• Published 9th Mar 2014
  • 30,789 Views, 5,838 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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Chorus, Bells and Woodwinds

The damned forest was smugging. I do not know if that is a real word, but it fits phenomenally. It was smug, it was growing more smug, and then it was even more smug at how smug it was.

A trick of my own troubled mind, I was sure. I needed to regain composure.

If ponies were crazy, Ponyville was their madhouse. No wonder the Everfree moved here. I paused, considering that. Was Everfree drawn to the oddness of the ponies here, or were the ponies who were so odd drawn to the strangeness that was Everfree? Something to look into, I supposed, feeling myself beginning to calm.

Zecora knew I was not a pony.

So much for calm.

I was just relieved the forest left me a single straight path out and- well. If my guidance was anything to go from, this strange mushroom-like building covered in greenery must be the home of one of the other Elements. Order preserve, I could go back to duty. And, thinking to the advice given by the mailmare, I had to admit it probably would be nearly impossible to find from above, not that I had ever had any intention of flying anywhere in Ponyville. I eyed the clouds dubiously. In Canterlot, ponies tended to prefer their shade more carefully regulated. But, with Everfree so close, I supposed random cloud formations were not completely unheard of.

We'd had a small issue with ponies trying to sell mattresses stuffed with Everfree clouds a few years back, and I knew Wispy tended to swear viciously at anypony who tried to 'air the clouds out' because it usually led to lightning in the middle of Canterlot, which made the local weather teams cross as it always led to unicorns questioning their work ethic. But I digress, there would be no flying for me.

The structure definitely had an element of subtlety to it, yes, but I wasn't sure it was structurally sound. Even from the ground, one could mistake it for an odd hill, if it weren't for the windows and the like. That aside, the place was stuffed to the brim with life. Birdhouses hung in aplenty, nests in every tree I could imagine, a water-weasel of some sort in a small river under a bridge, and beyond that, more animals than I could possibly differentiate. The Element of Kindness either traded in pets, animal care, or was, as according to tales in Canterlot, a flock of songbirds in a pony suit. There was humming from inside the cottage. I knocked lightly, and the sound cut off with a squeaky intake of breath. Concerned, I knocked again, though still lightly. I had been corrected on my own rudeness by Zecora, and had absolutely no desire to upset the Elements after dealing with the Pink Demon.

"Ma'am? Is everything alright in there?"

I heard a faint whimper, then there was a snarl and something clattered by the door, but no other response. Now overwhelmed with concern, I tried the door, found it unlocked, and flung it open.

"That is a bear." I stated inanely, my body disbelieving what my eyes assured was present just beyond the doorway.

The beast roared, and I readied for combat as the creature threateningly stamped enormous clawed paws.

"Mr. Harold Bear!" came the outraged voice from behind the towering beast. "I know you didn't just claw my floor!"

The beast's shoulders hunched as it winced, lifting one paw gingerly from the wooden flooring. Sure enough, there was a set of grooves where he'd stamped and torn at the ground in his display. Gingerly, the behemoth seemed to try to smooth the wood back out, accomplished nothing, and gave the saddest look I had ever seen to the pegasus I had barely registered as existing behind him. A series of growls that certainly sounded apologetic escaped 'Mr. Bear', and he cut his eyes to me again.

"No excuses, you promised, if you're going to claw things up you'll have to wear the gloves."

Another growl and small roar, this one distinctly whiny.

"No buts. Put them on."

The bear stood to an even more imposing height, but reached into a high cabinet delicately and put on oversized pleated mittens with... what appeared to be young cats stitched onto one and dogs on the other, in different colors. Afterwards, he resumed his threatening stance, but it's very hard to be afraid of a an embarrassed bear in mismatched mittens. And, now that I had a better look, what I had taken to be a baring of teeth was actually closer to a swollen cheek.

"I'm terribly sorry for him, he's only trying to help. And he should be, after getting into a fight with the bees." She scolded gently, tapping the massive creature on the nose. "Just keep putting ice on that, and when you're feeling all better, you're going to help the bees put their hive someplace safer than that old tree, and they're going to give you some of their honey for helping them. And no more fighting, please. I'm sure this nice pony didn't mean to scare you like that."

The bear, at this point, sounded an awful lot like Shining when Twilight the Elder scolded him. Enmity forgotten, I began to sympathize with the massive ursine. I gave it a comforting pat.

The growl informed me in no uncertain terms that my sympathy was not required nor requested, and I withdrew my hoof. The bear forced its bulk through the doorway, and ambled down a path to the stream, where it promptly stuck its swelling cheek in the water.

"Well. I believe all is well in hoof here, Miss Fluttershy. If... you want, I could assist with the bees?" I offered, hesitantly. "I have had some experience...? Idol Hooves." I offered my hoof. She didn't take it, actually beginning to shrink back.

"Um, no thank you, I don't want to hurt the little dears..." Her boldness was quickly dwindling as she realized the bear was no longer present in her defense, and she was talking to a relative stranger. I sought to mentally fight her growing sense of nervousness to prevent it from coming to the fore, but I could already tell this was a shy pony; it was like grappling smoke.

"Of course not. Neither Honey nor Topaz would ever forgive me for that."

The buttery pegasus blinked. "Oh... I'm not sure I've ever met them. Are... they new in town?"

"Not at all. Canterlot."

"...That wouldn't happen to be Honey Dew and Professor Topaz Showers?"

"Well... yes, I suppose it has to be." I had always liked 'Professor Showers'. It had a good ring of authority to it. It was no 'Mistress Topaz', but I suppose it was more formal and, from what I understood, better for polite society. The whole name gave it... gravitas, as Shining would put it.

"Oh my. I've written to them several times, Miss Honey has the best instructions for a good honey poultice, and her instructions for how to help the bees in Ponyville really help with the flowers... oh, and I kept meaning to tell Professor Showers about Parasprites, and how they react to music-" Nervousness was lost as she fell into a familiar topic. This one had much to say about animals, but that last part...

"Music?" I blinked. "They react to music? In what way?"

"Um... yes. My friend Pinkie could tell you more-"

Any time safe from the Pink Demon and her eldritch cupcakes was time blessed. I fought the craving even now. "That is probably unnecessary. I will relay the information to Topaz. I am sure she can find a good use for it."

The Element of Kindness caught my interruption and smiled slightly, and warmth flowed from her. "Pinkie just takes a little getting used to. She can be..."

"Disconcerting?"

"Well... yes, sometimes." Here she made a wavering gesture with a hoof that turned into a hesitant shrug. "...Are you really good with bees?"

"I have been enlisted by Honey Dew several times in moving her hives." Honey Dew's hives were her pride and joy. She had, for a short time, considered that I might be interested in picking up the trade. I tended to be more focused on the amber bounty before me, and shamefully was less than skilled. Still, the Guard had instilled upon me a steady enough trot that the hives were not unduly irritated, so I sometimes moonlighted in hive delivery for a delicious discount. Or free samples. The honey gathered by the bees in the Royal Gardens was particularly divine, as they had a wondrous bounty to gather from.

"I was going to have Harry do it, but after his fight with the other bees, I don't think that's such a good idea. If you wouldn't mind, Applejack's farm isn't far, and I can pay-"

"Unnecessary. I would be heading that way regardless. Do you use a smoker?"

She gasped. "Oh no, of course not, I just tell them everything is going to be alright, and very politely ask them to stay calm, and ask if I can have some honey, pretty please. And if I'm moving them somewhere, I just tell them to be patient with the locals."

I may have stared, as she seemed to try to hide in her mane. "...I believe Honey Dew would be delighted to meet you, Miss Fluttershy."

"Oh... really?" She blinked, as if surprised by this.

"Absolutely. As a fellow beekeeper, your talents would unquestionably delight her. To say nothing of meeting the Element of Kindness. Though I'm sure that grows weary."

"Not really. I mean. Everyone in Ponyville knows, but nopony really pays it much mind... it's not that interesting..."

I stared. "You fought with one princess and in so doing saved two of them. You say that is not interesting? You are heroes." Her squeak told me all I needed about that. This mare had no interest in heroics, and the limelight was something she'd flee more eagerly than pursue. I bowed. "Forgive me, I have spoken out of place."

She blushed, but nodded quickly. "I'll... I'll go talk to the bees, and then draw you a map." She fled her own cottage. Well. Now I felt like a monster.

A light tap at my leg. A rabbit stood there with a small carrot in his paws, wiggling his nose. I had never been quite so weak to 'cute' as many ponies seemed to be, but this little white fluffball seemed particularly adorable. It motioned me down to it's level, and I leaned close, curious.

The fuzzy little bastard kicked me in the nose, and I recoiled in shock and pain.

The no longer so cute rabbit gave a firm nod, waved his carrot like a sword, and bounced into a hole in the wall. It took every ounce of my self-control not to go after the vermin, and I sensed that he was quite aware of it. I hissed in fury regardless, and considered walling up the hole. But no, that would be rude.

I settled down in the now silent cottage, waiting for Fluttershy. There was too much food here for my liking. And it was much too bold.


The farm belonging to the family of the Element of Honesty was only a short haul from that of Kindness, but I could not think of a non-intrusive way to approach the Element of Loyalty short of inquiring with the mayor and making this an official investigation, which had been explicitly forbidden. I could possibly use magic to ensnare her cloud home and bring it to ground level, but such a thing was likely to be very difficult, costly, and rude besides.

Learning that Twilight was living in a library surprised me only in that Princess Celestia had always been insistent that Twilight did not sleep in the Royal Archives. Young Twilight had, upon getting out from her mentor's wing, immediately set about doing the very thing she'd always desired. I respected her dedication to the dream, and would congratulate her on finding success.

I was considerably more surprised that I had actually already patronized the Element of Honesty with the mailmare, buying us each a muffin made from Apple family produce. Still, I had paid her little mind; it was a gentle rebuke, I decided. None may be beneath my notice. Princess Celestia, as always, is wise beyond my understanding.

The apple farmer, for her part, was not entirely sold on the idea of having a hive of bees installed in her orchard. "Reckon I appreciate you hauling this out here for Fluttershy, but ain't got time to chat, stranger. Spent this afternoon ungumming the crusaders, and I'm plum out of time to waste, no offense."

"...Pardon?"

"Mah sister an' her friends thought they could make maple syrup. Usin' a pine tree. And a bellows." She grumbled, leading myself and the cart to the safety of a tree.

I tried to comprehend that combination of words, and decided it was better that I did not. "Is there anyplace in particular you'd like the hive?"

"Right there's fine, Fluttershy probably knows exactly where she'd like it. Don't quite know if it's all that necessary but Flutters knows her critters. Now, 'less you're willing to buck some apples, gonna have to ask you to have a nice day." She quickly trotted to a nearby tree that hadn't already harvested and gave it a firm kick. Apples rained into bins, and she nodded in satisfaction before moving to the next.

"I believe I could do that." I agreed, slightly interested. I had never gathered professionally, after all, but... I truly had little else to do.

"Ah... that is... sugarcube, Ah didn't mean-"

I gave one of the other trees a measured buck, and found that it was not so easy as I had expected. A second knocked a fair few loose, and a third accomplished my goal.

"Technique could use some work, but Ah ain't gonna just put you to work like that."

"Ma'am, if I may be so frank, I would relish the opportunity to do manual labor on this farm. After the day I have had, nothing would please me more than good wholesome labor."

"...Well shoot, Ah've been there. Alright, ya'll go west field. Big Macintosh could use the spare hoof. If ya'll are still willing to talk, Ah'll chat about whatever you want at supper. Deal?"

Dinner and work? I quite liked this mare. "That would suit me to the core, Miss Applejack."

I was vaguely surprised when she spat on her hoof, but did likewise. Luckily, I did not adhere our hooves together, but it was a near thing.


"..." Big Macintosh stated with a skeptical look, but pointed out the section he'd prefer me to work. The section wasn't excessively large, but I intended to surprise him.

An hour later, I moved to a second section with a 'Hmm' from the red stallion.

By the second hour, I'd hit a comfortable rhythm and had exceeded my section, to the complaints of my tired legs. An 'Eeyup' from Macintosh soothed those hurts with a wealth of satisfaction, and the two of us continued the field in companionable silence.

If ever a pony understood the lure of a good day's labor, it was Big Macintosh. He'd gone from disapproving to pleased with little more than a show of effort, and even as we crossed paths, there was always the firm nod of approval, a single word of praise, and moving on without further ado.

The only surprise came towards the end of the day, when one of the apple trees loudly and irritably cried out upon my kicking it.

I blinked. That was a first. I peered up into the greenery, but saw nothing, and gave it another firm kick.

"...c'mon mom, five more minutes..."

I deliberated a moment longer, trying to make sense of this, then gave the tree a final kick, harder than the others. This time there was a rustle, a distinctive 'oof' as the owner of the voice apparently landed on one particularly thick branch, and finally an exceedingly colorful pegasus crashed from the branches, upended my bucket, and managed to impale an apple on my horn.

Suffice to say I was cross.

And then she was airborne and in my face. "What's the big deal, buddy?! You just randomly kick trees and wake ponies up?" Anger awoke suspicion, and both flared white hot. "Waitaminute, who the hay are you?! Does Applejack know you're here, stealing her apples?!"

"Now see here-" Unlike the Pink Demon, I saw this one move. However, I hadn't the slightest chance of following said motion, and then I was upended, legs tied with... my own saddlebag straps. Wonderful.

"You stay right there. I'll be back with Applejack, and then we're gonna decide what we do to apple thieves!"

And with that, the rainbow pegasus was gone. I flexed my legs. I could cut the strap, or even just bite through it, but it was a good saddlebag and I wasn't going to ruin it.

"I hate this town."


Thankfully, Big Macintosh found me some five minutes later, raised an eyebrow, looked to the tree, shook his head, and said nothing as he untied me. Applejack came rushing up with the tree-pegasus moments later, and the pegasus looked like she was about to have words with Macintosh for untying me. Macintosh, for his part, looked nonplussed. Or resigned. Or, for that matter, maybe he just didn't care. He felt amused, but he was hiding it well.

"Goldarnit Rainbow, I told you-" Rainbow? Ah. This, then, must be the Element of Loyalty. I was less than ecstatic.

"Why in the heck would I think you'd get a unicorn farmhand? You don't even let Twilight work the fields unless something's going on! And he was wearing an apple on his face."

"Cause Twilight uses magic and we don't use magic here and he was willing to buck like a normal feller. An'... Ah... don't rightly know why he'd be doing that but Ah reckon that's between him and Celestia." She finished with a resolute nod.

Wonderful, now I was the deviant. "It hit me in the face when she fell from the tree. She upended the bins." I had obviously already removed the apple from my horn, but lacked any sort of towel or napkins, so short of shapeshifting it off, I was stuck with it. On the positive side, Mac had let me have the apple, and I was surprised to note they seemed even better fresh off the tree. It was an interesting idea; some food grew increasingly bland until it reached an apex of neutrality, then began to improve in different directions. No pony wanted sour milk, but cheese was different; aged cheese grew steadily better the older it became. Celestia herself had a cask of some sort of cheese stashed away that she had been aging since her youth, and once a year she would make grilled cheese sandwiches for those who had served her particularly well or distinguished themselves, because anything worth having was worth sharing.

Whatever it was, it had reduced Shining to tears when he tried to describe it.

"...Consarn it, Rainbow, you could have mentioned you were in one of the trees."

"Well it's not like I fell from the sky, what kind of lousy flyer do you think I am?" The pegasus stamped, offended by the very implication.

"That ain't the point and ya'll know it. Ah've told you once, Ah've told you a hun'erd times, stop sleepin' in the orchard if y'all are gonna wake up grumpy!"

"I'm not grumpy, I'm legitimately in the right here! He could have been stealing your apples."

A drop of apple juice dripped down onto my nose, and I cleaned it away. "To be fair, they are delicious."

"See?!"

"...Rainbow Dash. He ain't a thief, he's workin'. Ah understand that you're bein' protective and all, and you're allowed to nap in the orchard as long as you ain't impactin' business, but ya'll need to apologize."

"Come on, AJ, I'm objectively right! Mac, what do you think?"

"Nnnnope."

"See, he agrees with me!"

Big Macintosh blinked, raised a hoof, reconsidered, and settled back down. I couldn't blame him, I supposed.

"That weren't what he were sayin', Rainbow!"

"If I may interject. I believe her efforts were from a good, if incorrect, place. And I was thoroughly shamed by the ease with which she defeated me."

"See? I kicked his flank, and he's cool with it."

I have never before actually tasted ego. But this source seemed as infinite as the Princess was a source for love. I shudder to consider what that amount of self-importance would do to me. But... this was Loyalty. She put utmost value on herself... and her friends were both extensions of and important parts of that 'self'. She had been angry with me for interfering with her own rest, but the very concept of my stealing from her friend had driven her to extremes. I could appreciate a fanatical zeal towards loyalty.

But then, I am a changeling. I do not think any of us have much room to make mock.

"That. Ain't. The point, RD. He's helpin' out on the farm and you're insultin' him. All the more complicated it has to be. He even helped Fluttershy."

The prismatic pegasus paused. "...Wait, he helped Fluttershy? Why didn't anypony tell me that?"

"Y'all never even began to ask, and what does it matter?!"

"Obviously it matters. Whatever. Look. Sorry I kicked your flank and called you a thief."

"Apology accepted, on one condition."

She snorted, looking as if she wanted to withdraw said apology already, but she refrained. I approved of her restraint. "Fine, what?"

"...How did you actually do that?"

"What, tie you up with your own saddlebags and leave you in the dirt?" She grinned, and I felt her ego impossibly swell yet further.

"Yes, that in particular."

"Here, lemme show you-"

Curiosity has always been my most dangerous emotion. And I have the bumps to prove it.

Author's Note:

Heya folks, sorry for the delay. Had a bunch of work stuff come up, wrote a side chapter, and all kinds of stuff going on.

Wanna toss a buck in the hat?

The Changeling of Discourse Discord Server! Hop in, have a chat.

Changeling Perspectives - Sidestories to CotG - a chapter posted up giving a bit more story on the character of the Nurse.

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

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