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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48. Chapter Thirty-Seven—Fishing, monsters, and running away

A week later, I dragged Spike to go fishing. I absolutely hate fishing, and he wasn’t much a fan of the concept, but I needed to talk to him without the prying ears of ponies nearby. My plot was almost foiled by the trio of terror, though: “Whatcha doing, Nav?” Sweetie Belle called, drawing the attentions of all three of them. Spike and I were toting hook and line—though why ponies even have stuff like that was beyond me, since they couldn’t pull the string or eat the fish. I had my crossbow slung around my shoulder, since we were going to be so close to the woods.

“Can we come?” Applebloom asked before they even heard my answer.

“We’re going fishing,” I answered. They looked at me, confused. “We’re going to catch fish,” I tried. That, they understood.

“That sounds… interesting,” Applebloom said as they trotted up to us. “Can we help?”

“We’re going to clean, cook, and eat them afterwards. I don’t want you to see that.” Spike suddenly looked a lot more interested at the prospect, while all three of the ponies looked somewhat sickened.

That was almost enough to change their mind, but Scootaloo had to open her damn mouth: “Our teacher is always talking about how we should respect different cultures. Maybe it would be interesting to see?”

I tried a different tactic. “You wouldn’t just be seeing it. You’d also be smelling it. Nothing like the smell of a disemboweled fish. Drives most animals in my world crazy to be in the same room with it.” Not entirely true, but whatever. “I’ll not subject any of you to that.”

“And Spike will be fine?” Sweetie Belle asked, casting him a sidelong look.

He puffed up, “I’m tougher than any pony!” The girls snickered at that, and his cracking voice. He gave them a baleful glare.

“He got used to the smell in Egypt.” I gave him a look telling him not to call me on the lie. Turns out he didn’t need it, since it was actually true; I forgot they had fisheries in Alexandria while we were there. “He’ll be fine. You won’t.”

“Then what are we supposed to do for a day?” Applebloom asked. “Taya is studying with Twilight, class is over, and no pony else wants to play…”

“You were amusing yourselves long before I came into town. I’m sure you’ll figure something out.”

We left them at a fork in the road, with them trying to figure something out.

We went to the nearby lake the three fillies seemed to be afraid of, so they wouldn’t be tempted to come find us later to bug us some more. I grabbed a few sticks to tie the line onto so we could work more easily.

When we got everything set up, Spike turned to me. “Nav… Why are we out here?”

“You’re getting wiser. Good. I hate fishing. We need to talk, you and I.” I paused, somewhat unsure of how to continue.

“And we couldn’t do that back in the library?” Spike asked, toying with a blade of grass.

“I think you know this kind of conversation can’t be had among the ponies. You know what I’m talking about, dude.”

He sighed. “The party?” he asked.

“The party,” I confirmed. “I’ve been thinking about it and I think I might have screwed up, putting you in that position. My first time… was not by choice. I shouldn’t have done that to you, Spike.”

“Dude, I’m cool with it. I wish I could remember a bit more, but honestly, I’m okay! I’m not a baby anymore, despite what everypony seems to think.”

“I know you’re not. And I suppose it’s a good thing you’re okay. I’m not so certain I would be if something like that happened to me on my first time. Especially if I liked a chick when it happened.”

He sighed. “I’ve been thinking about Rarity, Nav. She is… well, annoying. Beautiful, generous, but she is so very, very annoying.”

“Yeah. I couldn’t imagine living with her as it is now. I imagine if she liked you that she would be an angel, though. As generous as she is, she would make a very good special somepony. I just couldn’t imagine myself getting there with her.”

“I’ll keep trying, but I think I’ll keep my eyes open, as well. A female dragon would be a much better fit, especially since I’m going to be living so long.”

“Love while you can, Spike. If what you feel is love, don’t let anything stop you.”

He snorted. “That seems like an odd thing for you to be saying. Do you even know how many mares you ended up with these past few weeks?”

“I was under a spell, dammit! And then I got drugged! It wasn’t my fault.”

“I don’t hear you complaining.”

“Dude, I got laid all week. There were definitely four mares, one changeling, and one dragoness. And then there was that party that I got drugged and I don’t even know. I don’t regret much about that.”

“It just seems odd to be hearing advice about love from you, is all.”

“Just because my heart is barren and empty doesn’t mean I don’t know some simple things. I’ve gotten really good at faking, and I’m working on nurturing something simple with Taya.”

“I can’t believe Celestia made you take her. Did she give you a good reason, at least?”

“She didn’t give me one, but I have my suspicions. You know that Luna loves me, right?”

“WHAT?!”

I waved a hand. “Yeah, she loves me. But I don’t love her. I can’t love her, you know. We’ve been trying to keep it all under wraps, but you’re going to learn one day since you and I are going to grow old together, assuming we both survive. Anyway, Celestia is trying to play matchmaker, I think. Long story short, Luna did something fucktarded and got locked in the city of Canterlot for seven years. That was around three years ago now, I think. Since I still can’t love, I wasn’t planning on trying to date her at the end of it. I think Taya is here in a misguided effort to remind me of my humanity.”

“That’s… a lot to take in. And it’s really messed up, bro.”

“You’re telling me. That’s what I’ve been living these past few years. You’re lucky you grew up among these ponies, Spike. Ever since I’ve gotten here, I’ve been getting run ragged. There was a time or two I got close to killing myself because I was just tired of dealing with all this shit. I really need an outlet, but I haven’t found anything safe yet. I ran out of alcohol last night. I don’t know when Scratch is going to start sending me barrels, but it’ll probably be a while.”

“What do you mean, an outlet?”

“A way to expend my growing rage and despair. I can’t deal with this internally anymore. I’ve got to get it all out somehow. Luna is demanding that I go into the fucking Everfree forest. I’m thinking I’ll just go in there with my new axe and kill everything I find that moves. I might even drag some of it out for you to eat.”

He looked at me askance. “Why would you want to go in there?”

“I don’t! I’m a fucking knight now, remember? I have to do as Luna orders. Damn her and Celestia both to hell for it. I’m tempted to kill myself to spite them. The only saving grace about that forest is that nothing in there can see me since I’m part tree.”

He shook his head. “Your life sucks. Remember when I said I wanted to trade for a day? Never mind, bro; you can keep it.”

“Figured as much. Hell, my streak of landing the mares is probably going to stop now that I’m back in Ponyville and no longer afflicted by that damnable spell. Back to another large dry spell for me. And it’ll be even worse, since I’m going into the damn forest soon.”

“When are you going to go in?”

“A few days. I’ve been learning what I can from Twilight and Fluttershy, though I haven’t told either one why I’ve been asking. I just let them assume that since I took an oath to fucking ‘defend Equestria’ that I’m doing it so I can be better prepared to defend this place.”

“Learn anything useful?”

“Yeah. That place is dangerous. The plants and animals both want to harm you. Very few explorers have gone there. Or rather, very few explorers have come back from there. It’s widely considered evil but no one knows why it’s evil. Or if they do, they’re not telling anyone else. I blame Nightmare Moon, personally, but I don’t have any proof.” I shrugged. “And I don’t want to go there at all. Seriously, fuck being a knight.”

“Surely there are some benefits, though.”

I snorted. “Yeah. Every night guard in Canterlot loves me. Assuming I have my axe on me, I can probably order around any guard at all. That’s pretty much it, as far as I’ve seen.” I thought. “Well, there is one thing. I’ve gotten invitations to every event that’s happening everywhere in Equestria. Derpy had to bring a spare bag for all the mail I’ve been getting. All that fire fodder is nice.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t be interested in any of those either…”

“Rarity’s kind of pissed at me for telling Taya to burn them all. She thinks I should be going to each and every fucking event. I offered her the invites, but she quickly declined. Hell, I even offered to take her as my ‘date’ to some of the more ridiculous sounding ones. When she read the invites to them, she declined again, saying she had something to do during every day the events were on.”

Spike smiled grimly at that. “That’s Rarity, alright. Always so generous…”

We talked for a good little while after that, with no fish taking the bait we had set up. That was just as well for me, since I had never cleaned one before and didn’t really know how. I’d do my best to wing it, if we had caught one, but meh.

Around the time I figured we could head back without arousing too much suspicion, Spike finally got one: A massive tentacle came out of the darkness of the lake, grabbing the hook, line, pole, and almost Spike in one quick motion. It was only my reflexive snatch at him that kept him from being pulled under with his pole. He was too shocked to let go, and would have been ripped under if I hadn’t been holding him hard enough for the pole to be yanked from his hands.

We were both staring wide-eyed at the lake, gaping. When we saw a single massive eye looking up at us, I almost pissed myself.

There’s no way this lake is big enough for… whatever that is. That thought was followed by, No wonder the fillies are afraid of this lake. That was followed by, Oh shit, can it still grab us? I ran, pulling Spike behind me. He didn’t report any tentacles reaching out of the lake for us, but didn’t give me any qualms about being dragged either.

When we finally got to what I was hoping a safe distance, I breathed out, “What the fuck?”

“I have no idea, man. How is that thing even living in there?”

“I don’t know! I don’t think I want to know. I do know that I won’t be going near that lake again.”

“You got that right!” He shuddered, probably thinking about being pulled under the waves by something like that. “We gotta tell somepony about it, though.”

“Hell no!” At his look, I explained: “Guess who would be called upon to deal with it. I won’t lie: I wouldn’t mind scuba diving some more. But not if I’m hunting for something that can eat me. It hasn’t hurt anything yet, that we know of. I say we pretend we never saw it.”

“That seems… dangerous, Nav.”

“Yeah. But it won’t be dangerous to us, because we know it’s there.”

He snorted. “Some hero you are!”

“I never claimed to be a hero. Anyone who called me that was wrong. I just occasionally end up in positions where being heroic is really the only option.” He rolled his eyes, but didn’t press the issue.

A few minutes into the walk back, he asked, “So when was the last time you even went hunting in there, anyway? And can I go with you sometime?”

“Tell you what: We’ll go in after I finish exploring it. I should know where the best game trails are by then, and where it’ll be safest to bring you in.”

“I know this might seem odd, but… How do ponies taste?”

“That depends on what they’re eating, really. Diet plays a pretty big part in what something tastes like. Back where I come from, horse was supposed to be sweet, and very good. I’ve never had it, though. Here… I don’t know. I’m sure most would probably taste pretty damn good. But I would only ever eat one if I was starving. And I’ll hear no more talk from you about this. You may be a dragon, but to eat a sapient being… It seems wrong, to me.”

He nodded. “I wasn’t planning on it. But still…” At my look, he stopped. “So how should you deal with the bodies of dead opponents?”

“I left one pony to rot in the desert. The cats… Well, the assassin I killed got dumped in a river to hide this body. I don’t know whatever happened to the few I killed on the liberation campaign. The naga camp was mostly burned with all the bodies in it, I later learned. Generally, treat your opponent with respect, if you are able. It is what you would want them to do to you. Don’t let that stop you from fighting dirty, mind. But if he surrenders or is captured or is killed, be respectful. It never hurts to be polite, as long as you don’t take unnecessary chances.”

“You have some strange rules, Nav. Fight dirty and then be nice when they lose?”

“I’m not about to fight fair. I’m not stupid. I’d rather live and be called a coward than die and be called honorable. But when the fight is over and the enemy is harmless—or at least, as harmless as anything in this world can be—there’s no reason to be rude to them. If you’re kind to a defeated enemy, their friends are more likely to be kind to you if you end up captured. In most cases, at least. Of course, if an enemy has information I need, I will learn that information. Celestia has refused to ever allow me to torture someone, but… she doesn’t know the mind of a human. We’ve developed all manner of ways to get people to talk without leaving any visible marks.”

“…So I just decided that whatever side you’re on, I’m on.”

“Good! I’d be terrified to fight a dragon. Especially one that could fly. Any fewer I might have to draw steel against is good news in my books.”

“When you put it that way…”

“No take backs!” He smirked at that. “Me, I would never say I wouldn’t fight someone in the future. There is no telling what the future may bring, and no telling what manner of promises might bite you in the ass.”

“You speak from experience?”

“Not my experience, but the experience of many a human. Massive wars were started because one group agreed to help another group in a fight, and many people were killed because one group swore not to raise arms against another.”

“I’ll remember that, next time. How many wars have your people even fought?”

“No one knows. History has forgotten uncounted numbers of them. In the past hundred or so years, my people alone fought in eight or more. There were tons more in other places in the world. Millions died from violence. Bombs were constructed that could lay waste to entire cities. There were enough made, and made stronger, that the world could be killed hundreds of times over. Only two of those bombs were ever used in war, and they made a country that vowed to never surrender break.”

“So,” he finally asked as we were walking up to the first buildings in town, “with all your new experience with the ladies, do you have any more tips to give me about Rarity, if I continue trying to get her?”

“My suggestion is to just give up entirely. I don’t think you want any part of her.”

“Any part of who?” a pink blur asked, jumping out of some bushes and tackling me.

“I’m afraid that’s none of your business, Pinkie Pie. Now, would you kindly get off me? My wings are not made to be crushed this hard.”

“What, the big, strong human can’t protect himself from a weak little pony?” she gently mocked.

“I was being polite. If you wan—” before I even finished, I rolled us both over, hauled her to her feet, and jumped on her back. When she opened her mouth to squawk in protest, I slid the crossbow off my shoulder and jammed the sling into her mouth; it would be an awkward bit, but it would do. I pulled on my makeshift reins to try to calm her.

She did not like that at all. I almost found myself sailing through the air; it was only my long time of dealing with much larger horses back in the day that kept me on her.

“Now Pinkie, that’s no way to behave to your rider!” I scolded her. Spike was trying his best not to laugh, and I couldn’t tell what Pinkie was looking like; she was giving me a run for my money, but I was done playing nice. I gently tapped her sides with my heels; I wasn’t wearing spurs, but it got her attention. I felt her flinch when she realized what I could do to her. She quickly stopped fighting, her sides heaving slightly and her hair almost entirely deflated.

“That’s a good girl. Now, my little pony, what have we learned?” I asked, not removing the bit. She tried to spit it out, or bite it, but I made sure it was strong when I had it made. “Hm… I bet I could make you prance me back to Twilight’s library…” I could feel her quaking in indignation. “You’re the one that attacked me, remember. Just be thankful I’m nice.” I let the reins go and hopped off her back.

She shuddered slightly. “Now I know why the princess uses you…” she whispered, looking at me in something approaching fear. Then she smiled again, her hair returning to its massive bulk. “I sure did surprise you, though!” Most people, not knowing Pinkie Pie, would ask her why she had been hiding in bushes in the first place. I didn’t bother, knowing I wouldn’t find a decent answer.

“Yeah, you did. And look where it got you.”

“I’m not used to losing a wrestling match… My sisters and I used to fight so much that when I came here I never had any problems beating anypony aside from Applejack!”

“You’ve also never fought anyone that has an intense phobia of being constricted.”

“I’ll remember that, next time,” she answered, smiling deeper.

“If there’s a next time, I won’t be as nice.” She huffed. “No, that isn’t a challenge. That’s a warning that it doesn’t need to happen again. It’s hard to tell you’ve gone too far when there’s a bit in your mouth.” She looked contemplative. “And no, that doesn’t mean to tell someone else to pounce on me, either.”

“But Applejack would look so cute being dominated like that!” Pinkie Pie crooned.

“I don’t know about cute, but it would be funny as hell. I don’t think she would give up as easily as you did, though.” We were nearing the library, now.

“You call that giving up easily?” Spike asked. “The way she was bucking and kicking, I thought you would go flying for sure!”

“I had some practice in my past life, remember?”

I saw that click on Pinkie Pie’s face. “No wonder I couldn’t throw you off!”

When we got to the library, we saw all the rest of the cadre standing inside, discussing something or another. When Pinkie Pie saw Applejack, she got a glint in her eye.

“No,” I told her. She looked at me with a smile. “No,” I repeated. Her smile turned pleading. “Not just no, but hell no.” Her look turned sullen. “There are not enough no’s out there. I’m not going to stand out here all day, repeating myself.” I turned the latch on the door, and entered into a debate that hushed itself as I entered. “Ladies,” I nodded, walking in. Spike and Pinkie Pie followed me in.

The door slammed shut behind Pinkie. I looked around and saw them all staring at me. “Okay, what’s this intervention for?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.

“You running from your problems!” Twilight said.

“Now Twilight, we talked about this,” Rarity said to her. She turned to me. “We’re not here to be confrontational, Nav. But you really do run from your problems way too much!”

To be fair, I had to stop myself from jumping through the window as soon as the door slammed shut.

“Okay. I’ll stop. You can all leave now.”

They all gave me that woman look, Pinkie and Spike excluded. “Do you really think we’ll buy that?” Rainbow asked.

“I was hoping, yeah,” I answered. “Okay, how about you name a few problems I dealt with by running away and I’ll explain why I did so.”

“When I… poisoned you,” Twilight said. “You refused to talk about it and wouldn’t have even listened to my apology if Taya didn’t make you!”

“Talking wouldn’t have solved a damn thing there,” I said. “I was trying to save us time and an awkward moment. You know my mind works differently than a pony’s. That wasn’t running, that was being economical.” She looked down.

Rarity sighed. “When Pinkie and I did… things to you, you never once truly confronted us about it, Nav.” A few of them were confused by that. “What we did was wrong, but you never did anything!”

“It was my word against yours. No one would have listened to me. I was just saving more time. Of course, that was before I knew that Celestia could read someone’s mind. By the time I learned, it was just a horrible memory that I still have nightmares about.”

That got a few looks. “What are y’all talking about, again?” Applejack asked.

I waved a hand. “Pinkie and Rarity used pheromones against me when I was a stallion and raped me.”

“That’s… not something to joke about, Nav,” Applejack said.

I gave Rarity a look and said, “Next.”

Fluttershy said, “After the dragon migration, when you were injured and came to me for help, you refused to follow my instructions and then let your pride take over as you ran back home, rather than accepting my help.”

“I told you then: Your psychotic rabbit gathered all the animals in your house and they tried to attack me.” She gave me a look. “I wish I was joking, Fluttershy. Angel is a dick and a psycho. Ask any of them,” I said, waving my hand to the others. They all refused to meet her gaze. “I rest my case. I was doing myself a favor, getting out of your house. No offense to you; you’re a wonderful nurse or doctor or whatever. You just have shitty housemates. Next.”

Pinkie simply said, “Luna.”

“Okay, let’s see you face down the second most powerful person on the planet. Actually, no, not you. I could see you overthrowing Celestia with no problem. Let’s see just about anyone else take on the second most powerful person on the planet. Avoiding that problem has kept me alive. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, good.”

“You’re still hurting her, Nav!” Twilight asserted. “She may not know the details, but I’m sure she heard about most of your exploits that week!”

“Twilight, I don’t care.” All their breaths caught. “I don’t love her.” I shrugged. “I might one day. She’s really nice and I know she loves me. But right now I’m too pissed off at her. Let her suffer. Let her feel every pang against her heart for what she’s forced me into. I. Don’t. Care. Next.”

A few of them looked like they were about to cry. “You’re awful,” Rarity whispered.

“I know,” was my answer. “Next.”

Applejack finally said, “That party in the cellar. You managed to get away from Pinkie.”

I smiled. “Yeah, that was funny. I don’t really consider that running away from my problem, since running away was actually the solution. I couldn’t fight her since she was forcing me to do something I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t going to let her win. Running away was really the only thing I could do.” I smiled at Pinkie. “I managed to do it too.” She shook a hoof at me, glaring.

Fluttershy again. “You convinced the two naga that were in love to give up their love and run away from each other.”

“Pinkie’s dad gave the best answer there: It’s better that they drifted apart if they didn’t really love each other. I didn’t convince them to give up, I just told them how to do it.”

Twilight yet again. “In Ramla, you ran away whenever you saw my brother and I acting… well, like a brother and sister.”

“Because I remembered my sister. Imagine never being able to see your brother again. Now imagine seeing a brother and sister interacting happily, like you used to with your brother. What would you do?” She looked down. “I needed to get away to think. To try to repress my memories. I couldn’t stand the pain, so I went where I wouldn’t have to feel it for a while. It slowly died down, and I was better by the time we left.” That’s kind of the definition of running from your problems.

Rainbow Dash finally spoke up. “From everything I heard, you spent that entire week at the palace trying to avoid Cadance.”

“Because she wanted to talk to me about Luna. You know her special talent is love. What do you think she would say if I told her what I just told you about Luna? She would probably crucify me. As an alicorn, she could probably get away with it. I tried telling her that at the beginning, when I first met her, but she refused to believe it. After that, I didn’t see any reason to continue trying. Her words: ‘You aren’t leaving my side until I make you feel again.’ I didn’t like the sound of that. And then she started talking about fixing me. That just pissed me off.”

Pinkie said, “Just about everything in the dream machine that you and Luna went into. You killed everything without even thinking about it!”

“Okay, what the hell? How do you even know about that?” She just looked at me. “Yes, I did kill them all. But it worked. Nothing bad happened and it probably saved everyone time. You all get to dream now, congratulations.”

Twilight said, “Navarone, you really have a problem. Why can’t you just admit it?”

“Oh, I know you’re right. I do run from my problems. What I’m trying to figure out is why that’s a bad thing.”

“Running from me is what made me angry enough to poison you,” Twilight said.

“I got better.”

“Running from my home had you flying through town wounded and naked,” Fluttershy said.

“I got better from that and no one really commented on the whole nudity thing.”

“Navarone,” Rarity said, “come here.”

“Are you going to hit me again? Because if you hit me, I swear to God I’ll hit you back.”

“You wouldn’t hurt a lady!”

“I’m crushing Luna’s heart, if you’ll recall.”

She looked pensive for a moment. “Never mind. You can stay there. But you simply must realize that this is bad for you! You won’t get anywhere in life running from your problems!”

I looked at them for a moment before bursting out laughing. They gave me odd looks. When I got control of myself, I wiped a tear away from my eyes. “I’m richer than all six of you combined. I have the ear of both princesses, the king of Egypt, and Queen Chrysalis. A clan of bloodthirsty naga love me. I won a massive tournament in Maris and was offered a generalship in a griffin army. I’m a fucking knight! If you insist I keep running from my problems, you’re going to have to accept that running from my problems has taken me everywhere in life.”

That shut them up.

Until Fluttershy opened her fucking mouth. “And how happy are you? Do you really like any of that?”

Fuck you, Fluttershy. “Not a bit. I hate all of it. I’m tired of this life, I’m tired of being owned by royalty, and I’m really, really getting tired of ponies. There are times when it’s fun, but then there are times like this. There are times when I look at one of your smiling faces and just want to get the fuck away, because I know if I don’t I’ll end up hurting someone or myself. Times where it takes all I can to keep self-control. The princesses have ruined me with their fucking jobs. The shit I went through in Egypt. The mental crushing I’ve been through dealing with politics. Having my mind raped by Chrysalis. I’m getting strung out. And now… now I have to go explore the Everfree forest. I was going to put it off for a few days, but this conversation brought me to one of my points where I feel that I must get away. So if you would kindly move, I’ll go up to my room and grab a few things and be on my way.”

No one moved. I started walking anyway and just fluttered over them with my wings. They all stared at me in a mix of shock and horror as I walked up the stairs. I grabbed my sword, more bolts, several water bottles, and the rest of my knives. I thought for a moment and changed into a set of better clothes, and then grabbed all my gear. Then I went looking for Taya.

Before I found her, I found myself in a familiar and hated sitting room. “I’m not in the mood for this,” I said before I even saw who summoned me.

“Tell me what’s wrong, Nav,” I heard Celestia say.

“As I said, I’m not in the mood for this,” I said as I turned to face her.

She was on a couch, looking at me with concern. “Twilight told me you were having problems, but she didn’t elucidate. What is troubling you?”

“Something that can’t be helped. My mind is struggling again, and dealing with your damnable ponies is making it worse. I need to get away for a while, and Luna’s fucking order to explore the Everfree will help with that. I just need to tell Taya I’m leaving.”

Her look of concern turned to shock for a moment. “Explore the Everfree? Luna asked you to do that?”

“No, she ordered me to do that. This is what happens when you force me to take an oath that I didn’t want. I am quite angry right now, so I would appreciate it if you let me get back to what I have to do.”

“You are hurting, Nav. I cannot let you go into the forest in this condition.”

“If you want to wait until my mind is better, we’re going to be here until the sun blows. My mind is pretty much completely fucked up right now. I want nothing more than to hurt something even though I know it’s wrong. I need some time off where I won’t be able to hurt anyone important. So I’m going into the forest.”

“No, Navarone. You need help. I was hoping you would be able to do this yourself, but I don’t think it is going to work. When your friends tried to get together to help you, you blew them off.”

“Because they weren’t trying to help me. They were trying to change me.”

“I think that to be helped, you need to change. A problem can’t be fixed by not changing something.”

I walked over to a chair and sat. “Fine. Tell me what you think I need to do.”

“Letting go of your past would be a good start.”

“Forgetting? I don’t think that is a good idea. I am who I am because of my past, and I rather like who I am, even if I hate just about everything else in my life.”

“I don’t mean forgetting, Nav. I mean forgiving others for what they’ve done to you. You hold so much anger and sorrow inside. It is not healthy!”

“Oh. That. I would if I knew how. There’s a reason I was trying to get Chrysalis to take it all away. I don’t know what the hell she did to me, but it was… terrible. If that’s how I’m going to act if I manage to put all of this behind me, I am not interested.”

“Even if not doing so means you hurt those around you? Or yourself? Or Taya?”

“I believe I’ve already done all of the above. The thing about having so much pain inside is that adding more is almost negligible. I have done some terrible things while in your employ, and I’ve had some terrible things done to me. Given those, I’ve inured myself to the minor pain I cause others. If I can deal with so much worse, they can deal with the small stuff.”

“To them, this is not small. My little ponies are not strong against this mental anguish, not like you’ve become. But I fear in becoming strong, you’ve also become weak. Your mood dangerously fluctuates, violence is forefront on your mind at nearly all times, you seem to be having trouble controlling yourself, and the worst part is that you not only know these things, but you also don’t seem to care! You are hurting my ponies with your words and your actions. Not physically, but emotionally. You need help, Nav.”

“I know. I already asked you what you thought I should do, and it is something I find myself unable to do. And if I’ll act how I did when Chrysalis took some of the pain, I would rather continue as I am.”

“You admit there’s a problem. You ask for a solution. And you are not interested when I tell you what I think will work. Why must you be so difficult, Navarone?”

“Well that depends. Is it considered rape if my mind was under the influence of a mind altering spell?”

It was worth it to see her blush like that. “I apologize for that, Navarone. I was in heat. I do not ask you to try to understand, just that you forgive me.”

“It wasn’t the worst thing that was done to me that week. That might have been you letting Twilight do what she wanted to me. Or perhaps the aftermath of that.” Now she wasn’t even looking me in the eye. “Or maybe it was the large party I was persuaded to go to by a cute mare. The party where I was drugged and had who knows what done to me. Or maybe it was the life-ruining knighting ceremony I was forced—by you—to go through. You know me and you know yourself, Celestia. How easily would you forgive for some of those?”

She sighed. “It would be hard. I would do it, though, if I knew the pony responsible was truly apologetic for their actions.” She looked up and I saw unshed tears in her eyes.

“Apologetic,” I said. She nodded. “Then perhaps you can convince Luna to remove my oaths.” She looked away. “That’s what it’ll take, Celestia. I do not want to be oathed. You refused to listen to me. Luna gave me a chance to talk, but she refused to listen to any of my reasons. Look at me.” After a moment, she did. “I offered Chrysalis your kingdom. I was going to kill you and capture Luna. She refused. That left me with no other option but taking the knighthood.” I stood. “And until you can remove it, I have a job to do. Send me back.”

“You’re just going to keep getting worse, Nav! I can’t let you do this!”

“You will not earn my forgiveness while I am sworn to anyone. If forgiving is what you think it will take, remove my oaths. Set me free. I will try to get better. Until then, I fear I am of more use to Luna broken. Send me back.” I’m honestly a bit surprised at how she took the news that I offered to kill her. I was expecting her to be rather angry.

Her eyes hardened a bit. “No. You are not getting your way by making me feel bad.” Her voice was growing angry. “I tried reasoning with you. I gave you the easy way. Now here is your other choice: I will rip the painful memories from your mind. I will not have you endangering my ponies. You can either let go willingly or I can force you to.”

I stared at her. She glared at me. “I already told you what would happen if you touched my mind without my permission,” I told her.

“You’d thank me when it was over. I know how happy you were when Chrysalis took some of your pain. If it was all gone, you would thank me forever. And you could finally give Luna the love she deserves.”

“And my feelings mean nothing to you? You know how different I was when just a little of it was gone. You’d be killing me just as much as you would if you stabbed me with your horn and summoned another human to replace me.”

“Of course your feelings matter. That’s why I’m giving you the choice.”

“Then I choose death.” With no other warning, I ripped my dagger out and it was against my chest before she managed to grab me with magic. “Let me die! I’ll not live as a slave, no matter what you or Luna demand!”

“You aren’t living as a slave! You’ll be living as a subject! Why don’t you want to be happy?”

“I am happy! I refuse to be owned. Release me so I can die!”

“No.” My arm fell limp and my dagger was tossed away. Before any blood could be lost, the small cut in my chest was healed. “What am I to do with you, Navarone? I offered you a chance to be happy and you tried to kill yourself. I offered you a chance to make everypony that knows you happier for knowing you. I offered you a chance at love for Taya and Luna. And you would rather die than have it. Why? Can you even explain it?”

“Because of the freedom of choice. I am a free man, Celestia. Or I was a free man, until you forced me to give myself away. If someone tried to force you to take a totally different personality, would you do it?”

“If I would be happier and it would make others happy, yes!”

“No human would. I would wager that most would choose death. I am not a pony, Celestia. I never will be. My mind works completely differently. You might have heard of the concept of spite, but I don’t think you would have ever felt it. I would rather kill myself to spite you than allow you to ruin me. And I can almost guarantee that if you rip my mind open and continue to expect me to be able to do all the shit jobs you’ve been forcing me into, you will be very disappointed. You’ll be left with a loving slave that has no use.”

“I don’t want you to be a slave, Nav. I want you to be a friend!”

“Then let me go. You saw how I was. I was better suited to be a jester than a friend! My mind is fine as it is, broken and all.”

“It is not fine. But I believe you are correct when you say that I should not tamper in your mind. You need help, Navarone. We both know it. And I cannot make Luna let you go.” She sighed. “Perhaps a vacation? Just you and Taya, if you want her there.”

“Not interested.”

“Anywhere in the world you want to go. I can send you there whenever you want and you can be there as long as you want.”

“How about just me. The Everfree forest. Right now, for as long as I want to be there.”

“That might be hard to arrange. There are plenty of openings in Tartarus, though. I’ve heard the sights are great.”

“Okay. Go ahead and send me to Tartarus. Maybe I can find some more red diamonds for Rarity; she loved the last one.”

“On second thought, Tartarus might be full.” She sighed again. “Please, Nav. You need time to think. To decide what you really want.”

“I already know what I really want, but I do need time to cool off. I am running on empty right now, Celestia.” She was probably confused by that. “I have been dealing with nonstop shit for nearly a month now. The Maris party, getting trapped with that horrid woman, the week before the wedding and the week after were just terrible. I have been getting bothered ever since by someone asking me if I’m okay or if everything is alright. I’ve been trying to get out of Ponyville as much as possible, but sometimes they follow me. I can’t talk to the ponies because they are incapable of understanding what I’m going through. They think they want to talk to me about my problems, but if I ever started, it would just be a bunch of awkwardness all bundled into one tight spot. I just need to get away for a while, and none of them can follow me into the Everfree.”

“You know me, Navarone. You know I can handle anything you ever want to talk about.”

“And up until today, you’ve been more interested in fucking me than talking to me. I know you’re a mare, but you’re x thousand years old. You should have some manner of control over that by now, Celestia.”

“There are some things I can do before it starts to deaden the effects, but I never expected any of what happened. I was hoping for the weeklong Maris party to go by and then to have the rest of my heat cycle off, preferably finally fulfilling my needs for once rather than hiding from them.” At my look of near horror, she quickly amended, “Not actually having children, of course! No, just coupling.” She smiled wistfully. “Lots and lots of it, too…” The smile disappeared. “And then it all went wrong. If I let you go, are you going to try to hurt yourself again?”

“Only if you promise on your crown that you’ll never do anything with my mind against my will.”

“I can’t do that. There are a few occasions when I might have to.”

“I think any of those occasions might be something in which you would have my permission. I wouldn’t want your kingdom to suffer because of something I know.”

She was silent for a moment. “You have my word, then.”

“Then you can release me.”

She did. “Sit, Nav. Let us talk. Tell me what is on your mind.” I went over to a chair and after thinking for a moment, began to speak.

 

I don’t know how long we were there. It felt good to tell the truth, without all the lies I put into my journals because I know they’re being read. It was nice, being able to tell how I truly felt about some things.

I was pretty much done when she looked out the window and said, “I need to meet with Luna to change the sun and moon, Nav. I will talk to her. You will need a good reason for why you no longer wish to be her knight, because you and I both know she will be very distraught.”

I nodded. “I have a few excuses. But since we’re being frank here… Why do you maintain the illusion that you control the sun and moon?” She was surprised at that. “After so long, surely the ponies would allow you to rule by merit alone.”

“I am going to pretend I did not hear that, Navarone.” I could tell by her tone that continuing on that vein would be dangerous. “I expect Luna will be coming here soon, so be prepared.”

With that, she teleported out. While she was gone, I grabbed my knife from where she had thrown it. Ten minutes later, Luna teleported in.

And she was crying. Fun.

“Why don’t you want me?” she practically wailed at me.

“Who said I didn’t want you, Luna?” I asked, holding my arms in a placating gesture. “I don’t want to be oathed to you. I’m still working on the whole love thing.”

“Tia said you didn’t want to be my knight and that you only did it because she made you!”

“Well, that’s true. I told you upfront that I didn’t want to be knighted or to swear any oaths. I do not want to be owned and I do not want the responsibilities of a knight. That doesn’t mean I don’t want you.”

“But being my knight means we can be together without any repercussions!”

“No, it means that in any relationship we might have, you would completely own me. You would be in complete control. That isn’t a relationship, Luna. That is slavery.” That shut her up. Finally, I said, “You really have two choices, Luna. Nav, or Sir Navarone. I can’t be in a relationship with someone that has full control over me. It just wouldn’t work.”

Silence again, aside from her sniffling. After a while, she whispered, “I want two promises from you.”

“Name them.”

“I want you to promise me that you’ll give me a chance when my time is up.”

“And the other?”

“I want you to still be my knight, even without the oaths.”

I didn’t like either of those. But at the same time, I knew it was the best I was going to get. “Deal. Come find me when your seven years are up.”

She gave me a small smile. “As a princess of Equestria, I release you of all oaths pertaining to Equestria and her ponies. Now, you’re taking me to dinner.”

The door opened and Celestia walked in. “I’m afraid not, sister,” she said aloud. “Navarone and I need to talk. He made me a promise as well, and your time is not yet up.”

Luna glared at her. “How long have you been listening?” She didn’t sound very pleased.

“I heard your last statement,” Celestia answered. Yeah, she heard the last statement. What else did she hear? “Unlike some of us, I prefer getting a bit of exercise.”

“As I recall, you teleported to the ritual chamber,” Luna said, cooling down a bit.

Celestia shrugged. “Every little bit helps. It’s hard to keep this figure at my age. Now go on, Luna. Nav and I do need to talk.”

Luna spared one last look to me before walking out. The door slipped closed behind her.

“So how much did you really hear?” I asked her.

“All of it. I teleported to the door as soon as she disappeared. You are manipulative, Navarone. And I believe you have a promise to me that you need to fulfill.”

I grimaced. “I wasn’t actually expecting you to be able to do it. I’m disappointed; I was hoping to stay the same.” I shrugged. “But I said I would do it. Even if it’ll be hard. I forgive you, Celestia. And I hope I’ll be able to remember that.”

She nodded. “So do I. Now there is one more thing you can do for me, while you are still in Canterlot.”

“What do you need?”

“Shining Armor returned from his honeymoon last night. I want you to help him practice mind reading. He never was good at it, though as the captain of the guard he needs to get better. I looked into your mind once, when you allowed me to, and the chaos inside rivals that of anything I’ve seen in a very long time. If he can learn to traverse your mind, he can travel through the mind of anypony.”

“I think I’ll pass. He probably isn’t very happy with me after the memories I gave him, and I really don’t want to see him.”

“Part of letting go of pain is allowing others to do the same, Nav. He realized that what he did was wrong, and you need to realize what you did was also wrong. You could have easily hidden everything from him, but instead you chose to strike back, angering him into trying again and again. I offered to remove the memories for him, and he did accept the removal of two sets, but he kept the third. But you need to talk to him, Nav.”

“Am I being given a choice here, or is this another one of your do it or bust things?”

“You tell me,” she said as the door opened and Shining Armor walked in.

“I’m going to go with something I’m forced into,” I said before he could say anything. “I don’t know why you are so cruel to me, Celestia.”

“Because it’s fun,” she answered with a small grin. “Shining Armor, Navarone has volunteered to help you practice searching minds.”

He opened his mouth but I broke in, “I didn’t volunteer. She said I had to.”

He gave Celestia a look before turning to me. “You don’t have to, Nav. And… I apologize. It was not my place to try to force my way into your mind. I most definitely learned my lesson, even if most of the memories don’t remain.”

I smiled. “Celestia said you kept a set. Which one?”

He scowled. “The one that reminds me why I am a royal guard. The things Kat did to you should never have been allowed, and if I ever catch wind of them happening here, I will crack down so hard the guilty parties will still be reeling when they are in prison.”

“Oh, that’s why? Are you sure you weren’t just the teensiest bit interested in all that she taught me?”

He blushed. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about. If you don’t mind, I would like to get started. Cadance is missing me right now, I fear.”

Celestia and I shared a look and a smile at that. I turned back to Shining Armor. “By all means. And as incentive to do well, I’ll give you… Well, I don’t really have any happy memories, do I? How about this: If you succeed, I’ll give you memories of flight. Failure results in feeling what I felt the first time I killed something.”

He blanched a bit at that. Celestia said, “That seems fair to me.” He looked at her in shock. She said to him, “You are my royal guard captain. It would be good for you to understand how it feels to take a life as Nav did. It is one thing to kill monsters from the Everfree that actively torment my ponies. It is another thing to take a life of something that can think and feel and isn’t directly threatening your charges.”

He sighed. “Very well.” He walked over to where I was sitting. “Prepare yourself, Navarone.” When I nodded, his horn glowed and a light pulsed to my head. “A void… I was here the third time. What do I do, Princess?”

“Explore. If you find resistance, try to slip around it rather than batter through it. Navarone’s mind is not like a pony’s. His human mind and his tree-like qualities allow for much better defenses than most ponies have.”

I could feel his presence in my mind, too. I know it’s hard to imagine, but try thinking about another consciousness in your own brain, rooting through your memories and emotions, or trying to. You can attempt to partition them away, which is what I started doing to Shining Armor as soon as he entered. By now, his position was so small that I would be surprised if he could move at all.

When I started filling where I put him with the feeling of dread, he flinched. “I can’t move!” he exclaimed. His presence began to fight, trying to push back against my mind.

“Stop fighting, Shining Armor,” Celestia advised. Her horn glowed as she joined him. After a moment she said, “He has you trapped, but he left you a way out. You just have to find it.”

I felt the pressure slowly ease down. He began muttering, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. After a moment, I felt him find the crack and he pushed out of the trap and into a labyrinth. “What’s this?” he whispered loud enough to be heard. He began to move forward.

I saw Celestia’s horn begin to glow again and I felt another small presence join him. “This looks like a maze,” Celestia said in surprise. “How is this even possible?” Her mind withdrew from mine.

I was too busy keeping the form of the maze in my mind to answer. It was difficult, but I still occasionally play through the Tower of Hanoi in my mind in my spare time, so it wasn’t too difficult. I have plenty of practice holding things in my mind.

Celestia smiled. “Go forward, Shining. I believe you will know when you are going the wrong way.”

His presence began moving forward. Given that we were in a three dimensional area, he probably could have went up or down and bypassed the entire thing, but the thought never occurred to him. Whenever he started going the wrong way, I dissuaded him with increasing feelings of dread until he got back on the right path. As he got closer and closer, I gave him more and more joy.

When he got to the end, he saw three doors. “This trap again?” he asked with a bit of horror. “I’ve fallen for this before, Nav! You won’t catch me again!”

Celestia’s horn glowed as she looked in again. “You see what he’s showing you, Shining Armor. You see only what he's showing you. There is more there, you just have to look for it.” She stayed there, probably to see what he was going to do.

I felt his presence move, inspecting each door. Each one had the same thing behind it. I wanted to see what he was going to do. After a moment his mind jumped, striking between two of the doors and into the barrier I had put up around him. He didn’t get through. He struck again and again.

I yawned. He growled as his presence stopped. I felt it begin searching the confines of the trap. He found the crack I left quickly enough. He pushed through it to find himself mind-presence to face with Chrysalis. He flinched back a bit before pushing forward. She was smiling at him as she lay on a bed, one of her hooves drawing little circles on the sheets.

He kept going. The next image was of Cadance doing the same thing. He growled again at finding that in my mind. He kept going. Then he found himself on a bed. He was facing away, tail raised and ass in the air. He was looking back with what most ponies seem to think is a sexy look. The real Shining Armor looked like he was about to be sick as he kept going.

“You have quite the imagination, Nav,” Celestia said with a smirk when she saw it.

“You shouldn’t mock a stallion’s desires, Princess,” Shining Armor answered with a strained smile.

The next obstacle stopped him. It was a river of blood flowing as far as he could see in both ways. He couldn’t go under it. He began to feel around for any cracks, but there weren’t any.

Celestia said, “Remember where you are, Shining Armor. This isn’t the physical you, so you can have any shape you need and you can do anything you can think yourself capable of.”

He gasped. “I could have floated over the maze!” I smiled and he scowled. With a jump, he cleared the river with no problems. I thought, You still don’t understand. I let that resonate throughout my mind. “I don’t understand what?” he demanded. I just let laughter loose.

Celestia didn’t give him any answers as he continued. He found himself in a marsh, hard to traverse. He smiled as he floated over it. That smile lasted until he bumped into an invisible wall. You have to figure it out, I thought, letting it bounce around him.

“Figure what out?” he asked, honestly sounding confused.

Celestia finally said, “You can do anything in his mind, but you still continue to follow his path. There is a weakness in Navarone’s mind. He knows it. I know it. You need to find it. If you can, you can stop following his mind and start finding answers.”

He started looking. He found cracks that I easily sealed as he tried to pick through them. After a while, he stopped. “I can’t find it,” he said.

“Yes you can,” Celestia answered him. “I found it as soon as I met him. I could flay his mind open and he couldn’t do a thing to stop me.” Other than kill you, I whispered to them both in my mind.

Shining Armor gaped. I began to enclose him within my mind, allowing more dread to fill in. It’s so simple, I whispered. Something you see every time you look at me. What am I? What do I lack? What am I defenseless against?

He finally understood. “Magic!” His horn glowed even brighter as he used his magic to force a hole in my defenses. I gave him the memories of flight. “No. I want to know of your past, Navarone. Your home.” You will not have these memories. “Then I’ll take them! I want to see what it was like there.” He began pushing in, looking for what he wanted. I gave him every horrifying memory I had of my time here. All the helplessness and terror I felt.

He kept coming.

I reached my hand out and grabbed his horn. Before he could react, I pulled his head back and shot my fist out to punch his throat, collapsing his windpipe. I stood up and kneed him under the chin, throwing him back. He fell, trying to force air through something that no longer worked.

Celestia let him remain that way for a minute before healing him. “The most important lesson in dealing with somepony’s mind,” she said, “is to always make sure that you restrain them before doing something they do not like. If you had gotten somewhere Navarone did not want you to be, he would have killed you. That is why you only ever use this against those that are accused of a crime, and then only to confirm or deny guilt. You learned just about everything you can against Navarone. You’ll have to practice against a unicorn sometime; they have different defenses. Now, I believe you owe Nav another apology.”

Shining Armor shakily stood. “I… am sorry, Navarone. I know it was wrong. I knew it as I was doing it… But I want to know more about you and your people. Surely that is nothing to be deplored!”

“If the knowledge shared is by choice, no,” I answered. “But there are things no one here knows. Things I shall not tell any of them. They don’t even know my real name. Probably never will. I can, of course, answer some questions for you. But you will have to settle for words; setting up all those defenses wearied my mind, so giving you a guided tour would be difficult, and I don’t want to risk showing you something you shouldn’t see.”

“I understand. I would not want anypony in my mind if they tried to look through something I wanted hidden.” I nodded. “I do not wish to take up any more of the princess’s time, however.”

“You know where I live, then. I’ll be away for a while on business, though. Perhaps we can meet the next time I’m in town.” Just keep your evil wife away.

He nodded. “Princess. Nav.” With that, he walked out and away.

Celestia turned to me with a smile. “It isn’t often I see a fight in front of me.”

“That wasn’t a fight, Celestia. That was an ass whooping. It’s a good thing I caught him completely by surprise, or he probably would have mopped the floor with me. I’m not a fighter, not really.”

She kept her smile. “You have such odd phrases! If the fight had turned ill, I would have stepped in. And if you had let him go too far, I would have stepped in as well. I will not let your secrets go so easily to those that have no business in them. I admit curiosity, but I will not betray your trust to satisfy myself. Now, some of what you showed him…” She shuddered. “Where did that image of him come from, Nav?”

“It is as you say: I have a large imagination. I like women too damn much to be gay. I just knew it would creep him out. He had already seen some bad stuff in my mind, what with the whole Kat thing. I knew he could take it while still being unsettled.”

She shrugged. “It worked. You showed him enough that he can probably sneak through most minds without resorting to barreling through them with magic. Most minds wouldn’t even think to use a maze, let alone create one. How did you do that?”

“It was hard. Very hard. I kept thinking that he would notice that there wasn’t a roof and just float above it, but he never did. It’s probably good that he didn’t, because I don’t think I could have stopped him as quickly. And it’s also a good thing that you stopped him from entering any of the doors.”

She nodded. “I saw what you hid there. It’s a shame you had to do it, but I do not want any conflict in my territory, especially not when any of my ponies might be harmed.” It was, of course, my first kill. Going for the doors meant he failed, as far as I was concerned.

I shrugged. “It’s long done. Do you need me for anything else? I’m sure Taya is probably worried, and I need to prepare properly if I am to enter the Everfree come the morrow.”

She raised an eyebrow at that. “You had your oath removed. Why would you still go into that evil place, Nav?”

“Because in a way, Luna is correct. It does need to be explored. And I know that manticore from before didn’t see me. There’s a good chance the animals there can’t even see me.”

“I will not forbid it. It does need to be explored. But would you mind if Luna and I watched out for you while you did, just in case?”

“Sure. I’ll probably be staying in there for weeks, though; I don’t need to eat often, and I know there are some kinds of edible foods in there, as well as sources of water.”

“We won’t be able to watch you all the time, of course. There will be times when we will have to put our full attention on what we are doing. Just be careful, as always.”

“Don’t worry about me, Celestia. I’ll be fine.”

“I hope so. Now, are you ready to go back?”

“I really don’t want to see any of them right now…” She gave me a look. “But I know I have to. I’m ready.”

“Until next time, then.” Her horn glowed and off I went. Fucking unicorns, man.

I found myself back in the library. All of Twilight’s friends had left, and both Spike and Twilight looked like they were about ready for bed. Taya was lying on the floor, looking glum.

As soon as Taya saw me, she perked up. When I looked as though I had gotten my bearings, I was under attack from a hugging filly. “Spike, save me!” I cried as I was dragged to the floor.

“You’re on your own, bro,” he told me, not looking up from what he was doing. Some bro you are.

Thankfully, the hug didn’t last long. Taya got off me shortly. “So when are we going to the Everfree?” she asked me, finally letting me stand.

We aren’t going any time soon,” I answered. “I am going either tomorrow or tonight, one or the other. You are going to stay here; no reason to endanger another needlessly, after all.”

She gave me an obstinate look. Ever since Taya realized how little protection I have against any form of magic, she has grown increasingly protective of me, at least against physical danger. There have been a few exceptions, what with the whole Twilight poisoning me thing, but Taya has been doing her best to stop any manner of pain from reaching me.

And she supplemented her ‘protection’ of me with magic. She took to learning it with a passion rivaled only by Twilight. It scares me, when I think of how powerful Taya is getting. She could already handle me like a baby those four months ago when she burned me. Now… Now, she’s occasionally able to give Twilight a run for her money. And it had only been about five months since she started learning.

How do you say no to a daughter that could swat you aside like a fly? Twilight’s parents managed. I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

“You seem to be thinking I would be in danger,” Taya answered. “I think I’m considerably more able to protect you than you are able to protect yourself.”

“Magic does not make you invincible,” Twilight told her.

I added, “Celestia thought she could best me like that. I shot her before she even knew I was there. You may have magic over me, but don’t think that makes you perfect.”

It didn’t seem to faze her much. “You know how to shoot from a distance. But what if something attacks you up close? I’ve studied anatomy and I’ve looked over your crossbow. Unless you get lucky or aim well, you won’t be able to stop something with one shot if what you are shooting at is too close. It might eventually die, but by then, it will be too late for you. And I’m afraid I can’t have that.”

All three of us were a bit shocked by her wording. I recovered fastest. “I’ve been protecting myself for longer than you’ve been alive.” Not technically true, but she didn’t know a lie detecting spell. “I do not need, nor will I have, a babysitter to get me through a forest.”

“She isn’t entirely wrong, Nav,” Twilight said, before Taya could hit me with a rebuttal. I gave her a glare. “I don’t mean about her going! But do you really think you should go in there alone, after just one test? I don’t think you should go in there at all!”

“Since you’re making such a big issue over it, it was Luna that told me to do it. She wants to know what all is in there.”

Twilight nodded slowly, but before she could say anything, Taya said, “I know we’re supposed to respect her, but why does she want you dead? Everything she ever asks you to do ends up with you in dangerous places! Why do you keep listening to her?”

“Because right now, I have no choice. I am magically oathed.” That was a total lie. “I am going into that forest alone, because that way I have less people to worry about keeping track of and protecting. No one knows what all is in that place and what all is dangerous. We know some animals don’t notice me. The same isn’t true of ponies. I don’t want to risk anyone. So I’ll go in as a short test and if all goes well, I’ll explore the place thoroughly. There’s no reason for anyone else to go with me, unless I find something worth noting.”

“What about as a scientific cataloguer?” Twilight asked. At my look, she continued, “As you said, no pony knows what to expect in that forest. A proper catalogue has never been done of the plants or animals in there. I’m just thinking—”

“And the answer is no,” I finished for her. “Or, if you really want to do a catalogue, teleport me a few inches to get an attunement to me and then do whatever it is Celestia does to eavesdrop on everything I do.” She frowned, and I realized then that I wasn’t supposed to have thought of that. I continued, ignoring her looks. “That way, I won’t be in any real manner of danger, since you can teleport me back at any time anyway. And you’ll be able to hear whatever I’m saying, as well as who knows what else. As long as you’re just doing it in this instance, I’ll be okay with that.” Better three watchers than two, where my life is concerned.

Taya had been itching to break in, and finally saw her chance. “Can I do it?” she begged.

Twilight and I both answered at the same time with a very firm “No.”

“Why not? I think I’m strong enough to teleport someone now!”

I can’t trust you to just watch me in the forest, is what I was thinking. From her look, Twilight was thinking the same thing. I answered, “Twilight has more spare time to watch me. You’re too busy learning.” And Twilight won’t be watching all that often, is also something I wanted to say but left in my mind. I turned to ask Twilight, “I don’t suppose you could modify the spell to allow you to send me some manner of instructions?”

“Modifying spells is dangerous business, Nav. Especially with something like this. There’s a chance you might be forced to perform the instructions, no matter what they are. It also might be possible to completely hijack your mind on accident, and turn you into nothing more than a puppet.”

“So yeah, never mind about that,” I said. “Just tell me what to watch out for when I head in.”

“That’s not to say it isn’t already possible, of course,” she amended. “I don’t know much about that kind of magic. I know how the princess does it, but I’ve never done it myself and I have no idea what it would be like. I’ll have to ask Princess Celestia.”

“I think I’d prefer not to draw something like that to her attention, though. She already has enough control over me. No reason to let her control me directly in the field and ruin all my effectiveness.”

“How would having the princess looking over your shoulder more make you less effective?” Spike asked.

“I work well because I do things no one expects. Tackling an assassin. Flying into a camp of honorable enemies and slitting throats while they sleep. Lighting fire to the homes of women and children. Celestia wouldn’t let me do any of those, or wouldn’t think to do them. I don’t need her barking orders in my ear that I’m just going to ignore. So yeah, just don’t worry about it. No telling if it would work on a human anyway.”

“Seems like all the more reason to tell her,” Twilight muttered. Louder, she continued, “While I think this entire thing is foolish, I suppose I could try to help you, Nav. Since it’s for Luna, that is. If this is something you were planning on your own, I think I’d put Taya in charge of you so you wouldn’t go near that forest.”

“Silly Twilight,” I said, patting her on the top of her head. “Don’t think you can ever stop me from doing something I want to get done.” She didn’t look impressed. I just shrugged. “I have time on my side, remember?” And two very powerful princesses.

“I have magic on mine. And I have Taya on my side as well.” Taya did her best to look grave.

“Taya is on my side, though. Isn’t that right, daughter?” I asked, looking at her.

She looked down and said, “I’m on the side that means you don’t get hurt or leave me.”

My face softened a bit, but I said, “So like I said, my side. And Spike has already agreed he doesn’t want to be against me, so he’s either on my side or neutral.”

Twilight looked at him, and he smiled sheepishly and said, “We were talking about something else. If he chooses to look at it that way…”

Before she could formulate a response, I jumped in. “All of this is neither here nor there. You said you would help me, and I plan to hold you to that. And Taya, no more talk of using your magic to force me to stay safe. I know you don’t like that I endanger myself so, but I know what I’m doing better than you.”

“But…” she said, looking up at me before breaking off. I waited for her to finish, but she couldn’t find the words.

“I know how you feel,” I said, trying to soften the blow. “I’m not much a fan of getting hurt. But I can barely feel any physical sensations anymore. I’ll be fine.”

“If you’re so confident,” Taya said, “how about a bet?”

“I’m listening,” I replied, folding my arms across my chest.

“If you get hurt in the forest, you don’t go in again without me or Twilight to protect you.”

I snorted. “No deal. ‘Get hurt’ is way too broad. I could stub my toe and get forced to carry around dead weight because of it. No offense,” I added, nodding at Twilight, who responded by rolling her eyes.

“Not so confident now, eh?” Spike joked. A glare shut him up.

“I will be fine. That is the end of it. If I’m not needed for anything important, I’ll visit the forest for a quick test-run tomorrow. If all goes well, I might end up spending the week there.”

 “And you expect me to be in your head for a week?”

“I’d be perfectly content to be alone in my head, actually. You are the one that wanted to do some manner of catalogue or something. And she’s the one that wanted you to protect me,” with a nod to Taya. “Feel free to do whatever you want, as long as you only ever listen in on me when I give you permission.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Her horn glowed and I found myself standing outside. That wasn’t very nice.

I went back inside. “Well?” I asked. “I’ve always wanted to know how much Celestia really knows about what I do. What can you tell?”

She shuddered after a moment. “I forgot how weird it was to have human eyes… It’s like looking through your eyes. And I can hear everything I’m saying. I do not sound like that!”

“Anything else?” She flinched.

“I can hear everything you say and know you’re saying it, but I have no idea what you’re thinking. Hearing you talk through your ears and through mine is… discomforting.”

“So you can hear with my ears and see with my eyes. Can you taste or feel anything?”

“Try doing something.”

I pulled a bolt out of my quiver and drew a thin red line down my arm. I barely felt it, and it didn’t bleed that much. Spike flinched and Taya cried out and ripped the bolt from my grasp with magic. I lifted the wound to my mouth and sucked at it for a second. “Well?” I finally asked.

Twilight was just staring at me with one of the stranger looks I’ve gotten. When I spoke up, she jerked her head suddenly and said, “Nothing. I don’t feel or taste anything. What is wrong with you?”

I shrugged and answered, “I barely feel it. If it’s bothering you, by all means,” I said, offering her my arm.

Taya beat her to it and healed it, giving me a bit of a glare, before turning her eyes to Twilight and saying, “Are you sure I can’t lock him away? It’s like he revels in pain!” I don’t know if she was joking.

Twilight answered, “We’ve been over this.” Really. She turned her purple gaze to me, correctly guessing my thoughts. “Don’t worry about it, Nav.” That did little to assuage my fears, I guarantee you.

Instead of responding to that, though, I said, “Taya, you know how tough I am. I’ve come back from some terrible things. A few near death experiences and all manner of other injuries. I’ve been through some terrible shit, and I’m not about to let a damn forest best me. The tree stuff in me means that I’m tougher than just about anything out there. I’ll be fine.”

She didn’t look like she bought it.

I rubbed a bit at one of my temples. I looked at Taya. “Sleep on it. I promise I won’t leave before you wake up.” Taya looked a bit uncertain, but nodded. “Good. Now go on ahead to bed. I believe I have some words for Twilight.”

Taya sighed and went up the stairs. With one last backwards look at me, she stepped out of sight. Spike followed her up much faster; he was always a heavy sleeper, and loved doing it.

Twilight looked at me. “How was your talk with the princess?”

“It went well. She was able to take a lot off my mind. And you need to talk to your brother about respecting privacy. He actually kept some of the memories I forced on him before his wedding, and he tried to take more today.”

“You’re going to explain that later, but you’re not going to get me off track. What did you and Princess Celestia talk about?”

“She was able to convince Luna to remove my oaths, thank God. I’m free again, but still a knight.” I said that quietly, hoping Taya wouldn’t hear. “And I was able to talk to Celestia freely, something I don’t have the liberty of doing with any of you. I hate taking up so much of her time, but given that I rejected the other offer she made, I was forced into talking.”

“What offer did she make?”

“Ripping the painful memories from my mind. I didn’t even know that was possible.”

“I didn’t know it was either. I know the basics of mind-reading, and apparently my brother knows more, but I didn’t know it was possible to steal memories away! Wait... what do you mean you can’t talk freely with any of us? We’re your friends, Nav. You can trust us with anything.”

“No, I can’t. I don’t even trust Celestia. But if any of you knew some of the stuff I’ve done, it would be bad. And if any of you knew the truth of some of what I’ve felt, it would be bad. I don’t trust Celestia any farther than I can throw her, and I can’t even pick her up. But I know she understands more than any of you, so I tell her some.”

“You have a lot of problems, Navarone. Why don’t you think you can trust us? After everything we’ve been through together, you still don’t trust any of us! Why?”

“Because you can’t handle the truth.” I’ve always wanted to say that. “It would be bad for some of you, knowing what I’m going through. And it would be bad for me to have you know. I’d rather use someone other than those I see every day as my emotional crutch. Besides, most of the secrets I’ve given some of you end up getting out one way or another. So I’d rather just not give any of you any secrets.”

She gave me a sad look. “Do you ever listen to the friendship reports I or my friends write for Celestia?”

“Hell no. Sentimental tripe. I know all the lessons you send, I just don’t live them. Most don’t apply to me.” I shrugged. “I’m okay with that. I’m not a pony, I shouldn’t be expected to live like one. That’s something a lot of you keep forgetting.”

She sighed. “You’re right. But I think you’re bad for a human, as well. Now, what’s that you were saying about my brother? When did you give him memories?”

“Before his wedding. He asked me for something and I refused to tell him the answer. He tried reading my mind. It didn’t go over well for him. I gave him some memories that I knew would disturb him.” I shrugged. “Nothing too bad. But I did give him that week with Kat, so he was in some physical pain for a while. Today, Celestia asked me to help teach him how to read minds easier. I did. He managed to rip through all of my defenses looking for memories I didn’t want to give. It did not end well for him, and he didn’t get the memories. Nothing much to it.”

“What happened to him, then?”

“I kicked his ass.” She gaped. “He was a bit distracted at the time. It wasn’t hard. What?”

“You attacked my brother? And won? He’s the captain of the royal guard! And my brother!”

“Well, he was trying to take something of mine that I hold sacrosanct. If he had managed to get to the memories, I would have killed him.”

Oh, now she was absolutely livid.

Before she could say anything, I said, “Go to bed, Twilight. You need some sleep.”

She glared at me for a moment before going up the stairs.

I sighed, alone at last. I looked around me a bit. Really, not being able to sleep is just annoying as piss. I settled down in the library to read through a few of the books yet again.

 

 

A note from your friend Discord

While Taya slept, I came to her in her dreams. Luna could police dreams now, but she was too busy trying to come up with a way to invade human dreams with a machine that seems to be tuned to ponies.

I came to Taya in the guise of Navarone, since that is what she knew. We were outside Ponyville, a place she knew well enough from the occasional walk she joined Nav in. “Taya, this isn’t an ordinary dream,” I told her. “I am real, here.”

“Are you using Luna’s dream machine?” she asked, looking around herself for a moment before settling her eyes on me.

“Something like that, yeah. Tell me, what have you learned about humans since I found you?”

“I haven’t learned anything about humans,” she said. “I’ve just learned about you.”

“That answer means a lot more than you think it does,” I told her with a smile. “How old do you think I am?”

“A little over twenty.”

My smile widened “I am several million years old, Taya.”

She froze.

“And my name isn’t Navarone, either. You might have heard about me in a book Twilight has had you study. Have you ever heard the name Discord?”

She shook her head.

“Do you know what it means?”

“Conflict among ponies.”

“Quite. But it isn’t just ponies. It’s a conflict between anything, really. Discord isn’t just a concept, and it hasn’t been for a long, long time.” I told her some of my history.

When I finished, she was silent for a while. “And you say you are this Discord.”

“I am.”

“And you are omnipotent.”

“Yes.” Sort of.

“And everything that has happened since you started all went according to some manner of plan.”

“Not everything. For example, you were unexpected.” That was quite a lie. “I worked you in well enough, though; ever since I met you, I have been supplementing your unicorn magic with my chaotic magic. In time, you could surpass Celestia in raw strength.”

“This is all a plan. What is the end result?”

“I will rule. And I will rule, don’t mistake me. That isn’t part of the plan. That is exactly what will happen. And I will not be ruling alone, either. I have gathered a few allies and friends around me.”

“Like Twilight?”

“No, not like Twilight. She is the slave of Celestia, for now. I may subvert her, in time, but I don’t think I’ll need her. No, Taya, I have others.”

“Like me?”

“Maybe. You see, you have a choice now. You know what I aim to do. You know it will mean betraying your people. It will mean ruling alongside me and a few others. And if we somehow fail, it will mean taking the punishment that goes along with it.”

“I will always stand with you, daddy. You found me when I was lost, and you took care of me when I was broken.”

I held out my hand. She took it with her hoof. I started shifting to Discord. She watched with a mix of fear and fascination. When I was finished, I snapped my fingers. In the blink of an eye, we were in my forest haven. Trixie jumped to her feet when she saw us; she had been reading some manner of book on magic, millions of years old. She blinked when she saw who was with me.

Before anyone could say anything, I asked, “How are the plans coming along, Trixie?”

“The Elements have been hidden, master,” she said, bowing. I noticed a few changes to her body from the last time I had actually looked at her. Her cutie mark had been perverted into a talon on one side and a lion’s paw on the other. Both hands wielded puppet handles.

“Excellent. And our field agents?”

“The cats are doing their jobs well; the king teeters on the edge, and we could easily have him if we but pushed. The naga, however… They were always fragmentary, even back when they were the biggest power in the world. We have one clan on our side, but we could have all of them if you gave me the resources I need. A ready-made army…” It was an old argument: She wanted the chosen one the naga all seem to await while I really didn’t care either way.

The naga’s chosen one wouldn’t actually have had any kind of power among the naga clans. Their chosen one had been destined to kill me. It was an incredibly powerful dragon seer that predicted it, and I knew it for truth when I heard it: The chosen one would have killed me, bringing permanent peace and harmony to the world.

I protected him through his entire life, invisibly. There were several instances where he would have died without my intervention, but he never knew it. He created a massive army and led his against mine. I couldn’t openly aid him, of course, but I still gifted him my invisible assistance.

I fucked up. I fucked up big time.

Every time he was supposed to die… He was supposed to learn something from each of those instances. He was supposed to overcome them himself and become strong. Without beating those challenges himself, he was too weak to cast me down, or to even lead his army. It fragmented terribly under ineffectual leadership. Lords and ladies aplenty realized what a wonderful opportunity it was to increase their own petty influence with anyone they could.

The entire resistance movement shattered. I don’t want to describe what happened to the guy, because it was bad. Very, very bad. The story of his rise and defeat never made it to the naga, who were at that time period incredibly isolated. It wasn’t for another thousand years, when the chosen one was well forgotten, that they began to leave their caves. Now, the naga still look forward to the coming of the chosen one, but they don’t even remember why.

I continued talking, “Good. I’m still working on getting our dragon agents. I have one in the bag, and I’ll be meeting the next convert in a few weeks. He’ll be a tough one; he knew me back before I was banished. I’ll manage, though.”

“Master,” she whispered.

“Now Trixie, I know you are curious. Feel free to ask.”

“Who is this?” she asked, looking to Taya, who had been watching the conversation with much curiosity.

“The newest addition of our group.”

“A filly?”

“Not just any filly,” I replied. “My daughter, of sorts. Adopted, of course, but I suppose that’s as good as anything, for something like me. Not like I’m able to have children anyway.” Trixie sighed wistfully. I reached out with my talon and gently stroked her neck. She practically purred with pleasure. I pulled my hand back and she slumped slightly. “Taya, this is Trixie. She is the first one I stole away from Celestia’s grace.”

“Has he given you any gifts yet?” Trixie asked, some small jealousy hidden in her voice. That will be fun to toy with.

Taya looked back and forth from me to Trixie. If I didn’t know any better, I would think she was second guessing her decision. Trust me, I knew better: I could see into her mind. She was trying to think if I had or not, or if she knew what Trixie meant. Finally, she settled on nodding. “He saved me,” Taya said. “And he helped me become strong.”

Trixie nodded gravely. “He did the same for me. And he’ll do the same for Equestria. It is a shame Celestia has fed them all so many lies…” She sighed. “We will teach them, though. All of them,” she finished with particular fierceness, and I knew she thought of Twilight when she said it.

“It will be a little while yet, Trixie,” I reminded her. “I could take this world right now, if I wanted it. But I don’t want to just take it. I want to own it. You can’t expect someone to just give you their loyalty. You have to earn it, as I did with you and Taya.”

“Yes, master,” Trixie said reverently. “I understand.” I knew she didn’t understand, not one bit. I was okay with that; I didn’t require her to understand, only to obey.

“Good,” I answered. “Now carry on,” I said, gently cupping her chin up to look me in the eyes.

“…Yes…” she whispered in a sultry tone. I slowly let her go, and she blinked.

“Taya, come along.” I led her away from Trixie, who watched us depart with desire in her eyes.

When we were far enough away—which doesn’t mean anything in this place, not really—I said without stopping, “You won’t turn out like that.”

“I know,” she quietly answered.

“And yet, you’re worried anyway. She won’t become your mother, either.”

Taya sighed gratefully.

“Now, where do you think we are?” I asked, still walking.

Taya looked around, seeing the shifting terrain as we walked further and further into my domain. “It was a cave. We’ve passed through a palace, a desert, a forest, an empty town—”

“Yes, enough of that. So, where do you think we are?”

She thought for a moment. “Everywhere?”

“Technically, you are correct. My mind shifts, sometimes, and this place responds to my mind. And since I am everywhere, this place shifts quite often. But as to the actual physical location? We are about a mile underground in the Everfree forest.”

I felt her mind click with the realization. I continued, “Yes, the Everfree forest. Where Navarone is planning on going soon, with Celestia’s blessing. Without knowing more, this doesn’t mean as much to you. Basically, Celestia and I—I being Discord, that is—have an agreement going right now that she doesn’t remember making. Part of that agreement is that I will get some of my powers back when I am a human. But I have to get to this safe haven as a human to do it. The problem with that is that this place moves. It is always under the forest, but the physical entrance moves around. I’ll spend a little while in the forest until I find it. And then I’ll spend a little longer here, because there are some other things I need from the forest.” I stopped talking for a bit and we walked on.

She drew the right conclusions herself. “And you don’t need any pony watching over your shoulder while you’re doing them. And you surely don’t need me to be protecting you…”

“You can’t know how touched I felt when I realized how much you cared about me. You might not believe it, but you are the first pony to ever care that much for me.” First pony. “But you are correct on both accounts. When you thought you had killed me, you did just enough damage to almost blow my cover. In the end, though, what you really did was give me as much time as I need to enact the plot. Before, I had less than eighty years. Now I have thousands. It won’t take that long, but it was a great help.”

It felt good, to know the last bit of guilt finally left her mind. I picked her up and held her for a minute.

I finally set her back down. “And yes, your other point is correct as well. It will be okay for Twilight to watch while I do some of what I have to do; there isn’t that much to be done, and only some of it can’t be seen by anyone else. When I get to this place, all unicorn magic will fade. If you were to try to do something magic, for example, it wouldn’t work.” She took my word for it. “But there will be a few other things I don’t need ponies watching, because they’ll try to ‘save’ me from doing them. Distract Twilight as you can. Ask her questions. Keep her busy. She doesn’t know as much magic as Trixie does right now, but she is still a good teacher, and probably has more control than any regular pony still alive. You won’t grow any stronger in magic for a while; I don’t want to raise too many suspicions. I won’t start teaching you to use my powers until you are a bit older.”

She nodded, pretending to understand.

“Now, in a month or so, I’ll get injured very badly in the forest. I’m just telling you now so you won’t think I’m losing my touch or something like that. There is a reason for it.” She wracked her brain, trying to think of what it might be. “Don’t bother, daughter. Trying to understand some of what I do is fruitless.”

We got to a dark abyss and stopped. I turned to her. “Taya, this is your last chance. If you follow me into that abyss, you will stop being the daughter of Navarone. You will become Taya, Daughter of Discord. I give you this option one last time, and after this there is no going back. If you choose not to follow me, we will walk back to Ponyville and you’ll have forgotten everything we talked about, other than that I don’t need to be protected. You will live a very eventful and important life until you die of old age. Or you can follow me.”

I stepped into the abyss, watching her eyes the entire time.

She never once blinked.

She never once hesitated.

 

 

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