• Published 9th Mar 2014
  • 30,842 Views, 5,844 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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Hot Dam

Our escort mission ended up being postponed, to my reluctant relief. Princess Cadance admitted that she was not quite feeling up to trotting around Canterlot, and would prefer a day in instead. I cautiously disagreed with the initial idea that one guard would suffice in that regard, but Shining was able to convince me, with an odd amount of exasperation, that staying within the castle would mean Princess Cadance would have dozens of guards at her side in a moment’s notice. I admitted that Shining was probably the best protector she could probably have, regardless, and took my leave. Why that pleased him so much, I cannot begin to guess; he was performing a duty he had been trained for and would do it well. Otherwise was unthinkable. Besides, I had been the beneficiary of his shields and had found them to be more than satisfactory.

The rest of my training unit had already been dismissed by this time. Apparently our parade formation had been used for the week’s final one. Unfortunately for myself, the armorer was no longer on duty either. I would have to return my gear in the morning to finish the repairs, or likely deal with an ill-fitting suit of armor for the next week, which was absolutely unacceptable. In the meantime, I would simply make minor adjustments to my shell so that it fit more appropriately.

I suppose I could have simply waited for his replacement to arrive in the next hour or so or for him to return from his dinner, but that would be horribly impolite to Topaz. We did, after all, tend to eat the last meal of the day together if I returned from training early enough. She took great enjoyment in my comparisons of life in the Hive to life as a trainee of the royal guard, and I found that I also found pleasure in the retelling of the events. Of course, that required me to arrive relatively soon. The armorer could work on Bold and Wispy’s gear. Shining and I would likely not turn ours in until the following morning.

That brought me to a pause. I had promised not to tell anyone what had happened in Everfree. I considered this as other ponies heading home for the day strolled by, one with a rather irritated grunt at the ‘new guard post’, which I realized was most likely meant as an insult to keep me mobile. It was fair enough, though the concept intrigued me. Was the ‘post’ in guard post meant to signify the order, the position, or simply that the guards themselves would be an immovable object in the way of an invading force? I rather liked that last idea.

I was still considering what information I could relay to Topaz when I approached the door to her house. Not telling her was still an option. The means of dealing with the timberwolf had not even been relayed to Princess Cadance. And that was another issue; she had given me orders to call her ‘Cady’. And Shining had asked me to keep his relationship quiet. That was simple enough, I realized. I would refer to her as Cady to everypony else. This would fulfil the order of calling her by the horribly inappropriate name while not insulting her to her face. And I would tell Topaz much the same as Shining had told Princess Cadance - Cady.

I rapped politely at the door and was startled to find that Topaz had changed her manestyle. And her coat color. And she looked a bit heavier than usual. And I was reasonably sure she hadn't been wearing her glasses, which, while not unheard of, wasn’t common either, though she was squinting at me. And then the door slammed shut. In retrospect, it seemed obvious that it was not Topaz at all. The facial structure was very similar, so it was not a completely foolish mistake.

Still. I trotted out to the mailbox, verifying that it was indeed Topaz’s home. How very odd. There was some clamor from inside, and I could not withstand my curiosity and so neared the door again.

“-your stash, there’s a guardpony at the door! Honestly, Topaz, now is not the time to be coy!”

Stash?! Mom, what the hay are you talking about, I don’t have a-”

There was a loud sound of disbelief. “College has changed over the years.”

“Oh whatever. Wait, guard? Oh Harmony, it’s probably just Idol-”

“Idol?” There was a strikingly ominous silence. “You…. never mentioned any Idol.”

“No, no, I did, I told you I’d taken on a boarder, you know, a friend who needed someplace to stay. Idol Hooves is that friend.”

The was some bit of dialogue I missed, unfortunately, as it had been much more quiet.

“...Mother don’t you dare-”

The door flew open. “Helloooo~! Mr. Hooves! My daughter has told me… well, practically nothing about you, but come in, come in. Topaz and I were just about ready to sit down for dinner.”

I blinked. Then, because it was polite and I did live here, I wiped my hooves on the welcome mat before entering the dragon’s den.

“Viridian Virga, it is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Hooves. You’ll have to forgive me, when Topaz mentioned she had a roommate again, I was assuming a mare.”

“There is nothing to forgive.” I managed. This mare’s emotions were delighted, and I could barely read anything beyond that. I had heard amongst the others that many a pony liked a stallion in uniform, and I still wore mine. I’d found the idea interesting at the time and reasoned that it was because the duty of the guard was to protect Equestria and ensure the rule of law was followed. I decided this mare was likely a firm believer in such an orderly existence, and my opinion of her raised even higher than her status as Topaz’s mother had already placed it. “It is also a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Virga.”

“Please, call me Vivi.”

“Yeah, yeah, everyone’s acquainted now.” Topaz muttered, staring at me. It occurred only moments later that my armor was a mess, and I felt a moment of shame. I had heard a number of the other ponies talk about ‘getting niced up’ to meet the parents of a mare or stallion, and here I was in tarnished, dented armor. “...What in Tartarus happened to you? You look like you were playing hoofball with a team of buffalo.”

I hesitated. “There… were no buffalo involved. Or hoofballs.” I did not think so, at least. I still wasn’t sure what a hoofball was. “We were sent on a training exercise to Everfree forest." There was a moment of silence. When it stretched long, I cleared my throat and began again. “There was an incident with a timberwolf.”

“Wait, a timberwolf?” Topaz managed, aghast.

“...Yes?”

“As in, one of those monsters made of sticks?” Her mother gave me an appraising look. “What happened?”

“We disagreed with its idea of where it belonged in the food chain. It was very emphatic.”

Celestia…” Topaz breathed. “Was anyone hurt?”

“Not in my presence.” I admitted. Wispy and Bold had seemed fine. It had been excessively rude of me not to ask. Though then again, Dank had been dragged to safety by his own timberwolf. I was not sure if that counted.

“Well! It sounds like this is quite the story. I’ll make us some tea and you can tell us all about it. Do you prefer sugar or honey, Mr. Hooves?” Viridian questioned. When I indicated the latter, she smiled. “Good. Honey is better for you. I’ll let you and Mr. Hooves have a minute, dear.” She trotted into the kitchen, beaming. It was a good expression on her.

Topaz’s eyes were closed, and she breathed a few times, heavily. “I’m… I’m sorry about her, she’s… don’t worry about it.”

I nodded, not understanding but accepting anyways. I recalled a bit of advice, that one should compliment a mare’s parents to the mare. Some sort of ritual for good luck, amongst ponies. Shining had supported the idea, and that was enough for me. “She seems very nice. And fine to look at.”

“Yeah, well she means well enough, she’s just-” She coughed suddenly, staring at me with her mouth half-open. Perhaps the compliment was insufficient. “What?!

I panicked a bit. “She has a symmetrical frame and a visually appealing facial structure.”

What?!

“Well…. Yes! You share it as well. You have good cheekbones.”

“My-” She raised a hoof to her face, staring at me. I wondered if I should lower my emotional defenses a bit; perhaps I was misreading the mare. Her face was starting to redden, as it usually did when she was upset.

“Topaz! Where are your teas, what is this junk? Hibiscus? I raised you better than that and you know it!” At that, Topaz bolted off. I’d have to apologize later, I knew. I had no idea how to give a proper compliment. I’d have to ask one of the others for more advice.

I suppose I should have known. Wane had often complimented Topaz to my knowledge, and it only seemed to make her angrier with him. Perhaps he, too, shared my failings.


The rest of the dinner was pleasant, though Topaz showed much more interest in my discovery of parasprites living in Everfree forest, and I was glad that she had apparently decided my poor excuses for compliments had not been too insulting. She suggested the fuzzy insect orbs were likely a prime food source for smaller predators and were likely instrumental in the existence of the much larger ones. Topaz’s mother was kept peppering the conversation with questions I did not quite understand the relevance of.

“So where did you first meet?”

“On the border of Saddle Arabia.” Topaz interjected. “Now, did you see any other insects that could be in the same genus-”

“Ahhh, Saddle Arabia! Lovely country, I’m told. Good-looking stallions, eh, Topaz?”

Mother.”

I nodded, supposing that was true. I was no great judge of appearances, to be fair, but that seemed a reasonable assesment. “There are… plenty of good-looking ponies here, too.”

Topaz put her head in her hooves. “Oh Celestia.” Darn. Another failed compliment.

“What do you think about children, Mr. Hooves?” Topaz’s head jerked from her hooves, to stare at her mother.

“I am rather fond of them. They are a blessing.”

Her mother nodded, giving Topaz a pleased look. Maybe I was getting the hang of this. Though I could not imagine anypony not liking foals.

At the conclusion of our meal, Mrs. Virga claimed it was about time she took to the sky. She admonished a strangely resigned Topaz to come visit her poor parents more often, and told her to feel free to bring me along. Topaz, with a sigh and a promise to do just that, hugged her mother in farewell and saw her to the door.

Oddly, the older mare stopped right around the mailbox, sitting up and making an odd waving motion with both of her forehooves. “Graaaaannnndfooooaaaaals.”

Topaz rolled her eyes, waved a final time, and slammed the door.

“...What was that?”

She cut her eyes at me, and I felt myself retreat a step. “The old witch was trying to curse me. The hay was that!? ‘Fine to look at’!?”

I blinked. “The other guards had much advice for things to do when meeting a mare’s parents. Shining suggested I compliment her.” I had to think for a moment. “...I believe casting curses is unlawful. She should not do that. Is it the casting of a curse, the laying of it, or the attempt the part that is unlawful, or do all three portions warrant punishment?”

She closed her eyes, and began counting something. “Alright. I may have to kill Shining. Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”

It startled me that she would consider murdering one of my few other friends. That seemed a higher crime. “...I… made a good first impression?”

Topaz gave a snort of laughter, then proceeded to scoop a pillow off of the couch and swat at me. “Idol! You can’t just tell a mare that her mother is hot!”

I tilted my head. “...But I made no mention of your mother’s temperature. Was she feeling ill?”

Topaz’s only response was to fling an entire couch cushion at me.


My shell bordered on pristine, save for the healed crack caused by Shining Armor’s fall all those weeks ago. Whatever Princess Cadance had done, it had healed all of my recent injuries to the point where even I could not identify them. This was actually rather strange; normally, small cracks and the like leave noticeable markings until a moult while larger ones would remain part of our shells for the entirety of our lives. That the raw power the princess had poured into me had forestalled a natural biological event seemed very much out of place. I would have to endeavor not to require such things of her in the future.

I explained briefly that I had met ‘Cady’ and that Shining Armor was apparently her coltfriend whilst assisting Topaz with an aquarium of some new species of arachnid with an uneven amount of multicolored eyes. She called them ‘Eyeders’ and claimed they would actually duplicate things they could see, spinning colorful flowers or berries and essentially making images from sticky silk. They would then climb into these lures and wait for butterflies, hummingbirds, mice, or occasionally curious ponies. They were largely harmless, but the webbing was exceptionally sticky and it was very difficult to get the false flowers off of one’s snoot. As her interest was otherwise preoccupied, she only became moderately interested when I explained that Cady did seem very interested in the goings on in Everfree, though out of any concern for others beyond Shining Armor, I could not guess.

“Cadydid, huh. Any knowledge of insects that you could tell?”

“Oh, I’m sure.” The idea that a princess of the realm could be ignorant of any subject was absurd.

“Well, I’d love to meet her sometime. It’d be great to talk shop. Who knows, if she’s in the higher nobility, it might help me get a hoof in the door. Having a good patron lets you do research that requires a bit higher of a budget- oh, colts, one of the Eyeders is copying your face, I can’t have that… Idol, you’re going to have to shoo until they get settled and start making things I can study and show ponies.”

I took my leave, settling down into my cellar to find that Topaz had restocked my supplies of clay. Quite pleased, I set about working it immediately. Unfortunately, one of my smaller chisels had chipped at some point, and I sighed, setting it back down. After a moment’s consideration, I compared the edge of it to my own hoof. Carefully, I began shaping the edge of the hoof to mimic the chisel as I recalled it. A smooth edge. A taper… and a single tooth on the side… yes. Yes, that would work far better than my awkward holding of a chisel in magic or teeth. Why, I could duplicate the chisel with both hooves, even the rear pair, though I could hardly imagine how I would do much of anything like that. A little tweaking and-

I hadn’t made the cup. I had been lost in my experimenting with the new chisel-hooves and had made something else, instead, with a tapered base and grooves all around it. I almost began again, but suddenly, I realized that I actually liked this variant. It wasn’t what I had set out to make, as I usually did, but… It was something new, that I’d never seen before. And… it struck me that I could do more of that. I took in my lump of clay, suddenly realizing how many shapes I could potentially make with it. I shaped a lump into a brick like those I’d seen in several Canterlot buildings. Then several more, and stacked them in various ways. One of the clay structures collapsed, and I realized that this could help me learn about building. I sat back, amazed. I could create things. I’d never truly thought so much about it, even before my expulsion from the hive. I’d been trying to alter something, not create something new.. With renewed vigor, I took to the clay.

By the time I was done, I’d created several cups, bowls that did not look like cups, and a clay flower whose petals only looked a bit like something I’d seen before. I had tried to make a clay pony, but the small one I’d made had looked absolutely nothing like Topaz. I would need to learn to make better tools. In the meantime, I felt remarkably good. I was proud, I realized, and tamped the emotion back down to a more allowable level. Hubris was unbecoming. Besides, I realized with some disappointment, I rarely had the time to sell my wares anymore. This had become a ‘hobby’, which Topaz explained as work one did while not working.

So be it. I would have a hobby.


Unfortunately, I was so involved with my new experiments with clay and Topaz’s delight at her new Eyeders that I quite forgot to bring my new creations to the city kiln before I was required to return to training. Topaz, seeing my distress, offered to cart them to the kiln herself. She actually seemed rather pleased with the idea, as she would otherwise be hauling an empty cart about in the morning.

I personally think her qualms were more due to the fact that she needed mice for the Eyeders, and Topaz appeared to be very disconcerted by the creatures. Ponies had no idea what they were missing out on by not being omnivores.

Shining, Bold, and Wispy were all in hushed conversation when I arrived at the barracks. Upon spotting me, they furtively motioned me to join them.

Wispy started. “Hooves, you still have your armor? Something’s up.”

I blinked, lifting my still battered helmet off. “Of course. I had not given it to the armorer, I’m afraid. I was… distracted, this weekend.”

The pegasus groaned. “Then you don’t even know!” She pointed to the armorer's room where our names were associated with the numbers of our training gear. To my consternation… none of our names were on the list.

I blinked. Then read the list again. “...We do not have gear?” That seemed… inexplicable. I felt myself clutching my helm. Had Princess Cadance seen the truth of my lack of worth? Were the others being punished for not seeing it themselves?

Shining put a hoof on my shoulder. “No, looks like we don’t. Go turn your stuff in. I think the four of us should face whatever this is together.”

“I get into a life or death fight with a pack of rabid trees and lose my armor.” Bold groused. “Colts, Shining, I’m thinking cover-up.”

“The guard doesn’t do that, Bold.”

“Oh, sure, you say that now. But when we’re scrubbing toilets in an outpost in the middle of Diamond Dog territory, we’ll see who’s laughing.”

I frowned. “Why would scrubbing toilets be funny?”

Bold paused, clearly having been ready to go on a rant. “Well. I. I guess I wouldn’t be the one laughing, but somepony will be.”

I pondered that whilst turning in my armor, and even having been prepared, I was distressed when no replacement gear was forthcoming. My ichor seemed to chill as I returned to the others.

Shining was the first to notice my lack of equipment. “No go. Stinks like Tartarus, too. Something is up, but I’ve never heard of them doing anything like this. Lockers were emptied.”

Wispy rolled her eyes. “Oh come on, you two act like this is the end of the world. If this is some blame shifting crap, we’ll bust someone’s head and take it to Celestia herself.”

“Why would we take their head to Celestia?”

Metaphor, it’s a metaphor, damn it. And it’s not their head, it’s the problem, it-”

“But what is meta for?”

“...You’re messing with me.”

“Humor is good for reducing tension.”

“Hooves, you are the weirdest unicorn I’ve ever met, and believe me, you’re all weird.”

“It’s something with the magic being too close to our brains.” Shining confided. “We’re all a little crazy.”

Bold pointed a hoof at him. “I knew it. They all said I was the crazy one, but I knew.”

“We went into Everfree forest and beat the sap out of tree monsters. I think we’re all crazy.” Wispy reminded him, with a bit more cheer.

“Never said they were wrong. Just, you know, wanted to make it clear they’re in good company.”

A voice rang out. “We all laughing?! Got jokes?” We all went to attention, startled by the sudden appearance of our sergeant. “Better. Pretty good mood for a bunch of ponies that aren’t part of my unit anymore.”

Shining blanched. “Sir, wait, what? What’s going on?”

“You’re gone! You’re done! Can’t stay in this barracks anymore!”

“B...but sir!”

“I’ll say it slower! You. Aren’t. My. Trainees. Anymore.”

Wispy tried again this time. “But-”

“Royal Guard doesn’t share barracks with the trainees.”

“Sir?”

“Training’s done. You four are becoming full fledged members by week’s end. Tell your friends and family.”

“...B...but you said we were done!”

“Yeah. Done training. Congratulations.” He grinned broadly, and this time, I felt the truth in the expression. “See? I got jokes too.”

Author's Note:

I almost feel sorry for that title.

Almost.

New art! Idol's Magic by Backlash91 Send them some love, yeah?

Comment if you got 'em! And I'm going to try to get a fresh chapter of 'There's Something About Merry' out soon too.

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