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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34. Chapter Twenty-Eight—Introductions

Some time later, I returned to my quarters, where Taya and Twilight were still working on some magic stuff. I walked in, nodded my greetings, and sat back to watch. Not a minute later, I got bored and decided to practice juggling again. I was getting better, but when you were completely unable to do something before, better doesn’t exactly mean much.

A few minutes later, Twilight came over to me. “So when can we go home?” she asked.

“Whenever, as far as I know. If you can scrounge up transportation, we can go now.”

“Can you carry Taya in the air?”

“I’ve done it before. But we have some more junk now. You might have to carry some of it. Can those flimsy wings you make support extra weight?”

“One way to find out.” She turned to her student. “Taya, you want to see some real magic at work?” With no further warning, she cast the hard spell to give herself wings.

“It’s a lot easier to travel when you can fly, that’s for damn sure.” I started grabbing clothes and stuffing them in my bag.

“Navarone, that’s no way to keep your clothes neat. They’ll wrinkle!”

“Chicks care about that. I don’t.” Clothes bagged, I started strapping on weapons.

“Why do you even have a sword?” Twilight asked. “Surely you didn’t have time to learn how to use it.”

“Because if people see me carrying a sword, they’ll expect me to be able to use it. That means they won’t be expecting a bolt to the face. But no, I have no idea how to use a falchion.”

“And the knives?”

“I like to be able to slice cheese on the go.”

“It’s true,” Taya confirmed. “I saw him using one of them to cut food on the train.”

“Are those the same knives you use to… deal with your other problems?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t really paid attention. Probably not. Despite my reputation, I haven’t killed that many people.”

“That you’ve killed any is horrible…” Twilight said.

“Enough of that talk. I’m ready.”

“Can you carry all of that by yourself, and Taya as well?”

“I could, but I don’t want to have to. You can carry my clothing bag, if you like. What about you, didn’t you bring any baggage?”

“Just my dress. It’s hanging in your closet.”

“If you want to fold it up, it’ll probably fit in my bag. Or I can just stuff it in there for you.”

She rolled her eyes and folded it up with magic, then neatly laid it on top of everything in my bag.

“You just have to be difficult, don’t you?” I asked.

“I learned from the best. Strap this to my back so we can go.” I did.

We headed to the main entrance of the palace, where servants were busy undecorating everything. I was rather impressed by their purpose and order. It reminded me of ants, in a way.

I figured if Princess Celestia didn’t want us to leave, she’d have sent some manner of instructions to the servants or guards. We weren’t stopped, so we just kept going, not stopping until we got back to Twilight’s tree house in Ponyville. I was winded from that long flight, but it didn’t seem to phase Twilight at all, with her damn magic wings.

“Navarone’s description of your home was a bit…lacking,” Taya said.

“I told you that she lived in a tree,” I said. “A tree full of books. Biggest joke in the world, in a way.”

“I figured you meant under the tree…”

When we opened the door, it was very dark inside. All the blinds were closed. I stopped. Twilight looked at me and tried to take a step forward, but I stopped her with my arm.

“Taya, do you like surprises?” I asked.

Quietly, “No…”

“Me either,” I muttered. Louder, I said, “Pinkie Pie, you might scare the poor girl. Come on out.”

“Aww, you ruin everything, Nav!” Pinkie Pie accused, bounding out of the darkness. “How did you even know we were there?”

Lights were starting to come in the tree. I saw all of Twilight’s cadre there, including the trio of terror. “It’s not so much of a surprise party if it happens every time I get back from a long trip.” We stepped inside. Taya slowly followed us. “Everyone, this is Taya. She’ll be staying with us for a while. Taya, this is everyone. Think you can name them?”

She started with Pinkie Pie and made it all the way to Spike with no problems. They didn’t seem that impressed, but I was, in a way. She was talking to—or maybe talking at—a group of people she didn’t personally know. Maybe it’s just because she knew I knew them, or maybe she was getting a bit better.

“I assume Celestia sent a message telling you we were inbound?” I asked.

Spike said, “Yeah. I was helping Rarity with a dress when… Well, it’s just ashes, now.”

“Absolutely ruined!” Rarity moaned. “I should make you pay for the materials, Nav!”

“What makes you think it’s my fault? Twilight is the one that wanted to come home so soon.”

“Oh yes, a likely excuse,” Rarity accused. “But I don’t see her defending you!”

Twilight was busy introducing Taya to everyone properly, actually, so I was forced to defend myself. “If it means so much to you, I might have a bit or two on me that could cover the costs…” I said, feeling around.

I started dumping pouches. All of my pouches.

Coins dropped and spun and rolled everywhere. Everyone’s mouth dropped except for Taya’s.

“What?” I asked, faking ignorance. “How much does a dress cost?”

Somewhat faintly, Rarity said, “I think that’s a bit more than enough…”

“Where did you get all that?” Applejack asked somewhat breathlessly.

“Sometimes being a royal errand boy pays,” I answered. “Not very well, though. Back on my world, this would be enough to pay rent and maybe groceries for a month. Glad Celestia still covers that for us.”

I don’t know if the ponies thought I was serious. It took Spike to say it, though, laughing as he did: “Navarone, you’re set for life. A small dragon might be happy to hoard that much.” I could give a few guesses as to which small dragon he had in mind.

“Several lives? I hardly need that much. Applejack, you still need to fix up your barn?”

She looked up from the pile of coins. “I can’t take money from you, Nav! That ain’t right, you earned this.”

“You heard Spike. I sure as hell don’t need all this. There’s a saying back in my world, not a very popular one, but more money, more problems. Besides, I’m sure Celestia will find some way to make me work for more.”

“It don’t feel right… But Granny does need a new hip.”

“Anyone else have any need for money? I sure don’t. Books? Rare fabrics? Party supplies? Medical supplies for any furry critters? …Whatever the hell it is you might need money for, Rainbow Dash?”

“Now that you mention it…” Rarity began, but a bunch of semi-glares cut her off. “Nothing urgent, I mean.”

I sighed. “Look, ladies, you’ve all been my lifeline these past few years. I’ve gotten my food mostly from you, I’ve gotten any and all my news from you, I’ve gotten my clothes from you, I’ve gotten most of my entertainment from you, and hell, the only reason I’m not still sitting in Africa guarding an ambassador is because I had friends to come back to. I have no need of all this money. I’m going to go take Taya for a short walk, show her around the town some. I don’t want to see many bits when I get back. Shall we, Taya?” I walked at the door, leaving six ponies, three fillies, and a dragon staring at the floor.

I showed her a bit of the town, what little of it there was to show. I was very sure to point out the very distant forest to her. “Taya, look at that line of trees over there.” She did. “Looking at it, what do you see?”

“Trees. Flowers. Weeds.”

“There is more to it than that. I am wary of going into that forest. It takes a lot to get any ponies to go in there, those of them that know what’s inside it. What does that tell you about it?”

“It’s probably dangerous.”

“Yes. Very much so. I will be upset if I find out that you go into that forest without a good reason. I don’t like playing the hero or the punishing parent, or both, so please don’t go in there.”

“I won’t.”

“If you ever, for any reason, do have to go in it, stick to the trails. Most of them are relatively safe. Avoid any flowers you see inside. The blue ones have nasty effects, and I’m not sure about any others. If you see something with the head of a chicken and the body of a snake, don’t look it in the eyes, and if you have to, invoke Fluttershy’s name on anything that attacks. They might leave you alone.”

I pointed out a few more landmarks. “Rarity’s shop. Never much cared for it, myself. Too garish. Doctor’s office. Stop by there if you get hurt and Twilight isn’t around. Fluttershy’s shack is over there, near the forest, for some stupid reason she never could explain. Applejack’s farm is way the hell that way. The school. I don’t know if you’ll need to go there, since you’re learning magic with Twilight, but I suppose we can enroll you if you want. If nothing else, it would give you a chance to socialize. Rainbow Dash’s palace is up there. Made it herself in a few days, I think. Pretty nice place, when you’re not being held captive there. Pinkie Pie’s shop. Or at least, the shop she stays at. They make rather good desserts. If there wasn’t sure to be some manner of food back at the party, I’d stop by and get us something. But I think it’s about time we went back.”

When we did get back, all the lights were off again. “Should we humor them?” I asked Taya.

“If you know a surprise is coming, is it surprising?”

“Surprisingly, yes,” I said, stepping inside.

And of course they all stepped out and shouted surprise and whatnot.

When they were done, I slowly raised my arms a bit, shook them slightly, and monotonously said, “Ahh.”

“I told you they’d be surprised!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed, giving the others a look. They rolled their eyes.

I saw about half the money was gone. I didn’t mention it at all.

“I’m afraid you’re going to have to teach Taya how to have fun, Pinkie Pie. She’s gotten too many bad habits from me. No ballroom stuff, mind.”

“What’s wrong with ballroom dancing? You seem to like it.” Twilight said.

“Because it’s not fitting for a young lady at her first fun party,” Rarity said. “Come along, dear. We’ll teach you what Navarone is unable to impart.”

“I wouldn’t mind seeing a ballroom dance, though…” Taya said quietly. I raised an eyebrow.

“I’m a bit… out of step, after three months. I’m sure I can muddle through one, though.”

“It’s okay, Nav. We got this.” Applejack said, motioning to Rainbow Dash. It was an odd contrast, hearing the music Pinkie Pie usually played accompanied by a dance fit to grace a queen’s wedding, but I’ve seen stranger.

I sidled up to Pinkie Pie. “So that’s a bit new,” I commented so that no one else could hear.

“Well, with you gone, we needed somepony to replace you. They both wanted to step in. Their competitive spirits kicked in and the rest is history.”

“I’m honestly surprised to see that they kept up with it. Ah well. You’re in charge of getting Taya to learn how to have fun again. God knows she needs someone to help her there. Just don’t force it. If you can’t do it, you can’t do it.”

“I’ve yet to find anypony that I can’t make crack a smile. Leave it to me, Navi.”

I wandered off to Fluttershy, next. “Well,” I said.

“Yep,” she answered, idly pawing at the ground.

“We’ll talk, as I said. I just wasn’t expecting… this. Give me a few days, then I’ll stop by your house.” It seems an awful lot like she might have a crush on me. I need to nip that in the bud.

“If… If you’re sure.”

“We’ll talk, as I said. What we decide is what we decide.” I patted her side and wandered to Rarity. “Well, what do you think?”

“Their style seems fine, but it looks more like they’re dancing at each other than dancing with each other.”

“They’ve always been competitive. But I meant about Taya.”

“You have your work cut out for you, with her. She’s so small… How old is she?”

“No clue. I don’t even… Chicks think differently from guys, and you’re good at reading people—well, ponies. If you think of anything that might help me with her, even if it is your filthy fashion stuff, let me know.”

“You’d be willing to stoop down to dabbling in fashion? She must mean a lot to you.”

“I try to keep my hands clean. If anyone will be doing any of that nasty fashion for her, it’ll be you. I’d just fuck it up. If you want someone killed, you come to me. If I want to look good, I’ll go to you. People are experts at something for a reason.”

“Just a joke, Nav. No reason to go reminding me what you do for Princess Celestia…”

I shrugged. “Like I said, just come to me if you think of anything.”

I found the trio of terror next. Before I could say anything, Applebloom accused me of sheltering Taya. “Look at her, Nav! She doesn’t have a cutie mark yet! What are you doing to her?”

“Nothing. And that’s the problem.”

“Problem?” Sweetie Belle asked. “If you know it’s a problem, why haven’t you solved it yet?”

“Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I can do it best. I knew of three young fillies who might be able to solve this one better than I could.”

“We already have our cutie marks, Nav. All three of us! And you’re the reason we have them anyway!” Scootaloo said.

“Yeah, we kind of failed as Cutie Mark Crusaders…” Sweetie Belle sighed.

“But you became great friends, and even though your cutie marks have little to do with each other, you’re still together. That’s what Taya needs.”

“Friends? Even more than a cutie mark?” Applebloom asked. “Are you sure?”

“How did you accomplish getting yours?”

“You told us how to do it. We’d’ve caught on eventually, though!” Scootaloo said.

“And how did I know you well enough to tell you what to do?”

“You helped us out a few times, and learned about us,” Sweetie Belle said, catching on.

“And what do you call someone that helps others with no benefit to himself?”

“A philanthropist?” Sweetie Belle asked.

Scootaloo smacked her lightly in the back of the head. “A friend,” Applebloom corrected.

“Oh yeah, that makes more sense,” Sweetie Belle said, rubbing her head. “Didn’t have to hit me, though…” she muttered.

“You’re all a bit older and wiser now. Maybe you can learn enough about her to help her. And if not, well, maybe she’ll make some friends out of it.”

“We may not be the Cutie Mark Crusaders, anymore,” Scootaloo began.

“And we may not have been good at getting our cutie marks,” Sweetie Belle continued.

“But we’ll do our best to be the Cutie Mark Friend Patrol!” Applebloom finished.

“Might want to work on the name,” I suggested. “But thanks. Just don’t try to force her to do anything she doesn’t feel comfortable with. And before you ask, I have no idea what her comfort zones might be.”

They nodded and got to plotting amongst themselves. I walked over to Spike.

“Nav.”

“Spike. You want to pull some guard duty for me?”

He looked at the gold with practical hunger in his eyes. I snapped my fingers, remembering something Twilight told me once about dragons and greed. “Remember, Spike: This money is still mine. I might need it on down the line. Consider letting you hoard it for a while my way of apologizing for the meat I lack; I could not find a way to get some back. I couldn’t sneak any through customs.”

“We have a customs office? Why don’t I remember that from my time in Egypt?”

“Because we snuck into Egypt illegally. And all the other times we were with the princess.” I was, of course, lying, but he didn’t have to know that. “This dance has been going on forever,” I commented, turning to look at the pair, only to find they were done and probably had been done since I started talking to Spike. Everyone was staring at me again, naturally. “What? This is Pinkie Pie’s party. Look to her, not me.”

“You’re silly, Nav,” Pinkie Pie said, and then the party commenced in earnest.

Now, while I generally have little interest in such matters, it was amusing to see the others slowly teaching Taya party skills. Party dancing wasn’t too difficult. Pin the tail on the pony was easy, though she had a bad habit of missing. Small talk was awkward, but she did great with Fluttershy. Managing the food was easy enough, as Taya was generally a bit ravenous around that time. It had been a few weeks since I found her, and I figured she had grown out enough to avoid getting sick from over eating, so I had been letting her get as much as she wanted for a little while now. This was her first time getting real pony-made sweets, though. I tried, too late, to limit her on how much of that she could get.

While in reality—or at least, reality as I knew it—sugar rushes are a myth, nobody told the ponies that. If they get too much sugar… Well, there’s a reason Pinkie Pie is always so manic. After Taya hit the refreshment table, party stuff got a lot easier.

And then half an hour later, she crashed. Month and a half traveling, meeting tons of new people, learning minor magic, and then the sugar crash proved to be too much for her. She was down before anyone knew what hit her. I was at her side about a second later.

“Poor girl is out cold,” I said, checking her pulse. “Too much time on too little sleep, I suppose. And too much time sleeping on my back…” I gently picked her up. “I’ll be right back.” I dropped her off in bed and put my crossbow and bolts where she could see them. She knew from our time traveling that if I left them there it meant she was absolutely safe, even if I wasn’t around. That done, I headed back down.

As soon as I walked in, Applejack said, “So… Sleeping on your back?”

I shrugged. “She wasn’t used to sleeping in beds. The first night I found her, I tried letting her sleep in mine while I slept on the floor. Less than an hour into the night, she crawled down, found me in the dark, and lay perpendicular to my back, making sure my wings covered as much of her as possible. After that, it was apparently her preferred sleeping spot.”

“Nav, that’s…” Twilight started.

She was interrupted by Pinkie Pie, who finished with “REALLY CUTE! Now I have a real reason for watching you sleep again!” Everyone looked at her like she was even crazier than usual.

“I’m not even…” I started, but changed my mind. “Never mind. I know it wasn’t the best solution I could come up with, but she seemed fine with it and it wasn’t bothering me much. Celestia knew and didn’t say anything. And there were times on the way back when that was pretty much the only option. Even if I was loaded, there’s still only so much spare room on a merchant vessel.”

“No pony said it was a bad thing,” Rainbow Dash said. “Just...”

“Not what we expected from you,” Rarity finished.

“Yes, I know, I’m a bad person. You don’t have to remind me.”

“You make it so easy to forget, sometimes, is all,” Twilight said, smiling.

“Would it help if I punched a flower?” I asked, with fake hope in my tone.

“Flowers don’t feel pain!” Rainbow Dash said. “You’d need to punch a small animal. Like Opalescence!”

“You won’t be laying a hoof on my cat, Navarone! Don’t even think about it!”

I pretended to have a thoughtful expression on my face, and said, “Don’t worry, Rarity. I don’t have a hoof to lay on her. I might have a hand or two, though…”

“If you touch her, I’ll show you why you don’t mess with unicorns that know all about fashion!”

“Relax. I don’t usually hurt things without a decent enough reason. And if you all get lulled into a false sense of thinking I’m a good person, the next really big evil thing I do will put such a funny expression on your faces I’ll be laughing about it for a while.”

“Always so pragmatic,” Twilight said. “And what thing more evil could you do than fake-assassinating Princess Celestia with my unwitting help?”

Amid the gasps of horror, I showed mock surprise, “You want me to do that again? I think once was enough for her, and you.”

“You. Did. What?” Rarity asked, voice full of horror.

“Celestia wanted to test my skill. I won, with Twilight’s help. Luna wanted a similar challenge that I won without any help.”

“You cheated with both of them and you know it,” Twilight said, smiling slightly.

“No, I cheated with Celestia. I beat Luna’s challenge the night I got to the palace, before she even had the chance to make the wager. I refused to even hear it and she got mad. Before she said another word, I shot a crossbow bolt dead even to her face, less than a foot away from her, into the wall. Not my best plan, but I don’t miss.”

I waited a bit for any manner of response. Other than their horrified expressions, I got none.

“See, I told you those expressions would be worth it!” I giggled.

Spike broke the silence. “So… It was a wager. Is that where you got all these bits?”

“Heavens no. This money was for me to get home with. I was supposed to give it back to Celestia, but Luna refused to take it and she talked Celestia out of taking it as well. So I got stuck with it.”

“So what did you win?” Applejack asked.

“I’ve been told not to discuss that. Ever.” For some reason, Rainbow Dash and Twilight looked a bit guilty when I said that.

“Was it worth angering the two most powerful ponies in the world?” Rarity asked.

“They weren’t mad. Though Celestia was a bit embarrassed that I took her down in front of so many people.”

“You’re going to have to tell the full story now, Nav,” Twilight said, seeing everyone looking at me with even more interest. I sighed and did so, telling them of the reason behind the challenge, how both of them offered the challenge, how I came up with the plan, how I took Celestia down, and how I got Luna three times.

I finished with, “I’m hardly the best assassin in this world—some of my stories from Egypt will prove that, if nothing else—but I am the only one that can say I managed to assassinate both eternal princesses in a training exercise.”

“You found assassins in Egypt?” Applebloom asked, and I sensed I’d have another story to tell now.

The scars had been removed by Luna, but I told them the tale, leaving out the grisly parts and the torture.

“Nasty place, Egypt. If I ever go back, I’m spending most of my time in the naga caves. They might have been trying to make me into their chosen one, but at least I was safe down there.” Which spawned even more questions I had to answer, including showing around the dagger, which raised even more questions that I lied about, since Pinkie Pie still probably didn’t want that one out. And finishing the desert naga tale required telling about Taya, which I did as well. Which reminded me of a question of my own. “I don’t know what Taya’s parents were, but she seemed to respond well to my wings. I know at least one of them had to have been a unicorn, since she was still in the city. Is it possible one parent was a pegasus?”

“It’s possible, yes.” Twilight said. “The kind of pony that is born is seemingly random, semi-dependent on what the parents are. Usually, two pegasi will produce a pegasus, two earth ponies will produce an earth pony, and two unicorns will produce a unicorn. But occasionally they don’t. Any kind of combination is possible. If you start mixing parents, you change the chances a bit. Instead of say, 90% likely to match the parents, you have, say, 45% to match one, 45% to match the other, and 10% to be neither.”

“Yeah,” Rainbow Dash said. “Most pegasus mothers will come to the ground to have their foals. If for some reason she can’t get to the ground, an elite cadre of racers are scrounged up from wherever they can be found, just in case. I’ve saved a few newborns, myself.” I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of a newborn earth pony hurtling to the ground, laughing at the rushing wind. I’m a bad person, but it’s just a funny image to me, for some reason.

“I bet those percentages aren’t set,” I mused. “If you drew a Punnett square, you could probably map their genetics out to find out what’s most likely to be born…”

They all looked at me like I was speaking in tongues. “Later. This is still a party. Go, have fun.”

They slowly went back to it. Of course, it was still a party. A party in a library, where I store journal entries. And Rainbow Dash was looking guilty. Three months is a long time. Long enough to sort through things I’ve hidden. When I thought no one was looking, I went poking around. Nothing was missing.

But it was all in the wrong place.

I put everything back and turned around, to see Rainbow Dash staring at me with fear in her eyes. I mouthed, “Later,” and looked away. I surreptitiously pulled another book down and grabbed a flask behind it and took a decent swig. I have some work to do… I have to deal with Fluttershy, I have to make sure Rainbow Dash doesn’t say anything she shouldn’t, I have to make sure Twilight doesn’t say anything she shouldn’t, and I have to help Taya return to some semblance of normality.

Homecoming’s a bitch.

 

How I dealt with Fluttershy depended on what all Rainbow Dash knew and how she was taking that knowledge. My plan with Fluttershy was to basically show her all the journals, hoping they’d discourage her. Since Rainbow Dash had seemingly decided to go through them all while I was away, I figured I could use her as a baseline for what I should expect if I showed Fluttershy.

And Twilight would be easy enough to deal with. I probably didn’t even have to talk to her, since she heard what I said about telling no one what the agreement was. That, and it should be fairly common sense anyway.

Taya was to be a long running project, so I just had to help her while I was doing everything else, and after I finished everything else.

With all that in mind, I decided to make Rainbow Dash my first active project.

Unfortunately, it had to wait while we all got Taya settled. Until Twilight got her lessons started in earnest, Taya would likely have a lot of free time, and she was still very used to being around me. What I was hoping would happen is that I would be able to pawn her off onto the three little ones, play with them for a while, and then see Rainbow Dash flying somewhere and excuse myself to intercept her.

Of course, life rarely works out the way you plan it. It took Twilight pulling Rainbow Dash out of the air for me to finally be able to catch her, and the only reason Twilight did that is because Rainbow Dash apparently told her everything she read.

We were all three sitting in Twilight’s library, staring at each other. Rainbow Dash was as scared as I ever saw her, which isn’t exactly common. This time, though, she knew she did something wrong and she knew I was fully capable of punishing her and that I would be completely justified in doing so. Twilight might or might not have done something wrong, I didn’t actually know yet. She didn’t look guilty or scared, and given her magical abilities, there was likely little I could have done to her. But some of the secrets in those journals weren’t mine, and Celestia was very capable of punishing her. And punishing me, for letting the secrets slip.

And me? I was disappointed, of course. A little worried, though I figured if nothing had happened yet with it, nothing would. Not really that scared, I suppose. A little hungry, though. I was also cleaning my fingernails with my knife, a habit that scares people for some reason.

“So,” I began, and left it at that, laying my knife across my knees.

“You wouldn’t tell me some of your stories…” Rainbow Dash explained.

“So you decided breaking trust and snooping was a good idea?” I growled, almost instantly angry. She flinched back and looked away. “Well, as I’m sure you found out with the entry of us fighting zombie robot pirates, most of what you found was fake.”

“I knew I didn’t remember that,” she muttered, still not looking at me.

“Yes, and I’m sure Twilight could tell you quickly that there never was such a person called Z that seduced her at the Gala.”

Twilight nodded and said, “Really Nav, your imagination is strange. Why would Princess Celestia ever do that to me?”

“I made a lot of shit up,” I answered with a shrug. “Like, of course I spent Nightmare Night with Luna. I wouldn’t just leave her to sit on a roof.”

“Yes, and Trixie isn’t evil, just stupid,” Twilight said.

“Yeah, and I never got enough support for that awesome Sky Rodeo idea!” Dash said, seeming more animated.

“But what was real in there…” Twilight slowly said, sounding somewhat scared. “Did… did Kat really mistreat you like that?”

“Still have the mental scars to prove it,” I answered with a nod. “And you can ask Spike about the physical scars I had before Celestia healed them.”

“...I did,” she quietly answered. “I just… I didn’t want to believe it.” I shrugged, not seeing anything else to say about that.

“Why’d you let her do that?” Rainbow Dash demanded, hopping from her seat and staring at me.

“I believe my reasoning was explained quite well,” I said, staring her down. “They had Spike. I refused to let him get hurt until I finally broke, giving in to rage. Would you have done different, if the life of a friend had been on the line? Or would your loyalty buckle and tear?”

“There’s nopony more loyal than me!” Rainbow Dash yelled, seeming to slide into a combat ready stance.

“Then surely someone as loyal as you should know loyalty when they see it,” I answered. “That’s why I allowed Kat to treat me as she did, out of loyalty and worry for my friend.”

Rainbow’s body lit up purple and Twilight yanked her back to the couch. “We understand,” Twilight said. “But… why didn’t you tell anypony? We would have helped you recover! You didn’t have to fight this alone, Nav…”

“I’m very self-sufficient,” I answered with a shrug.

“That’s not how friendship works!” Rainbow Dash said, jumping back off the couch, her wings bared.

“Back where I come from, it is,” I shot back.

“How would you know?” Twilight asked, moving to stand next to Rainbow. “You told us you didn’t have any.”

Fuck. “Just because I didn’t have any doesn’t mean I never had any,” I flippantly replied.

“And you never considered that you lost the ones you had because you weren’t there for them?” Twilight asked.

“Some drifted away. Some, I lost interest in. And some just weren’t any good. I think that I know better how things worked back home than you, Twilight. What is healthy for you may not be healthy for me. And talking about my problems ain’t fucking healthy for me. So back off.” Oh God, why am I pushing her away? The only person who seems interested, and I’m telling her to fuck off…

Twilight sighed and nodded. “I don’t like it, but… If you’re sure.”

“I am,” I unwillingly said, trying to force myself to beg for help. I… can’t. Can’t give in to that… Does everyone have this… struggle inside of them?

“I don’t buy it!” Rainbow Dash said.

“That’s his choice, Rainbow,” Twilight said, using magic to pull the blue horse back. “You already violated his privacy enough by reading his diary.”

“Yeah, and look at what we found!” she said, putting up a minute struggling against the magic. “Nav, you need help!”

“I’m done talking about that,” I said, leaning back. “We can keep talking about the journals if you want, but I refuse to discuss this any further.”

Rainbow’s eyes narrowed, but Twilight put some form of muzzle over her mouth. “Nav, why would you use library books to store your entries? Weren’t you worried that somepony might find them?”

“Nope. Who checks out books in this town, Twilight?” I asked.

“Everypony!”

“Wrong. About twenty people have checked out books since I have gotten here. Most of those have come by more than once, but that’s only twenty different individuals. After a year of studying them and what they checked out, as well as looking back in the records, I came to the conclusion that a number of books wouldn’t be missed, because nobody ever looks at them. Books about other races, self-help books, metallurgy books, and several others have never once been cracked open in this library. So I figured I’d make a puzzle of sorts. Each book that I desecrated had a hint to another book, which had a hint to another.”

“Ooooh! That’s what those extra scraps of paper were!” she excitedly said. “When I saw Rainbow Dash looking over a mutilated book, I thought you did it randomly. I didn’t realize there were hints! I checked every single book here.”

“That musta been fun.”

She quickly shook her head. “It was awful. Even with Rainbow Dash’s help, it took days.”

“Well, what did you learn?” I asked.

“Not to trust you alone with my books,” she answered, her eyes narrowing slightly.

Fair enough. “Well, do you have any other questions?” I asked.

Her horn lit up and a scroll appeared next to her. She levitated a quill over and unraveled the scroll, then made a few check marks on it. “Let’s see here… Ah. Rainbow Dash wanted to know more about the moonlight butterfly that tried to kill her.”

I shrugged. “Don’t know a thing. Ask Luna.”

Twilight nodded and checked that off. “What did you tell Celestia about me that she was so surprised about?”

“No comment.”

She marked another thing off. “Did Pinkie and Rarity really… misuse you while you were a pony?”

I looked away, still not certain how to feel about that incident. It was rape. But… was it excusable, given the circumstances?

“I think I know how to read that silence,” Twilight said, making another motion. “When Princess Luna gets released from her seven years, what will you do?”

Ugh. “I… don’t know,” I answered. “I don’t think either of us do…”

“Hm. You really aren’t interested in her?” Twilight asked, looking up from the page.

Here’s hoping she’s not listening in. “I’m not. She is—was—a good friend. But she has moments that scare me. Something about her just seems… off.”

“She’s always seemed fine to me…”

“You didn’t spend as much time with her as I did,” I replied. “Just… next question.”

“What’s your real name?”

“Next question.”

“Can you introduce me to the naga?”

“I… maybe. You, at least. Not Rainbow Dash. Why?”

“Hey, why can’t I go?” Rainbow Dash asked, apparently released of Twilight’s dark sorcery.

“They don’t like fliers, remember?” Twilight answered. “I have some questions about naga history, culture, physiology, diplomacy, and so much else that I would like to ask them.”

“Next time you see Pinkie Pie, ask her if she wants to see her parents. She might as well go with us, so one of us will get something if the naga refuse to see you.” Of course, if I gave her the dagger, I think they pretty much had to see her. Or at least, tradition over east dictated that they did.

“I will.”

“Anything else?”

“Did you realize that Luna tried to give you a love poison?” Twilight asked.

I blinked. “What? Why would she… When?”

“When you got back from Egypt the first time and she invited you to the palace. I believe that the purple bubbling drink she gave you was a love poison. I would really like to see what you did to it, and to study it if possible.”

“That seems… dangerous,” I answered, sharing a look with Rainbow Dash.

“Oh, love poison is easy to wear off,” Twilight said. “Just keep the eyes of the pony affected by it off the pony they’re in love with. There would be little real risk.”

“I’ll think about it, then,” I said. “Any other questions?” Why would Luna give me a love poison when she thought I loved her?

“Your entries included some things about Fluttershy in them…”

“We are going to have a talk soon, her and I. Any advice you can give me on that is welcome.”

“What were you planning to do?” Twilight asked.

“Show her the journal entries so she’ll know exactly what baggage I come with. I didn’t figure the Luna situation out fast enough to avoid hurting her, but hopefully I can avert this easily enough.”

“Avert it?” Rainbow Dash asked. “Why not go with it instead?”

“A few reasons. There’s still the Luna situation to worry about. There’s the fact that I’m a human and she’s a pony, and I am not attracted to ponies. There’s the fact that she’s just an all around better person than I am and I in no way deserve her. There’s a good probability I’ll get called away to do something else for Celestia and that I might not return. And there are two issues from my past trip that you don’t know about and that I either can’t or won’t tell you about. What I’m worried about is how hurt she’ll be, because we all know she’ll never say a word about it, just let it fester.”

“If you know anything about love, Nav, you know none of that will stop what she feels for you,” Rainbow Dash said. I think Twilight might have been a bit out of her element.

“I know, which is what I’m worried about. Would you hold it against me if I knowingly acceded to her love, even though I don’t feel the same way?”

“You won’t have to,” Twilight said. “Just because she won’t stop feeling her love doesn’t mean she’ll act on it. She’s Fluttershy, Nav. If she thinks somepony else might still be in love with you, she’ll never act for fear of hurting them. Or, since it’s Luna, getting hurt herself.”

“If anyone lays a harmful hand on any of you, I will happily help you deal with them, princess or not,” I said. “And anyone that hurts Fluttershy, of all of you, probably deserves most to be hurt.”

“In that, at least, we can agree,” Twilight said. “So what are you going to do with her?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I was hoping I’d think of something while in Egypt. I didn’t.”

“Well, good luck,” Rainbow Dash said. “For what it’s worth, I think you two would be good for each other.”

“Noted. Any other questions?”

“Did Princess Celestia really have you arrested and convicted for treason?”

“Yes. There’s a reason we made Rarity forget about that one.”

“I don’t know why Rarity got so mad about it. I think it’s hilarious!” Rainbow Dash said. “I would have loved to have seen the look on Rarity’s face…”

“It was quite humorous, yes.”

“I think it was wildly irresponsible. I can’t imagine Princess Celestia doing something like that!”

“Didn’t she bring a dying bird into the presence of a master animal caretaker once? Do you really have to ask why she did it?”

“…You’re a terrible person, Nav.”

“Yeah, I know. Anything else?”

“Why did you talk the naga couple out of love?”

“I didn’t. I told them what love is, and reinforced that with Pinkie Pie’s parents’ advice. They decided they didn’t feel love, or that their love wasn’t worth what they were giving up, which also isn’t love. I just saved them a lot of pain.”

“Would you have been willing to leave Taya at Celestia’s orphanage?”

I’ll go ahead and say that Taya wasn’t there at the time. She was with the three girls, awkwardly trying to deal with them.

“That was my plan from the start, and it was my plan up until Celestia told me she wouldn’t let me. Taya is with us in Ponyville because Celestia gave her to you as a student. Otherwise, she would have been left in Canterlot.”

“Why would you leave her?” Rainbow Dash asked. “Anypony can see she loves you, and the way you held her at the party shows that you feel the same.”

“Because I’d be a shitty parent, and I figured it was in Taya’s best interest to be adopted by ponies, rather than kept by me.”

“But Celestia changed your mind?” Twilight asked

“No, she just didn’t give me a choice. Any other questions?” I asked.

“None right now. Rainbow Dash?”

“None from me,” Rainbow Dash answered.

“Good. What happens now?”

“I really, really wish I could talk to Princess Celestia about some of this…” Twilight said. “But I don’t know how she would react to me knowing about Luna or her own more irresponsible acts.”

“I can’t help you there. You’ve known her longer than I have. I wouldn’t mention any of this to her, but that’s just me.”

“But you’re a self-admitted coward who detests hurting ponies and yet has no problems with killing them,” Twilight said.

“Yeah, and? I get the damn job done.”

“You do…”

“If we’re done here, you can go find Pinkie Pie and ask her about her parents. If she’s alone, tell her what you know about the naga, and tell her how so she won’t get mad at me.”

“I can’t imagine Pinkie Pie mad about anything,” Rainbow Dash said. “Crazy, yes. Manic, maybe. Angry? Not possible.”

“Disappointed, then. Either way, I don’t want to deal with it.”

“What’ll you be doing?” Twilight asked.

“Gathering my journal entries up until talking with Celestia that day I found you and her together in the sitting room, and then finding Fluttershy. I’ll give her those and give her a few days to read through them. While she’s doing that, we can go talk to the naga.”

“Are you sure you want to move Taya around so soon? It’s only been a few days since she got here.”

“It takes us a few hours to get to the farm. It’ll probably take you around a day to deal with the naga, and then it’ll take us a few hours to get back. We should be gone less than three days, unless something goes horribly wrong.”

“And what are the chances of something going horribly wrong?” Twilight asked.

“Since me and Pinkie Pie both are likely to be involved, pretty damn high.”

“Do I get to do anything?” Rainbow Dash asked, feeling a bit neglected.

“You can answer questions for Fluttershy, if you want. She might have a few she thinks about while reading. Or you can make comments on the journal entries designed to make me look bad.”

“You really are a bad person, Nav,” she answered.

“Yeah. Yeah… It’s fun.”

“Didn’t you ask Princess Celestia to do that with Princess Luna?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“I don’t think she is, for reasons I’m not at liberty to discuss.” They’re obviously both lonely. I wouldn’t be surprised if Celestia wanted me to take Luna up on her love, and to live forever with them both, keeping them company.

“And what makes you think I will?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Loyalty? To both me and Fluttershy. You know I would be bad for her. Will you?”

“…Yes. I owe you that much. But I think it’s stupid!”

“Thank you, then. I suppose we have things to do.” Rainbow Dash headed out to do whatever. Twilight went to find Pinkie Pie, and then presumably Taya. I went to grab the newer entries and put them in with the older, and put them all in a reasonable order. It took me a while to decide whether or not I should include the entries about Kat. In the end, I decided to do so. After all, it would just go further to show her that I wasn’t worth it.

Then I set out to start what I was thinking might be a very awkward conversation.

 

I found Fluttershy talking to a group of mice that live in her home, while singing birds flew around with her hair, weaving it. She really was a beautiful animal, if nothing else…

“Oh, Navarone! I wasn’t expecting you so… soon,” she said, eyeing the journals in my hand. “What are those for? I thought we were going to talk…”

“These are my journals. Just about everything I’ve done since I got here, I have written down. There is much about me you do not know, and you will probably change your mind about getting involved with me when you find out about them. I figured it would be easier to just give you everything straight up and let you read through it. If, that is, I can trust you not to tell anyone some of the things you read in there.”

“What have you been up to that you’re not allowed to tell anypony?” she asked, jokingly.

“I guess you’ll find out when you start reading. Assuming, of course, you promise not to tell anyone.”

“...Okay? But it can’t be that bad, right?”

“Since I’ve gotten here, I’ve been raped by four people.” Her eyes jerked wide open and the birds that were playing with her hair stopped. “I’ve killed dozens.” Her mouth dropped and the birds flew off. “And I’ve caught the eye of a princess. As I’m sure you’ll soon find, I’m a terrible person.”

She was silent for a while. “W-w-what?” she finally stuttered

“Because it isn’t fair for you to get involved with me. After today, I’m going on a short trip to talk to the naga again, and Twilight is going with me. Rainbow Dash and Twilight both read through the entries while I was gone, against my wishes. Rainbow Dash will be here to answer any questions you have about the entries. I was talking to her and Twilight about them earlier.”

“Nav…”

“It’s not all dark. Those are some of the lower points. But some… There are some parts that will horrify you. And that’s why you need to read. All humans have the ability to turn off both empathy and sympathy. Some do it automatically and some do it manually. So consider that your warning. But Twilight and Rainbow Dash made it through everything up to the second Egypt campaign. And I’ll be here for you for anything you read today, and Rainbow Dash will be with you for anything you want her to be while I’m gone. Just don’t read anything at all about the second trip to Africa while you’re alone. As soon as you get to it, stop, and find Rainbow Dash. If I’m back by then, find Rainbow Dash or Twilight. You won’t want me to be around for it.”

“What… what did you do?”

“Read, and you’ll find out. But it’s bad. Justified, perhaps, but bad. And, as I said, tell no one. There are some things in there that I shouldn’t let anyone read. But I will.”

“I…” She sighed and looked down.

“You have any questions?” She shook her head. I gave her the pages. “Good luck. If you have any questions while I’m here, feel free to ask.”

She started reading. I got bored within a minute and started looking around her house. I had been in it before, but not for long periods of time with nothing to do. It was very homey, if you like animals. Bird houses, open cages, a few damaged nests, all manner of small medical supplies. I periodically answered questions. Eventually I started trying to juggle again.

A few hours after she started reading, Twilight and Taya came by. Fluttershy put down the entry she was reading, and welcomed them in a somewhat distraught voice. It was obvious that she was just faking any kind of happiness.

“Hello, Fluttershy.” Twilight said. “We were actually looking for Nav.”

“You… you found him,” Fluttershy managed. I really hope I’m doing the right thing.

“What did Pinkie Pie say?” I asked.

“She wouldn’t mind seeing her parents again. And she’s also a bit upset that we know.”

“She’ll get over it,” I said. “Taya, we’re going on another short trip. Pinkie Pie, Twilight, and possibly Spike will be coming with us, it seems.”

“Okay,” Taya answered.

That’s not a safe answer when it comes to women. “You don’t have to go if you don’t want to. Fluttershy or Rarity might be able to watch you, if you want to stay behind. We’re only going to be gone for two or three days, unless something goes terribly wrong.”

“I’ll go,” she said.

I shrugged. “Can’t say I didn’t give you the choice. Fluttershy, you want to keep reading?”

“I… I think I’m done for the day.” It was only around three or so.

“Your call. I’m heading on home, then. And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.” The three of us left.

“Sorry for what?” Taya asked, after we were a little ways away.

“I’m letting her read my journals,” I answered.

“Oh…”

“So how are you getting along with the others?” I asked her.

“I think I do better at reading and magic than I do friends,” she answered.

“Understandable. But friends are good to have. Twilight and I both felt a hell of a lot better after we got some.”

“I know. But that doesn’t make it any easier.”

“What’s wrong with the three of them, anyway? I admit, they can at times be annoying, but they’re still somewhat entertaining to be around.”

“They’re really immature and very impulsive.”

“They’re still young,” Twilight said. “And so are you.”

“Age has nothing to do with maturity, Twilight,” I answered. “I understand, Taya. But life isn’t just seriousness and formality. You’re not in Egypt anymore. I know you’re poisoned by my paranoia, but no pony will ever harm you.” Well, it’s very unlikely, anyway. “You don’t have to worry overly much about maturity, here. You can talk to Pinkie Pie all day and never once see any sign of maturity in her. But when it’s needed, it pulls through. Same for the three little fillies.”

“If no pony will ever harm us, why do you carry weapons everywhere?” Taya asked.

“If I stop wearing weapons around town, will you give the others a chance?” Wearing them openly, at least. I’d still hide a few blades around me, just in case.

“That isn’t at all the argument I was trying to make,” she answered.

“I know what you were trying to do. My question stands.”

“Can I call you dad?”

Ice water in my veins. Burning horror in my mind. Electrifying shock throughout my body. I almost tripped over my own feet as we walked, and just barely caught myself.

I tried covering it with a cough, but I know at least Twilight realized what happened.

My mind almost broke, for a second. Twilight managed to pull me back. “Navarone? Are you okay?”

I quickly pulled out a lie. “I’m okay. Sorry… When you said that… It brought back memories, from… home. Yes, Taya… daughter. You… you can call me dad, if you desire.”

“Then I’ll do it, daddy.” If she knew how much it cut me to my soul to hear that… I felt like crying from the pain.

Instead, I nodded, and tried to control the twitching in my wings.

We walked in silence the rest of the way back, Taya bumping against my leg with nearly every step we made.

 

That night, after I put Taya to bed, I went to talk to Twilight.

“I was wondering when you would come talk. What happened today, with Taya?”

I told Twilight basically the same thing I told Luna, about my fears as a parent.

I finished with this, “And when she asked me that… I don’t know, Twilight. I’m not parent material. I’m going to screw up, and Taya will be mad at me for it. And when that happens, I’m going to hurt.”

“Everypony makes mistakes, Navarone. It’s a part of life. And yes, she will be mad at you for a little while. But she loves you. She’ll forget her anger and she’ll forgive you. You’ll just have to be able to forgive yourself.”

“That’s the problem. I can’t. I can’t forget the mistakes I’ve made, and I can’t forgive myself for them. I know they could have been avoided…”

“But they weren’t. The past is past, and there’s nothing you can do about that. You need to learn to let things go.”

“Logically, I know that. I’ve told myself that all my life. But I can’t live it.”

We were silent together for a little while.

Finally, she asked, “Are you going to keep your promise?”

“Which one?”

“To stop wearing weapons?”

In response, I reached up my left sleeve and pulled a throwing knife out.

“If she finds out, she might be mad,” Twilight warned.

“If she finds out, it’ll be because I was justified in carrying them, and I think by that point she’ll be willing to forgive my paranoia.”

“Are you sure it’s worth the risk?”

“I was almost killed by assassins because I barely had any weapons on me. I know you saw the scar, because Luna didn’t remove it until the night of the Gala. I am not going anywhere without at least some small way to defend myself. If she finds out, I’ll just tell her I use them to eat.”

“You and I both know she won’t buy it. She’s too smart for that. Which raises a few other issues. One, do you want to put her in school? We don’t have to, since she’s learning magic with me, but we can. And two, she’s really mature for her age. Do we dare put her in school? There’s no telling what the other students might do or say to her, and how she’ll respond.”

“I was going to give her the choice. I’ll tell her it’ll probably slow down her study of magic, but that it would speed up her learning of everything else, including social skills. What I’m worried about are bullies. I can deal with adults belittling her: A fist in the face works wonders. But I can’t beat up children.”

“Just tell Taya to tell the teacher. I don’t think she’ll be caring about social ranking or anything like that. Most foals don’t do things like that anyway.”

“Good enough for me. I’ll ask when we get back from the naga, since there’s no way to enroll her while we’re there anyway.”

“Are you feeling any better? About being a parent, I mean.”

“I’ll probably flinch a bit every time she calls me daddy for a while. It’s just not something I felt like I would ever hear.” And something I never wanted to hear.

“I can’t imagine anypony ever calling me mommy. I don’t think I have your aversion to it, though.”

“At least if you ever feel overwhelmed, you can go to your parents for advice. I have to go to friends who’ve never had a child.”

“That isn’t entirely true. You could talk to Rarity or Applejack. They help take care of their little sisters. Or you could go to Princess Celestia. She knows just about everything.”

Everything but what it’s like to hold your own child in your arms… “I don’t think it would be a good idea to ask Celestia. I’ll remember Applejack and Rarity, though. And if all else fails, I can just ask Pinkie Pie’s parents. They like me well enough.”

“That’s a long way to go to get some advice, Nav.”

“If I need advice badly enough to have to go ask them, I think I’ll need to go away for a few days. Besides, if it means I won’t screw up any more, it’s worth it.”

“You’ll do fine.”

“God I hope so…”

 

 

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