• Published 2nd Aug 2013
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Rise of the Dragonking - Scarheart

The era for peace is over. Despite the best efforts of the Alicorns, an ancient enemy has returned to resume a war forgotten by even Princess Celestia. A world is plunged into darkness. Old foes must become allies if they are to survive.

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RotDK Chapter 6: The River of Time

Fifteen years passed. During this time, the Mare Six moved on with their lives, peaceful and secure in the knowledge they had taken part in defeating a terrible foe, but at a price. In addition to a dozen guards killed and another four score suffering various injuries, the most devastating blow was the Princess of the Sun Celestia. Flamespyre's blow from his tail had broken her back, her magic the only thing allowing her to remain upright until the end of the battle. It took her a year to recover, despite the best potions and magics available to her. For the rest of her life she would walk with a pronounced limp. Or so the official announcement was made publicly known(1). She took in in stride and spent her time instructing Twilight further in her duties at being an Alicorn princess. Her exploit against the dread black dragon Flamespyre was almost as celebrated as Luna's redemption.

Slightly less spectacular but more loved by the common soldier was the story of how Celestia brought in ponies responsible for seeing to provisioning the troops with the proper field rations into her throne room and systematically tore them apart. It became an urban legend. She did not refute it and often would simply smile and wink if anypony asked her what really happened that day in the throne room(2).

She never blamed Twilight or her friends for not being able to utilize the Elements of Harmony and continued to treat them no differently than she had before. If anything, she loved them more than ever. She even sent a gift to Applejack on her birthday, a new Stetson hat for formal functions. It was adorned with white diamonds and sported a griffon's feather. Rarity designed it so it would match the dress she had secretly made for her farmpony friend.

Twilight Sparkle remained in Ponyville for two years, refusing personal guards until Luna appeared one night and told her under no certain terms was a princess ever to not have at least two guards with her at all times. This erupted into a terrible row between the two princesses. It was resolved over cake the next week at Celestia's insistence. Reluctantly, Twilight realized she would have to move back to Canterlot and did so tearfully, promising to keep in touch with her friends. She continued her studies, married and soon had a foal of her within another two years. To date, she never missed a birthday or special function of any of her friends, enjoying every minute with them.

Spike remained her number one assistant, though he would often find an excuse to go visit Rarity in his spare time. Their relationship was an odd one, as he was the only dragon in all of Equestria, but the friendship was accepted, though there were rumors other things were going on behind the scenes. Nothing was ever substantiated.

Rarity became too successful a fashionista to remain in Ponyville for long. Instead of moving to Canterlot, she simply opened up a second shop there so she could remain close to her friends and family. Though many of the nobles still snubbed her for turning her nose up to their high society in favor of the things she felt really mattered, the average everypony came to embrace her for her complex generosity. She never did find her special pony, but did adopt three orphans and proved to be a very good mother.

Pinkie Pie soon became partners with the owners of Sugarcube Corner and opened her own store in Canterlot with their store name and their blessing. She continued to cater parties and serve up sweet treats. She was loved by all fillies and colts because she always made them laugh. As always, her party cannon was a huge hit. Pinkie found a stallion who was oddly her opposite and married him and bore twins. Naturally, motherhood became a party for her as she had already first hand knowledge on how to handle twins thanks to Pound and Pumpkin Cake. She remained close to her friends and always remembered their birthdays.

Fluttershy remained in her cottage, caring for her beloved small animals. She kept to herself, still needing her friends to coax her out of her comfort zone. Over the years, she grew a little better interacting with other ponies, but always remained the same, sweet Pegasus pony all had come to know and love. Rainbow Dash made it a personal crusade to teach Fluttershy to be at least a louder pony and a better flyer. They make weekly flights with Scootaloo on Sundays just to be Pegasus sisters.

Rainbow Dash eventually became nominated and accepted the coveted position as captain of the Wonderbolts after an unfortunate accident left Spitfire physically unable to perform her duties five years after her battle with Scarheart. She and Soarin had a colt a year after her battle. They never did marry. The relationship became strained and eventually failed as Soarin failed to reveal his dalliances with several other fillies. She was content to not hold a grudge and even forgave him, but never let him forget. The story of her storm breaking Rainboom spread like wildfire and she was generally credited with pushing over the first domino in the chain of events leading to the fall of Flamespyre. Her name was known well beyond the borders of Equestria. Steadfastly loyal to her friends, she was always there for them whenever she needed them. Scootaloo followed in her footsteps and joined the Wonderbolts when she was ready.

Applejack continued to work her family farm at Sweet Apple Acres with her family. Shortly after coming home from the battle, she met a familiar veteran at her gate who had just retired from the military and was asking for part time work to supplement his retirement. She ended up marrying that Pegasus and bore him three colts and a filly. Granny Smith lived long enough to hold her great-grandfilly before the years caught up to her and the creator called her home. Applejack remained on the farm, teaching her husband how to be a farmer. He once exclaimed at one of the many Mare Six gatherings his twenty years in the military was only to prepare him to be a farmer. It was said with a straight face and while bouncing two of his colts on his knees. He and MacIntosh got along grandly.

The dragon Scarheart was taken back to Equestria and placed deep within the catacombs of Canterlot, still in a catatonic state. Never once in that time did he stir, his mind gone as if it had never been. Celestia believed it had been utterly destroyed in the battle and decided to assume responsibility for her fallen foe, her compassion believing he could not have made the choices he did if he had full control of his mind. She believed the first dragon Rainbow Dash described was the true Scarheart. There the dragon slumbers, perhaps for all eternity.

Thus did fifteen years flow by as the lazy waters upon a meandering river for the Mare Six. They knew peace and contentment and were happy. All was well in Equestria.

If it was indeed a storybook ending.

In the Emerald Kingdom of the Changelings, there was indeed a strange wind brewing. Upon the day Flamespyre fell, a messenger came to Queen Chrysalis to tell her the strange crystal was glowing with living energy. She knew this already, feeling the magic pulsing, far different than the first time she had dealt with the great amber gem. The thing that had lingered in her mind for since the dark dragon's unwanted visit the day before began whispering, whispering, whispering to her. Her mind was no longer her own for a moment as the instructions were given, ingrained, and set. They were the seeds of vengeance and she knew them well, accepting them as there was no choice she could make. The vice upon her was too great and too powerful.

All she had to do was destroy the creature within the crystal.

Woodenly she went to the same chamber she had been to the day before, impassive to her subjects who scrambled to get out of her way. She moved with the swiftness of a wraith, as if the timing had to be perfect, the voices screaming at her to do as she had been commanded. In the back of her mind, a tiny part of her screamed in defiance and rage, knowing once the act was done, her mind would be shredded and death would be her reward.

She cleared the round room with a commanding voice that was her own. Bitterly she realized there were mere minutes left to her life, her hopes and dreams unrealized. All her scheming, cruelty, and desire to empower her changelings would come to nothing as soon as she ended the life of the creature within the crystal.

There it was before her, bathing her charcoal gray body with its amber light, as warm as it was the first time she had encountered it. The sensation again washed over her, pure and as close to ecstasy as she ever dreamed, an epiphany happened at a certain moment, after the crystal cracked open, the warm fluids splashing around her hooves, and seeing the tiny form within. It happened when her crooked horn glowed its phosphorescent dark green and picked up the little thing within. It appeared a changeling in the eyes, nearly matching her harlequin orbs, but were instead golden. No horn lay upon his head and his wings were those of a Pegasus. His mane and tail were predominantly fiery red. Between his ears was a thick silvery black lock of hair and a similar stripe in his tail. His coat the color of a sunrise as seen through a light fog.

The minute his eyes locked with hers, the shrieking voices within her stopped. The dark thing within her mind felt as though it had been bathed away in the little foal's gaze. Clearly, he was a mix of changeling and pony and something else. What fear did Flamespyre have of this one? Chrysalis wondered, the realization she would not die dawning upon her like a new age.

Still holding the infant, she wobbled on suddenly unsteady legs, bringing the precious little thing to her chest. Chrysalis wondered if she should kill it, as it had served its purpose. It was a passing thought, brief, but enough to make her feel immediate guilt for thinking it.

These thoughts were weak! She steeled herself, drew resolve from her own convictions and reconsidered this tiny little bundle of wiggling hooves and wet mane and tail regarding her with bright golden eyes. Within this foal she sensed an odd strength within, something she could not identify but understood as something with potential should she choose to be patient and encourage it.

The Queen rose to her hooves, up off her knees, holding the foal before her as one might hold a kitten with her magic. "What should I call you? Hm? What name would fit you in a place like this, my little morsel?" she smiled hungrily as she turned and started to her throne.

The little foal blinked and yawned, his eyes not quite able to focus.

She looked at his wings, using her magic to feel them for her. They were soft, like an owl's feathers. "Silent Wing, I shall call you," she purred, flashing her fangs at her little prize. "Please me, and you shall be rewarded. Defy me and I shall gobble you up! Would you like that, my Silent Wing?"

Her Majesty's Morsel, as the generals and advisers would come to know him as over the years grew quickly and acted every bit the changeling, save he could not feed off emotions. She treated him as though he was a page, a rank very few changeling males could attain or ever had in the kingdom's history. Usually mares attended their queen, not some strange mixed breed male. Stallions were chosen for key government positions to prevent animosity between rival matriarchs, as males were considered far less important in standing than a mare. Changeling mares naturally attended the queen, usually chosen from common stock.

Four years later, the Queen bore a daughter and named her Atalanta. Changelings laid eggs, but they hatched a day after being laid, with the mother holding them close to her body for warmth. After that, they were raised in a fashion very similar to regular ponies. The father was presumed dead and devoured. An unfortunate side effect male changelings had when consorting with the queen, it was the only known permissible use of cannibalism in changeling society, since an impregnated queen became hormonally inclined to eat the one who placed her in a motherly way. Silent Wing naturally adored his new sister, oblivious to this disturbing fact(3).

Changeling society was simple in the old days; one was either a worker, a soldier, or a scholar for those not of noble lineage. It could be argued (and often was) the common changelings were actually the evolutionary masters to the old blood changelings who still clung ferociously to their matriarchal beliefs and traditions. Some were quite barbaric in the eyes of the normal changeling; infanticide involving the deaths of malformed males by means of abandonment in the wilderness or simply smothering them. The noble houses pursued the perfect changeling form, where as the regular Joe changeling was more apt to accept his or her offspring as is (orphanages did exist, but were often exploited for child labor). The tension between the old and the new ideas of changeling society had been simmering for the better part of a century. Ugly little 'purgings' occurred between houses and the respective changelings living within their lands and working them. The past three hundred years had been a sort of evolutionary explosion for the race as a whole(4).

One by one nations were sealing their borders they shared with the changelings. Chrysalis had allowed her generals too much reign and they very nearly started several unintended wars with their neighbors. Ever since her failure at Canterlot, she had been desperately seeking a victory to restore the status of her kingdom.

When Silent Wing was six, word reached Queen Chrysalis of a crushing defeat of her armies against a unified army of three kingdoms. The cost of surrendering meant the war was lost. Changeling land went to the victors. Not only were they outmatched and outnumbered, but the tactics they used were stagnant and antiquated. Credit had to be given to the soldiers for fighting long and hard, earning the grudging respect of their better trained and equipped adversaries. Word had already reached her and the surviving generals were brought before her(5).

She sat regally upon her throne, her black crown tipped back and to one side behind her menacing crooked horn. Chrysalis raged behind her eyes the minute she saw the first defeated general enter her throne room and bare himself before her majesty. He was an older changeling, having seen decades on the front lines. Clearly the years and his duties had not looked favorably upon him. Nor did he appear to have actually participated in any of the fighting. Everything was pristine, clean, neat, and perfect. Here was a desk general.

Usually, Silent Wing would be told to leave during this sort of talks, but no such command came from the queen. She tilted her head slightly to him, regarding with expressionless eyes, her lids sliding over them for a brief moment. "No," she told him as they snapped open. "You are old enough for this. Watch. Do not turn away from the general. I command you to not take your eyes off of him until I say so. Do you understand me, my little morsel?"

Terrified, but a good little colt, Silent Wing nodded. "Yes, your Majesty," he squeaked. The colt was not permitted to call her mother in public.

Without paying him further heed, Chrysalis turned towards the cowering general, who was on his knees with his head bent towards the floor. "Why is my kingdom smaller, General Kaxx? How could you lose half of one of my armies in a battle where you outnumbered your opponents three to one?" Her voice was calm, almost as if the questions she asked were off hand.

"I apologize, my Queen!" he replied in a quavering voice. "I blame the incompetence on my officers for not executing my orders."

"Oh do you now?" Chrysalis settled back in her black velvet throne. "There seems to be a lot of that going on in my army." She cast her blazing harlequin eyes over her throne room. No pony dared to look at her. "There's only one way to fix that, isn't there?"

Her horn slowly began to blaze the green color Silent Wing knew meant she was going to use her magic. He had seen her do it before, to show him how she used it to levitate things, pick up little colts during private time and play. The little colt half expected...no, he had no idea what the queen was going to do. Curiously he leaned towards her, tilting his little head to one side, the mess of red hair rising as her power did.

"General Kaxx, look at me," she commanded without making any movement. Her horn glowed brighter, ever brighter. Slowly, shaking visibly with fear, the condemned changeling lifted his head from the floor until his aged eyes met hers. Once their eyes met, Chrysalis gave a small squint. "You are dismissed."

His head abruptly snapped violently around completely with a sickening dull snap. All save the queen jumped, a few changelings even screaming. The dead general's body held still for a moment before heeling over to a side, a leg twitching.

The Queen stared mutely at the body, her face clouded with fury. "No more waste of soldiers in pointless conflicts. We are in no condition to wage a campaign in a paper bag as it is!" she declared in a dangerously low voice. She lifted her chin, tilting her head to one side as she studied every expression in the room. "Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

One could have heard a pin drop.

Slowly the stunned silence crumbled. Heads bowed quickly, quiet murmurings of "Yes, your Majesty" or "Yes, my Queen" reached imploringly to her ears, coming from terrified changelings who had not seen the queen do such a display since after Canterlot.

"I demand a meeting with the matriarchs tomorrow morning at nine. See to it," she snapped to Phillip, her chamberlain.

She found her attention going to Silent Wing. He was staring, wide-eyed, and trembling with tears streaming down his cheeks. His little teeth were clenched as he fought the whimper threatening to force its way from his throat. Silent Wing had obeyed. An obedient colt, pleasing the one he regarded as his mother was the one important thing in his life. She rewarded him for doing as she bade him. Silent Wing did not always like doing what he was told. This was one of those moments. He found he hated what he saw, his little mind not exactly comprehending death, but knowing something bad had just happened. Her eyes softened half the bat of an eyelash before announcing she was retiring and to have the mess cleaned up.

"Come, my little morsel. You don't have to look at that anymore," she told him as she ghosted by.

Terribly frightened, the little colt had to trot quickly to keep up with her long legged strides as they departed the throne room, disappearing down a corridor to the left. He had to flare his wings out, flapping them for an awkward speed boost as he really didn't want to be alone. It was so hard to keep up with Chrysalis when she walked like that. He whimpered again, sniffling, taking in a gulp of air, and trying to stifle even that. Chrysalis hated to hear him cry. Normally he would be with his governess, but the Queen thought it would be a good day for him to start learning about life in her court. He was still tiny next to her, not even tall enough for the top of his head to reach half way up her legs.

Eventually she guided him to Atalanta's room, having gone up several flights of stairs and through several more corridors. Servants slid aside and groveled as she glided past them, not paying them any heed. She would pause at corners to make sure the colt was keeping up on his stubby little legs, her expression neither pleased nor angry at him. It was as though she was measuring him, this little colt, perhaps even unsure. Once he caught up with her, Chrysalis was just outside his sister's door, waiting. With a toss of her head and jut of her chin, she said nothing, but he knew she wanted him to go.

Was this the end of the day he was supposed to have with her? Despite what he had seen in the throne room, he still treasured what little time she set aside for him. Though he was not supposed to, he brushed up against her leg, butting his head against it before trudging dejectedly inside. Chrysalis was not exactly a kindly mother, nor was she fair. Silent Wing knew her as the only one he would ever have. He was imprinted on her.

"Brudda!" cried out a tiny little voice. "Momma!"

"Leave us," she commanded the governess holding a little filly version of her mother. Chrysalis took her daughter gently and pressed Atalanta in Silent Wing's hooves. The governess mumbled her apologies, bowing over and over as she departed. He was more than happy to hold the foal he considered his little sister. She seemed to like him just as much and giggled upon seeing her big brother.

"You're here!" she squealed with delight.

"What did you learn in the throne room?" he heard the disjointed voice ask him softly as the door closed behind her with a thump.

He spun around so fast he fell on his rump. What did he learn? His little face scrunched in thought as he tried to think what it was he was supposed to have learned. Little brows quivered as he tried to figure it out. Then he fluttered his eyes and looked up at her, his answer ready. Atalanta batted his snout with a hoof playfully.

"Don't make the queen angry?" he presented in his little voice.

She regarded him through her silken teal mane, arching a brow. Her fangs flashed for a moment as she smiled, pleased with the answer. The Queen circled around the little colt like a hawk circles a mouse before diving in. "Very good. You must never fail me in any task I give you, Silent."

The little colt asked a question she was expecting. "Are you mad at me?"

"Should I be mad at you?" Chrysalis asked him slyly. She stopped circling him and lowered her head to his eye level. "Hm?" With her snout, she nuzzled her daughter who squealed again with delight.

"I cried. You don't like it when I cry." Tears welled up when he thought about it.

"No cry!" commanded Atalanta in her little imperial voice.

Uncharacteristically, Chrysalis lay down in front of him, facing the little colt and his filly sister. With a hoof, she hooked them both and drew them to her chest, her chin resting upon the top of Silent Wing's head. "That was a hard thing for you to see. But it was necessary and We - I am pleased you handled it as well as you did. You'll see as you get older. You need a cold heart, my little morsel. Always remember that."

"Cold hearts can't hug like this," he said as he buried his face in her neck happily, the tears forgotten.

That threw the changeling queen off guard. "What is that supposed to mean?" she asked him curiously.

Atalanta grabbed a hold of her mother's hair and tugged on it. "Pwease stay, mama!"

The Queen did so for five minutes, simply indulging in the moment. She rarely allowed herself moments like this, thinking they made her soft and weak. A queen had to be strong, even if she was sensing the matriarchs moving against her to undermine her powers. She should care, be angry at this, but she found she did not care. No matter how she tried to fathom this, Chrysalis could not find the will to resist. It was very odd and troubled her, yet she found she could do nothing about it. Was she indifferent? Was it something else?

Shortly after, when she was on her way to another of her countless responsibilities, she had summoned her captain of the guard. His name was Myzanum and was an occasional lover to Her Majesty's more primal needs. She did not break stride when he found her. The veteran simply fell in step behind her, waiting for her command.

"My Queen?"

"Silent Wing is about that age where changeling officer candidates begin combat training, is he not?" she asked without looking at him. Servants bowed to her as she passed, quaking in her presence.

"He is not a change..," his voice trailed off as he realized he was not answering the question. Clearing his throat, he restated, "Yes, he is old enough."

Chrysalis had turned her head slightly to the side, annoyed at first, but that faded when the big soldier corrected himself and answered the simple query. "Good. Get him started. Work out something with his teachers so it does not interfere with his intellectual development. That is all."

So began the colt's introduction to military training. He would spent the next several years of his colthood splitting his day between having his nose in the books and out in the field learning physical skills along with other changeling hopefuls vying for future positions as officers in the Queen's Army. The adjustment to having a harsh regimen was naturally difficult at first for Silent Wing. For one thing, there was a lot more yelling. The young colt was also placed into an environment where the other colts about his age stared at him. Older changelings teased him for being different. The training officers did little to help. Even Chrysalis snubbed his complaints until she finally told him to consider it an order to bear all of it, to learn, to grow strong, and to harden his heart. To show her displeasure at his complaining, she slapped him in front of every changeling and told him under no certain terms was he to expect special treatment simply because the colt lived at her whim and amusement.

He refused to do the latter. Of all the things he readily did for the one he considered his mother, his heart remained the one thing he simply could not change even if he wanted to. Silent Wing proved he could be stubborn when it came to pleasing Chrysalis.

Eventually Queen Chrysalis sought to find a potential arrangement for her adopted son with a young filly of reasonable age in relation to his, not so much as to seek out future happiness for him as to secure for herself a pleasing arrangement of both a political and agreeable with another matriarch. After some months of searching, she discovered the houses who hated her son had influenced others to deny permission for initiating a courtship, which is to mean to seek out compatibility between Silent Wing and a possible Intended. Males in changeling society had always been dominated by the female half and would always be so. Finding a suitable mate for the colt proved to be a challenge, but eventually, Chrysalis was delighted to find a matriarch of a lesser house, almost common, respond to her request positively, offering up her youngest daughter. Arrangements were made for the two to meet with families and friends of both sides gathering to see how the couple would react to each other. Amazingly, the two hit it off and were allowed to sit together and talk while Chrysalis and the filly's mother observed from a respectful distance. It was a stroke of luck and Chrysalis gave her consent for the daughter to enter into a courtship with the prince.

That night, the filly and her whole family were murdered, leaving the matriarch without a family and shattered. The five most powerful matriarchs had shown their displeasure at the union in the cruelest of ways. They denied Silent Wing his heart. This changed the colt. By changeling law, only he could respond to her death. As a thirteen-year-old male, what could he possibly do to avenge the death of his Intended? For one night, he did indeed seem to change, become darker, brooding, and intent. He went forth, his path chosen, telling only one other his intentions. Captain Myzanum was sent to follow, to keep the colt safe from doing harm to himself or getting himself killed by other means.

That night the heads of five favored consorts from the five major houses and a sixth one from a collaborator were placed at the threshold of the gates of a shattered home where a mother mourned the loss of everything. The means by which the prince achieved vengeance had never been explained, the colt himself not sure and unwilling to speak of the events of that night. Five hours of his life had seemingly been replaced by something so out of character and dark from his demeanor, it shook the nobility to the core as wails of anguish greeted Celestia's glory the next morning.

Six heads were proudly displayed in the light of dawn upon the spires of a broken home.

On the day he learned to fly, it happened on the first attempt on his life. It was also the day after his chilling revenge.

Of all the changelings in his military training class, only ten out of the one hundred who had devoted the last seven years of training with high enough scores could progress to the next tier of training for the officer hopefuls. Silent Wing was one of the top ten. Chrysalis was very pleased and decided to hold a banquet to honor his achievement. The families of the other students were invited to attend, creating quite a buzz for the upper society. Although never recognized as a prince for obvious reasons, the notion he was the Queen's Morsel had shrunk as it was beginning to dawn in the minds of the shrewder changelings she had very big plans for the young colt.

That evening the colt stood with his sister the Princess Atalanta, playing games young changelings of that age found enjoyable in the magically lit gardens. With them were the other colts (and one filly) who had graduated. It was a silly, unimportant game no changeling would remember who was the winner or loser.

The garden was on a plateau overlooking a cliff leading to the rocky shores below. The rolling sound of crashing waves and the smell of the salt air made the late spring night all the more pleasant. There the colts and filles mingled and stopped their game to admire the sunset. Celestia was ending this day in spectacular fashion.

The adults were content to watch the colts and the filly princess be themselves and not succumb to the rigors of what was expected of them, if even for one night. Queen Chrysalis found the conversation to be interesting, as she forbade any discussion of politics or state matters, or anything remotely hearing of something 'requiring her immediate attention'. This was as much her night to simply relax and enjoy and she expected her guests to do the same. She was wary, worried for her son, yet he betrayed nothing to indicate he even remembered what had happened just one night before. Considering it a berserker act, she was willing to let it go at that, but something would always nag her. Something as young and unskilled such as Silent Wing should not have been able to do what he did. The Queen would have been satisfied with the intent, but the executions were a shock even to her. No house would respond to her inquiries now, even in the aftermath.

Those were trying times. No war had been fought since her declaration, but the clouds were forming on the proverbial horizon. Nations were amassing, determined to right past wrongs. Her ambassadors were doing their best, but the demands made to them were simply insulting to the Queen when she read her correspondences from them. It didn't matter how many envoys she replaced, the demands were the same, simply reworded.

She looked at Silent Wing and only needed five more years before he and the army was trained and ready. Chrysalis knew she would be lucky if she got six months. Admittedly, she intended to lead the army herself, but she needed some changeling she knew she could trust without reservation in case the worst happened.

The attack came from the direction of the castle. A changeling, dressed in black armor and bearing his family crest dove straight at Silent Wing as he and his sister were laughing at a very funny joke one of the colts had heard a peasant speak. His motives were silent, swift, and deadly with intent.

Before any changeling could react, the dark form crashed into Silent Wing, who had noticed the intruder and instinctively stepped in front of Atalanta. The three were too close to the edge. Even as shouts of alarm and outrage went up, they went over and down.

Queen Chrysalis shrieked with fury, the contentment shattered by this attack upon her children. Her children! Her insectiod wings were already abuzz as she sprang into the air, her fangs bared and her eyes wide with fear. "No!" she drew out in a high pitched shriek.

Yet there was Silent Wing, his wings pumping madly as he held his crying sister in his hooves. Already guards were after the attacker, others guiding the colt and the princess to safety and to an anxiously approaching queen.

The young colt was bleeding heavily in his chest, just to the right and next to his foreleg. It was deeply gouged from the assassin's horn. It was not noticed until Atalanta was on the ground and in her mother's hooves and the chilling words came from his mouth. It was not so much what he said, but how he said it.

"I do believe I am injured," he remarked plainly, with honest acceptance he was going to die.

He collapsed as the shock overtook his senses. Servants swarmed to him, cries for a doctor made. Another servant scrambled away to find one. Everything was chaos.

Chrysalis was stunned, mutely staring at the body lying on the grass. The guards captured the assassin and had him waiting off to the side, his smile of self-satisfaction evident. Openly he gloated at the still form bleeding on the lawn. He was proud of his actions.

"No ill bred abomination will take my son's rightful place!" he declared stiffly, oblivious to the pair of murderous harlequin eyes approaching him. "No pet of the Queen is worthy of a station meant for nobility! Die, you pitiful whelp scum!"

With nary a word, but a terrifying shriek that shook the very trees to their foundation, Queen Chrysalis exploded with maddened fury and was upon the noble assassin in a flash, her hooves flailing, fangs ripping and tearing. He shrieked, tried to put up a feeble defense. Even after the life had been trampled from him, Chrysalis continued to mutilate the noble's corpse. In her madness for vengeance, she very nearly forgot about Silent Wing until her daughter called out to her.

She heaved hard, heavy breaths, laboring from exhaustion. She stared down at the gooey puddle of blood, flesh, and bone, gasping hard and wanting more. This was not enough. "Find out who he is and bring his entire family before my court first thing in the morning," she spat angrily.

"Mother?" Atalanta called out.

Chrysalis looked up and through her mane at her only daughter. She looked like a deranged animal, fangs dripping with blood and gore splattered all over her. Turning stiffly, she remembered who lay on the grass and shambled over, a low moan escaping her lips. Tears formed.

"My little morsel," she whispered. She was hovering over him now, Atalanta trying to console her.

A golden eye fluttered open. "Momma?" It was the little voice she remembered when he was a foal.

Chrysalis forced a smile. "I am here." She nuzzled his cheek.

"I flew," he smiled. "I flew! For you. For Ata. I flew!" Silent Wing sounded so happy and so proud of himself.

The Queen began to weep. "Yes. Yes, you did."

But the young colt did not die. He made a full recovery in a few months. His only personal request he ever made to Queen Chrysalis was to forgive the family of the changeling who had attacked him. She had a hard time arguing with a colt who was willing to burst open his stitches for a changeling he had barely got along with in the first place. Instead, she stripped them of their land and titles and sent them to an iron mine in the most remote part of the kingdom.

He rarely saw her after that. With a thirst for knowledge born from an innate curiosity he had always displayed, his bed rest was accompanied by books, books, and more books. Intellectual pursuits would not be halted because of a mere goring. As soon as he was able, his training resumed. Over his right breast was the scar left by a crooked horn, an ugly purple thing and a badge of honor.

Atalanta spent her free time with Silent. The two were as close as a brother and sister could get. She adored him. It was rare for changeling siblings to get along so well, so this odd friendship was regarded much as one might observe a pony with a changeling, which this was. It was simply...weird.

The Princess did take a secret delight in trying to arrange for changeling fillies to meet her brother. Around them, he was a social mess, clumsy with his words and his manners. He had closed himself off from the opposite sex, a dreadful fear ever present in the back of his mind. It haunted him. Atalanta did not understand this and only wanted to help. She tried to find the prettiest ones for him, even going to her mother the Queen for suggestions as to what sort of fillies he might like.

Chrysalis heard the posed question and simply started laughing hysterically. She hugged her daughter, thanked her for the laugh, and dismissed her, wiping the tears from her eyes as she went to her next meeting.

Truth be told, Silent Wing had many admirers among the common changelings. None openly advertised it as they were likely to wind up dead and lying in a gutter. Class and racial prejudices were rampant in changeling society. Purists who had told him to flat out die before word of his actions had ceased all together. Fear of the Queen's wrath and word of her reaction to the assassination attempt had placed an invisible 'do not touch' sign around the young colt. Nopony had expected her to react so violently in his defense. Chrysalis might not have named him her son in voice or proclamation, but her actions were like a thunderstorm bursting suddenly overhead. Even though he was proving to be a capable officer candidate and showed a great deal of promise, he was still not a changeling. There was speculation he wasn't even a pony, for that matter. He had a small circle of friends consisting entirely of his sister and two or three changelings he had grown up with in the schools he attended.

Silent Wing had an unusually positive outlook. He was calm, stubborn, and willing to fight at the drop of a hat. When angry, he did not have the wild temper of his adoptive mother. Even then, he had an erratic temper. It did flare irrationally on occasion. When it did, those around him would immediately think of that night and cringe visibly from him, as if they expected him to become Cerebus and begin devouring all those around him. He had molded her request he develop a cold heart into one for his anger so he could channel it in a more constructive way than trampling some poor changeling to death. A wise old master had noticed this and steered the colt in his training to be able to focus away from his anger and control it. The only drawback he had was his inability to use magic. It was no problem to him. Not having magic meant never knowing what it was like to have it.

It did appear as he approached adolescence he was developing some sort of resistance to magic. It was slowly costing his natural ability to shape change. This upset Queen Chrysalis greatly, but for the moment nothing could be done about it. Strange dreams began to pop up in his sleep. He could never put a hoof on what they were or what they meant as he could never remember them. Slowly though, it became more confusing as flashed of those dreams became a part of his waking memory.

Another interesting discovery was his flight speed. Be it due to him not being a changeling or some lucky roll of the cosmic dice, Silent Wing was incredibly fast. It was rumored he was Rainbow Dash fast. He was humbled by the comparison, thinking there could be no faster flyer in the world than the legendary Pegasus. Queen Chrysalis sniffed at the notion. She had heard of the Wonderbolts and knew who the chromatic maned mare was. Displeasure inevitably would creep into her voice to go with the sneer of contempt she had for a member of the Mare Six. Mostly this was due to her hatred of a certain Alicorn princess.

Upon his fifteen birthday, the Queen held a private party with just herself, her daughter, and the birthday colt himself. There would be a public gathering, of course but that would be the next day on an official level. This was a spur of the moment idea put together by Princess Atalanta who managed to browbeat her mother into agreeing to attend, if only for a short time. There was a small cake.

A personal gift from Atalanta consisted of a simple necklace bearing a golden dagger beautifully curved like a crescent moon. The present had a single red ruby upon its hilt. Engraved on the blade's face were the words 'For family and honor'. Silent Wing loved it and quickly put it on, thanking his sister endlessly.

The Queen's gift was perhaps less practical from a political standpoint, but in its impact alone conveyed a great deal more meaning. Using her magic, she produced a simple scroll bearing her royal seal and floated it over to him. Before she released it to his grip, she growled, half serious and half jokingly, "Don't make me regret this."

Silent Wing hesitated before taking it gently between his teeth, wondering what it could be. Delicately with his hooves he broke the seal and unrolled it. Slowly he read the letters, his golden emerald eyes flickering down the page and growing wider and wider.

"What is it?" asked Atalanta curiously.

Chrysalis smiled, inclining her head slightly. "Let him finish reading, my dear."

"I'm adopted?" stammered the colt. His chin came up. He turned to his sister first, his hoof pounding the parchment as he repeated the words. "I'm adopted!" he was up, excited as a huge grin went to his mother.

Chrysalis hid her grin under a hoof and whispered sidelong to Atalanta. "I'm regretting this!"

She was bowled over by a very happy colt and enveloped in a hug that left his sister laughing helplessly at the two. Naturally she had to join in on the fun!

Fifteen years. A lazy river in the summer for some, a journey down wintery rapids for others. All heading for the same place in time. Truths, half truths, and lies would soon unravel beneath the relentless flow for all to see. For with time, remembered things become forgotten and forgotten things become remembered. Everything else, all things else were but subjects to the endless meandering, for good or ill or indifference.

Author's Note:

(1) It was widely known within political circles of her paralysis, however due to the great amount of love and respect for Celestia, the true nature of her injuries were kept hidden from the world's eye for national security reasons. Hence the public in general was kept in the dark from the truth. Pinkie Pie made all the ponies who knew about it give Pinkie Pie Promises. Those who tried to break them were never heard from again. Something about cupcakes...

(2) This made all the tabloids, however. Quite a few positions became available shortly after.

(3) She didn't actually eat him. He was from one of the other changeling kingdoms, but departed one night leaving a very hurt queen feeling used. To salvage her pride, she told all of her subordinates she had eaten Atalanta's father. It was a very old tradition most queens could resist the urge, but nobody was really surprised as she was one of the most aggressive changeling queens in recent memory.

(4) To be fair to the changelings, this was drawn from the assumptions of Starswirl the Bearded, assuming their sizes had to do with their stations in life. They are actually remarkably similar to pony society, just no cutie marks. The intermarriage was what caused the old caste system to eventually rot away, though there are still residual groups who believe the old ways are the best. Think Feudal Europe. Now they're more akin to Napoleonic France as a society (not really all that much better...ironically a revolution is brewing). Add a dash of what Spartans used to do to the Helots, and you've got the stance of the noble houses against the common changeling in a nutshell.

(5) The Griffon-Emerald War was a brutal six year campaign. The war was tragic in its beginning with a Griffon training flight getting lost in a freak storm and being blown in the middle of a war games exercise the Changelings were holding as a show of force against their aggressive neighbors. It ended when the soldiers on the changeling side refused to fight when they realized they were being led by incompetent leaders who fought from behind a desk. A mineral rich mountain range was lost to the Emerald Kingdom (name for the changeling kingdom, to be explained in the next book).