The Everfree Forest. Feared by ponies all over Equestria. Few dare venture into its shadowdy depths for fear of the terrible creatures that lurk within. As Celestia's sun began to rise one morning over this dark and uninviting place, a soul-piercing wail could be heard from within. But this was not the cry of some horrific Everfree beast, but the sound of a pony. A pony shrieking in the throes of unthinkable, unfathomable agony...
"THAT IS THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE'S HOOF, YOU SPONGE-LEGGED SIMPLETON!", a blue unicorn angrily snapped, a bruise already beginning to appear.
She hopped around the clearing in the forest which she grudgingly called home, cursing and sucking her battered hoof. Her assistant, a small changeling with a hammer threaded awkwardly through the holes in one of his front legs, looked down at her from the roof of a partially-constructed wooden wagon.
"Why Trixie not just uzzse magic to hold nail zzzsteady?" quizzed the insectoid creature in his strange, buzzing voice.
Trixie stopped sucking her hoof and glared upwards.
"Because my magic is far too precious to waste on such menial tasks!" she snarled through gritted teeth, neglecting to mention the fact she simply couldn't focus her magic on such a small object for very long.
Her magic was nowhere near as good as she believed it to be - in fact, even by normal unicorn standards it was fairly poor. It was only because of this shortcoming that she'd allowed the stupid pony-bug-thing to stay with her in the first place - over the last few weeks he'd been immensely useful in sprucing up her stage act.
The changeling, who called himself Leech, had been part of the invasion party who had attempted to take over Canterlot during the royal wedding a couple of months ago. Like the other changelings, he'd been repulsed and sent flying far away by a force-field generated by the sheer power of love. He'd landed in the Everfree forest, just outside the clearing where the disgraced traveling showpony had been living in a makeshift tent since her ill-fated attempt to win the admiration of Ponyville. Fortunately, Leech had not been badly injured (his head had broken his fall). Trixie took Leech in, but not out of kindness - the only thing she was interested in was his power. Although he was one of the lowest-ranked changelings in the swarm, his powers were still far in excess of anything Trixie possessed. Coupled with his naturally subservient nature, low intelligence even by changeling standards and his eagerness to please his new "queen", he made the perfect assistant. Trixie momentarily forgot about her throbbing hoof, and reflected upon how her fortunes had improved since meeting this powerful yet willfully pitiful creature...
Together they had toured some of the smaller, backwoods towns around the far side of the Everfree, impressing the ponies who lived there with cheap tricks and cheaper fireworks. With Leech taking on Trixie's form, Trixie had been able to fool her audiences into thinking that she had mastered self-duplication, teleportation, and other forms of magic that only the most powerful of unicorns could master. Leech would also take on the form of a random pony and place himself among the audiences at these shows. Trixie would then pick him as a "volunteer" from the audience, bring him onto the stage and then turn him into various animals, supposedly using her magic. Of course, this was actually Leech using his shape shifting powers but since many of these towns didn't even know what a changeling was, they were never found out... apart from one especially backward town where all the ponies looked extremely similar and Trixie had been unable to tell which one was Leech. Trixie abruptly ending the show by pretending to faint probably wasn't the best way to have dealt with it, but it seemed to work at the time.
The italic-fonted flashback paragraph was interrupted by Leech. With a couple of triumphant bangs of his hammer, he poked his head over the edge of the roof.
"Wagon izz finished!" he buzzed cheerfully.
He and Trixie, through their fraudulent magic shows, had finally managed to acquire enough bits to buy materials to build a new wagon to replace the one that was destroyed during Trixie's last visit to Ponyville. Leech had finished nailing the roof together by himself because Trixie was still in a bad mood about her hoof and preoccupied with backstory-summarizing daydreams.
"It's about time, cheese-legs!" she yelled, quickly coming to her senses. "Now get down from there and help me move my stuff into it! And be careful, the Great and Powerful Trixie's possessions are worth far more than you can afford!"
Through the power of teamwork, Leech doing the heavy lifting and Trixie lounging under the shade of a tree and telling him where to put things, Trixie's and Leech's makeshift tent home was soon empty and the new wagon filled with all of Trixie's touring paraphernalia. Leech had a small basket placed at the foot of Trixie's bed in which he was to sleep, which Leech didn't mind. It was better than top-and-tailing with Trixie under a single sheet as they had done in the tent. She had a tendency to kick in her sleep, making Leech extremely grateful for his tough insect exoskeleton at times.
After the duo had taken a few minutes to examine and admire their new home, Trixie began to walk towards the edge of the clearing. She turned back to face Leech.
"The Great and Powerful Trixie must go to the nearest town to acquire some supplies for her next show", she announced grandly. "Starlight Firecracker's Pyrotechnic Emporium has a two-for-one sale on stage fireworks. I just hope he's still got those ones that can momentarily blind the first three rows of an audience - they're vital for the disappearing card trick!"
"Doezzz Trixzzie need azzizztanzze?" asked Leech, picking words that really didn't sit well with his buzzing speech impediment.
"No, I can manage", sniffed Trixie. "You will stay here and watch over our wagon. I don't want to come back and find that a Manticore has set up home in it. Trixie shall return shortly!".
With that, an impressive puff of smoke suddenly engulfed her. As it cleared, Trixie could be clearly seen running into the forest.
"Why doezz she keep doing that every time she goezz zzsomewhere?" wondered Leech out loud.
As he lounged in his basket, listening to the mid morning breeze gently blowing through the clearing and the various bloodthirsty creatures of the Everfree attacking each other in the distance, his thoughts drifted to how his life had been before meeting this eccentric unicorn...
Leech had been a maintenance drone back in the changeling hive. These were the lowest ranked of all changelings, despite the important job they did. They were responsible for the building, upkeep and repair of the hive. They possessed grass-green eyes instead of the usual blue - these allowed them to see better in dark tunnels. Their smaller stature made them more suitable for working in narrow tunnels, as they often had to do. They also had straighter, elongated fangs and a pointed spur on each of their front feet, which allowed them to dig, cut and shape various hive-building materials. The maintenance drones were proud of these features, since it made them stand out from other changelings.
Leech initially had a number instead of a name, Maintenance Drone 1017. Only higher-ranked changelings had their own names. Low ranks were simply numbered according to how competent at their role they were. To say Leech was incompetent was an understatement - he was number 1017 despite there only being 842 changelings in the hive. He gave himself the name because leeching love from other creatures was his favorite pastime - when he got the chance. Maintenance drones rarely left the hive, instead subsisting on secondhand love brought in by higher-ranked changelings such as Scout drones.
Leech's main job was tunnel digging. He liked this job because he only had to use his front-leg spurs, thus allowing him to keep his fangs in good condition. Some maintenance drones had to cut hive-building materials, which was chiefly done using their specially-extended fangs. This made them short and blunt very quickly, depriving them of one of the few things they had which other changelings didn't. Leech thought he was very good at tunnel digging, even being awarded a medal for it by Queen Chrysalis. Although it was less of a medal, and more of a piece of hive wall roughly chewed into a medal shape with a smiley face drawn on it. And instead of being awarded it, he made it himself. But Leech was sure the Queen would have done the same if she hadn't been so busy.
In reality, Leech wasn't a good tunnel digger. Though maintenance drones were not noted for their intelligence, Leech was less intelligent than most. Once, he was asked by Mirror, one of the higher ranking Changelings, to dig a tunnel from the cocoon chamber to outside the hive in order to improve ventilation. However, Leech had gone the wrong way entirely and dug a tunnel to a river bed, causing a flood in the hive that took several weeks to clean up. It was at this point he earned his humiliating number. He nevertheless remained upbeat, and cheerfully continued doing pointless tasks other changelings gave him just to keep him out of trouble.
Then came the fateful day where General Carbon, an elite-ranked changeling, announced that every changeling in the hive was to leave immediately for Canterlot, and that Chrysalis would meet them there. Leech had been very excited, as this was the first mass raid he had participated in. He relished the idea of being able to feed on love first-hoof, instead of living on sloppy seconds. He was also keen to prove himself to the others after the tunnel mishap. As the force-field surrounding the city crumbled, Leech dived in with gusto, ready to wreak terror on the ponies below... only to be almost immediately leveled by a right-hoof haymaker. As he hit the ground, he caught a brief glimpse of the perpetrator, a cyan pegasus with a colorful mane. He brought a hoof to his face, and noted with horror than his left fang was broken off halfway down. After this, he drifted in and out of consciousness until that terrible love-powered forcefield threw him and the other changelings far away from the city.
After landing with a bump near an Everfree clearing, Leech staggered to his feet and continued to lament the loss of his fang. These didn't grow back, and Leech had been extremely proud of them. His thoughts were soon distracted however, when he began to pick up an incredibly powerful source of love nearby. He staggered through the undergrowth until he happened upon a shoddily-built tent. A blue unicorn poked her head out.
"Who goes there?" she yelled "Who is foolish enough to trespass in the Great and Powerful Trixie's domain?"
Leech was stunned. The source of love was this pony... and yet there were no other ponies around. This pony was exuding massive amounts of love... for herself! In fact there was so much of it, Leech was able to feed on it without her even noticing. She was a living battery for a changeling like him! By sticking with this pony, Leech would never be hungry again! Plus, he knew deep down the swarm wouldn't be looking for him. In fact they were probably glad to be rid of him. So, he decided to seize this opportunity and began to introduce himself...
This time it was Trixie's turn to interrupt the daydreaming.
"Leech! I have returned!" Trixie announced, carrying a saddle-bag filled with various stage pyrotechnics.
Leech was pleased to see her - although he'd initially stayed with her simply to feed on the love she gave off, he enjoyed having someone to follow and saw her as his 'Queen' of sorts. Plus, although he'd never admit it, he also sort-of saw her as a friend. After all, she had taught him a much wider vocabulary (although it was still limited) and he'd even picked up a few new magic tricks from her. Sadly, the sentiment was not at all reciprocated by Trixie.
"Now then, lazy wings", she began, "Get up - we're heading to Trottingham for our next show. With our improved repertoire, I can once again start playing the bigger towns! No longer will I have to rely on hick towns to generate a meager income. Trixie is heading for the bigtime!"
Leech immediately stood to attention. He buzzed around the wagon, checking everything was in order for their journey. Wheels oiled, check. Loose items inside secured, check. Then Leech checked the harness at the front.
"Uh-oh", he said sadly. "Lookzz like we made a mizztake. Harnezz izz far too zzsmall for Trixie."
Sure enough, there was no way a pony big enough to pull the wagon would fit between the limbers and into the harness. Trixie, however, didn't seem fazed in the slightest.
"Naturally!", she said with a smile "I didn't design it for me. Now, hold your wings up."
With this, Trixie's horn began to glow. A magic aura surrounded both Leech and the harness. Within minutes, Leech was strapped into the harness and Trixie had taken a seat inside the wagon. She opened a window at the front and called out to the bewildered changeling.
"Better get going!" she said, pouring herself a drink "Trottingham is five hours from here!"
With only a slight sigh, Leech flapped his wings as hard as he could, and the wagon slowly lumbered away through the trees and bushes.