• Published 9th Mar 2014
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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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Spit and Polish

Each weekend that I was home was a chance for relief from the rigors of my false form and an opportunity to flex my wings. Once I completed my training, my duties with the Guard would usually not extend longer than a week, and almost never longer than two unless a war of some sort began or some other emergency required our extended presence. This allowed me to return to Topaz’s home, rest in the coolness of the cellar, and recover my strength for the next portion of my training. We are allowed to stay instead in our training barracks, but as it was only required of us during the training itself, I decided that I owed it to Topaz to continue allowing her to study me, and her home was far more private than the open barracks. I did not think shaping a cocoon in the barracks would be easily hidden.

I used this time in my native changeling form to improve myself. Topaz found a number of books on working clay in the library at the university, and I painstakingly read through them from cover to cover. Herein I found the flaw of the written word; it can describe a thing as it is being done, but knowing how a thing is to be done and doing it properly are unfortunately dissimilar. Nonetheless, as I began learning more as to how these designs were accomplished, I began experimenting on both the clay and the walls of Topaz’s basement. In the process, I also began to expand my rooms, accidentally breaking through the floor to find a small tunnel, reminiscent of our own. Unfortunately, Topaz was apoplectic at my discovery, claiming that I was ‘mining through the walls’ and making some fuss over ‘structural support’, but much of it seemed unreasonable. Her house remained standing, after all. Beyond that, the ‘tunnel’ was one of the abandoned mines under Canterlot, an offshoot of a far larger one that would lead through the mountain. She admitted that it was a poorly kept Canterlot secret that most of the nobility had bolt holes through the mountain for whatever activities they wanted kept clandestine. Telling her that she now had one as well seemed to amuse her, and she told me I would refer to her as Mistress Topaz from that point on to distinguish her ‘new station’.

Mistress Topaz went on to explain that Canterlot had once been well known for supplying a number of metals and unique crystals, and that the tunnels were essentially now a vault in cases they were needed. To my immense surprise, we found one large growth on the wall whose facets reminded me of those the queen had given me.

Our explorations were interrupted by the arrival of Honey, inviting Mistress Topaz and myself out for brunch (a meal which fell between ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’. I entirely approve of this concept). However, upon learning of Mistress Topaz’s new name, she burst into giggles and Topaz turned an alarming shade of red, dragging me aside to explain that the ‘mistress bit’ was a joke and I should keep calling her ‘Topaz’. Why she was so upset by Honey’s enormous grin, I could not begin to guess.

“I’m only saying, I never would have taken you for a guardspony, Idol.” Honey admitted, pouring a dollop of her own honey into her tea and offering the jar to us. Topaz refrained.

“I think it’s working well for him. He likes the structure.”

“And I think we should let Mr. Hooves speak for himself, Topaz.”

“Honey, I did not drive him-”

Reluctantly, I lowered my marmalade sandwich, looking between them. There was an odd tension between them that I could not quite fathom. “But… Topaz is correct. My enlistment in the guard was, in truth, an accident, but I find myself quite fond of it. I… prefer being told what to do.” I shrugged.

Honey tilted her head, giving myself and then Topaz a suspicious look. “...Nothing wrong between you two, then?”

“...What would be wrong?”

“Oh, well, you know, Topaz gets a little possessive and then she gets a little too intense-”

HONEY!”

“Well, you were!”

“It… we… that isn’t what’s going on here!” Topaz was beginning to turn red again. It was a fascinating reaction, though I could not understand the discussion.

“There’s nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t want you chasing the first stallion in-”

“I’m not chasing anyone-”

Ponies were strange, I reaffirmed to myself, returning to the marmalade and emptying the last of Honey’s jar onto my sandwich. Mares were stranger still.


Topaz and Honey seemed to argue through our entire brunch, but I could feel that they were, strangely, enjoying it towards the end. I remained quiet for the most part, enjoying their positive emotions. After the brunch, Honey wished us well and went about her day, giving ‘Mistress Topaz’ another playful elbow before leaving.

Topaz, on the other hand, expressed concern at my eating habits and asked if the Guard had been feeding me properly. I admitted that my physical needs were being well taken care of, and she seemed amused by my hearty recommendations that she try military rations. She was distressed at my admission that my emotional needs were almost completely unmet, but she’d been expecting as much and had come up with plans for when I returned from training.

That evening, I found myself ‘properly groomed for a night on the town’ which did not involve rooftops in any fashion. Topaz made some odd alterations to her face with powders and combed her mane differently. Though these alterations were, in my opinion, pointless and barely noticeable, her emotions, particularly those I had taken to signify 'confidence', were improved dramatically. She seemed... more in some inexplicable way, and though I could not put words to it, I approved of this change. I could find no fault with more Topaz, I decided, and that was all I needed to understand. She appeared radiant to my senses, and I told her so; for some reason she seemed pleased by that.

Her ‘plans’ apparently involved to go see ponies pretending to be other ponies for bits. I… confess I found the idea ridiculous. They had no reason to do what my people did to survive. In truth, I may have found the idea somewhat offensive. The room was crowded, many in similar dress to Topaz and apparently, myself, but all focus was on an uplifted stage towards the front of the room. I settled in beside Topaz to watch, trying to keep most of my objections to myself.

The first act of ‘Mareio and Luigette’ stunned me with how… absurd it was, and the emotions being poured forth, not by the actors, but by those watching. There was no point in becoming involved in the foolish antics and posturing on the stage.

“Topaz,” I began, concerned. “... why do they not just speak to one another, and forget about this… senseless bitterness between family?”

“Shh.” She corrected, a hoof to her lips.

“But much of this seems based on misunderstanding and posturing!” I protested. This time she only held a hoof up, but another pony from behind hushed us. I ignored them, trying again. “If that one would only be faithful to the oaths they have sworn-”

The hiss of another voice behind me interrupted me, and I turned to face them, confused as to why they were interrupting me. The suit clad pony narrowed their eyes at me, and startled, I mirrored their expression. After a moment, their eyes widened, they sank into their chair, and resolutely focused their eyes on the stage. I had no idea what transpired between us, but decided I would keep such observations to myself, and instead focused on the outpouring of emotion from the rest of the audience, allowing myself to be carried along on its currents.

By the final act, I was wretchedly lost in it. Tears streamed down my face, and I neither wanted nor thought myself able to control them.

“Nay, eat not the poisoned mushroom-” I began, and Topaz’s wing muffled the rest of my cry that the lover was not yet dead. It went unheeded, and the deed was completed with not another in the audience that attempted to halt it. I wept profusely as the curtain fell, the inevitability of it drowning me in sorrow I could scarcely comprehend.

Afterwards, when the excesses of emotion from the audience were under control (and Topaz had given me a blanket and salt block), I admitted that I had, perhaps, gotten too involved in the play. But I had to also admit that her idea had been sound and I had been well fed by the performance. A little too well, Topaz pointed out, and I was forced to agree. Coffee and scones did much for my shaking body. The green-clad actress who had consumed the ‘poisoned’ mushroom thanked me heartily, saying that seeing such emotional outbursts was one of the most rewarding parts of her career, to know that she’d made the experience real for somepony. My shame was palpable, but… if such was her duty, then perhaps I had not wasted emotion pointlessly.

Nonetheless, I was glad for us to hurry home, and to swiftly seclude myself in my own lodgings in the basement. Topaz proclaimed with a bit of her own mirth that there was nothing wrong with a stallion being in touch with his feelings, and I walled off the entrance to my room with resin in response. Thinking on this afterwards, I decided it would be better to wall off a small portion of the tunnel below and make it my own that to arbitrarily claim a piece of Topaz’s domain for my own permanent use. Beyond that I would take up less of her own room, I would have a more hidden arrangement that ponies, visitors, and colleagues of Topaz’s would be unlikely to stumble over. Given a few hours, I had crafted a far better nest for myself and a cocoon that would withstand more use than my prior more transient attempts.

My second week of training went much the same as the first had, though the physical aspects of our training were expanded to include such tasks such as ‘rope climbing’ and ‘wall scaling’, both facilitated by binding the wings of our pegasi comrades. These I found more troublesome. Not because I was poorly suited to them, but because instead I was far too skilled. What difficulty is there to be held in clinging to precarious footholds in a large wall when you can simply walk up it? My only option was to pretend that I had the same inabilities as much of the others… but even in that I was unable to resist the barked commands to move faster, and found myself often nearly all the way down before the majority of the others had reached the top.

In this, Shining Armor had true difficulty. It was not that he lacked the ability to climb; if anything, he seemed to grow more unsteady as he rose higher in the air. To make matters worse, the wood of the tower was unusually damp and slick this day; the local pegasi had been delayed in bringing about rain to restore the grass of the training grounds, and had been overzealous in ensuring the area was properly treated the night before. It had been a soggy, miserable day of training by the standards of the others, though I was far less concerned about that. Few things were as comfortable as a good coating of mud on a hot day, and seeing us coated with sweat and dirt always brought good cheer to the drill instructors. The only cheerful part of the day to the others was that our next pass would begin at the cessation of the day’s events. Unfortunately, the additional mud made it difficult for even me to cling to the climbing tower, and I made my way down with far more haste than was seemly. Shining Armor, just cresting the tower, discovered a far faster way down; losing his grip. He scrambled with his magic, his default reaction of a defensive shield doing little more than propelling him away from the wooden construct and neatly severing his climbing rope in two places.

I confess that I was not thinking properly. A good drone knows how to anchor themself, to flex the thorax and legs to catch large heavy objects. It is good to be able to leverage oneself to prevent a room from collapsing. Shining Armor was neither properly rigid nor falling from merely ceiling level when he crashed onto me, splaying both of us in the mud with a burst of agony that very nearly shattered my concentration.

Paying attention was very difficult for the next few minutes. The training instructors rushed about, verifying that we were alright and that no lasting injuries had been received. With effort, I assured them that the mud had broken his fall far more than I had, as was apparently the intent of the large pool of mud at the bottom of the construct, which we had collapsed at the very edge of. Shining was clearly shaken, but was nonetheless loudly grateful at my assistance. A number of the other ponies eyed me differently, seemingly pleased and impressed by my attempt. I rejected the attempt to take me to the medic, claiming I would be fine.

The truth was more frightening. Something was broken, I could feel it, and internally I quailed at one of them discovering it. Thankfully, Shining and I were given early leave to get cleaned up and gather our things. He seemed startled by the concept, and was eyeing everything with a sort of wonder.

“Are you certain you are alright?” I grated, feeling the mismatching of my body and shell driving a wedge of pain into me at every step.

“Heh. Y...yeah. I just… wow. That could have been. I mean. Wow. That was so… dumb!”

“...Pardon?”

“Oh, not you, not you! You were… uh, awesome, I guess, but… wow, I nearly killed myself with a shield. I don’t… I don’t think I ever really realized I could do that.”

“They will not protect you if you fall?”

“Moon and Stars, no! I’d splatter like a bug inside it. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to do a featherfall spell and there’s not enough pegasus in my family that I can fall from a cloud and just sprain something. If I’d hit the ground wrong, that could have been… well... it. The mud might have prevented anything fatal, but a bad break could mean the end of the guard.” I refrained from mentioning that he had nearly splattered a bug. My injury again twinged, and I feared the depth of the damage. “Are… Are you alright? You’re walking funny.”

I frowned. It was true, I realized with distress. I truly was broken. My right hip was jerking slightly with every step, and the pain was most evident at the height of the motion; I could not even turn enough to reach it. The shell of my pony form was trying to match what my body beneath was doing; I did not know what that was yet... only that it was not good. Shining insisted that I see a medic just in case, and I promised I would go the first one I saw, knowing that he would turn me over to them if I did not make the oath.

Naturally, this promise involved not being seen and not seeing one of them. Escaping the castle grounds with a pronounced limp that was causing an increasing amount of pain without being hauled to a medic was a harrowing experience. My earlier experience with the dentist had led Topaz to warn me to try to avoid any medical scan I could unless I was certain my shape would hold up to intense scrutiny. I confess, were it possible, I would have discarded my current form for that of a pegasus, but… without knowing what damage was done, I dared not. Embarrassingly, this led to me taking a long, painful route through Canterlot as I avoided anywhere I thought I would be able to lay eyes upon a medical professional.

Topaz was only just arriving home as I met her, and she immediately took in my haggard expression and the battered look of me before panic set in and she hauled me inside.

“What happened?! Did someone find out, were you caught? Who was it, did they do this to you? I knew this was a bad idea, I just knew, but I can’t believe-”

“Queen save me, Topaz, can you hold?” I begged. My pony shape burned away in a gout of emerald flame, leaving my changeling shell and a bit of baked mud. “I… have not looked. How bad is it?” My nervousness led one wing to buzz. The other only twitched, and did not move further.

“Oh… Oh my.” She tenderly touched the spot on my back. “Definitely cracked your shell here. Is… is this blood?” She rested her hoof on my side, and the sensation of the disconnected plate moving without the benefit of the pony shell very nearly made me scream. “Oh! Oh harmony Idol I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to-” She broke off with horror as I vomited resin onto her clean floor. “Celestia’s beard! Idol, we need to get you to a hospi-” She trailed off as I held the green ooze towards her.

“Cover… cracks. Please.” I hissed weakly, a scooped mass of resin dripping from my outstretched hoof.

Thankfully, she scooped some up in her hoof and began dabbing at the wound without argument. “The shell of your back is almost completely split in half, what happened?”

I collapsed, fear at the new discovery that I could not lift my wings draining my strength. “Shining fell off the tower. I caught him.”

She continued filling in the cracks in my exoskeleton, and the soothing combination of resin and magic began its work. “Caught him? H...Hold still, I don’t think this is right.” I felt a blinding new pain and- oh Queen’s blessings, my right wing fluttered. I was not crippled, I realized with a delighted agony. Something caught and I felt Topaz press a hoof to my wing immediately. “Stop, stop, there’s a little shard missing of the shell on your back. You’re snagged on it.” She freed my wing again and rushed off. Upon returning, she slapped something over the chunk of damaged shell, and the next thing I knew there was something wet being slathered over it, and then blessed cool relief. I looked at her in surprise, a strange brush, a can, and a roll of something beside her. She winced at my confused look. “Uh…. shellac and tape. It was the only thing I could think of.”

“We… could have used my resin.” I offered.

“Oh, is that what that was? I was just thinking that I had some of this, and it’s not toxic, and I’ve used it on my hooves before- nevermind. Are you okay?”

“I... believe so. This is not an exceptionally dire injury, only a very painful one.” I carefully lifted my wings, moving them both cautiously, relieved that my initial fear that they had been destroyed was completely unfounded. Still, the resin and… shellac Topaz had smeared on my wound and damaged shell would need to dry. Fanning my wings would aid in that regard, and I did so carefully, but the pain was already back to a tolerable level.. “I… believe this minor damage will be completely removed by next molt.”

“Good.” Topaz stated with a bit more vehemence than I’d expected. “No offense, Idol, but I don’t think I’m cut out for that.” She began pacing a small line, the combination of ichor and resin leaving a trail of prints behind her.

“How so?” Personally, I felt she had done a fine job.

“If I were meant to be a doctor I’d have a doctoring cutie mark! I’m an entomologist, not… not a bug doctor, I mean, I’m working on a doctorate but that’s not the same thing, I can’t treat ponies- or bugponies! Breezies or changelings! What if I’d made it worse?!”

“Topaz.” I stated firmly, sitting up and putting a hoof to her shoulder to halt her pacing and her tirade. “I have no alternatives. And I have utmost faith in both you and your abilities.”

“...Idol… alright, alright.” She waved a hoof at me. “But no more injuries without checking with me first.”

“I shall endeavor to obey your commands.” I swore with a small smile, and we both laughed as relief swept over us.

After a minute of awkward silence, Topaz sighed. “You can’t put your hoof down without hurting yourself, can you?” I gave her a weak shrug and nodded as she groaned. “I could have gotten another blood sample, I could have had a little chunk of your exoskeleton, what was I thinking, honestly, you know I need these things, you should have reminded me-”

I could not begin to understand the maelstrom of emotions battering at my walls at this point, but thinking back to the empty shell I had once created? I would always prefer this confusing, enigmatic Topaz, strange though she was.

Author's Note:

Hope you're all still enjoying these chapters, and I hope you've all been well.

Ask blog is still up, and now that the chapter is finished I'm going to spend a bit more focus on it. Really sorry I haven't answered any questions lately.

And a buddy of mine made this, I thought it was awesome!

The Changeling of the Guard Badge!

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