• Published 9th Mar 2014
  • 35,137 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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On the Rocks

Leaving Princess Cadance in a bar was unthinkable. In truth, leaving her unescorted bordered on treasonous, but… her need to see Shining Armor was plain even as she adhered to this mad ‘plan’ of his. I found myself annoyed with him for putting his princess in such a position, for I could see no greater good in his attempts to ‘earn his position’. Princess Celestia could give him any position she chose and the ponies would respect it. It would be absurd otherwise.

My own soured feelings were somewhat muted as he checked hopefully for any missives at the quartermaster. The quartermaster informed him, in no uncertain terms, that if he asked again he would be put to work peeling onions until his eyes fell out and then no letter would do him any good. It was only through Shining’s own sheepishness that I was able to contain my urge to be quite cross. Being one of the few who were aware of whom would be sending Shining Armor a message, I found that these efforts to maintain secrecy in their relationship seemed to be more stressful to both of them.

Finding Princess Cadance in our shared chambers, however, drastically increased my stress. Especially with her languishing on my cot. Shining only blinked, staring at ‘Emerald Glen’. Then he looked to me. “Damn, you do make an impression. Should uh… should I go?”

I sputtered. “Why on Equestria would you go?”

Shining’s face reddened. “You know. So you can… I mean, you invited a mare back, I get it but I’m not going to stay-”

I closed my eyes and let a slow breath through my nostrils. Topaz did this often and I found it fitting for the situation. “Sir, while I appreciate what I can only assume was intended as a compliment… I am not the one she is here for.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Idol, that’s… that’s really cool of you and all, but that is completely not okay. I thought you understood-” He began trying to rather nervously push past me.

‘Emerald Glen’ rolled her eyes and dropped her disguise, clearing her throat.

Shining turned, got a glimpse of his beloved, and did something I completely did not expect.

That being, shriek like a frightened nymph and attempt to climb over my face. Neither of which made this situation better. Also he made it rather difficult to breathe, clinging to me like that. Perhaps this was another pony thing.


Cadance became Emerald Glen again. Shining stared. She turned back into herself. Shining’s grip loosened as his mouth fell open. Air filled my lungs, and speech returned to me. “Sir. If you please?”

“Wha….what’s going on? Cady? Wha… you’re supposed to be in Canterlot! Why are you on Idol’s bed?!”

She blinked, looking from one identical bunk to the other, cheeks coloring, before she threw caution to the wind, smoke in her voice. Raw emotion poured off of the pony princess as she slipped off the shoddy bed that had never been intended for such grandeur. “Why Shiny, I just thought that I’d come see you in your new armor up close.” She circled him even as he still clung to me. “And I have to admit.... Very, very nice.” Shining’s short tail curled slightly as if to cover him, and she burst into giggles. “Oh come on Shiny. I’m only kidding. Not about the nice part, I’m definitely liking that, but is it really that much that I came to see you? I’m just checking on a few things in Manehattan for Auntie Tia when she shows up in a few days. She has a meeting with the mayor. Tax stuff.” She waved a hoof dismissively.

“But… you should have guards!”

“Thank you, sir.” I sighed, relieved. Somepony had to say it.

“So I snuck out. That just makes it fun~!”

“If you will both excuse me…?” I managed, successfully extricating myself from Shining, though getting out from between the two was strangely more more complicated, as they seemed to circle me. I did not need to be between the two of them to draw in the love that was in the air, after all.

Shining was… surprisingly terrified. He’d faced the timberwolf with more certainty. What was this all about? Cadance was not, to my knowledge, a very large predator… had I misjudged her somehow?

Suddenly, he blurted “CHAPERONE!” and the two of us stared at him, uncomprehending.


“Idol! You need to stay.” I was quite sure that was incorrect, but the desperation in his voice gave me pause.

I cocked my head, hoping he would elaborate, though nothing was immediately forthcoming. The princess did not seem pleased by this, but… “...I do?”

“Of course! We’re an unmarried couple. In a bedroom. Cady has her reputation to worry about, can you imagine what ponies would say?”

“...It is not a bedroom. It is our quarters.” I wasn’t entirely sure what I was arguing about, but the princess’s ire was slowly becoming begrudging disappointment. Better, but still dangerous.

“Right, and you know that and I know that and she knows that but they don’t know that, and that’s why they’ll talk about it!”

“Our… quarters?” Were they truly that far below standard? For a princess, certainly, but with a little bleach… some wax… maybe ripping the walls out and replacing them with marble...the candleholders were made mostly of tin, I think, that was embarrassing…

“I believe he means ‘us’, Mr. Hooves.” Cadance admitted. “Our relationship is still relatively unknown outside of our old school friends. It was never really newsworthy, as I’m not a real princess-”

“Are too.” Shining countered, seeming to finally be calming down. “And it’d be a scandal if word got out that you were found in this situation. Without someone to verify that it’s absolutely innocent. Which is Idol.”

“Me?” I frowned. “Why would my word be required to validate the princess?”

“It… just would?”

I glared at him, not because I disagreed but because I believed somepony needed to be glared at. That had made about as much sense as anything else ponies did. “So what… duties do I have as a chaperone?”

Shining’s relief was palpable. “Just make sure we don’t do anything wrong. And vouch for us if we get caught.”

Of course. I was to judge their private interaction for propriety. Obviously I knew what those rules were. Ponies are crazy. “I… shall endeavor to do so.”

Apparently a chaperone’s main duty was to watch-but-don’t-watch ponies cuddle and it is a very odd experience. Cadance had little enough time to spare, and Shining’s armor was still to be polished for the next day, so they mostly discussed their day while working on whatever tasks they could. Albeit with as much physical contact between as was deemed appropriate by myself.

I figured they’d stop before it reached anything untoward. I was still uncertain on this whole business. Perhaps they were making sport of me. I’d verify with Topaz. And Cadance admitted, she might not be able to steal the time to do this again. Though filling, this was all rather boring. I do confess, her giggles at Shining’s retelling of my ‘Justice Bellyflop’ were rather charming, and I was beginning to enjoy these ‘war stories’ and how there was an element of truth to them with padding that both parties were well aware of. Though I had no idea what they meant when they mentioned a strange nearly-solid streak of rainbow in the sky that had passed over the city. I had apparently missed it, though I doubted it could have been anything important.

Two days of training later, I had my response from Topaz, and a letter from the Sparkle family besides, to be delivered to my roommate.

Obviously, Idol, if your friend is asking you to be a chaperone with a mare he really likes, he’s asking you to do a bad job.

I stared at the missive. Do a bad job. On purpose. What.

Now, I know that sounds weird, but hear me out. The two of them want some alone time, but her parents are probably real suspicious types. Believe me, I know the sort, and you’re really just providing a buffer for their virtue. Gotta go through you before they can be accused of anything.

But the point is, they don’t want you watching them all the time. Didn’t you say his marefriend dragged him into a closet once? It’s like that, only less crowded. Maybe. So, what you do is you wander off when you’re chaperoning and give them benefit of the doubt. Easy, right? He just can’t ask you not to do a good job. Plausible deniability.

Anyways, I can’t believe you made your first arrest! I hope they throw the book at her.

That seemed excessively violent for stolen property. And I think it would be deemed assault, after she had already been arrested. I would have to check the law again.

Now don’t waste any more bits on dragonfire if you can help it. I’ll see you when you get back. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, and go see some of the Manehattan night life! The clubs are amazing.

Carefully re-sealing the scroll and tucking it into a saddlebag, I made a vow to do just that. Topaz’s advice had never been wrong before, but… her suggestion to do a poor job as a chaperone? Could that have been what Shining actually wanted of me? As for not doing anything Topaz wouldn’t do… well. I’d never seen her do anything she wouldn’t do. So that seemed… vast? Perhaps I was mistaken. She had also not brought up the topic of a gift, which was code in this strange way of not asking for gifts, meaning that she expected one to be grand indeed. I was beginning to grow concerned; I had never purchased a gift before. Perhaps I would enlist Shining’s aid in this.

Shining was delighted to receive his letter, cheerfully informing me upon opening it that the little smarty pants had gotten her cutie mark during her entry examination for Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns; he’d had ten bits riding with his father that she’d get it dealing with something book-related and he was pretty sure a cutie mark in ‘magic’ counted. She’d even done well enough to warrant being made Celestia’s protege, the little showoff. Unfortunately, Shining was rendered dumbstruck by the next revelations, and it took several attempts to draw him out, finally resorting to mimicking the princess’s voice, calling his name. At his start, I cleared my throat. “Shining, what news from home?”

“...I have a little brother.” Shining stated, sounding mystified.

“...Yes, Shining, you have mentioned your younger sibling.”

“No, I had a sister but now I have a little brother.”

I frowned, tilting my head. “I did not know that was possible.”

No, you… I have a little brother too now!” He levitated a photograph over in front of my face. I stared a long moment, the small purple pony one I had seen before, but maybe...

I hesitated, not sure where to begin. “Shining Armor. That is a dragon hatchling. I have met your parents. That hatchling is exceedingly unlikely to be related to you. Not that I judge your parents external relations. They seem to be very nice ponies, but perhaps some… education on reproduction is in order.”

Shining turned the photo back around. “She hatched him during her test. And… he doesn’t really have anywhere to go. Dragons need magic to hatch, and… that makes us almost family to the little guy.”

That was plausible, I supposed… “But that does not make you siblings.”

“It does now. Mom and dad just adopted him. Said it was the easiest way to make sure he always knew where he stands with us. I… have a little brother.”

“Who is a dragon.”

“I have a dragon for a little brother. That… is kind of awesome, isn’t it…?”

“I… suppose?”

“I get to teach him… like, bro codes, and all kinds of things, and knight stuff and-” he stopped, looking stricken. “Can I teach a dragon knight stuff? Is that okay? That’s not… y’know, specist or anything, is it? I mean… knights fight dragons.”

I… thought this was a reference to their Ooogers and Owl-blats game, and I searched my little knowledge on the topic. “Perhaps knights fight evil dragons?”

He brightened, scribbling something on the corners of his letter. “Hey, that works!” He scrunched his nose. “You don’t think I have to teach him to breathe fire, do you?”

“Do you breathe fire, Shining Armor?”

“Well, no.”

“Then I would presume not.”

“Still… hey, this calls for a celebration!”

Oh Order no, not more liquor. “Perhaps… you should share this good fortune with the Princess?” I offered, hopefully.

The alabaster stallion brightened still further. “Hey, that’s a great idea. Cady’s gonna love hearing about this. She’s staying in the Mareytrott on Bridleway until Princess Celestia gets here, I bet she doesn’t even know yet.”

Shining and Cadance were so delighted by the news that Twilight was going to be Princess Celestia’s personal student, I do not think either of them truly noticed that I did not return after excusing myself. Truthfully, I had little concerns; Shining Armor was already trained to defend the Princess’s honor, I could not imagine he would have any significant difficulty with her virtue.

Finding a club was not exceptionally difficult. For a city that prides itself on never sleeping, there are a fair number of businesses that at least rest their eyes for a few hours. As for the club itself… I had not expected pandemonium. There was the same charge in the air as I had felt before my first meeting with Celestia, though less focused.

And there was far more… gyration. Ponies bounded over cut tiles on the floor with a spherical ball of mirrors above casting strange light and shadow over the room, and I found myself mesmerized. I had no exceptional urge to join in this particular frivolity, but I could see that many of these moves were practiced. It was something akin to our own drill and ceremony, though… I believe this was being done for simple enjoyment, the complexity of motion apparently a matter of pride. However, it was such an outpouring of… raw emotion that I was beginning to feel uncomfortable, as though I were witnessing something that should have been private.

I watched for perhaps an hour before I became vaguely aware of another presence off to my side.

“Hey.” The figure stated. I noted a number of mares behind her seemed to be cheering her on.

“Hello. How may I be of assistance?” Then realized I was not wearing my armor, and I was unlikely to have been recognized as a guard. Still… if duty called, I was required to answer it regardless of preparation.

“Do you want to dance?”

I hesitated. “No,” I offered truthfully. “I do not know how.”

“Oh. I don’t know how either. My friends were insistent that I should ask you. It was a foolish thing to do.” I couldn’t help but marvel at this pony’s control. Everything felt so… wonderfully neutral. Was this a changeling infiltrator at work? I had to admit, I was fascinated and more than a little impressed.

“I see.” I considered. “Would you like to stand here and watch the others dance with me?”

A delicate eyebrow raised. “I would.”

And so we did.

“...Was that supposed to look like a seizure?” I questioned of one very strange set of motions.

“I think they were trying something new. If this floor wasn’t made of polished travertine he would have damaged something.” She said disapprovingly.

“It’s not marble?” I asked, surprised.

“Marble is too expensive and soft. Granite would be better, but it’s harder to polish.”

“I have always preferred granite.” I admitted. “It holds up more securely.”

“Ah. You’re a miner?”

“At one point.” I acknowledged. “Though I recall little of that time. I would like to try my hoof at construction at some point. Please, go on.”

She gave a slow, deliberate blink. “I’m not boring you?”

“The pursuit of knowledge is rarely boring.”

The corners of her mouth quirked upwards slightly. “What do you know about andesite?”

“More soon, I hope. Is it comparable?”

The pony dancing was soon forgotten amongst scholarly discussion, or at least listening on my part. Topaz often talked at length about her studies, and there was something charming about seeing her lost in a topic that I had no real knowledge of. This mare shared that trait.

“And that’s how the crystalline structure of mythril is comparable to that of diamond.”

I stared, dumbfounded. “I was unaware.” We stopped, the entrance to her apartment having been reached. We had been ejected from the club due to ‘closing time’ and it had seemed a shame to leave the conversation incomplete… so we simply opted to walk together. And it was polite to escort a mare to her domicile, as I understood it.

“This was… enjoyable.” She admitted, seeming somewhat surprised. “I only came because my friends insisted.”

“It was a rather pleasant evening. I was not sure I would approve of the club myself.”

She stared for a long moment. Then she tilted her head slightly. “Would you like to come in for a drink?”

I considered my options. Then nodded, firmly. “That would be wonderful.”

Maud Pie makes fantastic coffee. I do not think words do it justice. As she explained it, the only way to make good coffee was with mortar and pestle, and you had to use real stone. Ceramic was alright. Wood was pitiful and would be too easily damaged, and grinding coffee with metal? You might as well drink mud.

I had been startled when she showed me a picture of her family. I had been thoroughly convinced this was a changeling infiltrator earlier, but… no, it seemed that her neutrality was carefully cultivated. From the family photograph, she seemed mostly alone in that regard, and one of her sisters was very… pink. I doubted I had ever seen a pony quite so pink as Pinkie Pie, and in that regard her name was exceptionally fitting.

“-And that’s Limestone guarding Holder’s Boulder.” She finished, with another small upturn of her lips. “She’s always been a little overprotective of it, but it keeps the farm safe.”

“...And you grow stone?” I asked again, still incredulous.

“The stones gather minerals from the soil as we roll them around; each kind of rock draws more like it. So we make small rocks into bigger rocks of the same sort.” Maud explained. “Holder’s Boulder is special; it’s perfect. No imperfections. No flaws. Hard. It’s almost family.”

“But… could stone not be quarried…?” I was sure that this was a thing ponies did.

“You could. But you’ll never get traditionally quarried stone in the same quality as a Pie family stone. We just can’t produce as much by comparison. That’s one of the reasons I’m working on my rocktorate. If I can figure out the exact mechanics of how we get rolled stone to work, we might be able to expand.”

I nodded slowly, considering. “I can see potential in it, certainly. A house chiseled from a single stone, placed on top of a mountain, as if it were part of the very rock itself. An amazing view and as secure as stone can be.”

Maud’s eyes widened slightly as she contemplated the prospect. “...I have never before considered that. But it is now exactly what I want. Not made of stones, made of one stone. Carefully done with the proper material, you could carve everything out, polish it perfectly, but it would be a masterpiece. A culmination of a life’s experience.” There was a fervor in her eyes. “...I’ll do it.” She drew a piece of paper from a saddlebag and began sketching. “Something like this…”

I leaned forward for a better view, but as soon as my mane brushed hers I felt a sharp pain on the back of my head, and a small rock clattered to the table. “...Where did that come from?”

Maud’s eyes widened, and she looked up so suddenly that her muzzle nearly struck my own. “I’m sorry. Boulder is usually better behaved. I don’t know what’s gotten into him.”

I peered at the round stone, confused. It… could have fallen from a shelf, I supposed… but how it fell on me I could not begin to guess. Perhaps Maud’s apartment had shifted somehow. More concerning, however, it drew my attention to the window, where the horizon was just starting to shift from starry black to orange. I had duties to attend soon, much though I had enjoyed this meeting.

“I’m afraid I have to be going. Perhaps we can meet again before I return to Canterlot?”

Maud paused, then shook her head, regretfully. “I’m heading back home to see Pinkie’s cutie mark. However…” She carefully wrote her address on the rock-house sketch before pushing it towards me. “Keep in touch?”

I took it with all the care it deserved. “With pleasure.”

I attribute my wakefulness solely to Maud Pie’s coffee skills. Even so, it promised to be a long day. To my vast surprise, Shining Armor only managed to stumble in a few short minutes after I did, looking disheveled but also enormously pleased with himself.

“Yyyyou left me.” It was vaguely accusatory, but mostly it seemed to be a statement of fact.

“I did.” I acknowledged with a tilt of my head. “If I am required to vouch for your honor, I hardly need to be present for what I already know to be true; if you both claim a thing did not happen, I have no further need for validation.”

“...Good stallion.” He offered a hoof, and I lightly rapped my own against it. Topaz was right, apparently. Ponies were crazy.

Author's Note:

Thanks again for all your support folks! Comments are, as always, extremely appreciated.

Hoping to get a little something special put out in the very near future, so stay tuned!

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