• 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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Keep It Simple, Stupid

Freshly purged of the evils of potential alcoholism, we were propped up and given a few minutes to cleanse ourselves. From there, we received a half cup of coffee, all the orange juice we could safely handle, and a small piece of bark from one of the willow trees in the royal garden - which was also part of this tradition of the High and Low Crawl. The bark was bitter, unpleasant, and… surprisingly effective at making us willing to continue living. Or perhaps it was some combination of all of the aforementioned things.

Regardless, there was a small breakfast to be had with our kith and kin, and it would not do to keep them waiting much longer. Besides, I could recall eating very little during our exploration of the various Canterlot pubs, and I, for one, was ravenous.

Shining Armor’s parents were there, obviously, and Topaz was my only attendee. Cadance made herself seen from the ramparts, but her strange arrangement with Shining kept her from making a truly ‘public’ appearance. Nonetheless, the love she sent the way of the blue-maned unicorn was a truly welcome perk, even if I was amazed that none other had been smothered in the sheer breadth of it.

Shining’s parents apparently knew much of me, and seemed approving in general. Shining made a strange statement about me being willing to jump off a bridge if ordered, and I corrected him that if there was just cause to jump off a bridge, anypony would. He argued that if I could find one, he’d join me.

Shining is ever a good friend and worthy soldier. Shining’s mother took a picture of us as ‘Battle Buddies’. I think it’s an old term.

Topaz, to my surprise, was not entirely unknown to the other ponies. Her expertise with insects had made her a somewhat common alternative to traditional pest ponies amongst the palace gardeners; very recently she’d arranged for a combination of lacewings and dragonflies to be delivered to the garden and often provided support for one of Honeydew’s best behaved beehives, also located in the garden and routinely visited.

Those she did not know, she introduced herself to with aplomb that I found admirable. Still, I felt it appropriate to introduce her to my companions personally, and she took to Wispy rather well.

“So how do you know Idol?”

“Oh, well… technically I suppose I’m his landlady. I’m not sure how much he’s told you-” She offered cautiously, getting a measure for the other pegasus mare.

“Found wandering the desert in Saddle Arabian border, yeah, yeah, but how did you meet him?”

“Oh, well. I, um… met him just this side of the badlands and… well you know how it goes, he saved my life, he didn’t have anywhere to go-” She rolled her wings in a self-conscious shrug. “Couldn’t just leave him where he was.”

“No memories of his past, yeah, I get you…” The stormy mare gave me an appraising look while Topaz cleared her throat and rubbed the side of her chin with a hoof. I felt a moment of inexplicable dread, and was relieved when Bold ambled up.

“Ladies, Idol, how’s it going? Who’s your friend?”

“Ah, Bold Bigflank, this is Topaz Showers. She studies entomology.”

"Oh. So, you’d be in charge of designing those? Seems like they’re either heavy and a pain to carry or they're thin and don't keep out the rain or bugs at all."

“I… what?”

“You… study… tents, right?”

“En-to-mology.” She enunciated carefully. “The study of insects.” She frowned, looking him up and down and tilting her head, biting her lip in thought,. “...Haven’t we met before? You look familiar.”

“I don’t think so. Not too well known in Canterlot.”

“No, no, I’m sure of it. Bouncer?” She adjusted her glasses, peering up at him.

Bold’s good natured snort clearly proved that to be a poor guess, but his voice seemed oddly tense. “No, no, I don’t think we’ve met.”

“One of the night spots, maybe? I mean, there’s the Night Mares-”

“No, no, I don’t think so.”

“Maybe somewhere with more dan…cing…” She stared. Bold’s eyes grew wide. “You were a To-” Her own eyes darted to myself and Wispy. “-Top Hat’s waiter! That fancy bar, the one that shut down a year or two back.”

The relief in Bold’s eyes made me think that Topaz might be lying. How very unlike her.

Here Wispy’s interest piqued. “You worked in a bar?”

“It was a club, not a bar.” He stated stoutly. That… wasn’t precisely a lie, I thought, but Topaz nodded quickly, as if to affirm the inaccuracy. “Wasn’t a bartender, just… part of the wait staff.”

“Right, right. Like I said. Fancy. They wore little bow ties.” Here Bold glared at her.

“That… sounds kind of adorable.” Wispy admitted. “Place sounds fun.” She looked up at Bold, a hint of a grin appearing on her face. I tried to imagine Bold in a tie, and found myself quite incapable. That was probably for the best, I decided. I did not need that sort of trauma.

“Oh, yeah. I hit it up every so often. Too bad it closed.” She cleared her throat, and my concern at her dishonesty morphed into one over whatever was wrong with her respiratory system. Perhaps she could explain the purpose of cough drops.

A pair of stallions ambled out of the crowd, and I was stunned at their similarities to Bold. Topaz clearly was as well, because her mouth fell open. “BOOOOOLD BIGFLANK!” The one called, obviously delighted. The most notable difference, I decided, was that this one had a blonde mane of length and luster that I doubted any changeling could replicate properly. “You are looking well, friend!” He announced, clapping a hoof to his shoulder before hauling Bold into a firm embrace.

Bold looked almost as startled as Topaz, truthfully. “Andesite Rock, Hard Place, the tartarus are the two of you doing here?” I wasn’t sure which of the two went by which name. Truthfully, I doubt anyone present could; they seemed equally suited to either.

“Ahhh, we heard you were joining guard, and wanted to show our support. The others, they could no make it. But we all chipped in, and got you a little something to remind you of your roots. And you can show them how a uniform really looks.” The second one, darker haired and a bit stouter, dug into a saddlebag and produced a long thin box.

“Guys, that better not be a watch, you can’t-” When the box opened, it was… well, it looked to be a small gold ribbon on white fabric. I had to admit, it would match our armor magnificently, but hardly uniform. “Aw, guys… these were only for the ones who-”

“And this one is for you. You make us proud.” The other stallion grunted. “Is very impressive.” He looked at the rest of us, then smiled. “But you are not the only one from the old days. Miss Showers, it is good to see you.” This one didn’t enunciate well. I disliked his inattention to his ‘r’s.

Topaz let out a little squeak. Her respiratory issues would need immediate attention, I decided.

I turned to face her. “Topaz, are you well?” And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Wispy gleaming grin as the golden mare turned to meet me head on… right before Wispy’s flank caught hers, and Topaz’s snout was pushed into mine.

The flow of emotion began immediately, and more intensely than any I had ever felt outside of Cadance. It was too much, one moment inscrutable, the next there was confusion, and fear, and there was- gone, in an instant, Topaz taking a shocked step back, her cheeks now red as apples.

“Topaz… I…” I tried to form words. Order, had I done it again?

“I… I’ll be right back!” She managed, fleeing to the buffet. I tried to process what I’d managed… the quantity of emotion transferred had not been great. It had, however, been faster than I’d expected anything to be, and had been… direct.

The anger I currently felt, I decided, was wholly my own. “Wispy!”

The mare shook her head. “I set you up and that’s all you give us? That’s a five, Hooves.”

“F- what?” My anger was deflating into confusion, which I wasn’t so certain belonged to me.

Bold took a protective step closer. “Come on, Wisps, that’s at least a seven. Looked like she was struck by lightning.”

“Six maybe, seven absolute tops. She’s a pegasus, anything higher than a seven would cause localized weather effects.”

What in Order are the two of you talking about!?”

Wispy shrugged. “Not a great kiss, Iddy. I kind’ve expected better from you.”

“B-Better…?” Why in the Queen’s name would she expect that?

“Oh yeah. She’s got a cloud with your name in it. I can tell. Honestly, how can’t you? You’re usually better at reading ponies.”

“What does that even mean?!” I burst, throwing my hooves in the air. Topaz owned no clouds.

“Colts, I’ve never seen you this flustered. You really like her, don’t you?”

I glared at them both. “No. Topaz deserves better than that.” I stormed off, intent on joining her, regardless of understanding what was going on. Confusion wafted from both of them, and I did not care.

I was still trying to process the rest of the stolen emotions as I went to join Topaz at the food. She was currently stacking strawberries on a plate, and I noted that odd little detail for further consideration.

Lamely, I began “I… am…”

“Soooo sorry.” Topaz finished. “Look, I don’t know what happened, I wasn’t thinking… I guess I tripped…I.. .sorry. It’s… it’s been a while.”

“Been a while for wha- no, that does not matter. Are you well? I did not mean to… take… from you.” I looked around, hoping nobody was paying us too much attention. Wispy and Bold were, but they were far enough away that I doubted it mattered.

“What? No, I’m fine. You looked as though you were going to be sick.”

“I had been… distracted. All I knew was that I was draining you, and I…” I tried to recall the order of events, precisely. Had the flow cut off and then she stepped away, or had she stepped away, and thus the flow was cut off? My attention had been only on the sensation…I could not recall.

“Well… I think I’m fine?” She sounded uncertain. “How do I know if I’m not?”

“I don’t think you’d care.” I admitted slowly, considering. How does one recognize that one no longer has emotion? “You likely wouldn’t have left?”

“Oh. Well, I thought. Well, it doesn’t matter what I thought.” She raised a hoof to her muzzle, and I found myself watching her mouth. Odd. Inappropriate, I decided. “I mean. It’s just… yeah, been a while.” She gave a little laugh. “I think… I think I need to start dating again.”

Dating. The pony means of finding a mate. I found I didn’t like it. It was, however of benefit to Equestria. Of benefit to Topaz. “Perhaps that would be wise.” I agreed, a strange clench to my jaw.

She seemed to look at me for a long time. “...Yeah.” She cleared her throat and drained one of the cups. “Anyways! How does it feel? Being a guard, finally?”

“Sobering.” I stated, as she pulled a face. “Truthfully. It is somewhat amazing that I am to be entrusted with the defense of the realm.”

“Part of it.” She quickly corrected. “You’re only responsible for your part in it. Take too much responsibility and you burn out. I mean, you’re not one of the ponies whose calling is to be a soldier.”

That was true enough; less than one in a thousand apparently had marks with direct combat applications, but that was the case unless the ponies were at war, according to military history lectures. “I will take as much responsibility as I am ordered to.”

“And I’ll order you to take it easy from time to time. So, did your… other friend make it?”

“I do not realize I was allowed to offer multiple invitations. Or that I could invite Honey Dew.”

“She’s traveling to Ponyville to try selling the Apple family a hive or two anyways. But you know the Apples, everything has to happen naturally. But that’s not who I meant.”

“...Shining is already here.”

“No, Idol, your other other friend.”

I considered, blankly. “Oh! Heyyu. As I said, I did not think to offer the invitation to others.”

“Maybe once they let you out, we could meet him? Celebrate a bit on our own terms?”

Topaz’s ploy was obvious, but I could not help but be amused by it. And my relief at her well-being was such that I could deny her nothing. “I believe we could make the time.” I cannot say why her trotting in place pleased me so.

Heyyu was gone.

At first, I was confused. Surely the front desk was misinformed. But upon inspection of their room, I found it to be so. In the meantime, Topaz had accepted what Heyyu had left behind from the rather confused hotel staff; an envelope and all of the crystals the Queen had given to me. Within the envelope was a section of the previous day’s ‘Help Wanted’ ads and, unfortunately, most of them crossed off. Heyyu had been busy. Of those left, I noted that all of them were under the subheading ‘Out of Town’. One was marked in red.







I sat, stunned by the implication. Heyyu was gone. And, unless Topaz was horrifically mistaken, by train. There was no other explanation. No farewells. No wishing of luck. These were pony traditions, true.

But the logic still felt hollow. I had failed my fellow changeling, and they had left the city with no more than that. I had even managed to disappoint Topaz, even if she gave no outward sign.

I truly hoped Heyyu would find their way in Equestria. Perhaps I had been too focused on my own? I wondered if they would even retain the name or form I knew them by. Impossible to know. Impossible to find out, short of traveling to this… Dodge Junction, and I now had other responsibilities; I could not simply leave them. Dereliction of duty was one of the most dishonorable things a guard could do, and I couldn’t, even if I truly wanted to.

I was lost in the quagmire of my thoughts until we returned home. It had been a thoroughly intense day, I decided. Intense, confusing, tiring. I would do better, I decided.

I would not fail another of my kind again.

I climbed into my cocoon restlessly, that night. I rubbed my nose, where Topaz’s own had made contact. It settled me somewhat, but troubled me in new ways.

Still. The memory was an oddly pleasant one, and through its soothing I fell into a slumber to await the dawn of a changed day.

Author's Note:

Whew, finally a bit of time to do some writing! I know this one took forever and a half, but I think it turned out pretty good.

And how about that changeling ep?

New art of Topaz Showers by Rosewend

As always, there's The Idol Hooves Ask Blog

If anyone needs me, I'll be in my bunker.

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