• Published 9th Mar 2014
  • 30,721 Views, 5,803 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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A Knight with Princess Cadance

Why on Equestria would you think that?” I sputtered, trying to regain control of the horror that was trying to escape through the nearest window, for fear that I would follow it moments later.

Well~!” Cadance managed through her giggles, “The maids do talk. And the castle walls just haaaappen to overlook the training grounds. Some are willing to use their breaks to enjoy a bit of a show.”

I blinked. “I… do not…?”

A pink hoof prodded me in the chest. “You, sir, have a reputation,” Princess Cadance seemed to be delighting in this revelation. “They think you’re shameless. And hopeless. And, if I have to be honest, they’ve got you paired with every mare and stallion in your unit. Including mine.”

I swallowed fear. “I… swear I have never attempted to pursue your… Shining Armor.” Should I have called him Shining Armor, or said ‘your stallion’. Which would offend her less? I briefly wondered if the ground opening beneath me would have to consecutively breach every floor to the penthouse. Likely. I resolved to wish for a death less troublesome to the owner of this establishment.

“And… I think I believe that.” She tilted her head, causing multi-hued hair to drape over one eye. “Honestly, I can’t get a good read on you. No offense, I’m sure Shining has told you all about it-”

“I… no, actually. Shining rarely speaks of you in terms of your duties and skills as a princess. And usually we interact in a public setting; to my knowledge you wish your interactions to be clandestine.”

She looked, I decided, much more like a foal with a hoof in the cookie jar now. Or how I expected one to appear. “...oh. Well… I can… sort of… tell when ponies are in love. Usually. Well. Not really anything as nebulous as that, I can sort of see it. Not really with my eyes, but. Darn, this is hard to explain. When I see you, it’s all… fuzzy. I think I see a few lines, but…” She blushed heavily, looking away. “It’s not completely unique, but rare enough that I’d like to get inside your head a bit, if you don’t mind.”

I took a nervous step towards the window. Perhaps my horror had the right idea…

“Now don’t be like that, I just want to talk and see how you feel about some things. I mean, usually I can get a feel for ponies through seeing them with family, even discussing their family can usually give me something-”

“I have no family.” I admitted. At least, not in the pony way of seeing things. The concept of ‘adoption’, as Shining Armor’s family had done to the young dragonling was still foreign to me, as the hive does not have ‘parents’ in the pony sense. I suppose one changeling could consider an egg ‘theirs’ regardless of true lineage and then sneak extra love into that nymph and risk their own destruction doing so, but… that seemed… wrong? Confusing, certainly. One would have to completely disconnect from reality. The changeling way of the hive caring for all offspring en masse was better.

Now she gave a start, looking at me with new interest. “Oh… well, we’re in the same boat, then.” She gave a shrug of forced casualness, as if this wasn’t an old wound torn anew. “I’ve actually never met my own.”

Lying about emotions to a changeling who is seeking any escape is… less than advised, if not always an exercise in futility. Sympathy may not be a strong trait amongst my kind, but one does not snub royalty. “I truly do not know if I have blood family, your majesty. I… do not recall them. My first recollections of Equestria involve a team of traders. Of the rest…” I considered. “I haven’t a single memory of other ponies before that. I can’t even tell you where I hail from.” All true, the last if only technically. I could neither point it out on a map nor tell others of its location; the nest itself was forever forbidden to me. Still, that the princess saw this lack of ‘parents’ as such a painful truth... perhaps I simply lacked the context to realize what had never been offered to me, and the loss that entailed?

The princess sought to strangle me for my misdirection. No, wait. This was another hug, though far more sympathetic than the one she had forced upon me after Everfree. “That’s right, Shiny mentioned that you said you had amnesia. If I had to guess, I’d say you were from a border somewhere. Maybe Saddle Arabia? You have just a bit of an accent.” Which… was not entirely accurate. I had been said to have amnesia, and I told Shining Armor as much. And… accent? I had an accent? “Have you had a chance to seek help? There’s no shame in seeing a psychologist.”

“I… no?” I wasn’t even sure what a psychologist was.

She brightened. “Then I’ll introduce you to the very best shrinks in Canterlot.”

Good heavens. She was going to make them fit me in one of Topaz’s specimen containers. I was beginning to consider that Equestrian mares had their own hive mind of sorts.

“One hopes that would not be necessary, your majesty. I am already quite compact.”

Her grin was a blessing. “Cute. They’re right, you are a shameless flirt.” She made a vague motion with a hoof. “Teach Shining some of that. It’s a good skill for trying to disarm somepony, if you can do it right.”

“Can one flirt incorrectly?” I imagined that Bold was a reasonable example. Or perhaps Wispy. The two of them were absolutely incapable of recognizing one another’s interest at times. Still, it would do to know precisely what the princess thought was-

Princess Cadance of Equestria gave me a smoldering look through her bangs that seemed to be nothing short of unbridled lust. I took half a step back and froze, wide-eyed, desperately fighting any and all other reactions as my very chitin seemed to char under the intensity. Then she relaxed, and I, thankfully, did not explode, though it was a near thing, rude or not. “See, that was entirely inappropriate. Can’t have Shining doing that to a mare.” She considered. “Well, maybe. Not without my say-so, at least.”

My heart beat again. “That was… unkind.” I had never been quite so directly targeted with such lust, even feigned… Shining truly was an amazing stallion to be able to withstand such focus. Had the Queen ever looked upon me thusly- I slammed a door on the thought. Then sealed it in a chest. Then dropped the chest into a void. And promptly threw myself into an adjacent void. Better.

“At least you notice. Shining doesn’t even react when I do that.” She pouted prettily. “The adorable dork.”

“I assure you, he is very much aware. I can easily tell when you have accosted him during his rounds, Princess Cadance.” There was an obvious hitch in his step after such meetings, but propriety demanded I not mention it.

“Cady.” She corrected, though she was obviously quite pleased.

“Yes, Princess Cady.” Her mock glare was only slightly spoiled by the overwhelming warmth from her. The insolence I’d displayed had not been intended; trying not to be insolent when commanded to be rude was proving exceedingly difficult. I was beginning to consider my concern that she enjoyed being treated thusly was not, in fact, so far fetched. Something else had my attention. “You can… ‘see’ love?” The changeling sense of it required a certain proximity. Vision, however, was far better at range.

“Hmm? Oh, it’s not like that exactly. It’s… hmm. You know how...if you’re looking at something through a piece of colored glass, everything looks that color and you can’t really tell what color things are beneath it?”

“As far as such things matter, I suppose?”

“Okay, good! It’s nothing like that.”

I nodded, then frowned. Tried to form the question. Failed.

Cadance saw the struggle and acquiesced to my unspoken confusion. “...Celestia makes this teaching thing seem so much easier. Let me try again. I ‘see’ the link, like another set of colors between ponies, but without making it harder to see the actual color between them. It’s more like other colors that aren’t the ones you see but they’re there, and they’re just as complicated as the colors we see, but most ponies can’t see them. Even I don’t know what it means half the time!”

It sounded much like how I would describe the sensation of emotions, I realized… though she could do so without being targeted or feeding upon those emotions, and only in relation to those linking ponies. Fascinating, really. A changeling with such a gift would always know precisely what form to take.

She mistook my expression. “And of course, I sound crazy. Which is why I don’t talk about it any more than Aunt Tia talks about the way the sun feels about things. But I can. I can even tell if there’s trouble in a relationship, I can see those connections fraying. And then I can help. I… I don’t know how it works, exactly, but I make them remember that connection. Sort of… remind them why it’s there. Ponies who are fighting get this… moment away from themselves where they can see it objectively, and most of them sort of... Laugh it off, and things get better.”

That… sounded like she was pushing love into them. She didn’t simply radiate the emotion, she restored it. Perhaps even created it. I was awestruck anew.

“But then… why are you even remotely worried about Shining Armor? Surely you know better than any how he feels about you. And if not-”

And then I saw something heartrending. A glimmer of doubt, of fear, perhaps even desperation, quickly smoothed over. “It doesn’t work that way. If I ever did that to Shining, I don’t… I don’t know that I’d ever stop. If you can make everypony love you… would you even bother trying to deserve it? So I don’t do that.” She took a breath, trying to cover her disquiet. “...I can’t see Shining.”

“Pardon?”

“I can’t see him like that. At all. I can’t see how anyone feels about me, and ponies I get close to, I stop being able to see them at all. Once their links start to relate to me, they get fuzzy all around and then I just can’t see them. It doesn’t matter what it is, exactly. Ponies that just don’t like me for whatever reason have it the same way.”

“So… you, who can see love, can never see that you are loved?” I murmured, startled. Could such a thing be?

She blinked, giving a startled little laugh. “Aunt Tia put it almost exactly like that. It’s easier to reason that nopony really feels that strongly about me, though. I can’t see her, either.”

“Reasonable but incorrect. I am perhaps uniquely situated to tell you that Shining Armor cares for you deeply.” I hesitated. “...why do you call her ‘Aunt’ if you are not family?” Wasta had done the same for Zaimare, and Zaimare had not been appreciative, precisely.

“It’s not that we’re family, it’s just…” Her smile was wan, slightly sad. “I didn’t have anyone else, and being the only other alicorn…” She gave me a look. “This doesn’t leave this room.”

“Your majesty, nothing you have said will escape my lips. I believed that was implicit.”

She nodded, firmly, every inch imperious for just a moment longer before she softened again. “...I asked Celestia if she was my mother, when we first met. It made sense, she was the only alicorn Equestria has known for a thousand years, and I was a foundling. Every orphan wonders if their parents were someone special, and when she took me under her wing like that...” She wasn’t looking at me anymore. I could see that she was picturing the moment, when she was before Celestia herself. “...She told me that if I were her daughter, I would have never known a moment alone. No force on Equestria, Tartarus, or beyond would have separated us, and anything that dared would have known the full fury of the sun. She was not my mother… but she could try to be an… interested aunt. So, Aunt Tia.” Her smile warmed, finally. “It’s funny, I asked her once if I should stop calling her that, and you’d think I’d hit her. Publicly calling her by title was fine. But privately, she hoped I never had to.”

“And you have considered she felt nothing for you?” I gave it the skepticism it deserved. Princess Celestia was elevated again in my estimation; any who would seek to harm the young needed such swift and decisive punishment, though ‘fury of the sun’ seemed an odd idiom for a people who associated the sun with such happiness.

“I was unwanted once.” She shrugged, defensive. “I might be a little more familiar with the field of mental health than I let on.”

“Hmm.” I let it go. “It does not sound like Princess Celestia approves of your birth parents.”

“I think if she ever met them, I’d make a fortune selling tickets. It would be a tongue-lashing for the ages.” She laughed. “An aunt’s prerogative.”

I was vaguely aware that a ‘lashing’ was an exceptionally barbaric punishment from the olden days that involved whips. Doing it with a tongue sounded painful and humiliating. All the more reason to serve well, I decided.

Still. I was finding the Princess of Equestria much less terrifying a conversationalist than expected. Intense certainly, but not frightening.

“So what have you thought of Manehattan?” Cadance asked. “Only have a few more days, I hope you aren’t considering leaving Canterlot; some ponies just fall in love with the city.” She admitted wryly. “The nightlife is amazing here, I’ve heard.”

“It is singularly unique, yes.” I found myself agreeing. “But I have much unfinished in Canterlot. I am due to bring Topaz a gift as well. One cannot visit a city such as this without acquiring one.”

“Topaz? Gift~?” Everything I have said about Cadance being less than terrifying or predatory is a lie. A firm magical push forced me into a seat as she instead sprawled on her bed, pressing her hooves together under her chin as I fell under the full weight of the Princess’s attention. “Please… do tell.”

Oh dear.

Author's Note:

Heya folks, hope everyone is still enjoying themselves!

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