• 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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Musical Notation, Piano and Polka

The cocoon behind me pulsed. Six hours, fifteen minutes.

I was not putting off my train ride until the last minute. I simply... had other things to do. To prepare.

My orders had been clear and relayed well; survey the town. Examine the inhabitants. Patronize various businesses. But, the most important detail, and the most interesting, was the final.

I was not to reveal my orders to the citizens, and especially not to Twilight herself, even if speaking with her was entirely allowed and possibly encouraged.

The Princess was being downright Queenly. I wasn't entirely sure what to make of that. It did mean, however, that I could not carry my armor; such a thing would reveal that I was on duty and under some form of orders.

I carefully scraped at the bowl on my potting wheel with a talon. Then plucked a feather to carefully wipe a stray bit of debris away. This design was coming along wonderfully. I wasn't sure what it meant, but ponies would come up with something. Wind, perhaps?

Six hours, twenty minutes. A hoof burst from the cocoon, followed by a sputtering pony, gasping for air. Now that was odd, cocoons were soothing and provided rest like nothing in the world.

Topaz jerked upward, gasping raggedly, eyes wide and frightened even as she splattered slime all over my workroom. "I can't do it, it's too tight, it's too enclosed, it's too dark! It's-" She stared at me, eyes growing still wider. "...What the buck...?"

"Still me, Topaz." I tilted my head, working my new beak. I didn't quite dislike it, but... speech was slightly off. The complete lack of lips as opposed to chitinous ones. I'd need more practice.

She dragged her hooves down her face, wiping slime from her mane and eyes. "Why the hay are you a griffin?!"

"I wanted to work on my pottery while you slept. I had this idea that griffins are more dextrous; the claws are uniquely suited for holding things, and it's easier to manipulate two at once than multiple magic fields." I was right, but the claws needed practice of their own. Still, it held promise.

She looked hurt. "You said you'd watch to make sure I was okay."

"And you were resting within moments of being sealed in. Good morning."

"...Morning?" She looked at the clock, one of the few things I kept in this 'spare room'. "...Wait. What time was it?
Is that right? Seven hours?!"

"Only six. Do you feel rested?"

"I feel...!" She paused, then pulled a face, twisting her head as she mulled it over. "...I feel great, now that I don't feel like I'm going to die."

I tried not to puff up. I really did.

"Don't you start! Yes, great night's sleep, I'll give you that. But eeuuugh, this stuff is everywhere." She pulled herself free of the cocoon with what ponies would consider a rude noise. "And it- oooh, that's soft." She marveled, taken aback as she tried to wipe more of the slime from her coat. "You didn't mention that. That's not bad...!"

"I... never really considered that it might have an effect on fur in the first place, as I do not have any when I use my own cocoon." I considered. "...leftover digestive enzyme, perhaps?"

"Yep! Didn't need to hear that. Taking a shower!" And with that, she fled to the upstairs, trailing cocoon slime.

I sighed, but had to relent. Perhaps cocoons simply weren't for everypony. However, I decided more firmly, if Topaz was going to track slime up the stairs, she could be the one to clean it up. It was one of the established Rules. And if she wasn't going to use it... I carefully settled my unfinished work into the cocoon. At very least, it would remain workable when I returned.

The train obeyed its handlers, so the day began well enough. I had created a rough itinerary of the ponies I needed to meet. Mayor Mare was to be avoided; this was an unofficial official investigation. I would find my bearings, look for the Elements, and patronize as many stores as my allowance of bits would allow.

Still, I had no desire to taunt the beast with its failure to consume prey and made my escape from the platform as quickly as I was able. I was distracted, shamefully, but that is no excuse for running headlong into a pegasus flying at ground level, causing her to crash to the ground and scattering her saddlebag's contents of envelopes and what looked to be a sandwich of some sort.

Oh dear Order, I had accosted a mailmare. The fines for such a thing were prohibitive, but only for willful negligence or malice. I resolved to pay the fine regardless as soon as I returned to Canterlot, because I should have damn well known better. I was, after all, an officer of the law. It was my duty to set an example.

I scooped up the disorganized mail, resorted it by address, and offered it to the stunned grey pegasus, and started as her right eye seemed to roll about to stare in different directions before settling on me. I confess, I may have stared. It was a fascinating ability; most ponies could only look in one general direction. To be able to see all incoming threats... this was a pony to be respected, clearly.

"Ma'am, are you alright?"

"O-oh, I'm fine. I just... wasn't watching." I understood. She was on the lookout for dangers while doing her duties. I had disrupted not one, but two tasks. "My bad."

"Not at all, ma'am. I was... trying to get away from the train." I admitted. I still felt a hint of shame at my fears. Everypony told me that the trains weren't alive, and on some level, I knew I believed them. The horn screamed, and I flinched; on some level, yes. On every other level, however, they struck me as a vicious, predatory leviathans. And it was only a matter of time before they grew tired of their hideous game.

She nodded sagely. "Yeah, the whistle is really loud on the platform."

"Still..." I noted a cart of apples and various baked goods, the pony inside giving me a displeased look. Clearly my unintended assault had not gone unnoticed. I gestured in it's direction. "If I may, I'd like to replace your lunch?"

"Ooooh, apple crumb... I really shouldn't..."

The longing belied any desire to resist, and we had a pleasant conversation before our orders were ready. As a perk of our meeting, if anypony would know their way around Ponyville, who better than a postal worker?

The directions the mailmare provided were surprisingly apt. The Carousel Boutique was a strange building, by pony standards, but eyeing the strange pony-shapes speared on the second floor, I decided that Topaz should see the decor.
Then again, she might decide to put her largest insects outside. Stingsley would be likely to deter unwanted guests. Or any guests at all, I supposed, finishing off my crumble-topped muffin with some relish. I made a note for the princess: 'Buy some apples'. Good enough.

Still. One of the Elements of Harmony lived and worked here. Meeting her and patronizing her business would likely go hoof-in-hoof. A most prestigious place to start, as I wasn't quite sure that Sweet Apple Acres was officially part of Ponyville. I would only visit there if I was absolutely unable to find the Element of Honesty. The others, I was to understand, could be found around Ponyville on most days.

A musical 'Come in~' was the only response to my careful knock, and with that I let myself in. If anything, the inside of the place was even more odd. There were stuffed ponies that seemed... very close to life-size, sitting on large metal spikes mounted in various places around the room. One was wearing a particularly dashing hat very like one worn by the hero of one of the plays we'd been to see recently... the urge to try it on surprised me. The rest of the faux-ponies were wearing random other bits, including a set of saddlebags I dismissed as too flashy and complicated to be properly sturdy. A mixed review, then.

"Darling, I see you seem to be in the market for a saddlebag...?" And this must be Rarity herself. Roughly Twilight the Younger's age, white coated with a rich purple mane. She was, I realized with some displeasure, every bit as posh as the nobility of Canterlot. I resigned myself to fate. "Feh, not that one. It would be simply garish on your coat. No no no, something in silver, or black, maybe a midnight blue even..." She considered me, eyes seeming to sparkle. "There's so few ponies here in Ponyville with dark coats, it's a shame but there's only so much floorspace to work with. Do forgive the mess, I'm still recovering from the parasprites. Terrible things."

I looked around, bewildered. Then spotted, amidst the otherwise pristine business, a cat swatting at a bobbin of golden thread. Yes, yes I could see the mess now. I was used to Topaz's lack of organization, but this was a very neat and tidy mess. A proper mess, I now realized. Perhaps I was wrong about this Rarity. And though I knew quite nothing of fashion... I recalled that Topaz had mentioned that she would have to find another dress, as the ones she had were embarrassingly out of style. A dress by the Element of Generosity, to my benefactor? I could think of nothing so suitable.

"Not a saddlebag, madame. But a dress, perhaps?"

She paused, momentarily, then nodded. "Hmm, maybe. I feel like something in a jade green might accentuate your cutie mark, but perhaps something of a lighter blue would make a wonderful contrast to your coat..." She pulled a measuring tape from a cabinet, and began making notes as it whipped around me. "Legs apart dear, I'll need your inseam."

I took careful note of these judgments, obeying the orders without a second thought as she quickly measured, then looped the tape around my barrel. "Not for me. For a friend."

"Oh of course, darling, no judgments here." She chirped, measuring around my neck. "Now, this friend of yours, do they have any preferences for style?"

"No, everything is out of date. There was one, emerald green, very soft, but plain, that she's rather fond of."

"...Ohhh, you actually mean a friend. Well why didn't you say so?" She frowned, then went to the next sheet of her notebook. "Now, what are her measurements?"

"She is smaller than me. Her legs are slightly longer."

Her pen did not move. "...Darling. I hate to be a neighsayer, but... that's not much to go from. Actual measurements. An ill-fitting dress simply cannot be allowed leave my shop, you understand. Not unless I have a chance to tailor it a bit. It's a matter of professional pride. If your friend could come here...?"

"I am afraid not. She is in Canterlot." I admitted, dejected.

She gave a great, theatrical sigh. "Then I'm terribly afraid I can't help you with that. A shame, really, I would love to hear my work being appreciated in Canterlot..."

I considered. "Might I borrow your measuring tape and my own measurements?"

"Of course, darling." She tore the sheet from her notepad, levitating it over to me and allowing me to take it. "But I'm afraid that won't do you much good-" Her voice trailed off as I examined the tape, comparing my knowledge of Topaz's frame and build to the various lengths. "Darling, I don't think." She examined my alterations, tilting her head. "...Those seem like reasonable guesses, but-"

"I assure you, they are accurate."

Her skeptical look was surprising. This could not be that hard. "Really. Darling, simply from looking at somepony, you cannot expect me to think... I mean, if that were the case, you'd be able to determine my inseam."

I pointed at a spot on the tape. She blinked, then nodded.

"A good first guess. Wither height?"

I motioned again. She looked more intrigued.

"Neck length." Again, she nodded when I pointed it out on the tape. "Well now, you'd make a lovely assistant with a talent like that. Barrel?"

I motioned.

"Oh... darling, that's very close, but not quite right."

I hesitated, considering her again, then began to move my hoof slowly to a higher number, only for her to swat it away.

"Close enough, close enough!" She made a shooing motion, face reddened. "I believe I can work with those measurements after all." She cleared her throat. "Now, please describe her coloration, and I believe I can have something for you in... perhaps six weeks."

"That should work. Our anniversary is in three." I resumed looking at the notes, checking my numbers. These did, in fact, seem accurate, but maybe I had read the barrel wrong...

Something cracked, and I looked up to note that the mare was holding a broken feather quill. "Darling. Did you say three weeks?"

"I did." I noted, curiously.

"...Anniversary. Three weeks."

"A ten-year anniversary." I announced, proudly. I had my very own friend and landlord for ten years. Soon I'd have to get something for Shining and Cadance, but that could wait. Bold and Wispy too, perhaps. I wasn't entirely sure when I became friends with those two. I would have to start a calendar.

Her eyes were widening. "And you... want to give her this gift in six."

I realized the problem. "It would be late, wouldn't it? Could I get a... rush order?"

"Oh, I wish I could, dear, but I'm going to be swamped already, and at Rarity's Boutique, I simply cannot allow a pony to pay for faster service. A proper businessmare does not allow money to influence how she serves her customers! I would love to help you, but... I simply can't."

"And... I should make sure that her gift is on time?" I clarified.

"Absolutely! A ten year anniversary must be something truly special!"

"Well... it would be. Just... late."

"Flattery will not get it made faster. Though I do appreciate the gesture."

"So... I should get her another gift, that will be on time, with the dress, which will be late." I decided.

"Are you sure you're still interested in the dress? It's quite alright, I've had cancellations before and I've never held it against anypony. Well. Anypony early on."

"Absolutely, the dress is important. A second, smaller gift will suffice in the time being."

"Hmm. I don't usually do this, darling, but you've won me over. I have just the pony to help you with that."

And that's how I was led to Sugarcube Corner, where I met the Pink Demon.

The Pink Demon, or 'Pinkie Pie' as she is known, is a ball of glee, manic energy, and sugar.

Her gasp at our entrance to the bakery seemed to echo unnaturally in the small building, and then she was there-not-there.

I do not know how to describe her motion. One moment, she was holding a tray behind the counter. The next, the tray was falling to the counter while she herself was nose to nose with me, and I felt a moment of terror. I had seen teleportation; it was heralded with a flash of light and twisting of space.

This mare simply wasn't one place, and then she was.

"Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh, you're new, I didn't even know there was somepony new in town, do you have any idea how new that is, I always know when somepony new arrives but I didn't even have clue how new you were and I'm pretty sure you've never ever ever been to Ponyville and that makes you reallyreally new!"

"Pinkie, down dear. My friend Idol needs something special."

In a near-panic, I stuck out a hoof, not sure if this was a greeting or an attempt to push the demon away. "Idol Hooves."

"Pinkie Pie." She blinked. "Wait. Idol Hooves? From Canterlot?"

"Wait. You know him? Pinkie, you just said you didn't-"

"Are you Maudie's Idol?"

"M-wait. You are that Pinkie Pie? Maud's little sister?" I stared. Maud had mentioned her sister on several letters, and had mentioned that she moved, but... that she was the same pony who had defeated Nightmare Moon, and was an Element of Harmony?

Rarity's brilliant blue eyes were flicking between us. "Dear Celestia, there's two of them. What is going on?"

"Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh, my big sister Maud knows him! He's one of the Royal Guard!"

Rarity fainted. I do not know where the couch came from.

Author's Note:

As always, comments are an author's food pellets!

And an Idol Hooves one-shot from KarmaSentinal!

You guys are the greatest!

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