The Solar Guard had cleared a path through the party goers. Most expressed surprise and shock upon seeing my injured self floating behind the Element of Magic with the Captain of the Canterlot Guard in tow. I did my best to appear regal, but my pet duck being balanced on my head combined with the mummification of my bandages left me looking fairly rediculous.
What do you mean? Of course I kept the duck!
Yes. His name is Goose.
Anyway,we continued outside of the library tree, to three chariots awaiting passengers. The center one was larger, possibly to accomodate my size. They must have been expecting someling of Chrysalis' stature, but I was only a head taller than the 'regular' ponies. Proto-Queen, not fully grown, you understand.
I was placed in the center chariot with thankful care, and the captain along with Purple took seats next to me. The other chariots held Shy and Pink, the other held Apples and Rarity. (I remembered her name!) Color Dash decided to practice her long distance flying and kept pace with the chariots, trying to chat with the drivers who remained stoic in their task. This upset Color, and she decided to see if she could race to Canterlot and back before we arrived.
The chariots were enchanted to be lightweight, and to prevent accidental falls. This also allowed the three of us to speak, although the captain was unwilling to speak with me. His anger at my presence seemed to confirm this.
Smart, however, continued to discuss everything about changelings with me, but I could only provide information of my own hive.
"What happens if one of your changelings are discovered?" She asked, quill and paper on standby for notes.
"A few things. First they attempt escape, if they are cornered, they attempt misdirection or disguise. If neither are possible and capture or death are imminent, they erupt into an inferno to remove all trace of their existance and to discredit their pursuers. Talk of a strange bug pony bursting into flame and ash does wonders to discredit investigators. The saddest part of this, is that their loss is felt throughout the hive mind. It is only the most drastic of circumstances that would cause a changeling to do this, but I hope to cease its use from occuring ever again."
"With the peace treaty?"
The captain then spoke up. "Why didn't you changelings just go someplace else?"
Smart seemed bothered by this question, but I was not bound by promise to tell him the truth. "You're easier to work with." Was my answer.
"What do you mean by that?" Smart asked.
"Well, infiltrating Non-Equine culture is significantly more difficult. Most are based on personal strength or achievement, and our brood is not gifted in those areas."
"So just what is your 'brood' good at?" The captain asked.
His eyes narrowed at me for another look that probably meant something, but I ignored it. Ponies and their constant expressions. So much easier for someling to just read your mind and get the point across.
Actually, perhaps that is what they're doing? Are they trying to allow me access to their hive mind?
I had to ask.
<Yes, my Queen?> Veritas asked. He was the hive's prominent pony psychologist, and I felt it prudent to ask him.
<Do ponies have their own hive mind?>
<N-no... What would make you ask that, my Queen?>
<Well, sometimes I will do or say something and recieve or witness 'looks' from ponies. Nothing usually happens from them, but they confuse me.>
<Oh! That would be an aspect of mammal body language. They don't communicate through chittering, buzzing or pheromones like we do, my Queen.>
<Hmm. Thank you for your efforts, Veritas.>
<Yes, my Queen.>
I returned my focus to the present, where the captain was whispering to Smart.
"Did I miss something?" I asked.
They both turned their heads with a startled expression before relaxing. "Shining Armor was just asking me what you were doing. Actually, what were you doing?"
"Asking assistance for a problem I had, from the hive mind."
"You called reinforcements?!" The Shiny was alarmed.
"No, I asked for help with social understanding."
His face scrunched up, and I chose that moment to explain. "That; what you're doing right now. I was asking what those things meant. I've recieved them many times yesterday and today."
Another look. "Right... I can see why." Shiny replied.
"Next stop, Pompous and Posturing!" Dash yelled, zipping past our chariots.
We decended to a cordoned off section of what I assumed to be the seat of government. Tall towers of marble and gold with sharp tips and banners of the sun and moon. Many Solar Guard were patrolling the area, and a small ceremony was held for my arrival. They didn't seem too concerned about my state of injury, but I figured that I was an enemy in their eyes, so they would hold no sympathy.
I was pleasantly suprised to be greeted swiftly by the Lunar Diarch, appropriately named as Luna.
"Greetings, Proto-Queen Aze. We are Princess Luna, Diarch of Equestria." She announced with a courtious nod.
"I thank you for greeting me, Princess Luna. I would return with a bow, but my... encounter with the Elements left me worse than I had expected."
"We understand. We too were 'greeted' by the Elements upon our return to Equestria." She leaned down to whisper to me. "Nopony ever tells you that having your soul cleansed by rainbows turns you into a filly, with the taste of spicy food in your mouth for days!" She then addressed the others gathered as I was left confused.
<Yes, my Queen?>
<Oh! Be sure to avoid that if at all possible. Some are so hot that your tongue will burn if you attempt to eat it.>
<Really? Who would be crazy enough to eat something like that?>
<You have to ask?>
I thought of the Pink One, and their habit of drenching cupcakes with 'hot sauce'.
<You're right. Thank you.>
<Yes, my Queen.>
"Pardon?" Princess Luna asked, and I looked up at her from my curled position on a cushion. "Are you well?"
"Yes, I am fine. Just bruised and battered from Twilight and a pet." I grumbled.
Luna gave a look at Twilight, her nervously giggled and tried to hide.
"May we discuss this inside? I feel exposed..." I requested.
"Certainly. You may stay here in the castle until you've fully healed if you wish. It would be unfair of us to negotiate with you under duress."
Well, they're certainly polite. Why would Chrysalis ever attack these ponies?
"Thank you!" I tried to sound cheerful, but the increase in buzzing just alarmed the Elements. Luna didn't seem to mind at least.
The Elements had used this opportunity for a 'mini-vacation' in Canterlot. Some of them stopped by my room to discuss their day. Fluttershy was enjoying the company of the palace's garden animals, Rarity was doing fashion related things, Color was busy 'working out' and trying to 'hang out' with whatever the Thunderbolts were. Probably a different name, but I wasn't interested in what she was doing anyway. The Pink One was planning another surprise and Apples was in their room, being a 'sack of sad' about being away from their farm. Twilight, whose name I hear constantly now, was busy researching in the library and becoming understandably upset about the lack of information on changelings.
We had made certain to remove anybeing who sought to expose us, and burnt their research as well.
Princess Celestia was caught up in something called 'Day Court' which revolved around listening to various ponies complain for the sake of complaining. A particular stallion named 'Blue Blood' seemed furious at my arrival, and insisted on making faces at any sight or mention of me.
Oh well. His problem, not mine.
I took this moment of relative security to sleep. I was in a cushioned bed larger than I was, with the bandages removed as there was no ichor seeping from my injuries. There was tea, but I had no use for it. I dumped out the contents from the balcony to leave the impression that I had enjoyed it, and went to sleep.
I didn't know that somepony would join me, however.
I was back in the hive, my mind rendering the changelings as dark blurs moving about as my magic was more focused on repairing me than maintaining a fanciful dream. It was different than I was used to, as the layout was entirely rediculous.
Floating platforms of hive segments in the air or spinning around; changelings flying upside down and playing with their mouths. It felt like something Discord would do. I had the command of mind to arrange everything as it should be, and went back to 'managing' my imagined hive.
At some point, a new figure entered my throne. Dark and difficult to fully see, I leaned forward for a better look before a blink brought the figure right in front of me.
I tried to make some kind of noise in alarm or fright, but the thing's voice was revealed to be Princess Luna, who shushed me.
"There is no threat here to you, Proto-Queen Aze. We are in the real of dreams. Nothing may harm you."
I blinked a few times, attempting to restart my brain.
"We hold watch over the realm of the night, and those that slumber. We noticed your presense, and sought to investigate. We have never visited the dream of a... of yours, before."
"You can do that?"
"You can simply enter somethings dreams if you will it?"
Luna made a face that shifted color a small amount.
"Yes, we are capable of many things."
"Well, if you're going to visit me in my own head, I may as well be a courtious host." I decided, shifting my memory from the hive to Pinkie Pie's party the night previous.
On a related note, why did I remember her name only now?
"This must be Twilight Sparkle's Library." Luna commented.
"Yes. I was occupied with injuries and questions, so I was unable to join."
An apparition of the Pink One came into being in front of us, seeming far too cheerful for me.
"You two should lighten up! You're both so serious all the time. Its a party!" She then threw blurry confettii and phased through us. "Have fun!" She called, dissapearing.
I looked to Luna, who was again making a face. "Does this happen often?" I asked.
She blinked a few times before excusing herself. Her wording being, 'Excusemeimverysorrybutimustleavenowbye.'
A very long word...
The remainder of my rest was uneventful and very rejuvinating. I later learned that spells had been woven into the fabric of the sheets and bed to increase regeneration and replenish magical energies. You wouldn't think to ask, but moving stellar bodies is very tiring work. I don't blame the Diarchs for upgrading their sleep to the level of healing wounds and back massages. It was slightly uncomfortable though, as carapace and shell don't tend to get muscle cramps. Still, an interesting experience.
I was free of my bandaging and able to stand on my own, but my body still refused to shape shift. Either via the Pink One's magic or my own injuries. For the sake of my continued sanity, I will presume the latter.
<Hastur?> I called to my Ambassadorial changeling. You never call on him three times however. I don't want to discuss the last time that happened.
<Hastu~ur?> I sang into the hivemind.
<Oh good! Would you mind explaining what I'm looking at?> I shifted control of my eyesight to Hastur, and he informed me in his own way how to proceed.
<Thank you sincerely!>
That matter resolved, I wore a silver necklace with an Amethyst gem in the center, hanging at the center of my chest carapace. He had informed me that royals and delegates usually wore some kind of clothing or jewelry to announce their status, but I chose to go with a simple adornment. Looking gaudy or overdressed struck me as rude. After all, were Chrysalis to enter my hive like she owned the place... Well, I would be upset, but there isn't alot I could really do about it.
Hearing a knock at my door, I quickly trotted over to open it with the grip of my magenta colored magic. I opened said door without difficulty, but somepony had put a large rug over the door. I pressed a hoof against it to find that it held firm. Pressing a bit harder to move it out of the way, it did something unexpected.
Blinking my surprise away, my view slowly raised as I backpedalled and witnessed the large form of an annoyed Minotaur. He (You can tell by the horns) was easily three times my height and made entirely out of muscle and supressed battle frenzy. I did the only thing a dignified and self respecting Proto-Queen would do in my situation.
"I'm so sorry; please don't kill me; I've never met a Minotaur before; I have children!" I blurted in blind panic while falling backwards, curling into a ball and shielding my face and closing my eyes.
And then he laughed.
I learned that he was an ambassador from Minos, and had come to visit my quarters to broker agreements between my people and his, based upon the outcome of my negotiations with Celestia.
Personally I was just overwhelmed with relief that he wouldn't squash me.
I was also relieved that he took no offense to my assumption that he would obliterate me on the spot, as he comes from a warrior culture that is known for being aggressive and standoffish for the sake of it. His own journey had lead him to becoming an ambassador because of his fondness for the ability of words to cut deeper than any blade, and the skill required to turn the tide of a negotiation was far more cerebral than mashing enemies with a hammer until they ran away.
I informed him of my own hive's fondness for competition in order to get on his good side. We often hold competitions to see who is able to mimic another changeling's unique disguise. Why is this difficult? Let me explain in full.
When a changeling sees something it must copy, it studies everything about the subject's physical properties with a glance. This is innate to all changelings, however not all copies are perfect. What makes this more difficult, is that a copy does not give the changeling the strength their disguise posesses. This is the same with magical ability or maneuverability in the air. A changeling copying a copy, will cause their innate sense to copy the changeling itself. Thus, copying the copy is as difficult as making your own disguise. Every detail must be exact. The bearer of the original disguise will judge a competitor's, giving them helpful pointers to improve their craft. The winners are the hive, as everyling that participates grows stronger from the instruction and guidance of each other. As I have used the Hive Mind many times already, you can see how useful this is.
I was to meet with the Minotaur ambassador after negotiations with Celestia and Luna had completed. He would introduce himself fully at that time.
Later in the day, I recieved another knock on the door. This time, I slowly opened the door to a crack I could spy from, and saw a wicker basket filled with bananas, and a letter on top. I quickly accepted the gift and locked the door. Setting the fruits aside, I read the letter.
Dear Proto-Queen Aze,
We hope our intrusion into your dreams was not too unsettling. It occurs to us that your privacy would be of importance to you before a negotiation, and we offer our sincerest apologies. Princess Celestia has informed us of your preference for Bananas, and we have seen to it that a full basket be sent to your living area.
We hope you forgive us for our intrusion, and that you enjoy our gift.
Lunar Diarch of Equestria
Rolling the scroll, I set it to the side and stated at the mass of bananas.
I turned around to find nothing, and searched again in the other direction to find nothing as well.
I looked up, as something moved on my head.
"Goose!" I cheered, slightly startling my pet duck.
Yes, I'm still keeping him. He is my Goose, and you shall not have him.
He fell from my head onto the pile of bananas and began nibbling with his bill on their... Peels! Yes, that is the word.
Taking a banana, I stripped the peel of it and floated it to Goose, who eagerly ate it.
I wonder If I'm supposed to be feeding it bananas...
Despite my lack of duck care knowledge, I sat next to Goose and fed him bananas until he fell over.
"There! You are fed?"
"Quu...ack." It garbled, bits of banana all over it.
"Excellent!" I declared.
The following day, Princess Celestia had cleared her schedule from Day Court in order to negotiate the treaty. I was alone in representing the White Tale Woods, shortened to WTW for convenience. In attendence were several nobles of various houses, Princesses Celestia, Luna and Cadance, and the ambassador from Minos. There was also the Captain of the 'Royal' Guard, Shining Armor. Minos and the nobles to my right, Celestia and Luna at the opposite end and Princess Cadance and the Captain to my left.
The table held various snack foods and parchment, ink wells and quills. Twilight was sitting next to Celestia to record everything said on parchment.
Celestia raised a hoof, and the meeting was called to order. Transcription for your sanity.
First Meeting of the White Tail Woods Hive and Equestria.
Key for simplicity: WTW = White Tail Woods
EQ = Equestria
PC = Princess Celestia
PL = Princess Luna
PQA= Proto-Queen Aze
PMC = Princess Mi Amore Cadenza
SA = Guard Captain Shining Armor
M = Minos
N = Noblemares / Aristoponies
Meeting Start: 8:00 am
PC: I call this meeting to order, that we may begin. I motion for PQA to begin their opening statement.
PQA: Thank you, PC. I am here to clairify and formalise the soverignty of the WTW Hive from Queen Chrysalis. We are in no way, shape or form, affiliated with the actions of Queen Chrysalis or her brood. It is my hope that we will be able to ratify an acceptable peace treaty between our nations. Thank you.
PC: All in agreement to discuss this proposal, say Aye.
Four ayes, two neighs.
PC: The motion is passed. PQA, what are your terms?
PQA brings out a scroll with prepared terms, copied as follows.
1. Release and return of all White Tail Woods changelings.
2. Agreement upon borders for WTW changeling hive.
3. Informational packets to be distributed, detailing the differences between different Broods of changeling.
4. Cultural exchange program to ease tensions between nations.
5. Recognition of soverign state within Equestrian borders.
6. Immediate withdrawal of all Solar and Lunar guard from WTW.
7. Immediate withdrawal of all WTW changelings from Equestria.
8. Trade agreement of 'food' to WTW Hive, in exchange for construction assistance and defense of WTW from any hostile foreign power.
9. Any pony or changeling acting against this treaty will be declared a hostile actor, and their protections revoked from both WTW and Equestria.
10. All leaders present must Pinkie Promise to uphold the agreed upon conditions of this document as written, effective for three months trial period."
Peace Treaty is read aloud by PC.
N: A moment, PC, PL. What is the significance of a "Pinkie Promise"?
PQA: I would not invoke its power lightly, N. I am serious about its implications in this document.
Snickering from N, SA, PMC.
PQA: Why are you laughing?
PC: Order please. This is no time for jokes.
PC waits for calm before speaking again.
PC: PQA, are you certain of your terms?
M: I have noticed this agreement does not include Minos.
PQA: This is true. The Changeling Hive of WTW recognises the independence of Minos, and would not presume their nation under influence of EQ.
M grunts on an affirmative tone.
PMC: Does this treaty apply to the Crystal Empire?
PQA: A seperate treaty may be arranged at a later date. Our Hive is studying the political climate, and would prefer to see the benefits of this treaty before others are pursued.
SA: What guarentee do we have that no hostile act will befall any nation outside of this treaty?
PQA: The WTW Hive does not engage a practice of making enemies. I will ratify a treaty with your government as soon as possible, SA.
PL: What does the condition of 'food' mean, specifically?
N: We aren't giving you our loved ones, that is certain.
PQA: We do not subsist on love. We harvest Friendship, Platonic Love, Kindness and Generosity.
N bah humbugs.
SA: I'm sure you're going to say we should all hold hooves and sing, right?
PQA: Would this increase the likelyhood of friendship and harmony between our nations?
PL: We are becoming sidetracked. All in favor of the treaty as it stands?
Five Yeas, one neigh.
PC: The motion is passed. This meeting will continue in one week.
Gavel bangs, Meeting Adjourned.
Transcription by Twilight Sparkle.
As we filed out of the room, I found the Ambassador from Minos motioning for me to meet him.
"I am called Iron Will. I was pleased how you handled that situation, Proto-Queen. You've a strong backbone to stand up to nations more powerful than you, and you recognized our soverignty. The Griffon Empire is still having difficulty with that."
I gave a slight bow. "Thank you for your review, Ambassador Will."
"Please, Iron Will is acceptable."
"On a related note, have you noticed the hostility of Shining Armor to you?"
"I have. He voted Neigh twice."
"That's because his wedding was the one Chrysalis attacked when she tried to take over Equestria's capitol."
I slowed to a stop, Iron Will turning around to see my haunted expression.
"Oh." Was all I could say to that.
I was once again in my room, Goose passed out on the floor. I had made certain he was still alive after a poke caused him to quack in complaint.
"Goose, what am I going to do with you?"
He gurgled in reply.
A knocking at the door lead me away from my feathered pet, and I opened it to see Princess Cadance.
"May I come in?" She asked with a soft tone.
"Certainly!" I replied with cheer. She walked past me and I closed the door, turning to see her demeanor change to hostility.
"What do you think this is going to achieve?!"
My ears folded back involuntarily, suprise on my face as my wings twitches nervously. "P-pardon?"
"What do you hope to gain by attacking my husband and I, then playing politics like nothing happened?"
I was confused. "Didn't you vote in favor of the treaty?"
She calmed herself before speaking again. "I did. I don't want what happened to Shining and I to happen to anypony else. Even if this is just a sick game you're playing. I can't let my personal feelings get in the way of what is best for the Crystal Empire."
I stood silently for a moment, thinking of the best way to phrase my reply.
"My only wish is for my Hive to survive. War will not help, violence will only lead to our destruction. Why would I risk war with nothing to gain? We survive off of-"
"Yes, Friendship and Harmony. I've heard what you said, but that doesn't mean I believe it."
I sighed in frustration. "Then the only way I can prove it to you is by example. Please, allow me to show you I am sincere."
Cadance composed themself once more before replying, a smirk on their face. "How about with a Pinkie Promise?"