• Published 9th Mar 2014
  • 30,842 Views, 5,846 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.

  • ...
50
 5,846
 30,842

PreviousChapters Next
Fall In

Thankfully, as it turned out, Shining was the only one to have attended any sort of pre-training training, which is another pony absurdity. To require education in how to be educated seems complex beyond the point of my ability to understand. If one cannot be educated, how does one educate them in the ability they lack, given that they lack the ability to be educated? But I digress, the concept makes my head hurt.

Shining proved to be very adept at most of the basic drill maneuvers we were taught, and I quickly found myself emulating his example. It was all very simple, it turned out. Walk at a very set pace. Your hooves should fall in unison. Turn on the beat of a command. It was all so very changeling in the action, but so very pony in how they managed it. The idea of standing in formation, ignoring all things around them and actively not working? It was… very strange, and I did not like it.

That there were no less than three commands that amounted to various states of ‘not moving’ from a spot, at least two to enter formations, and one to hold absolutely still, only served to further my confusion. That I could do these things was to be lauded, apparently, and more than one pony was unable to obey these very simple orders once explained. A sergeant gave me a hard push that nearly toppled me, but thankfully I was able to adhere myself to a large stone that I had the luck of standing on, all without moving limbs. I was given a firm nod for my apparent lack of efforts, and they moved on.

The rest of that day was spent focused on ‘drills’ which, again, are also an earthmoving and rock-piercing apparatus, as well as a term for various forms of march or running movement.

We were taken to a small building at the end of the day, told these would be our sleeping chambers for the beginning of training, and ordered to keep the barracks clean. After we had passed our first physical tests and inspections, we would be given more thorough instruction.

After the sergeant left, there was some claims of ‘top bunk’, and a few pegasi scuffled for those few small bed-pairs that were near windows. Shining took the bed nearest the door, and began to collect his gear on the bottom bunk.

“Might not want to be first bunk,” He cautioned. “Everyone says first bunk and last bunk gets the worst of an inspection.”

“Interesting. Would you not prefer the top bunk?”

“Figured you’d called it. Doesn’t really matter to me, actually.”

“If it is all the same, I would prefer the bottom.” It was not that I had any real difficulty with the height, but the idea of being between two beds instead of open to the air thoroughly appealed to me. I wondered if I could arrange something similar at Topaz’s. Obviously I could simply sleep in a cocoon, but for appearance sake that would not do. And here I could not do that at all.

“Oh… really?” Though he tried hard not to sound pleased, I felt that he was. The idea that he had purposefully taken the lower bunk to appease his… shared-bed bunk pony pleased me. This pony would have done very well as a changeling, and seemed to have a good mindset. “Well… thanks Idol. Come on, we start first physicals in the morning. Crack of dawn, you know how it is!” He was positively cheerful at the idea.

I crawled into my bed, and began the process of clearing my mind that usually led to a pleasant rest. I had not been as prepared as I should have been… however, I had also not been less prepared than some of the others. I decided, with some comfort, that I was roughly in the middle. A good place to be. The schedule for the next days had been passed out, and I found it interesting and very much to my liking that we would have plans for almost a month of training even before it began. And so, my training began in earnest.

TUESDAY

Running was a simple task, and though I did not excel at it, nor was I exceptionally winded. Being lighter than the average earth pony seemed in my favor, though I stood no chance against the pegasi, who were also given an ‘air course’ to determine their placement. I learned that this was to be a training exercise completed daily; we would either run or we would do something akin to the ‘push ups’ of the previous day until it was time to enter our first meal of the day. Unicorns were expected to keep up with the earth ponies, which seemed grossly unfair to a number of the others, Shining Armor not included, and one unicorn even argued that ‘no unicorn ever had to run when teleportation was an option’. As I understood it, he was still alternating between ‘running in place’ and ‘push ups’ long after the rest of us took a break. Pegasi would have a more complex rotation, involving the flying exercises.

The rest of the morning consisted of being given the rest of our various gear we would need for training, though to my disappointment this did not include armor.

Shortly before dinner, we received a second physical endurance test that I had not anticipated, and I stood in a line before a large hole cut in the earth and filled with water.

"Okay, first row! Jump in."

And so I went. Soon enough, my hooves touched the bottom of the pool. Resolutely I made my way forward to the opposite wall, ignoring the muffled screaming I heard from above me. Apparently there was another recruit in the process of drowning... I looked around, but could not see anypony else. Oddly, I also found that I could not reach the ladder that stuck in on the surface of the pool, and though I tried to leap to it a few times, I found that I simply could not get a good leap under the press of water. The sides of the pool were also too slick to climb. Confused, I sat down and stared up at the ladder, wondering why that seemed like such a complex problem.

I apparently dozed off while contemplating, as I found myself waking on the surface to a very thorough kiss. Unsure why this was so, but not wanting to seem rude, I responded in kind and found my sergeant coughing and spitting water, rubbing a hoof over his tongue and making displeased sounds. Apparently I was more suited as a passive receiver of such affection. Still, it seemed impolite to bring it up. “Did I pass?” I mumbled, spitting out more water. I found that I did not like ‘swimming’ much.

“Pass?! Colt, you sank like a stone! You… went the designated distance, yes, but you didn’t come back up!”

“...was that required?” I asked, in a moment of dread.

“Not… technically, no.” The drill looked annoyed with himself, but scowled at me. “Sleigh bells in Tartarus, colt, you don’t weigh more than a wet rag. We’re putting you on double rations starting tomorrow until you meet weight. And extra training. Celestia’s beard, you fall out in formation because you’re undernourished I’ll be celebrating my golden years on the sun. But don’t you worry, Lazy, we’ll get you floating.”

WEDNESDAY

"You're kidding me."

"No, sir. He ate six MREs and requested another. Celestia's own truth."

"You're sure they were MREs?"

"Positive."

I stared back and forth between the two officers, who seemed confused for reasons I could not fathom. I had never been fed so thoroughly in my entire life. And it wasn’t nearly as unpleasant as I’d been led to believe.

Shining stared in unabashed awe. “Where? How? Why?”

I wondered if it would be rude to lick my plate clean. With sadness, I decided it would be; Topaz had never approved. “I was hungry. And ordered to eat my fill.”

“When you die, who do we send your body to?” He asked, still stunned.

“Topaz Showers. She lives near the university.”

The others seemed taken aback by this, but there were a few chuckles. “I guess we should have a scientist look at you.”

“Are you going to eat that?”

Even the officers cracked a smile at that. It was disappointing, but I did not receive a seventh MRE. Ah well. Perhaps the order to ‘eat my fill’ was another pony term for ‘eat more than normal’. Still, it was a nice change not to nose about with such small rations.

THURSDAY

“ALRIGHT COLTS AND MARES. LISTEN AND LISTEN GOOD. THIS! BEGINS YOUR COMBAT PLACEMENT TEST. YOU WILL NOT, AND I REPEAT, YOU WILL NOT USE MAGIC OTHER THAN WHEN YOU ARE TOLD. YOU WILL NOT, AND I REPEAT AGAIN, WILL NOT USE THESE SPELLS OUTSIDE OF TRAINING OR THE PRACTICE GROUNDS. STUN SPELLS ARE NOT A JOKE, AND CONCUSSIONS ARE NOT JUST A THING EARTH PONIES GET.”

This training seemed mostly focused on the abilities of individual ponies. Earth ponies were being taught a variety of grappling moves, their enhanced strength considered their means of choice for subduing the unruly or aggressive. Pegasi had their speed capitalized on, and were taught mostly lunging strikes. Unicorns, such as myself, were being given a combination of both, having neither the agility nor the raw strength of the other two kinds of ponies. Anypony found more capable in one area or another would be moved as best suited them, but unicorns had a fourth option they could do in tandem with their other training; because of the tendency for unique abilities to present themselves in a unicorn’s magic, combative magic was a possibility.

Shining Armor, I found, had the impressive talent of making a sturdy dome around himself. More than that, it was capable of withstanding more than the one or two blows that average shield spells could manage, and our Sergeant swiftly determined this was a damned impressive skill, but not likely to end a fight. Another pony had the ability to sharpen things on contact with his horn. Another had the skill to create ‘fireworks’ with her magic, and seemed quite confident this would be very useful, but admitted she had a tendency to set things on fire with it and that maybe it shouldn’t be used too close to ponies. Or the ground. Or fields where embers could land.

It was determined her ability would better serve as a last resort.

The first test we received was of our telekinesis. Several could lift things of far greater weight than themselves, though several were forced to admit that even their telekinesis only allowed for simple things they could just as easily manipulate by hoof. Shining was above average, able to lift me easily, but I found my own ability was disliked.

“The buck are you doing, Lazy? Who taught you how to pick things up like that?” The sergeant snorted, annoyed. “You aren’t wrapping it. You have to wrap it, colt!” He motioned with his hooves as he shouted, like he was cupping something in them and pulling it to his breast.

“It is… how I’ve always done it.” I shrugged, unsure if I could manage the ‘full lift’ that most ponies did.

“Try lifting Shields.” I went to correct him on his misuse of another’s name, but saw Shining shake his head. Nonetheless, I did, and could not quite get a grip on his shield, though I saw him shiver. “Problem, Shields?”

“N… No sir!. It just feels… it feels eerie, sir! Like having claws running over me!”

“That’s because your friend here doesn’t use a full wrap. He talons it. Probably a slow learner, happens from time to time with unicorns who don’t have the strength to spare for a good grip, they learn other ways to do it. AND STOP FEELING YOUR DAMNED SHIELDS. You do that to test them, not all the time. You block that out, Shields, or one good blast of fire will get you to drop it!”

I frowned, experimentally lifting a rock. I supposed he had a point; my magic was more like a talon than a cloud of supportive energy. “Is this a problem?”

“Problem? No. Makes search and rescue operations a bit tricky, but most of the time you’ll have pegasi for that anyways. Means we won’t need to teach you how to do it later, so that’s good. You work on doing it right and we’ll come back to it.”

‘Teaching us later’ was, I found, a reference to one of the two final options for unicorns. Being that most of us were less sturdy than pegasi or earth pony, we had the options of either a magically-enhanced physical ranged style or a purely magical combat style.

Javelins were a preferred ranged weapon for pegasi. Unicorns, on the other hoof, were traditionally the royal archers. As it turned out, so long as a pony could lift about forty pounds with their magic, they can be taught to use a bow. I was able to wield the weapon easily, but found that my ability to target was… well. It was suggested that if they wished to use me as a weapon, they would be best suited by having me aim at the thick of our own lines; I would be more apt to hit the enemy.

The non-equipment assisted version relied on the capability of a unicorn to throw magic about. As stun spells tend to be effective, most ponies simply assume they will be the mainstay of unicorn guards. The truth is, though combat spells are generally quick and easy to cast on a target… many ponies end up simply throwing raw magical force about in the form of telekinetic bursts, which are roughly akin to a hard shove or a long distance punch in most cases. To the surprise of our instructors, I was able to inadvertently destroy one of of the training dummies by blowing a hole through its torso when I was startled during the training exercise.

As it turns out, most ponies lack the capability for ‘damaging’ combat magic. Stunning is one thing, and more than half of unicorns can see it through. Setting another being on fire or putting a hole in it that could kill? There is a far lesser chance of a pony being able to bring themselves to do so. Having a trainee default to it was practically unheard of, and I was deemed ‘a natural’.

There was some argument about this, and it was explained to us that the inability to use combat magic or draw a bow was not considered grounds for expulsion; it did, however, mean that they would be placed into a non-magical class unless they could manage to fire a bow or to cast a stunning spell on a target. Self-defense and the ability to subdue another were requirements, not suggestions, and no guard is to be helpless in a fight, and no unicorn was allowed through with no physical training to go with the magical.

One of the sergeants pointed out that few young ponies had the wherewithal to immediately make a killing strike on instinct, and asked how old I was. I, of course, have no idea.

This is apparently not an acceptable answer.

There was some chatter about this, and as I allegedly ‘had no memory’ before a certain amount of time, it was deemed there was only one option left available to us.

I would have to visit the dentist.

FRIDAY

This was a day devoted to personal training, cleaning the barracks, and preparing for the weekend. As this was our first, most of us would be allowed to return home. I deemed this an odd choice, but Shining saw my confusion and attempted to explain.

“Gotta feed that special talent, right?”

“Pardon?”

“You know. They don’t give us much time to ourselves. Most of us haven’t gone this long without doing something with our special talents. They’ll eventually make us go longer without.”

“Right…?”

“I mean, most ponies don’t even think about it! But Harmony, I put things in bubbles and roll them around from time to time if I get bored. About drove mom insane, me making domes for bowls and stuff. I’d get full, let it go because I lost focus, and boom. Soup all over the table. Dad said it was ‘good practice’.”

“What did your mother say?” The family unit of ponies had begun to fascinate me. I wondered if I would ever meet Topaz’s family. Or Honey’s.

He gave me a sheepish grin. “She agreed and gave me a mop, told me she had plenty of that when she was in.”

“Your mother was in the royal guard?” I found that very interesting. He’d never mentioned it before.

“Not...exactly, and not for very long, said she just got into it for information on one of her books.” He seemed faintly uncomfortable, and I decided not to pry. I did that fairly often, I found, and it seemed to please Shining. It seemed to me that he was very used to answering questions, and would answer even those he did not like. “So... dentist!”

“Dentist.” I agreed.

“How’d that go?”


“WHAT THE BLOODY HELL?! THAT MOLAR CAN’T BE MORE THAN SIX YEARS OLD, I BET MY LIFE ON IT, AND THESE TWO HAVE TO BE AT LEAST TWENTY-SIX, AND THIS ONE IS FIFTEEN, AND THAT’S A BABY TOOTH, A BABY TOOTH, HE CAN’T BE-”

I watched in mute confusion as the pony’s voice trailed off as they continued to haul him off, promising him a nice warm bed, and that overworking himself was terrible, they really shouldn’t treat him like that.


I cautiously ran a tongue over one tooth. I had ensured my shifted shape now covered even my teeth, which was a complicated thing to accomplish and would most likely only be done in emergencies. The second dentist had proclaimed that I was ‘probably’ in my mid to late twenties. “I received a clean bill of health for a pony of my years.”

“Huh. Little old to just be getting into the guard, then. Ha! Knew it.”

“Pardon?”

“You talk like you’re… what, forties? Early fifties?”

“Late. Twenties.” I stated a bit more frostily than intended. I was not entirely sure why I felt offended, but it seemed appropriate.

“You’re kidding, right?”

I tried to glare. I really did. But his amusement was infectious, and I found myself grinning all the same.


SATURDAY

Though Saturday was scheduled to be the beginning of our leave, it started with exercise and inspection. Shining warned me that we would be receiving punishment for failing to upkeep ourselves properly regardless, yet I was still displeased that it was my bed that was determined to be insufficient. Perfection is the goal to be strived for, and once more I redoubled my efforts not to cause trouble for my nest or ‘platoon’ again. Being that this was no less than the fifteenth time in the week that I had been called out as the reason for our extra exercise, I was unsure how much that was.

“Exponential increase. Twice, then four times, then eight, and so forth. I think you’re at like… a hundred thirty thousand? Seventeen times, so yeah.”

Thank you, Shining.”

“No prob. So what are you doing with your weekend?”

I had not considered it, having not suspected I would be returning so soon upon entry. “I will likely find Topaz and tell her how things have gone. I believe she would like to know.”

“Yeah. Yeah that sounds like a real good plan.” He nodded sagely. “Think I’m going to visit the family. Little sister apparently doesn’t like me being gone. You know how it is. Er. Maybe. Do you?”

“I am unaware of any blood relations I may possess.”

“That’s... kind of depressing.”

“Perhaps I did not like them, or they did not like me? That way, forgetting is better.”

“Eesh. If you say so.”

We were trotting towards the wall of the castle, and I heard a… muted explosion, followed by an outcry I was more familiar with. Shining had nearly cut me with his shield, and I eyed the perfect circle cut out of my saddlebag with distaste as the other portion of the fabric drifted lazily down inside. Hopefully I could repair it. “And I believe that is my cue. Farewell, Shining.”

I was correct in my assumption. What looked to be the remains of a tree was standing in a garden, smoke wafting from its charred remains. Topaz was haranguing two ponies who seemed nonplussed by the whole situation, and one who seemed to be smiling quite broadly.

“-And maybe from you, Beam, but Agaric Spackler, I know you know better than to be using high explosives-”

“They’re not technically high explosive, it’s more a matter of rapidly spreading enough low explosive to thoroughly char-”

“Topaz, sweetheart, we’re both entirely too attractive for you to be this angry. Look, we were paid to do the job, we got the job done, the parasites are taken care of.”

“Wane, shut up. I’ll get back to you in a second.”

The second pony cut in. “To be entirely fair, Miss Showers, we believed this tree to be containing both an unwanted grub infestation and a class three fruiting fungus. Time was of the essence if we wanted to save the rest of the garden.”

“Couldn’t you have just cut it down and burned it normally?” She fumed. I was beginning to find myself somewhat used to ‘angry Topaz’. For someone who loved her job as much as she clearly did, it also seemed to upset her immensely from time to time. She was not truly ‘angry’ so much as upset, but she displayed both similarly.

“I suggested that.”

“Thanks Agaric, way to show that team cohesion. Come on, Topaz, nopony got hurt, the bad bugs got dead, good bugs didn’t, and we all get paid. All this stress is not good for you. Tell you what. I know a guy, he’ll turn that frown upside down. Over drinks. My place. I’m the guy.”

I was quite sure I heard Topaz’s teeth gritting even from the distance.

The taller pony cleared his throat. “Wane, I believe we’ve inflicted enough damage on the princess’s garden without this nice mare fitting your head into a knothole. Perhaps we should just go.”

“Alright, alright. Topaz, you know where to find us!” The smiling pony waved good-naturedly to her, and began strolling off with his companions.

“I’ll inform the guard.” She snapped at his back, finally noticing me and beginning her own rapid trot in my direction. I could not help but listen in to the retreating trio with interest. The smiling one had apparently considered this some sort of a contest.

“Ha! Classic Topaz.”

“You know Wane, she really does hate you.” The taller one claimed in a very matter-of-fact way.

“I think I’m wearing her down.”

The other laughed. “Maybe her teeth! You can’t win ‘em all, Wane!”

Topaz finally reached me, her own mumbling under her breath about ‘pest ponies’ and ‘three idiots’ informative but not exceptionally useful to me. She took a deep breath. “How’s training going?”

“I am officially off-duty until the beginning of next week.”

“Oh. I didn’t know it worked like that.” She admitted. “So, uh. How much of that did you hear?”

“I believe I heard you correcting them on their use of high explosives.”

“The morons blew up a tree.” She grumbled. “Wait, let me rephrase that, another tree. Princess Celestia is going to have kittens.”

“The Princess will have juvenile felines?” I asked, surprised once again by the strange habits of ponies.

“What? No. Nevermind. What about you? Are you fitting in? Any problems?”

I allowed myself a smile, telling her of my day. She protested loudly that I had indeed failed to ‘swim’ but I had been told otherwise. Her vast interest in my doings and findings in the guard continued throughout my entire retelling of my week, and by the time we had reached home she admitted that her own fears that I would not like it seemed to have been entirely unfounded. We ate a light meal, I asked of her week, and she told me of the various mishaps that ponies had brought to her attention. Honey Dew, I was warned, had a new variety (Buzzing Volcano Red) that had peppers mixed in and was both sweet and frighteningly hot, that I should stay away from if I disliked that sort of thing. For the most part, we had little of import to say, and yet I found the experience very comfortable.

And so, as I snuggled into my cocoon in my small room in her basement, I began to wonder at what I needed to do with myself. I needed to make this room my own, as she’d explained before, and I needed to be prepared for my next training. For all the strain, all the yelling, the confusion and the noise, it had felt wonderful, and I could not help smiling as I settled down. As Topaz had said before, I was finding that I was, in fact, a lucky bug.

Author's Note:

Tried a little something different with this chapter, hope the jumps don't bother anyone too much. A great deal of military training is, well... incredibly boring and tedious. Idol's just touching down on what he thinks are notable points.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
PreviousChapters Next
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!