• 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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After Math

“So. That is a concise retelling of the events of my day.” I tried to lift my hoof again and found it was still damnably stuck. I still could not decide whether I should be more impressed… or annoyed. Annoyance was beginning to win out, but then again, it was impressive that this substance was able to resist my ability to adjust my body… so maybe they were still even. It was actually more than mildly concerning that she could do this in the first place.

“Mmhmm.” Came the muffled response. There was a low rumble of thunder from outside, unusual enough in Canterlot.

“...I believe I have earned an explanation for why you are wearing a helmet, cape, and a… gas mask? And why there are giant sticky pads all over the house?” I queried, feeling I had been excessively patient in this particular regard. Her murmured response was almost completely imperceptible and even more impossible to comprehend. “Could you speak up or remove the mask?”

The oddly painted mask was yanked off by a flushed Topaz, but her voice remained a mutter. “I…-sher.” I tilted forward and the... ‘unwelcome mat’ I was standing on slipped, and thus I found myself lying on my side, not quite glaring but certainly not pleased with my situation. Topaz bit her lip and put a hoof to her mouth, but I could only sigh as I lay my head down.

Aware that I was now stuck cheek first, I cut a look at her. “You may laugh, if you must.”

“I really shouldn’t.” I noted that her hoof did not move from where it hid her muzzle, though her rapid blinking belied her restrained mirth.

“No no. I insist,” I tried to shift my hooves and side to be more angular, but it proved a mostly fruitless endeavor. “And I also must beg your assistance in helping me up.”

Her voice was strangled. “You sure? You’ve almost got it!”

I gave her a flat look. “Do I really.” It was not truly a question.

“...no?” And then her composure broke and gave a barely restrained snort before breaking into full-blown laughter as she went for the kitchen. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, let me get some cooking oil or something—”

“I am still waiting on an explanation for the gas mask!” I informed her retreating form, trying to wriggle after her, only managing to somehow fold an upended portion of the mat over me.

I decided that it might be best to leave this in her hooves, and waited patiently. I felt uncomfortably like a parcel awaiting shipment.

“Just give me a minute - how did you make it worse in the ten seconds it took me to get some vegetable oil - hold still, let me just pour some of this on your hooves…” Within minutes I began to pry free thanks to the slippery substance, though now mere tile became more troublesome. Greasing up the rest of me was an interesting feeling, though not one I desired to replicate anytime soon. “Honestly, just stay still, we’ll dry you off and a little soap will fix the rest and then I have to take down the rest of them—”

Topaz. Please tell me what is going on.”

A groan of despair. “Promise you won’t laugh…?”

I raised an eyebrow.

“...okay that’s fair. I was, uh… Topaz Showers, the Bug Mare, but by night I was The Bugisher.”

I blinked a few times. “...the what?”

“I… I was… convinced that… the government was being taken over by… bug ponies.”

“...Topaz, I believe I am what you would consider a ‘bug pony’. You’ve made that clear in no uncertain terms before and the comparison seems to be apt.”

“Yyyeah, there was some convoluted backstory and I think you were like a frenemy and… I had an arch-enemy, the Queen Bee…”

“Would that be why Honey Dew’s house now has stripes and a large crown painted on it?”

“Honey Dew was the Queen Bee?” Disbelief crossed her face, then annoyance. “Of course she would be. Why wasn’t that obvious?”

“According to Spike, it never is.”

“Look, it doesn’t matter. Dear Celestia, Idol. My basement is full of photographs and red threads and maps… I’m not entirely sure it wasn’t me who was the villain! I mean, I think I was stung as a foal but… I was never stung as a little filly? I can’t tell if I just don’t remember my backstory or if I made it up or if it was always made up or—”

I put a hoof to her shoulder, firmly. “Topaz. Calm down. All is well, Discord is… gone, apparently. I am under the impression that the Elements of Harmony have resolved that issue but the specifics are yet a mystery to me. Everything is mostly how it should be. The weather crews are trying to wash away what they can and were authorized to use localized typhoons if need be. Honey Dew’s home will get a good washing and hopefully whatever she used to decorate her home comes right off.”

“...I could have hurt somepony. Harmony knows what I’d have done to a changeling...”

“You would have done nothing. Whatever the...” I gave a deep sigh, "...Bugisher did is completely unrelated to things that you would normally do. Is Honey Dew your nemesis?”

“Of course not, that’s silly-”

“And yet, at some point the two of you would have fought to the death, unless by some happenstance she survived off-scene.”

Topaz gave me a suspicious look, and I found that I could not meet her eyes. “...I read the comics I get for Spike to ensure they are age appropriate. Some comic shops are less vigorous about maintaining such standards for their imported materials. The shopkeeper assured me that the Maneiac probably survived her last encounter, but a little implied darkness makes the day brighter.”

Her eyes twinkled behind her spectacles. “You know it’s fine if you like reading them, Idol. But what about you? It sounds like the whole thing in the palace was…”

“In my case, nothing happened that I can recall. It is murky, but it seems I was just fed grapes and fanned, mostly. I distinctly recall having grapes peeled for me, but I do not actually see the point of peeling them, honestly. It seems far more messy than it is decadent.”

“Oh, I know that one. Old grapes used to have a tough skin. Kinda like oranges, I guess. It’s a really old-timey thing. Maybe before Luna and Celestia’s time, even. I don’t even know how you’d do it, nowadays.”

“I think Mothchaser was the only one who really managed. At least, she was the only one who was still feeding me when things went… back to normal. It was oddly impressive, actually. She was holding her wings up over us and apparently dripping the juices from her wingtips into my mouth. Very dextrous. Wingstrous?” I twisted a bit, then held my foreleg in an arch above my head in an attempt to emulate the position, realizing after a moment that I could just become Mothchaser and show her, but I suddenly felt that would make the explanation awkward in some way. “I wonder if that’s why she was so embarrassed. One shouldn’t play with their food.”

Topaz scrunched her face. “Hmm. Sounds like there’s going to be a bunch of ponies not sure how they feel, honestly. I mean… I’m still kinda vaguely sure the government is out to get me? I wonder if this is how mother feels all the time. It’s going to be a problem, you know...” Topaz began peeling some of her sticky traps from around the windows, rolling them up to keep them from clinging to her feathers. I briefly attempted to help, but between my greasy hooves and the glue, it seemed a fool’s errand. “Ugh, Canterlot looks like we threw city-wide revel and everypony was wasted. And now it’s going to be wet and weird.”

I nodded out the window, surveying the damage as I made a mental note, again, to pursue why Topaz’s mother was so confident that the guard had some business with her. “A shame Shining isn’t here now. Weather shields would make the day far less irritating. Still, I should go, there is much for my ilk to clean up. Discord’s magic may be gone but clearly at least some of the damage he wrought is still in effect.”

“From the sounds of it, it’s probably best that those two were out of town. I mean… where would Cadance have been for this whole mess?”

I shuddered. “Fair point. I am simply glad Princess Luna slept through the entire event. Now, I wanted to make sure everything was well here before I returned to assist, and it seems you have it all well in hoof.”

“Lucky her,” Topaz called up the stairs, shuffling with her awkward bundle of oversized pest traps. “While I do appreciate that; you should-” There was a long pause. “Idol. Is there something you’d like to tell me?”

I frowned, thinking of a great many things I would like to express but nothing that I thought was immediately urgent. “...No..?” I would have to do a sweep of the city, ensure there were no fires or other strange damages that required immediate attention... I had caught a single parasprite on my way home bouncing next to a music box, but that was a problem quickly resolved… I would have to check on the Nymph; Order knows what she had gotten up to with a Discorded Canterlot.

The idea that she might have been caught up in the ponies who the draconequus had ‘altered’ was too frightening to warrant further contemplation. I would need to find her a better caretaker; I was too often called away on behalf of the princesses or the needs of Equestria. I was never trained as a Nurse, and while I could provide food, I simply wasn’t qualified to provide much in the way of education. Even after all these years, sometimes I still didn’t know what I was doing. I made do, and somehow managed well enough. I had a few exiles in mind that seemed relatively stable; surely with one of them she would be better cared for. It was doubtful any of them had been so thoroughly shamed by the former prisoner, regardless of what Topaz thought—

“...Nothing? Really?

“I… that is…” I frantically searched for anything I had forgotten to tell her as she made her way back up the stairs. I had neglected to mention any of Celestia’s comments after we were released from Discord’s power, but I could think of no way she’d know of them. Things I would like to tell her? Had she changed her mane again? Hardly a fair thing to ask when she’d been in a gas mask minutes prior, but I did like the ‘mussed’ look-

Topaz crested the stairs with a small bundle of rolled up sticky traps… with a small chitined face poking out of it like an embarrassed changeling burrito. Tears were rapidly forming on the tiny face. Topaz’s silence was deafening.

“...You said if anything happened I could come here and I’d be safe and I came here and I’m stuck and she’s mad to see me and things were changing colors and everything turned this weird wrong color and then there was loud crashing and there was water everywhere with weird shiny stuff in it and I just wanted to hide here for a few days-”

“Ah. You mean the Nymph.”

Topaz’s eye twitched.

Nymph sniffled miserably as cooking oil dripped off of her, soaking the thick towel Topaz had scrounged up for her. “I smell like hay fries...”

“But you are not bound in a prison of glue and fiber. A win, I would say.”

Topaz didn’t even look up from where her face was buried in her forelegs at the kitchen table. “Idol. You’re telling me. That you have kept. An actual child. In the sewers.”

“Technically, that portion of the underground is the aqueduct.”

That isn’t better!

I blinked. “...I would disagree. The sewer portion is exceptionally less pleasant, and inhabited by the undead.”

Wait, what?!

“Nymph, you were not to bother Topaz unless there was an emergency.”

The little changeling shrunk into her makeshift blanket and oil-rag. “I got scared. There was lots of water and all kinds of noise… I wasn’t even going to bother her, I just wanted to sleep near you, in case something was happening!”

I sighed. “Thunder is nothing to be afraid of in pony lands, little nymph. The weather patrol is trying to clean up the mess left by… a problem, and… bah. It is a mess. I was going to come check on you.”

“She’s staying here.”

I blinked, turning towards Topaz. “...pardon?”

“There is who knows what runoff going into those storm drains right now, and she needs a bath. She’s staying here tonight.”

Nymph’s hooves hit the table in impotent, slippery fury, nearly causing her to slide from both table and chair. “I can take care of myself!”

“I’m sure you can, but you’re staying here until things dry out. Idol, get her things. She'd better have ‘things’, or this discussion is going to get a lot more argumentative.” I considered pointing out that most changelings didn’t traditionally have property in general, but was saved by my sometimes-wiser charge.

Nymph pouted. “I already have my things. And I have a waterproof sack that I keep my books in.”

“Oh, you have books? Comics, or-”

Now distracted from her misery slightly, Nymph brightened. “I have Daring Do’s Adventure Awaits, Daring Do and the Marked Thief, and Cursed Chalice, and the Cave of Exalted Nightmares!”

“A good starting collection. I’ll tell you what. I have a copy of Daring Do and the Eternal Flower somewhere. If you stay here, take a nice warm bath and relax, I’ll let you read it. Deal?”


“Wait, where did you get the last one?” I sputtered, perplexed. I could distinctly remember not getting her that one yet, it was going to be a reward for good behavior-

“I did someone’s homework for it. I don’t understand why ponies don’t like math, but helping a friend is what a good Professional Imaginary Friend does.”

I stared in disbelief. “You are doing other ponies work for them?”

“Sure. She already read it, and I wanted to try doing homework. It’s kinda boring.”

“You cannot do that. It is… that is to say, the work is-” I was at a complete loss. It was one thing to do labor that needed to be done, but to steal labor assigned specifically to another, I could not begin to-

“You shouldn’t do that. The reason a pony has homework like that is to memorize a basic skill or to work through the process of figuring it out. Most of the time. Besides, if you start doing one pony’s homework, it means all those other ponies are going to get jealous because they still have to do their own.” Topaz gave me an apologetic look at her interruption. “Some teachers give way too much, Idol. Foals should have the chance to be foals.”

Well. I couldn’t argue with that. “...What’s this ‘Professional Imaginary Friend' business?”

Nymph grin was infectious and she hopped down and skated to her bag with a bit of flailing, pulling out a few shards of her own cast-off exoskeleton. She’d certainly grown in the interim between the Nurse bringing her here and today. Perhaps I overfed her but… bah. Spoiling the nymphs was a drone’s prerogative. Resisting was already difficult enough. She held up the shards, concentrated… and formed a small stack of cards with a flash of telltale green fire, perhaps a dozen cards altogether. Proudly, she offered myself and Topaz each one. “Professionals have business cards!”

Topaz was obviously impressed, peering at the cards. “‘Redshock, imaginary friend, care of the bush by the jungle gym’. I didn’t know you could even do that, Idol, you’re supposed to tell me these things.”

“That… would be very difficult, given that I did not know we could do this thing. ‘Sparkle Moonie of Dreamtime and Moonbeams’? Is ‘Moonie’ even a name?”

“Oh, that’s for when I’m helping with closet monsters and stuff. And it is a name because I say it is!” She stomped a hoof and then winced. “Oh, you better put those down before-”

Topaz gave a little shriek as her card burst into flame and she dropped it, stomping it a few times. What little remained seemed to be a smear of crumbling ash. My own card seemed to be fine until I carefully set it before me on the ground where it did the exact same thing, producing little heat but destroying the card entirely. “...Fascinating.”

“See? I can hand them out but they just vanish and nopony has any idea where they go.” She waved a hoof showily in the air, threw the rest of her cards into the air where they all caught fire and drifted to the ground as little more than emerald embers. “Prestigididi… presti… It’s imaginary friend magic, okay?!”

I glanced apologetically towards Topaz. “I just have… no idea… what I am supposed to do with her.”

“Well, you’d better figure it out. Come on, young lady, let’s get you that bath. Idol, you’re going to need to figure out what to do because I’m really thinking this sewer thing isn’t a great idea. Up the stairs, come on.” She halted and gave me a look. “And don’t start telling a foal there are undead monsters in the sewers. Dear Celestia, Idol, you’ll give her nightmares. You’ll give me nightmares.” She trotted up after the Nymph. “You better get moving or you’re going to be late.”

I frowned at her backside, trying to come up with an argument. “But… there are?” I finally mumbled to the empty kitchen, then shook my head and went back to the task of helping the city clean up after the short-lived reign of the God of Chaos.

Author's Note:

Hey guys, sorry for the delay. Going to try to get the next chapters out sooner!

Yeah, Idol's going to be dealing with a lot more fallout from the events of the last chapters.

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