• 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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Catching More Flies

My relief when the beast stopped its journey was completely unfounded. Beyond the fact that Topaz claimed my escape through one of the windows into its stomach was ‘undignified and startlingly hilarious’, I learned that Stalliongrad was not Canterlot, even though it very clearly should have been because the train was going to Canterlot and not Stalliongrad. Clearly not content with having its meals march themselves right in, the metal monstrosity also could not be trusted to even travel where it was asked, most likely to give it more opportunity to digest these hapless ponies.

Topaz was in the process of hauling me back, telling me that I was being ridiculous and that everything was alright, when one of the train conductors who came to assist her offered me a large white block of something to ‘calm my nerves’. I popped the entire thing into my mouth, to his wide-eyed surprise, and began chewing desperately, hoping that eating would give me some idea on how best to convince Topaz not to return to the Train’s clutches. My concern and panic started to melt away, surprisingly, briny fragments of the cube easing my turmoil. In fact, I was so caught up by the block’s ability to ease my concern that I quite passively allowed Topaz and my new friend to escort me, and only when I heard the triumphant scream of the beast as it began to resume its travels did I realize they had betrayed me into its clutches yet again. Topaz had the audacity to suggest that I should be grateful they allowed us back onto the train without a new ticket, where I was horrified to learn that ponies paid for the privilege of risking digestion.

Several more of these blocks later, and a casual invitation to ‘Salt Lickers Anonymous’ by a fellow passenger, I could not even work up much more than a shamed whimper as I buried my head in the pillowy flesh of its internal seating. I woke, feeling more clearheaded though confused, as a sleeping Topaz had her head hanging off the edge of the seat across from me, a large puddle of drool beneath her. Hesitantly, I returned her to a position less likely to dehydrate her or finally start the beast’s digestive processes. I then peered out the window, gladdened that the sun was not quite so bright anymore as sun dipped below the horizon… and found myself gaping.

Canterlot, alleged capital of Equestria, seemed to be made of shimmering, gleaming marble, built into the side of a mountain in a clear defiance of any external force. The enormity of it struck me, and as we approached ever closer the alabaster and gilded spires were forever etched into my memory, Stalliongrad, for its apparent size, held not even a fraction of the beauty, not in simplicity nor in complexity. A soft snort from Topaz alerted me that she’d woken, and she smacked her lips noisily with a mutter of confused embarrassment at the state of her face and mane. A few minutes later, she joined me at the window and gave a pleased sigh of relief.

“Well Idol, that’s Canterlot. Home sweet home, be it ever so humble.”

I stared at her. Humble? This magnificence- she was being facetious, of course. “It is enormous. What portion of it do you live in?”

“Hmm? Oh, that’s just the top part, you can’t even see where I live. I have a little place near the university.” She pointed her hoof out a window, into the hillside, motioning past it. Then her hoof trailed off to the side just a bit. I was quite impressed that she knew where home was well enough to point to it so exactly. “Well. The outskirts near the university. They wouldn’t really approve of some ponies in the middle of the city.”

“You… own a portion of that?” Now I was confused. How did one own part of a hive? This is my hole in the rock and you may not have it?

“I had some bad experiences with renting. I like insects, but rats?” She gave a violent shiver, revulsion enough that I could feel it over my ‘walls’. “Too many ponies with too many special talents. Good fences make better neighbors. On the other hoof, it’s probably half the size of what I was renting, but sometimes less is more.”

“That is contradictory and cannot be true.” I protested, quite sure that this pony saying at least must be incorrect.

Topaz gave me a faint smile as she pulled back in her own window. “You know, I’ve never really gotten that saying either?”

“So where will I stay?” I asked, curious as to the location relative to Topaz’s own that I would make my home. When she didn’t point out the window again, I glanced at her to see that her mouth was half-open and her eyes darting about. “Topaz?”

“…I… didn’t really think about it. I kept meaning to work out the details but… heh… um… I have a spare couch, I guess? There’s always the basement. Short term, I mean. We’ll need to find you somewhere nearby to stay, of course-”

I tamped down my own concern. Was I expected to carve my own home? I looked back at the alabaster walls with some dread, now. How could I possibly be expected to compete with this? Did that mean the Princess Celestia had carved the ‘castle’ out of the very rock itself, and that was why she lived there? Of course it made sense that the Princess was capable of doing such a thing with such skill. But I could not make a structure in the style of changelings, it would stand out, neither as magnificent or as large as the buildings I saw. It would take me... Well, several years at least to make such a thing. And what would I do with it? Or was I merely expected to make it larger? That made far more sense, but… at the top of one of those spires? A shiver went through me. Too much sky. I wanted good, dependable stone around me.

The beast gave a shrill scream to announce its impending arrival, and I jerked my head free of the window, glaring at the opening. I was beginning to forget myself on this thing. Topaz may trust it, but I was certain it had ulterior motives. Perhaps the ponies were feeding it something. The idea that this creature was so lazy that it simply traveled, carrying others who would bring it food seemed more distressing than if it were trying to trick them, and hastened my exit all the same, to the point where Topaz latched onto my tail and yanked me back from the window again with a very firm look towards the door. She was right, the same trick would likely not work twice.

Canterlot is… more amazing up close than I had expected. Almost the entirety of it, city and castle, is a work of art. A master’s work, in fact. And then… you get to the university.

The university is perhaps the work of an apprentice. Who dabbles in modern art. This is perhaps an unfair comparison, but it seems as though much of the university has been… redesigned to fit changing requirements at a rapid rate. And as such, it resembles the structural equivalent of a patchwork quilt. At the same time, it is… charming in its own way. Topaz claims the whole arrangement of buildings has been adjusted overnight before, and I find myself believing her.

Topaz’s home was a stout rectangular building with a stubby second story balcony just off the university grounds, right up against the wall of the city, to my great pleasure, though I was confused to note that she had no fence. As I understood it, this would mean her neighbors were awful.

To further my confusion, just before we reached her door, somepony came out, a larger earth pony carrying saddlebags stuffed with jars.

“Honey!” Topaz exclaimed, pleased, then rushed over to the mare in question.

The mare gave a whoop, scooping Topaz into a hug. “Where have you been?! Gone three, four weeks longer? I was thinking you just said ‘to hay with Canterlot’ and decided to set up shop somewhere else. No wait, let me guess. You found some new insect when you realized that manticores aren’t bugs?”

“Well- I… no, and they do have a scorpion tail and their skin is chitinous up until about the torso, the rear fur is really more like tarantula hairs-“

“Ohhh, don’t start you know I don’t believe a word of it. Your house is fine, I’ve kept an eye on it. Pair of jokesters tried to paint ‘The Bug Mare’ on your wall again. I took care of it.”

“H-Deee. Did you sic your bees on them?”

“Whaaaat, no, I’d never. I might have suggested I would and tossed a few small rocks, but you know very well that my bees are delicate and very well behaved.” The mare stated with a sniff, turning her back on Topaz in a show of great offense. Her cutie mark appeared to be a fruit of some sort with hexagons inside it.

“Is that why you use those blue leaves in your smoker, or because of it?”

“That is a trade secret, I’ll have you know.” The mare turned back around with a grin, then seemed to notice me. “Friend of yours?”

“Oh! Honey Dew, Idol Hooves. Idol, Honey. Idol helped me out with my research.”

Honey gave Topaz a look of clear skepticism. “He knows about bugs?”

“I distracted the manticore that was chasing her.”

“Ooooh, big hero.” She smirked, then looked at Topaz and blinked. “He’s serious, isn’t he? You got chased by one? Are you going to agree now that the ones in Equestria should be relocated?”

“Ah ah ah! No way, we are not talking politics before I even set hoof in my house after being gone for two months. Not right now!”

The mare gave me a wicked grin. “I’ll get her later. Hey, Iddy, you hungry? Like honey?” She reached back into a saddlebag as I considered.

“Well… yes, you seem nice-“I was quite rudely interrupted as her hoof pressed into my open mouth and sweet, saccharine bliss poured over my tongue.

“Free samples to first time customers and friends.” My new best friend stated with some pride, pulling her hoof free of my gaping mouth. “Honey Dew’s Blue Tropical, best honey you can get in Canterlot. Can I put you down for a case? Also have mead~!” She sing-songed as I worked my mouth, trying to form the words ‘Yes, of course, I never want to stop tasting this ever’ when I heard Topaz from her door.

“Honey, what did I tell you about putting your hoof in pony’s mouths?! That is not a good business strategy!”

“And I tell you nobody complains when the Apples do it. Besides, blue honey, how else am I supposed to get people to try it. Right big guy? You approve.”

I was busily trying to clean honey off of my teeth, but my tongue seemed far thicker than normal, and my thoughts were sluggish with trying to suppress the urge to giggle.

“Uh. Idol? You there?”

“Isss reeeally good.”

“See! I’ll catch up with you later, Topaz. Have a fresh batch of honey coming. Trying for a red this time, something cinnamon maybe. Going to want details on that trip! Mr. Hooves, you stop by sometime too.”

I recall waving, though I was unsteady on my hooves. “What… is mead?”

Topaz snorted, giving me a look. “Something you aren’t allowed to have, apparently. Come on, looks like you’re going to have to take a break. Lots of ponies have that reaction when they meet Honey. Too much sugar in that mare’s diet. Might have to watch yours too, from the look of things. Alright, couch or basement? No windows down there but-“ I tapped a hoof on the floor, considering, nodding at the idea of being surrounded by stone. A basement sounded lovely! “Yeah, I guess that does sound like more your speed. Alright, it’s bit of a mess...” She admitted, pulling aside a thick rug in a corner and revealing a doorway built into her floor. “I mean, it’s not dirty or anything-“ She hooked a hoof through a ring and pulled it open, then trotted into the darkness.

I followed Topaz down the first three stairs, and then froze mid-step as I beheld her shrine to Death.

Author's Note:

Hey guys, my current pre-reader is on a bit of a well-deserved vacation, so this chapter / title might undergo a revision in the near future.

Chapter feels a bit short to me, but I felt Idol's introduction to Canterlot warranted a separate chapter.

Questions and concerns are appreciated!

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