my wings. The group behind me muttered to themselves, seeing them. One said a disparaging remark about fliers, but none said anything to my face.

I turned to the leader and said, “If you hear an alarm, come on in. Otherwise, wait for me to come back.”

“I am very interested in what you are capable of, human. Wings or not, this will be interesting. But if you sell us out, the yellow one’s life is forfeit.”

Oh, shit. “Don’t you worry about that,” I said, trying to hide any nervousness. “Betraying a uh… a contract is bad.” He just snorted in reply, so I grabbed a flask from my cloak and took off. My goal was an unsharpened part of the palisade wall, one of the structural posts. If I could get up there, I could snipe fire down on the camp.

When I got above the camp itself, I saw that there were maybe thirty tents and several more naga sleeping outside on the ground. Oh God, I can’t believe I’m doing this. I debated on landing in the sleeping field and slitting throats versus starting the fires. What kind of thoughts are these? Doing one meant I might not get to do the other, and while fire could spread, I could probably take more naga down by quietly cutting throats. Jesus Christ, this can’t be normal!

I decided to slit throats; my naga wanted these naga gone, and killing them off is a better way to go about that than burning stuff. Where did all this come from? Besides, in the chaos of the ensuing fight, fire would be easy enough to spread. Holy shit. And burning the tents would bring alarm up before I was ready for it.

So with those thoughts in mind, I silently unsheathed the knife I got from the naga and landed quietly in the large sleeping field. How did it come to this?

Now, while I have killed in the past, I have never killed a sapient being. Thou shalt not kill. When I landed next to the first naga in the field and looked down at him, I froze. You. Shall. Not. Kill. Such a simple thing, a knife. You. And such a fragile thing, a life. Shall. All it takes is one simple thrust, one jagged tear… Not. And it’s over. Kill.

Part of me died that night, ripped away with the last gasp of that dying soldier. It was a dark night, a new moon, but there was light enough for me to see his expression as I slit his throat, stealing him away.

It was an expression that I knew would haunt me forever.

I can attempt to justify it all I want. Yes, I was helping Pinkie Pie. Yes, the naga I was killing supposedly deserved it. But these were sapient creatures. They could talk. They knew right from wrong. They could think.

They could die.

And die they did. My body went on autopilot while my mind went numb. My hands and legs knew what to do, even if my mind was reeling from the horror of it all.

Thirteen died by my dagger that night. Thirteen blood red marks against my soul. Thirteen that soon found themselves in good company, greeting more and more stains on my soul.

Before I could find number fourteen, I was caught. A bloodthirsty roar from across the camp caught my attention and made sure to wake up the warriors around me.

I immediately leapt into the air, flying as high as I could get as quickly as I could go. In seconds, that place would be a killing ground for anyone that wasn’t on their side. I managed to get to my planned spot on the palisade wall and was able to load my crossbow before the guards from the entrance discovered my grim mess and woke up the entire camp.

Bleary-eyed soldiers weakly gripped heavy weapons as they hunted the camp for any signs of an intruder or a traitor. None thought to look up, as what enemy did they have that could fly? Women and… and children started to come out of the tents, but by the time I saw them, I couldn’t have stopped the first fiery bolt that was loosed into the mass of tents.

I felt tears on my face as I heard the screams. And it was as I predicted: The flames spread far and fast in the confusion. They were already licking the sides of the walls in some areas as my group of naga warriors reached the enclave. The enemies were too busy trying to put out flames, trying to save their families, or trying to find lost friends to try to fight.

I managed to hold onto myself long enough to shoot one of the few warriors putting up a fight, just as he was about to drive a spike into one of our warrior’s brains. I did what I could from my perch, not daring the fiery air currents under my relatively inexperienced wings. My naga didn’t stay long anyway. There was little they needed to do and the fire was making it increasingly dangerous for anyone to stay behind.

They pulled out as suddenly as they had entered, leaving a stunned group of survivors behind with nowhere to go and nothing to do but help pick up the pieces or try to escape. I saw parts of the two gates start to collapse, trapping most of the survivors inside. I dove down to where I had left the group, grabbed my cloak, and waited, cleaning myself up as best as I could. My mind was still numb and reeling, horrified by what my body had done.

It didn’t take long for the boisterous group to return. The naga were ecstatic in their victory, though they had apparently been hoping for the chance to loot. “But,” the leader assured me, “I’d rather return home with all my warriors alive than with half dead and only plunder to show for it.”

I smiled weakly at him, before asked him a favor: “Don’t tell the ponies my part in this. I might need work with them again and they don’t deal with cold murderers.” God, I couldn’t take the judgment or the pity in their eyes if they knew.

He agreed, but said a feast would be held one way or another in honor of the victory. I was really, really looking forward to that, if nothing else. These naga were part snake. Snakes eat meat. A part of me was hoping to see just how they would prepare it.

On the way back, I treated wounds as best I could. Most were minor burns, but there were a few cuts I was able to sterilize with alcohol and bind together. I wasn’t a medic, but I could tie a knot. Of course, I didn’t know how to suture at all and there was no way I could do it on the move, but none of them were that bad off anyway. I offered the worst of the injured a drink for the pain, but after a whiff of the contents they changed their minds.

“What is that stuff?” one of them asked me.

“Poison,” I answered, then took a nice swig of it. They laughed, not sure if they should take me seriously, but suspiciously rubbed at their wounds when they thought I couldn’t see.

I was doing anything to keep my mind off the scenes in the camp. My soul was stained red with blood and black with fire. A few swigs of the alcohol was enough to deaden the pain even further, helping the shock dull the horror.

But the rest of that night was spent in celebration. Their women loved me, when I brought all their men home safe. Their children loved me when they heard of the cutting figure I made to the warriors who had seen me on the palisade, wings outstretched for balance, fire drawing a pulsing orange glow to my features, crossbow to my shoulder, sniping down into the dying camp as I killed indiscriminately—not a description I gave them, of course. Their men were impressed by my solo journey into their camp, and my kill count was exaggerated by every retelling of the tale as it loudly made its way around the caves.

None seemed to see the horror etched onto my face. Maybe it was because of the facial differences. I told myself that was it so I didn’t have to believe they just didn’t care.

The family of the warrior I had personally saved from getting spiked invited me to be their guest after the feast, and after a hesitant look at the innocent warmth of Pinkie Pie’s family, I quietly agreed.

When the ponies asked me what had happened at the camp, I just said, “I did what I was paid to do. You’re free to go home. Just… just don’t visit the camp. Ever.”

One look at my face told them not to question me. When I left for the feast, they stayed behind; they didn’t think the naga would have food that would be fitting to their tastes. I told them where I would be afterwards, if they needed me.

The feast was alright. Knowing the ponies weren’t there, the naga had no compunctions about giving credit where it was due. I was rather highly acclaimed. Personally, I’m not much a fan of all that, but whatever. And—mercy of all mercies—they actually had cooked meat! I don’t know what animal it was from and I didn’t care; it tasted like sex in my mouth. Just… without the disturbing mental image that portrayed.

In an effort to explain my ravenous devouring, I explained, “I’ve been living among the ponies for too long.” Most of them knew plenty about ponies for that to be explanation enough. Sure, I could hunt all I wanted, but I’m no chef. The stuff they had cooked was amazing.

I was asked a load of questions, such as where I came from, what kind of jobs I worked in the past, my future plans, and a few disturbing questions about ponies by some of the creepier males that I don’t feel like repeating. I answered them all mostly truthfully, though: I came from another world and had been summoned to protect a unicorn for a while, and since I was stuck here I was going to return back to pony-held land and try to find more work, and the creepier questions I was able to answer better than I wish I could have. It was mostly truthful.

“You are always welcome here, Navarone, if your plans in Equestria fall through. It has been a long time since we beheld a warrior of your nature!” the leader told me.

“I am not as much of a warrior as I am an assassin,” I replied. “In a straight up fight, I fear I would be of little use. But I have no compunctions about fighting unfairly and using tricks to win.”

“Dirty fighting is an art unto itself,” he agreed. “And even assassins have a home on the battlefield,” said with a nod to the fellow I saved.

The feast ended with requests of tales of warriors from my homeland. I spun a few from books I had read, Arthurian legends and the like; they wouldn’t know about guns and explaining wouldn’t be worth the effort. And hell, it’s not like I had any stories of my own to tell.

So it was with a full belly and a heavy mind that I walked with the fellow I saved to his abode. I was half-heartedly joking with him about something or another, and my forced laughter and his unfeigned laughter rang through the caves. None of these naga seemed to have any names, I had noticed, or if they did, they didn’t tell strangers.

None of us waited long to hit the sack. Thankfully, I still had my cloak, since the naga didn’t seem to believe in silly things such as mattresses or pillows.

I didn’t get to sleep long, though; when I said their women loved me, I didn’t realize at the time how much they did.

(Sex is coming. Ctrl+f Sex is over to skip it)

I wasn’t asleep long before I felt a gentle tugging on my legs. I groggily opened my eyes to see if I could tell what was doing it, automatically propping myself up.

What I saw was somewhat disquieting: A naga was trying to pull my pants off. I sat up as fast as I could and tried to push myself away on my hands and legs. “What are you doing?” I demanded, barely able to see her bemused look in the dim cave.

“My apologies for being late, guest. But there was a bit of a… debate… as to who would keep you company this night.” She smiled, showing very many disturbingly sharp teeth, and finished with, “I won.”

Dreading the answer, but knowing it needed to be put out there, I asked, “And what manner of company are you? I’ll admit, it’s a little bit cold in these caves.”

“I’m here to warm you up, of course…” I felt her tail start to wrap itself around my waist. With a bit of a vicious tug, she ripped my pants off, belt and all.

I tried reasoning, “If you’re here to keep me warm, removing clothes is hardly productive.”

She didn’t say anything, and continued wrapping her tail about my body. I didn’t realize how long the damn things were until now: My legs were buried under her tail, and there was still plenty of slack.

She used her hold on me to drag me closer to her, and before I could react, pushed me to the floor. I flinched at the expected crushing weight on my wings, but I discovered she used a bit of her tail slack to create a small buffer between me and the floor, allowing me to actually lie on my back.

“I find it somewhat hard to believe that this is common practice for the naga,” I said. From what I had seen, their males were very dominant.

“You aren’t a naga. And you are rather small, easily toyed with. I figured you wouldn’t mind too much, given that you are so used to taking orders from females anyway.” I assumed she meant my dealings with Pinkie Pie. She continued, “And this is a good chance to display my more… dominant side.”

At this point, I was almost completely immobile. I could twist my head around and barely shift my wings, but my legs and arms were locked. I really, really hate being bound, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going anywhere until she got what she wanted.

She took my head in her hands and forced my gaze downward. Her tail parted slightly, allowing my shaft to poke through. I wasn’t very hard at all, since this situation was more scary to me at the time than anything else. “Now, now, human. We can’t do anything with you in that shape, can we?” she mocked. The tip of her tail slithered up to my tip and began gently teasing me.

It didn’t take me that long to start getting hard. I’m not exactly sexually active, after all. When I started expanding, she started stroking me gently, before she wrapped her tail around it and guided the head to the lips of her pussy.

I didn’t notice it at the time, since I was a bit more preoccupied by her gentle ministrations of my shaft, but a little slit had opened in her tail, right under her stomach. It was very moist, practically dripping with anticipation.

“You’re really getting off to this,” I idly commented, still in some manner of shock, before she pushed me in and shut me right up. She felt nothing at all like a hand, that’s for damn sure. When she hilted me, I felt a deep chill in her, cold enough to get me to struggle to pull myself out.

She saw that struggle and misinterpreted it. “I don’t think I’m the only one,” she whispered, referring to my comment. “Already trying to buck. But I think you’ll find I am in control here.” With that, she thankfully started moving her… hips? Whatever it is she had, she started moving it, building a nice rhythm against my entire cock. Since she was so wet there wasn’t much friction to build up heat, but the pleasure quickly outweighed the cold. She also noticed the heat difference, and said with a moan, “So warm!”

I never knew scales could be so soft… She pulled my face up and tried to smother me in her chest. I wasn’t going to complain; the large orbs of scaly flesh felt deceptively nice.

Unfortunately, I was getting close and I knew it; as I said, I’m not exactly sexually active. I pried my head away from her chest and said, “I’m pretty close, naga.”

She was not happy to hear that. “Close already?” she hissed, slowing down. “What are you, a virgin?”

“...Yes?” Not counting the rape. “Ponies are hideous. I can’t stand the thought of having sex with one.”

She snorted with derision, but pulled her body off me, freeing my member from her cold insides. “I can think of other ways you can pleasure me, guest.”

I opened my mouth to mention something along the lines of her being sent here to pleasure the guest, not the other way around, but as soon as my mouth opened I found myself mouth-to-slit on her. I knew what she wanted, but I know I didn’t want to give it.

“You have a choice here, human,” she said, noticing my reluctance. “You can either give me what I want, or I leave and you can give the other twenty single females up here what they want.”

Why can’t I just find a normal—relatively normal, given where I live—girl that just wants normal sex? Not rape, not tying me up, not using magic to force me into something, just sex. Perhaps this is my punishment for murdering so many? Turned into a toy to atone...

I gently eased my tongue to her slit and tried to slowly push it inside. As soon as she saw my tongue moving, though, she grabbed my head and pushed me into her. Even though I knew I couldn’t overpower her, I was really wishing I could have my hands back; at least I could have tried to resist, instead of just being forced to take it.

Fuck it, this is going to happen, no matter how much I fight it. I started going at it with a lot more passion at that point—I couldn’t stop it, but maybe I could speed it up. She didn’t seem to have a clit that I could find, so I just worked my way inside of her, through the cold, trying to find any warmth at all. I heard a few moans start escaping her lips, and knew that at least she wouldn’t be too pissed at me.

When she finally let my head go so I could come up for air, I found what I had been looking for: Her pokey little clit. With a vicious smile and the hope that it would soon be over, I tweaked it with my tongue. It was a lot warmer than her insides had been, though that might have something to do with the fact that my head had just been occupying that space.

With my assault on her clit came the true moans of pleasure from her. As my efforts continued, I heard her say, “I was beginning to have my doubts about you, human! Now I know why those little ponies keep you around…” Apparently she doesn’t listen well. Or maybe she just doesn’t pay attention.

Her hands found my head again, just in time for a small rush of liquid shooting out of her pussy. As her tail contracted, squeezing me all over, she forced my face back in to catch the brunt of the liquids that seeped from her. Thankfully, it was relatively sweet, despite her diet. Seeing no other choice, I lapped it in as best as I could.

When she was relatively clean of her fluids, she pulled my face away from her again. I could barely feel my tongue at that point. “Aren’t you glad you decided to cooperate, human?” she asked with what she probably thought was a sweet tone. It sounded about as guttural as anything else these naga said, to my ears.

Still, I knew I had to give some manner of answer, so I gave her a weak smile I was hoping she would be able to see, my face still dripping with naga juices.

“Now, how about we give you some of what you want?” she said with a little smile. What I wanted was to go find the ponies and sleep with them in their warm, safe, non-rapist filled room. Well, mostly non-rapist; Pinkie has gotten better. This naga was not a mind reader.

I saw her tail open a bit more, letting my manhood loose again. She quickly positioned herself back over it and lowered herself back down. My warm shaft was suddenly plagued with the cold again. It was not a pleasant feeling, but it started getting better when she began moving.

It didn’t take me long to reach my peak again, and this time I didn’t give her a warning; I couldn’t have if I had wanted to, the way she was holding me against her chest again. I heard and felt her gasp when I shot my load inside her. “So warm…” she whispered, her voice fluttering slightly. I felt her tail shudder all along my body in tune with the seed spurting from me.

Then she finally pulled my face away from her body. I was barely able to make out a smile on her face. “So, human, how was it?” she asked.

“Cold,” I answered. “Very, very cold. I don’t suppose you can let me go now?”

“That’s all you have to say?” she asked, disappointed. “I thought you were supposed to be a great warrior, hardened to all manner of discomfort!”

What I really wanted to say was I just got raped. Let’s see how you deal with that. What I did say, though, was, “I’ve had a long day.”

She hmphed at that, but started to unwind her tail. “You gave me what I wanted, so I suppose it’s only fair I give you want you want. Though most of the males of this clan would prefer to sleep with a female coiled with them rather than alone.”

I figured that was as good a chance as any to further my image of warrior. “Sleeping alone means you have to worry less about catching a knife in the heart.”

She stopped unwinding and for a second I thought I fucked up. She said, “After what you did to help us, none of us would hurt you. If you are truly afraid of getting hurt by one of us, though, I can think of a great way to hide you…” Her tail started to constrict me again. Thankfully, I had use of my hands at that point and did my best to pull myself out.

“I think I’ll be fine, actually,” I said. She gave off a little sigh and finally let me all the way free.

She turned her head to the door and I thought I was finally free of her, but she suddenly looked back to me. “Human, I know you wish to be alone, but… You see, we rarely get any guests as warm as you are!” She reached a hand out to my face and caressed it lightly. I don’t know how I stopped myself from jerking back. “You don’t seem to like being constricted, but… can I at least sleep next to you? Just holding you with my arms?” The hopeful tone in her voice gave me a pit in my stomach.

What if I wake up and she wants seconds?

What if she decides to constrict me during the night and I don’t wake up?

But… If she leaves, will I actually stay alone all night? Or will another naga come to replace her?

She mistook my silence for a no and turned to go again. “Wait,” I said, knowing I might regret it. She looked back and I knew I would see hope on her face if I could see better in the dark. “If you keep your tail away from me, you can stay. And you won’t get a repeat of this little performance, either,” I said, reaching for my pants. Thankfully, the belt was undamaged. I slid them on as she slithered back over to me.

Although… “I don’t suppose your tail could function as a pillow?” I asked.

She gently lifted me up and I almost freaked out, but she just as gently lowered me back down to my back. She used her tail to give me an entire bed. “This is how we usually sleep, human,” she said, lying down next to me.

I reached over to grab my cloak; I had been using it as a pillow before, but now… I threw it over the both of us. I heard her laugh slightly in surprise. “Why did we never think of this?” she asked, marveling over something as simple as a blanket. Without another word, she threw her arms around me and pulled me closer to her. With my wings, there was very little maneuvering I could do, but I managed to get my arms around her as well.

“Warm?” I asked. She just answered by snuggling even closer against me.

(Sex is over)

So for the second day in a row, I woke up way too early and in an unfamiliar place. The naga, it appeared, were the evil type of people in the world known as early risers. And they were all too chipper about it, the sick bastards.

The kid that came to wake me up stared in wonder as I popped my fingers, back, neck, toes, and legs. I had him lead me to where the ponies were still sleeping and then sent him away. Since there wasn’t much else to do, I settled down to wait for them to wake up and ended up falling asleep myself.

I awoke with a start when I felt the pony I had apparently taken to using as a pillow shift. For the third time in a row I woke up in an unfamiliar place. At least this time I woke up on top of Fluttershy, who was just as soft as I joked a few months ago in Canterlot. She was also pretty warm, compared to the chilly cave. I don’t remember lying against her, but as tired as I was it wouldn’t be surprising.

She was also very awake, and curious as to what was lying on her, as well as why it was doing so. “Oh, hi Navarone. Was your own bed not warm enough?”

Warmer than I’ll admit to. “Nah. I came by some time ago when I got woken up. No one here was awake, and I guess I put my head down for a minute and accidentally fell asleep. Too much time running on too little sleep, you know?”

We were the only two awake at the time, so we were whispering to try not to wake up the others. I sat up off her belly so she could breathe easier.

“So… what did happen last night?” she asked.

“It was… it was bad. Terrible. So many… I don’t want to tell you. I don’t want to tell any pony. It is better you don’t know. And don’t tell Pinkie Pie that, either; she would hate to know what I had to do to get her parents free.” She nodded solemnly, leaving it alone.

“How was the feast, at least?”

“Wonderful. You wouldn’t have liked it, but to me it was like entering Valhalla, minus the mead. Great food, wonderful company, exotic womenfolk. And they know how to tell a good story.”

“Are you sure you want to go back to Ponyville with us?”

“Despite all my bluster, I am not a warrior. I feel absolutely terrible about what happened yesterday. I want nothing more to do with battles, unless it is necessary.” Though I admit, the rewards were definitely interesting. But the ponies didn’t need to know about that. Especially not Fluttershy. The rewards besides the sword, knife, and striker they let me keep, I mean.

“It is good to see you finally revoking your more violent side, even if it might not be permanent.”

“Don’t get too used to it. Remember, to the others all we’re doing is dancing out here. If I come back completely changed they might think something is up, and that could raise questions Pinkie Pie wouldn’t want to have to answer. I’m a good liar. You’re not.” Besides, I had no desire to ever stop eating meat.

“I think you sometimes forget you’re not living among humans anymore. Most of our friends would probably be too happy to find you changed to question how it happened. And if you’re as good a liar as you claim, I don’t know why you can’t make up some manner of excuse, or a claim of a sudden realization that I had nothing to do with.”

“Because despite everything, changing is hard. And I don’t know if I want to change in the short term only to end up just as I was, with nothing to show for it but a broken promise.”

“Oh… If you say so."

I just shrugged. My shocking realizations of the night before were fading away, though in the gloom of the cave they still seemed real. I felt changed, but I don’t honestly know if it was a tangible change or not. Days later, as I sit writing this, I still find myself wondering.

We did little more in the way of discussion, and settled in to wait for the others to awaken. It didn’t take overlong, thankfully; Pinkie Pie’s family was used to waking up early, as farmers. Even though, you know, they fucking farmed rocks. Not like they had to wake up early to make sure their crop didn’t get stolen or wander away.

Seriously, how is that even a thing?

They were much more used to waking up in a cave than I was, from their long weeks of confinement. The father woke up first, despite his age, and motioned for me to join him outside their little living area. I got off Fluttershy again—really, she was a much better pillow than my cloak, and she didn’t seem to mind anyway—and joined him.

“You seem awfully close to your charges, for a mercenary,” he said, remarking on my closeness with Fluttershy. I didn’t comment. After a moment, he continued, “Still, you got us freed, even though we’re still here. I don’t talk about it much, but I have a small stash of bits saved up for cases like this. It isn’t much, but…”

“My… payment… has already been arranged. It is unprofessional to accept more than what was agreed upon. Thank you, but no.”

“Surely there must be something we can do for you, some way to show our gratitude!”

“Show it by never allowing your family near the site of the naga camp we raided last night. We left before the fire was put out, so I don’t know how much is left, but it would not be a pleasant sight for ponies. For anyone, really.”

“What… what happened, exactly?”

“Don’t ask. And don’t let the naga tell you. And don’t go looking. Just accept that it’s done. You might want to stay here a few days while the naga on our side round up any survivors, though I don’t imagine there’s much fight left in them. I’ll leave that up to you. I want nothing more to do with this war. Personally, given the choice, I would have left last night. But I am bound by contract to your daughter until she arranges transportation home.”

“You’re not really a mercenary, are you?”

I looked at him, trying to decide how to answer. I suppose I could technically call myself a merc, but in truth that title didn’t fit me. I decided to do what I rarely do: Tell the truth. “I’m a friend of theirs—Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, I mean. I was… Fuck it, I’m not going to lie: Pinkie Pie kidnapped both of us to help her. We would have agreed to help her if she had asked, but whatever, here we are. Shit, Fluttershy was brought along more as an excuse for getting me here. My job was supposed to be to sneak in the caves, rescue you, and bring you back out with the naga none-the-wiser. But Fluttershy is a crappy liar, so I ended up working with them instead. The merc title is just what I chose to make it easier to explain to the naga, and they took that as meaning I was a warrior for hire.”

“That does sound like Pinkamena…” he muttered. “We’ll have to talk about that before she leaves again. You know, if you are for hire, I could use some help around the farm. My back isn’t what it used to be, and rocks never were light.”

“Ah, no!” I said, a tad too quickly. I continued, slower, “You know how women are; they always manage to get into messes. So very often it seems I’m the one that ends up pulling them through. Your daughter and her friends are no different.” Not entirely true. In fact, it was pretty close to patently false. But whatever, it got the desired reaction. He smiled and nodded, dropping the point. I have done some odd things in my short nineteen years of life, and I had no desire to add rock farming to the list.

“But if you aren’t a mercenary, that means you aren’t getting paid by my daughter. So why can’t you accept a token of gratitude?”

Mo money mo problems is what I wanted to say, but he wouldn’t have gotten that. So instead I settled with, “You need it more than I do; my meals and board are provided for by the crown.” Let him make of that what he would. It was technically true; Twilight lived in the library through the grace of Celestia, and I lived with Twilight. And since Twilight was technically an agent of the crown, and it was usually her feeding me, the crown was providing for that as well. Not to say I was a complete freeloader, mind; I did the occasional odd job and whatnot. I also helped with some research.

And then there were events like this, where I solved a possible regional inter-warfare crisis between two rival extra-pony groups. Though my methods were not at all the preferred methods for something like this; if Twilight had been here, the two groups would have ended up laying down their arms and cooperating peacefully, in brotherhood and harmony. Until they remembered what and who they were and one side or the other conducted their own version of the Kristallnacht upon the other. My method wasn’t pretty, but it was permanent.

“You know,” I told him, “you could move and farm something else. Like, where there aren’t a bunch of carnivorous snake people. And farm something that actually grows.” Or makes sense.

“No, no. I’ve been here so long now I wouldn’t know what else to do. This farm has been in our family for generations. I couldn’t just up and leave…” Even though your land is terribly depressing, you risk possible death by naga, and one of your daughters is hundreds of miles away. Right.

I just shrugged and said, “Your life.”

I was saved from further conversation by more stirring from within. The rest of the party was waking up. We returned before our absence was noted.

Pinkie Pie was rather happy to see us all in one place, and primed to stay that way for a while. I’m sure that if she had the supplies, she would have thrown a party right then and there.

The rest of the family was pleased they would get to go home soon, blissfully unaware of the cost. Fluttershy, who never much cares to leave her animals in the first place, was looking forward to getting home soon. I found myself agreeing; this place was not good for my mind.

All was in order for our departure, so we started to make our way out. We were passing a large chamber just before the entrance to the tunnel that would take us out when I was called aside by the clan leader. He waved the rest of the group forwards, and I nodded at Pinkie Pie to show I’d catch up.

“There is something I’d like to show you, human Navarone,” the leader told me. If I knew them better, I’d made a joke about trouser snakes, but as it was, I abstained. They didn’t wear pants anyway.

“I hope you don’t plan to keep me overly long from my employer. She may still need protecting, unless you sent warriors to finish mopping up the remnants of the enemy.”

“My naga will watch her family for some time. You need not worry about them.”

“Then I will see what you have to show me.”

We went through a side passage that I had barely noticed until then, my quiet cloth-shoed footfalls loudly overrun by his raspy slithering. If they want to kill me, my body would never be found. It was not a comforting realization, especially given the caveat I gave them the night before, about my status as an assassin and not a warrior.

I decided to pull out my crossbow and check it over for damage as we went, as a hint of sorts. We talked of strategy and combat on the way through the caverns. There was little lighting, for most of the naga knew their way through the caves. But what little I could see took my breath away. There were a few massive cavities, extending so high up I couldn’t see the top. There were a few pitfalls so deep that I couldn’t see the bottom, bridged only by narrow constructions of rope and wood, and it took echoes from the bottom minutes to reach us.

There was one point when we entered one of those massive cavities where we paused. I looked, and lining the wall were tombs, in which I assumed great warriors were laid. We spent a few moments of respect, with him telling me the history of a few notable naga from his clan. I didn’t much care, personally, but I was able to respect their history. At that point, I was thinking that was what he had wanted to show me, but when he started moving forward again I unhesitatingly followed.

We went through one room completely lined by massive sapphires, all grown into the wall and engraved with historical scenes. There was a single torch in the room, and that was all it needed: The walls glittered and shone dazzlingly, bathing the entire room in a brilliant blue shade. I could barely see any of the scenes on the wall, but I didn’t need to see them to understand their significance. Rarity would have killed to have been able to mine that room. She would have been killed had she tried it, too.

We finally stopped again at a massive—supermassive; this place was bigger than any of the rooms we went through, possibly combined—pool of water. Inside it were schools of bioluminescent fish dancing merrily through the waves, chasing blind fish that evolved for the perfect darkness of the area. Their lights, mixed with the torches lining some parts of the walls, gave the room a warm, faint glow. From what I could see of the water, it was perfectly clear and completely unsilted. But even with the fish and the torches, I couldn’t see the bottom of it. I could see a single slant of light illuminating a perfect circle near the middle of the lake, and descending from that was a long rope leading all the way from the ceiling to the water.

It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. If I had lost my eyes afterwards, I don’t know if I would have been sad; I had seen the most beautiful thing the world had to offer. What more was there?

I saw more naga around and in the water, easily surviving above the water and below it. A few of them were surprised to see me there, but upon seeing their war leader they didn’t comment. Some even called greetings. We each raised a hand in response.

“Why… did you bring me here?” I weakly asked.

“A few reasons. One, to show you for what you fought yesterday. What you saw out in front caverns is where we live when we might need to access the surface easily. Most of our warriors live there full time, and take occasional breaks here to get their scales and gills wet. Their families live there with them. Almost no outsider ever sees this area, as it houses our people. Our innocent people, mind.”

“I am glad to know I didn’t kill a large group of naga for just the few souls I saw in the front caverns, that is for sure. I have not been a part of a slaughter like that in a long time…”

“Another reason is that I would like you to reconsider returning to the ponies. You said yourself they don’t use you to your full potential. You don’t even know how to properly fight! That little toy at your side is good for shooting animals, but there is no glory in fighting with it! Stay with us, and learn to fight like a naga.”

It was a somewhat tempting offer, honestly. It would give me a chance to escape from Luna, as she would never be able to find me down here. Meat and fish would be easier to find. Their women were… inviting. And I was growing a bit weary living among the ponies; they were all nice, but most still found it hard to deal with me.

But there were downsides as well. One, I’m not aquatic. Two, I don’t want to live in mostly darkness forever. Three, I have fucking wings, and this is a cave. There are a few places I could fly, but not many. Four, fighting for glory and honor is stupid and a good way to get you killed early. Five, none of these naga really seemed that scholarly. Discussions with them would most likely devolve into boasts, stories, and war, not logic and debate like I was getting used to.

After a long enough wait, I answered, “I am sorry, but my place is with the ponies, at least for now. They have few ways to solve their problems that involve violence but with creatures like me. They rarely need violence, but when they do, someone has to be able to do it. Few enough mercs walk their lands, which is probably a good thing.” All technically true.

“That is the answer I was expecting, but not an answer I am pleased to hear. There is one more thing you could do for my people, if you would be so kind. It isn’t something that is hard, but something we cannot do.”

“Name it, and I will see what I can do.”

“We need your wings. Naga… do not like fliers. Of any kind. Both fish and snakes do not have many defenses when it comes to birds, and that translated through to us. But sometimes we need them, and ponies rarely show themselves worthy of working with us.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“Take several torches and light up our sky.” He waved his arm upwards, showing the empty darkness that ruled above us. There were a few weakly flickering lights above us, what I at first thought were more gemstones, but now realized were actually almost dead torches. I wondered what they were hiding up there, then.

“Bring me torches,” I said as I started unclasping my cloak. I removed the crossbow and the bolts from my back and unclipped the sword belt from my waist. I shook out and stretched my wings as I waited for the torches. I thought of the rope, and asked, “Where does that rope lead, and why can’t you use it for the torches?”

“The smoke from the torches has to go somewhere. You remember the well behind the farmer’s house? That rope is the bucket rope for it. Our warriors can climb up it, but once they get to the ceiling, they can’t hold on as well.”

“And… the ponies know about this?”

“They know that we use the well sometimes. They don’t know its significance, though.”

Good to know. Then someone finally brought me some torches.

“Along the wall and ceiling are a few sconces. Some are inlaid into the wall, some are jutting out. Just slide a torch in everywhere you can fit one,” their engineer told me. I was given a pack of empty torches that I clipped around my waist, and a lit one to guide me on my way and to light the further ones.

 

It was a long, painful job. As I said before, the chamber was just absolutely massive. I had to take several trips to get more torches. I could tell they had been stockpiling them for a while. It involved more climbing and hanging than actual flying, and both my wings and arms were wooden and stiff by the time I was getting done.

When I landed for the last time, I barely had enough energy to get me into the air one more time. But this trip was special to me. I took off everything but my pants and leapt into the air. Then I flew several hundred feet into the center of the room and just dove into the pool.

I had to have spent at least half an hour in the cool water, letting my wings soak and recover. The glow from the roof was brilliant, and I could see patterns in the torches and some bits of artwork on the ceiling. Right before I dove into the water, I noticed that I could see all the way to the bottom of the pool; there were a few hundred naga on the bottom, finally lit up and able to see well.

It was incredibly peaceful, with the gentle lapping of water at the shore barely at the edge of perceptibility and the unheard sounds of the bustling community below me. I hardly wanted to drag myself out of the pool, but I knew Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy would be worried until I came back. I slowly started paddling toward the shore with my arms. My wings trailed gently behind me.

When I finally reached the edge, their clan leader smiled down at me. “As far as I’m concerned, you are always welcome here, human, wings and pony-lover be damned. You helped save us from our enemies and you lit up the world for us. I know you feel the need to return to the ponies, but feel free to come back here whenever you want.” I nodded at his remarks, happy to hear them. “I would lead you back to the surface myself, but I am needed at a council meeting. We military naga know the threat is extinguished, but politicians always like to blather on.”

We clasped hands, and he slid beneath the waves, leaving me with a small group of warriors that weren’t with the raiders last night. I would have climbed up the rope, but there was no way in hell I was strong enough to climb that high. I could fly half the distance, but even then I couldn’t climb the rest of the way.

As they led me to the surface, they asked for stories of the night before. I told a few, exaggerating the effect their own warriors had. They then started asking for stories of my homeland, and I told a few of those. Before I knew it, I was dry and on the surface, cloak wrapped again about me.

Most of the warriors in the group split off on the way to the surface, and all but one guide left us when we got outside. The last guide and I slowly made our way to Pinkie Pie’s farm, where I found a large surprise party waiting for me. Not so much a surprise when you know Pinkie Pie, but whatever.

We invited the guide to stay, but he took one look at the decorations and politely declined. I wish I could have declined as well, but you know Pinkie Pie. I generally pretend to enjoy them for her benefit; there are times I think she’s codependent, and would go on a self-destructive spiral if she couldn’t keep others entertained.

It was definitely an interesting contrast to the feast I had with the naga. I mean, it’s like going from an ancient Scandinavian/Viking feast, missing only mead, to a five year old’s birthday party. It was a bit of a disappointing swap, and I was really tempted to bring out the alcohol and let everyone take a nice shot, but I managed to restrain myself. After the wounds I dealt with the night before, I only had one flask left, and that wouldn’t be enough to get a pony buzzed.

And while I’m not going to say I didn’t take a shot or two, fuck you.

 

The next morning, I woke up to a banging at the front door. In an unfamiliar place, yet again. Since it wasn’t my house, I didn’t even care about the knocking, until I heard a scream.

Before I even registered what I was hearing, I was already up and out the window with the sword belt in my hand. Since it was so hot, I had left the window open, dust be damned. I should mention again, in case I haven’t before: I don’t know how to use a sword, other than that the pointy end goes into the other person.

I glided to the ground and had the sword unsheathed and pointed rather harshly into the back of the naga that was intruding. “Friend or foe, I don’t care. Drop your sword belt and don’t even think about drawing steel.”

It very, very slowly did as I asked. Pinkie Pie’s mother at the front door looked horrified, and the rest of the group were gathering behind her in various states of shock.

But the look of horror on the mother’s face changed to one of slight compassion, as she beheld the look on the naga’s face. I couldn’t see it myself, but apparently it was a pitiful mix of fear, sorrow, and resignation. Before I was fully aware of what was happening, she was ushering him inside, through expressions of doubt voiced by the husband.

I checked the naga’s sword belt where he dropped it and found the damn thing was actually empty; the sheath was there, but the sword was gone. That didn’t cause me to put my blade away, but rather caused me more concern. This was almost definitely a refugee from the camp; what was he doing here? And how did he get through the sentries I was promised?

As I followed the naga and the mother in, I whispered to Fluttershy, “Go get my crossbow and the bolts. I have a bad feeling.” She took a look at my face, audibly gulped, and rushed off to get them.

As we marched the prisoner into the kitchen, I took a second to study him. He was smaller than most naga I had seen and looked a lot younger. Most of the others had some tattoos or markings to identify them as warriors, but this one had nothing.

When we got to the kitchen, I kicked everyone out but the father and the mother. Pinkie Pie didn’t want to leave, but an executive override from the father was something even her usual insanity couldn’t pierce.

When the naga finally saw me, he turned about as white as possible for a snake fish thing and spluttered out an aggrieved “Monster!” If I didn’t have the sword on him, he would have attacked me. As it was, I know he considered impaling himself if it would have meant getting his hands on me for even a second.

I turned to the mother. “Leave.” She did so, after a lingering look at her husband.

When she had left and we locked the door behind her, I asked it, “Why did you come here?”

He hissed at me, and answered toward the farmer instead. “Asylum. There is nowhere left for me. I was the only survivor, after this thing destroyed our camp. Ponies are known for their tolerance. I see now they even tolerate monsters.”

“Strong words, coming from a snake-fish beast,” I answered.

“Enough,” the father pronounced. “So you want asylum. Why should I give it to you?”

“My family is dead. My friends are dead. My clan is dead,” the naga wailed. “There is nothing left for me. I can work here or I can leave and die. The native naga here will kill me if I leave this building without you by my side. They laughingly sent me here without a weapon. They didn’t tell me… this was here,” he hissed, with an angry motion in my direction. Probably figured I would kill him and save them the trouble. One last trick to a grieving enemy.

After a look from the father, I held my tongue. After that look, though, he got thoughtful. “You can work, you said. Do you know any farming work?” Ultimate punishment, right there. Have your family killed and then get pressed into a rock farm.

“I was a scout. That is why I was away from the camp when… it was destroyed. I saw it, though. I saw this monster pouring fire from the heavens on it!”

Very calmly, the father said, “If you keep talking badly about my guests, I will throw you out of this house myself. If you want any manner of asylum here, you will have to work for it. That includes respect my word.”

I walked over to the farmer and whispered, “You sure this is wise?”

“He’s young, Navarone. Have some compassion. Did you learn nothing from this?”

“I learned that naga are fucking dangerous.” I didn’t give him a chance to respond, walking away.

After an intense internal debate, the farmer decided. “You can stay. If you don’t like the work, I’ll pay a train ticket for you to go anywhere reasonable.” Not the choice I would have made. I couldn’t have trusted my family to something carnivorous, if I was an herbivore. But it wasn’t my call.

After a look at my face, the farmer said, “Anypony can change.”

“Yes, but so few rarely bother to.” He couldn’t answer that, aside from a vague call to ‘have some faith.’

When we told the rest, I got responses I expected. Incredulity mixed with acceptance, with a tinge of fear from Fluttershy. The only request the naga made was that I leave as soon as possible, which I was planning on doing anyway. That farm was depressing as all hell. I don’t know how anyone could keep a will to live there.

 

So it was that we found ourselves on a train home before the day was out.

“If anyone asks,” I said, “these are props.” That was in reference to the sword, knife and two fire starters I had from the naga.

“Of course. And we were dancing all the time,” Pinkie Pie said.

“This doesn’t feel right, lying to everypony. They would understand,” Fluttershy said.

“It would raise questions I don’t want to answer,” I told her. She knew a bit of what I meant, from the conversation in the cave, but Pinkie Pie didn’t.

“What do you mean, Nav? You’re a hero!”

“The path of a hero is strewn with bodies of those slain to prove his mettle.”

“But heroes always save the ponies in the stories.”

“Maybe in your stories. In mine, most of the heroes are made from killing more of the enemy than anyone else.” She was having none of it, though. Thankfully, her warnings to us to keep silent about the affairs held to herself, and she stopped her thanksgivings to me when we arrived back home.

When asked how the trip was, we replied with, “It was interesting.” I kept the other bottle of alcohol, just in case. Seriously, how much of that shit was Applejack making?

 
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