• 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.

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Princess Celestia wiped her streaming eyes with a hoof, then stomped twice. “And then… oh Harmony, she did a pirouette on top of the statue, clutched her neck, and fell, the young mare dove… and Philomena… burst into flames. And a pile of ashes fell into poor Fluttershy’s hooves.” The Princess of the Day looked into her own hooves with an exaggerated look of horror before again bursting into laughter.

No!” Came the delighted response, Cadance’s hooves up to her mouth in mock scandal. Honestly, the two of them were having far too much fun with this.

“I almost died. Philomena, you are a terrible, terrible, bird!” The bird in question tucked its beak into its wing, but perhaps it took a changeling to recognize how proud of itself the now-beautiful creature was.

“Oh, poor Fluttershy had no idea what had happened, and I’m sure she had herself so worked up.”

“But Twilight had to have told her-”

“I may have wanted to surprise Twilight with seeing Philomena’s transformation. You know that Twilight tends to not pay attention to anything not properly bound.”

“It’s probably going to make her relationships interesting, to be fair?”

“Hmm?” Celestia’s eyes widened and her cheeks reddened slightly. “Cadance!”

“I’m only saying…” Cadance grinned, enjoying her aunt’s discomfort.

Princess Celestia coughed, not meeting her niece’s eyes. “Well… be that as it may! What… what was it that Twilight said?” She motioned to one of the guards who had accompanied her to Ponyville.

The guard, one Stout Heart, took a step forward and saluted. “Your highness. Imprisoned, banished, or imprisoned in a dungeon in the place you would banish her, your highness.” He dropped his hoof and took a single step backwards. I endeavored not to scowl; it was two half-steps and he knew it. Not that I could criticize, I was properly mortified; the Element of Kindness was the one pony I had been able to give a complete accreditation to, and she had foalnapped the Princess’s prized phoenix. Meanwhile, said princess was on her back, kicking her hooves into the air while Cadance held her sides. No amount of endeavoring could have prevented noticing that, but I was able to remain stoic.

“Where does she come up with these things…?” managed the Princess of Love as she wiped eyes dampened by mirth.

A sigh from the larger princess as she rolled back to her hooves, regaining a semblance of control. “I… may have let her cross reference bedtime stories and fables with books on law to verify some of the more outlandish punishments ponies received in them. Banishment, exile, imprisonment all seem rather tame when it comes to pronouncements about splitting a foal between two mares claiming to be the mother. And Twilight has quite the active imagination.”

A giggle. “It’s true. Do you know she used to try to suggest Shining should be my personal knight?”

“Where ever would she get that idea?” Celestia scoffed with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “But the important thing is… she told Fluttershy to let her take the blame. She was willing to take whatever the punishment was for her friend.” The princess bit the inside of her cheek. “That said, she also said I’d go easier on her. Just came right out and said it! I’m not that soft on her.”


The solar diarch snorted. “Corporal Idol Hooves, am I soft on Twilight? Be honest.”

“I would never lie, Your Highness.” I bowed deeply.

“...I note he didn’t actually answer the question.”

“...Alright, I’m a little soft on her. She’s precious and she means well. Regardless! Cadance, she was willing to go against me for one of her friends! They have been so good for her!”

“A few more years and you can talk politics with her and she might not agree with you on all of them!”

“Harmony, I want her to branch out, not start a revolution. Half the guard would turn on me and join the Royal Messaging Service.” One of the guards in question gave a sheepish half-smile and looked down, causing Celestia to laugh again. “Regardless, I must have your oaths that you’ll share this business about Philomena with nopony. Fluttershy is a dear and I’m sure she would be mortified if this became common gossip in Canterlot. I really must make all of it up to her… it bordered on entrapment, really.”

“Twilight invited her to the Gala, didn’t she?”

“That’s right, the Gala… Fluttershy and the rest of her new friends, in fact. You know, I think I could arrange for Fluttershy to have the garden to herself? Giving her the opportunity to enjoy the flowers and the wildlife, it sounds like exactly the sort of thing she would enjoy. Once the festivities have begun the only ponies who ever leave are to wander the maze and canoodle.”

“Prime canoodling spot, a thorny hedge-maze filled with creepy statuary,” the pinker princess agreed, without a trace of irony. I briefly wondered what those statues had seen, and just as briefly considered blindfolding them before discarding the idea. Knowing ponies, that would only exacerbate the issue.

“I’ll deign not to ask how you would know. Corporal Hooves, my sister?”

“I would know nothing of canoodling with your sister, your highness.”

“Thank Faust for small favors. But I meant how is she doing, really? Between the physician and her own opinion she’s either in danger of scurvy if she doesn’t eat a dozen oranges or so healthy she risks infecting others with immortality.”

“Ah, yes. Princess Luna’s recovery is moving along. Her highness has begun to express increasing dissatisfaction with her accommodations, but I feel that is only sign of her returning health; she is less miserable than she is bored. I hear that she was delighted with the mare with the glass bowls, but she is… less apt to extend her patronage directly, given current events.”

Annoyance marred the alabaster features. “If I could find the pony who convinced those two charlatans to leave town in shame I don’t know whether I would knight him or kick him. I wish I could have put those two in a stockade. Are you sure you’ve never seen him before?”

“Does Equestria even do stocks anymore?” Cadance asked, bemused.

“I swear I have never laid eyes on the individual, your highness.” It was true enough. Most changelings were confident enough in their stolen forms to not need the benefit of a mirror to check. Though I was mostly certain the description of ‘Lord DeFace’ was more than a little exaggerated, I had not been exceptionally circumspect making my way through Canterlot.

“Do you know the rumor mill suggests he lives in the canals below the city?”

I opened my mouth to admit that I did not, then frowned. I had definitely been seen, yes, but…

“Yes, I am aware there are no canals beneath Canterlot. And nopony living beneath the city.” She quickly raised a hoof to forestall any protest. “Canterlot Castle notwithstanding.”

I felt a moment of concern. While that was not inaccurate, I was suddenly concerned that my dealings on behalf of one Princess has put another of my charges at risk. If ponies were going to seek individuals beneath the city… they could very well put the Nymph at risk of discovery.

Something would have to be done.

"I have you now, your Highness. Your efforts are for naught, and you will rue this day." I intoned as I lifted the spike, prepared to slam it down in victory, crushing my foe utterly. "Sky-6."

"Thou hast enthundered my Cumulonimbus." Came the bitter response from my defeated foe. "Twas our favorite. I summon forth a typhoon, Air-1 through Cloud-3."

"And you have shattered my thunderhead." I sighed, now disappointed. "Victory is yours, but the international community will have words for your excessive use of force." I placed eight white pegs before placing the final red peg into my largest cloud and showing the royal highness her victory. Even if the Princess had only needed to find one remaining lone spot, having sneezed and knocked her own pegs from the board had become such a routine action over the last few days that I had suggested weaponized hurricanes as a weapon either of us could use but once to make up for the.. unusual circumstances. It made for a considerably more aggressive playstyle. We had also experimented with moving any cloud by one peg each turn, but that had extended the game far beyond either of our interest.

"Can this truly by called a victory without Commander Fallstar? After so many battles unscathed, beloved by his people as he was? We fear there shall be no graciousness in victory from our side after the loss of such a mighty hero."

"And I fear my own will be emboldened, and the war will continue." I confirmed, saddened by the warlike nature of the tiny cloud figures.

"How soon will they be able to rebuild their shattered armada?"

"I would estimate it will be several months before they are capable of the next engagement."

"Indeed? Then in the meantime, shall we turn our attention to the Chuting Ladders?" The princess wiped her nose, utterly destroyed a lace handkerchief, and gave a vigorous attempt at a sniffle.

"In the interest of prolonging peace, I would even accept the pursuit of trivia."

The princess perked up. "We could use the practice of the single Opoly." She pulled out her self-customized box for the latest game, ensured that the jail was labeled 'Of the Moon', and began doling out the credit tokens and various cards. "We shall become a railroad tycoon this day!"

I shuddered. "You are welcome to it, your highness. I would prefer the task of managing the public utilities."

"We shall make a bureaucrat out of you yet, Corporal Hooves. We must confess, the interests of the people have shifted greatly since our day. Games of chance and skill were less... complicated. Why, in the days of our youth, a foal could be entertained with a hoop of iron and a stout stick."

"Children always make do. Before the hoop, they would have found some way to entertain themselves with the stick."

"There is wisdom in that." She admitted. "Though with greater and greater advances come more and more interesting options. There were cards in our day, to be sure, but the games revolved around suits, colors, or numbers. The card games of today... collectible monsters and heroes in a game of combat? The imagination runs wild. The tastings on the bottom make me wish to hear all the legends of the world they portray."

"Flavor text, your majesty."

"Your highness, Corporal."

"Touche. We should find some means of allowing you to interact with Shining's games of quill and paper. An adventure for one is fine, but with a party..."

She grumped daintily. "We shall have to dangle our physician over the balcony if he continues to recommend this bubble. We wish to be out, introducing ourselves… myself, to the good ponies of Equestria. We... I... have so much to make up for..." She cast a longing look at the faint sparkles that surrounded her. The newest shield was properly mobile, but smaller than ever. A large stationary shield drew most power when others were going through it, as they would be scanned or rejected. A mobile shield, on the other hoof, had to constantly scan when the princess was in motion and either halt her forward progress or reject whatever was in edge of the space. Done once, it was merely taxing; done constantly, as needed during motion, was exhaustive. Recharging the spell was the main task Shining and I undertook most nights, and truth be told, Shining’s skill with shields was being challenged by the ever-shifting needs of the Princess of Night. Shining seemed to revel in the opportunity to experiment, though I rarely understood the mechanics of what he was talking about more than what was required to keep the magic operational.

Thankfully, at the recommendation from Luna's doctor, the shield no longer had to expel ponies. Now we sought to keep her from sick ponies and anything particularly unclean, but guests were becoming more common. Her magic had been recovering, though any night where she became too lost in her duties almost always resulted in a head cold the following morning. Still… on days where she rested, she was growing ever more hale. And that only left her still more restless. Thankfully, she could entertain a guest or two, and Cady was almost as eager to visit as Princess Celestia herself.

Princess Luna, you see, has a bit of a penchant for drama when telling her stories. Mostly about how a ‘young Celly’ was a notorious cookie thief. Oddly, Celestia seemed to recall that it was a ‘Lulu’ doing the thieving, and that she should finish her alfalfa, which left the younger sister sputtering with indignant fury.

The world, I supposed, would remain full of mysteries.

“Your highness, the royal physician knows well that you tire of this environment. I swear to you, upon clean bill of health, I shall personally see to it that you will see as much of Canterlot as you can handle.”

“Perhaps I shall take you up upon that,” she accepted. “But it makes my imprisonment no less onerous. And in the meantime, we must live vicariously through other ponies. Speaking of, Guardsmare Mothchaser seems to be absent yet again?” One royal eyebrow raised at me.

I fidgeted, slightly uncomfortable. Mothchaser had not been avoiding me, exactly. We ran into each other all the time… usually right as one of us was going on shift. It was… odd. Somehow I made her nervous now, and I could not guess why.

“Ah. She claims she needs to take a pair of thestral foals to make recompense to Honey Dew. They have been harassing her bees.”

Luna blinked. “...Harassing bees? Have they been stealing honey?”

“Not to my knowledge.” I shrugged. “To my understanding, they have simply been flying too close to the hives. I suspect there is more but…”

“But that is thestral business?”

“Precisely, your highness.”

She made a noncommital sound. “If thou insist. Roll the dice, that we may begin. And tell us more about this ‘Gala’.”

The Grand Galloping Gala; a time for the good ponies of Canterlot to be on their absolute best behaviour, to uphold all of the social niceties, and to enjoy themselves within the limits of propriety. Strangely, Princess Celestia never seemed to look forward to it, but this year seemed quite the exception. I too anticipated Twilight and her new friends visiting, perhaps a little youthful enthusiasm would enhance her highness’s experience. I was sure Twilight would have read up on the extensive social rules of the event.

The sheer number of ponies seeking entry to the Gala was always astounding, given how few of them actually seemed like they would enjoy the atmosphere of the actual event. It had become a strange tradition for non-attendees to watch ponies on the absurdly extended red carpet - and Twilight’s entourage had just broken into song. Surely not. I rubbed my eyes, prodded a hoof into my ear, and then re-dedicated my focus. Now they were dancing. Oh no.

They were just excited, I told myself. Surely this would go no further.

The Apple pony was selling pastries. In an event where most ponies don’t even bother with a purse, because all manner of pastry was provided.

I did feel… a little sorry for her, but that was... fine. A little eccentric, but fine.

The musicians chosen for the event have honed their skills to a razor’s edge, and the ambiance of the great hall was pleasant, soothing if by no means exciting. The pianist was almost incapable of laying his hooves on the grand piano; it had been a personal gift to Celestia from one of the finest craftsponies of his day. To my understanding, the world has never seen its equal, and the pianist’s motions are as masterful as they were reverent, as such craftsmanship deserves.

And now the Pink Demon danced upon it. Her heresy knew no bounds.

The Rainbow Dash did everything in her power to get Spitfire’s attention, but Spitfire was very familiar with her role at these sort of events; charity and fundraising. I could feel her desire to focus on recruitment, but she persevered. Rainbow was at least… nominally acceptable.

Oh dear Harmony, Blueblood had won the eye of Rarity. There was a wickedness in him this tonight; normally his tongue would be acid and more than one noble would receive a drunken barb that would lead to some defensive act of charity that more than made up for whatever perceived shame was exposed. I silently pled that the young mare would be left out of his political machinations; that she did not know of his reputation was unthinkable, but…

“Oh, Idol, calm down-” Topaz laughed, patting my armored shoulder as she hobnobbed her way by. “I thought you liked Prince Blueblood?”

I hesitated, not wanting to intervene, and yet… “He serves an important role in Equestria by shaming those who fall beneath even his pitiful standard. He establishes the minimum requirement for nobility and ensures that the worst ideas never receive much support by virtue of his own efforts to support them. It is not a role I would relish, but he performs it well.”

“That’s an awful nice way of saying really unpleasant things about someone.”

“I truly do approve of Prince’s machinations.”

“He could just enjoy being a jerk, you know. And… shouldn’t it be ‘the Prince’? You’re usually pretty specific.”

“I assure you that is not… entirely the case.” I could defend only so far, and I feared there were to be greater evidence to the contrary this night. “And... no. ‘Prince’ is his name. Prince Blueblood.”

Topaz grimaced. “I feel like I should have known that. I could talk to her, you know. I’d love the opportunity, this dress is probably the nicest one I’ve ever owned…” It was true, Topaz was a beacon of well-manicured academia. Rarity had great talent, and I suspected spending time with Twilight had given her an idea what a pony with a love of knowledge on a certain topic would enjoy. Topaz had been particularly delighted with insect-wing themed lace; I could hardly imagine how such a thing was even possible, but it was as if Topaz was hemmed with dragonfly wings. I found it oddly intriguing.

“I do believe Fluttershy is here as well-”

“Well then, I think maybe we should mingle and do a little damage control?” She gave a little grin.

I was about to offer Topaz my hoof and introduce her to several of the heroes of Equestria when a great many things happened in rapid succession. Applejack brought in a cake somehow made of apples. The Pink Demon, maddened by sugar and too little dancing, dove off the stage and somehow launched the confection into the air and towards the crowd. Blueblood used the Element of Generosity as a cake-shield. I believed he had finally gone too far, when in his faux-foppish attempt to escape Lady Rarity’s wrath, he managed to tip over one of Celestia’s… least favorite golden statues. The Element of Loyalty, ever one to live up to her element, caught the wretched thing… and proceeded to apparently bash it against every marble pillar in the room, destroying both the statue and a great deal of much nicer marble.

Thank Order, the Princess and the Protege chose that moment to arrive. This could be salvaged before the upper crust of Canterlot tore into her friends-

The great doors to the hallway burst open, and the residents of the garden became refugees of the hall. “You’re… going to LOVE ME!!!”

And then all Tartarus broke loose.

Author's Note:

Heya everyone! Hope you're all still enjoying this. I hope to get the next chapter out sometime this month as well.

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