• Published 9th Mar 2014
  • 30,796 Views, 5,842 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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Fruitful Conversation

Topaz sputtered. “It’s... that’s not... I mean-”

Cadance nodded her understanding. “I get it, I get it. Keeping that quiet. I take it you’re not completely one hundred percent out there about it. Makes sense, I suppose. But wow. Idol, I’d have never thought it of you. You seem so... straight laced.”

I nearly froze. Was there some rule against the thing she was claiming we were doing? What was a swinger? Was I breaking a law I did not know of?

Topaz came to my rescue. “Well it’s not like that exactly,” she managed, “It’s just more that we’re... not exactly... serious with one another! That’s all.”

“Oh.” Cadance sighed, clearly a little disappointed. “I was hoping you could explain how something like that worked. Plenty of ponies are interested in that sort of thing, but I haven’t found any who make it happen long-term. I try to keep up to date but honestly ponies expect me to know things that just aren’t talked about. Like relations with griffins-”

“What, like their ‘interesting’ ideas on romantic grooming?”

Exactly! They claw at each other’s wings? It sounds... horrifying.”

“No, no, it’s more like light stroking... with knives.” Topaz explained, taking on a somewhat dreamy expression. “Honestly, the talons make it a little more exciting, sure, but you’ll never get preening like you get from griffin claws. Minotaurs maybe, because their claws are almost soft, but they don’t really know what they’re doing. You need someone with feathers to really know how they’re supposed to be treated. But that’s not really all the surprising, half the spas in Canterlot don’t know what to do with feathers. It’s downright criminal.”

Cadance groaned. “Tell me about it. Hot towel wrapped around my wings with mint oil.”

“Right?! Because I want my wings to taste like toothpaste.”

Shining nudged me. “...What are they talking about?”

“I think... wing care? I don’t see the point. I would simply dip mine in water.”

Shining snorted. “You’re a card, Idol. I don’t think that works.” He eyed the chatting mares, beginning to smile. “Thanks for bringing her. Was worried Cady’d be spending this whole thing chatting to nobleponies and Harmony, I think if someone else tries to discuss tax code with her she’ll push them off one of the towers. That’s on Celestia, you know? The most Cades can do is talk to her aunt, and even then Celestia knows them inside and out-”

Cades.” I croaked, unwilling to let this slip.

“Just testing that one, what do you think?”

I gave him a firm look at that. “I think you should call her Cadance. But I am sure ‘Cades’ will delight her, Order knows why.”

“So... is that a religious thing, or just something you do but don’t remember why?”

I blinked. “...Pardon?”

“Order. You swear by Order. You’ve done it a couple times, never known anypony else to do it. Griffins do it by deity, Minotaurs swear by land, and I’ve heard that dragons do it by the name of the dragonlord. Ponies do it by Harmony, and sometimes by Celestia.”

I stared, considering. Why did I do that? Other changelings did as well, I’d found, but... as for having a reason... “I do not actually know,” I admitted, slowly. “But it feels natural.”

“And those crystal things you collect, you-” Shining stopped. “Crystals. Order. Holy sunspots, Idol. What if you’re from the Crystal Empire?”

“The what?” I wasn’t even sure I’d heard of the place. But there was something...

“Stick with me, stick with me. You don’t know where you’re from. You say the first thing you remember owning was these crystals. You’re all about order. And you’re old-fashioned as buck.”

“Language. There are mares present.”

“Case in point! What if you’re like... a crystal pony who was abroad when it vanished? They said ‘all traces of the empire disappeared’. I mean, it was under siege and all but you’d think that there would still be a few crystal ponies still around, right? But there isn’t.”

I tilted my head, not sure where this was going. “And so I cannot be from this place.”

“Could be worth looking into. Every so often Celestia asks for volunteers to check on the frozen north for any-”

“I am not to wander the frozen north.” I responded automatically, and both of us froze.

“...Why did you say that?”

“I... I do not know.” I considered, trying to push into this sudden haze of confusion. I had never considered... never wanted to go to the north, certainly not the frozen north, but I suddenly felt a strange dread at the prospect. I knew so few things for myself, but I had never quested for information about outside of the hive before my departure. The memories forced upon me by the Queen, perhaps-

’Do not wander the Frozen North’.

I nearly collapsed under the recalled intensity. I understood. This was not choice or preference. This was an order, from the Queen herself. One I could only recall now that the prospect had been brought up. No mere suggestion but a true Order. To be Obeyed above all. I could go to the North, I saw, but only so long as I had purpose in mind. Location. Duty. But not to wander, never to wander. The very idea of doing so felt as though it filled my innards with ice, freezing and stabbing, and demanding that I not continue.

And suddenly I was afraid. It was not my place to question, but... why was this order placed in such a way that I only now recalled it? What was in the North? Who was shaking me?

“-dol. Idol!” The shake became rougher, and I peered at the source blearily. Sources. Shining and Topaz had each taken a place by my side and placed a hoof to my shoulders, jostling me roughly. The two ponies and princess looked upon me with deep concern, Shining looking exceptionally shaken.

I looked at the small group of my party, mouth feeling dry and not only at the prospect of upsetting the princess. “I... forgive me, your majesty. I do not... think my mind was where it should have been.”

“What was that?” Topaz demanded, propriety clearly be damned.

“A moment of... forced introspection. I’ve never considered going north before. And... perhaps that is some part of why?”

“Wait, am I right? You’re a crystal pony?”

“What? No. I cannot say why I do the things I do, but I am certain of that much.”

“Shining, he can’t be a crystal pony. He’s not even translucent. I think we’d have noticed.”

“He could just be really opaque.”

“Their bodies were crystalline, dear. He’d be hard as a rock.” Cadance laughed uneasily, giving Topaz a playful jostle.

Topaz chuckled, shaking her head. “Only in his head, and only sometimes. It’s not his fault; it’s coming back.” I took Topaz’s comment about my sturdiness with a pleased smile. Sometimes was better than never, I decided.

“He does swim like a rock.” Shining insisted.

“It is not my fault that water is so... challenging.” I grumbled, quite cross. “I am getting better.”

“Idol, they put you in a duck-shaped life preserver.”

“And my skills have vastly improved thanks to this new equipment. I do not sink.”

“I’d be terrified if you did. Seriously, buddy, are you okay? You need some air or something?”

I considered the question. I was thankful for the chairs and table, because I doubt my legs would have been supporting me. This was damned inconvenient, and I was quite done with it. Unfortunately, my body was slow to comply. “If you believe that would help.”

Topaz sprang to her hooves. “I’ll go! Cadance just got here, you two relax. I’m sure he’ll be fine, just needs a few minutes.” She then began ‘assisting’ me, and I recognized her expression as one that I had begun to think of as ‘Scholarly Topaz’. Perhaps the table was safer.

Cadance gave a slow nod. “Think about that offer from before, Idol. It... might offer some insight?” She finished, looking slightly embarrassed. Shining gave her a curious look, but I had already been dismissed. If she did not elaborate, it was clearly not my place to do so.

Topaz had hauled me into a relatively empty hallway. A passing maid gave us a smile and a pair of mugs filled with some combination of egg, sugar, and a fair amount of liquor. I found it bracing against both internal and external chill, and Topaz agreed that it was ‘surprisingly good nog’, which I am very nearly certain is not a real word.

“Spill, bugsy,” she finally demanded after the drinks were gone and I had begun to settle. “I’ve never seen you shaken like that. The hay happened?”

“I cannot say for certain. I believe that the queen may have... ordered me to stay away from the north. But... I cannot remember what context that order possessed. It is simply... there.”

“Geez... how many orders like that are there?”

“I... did not know there were any. There are explicit ones, but none I know of that were hidden.”

“Wait. Orders? You have orders?”

“Of course. I am not to return to the hive or lead others to it. I am not to form my own hive. Obviously I could never be a threat to the hive, but it would unquestionably irritate the Queen if I were to dare attempt it.”

“But... you wouldn’t.”

“An exile might!” I countered, exasperated. “Truly, Topaz. We are exiled for good reason.” She scoffed, loudly, and I shook my head. I would never understand how ponies could so easily question those above them. Maybe it was easier for her to mistrust my Queen’s judgement, having never known her? Perhaps the simple lack of empathetic and mental links among ponies made this ability to question more help than hindrance in some fashion? I simply couldn’t conceive of how, but surely there must be some reason. None that I would discover this night, surely. As I was rolling my own eyes, they focused on something I knew could not be.

“What is that?!”

Topaz looked up, and her mouth fell open. “I. Uh. Well. That’s... um... mistletoe.” Her eyes darted uncertainly back and forth. “You... uhh... know what that is?”

“Of course I do!” And I did. Our survival manuals were very clear about it’s toxic properties. How dare someone make such a blatant attempt to poison ponies? By... hanging berries on the ceiling. Where it could potentially fall into drinks, I supposed? It wasn’t a very good attempt, but still... A quick glance around told me we were alone, and I sprang to reach it, perched there for a moment as I tore the offending vine down, and offered it down to Topaz, who was... leaning forward with her eyes closed. Ah! Listening for our discovery to have been noticed. Very wise.

She carefully opened one eye, blinked, then looked about, seeming surprised to find me above her. “Wha... what are you doing?!”

“Removing this poisonous shrub, of course. This assassination attempt will not go unthwarted.” I dropped and twisted, landing carefully on my hooves.

“Idol! It’s... no, it... you can’t- Idol. There’s mistletoe everywhere.”

By Order, she was right. “Then we must find it all.”

“Find all what?” Cadance asked, coming upon us with Shining Armor in tow. “Oh good, you’re looking much better.”

“Topaz and I have discovered mistletoe. And now we will find it all.”

Cadance blinked. Her mouth dropped open in clear shock. “...Well. That... does sound like a... busy night ahead of you!” She then nodded firmly. “That... is a damned good idea! Shiny, we’re doing the same! We’ll start in the west wing!”

Normally, I would resist allowing the princess to endanger herself so, but... Shining was incapable of flight.
She could likely put a higher vantage to use, and in light of this blatant attack, his defensive capabilities should be put to good use by staying near her. Princess Celestia had an entire squad of guards in attendance; doubtless she had suspected something like this could happen. “Excellent. Topaz, we head east!”

I know little of what else happened that night. Shining and Cadance apparently ran into one of our seniors at some point, and from there others must have become involved, though he refused to say any more on the matter. I assumed he had been sworn to secrecy on the guard’s findings, and accepted that I would never know the fate of our would-be assassin. Topaz had been horribly upset about the whole thing, and could not find words at any point that evening to express her disappointment at anypony attempting something so awful, only helping me in relative silence.

I would keep a better watch at the next ball, I decided. Just in case.


“I’m telling you, Idol, it’s going to be fine.”

Princess Cadance did not lie. Lying was beneath those of her glorious nature.

She could, however, be incorrectly informed. I silently and bitterly cursed everyone who had led her to this misconception while carefully excluding her from those curses.

“I do not want ponies in my head. Especially ones I do not know.”

Soothingly, she interjected “And that’s why I’m here. if he does anything untowards, I promise I will blast him.”

Shining coughed, rubbing the back of his neck. “Cady, I don’t think we should let you blast anyone. As royal guards, it’d be... probably not allowed. Even if we are off-duty.”

“See? Even better. Shiny will do it.”

“I don’t recall promising that, but fine.”

“Again, this is not truly neccessary-”

“This is the sixth shrink you’ve been to. Not one of them so far has done anything more than say you have problems with your father!”

“Whom I have never even met to my recollection, so it is fairly unlikely for them to have much impact on my life.”

“And one other who thinks you have a problem with authority figures.” Cadance grumbled. “That one was... maybe a bit more quack-y.”

Shining had needed to hold me back at the deadly insult. I was still grievously offended. I may have made unkind statements about that particular medical professional, but thankfully my insults only made him cry, not fear for his life. Rude, therefore, but not illegal.

“As opposed to a hypnotist, who is probably not actually a real psychologist at all?” Shining murmured skeptically. “Who we are now trusting to actually do... anything?”

Cadance blushed. “Hypnosis is a real thing that real ponies do. Really. And Doctor Mentasmo has degrees in both psychiatry and psychology.”

“And a talent for hypnotism that he used at stage shows. Which, again, were probably staged, hence the name.”

“It has legitimate uses!”

Shining only pursed his lips and gave me a skeptical look, but ceased his arguing with the Princess, and my urge to flee abated.

Well. Lessened.

Slightly.

The waiting room was plush and well-furnished. Several thick chairs dotted the room, almost trapping ponies in their embrace and quite honestly rather difficult to climb out of. Shining and Cadance found them far more satisfactory than I; I began to wonder if I could find some way of marketing cocoons to ponies to give them true relaxation. In lieu of a good cocoon, I patrolled the room while we waited. Even so, I was entirely unprepared for the door to slam open and a wall of fog to roll out into the nearly empty waiting room.

"BEHOLD, THE GRRRRREAT MENTAAAAAAASMO~!"

A pony strolled out in a tweed vest and... very, very strange glasses with large swirls on them that seemed to be rotating.

Cadance clapped politely, though Shining and I only stared. I was not sure what to do in this situation.

"...Ah, the consultation was today. Party tomorrow. Sorry, foal's birthday party in the works, lost my planner."

Surely it wasn't too late to leave.

The pony quickly tossed his glasses off to the side, inviting us in. "Please, come in, come in. Ah, sorry, only two seats. If you wouldn't mind, mister...?" He closed his eyes, rubbing his forehead. "Shining Armor!"

It would have been impressive if we hadn't signed in. Shining, apparently with similar thoughts, sighed and settled back down next to a rather large pink begonia. Likely to feel less lonely with Cadance gone, I decided.


It did not go well. I was not pleased to start off with another round of 'tell me about your mother' and 'how did that make you feel', and was quite ready to start the 'hypnotist' part. Unfortunately, a larger wheel with the same design as his glasses certainly didn't seem to do anything, nor did a number of other attempts to 'prepare my mind'.

"You willllll find yoursellllllf getting very slllllleepy..."

"... Are you doing that on purpose?"

"It's a Llllllullllllamoon famillllly tradition. Miiiiight woooork."

I continued to stare at the dangling watch, but I could feel a scowl threatening to escape my control.

"...Alright, I give up. I suppose ordering you to moo like a cow and start grazing isn't going to work." He sighed, putting the dangling watch away.

"It will not." I informed him frostily. He had wasted my time and that of my companions, including the princess. This entire adventure had been intolerable.

"Honestly, this does help most ponies. I really am very sorry." He lifted his forehooves in a shrug. "But that's the way it goes, I'm afraid. I couldn't help her highness, either. It's like trying to mine stone with a tack hammer."

Cadance gave a vigorous nod, but looked disappointed as well. "It's true. I just assumed it's something with alicorns having stronger mental defenses."

"Not that I'd ever dare try to hypnotize Celestia, Harmony, no." The pony dragged a cloth over his forehead and tried to repair his hair, which I suddenly realized was now plastered down from sweat. I blinked, looking to the windows where I had to note that at least several hours had gone by that I could not really account for. And he did seem exhausted... perhaps there was something to this. Regardless, it did not seem a valuable use of my time, and I truly hoped the princess did not insist on further visits.

"No charge, of course. I'm afraid you'll have to see yourselves out, however. I'm... I'm quite wiped out, if you don't mind my saying so." A pained motion was made to the door, and I could sense this, at least, was unfeigned. Whatever he did had exhausted him, and he clearly intended to collapse on his own couch.

"Very well. Your highness?" I opened the way for her, disgruntled.

No sooner had the door closed before she sagged, even her wings drooping. "I really thought this would work. Hypnosis is supposed to be a fantastic way of restoring memories. I mean, it didn't work for me but surely it would work for you."

"Shining claimed he was probably a fraud. Perhaps he was right? It's entirely possible that I simply need to find a real hypnotist."

"I suppose that's possible, but... well. I've heard good word-of-mouth about him."

We stopped. Stared.

“Well,” I eyed the drooling Shining as he moo’d lazily and continued chewing the former contents of the flowerpot beside him, “I suppose he could have some small talent?”

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