• Published 9th Mar 2014
  • 35,136 Views, 7,354 Comments

The Changeling of the Guard - vdrake77

Not all changelings are fit for life in a hive. But that doesn't mean they're capable of life outside it, either. Join one such changeling as he tries to find his place in Equestria, and what the difference is between survival and living.

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Making The Wrong Choice

Author's Note:

Well folks, my first FIMfiction story! Been bouncing it around in my head for a while now, and I have to admit, I'm pretty proud of it so far. I've been away from the writing game for far too long, and it feels amazing to get back into the swing of things.

I've never written a story from the first person before, so please, give criticism as you see fit.

This chapter takes place before Luna's return, as will a number of the initial chapters, but I'm planning for her and Celestia to feature heavily, with Twilight and the main six showing up from time to time. As currently planned, this story is more about Canterlot than Ponyville.

Life in a hive is less onerous than most ponies would think. There is comfort. There is family. There is even enjoyment to be had in simple conversation between hivemates. That this communication happens in frequencies ponies can barely hear, at speeds they don’t comprehend, is largely irrelevant. And perhaps less… intimate. It is also different. A pony is considered themselves, part of their family, by their profession, of their hometown, their race, and then finally, a citizen of Equestria, under the rule of Princess Celestia. With our kind, the importance is reversed; Within the Hive of Chrysalis, in the nest near the Saddle Arabian border, amongst the drones that perform excavation and building, I exist. If I would not exist, another would simply carry on in my place. Ponies find this idea abhorrent, but truly, there is some comfort to be had, being part of something so much greater than yourself. There can be pride that it is not some other drone doing your task; that you, personally, are building something the hive will use, live in, and raise offspring in, potentially for generations.

A regular misconception about changelings is that we only feed upon love. Though we do feed upon it, and it will sustain us for a period of time with no physical sustenance, the truth is more complicated. Emotions are both currency and a fuel. One heartfelt declaration of love can heal a damaged exoskeleton, lift a heavy burden, allow a changeling foal a few precious minutes of delight as they play amongst the tunnels of the hive with their nestmates… or grant a warrior the will and mystical might to take down prey for the hive’s more physical nourishment. As such, emotions must be carefully marshalled. Each level of society stores some emotional essence. A drone shall hold it within themselves. A small group of changelings will have access to more, in total. A nest allows even greater. A hive possesses a vast quantity in comparison. The Queen can access power from any of these, and her personal capability to contain emotion is… substantial. Enough that she may afford a diligent drone a pleased smile that will lighten his spirit for days. Or a scowl to a foolish one that may haunt him for weeks... or the rest of his soon to be drastically shortened life.

You see. The Queen, more than any other outside force, determines the fate of a changeling, even from birth. She chooses which eggs hatch, which will not be allowed to, and in many cases, personally decides how to handle failures within the hive in matters that are beyond minor infractions. She is, as ponies would understand it, our Celestia and our Nightmare Moon. She is glorious and terrible, and she is ours. We love and loathe her for it. She has stood against dragons for the benefit of the hive, and she has shattered thousands of eggs, maintaining our numbers in the efficient, cold way that befits our kind. She also brings those hatchlings that survive adolescence into the hive, gives them the true understanding of our kind. She has our best interests at heart. She must. Without her, we are lost. In many ways, she is the Hive, mind and spirit. She also has the ability to ration out this emotional energy with far more talent and less waste than any mere changeling, even those who specialize in the task. As such, she routinely travels between nests to distribute energies to those who have been less able to gather.

I have always been… different. Special. Aberrant. I possess less of the ability to control my emotions. Curiosity compels me, and not merely towards outside of the hive. Amongst our kind, lack of fine emotional control is embarrassing, but tolerated in some respects. Hunters are allowed more leeway with anger, as it bolsters offensive capability. Nursemaids to the hatchlings are encouraged to be affectionate, to ensure that the young are well fed. Scouts are driven by curiosity, the urge to see more. Gatherers… Well. Much is presumed about the gatherers. But rarely do they spend much time within the hive. My curiosity, however, was for how things work. This may seem like no crime. However, the hive runs like the gears of a clock. Our tasks are completed in the manner they were explained, and no more. One does not simply alter the schedule. And the hive has little tolerance for unimportant questions. Curiosity does not warrant concern from a drone, especially one tasked to expansion of the nest, as I was.

Perhaps more damning, I was considered a prankster by my kind. Shaping stalactites to drip water on the back of changelings passing through a corridor is highly concerning. It distracts in an inappropriate, unacceptable way, for little benefit beyond allowing an observer to see how a changeling reacts to sudden chill water on their chitin. And then… I wanted to try new ways of building. Several of the chambers planned went up more quickly due to my ideas, but were deemed unstable after one particularly large section collapsed during a harsh storm. The strangeness of my work had caused concern, but the efficiency of building had seemed promising, even to the hive. After the failing, the hive recalled my ‘troublesome’ nature. It was briefly debated that I had done this purposefully. Delayed construction. Wasted hive resources. It was an ugly period. And it drew the Queen’s notice more firmly towards myself, and that is where my story truly begins.

It never occurred to me to ignore her summons. Nor did it occur to any other changeling to interfere on my behalf, or to speak out against me. The Queen demanded my presence. All of my tasks were immediately taken up by others... there was no gossip, no questioning, and if there was the slightest bit of satisfaction that my actions were finally being responded to appropriately, it could have perhaps been my imagination.

It could have been.

Walking into the Queen’s viewing chamber was a lonely experience. That is to say, when I crossed the threshold, everything became muted. I no longer had the benefit of the experience of hundreds of drones who had walked this path before… I could no longer hear the comforting sound of the many changelings performing their tasks. Then, the last time I had been so near the Queen, I had been very small, little more than a hatchling myself. Perhaps she tuned out the constant low hum of speech and constant access to the mind of the hive, and in so doing blocked me from it as well. A chilling thought. She was preoccupied, watching an image within a large crystal mounted in the center of the room on a pedestal. The image flowed and shifted, a royal figure standing before a throne on a golden dias within a marble room. I’d never seen the figure before, of course, as I’d never wandered so far from the hive, and the Queen had little truck with such gaudy nonsense. It took me a moment to realize that she had not even realized my approach, and I gave a faint buzz to gently announce my presence, just as flame leapt within the crystalline image.

Let it be said, one should never sneak up on royalty. Her neutral mask cracked for only a second, and the wave of rage, disgust, and pain that washed over me struck me so hard I thought my carapace would crack. I fell prostrate before her, suddenly certain that my foalishness had cost me my life, but uncertain what I had done wrong. I briefly began to send word to the others, to inform them of danger… but who would answer? The Queen was in pain, what had I done? I should be destroyed for such a failing. I should never have existed, that I had-

“Rise, drone. You have done nothing wrong this day.” And just like that, the Queen was aloof again. The Queen’s emotions were her own again. What had I witnessed? There had been ponies in the image. Was the queen planning some sort of harvest? The knowledge that she was annoyed by the gaudiness, that should have alerted me to her inattentiveness: The queen’s feelings had slipped into my mind with such clarity that I had simply not realized they were not my own… but her thoughts were still a mystery.

“My Queen, may I be of service?” I had not meant to speak it aloud. I knew why I was here. Though I wished to help, my wishes were irrelevant, I was to be punished for past transgressions, not to offer her… well, there was nothing I could offer her that she could not simply will from me and I would gladly give. Vocalizing it so was pointless.

A small, grim chuckle escaped her. The sound was grating, unpleasant and disconcerting. “Work ethic from a lazy drone. How interesting.”

Something rose up within me, and I looked up at her in shock and outrage. “Lazy, my Queen? When have I ever-“

“No, you haven’t… not lazy, then. Your chamber collapsed, drone. Why did you build it incorrectly, if not in an attempt to shirk your duties?”

“It… was not meant to be incorrect, my Queen. It simply seemed… better. To change the design, to make the arches differently. It seemed that it would be sturdier this way. And faster than the traditional method.”

“And who told you this thing, drone? Who authorized you to make the decision to change what has always been?” The question had been asked with more curiosity than it merited, but the Queen was known for her excesses, and in truth, the taste of it was tantalizing.

“I was not told, my Queen, nor authorized. I… thought there was a way to improve the hive. It was discarded, I attempted to prove it correct.”

She raised an eye at that. “You failed and it collapsed. A waste of time and effort.”

“I believe I can improve it. I believe I know what went wrong-“ Here, her eyes flashed with fury, and I trailed off.

“You would continue to stray from tradition? Your failed idea could have killed your nestmates, and for what?”

“I… only wish to improve the hive, my Queen. The chambers are all the same, they are time consuming, require much maintenance, are unpleasant to look upon-“ I silenced myself, wishing I had not voiced that strange last portion, but it had been said.

“…So. You find your hive ugly? You don’t care for the work of your hivemates over the generations?”

“It is… functional, my Queen. But if it can be made better without slowing down the construction or sacrificing utility-“ Again, I trailed off. That had not been said with the fury of moments before. But why?

“Have you ever spoken thus to another of this nest?”

“N..No, your majesty. I have never. I am… that is, it makes no sense. The aesthetics of the hive are irrelevant. But if it can be done, then why should it not be?”

The Queen chuckled again, but this time it seemed… different. Instead of grim, she was amused, and… pleased? Why would these flashes of mood be so different? Perhaps the Queen’s excesses were greater than I’d imagined. “You ask a question many of our kind do not, drone. Few of them give such things a moment’s thought.” She eyed me speculatively. “Are you not of the forty second generation? I have not seen much promise in the forty-first, or your kin, or even the forty-third.” Forty-third? I had not paid much attention to such things, but that would imply my own generation had taken to procreation. I had not, but then, our nest’s population was pleasingly stable, and changelings can live a very long time.

“I am, my Queen.”

“Have you bred?” I blinked at the statement. Then I began to see. I was an aberration. My thoughts were tainted somehow. It made sense. The Queen would have to remove this flaw from the hive, lest it spread. I was going to die. It was only… logical. Even so, I wanted to flee from her presence. Prove my worth somehow, convince her that I was not flawed. But no. This was done.

“I have not.”

“Hmm.” She began to walk a small circle around me. I drew myself up slightly taller, though still dwarfed by the Queen’s size. I had failed her and my hive, but I would not cower, would not waste more of the hive’s resources. If I could push out what little energy I had before I died, perhaps she could recover that, at least. “Do you like being an excavator? Would you prefer another duty? Have you talent with hatchlings?” My vision swam suddenly. A second chance? The Queen’s mercy was too great. I could hardly allow myself- “Or… would you perhaps like to go forth and harvest? Or scout the wilds for new nesting grounds? Would you like to leave the hive?”

“Leave… the hive?”

“To go out. To explore. To see the world, the things it holds. Or… would you prefer to stay here. I will find a use for you, drone, of that I assure you.”

It felt as though the world had gotten brighter around me. To leave the hive, to see that marble room with my own eyes? Perhaps I could learn from outside what my failings had been. I would make better chambers, bigger ones, ones that would do the nest, the entire hive proud. I would please the Queen, to show her how wondrous her mercy had been. “I would go outside, my Queen.” I should have known better. I should have let her choose my use. I should have watched her expression when she asked me that fateful question. I should have thought more on what she had asked. I had misunderstood.

And that is how I found myself, outside of the nest, banished from the hive, and cut off from the only home I had ever known and for the very first time in my entire life, completely and totally alone.

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