• Published 9th Mar 2014
  • 35,136 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.

  • ...

PreviousChapters Next
Second Verse; Strings and Stripes

"-cannot believe you didn't say anything, darling! But I should have known! The poise, that attention to detail!"

Hers was exceptionally curly and perfectly coiffed. The quip was barely restrained; comments about a lady's tail were rarely taken at face value. "It was not relevant to the matter at hoof," I confessed. "I am not acting under the command of the Guard this day." I took a bite of a cupcake, and blinked, looking at it. It was sweeter than I had been expecting.

I routinely eat raw sugar. That seemed disconcerting. I took another bite, just to be sure.

"Extra extra sweet cream, what do you think?" There was pride in that, more than it warranted.

"I think it is likely an abomination, the result of powers that ought not be meddled with," I admitted, trying not to lick my hoof.


"Oh, yes please."

"Then why are you here, if I may be so bold to ask?" Rarity pondered, shooting the Pink Demon an aggravated look. I was easily distracted, I'd found. Maybe there was some history of food preparation in Pie family talents. I considered what I knew of Maud, and her family ability to affect minerals. Perhaps this Pinkie Pie was able to enhance her own control over sugars to- I was distracted again. Maybe I had eaten too much sugar. Last one. And one for the road. Two. Not three, definitely. Self control.

"Well. I had hoped to get Topaz a dress..." I admitted, hesitantly. "And then you brought me here instead." I should get an extra for Topaz- no, it'd be dry. Or I would eat it. Probably the latter.

"And Pinkie Pie is the best party planner and gift-giver in Ponyville." Rarity clarified. "But that isn't what I meant. Why is a Royal Guard gracing Ponyville? Should we be... expecting somepony?" Eagerness lapped at me like water at the banks of a raging river. The Element of Generosity clearly thought herself a refined lady and she had a mind for intrigue that would do any noble house proud. I was beginning to see that she was right in her efforts to be seen as such, even if it was not for the reasons she would assume. Indefatigable gossip was their purview, I supposed.

"One should always be prepared to accept guests and treat them with utmost respect and courtesy," I reminded her firmly.

"I... see, darling." She considered those words with gravity, and I decided she had taken my meaning. It did not matter if the Princess was expected. The preparations for such should always be made, in case she came unannounced.

"Who's Topaz?" Pinkie asked, and I suddenly realized that in the brief time I'd been in the company of these two Elements, I had completely lost control of both my schedule and my intentions.

"His marefriend-" Rarity blinked. "...Wait, wait. Then how are you and Maudie-"

"Maud." I corrected, quickly. 'Maudie' did not seem the sort of nickname Maud would accept from any save Pinkie Pie. I had been briefly informed of both Limestone and Marble Pie, and Pinkie's nicknames for them. That I had not been given 'Maudie' struck me as a choice that I should suggest others follow until they had proper consent.

"-Maud, involved?"

"We are 'pen pals'." I frowned, checking my saddlebags. I had one such letter, I was sure. I had been trying to get another sample of the minerals it had been dusted with, they went phenomenally with a good dark roast and even Maud herself had difficulty locating more. I held up the proof, neatly contained in the envelope it had originally been sent in. "And Topaz is a friend who is a mare. Not a marefriend." I pointed out. At least that bit of damage to Topaz's reputation could be avoided, here.

"Oooh, a letter from Maudie? Can I see?"

I hesitated. Reading another's mail was an offense... but this hardly seemed inappropriate. "I... suppose. Do be careful." Maud had mentioned once how she and her sister were close... this could do no harm.

"Darling, you can't just go around buying dresses for friends-"

"Twilight did it for us." Pinkie disagreed, reading the letter eagerly. She blinked several times, rapidly, then held the page up to her nose and gave it a sniff. Her eyes went wide and she read it again. Odd.

"That's different, Pinkie! And she paid for materials, not the dresses, and refused to allow me to charge anything less, because of all the changes all of you wanted in the first place."

Uncertainly, I looked to the fashionista. "Why can I not buy a friend a dress...?"

"Well there's different connotations to doing such a thing. It's a thing, dear, ask anypony."

"Then I shall. Miss Pie?" We both turned to the baker.

The pink mare was no longer pink. She was also, for that matter, not paying us the slightest attention anymore. "Oh... my... gosh. Rarity, read this!" She wrapped a hoof around her friend's neck and pulled her in from a distance I did not believe should be possible. Now, that was inappropriate, but it was also too late to do anything about. I should have erred on the side of caution, I decided, having inadvertently given permission for Pinkie to offer the contents of the letter to another.

Rarity scanned said missive and tilted her head. "...Pinkie, I don't know anything about geology."

"Rarity!" The Pink Demon hissed, and whispered something frantically into her friend's ear.

"...Are you sure? I'm honestly not..." She read the letter again, a delicate hoof under her chin. "Well... maybe. But if..." Another bout of whispering. "...Pinkie, I'm not even sure pumice perfume is-"

I decided I wanted the letter back before it was any more crumpled by the Element of Laughter's odd zeal. "...Ladies?"

"Ohmygosh you two would have the cutest foals!" The Pink Demon gushed.

I blinked. Foals? Why would there be foals involved? With Maud? They'd be changelings, obviously, not foals, but caught off guard, I could not help but imagine what foals with characteristics of both my pony form and Maud would appear like, if such a thing were to occur-

Agony. My head was ablaze in fire, innards roiling at the very concept. My vision dimmed, tendrils of darkness from the corners of my vision until I was able to push the idea from my head, drained as though I had run for miles.

The entire event had taken seconds, and I was trying to get my hooves back under me. I'd fallen to a knee. Inappropriate. Perhaps. Was kneeling before the Elements of Harmony disallowed, or merely unnecessary? Not forbidden, certainly. I shook my head, cautiously examining the process that had led me here.

Finding it was easy, and I felt painfully stupid for having never found this. 'You shall not reproduce'.

An Order, after all these years. One I hadn't even really known existed. That would require further examination. But... a number of things suddenly made sense.

Order, but I was a fool. The others would know more about this, I was sure.

I was knocked over onto the couch, the Element of Generosity lightly batting me with her hooves, and she appeared to be glaring at her compatriot as I came out of the trance.

"-terribly, terribly sorry for her; honestly Pinkie, you can't just... they aren't even... ooh!" She checked my forehead just below my horn with the back of a foreleg. "You're warm, dear, how are you feeling?"

"Better. I fear... I fear I need to walk. My apologies to you both. I have... other business I need to attend." And thoughts to consider.

"But you can't-" I don't know which disagreed first, or if both had done so in tandem.

I raised a hoof. "There is no help for it. Please."

They shared a look, but let me leave, and I did so slowly, after gathering my belongings and carefully tucking Maud's letter away. I may have frightened them.

So be it. I had frightened myself. But there would be time for trauma later.

Everfree Forest had changed, and yet had not. It was larger, more ominous, but every bit as disturbing as it had been the first time I had laid eyes upon it. All of that seemed as it should be.

The strange part was that it seemed to welcome me like an old acquaintance. Few places seemed to have emotion, but the forest... the forest was a living thing. Not in the way that communities are, or the sense of emotions put into a building give it a radiance of those same emotions... no, the forest definitely had a will to it. And I was going into it, because I was ordered to.

And for some reason, I feared trains more than this forest. I wasn't sure if that said more about myself or your average pony.

Life was strange, I decided, sticking to the path that was supposed to lead to the Zebra mystic. It wound around, to the very places I'd been before and was quite certain should have been far, far deeper into the forest. The cave that Shining and I had shared when facing the timberwolf. The guard shack, overgrown to the point where it was only vaguely recognizable by the sunken place where the giant beast had crashed through the roof. The cliff, with a lone parasprite buzzing nearby.

I captured it with relish that the poor creature certainly did not warrant. Justified or not, they were still delicious. I suggested breeding them once as a food supply and Topaz had made me swear to just eat the little beasts on the spot when given the opportunity. I confess, I had no qualms with those orders.

I think I walked around Zecora's tree. Possibly twice, when I got a faint hint of annoyance from the forest after looping around a different tree for the Nth time. I was not, I decided, an exceptional navigator, but I was almost certain those bottles hadn't been there the first time. The mask... I found I could not look directly at it. When I tried, my vision seemed to blur... perhaps I wasn't quite so terrible at navigation as all that.

I knocked lightly at the door, to no response. I waited patiently, then Guard-knocked, which is much like knocking politely, but it conveys enough force that it becomes very clear that a door is only an impediment to those who allow it to remain so.

"Who comes crashing to my door, are you pony or are you boor?!"

I blinked, thinking back to our training. I had little interaction with zebras, but... their rules of etiquette involved rhyme and pacing. I should have prepared for this.

"Forgiveness I ask, but I come with a task. If I may come in, then we could begin?"

There was silence from the tree. Then the door creaked open, and a very skeptical Zebra tilted her head at me.

"And who are you to act so rude, then promptly change your attitude?" She looked me up and down, frowned, rubbed her eyes, and did so again.

"I bring word from above, will share what they say, and with your permission I'll be on my way."

"Then I suggest we meet for tea. One cup apiece and then we'll see." She raised a hoof. "And by the way, please do not strain. I know rhyming for most can be quite a pain."

I sighed in relief, following her inside the cozy little tree. I was more than a little impressed; she had little alcoves for everything, and I wasn't quite sure what was natural and what, if anything, had been carved out. She motioned me to have a seat and I awaited the tea politely, examining her domain. I found the cauldron in the center matched the aesthetic surprisingly well, though I could not begin to guess what was bubbling within. As for Zecora herself, she seemed uncertain of my intentions, which was fair, as most ponies tended to be in matters concerning authority. Ah, and I had yet to reveal the details.

"Thank you for your hospitality. My name is Idol Hooves, and I bring word from Princess Celestia. She wanted to... officially apologize for young Twilight's... misconceptions. She has a tendency to panic and jump to conclusions when confronted by too many things beyond her control. She means well, but needs to be... tempered, with more real world experience."

There was a spike of shock from the zebra, quickly controlled. I glanced at her, through the fumes of her cauldron, but she had spun, getting together a kettle. The shock, I realized, was likely from the Princess's apology. Good, she had the understanding that such things should be rare. The kettle had been boiling already, and my host prepared two cups of tea with practiced efficiency, though I noticed more than a few different containers going into the mix. Pity, a connoisseur; she'd be quite proud of the flavor of this particular mix of leaf water and there would likely be very little honey involved.

"The apology is unneeded, we've both made our peace. But I feel there is more, let these little games cease."

"Fair enough. The princess would like to extend an offer of credit and support to you for your time in the Everfree. Our information on this place has been... outdated, as most of our incursions tend to lead to injury, if not outright tragedy." I took a sip of the tea, and only barely hid my blanch. The drink was so bitter it bordered on acrid. Rude or not, this needed a healthy dollop of honey. Maybe it was a health drink. No honeypot to be seen, I suppressed a shudder and lowered the rest of the beverage after a final sip that proved no better than the first.

"Your words are well met, if they are not lies. But state your business again, and without the disguise."

"I am sent by the princess, and told not to reveal myself as a Royal Guard or that this was part of my mission." I frowned, rolled my traitorous tongue and tried to rise from my seat. "...I cannot dispel my disguise and I cannot move." It was a very strange feeling. My limbs simply... stopped working. Had they gone totally numb, I would have made assumptions, but they seemed to be supporting me just fine. They just... didn't relax or tense when I told them to. More to the point, I realized with growing alarm, I had admitted to wearing a disguise. That was very unlike myself, to be so forthcoming.

She accurately interpreted my expression, and panic rose within me. "You cannot move and you cannot lie, dear Idol Hooves, can you not see why? Please, take a while, stop and think, exactly what was in that drink."

Ah, a potion then. Interesting, if deeply, deeply concerning. I tried to adjust myself, couldn't. Couldn't even strain to do so, in fact, which was a useful trick to have, even if I could not expect most criminals and monsters to obey the niceties long enough for a spot of tea. "You would drug a messenger? From the Princess herself?"

"I doubt your word, for it's revealed to me, that you are not who you appear to be. And while I remain unsure of that, we'll enjoy this lovely tea and chat." Her tail flicked in the direction of her cauldron, and I noted that the things seen through the vapor rising had a strange shimmer to them... apparently it had revealed something about myself.

"I mean no harm, and my reasons are true. And your tea is awful, no offense to you." I tried to strain again, but my muscles refused to budge. It wasn't even a comfortable position, but... how to move, how to move... an idea began, but I was loathe to try it...

The zebra frowned, looking at her own teacup and taking a sip, then eyeing mine. "Our tea is the same, save potion, true... but that should not affect the brew." She gave me an apologetic look, then shrugged. "You may think me a bit uncouth, but all I seek, sir Guard, is truth."

"And am I not to fear this potion of yours? For all I know I've been poisoned."

Zecora chuckled. "Poison? Why, sir, I am quite offended! Harming guests is never recommended. The first part is only peel of orange-"

I shapeshifted. That is to say, I shapeshifted my musculature to be tighter in my upper legs and looser in the lower, and promptly kicked myself away from the table, to the startled Zebra's surprise. Shift the legs. Twist. Bones creaked as I forced myself to my hooves, glaring at her as I rounded the table with stilted motions. She fell back in utter disbelief, staring up at me as various muscles cramped and seized with this rapid combination of small shifting. It was, to no great surprise, excessively unpleasant.

"And I believe. I have had enough of that." I growled. I hadn't even been sure I could do that, and I was very certain I didn't want to ever have cause to do it again. "I came to pass along a message, and I have done that. I came to express the princess's apology and offer of support. I have done so." A hoof jerked into a saddlebag, pulling out several odds and ends alongside one of Dank's journals that he had insisted I give to the 'new warden'. The various bits scattered on the floor, but I ignored them, dropping the journal. "With that, my duties are fulfilled. I am done here." I tried to 'stalk' out the door, but I confess it was more of a shamble.

Zecora was now sitting up again, no longer looking so self-certain, but her momentary fear quelled as well. "Wait a moment. Sit once more. No need to hurry out my door. I promise, time provides a cure." A pause. "You're duty-bound, of that I'm sure."

I considered, temper cooling. "...I respect that you have acted with caution towards what you believed to be an unknown threat. In your horseshoes, I likely would have done the same."

The zebra had the grace to duck her head at that. "In this wood you must beware, not all you see is all that's there. For some paranoia one must strive, to have any hope to remain alive."

"Everfree can do that. I had my own... adventure with a very large and unpleasant timberwolf. With that, I hope that you will continue to act in the best interests of Ponyville and the Crown and that we will never meet again." My limbs twitched. This time under my own power. Finally. My everything hurt, and all of it felt unnatural.

"While I apologize for my actions, what will you do about those said infractions...?"

"Miss Zecora. The law only explicitly forbids one pony drugging another. That... particular event... did not happen this day. While I understand that may not suit the intent of said law... that is the letter. Your intentions were... agreeable, in this particular circumstance, and as the offended party I choose not to pursue it." I cut my eyes at her and she winced. "...should this happen in the future, I will not be making such decisions from the perspective of one whose duty it is to keep the peace. Good day, ma'am."

Not a great first impression. Still, I found I could respect a pony without liking them. Miss Zecora would make a fine warden of Everfree, and the Princess had made a wise choice in procuring her services. That said... I was past ready to continue my mission away from this blasted forest.

Author's Note:

Guys, I am freaking AWFUL at writing Zecora. XD Blame BHSDesk and River Road for some of these, I couldn't have managed without them.


If you'd like to throw a buck in the bucket, I've finally given in. I could definitely use the coffee!


And a discord channel here!


And a new sidestory with chapters from other characters and whatnot!

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
PreviousChapters Next
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!