• 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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Vignette 1 - Clandestine Offerings

It was a dark and stormy night.

Well. It was a light rain. And honestly it wasn't even that dark; the moon was shining as brightly as ever. Still, it was close enough, I thought. You didn't do these sorts of things on regular nights, right?

Most ponies didn't do these sorts of things at all. I could see why; these stupid robes were miserably uncomfortable when soaked and frankly, I imagined I looked like a drowned shadow.

But I had greater purpose here. Hesitantly I knocked at the door, marveling at the occult symbols that showed up by moonlight. I'd never noticed them by day, their faint glow ominous and forbidding. A slot opened.


"Salisbury sent me." The slot slammed shut. Moments later, the door opened, revealing a hawkish griffin with red splattered over their chest feathers. I was late, apparently. A number of other hooded figures were already present, milling about. One pushed past me in his or her hurry to escape. I hadn't expected this many other ponies, though it was hard to gather exact numbers by candlelight.

The griffin pinned a scrap of paper to my robe; the number reading 'twenty-six'. "When called, come forward." I nodded, then, realizing they probably couldn't see, made a more exaggerated nod before joining the group. Most were silent; a few skittish. Having nothing better to do, I meandered towards the front.

The bits of meat and bone were horrific to look at, seeming almost to move in the flickering light. I wasn't sure I had the stomach for this sort of thing after all.

"Twenty." Intoned the head. A hooded figure approached, peering about desperately.

"One... one bagel, please."

"A... bagel." The figure at the counter sneered, derisive.

"A... a bagel... with lox." The pony corrected, voice desperate. "And plenty of cream cheese, please-"

The figure raised a talon, considering. "Ten bits." The boiled bread was offered, perfectly sliced with plenty of white and pink to go with. I nearly fainted as the pony snatched it, dropping the bits and heading to a small table in a shadowy corner. I could hear soft moans of enjoyment even as I fled back to the crowd.

It came all too soon. Tuna salad, with eggs? My stomach threatened to rebel and rumbled. Could this place be changing me? No, no. I was already pragmatic. Besides. Salad. Come on, you've done this before...


I jolted forward, finding myself the focus of entirely too much attention. "I... I want something special."

"We have rabbit, shark-"

I desperately tried not to look for the poor remains of a rabbit. "Uh, no, umm..." I took a deep breath. "It's for a friend. Something... you know. Unusual. Something he'd be unlikely to get himself."

"...I have just what you are looking for." The griffin nodded, grinning wickedly. A slab of... something was dropped onto a scale. "Hydra chop."

The room went utterly silent.

"Is... is it good?"

"Hydra meat is rare experience. Imbued with flavor, acid imparts unique tenderness. One hundred percent poison removal, guaranteed."

I stared at the price. I could have a fancy dinner with wine for less than that. Good wine, too. But... it was for a celebration.

"How... how do you make it?"

He frowned, then slowly made a motion with his talons. "You... you take hydra... and you chop-" He brought the talon down in a slicing motion.

"No no no no, I mean, how do you cook it?"

"Well, for best experience, buy large portion, keep in cool dry place for one week. Is already mostly done, but little longer will bring out full flavor. Then, cook to friend's preference." He cut his eyes down in a furious glare. "If you cook hydra chop well done, do not come back. You will not shame meat so." He then looked about, then motioned me close, whispering. "Sorry, Topaz, didn't realize it was you. Is this for your bugs again? I told you, scraps are fine, most griffins in Equestria won't bother and these folk won't touch them, no keratin off my beak. You know, if you come during the day I don't raise the prices like this..."

"Gris!?" I sputtered, then looked around. "How did you know it was me?"

"There's only two ponies who ever come here during the day. You're one of them. Recognized your voice, and I can see your glasses glinting under the hood. Nice effect, by the way. Anyway... you should know, if you're shopping at night, you're paying night-shopping prices. These idiots will pay double for the same things they could get during the day, and I am overjoyed to assist them in that endeavor."

"Oh. I guess I didn't think about that. So... you're joking about me never coming back if I cook it well done...?"

His eyes went cold. "No. No, I am not." The smile returned. "Don't worry about it, just make it right."

I swallowed, nervous again. Idol, I thought, you had better appreciate this.

Author's Note:

Just a little something-something for those of you who might be curious about the gift Topaz got Idol during Tone Deaf.

For those of you looking for the most recent chapter, Tone Deaf was released shortly before this one and is a full chapter.

Also I love you guys, and wanted to give you a little something extra that wouldn't have fit in the regular narrative.

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