• 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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Shining Martyr

Unfortunately, Shining Armor lacked the bolstering of Maud Pie’s coffee concoction, and seemed further distracted most of the day for reasons he would not elaborate on. Most dishearteningly, he appeared to be daydreaming. It was quite unprofessional. That said, the love wafting off of him was exceptionally delicious; Cadance had cultivated a fine batch indeed.

Our sergeant of the day, however, had absolutely no tolerance for Shining’s lackadaisical attitude and after finding Shining’s attention wandering for the third time that day, sentenced him to KP for the next two nights of our stay in Manehattan to ‘get his head together’.

Shining’s devastation was disproportionate to the extra duty, I felt. I quite enjoyed having access to the leftovers, should they not be burned beyond recognition.

“Darn it, Idol, you just don’t get it.” Shining groused, scrubbing a thoroughly blackened pan and stoutly refusing to allow me to assist him on the grounds that he was being punished. He scowled at a thick layer of viscous grease, dropped the pan into scalding water, and then lifted it and a sizable amount of soapy water out of the sink in a shield-bubble, setting the sphere to violently churn the contents as he applied physical might and a green pad to another pan that was probably more scorch than metal after years of improper care.

“It is very likely I do not, as you have not explained anything to me.” A shield burst as several foamy forks dropped into the sink. I eyed the half dozen other floating bubbles, beginning to think he was showing off.

“I’m supposed to meet Cady tonight. Celestia shows up tomorrow-”

I gave him a firm glare. “Princess Celestia.”

He had the grace to look abashed. “You’re right, you’re right. I get so used to Cadance doing it that I forget. But she shows up tomorrow and then we just… won’t have time. And then it’s back to Canterlot, where we have to be… you know. Circumspect.” He bit back another yawn. I doubted he would be functional after his extra labor was complete.

“Will we not be tasked with her protection here? There are few royal guards in Manehattan.”

Shining shook his head. “Mostly the Canterlot guard takes up that role. The local guard fills in but the Princess prefers not to cause too much of a disruption to the lives of the ponies in the places she visits. Guard is usually understaffed by a fair bit anyways.”

Now that startled me. “It is?”

“Sure. Ponies like having protection but they also like doing something with their cutie mark on a day to day basis. The ones who have a mark for something that relates to the guard directly are few and far between. You get a few like Bold or Wispy whose talents are general purpose but have their own reasons, but yeah, mostly, we’re short-hooved.” He gave me a look. “And frankly you’re the only potter I’ve ever met in the guard. It doesn’t really… carry over, I guess?”

It was true enough, I supposed. Ceramics were rarely called for, though Shining had claimed to be vaguely aware of ‘ablatives’ that could be used to defend against magical attacks, though a good shield was far more effective. And he was still talking, I should have been paying better attention. My own lack of rest was taking a toll.

“-So would you mind?”

“Of course not.” I agreed, certain Shining would not ask me to do anything too unpleasant.

“Great! Cady keeps on prying, I told her you just take a little time to open up. This’ll be her best opportunity. And maybe she’ll forgive me for not showing up.”

And… the princess wanted to split my shell, apparently. “S...sir?”


The princess did not intend to crack me open and consume my tender innards, and Shining Armor was not sacrificing me to appease her fury. That was more of a relief than I expected it to be. That she had taken interest in me was of far greater concern. Apparently she had been more put off than I realized by my ability to pierce her deceptions; Shining assured her they were remarkably adept, but… to be truthful, any illusion that cannot withstand sudden motion cannot be trusted with one’s life. True, shapeshifting was more exhausting, and shells deadened the senses. However, given that my duties involved contact with other ponies, illusions were likely to be torn away..

Besides. My armor didn’t fit with an illusion, and it was hard to get the bindings to work properly on a shell as opposed to a shifting. One could not be slovenly, and thus I accepted the extra workload. That said, not being emotionally starved made what would have seemed a monumental task considerably easier, though I did look forward to stretching my wings a bit when we returned to Canterlot.

Shapeshifting did unfortunately have one very unpleasant downside compared to a shells, be it a changeling’s natural chitin or a magical false pony body.

It did nothing for rain. It was rarely much trouble for a changeling as the water usually just slicked off a piece of chitin, but for ponies it clung to the coat and mane and just made for a cold wet mess. I do not know why ponies insisted on rain being cold; it has always seemed that if one must deal with the downsides of water falling uncontrolled from the sky in a semi-scheduled fashion, you could at least alter it to be comfortably warm.

And apparently, it rains heavily and often in Manehattan. The city was allegedly famous for the inhabitants' ability to utterly ignore these storms.

I refuse to contemplate what that says about ponies. But my thoughts were not entirely charitable as I dried myself off in the lobby.

There was still something disconcerting about approaching the lodgings of Princess Cadance without Shining Armor. I wished I had armor. But no, armor was not to be worn while one was off duty; we were not to perform guarding functions during those times unless in the case of emergency. To my understanding, in these situations all members of the Guard would hasten to an outpost and don stored armor. It would fit less well, but was well maintained and would mostly function as intended. And kept the ponies of the guard from needing to carry a complete set of gear at all times.

I was stalling. Inappropriate. And, should I be late in reaching Cadance to inform her of Shining’s inability to arrive, would only upset her further. It would not do to have my friend cast from her sight the next time they met. This tower-hotel was tall, and Shining did not fly well.

I announced myself at the front desk, and learned that ‘Emerald Glen’ was staying in one of the Royal Suites. I flushed; even the innkeeper had seen through her disguise and sought to treat her befitting royalty. A bell and a speaking tube informed Cadance that her gentlecolt caller had arrived on schedule.

Oh Order. I tried to explain the misconception, but the mare at the front desk gave me a wink and urged me into an elevator. Maybe Princess Cadance would throw me out a window. Odd that now I found that a preferable outcome. Order, what if she thought I was taking on airs? Was my pony form sweating? No, that was likely steam. Perhaps the elevator would drop me into the abyss and save her the trouble.

The traitorous contraption refused to be accommodating. More proof of the wickedness of these new technologies, as it brought me to the top floor with little more fanfare than the cheerful hiss of steam.

Rapping on the door with a hoof was difficult, but Shining Armor’s date was to begin shortly; he could not be late by proxy. I had been offered the task and I, fool that I was, had accepted.

“Come in~!” Came a lilting voice, full of eagerness and mischief.

Death awaited me. It seemed exceptionally cruel that it was so lovely. I opened the door.

Princess Cadance awaited within in a robe, with her mane concealed by the wrappings of a towel as she lounged on a large pink bed. “Sorry Shiny, I lost track of time and-” Her eyes widened as she took in her ‘caller’. Then she scrambled, falling off the bed and behind a changing station, popping her head back out immediately. To my surprise, her mane was actually far drier than my own. That was useful magic, but now the former need for the towel was lost upon me. What was she doing?

“What are you doing here?!” She sputtered, face remarkably red.

I wondered briefly if one could drown in embarrassment. Unlikely, but a valiant attempt was made. “Forgive me, Princess. Shining Armor was unable to accompany you tonight.”

The rosy eyes narrowed from her vantage around the barrier. “And why couldn’t he be here?”

“He was given extra duty because one of our commanding officers found him to be… distracted.”

Her embarrassment changed flavor. “...Oh. Um. Excuse me, would you?” She withdrew behind the folding screen, and the robe tossed over it. I never did understand this; Topaz found the idea of being watched changing inappropriate as well, but often wore no clothing, as did most ponies. And she had never professed difficulty with helping me into my armor or watching me put it on. Another odd pony paradox, I decided, and one far beyond my understanding. A case levitated out from under the bed, unclasped loudly, and after a minute, I heard it clasp again before being tucked back in the same place before Cadance pushed the screen away, now clad in her more traditional accessories.

She hesitantly crossed the room, as if expecting a scolding. “So… Shiny’s in trouble?”

“No, your Majesty. His mind was elsewhere for most of the day, his attention to detail suffered, and he was ordered to correct himself with manual labor. He is scrubbing pots.”

Now she looked offended. “Actually, it would be 'your Highness', we only use 'your Majesty' when you talk to visiting kings or queens, but I told you, call me Cady. They ruined a date because they wanted him to do dishes?”

“I do not believe they were aware of any such thing. There is much work to do, however.”

“I should just go down there.” She muttered, wings ruffling. “Just order them to assign him to me for the day instead.” She took a step for the door.

“I… forgive me, your… Cady.” The word felt like ash, but no lightning struck this time either. “I… do not think that would achieve his intention.” I direly needed to yawn. Another cup of coffee, perhaps.

She shuffled, looking annoyed. “And what is that?”

“He wishes to be worthy of you. It is a fool’s errand, but he attempts nonetheless. He-”

Excuse me?” The embarrassment was gone now. There was something cold. I blinked, senses awakening.

“Shining Armor seeks to be worthy of you.” I reiterated, confused. “He is not, obviously. And it is inappropriate for him to court you, knowing this. That he seeks to improve himself so far beyond his station is also inexplicable and impossible.”

She stared, anger beginning to cloud those delicate features. “Shining likes you. I can’t believe you’d say something like that…”

“It is true, regardless of Shining Armor liking me or not.”

“Oh, is it? If not him, then who? You?” There was scorn in her tone, though I could not imagine why.

The implication, however… “Order, no. I am so far beneath you both that I should not stand in your presence, and only do so at Shining Armor’s request.”

“The very pony you just declared ‘unworthy’?”

“He is unworthy.” I confirmed. “He… seeks worthiness. Impossible, but… if any pony could. I would believe Shining Armor to be such a one. He is a good pony.”

Her anger was giving way to confusion. “I’m not sure I understand, Mr. Hooves.”

“He is not an alicorn, nor is he a... Prince?” That was the supposed male equivalent, after all.

She gave a choked laugh. “Well thank Harmony he isn’t. Have you even met Prince Blueblood? He’s a patoot.”

I froze. “I… did not actually know there was a prince.” Had I sworn oaths to him? No, I didn’t think so… “A… patoot?”

Her eyes went wide. “Don’t tell anyone I said that.”

“I… will not?” A ‘patoot’? What even was a patoot? Was it like a pinto? A strange coloration? Everypony had preferences, I supposed, but that was excessive.

“Aunt Celestia would wash my mouth out with soap. But… maybe I’m misunderstanding. You’re saying Shining isn’t… worthy of me, but he’s trying to be?” She tilted her head, biting her lower lip. “...by doing dishes.”

“Yes. And that is impossible; one cannot reach the unattainable. By definition. You are an alicorn. A goddess by some description.” And Celestia would cleanse her mouth with soap? Order, why would she do that?

She gave a disdainful snort. “I’m not even a real alicorn.”

I stared.

She did not elaborate.

“...I am sorry, your Highness, I do not see the humor.”

“It’s not a joke. You and all these noble ponies act like I’m supposed to be some… goddess made flesh. And I’m not. I’m not even as strong as Shiny is. Celestia carries the sun and moon, and me? I make ponies remember the love they have for each other. Some ponies think that’s just some sort of mind control. They’ve tried to legislate me. So I can’t use the one thing I can do without permission. I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to. I’m a nopony, Mr. Hooves.”

“You are the Princess of Love.” I sputtered. “What is more important than that?”

“The sun? The moon? Tides and food? I’m hoping that’s ringing a bell.”

“We cannot live without love.” I countered, forgetting myself.

She blinked. “That’s… surprisingly romantic.” She stared at me for a long minute. “...State your piece, Idol.”

“Shining is unworthy of you, but seeks to be as… close to worthiness as is possible. He would demean you as little as he can with his presence.”

“And what if I don’t care about that?” She asked, now honestly curious.

“Then… I believe you would have a lesser Shining Armor. One who would always question himself. But he would accept that, if you asked him to.”

She continued to stare. “...I think I might have misjudged you. I… I’m sorry. Keeping all this quiet, dealing with some of the nobles trying to insinuate that I should go walking with someone’s cousin or so-and-so’s nephew…”

I stared in horror. “Surely not!”

“Ohhh surely yes. You’re not saying Shining is beneath me and I should dump him. You’re saying that Shining is beneath me but trying his best. And that’s why he’s doing dishes instead of saying he had a date with me. To prove that. Because he loves me.”

“Yes!” I stated, pleased.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you aren’t great with words.” She noted, a bit of humor in her voice.

One could hardly argue with that. “I am not great with a great many things.” I agreed cheerfully.

Cadance snorted once, then started to laugh. The tension drained from her, and all was well again. “And here I was worried we were going to have to fight because you were trying to steal Shining from me.”

Wait, what?

Author's Note:

Hoo boy, sorry for the delays folks. This chapter was sort of a bear. Made some resolutions to put out more material though. Unfortunately the Christmas thing fell through.

More art!

Justice From a Higher Elevation, by Norad2!

A little Wispy and Bold,by Crazeguy

Another by Norad2! Topaz needs more sleep

Shining and Idol Vs the Timberwolf, by Aphexangel

Realization by Crazeguy

Give 'em all some love, yeah?

And if there's any art I missed, please, let me know and I'll up that too!

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