• Published 9th Mar 2014
  • 30,776 Views, 5,833 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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Moonshine Down On Me

I blinked. My hooves coated in slip and glaze, and a clay pot careened off of my wheel. I tilted my head, looking at my frightfully coated armor. “What… am I doing here?”

From above, Luna’s voice came down, sounding vastly relieved. “Oh, thank Harmony.” Something crashed down next to me and shattered noisily. It appeared to be a clay figurine of one of the figures from a recent play I had been to; expression forever locked in confusion at its newly fragmented self- I scowled, using my magic to sweep the shards aside and dump it into a basket. Princess Luna fluttered down, looking quite sheepish. “We decided it might be best to keep thee in isolation after you began to become somewhat… scattered.” She peered over at a collection of admittedly amateur figures, though I noted that the later ones did seem to be far more accurate. I could distinctly tell Princess Celestia, Princess Cadance, Mothchaser, Shining, and at least a dozen other guards apart by various distinct features I had portrayed, though truthfully the biggest difference between the unfired and unglazed princesses seemed to be size and hairstyle, without their typical garb. They were clearly later works of greater skill and this lack of attention to detail was odd. I grew briefly concerned until I realized that beside them sat tiny versions of crown and shoes. “Board game night will no doubt be interesting. Art thou well?”

“How did I get a potter’s wheel into your room?” I was well, I found; well and truly exhausted as well as thoroughly confused.

“Thou art considerably stronger than we had come to expect, for one thing. For another you cobbled it together from various bits. That stone wheel is an heirloom and we would very much like it back unscathed whenst thou are done.”

Her majesty’s tenses were slipping more than usual, belying the truth of her concern. “I… can scarcely recall what all I have done this day.” I admitted, feeling a weariness sink into me even as the remains of the concoction I had drunk wore off. It was as if my thoughts were made of fog, slowly lifting. “I… feel indescribable.” It was not like being drunk, I decided. A hangover was a feeling of abject misery. This was… oddly comfortable while being somehow disconcerting. I had accomplished… something, I was sure, while being absolutely certain that I could have done far, far more, if only I were… more of me? I did not even know how to feel about that feeling, and thus I chose to ignore it.

The moon princess considered, still looking concerned. “Perhaps thou art a lightweight?” At my baleful glance, she amended. “Or perhaps we should have considered the size of the sample. It would appear that it is most… potent. Is all moonshine of such a nature?”

“I can honestly say that I have never known the like of the beverage you have given me. Twas as cool as morning dew, as crisp as a fall night, and as lovely as the moon at harvest.” I blinked, though the Princess only snickered fondly. “It… was quite good, I know that much.”

“It has certainly inspired you to poetry. And from what you have done this night, I would say it may be best that I dilute my efforts. One can only allow so much pentameter in their life.”

Poetry. From me? The absolute horror. “Fair, your majesty.” I gave the figurines a closer inspection, less for detail and more to distract myself, when I realized something appeared to be missing. “I do note that I did not make a figure of you. This must be rectified-”

“Say no more on the matter, Corporal. You did indeed create a shaping of me, though it was more… detailed than I had ever expected. It was a labor of one who has great familiarity with me and I confess… I was both flattered and embarrassed. I was suddenly fearful that if I allowed you to continue working on it, twould eventually develop a life of its own. There was a certain… feyness in the air, and I sought to distract you with work on making figurines of my sister and niece. But I would like to keep it. For myself. Perhaps that is selfish, to take from a creator that which they have made, but… it is difficult to describe the knowledge of how much care and focus was put into such a thing.” A wry smile tugged at her features. “Then when you began to carve individual feathers upon my sister, I suggested the others. I hope you do not mind…?”

“Think nothing of it, your highness. If your efforts led to mine, then consider the fruits of those efforts to be well-deserved tribute.”

“And I felt it best to contain you here as you were further distracted. Some business about convincing Mothchaser to teach you how to make some sort of figures one hears instead of sees.” Her countenance turned chiding. “Thou should not play with her heart so lightly, Idol. Though you do play a part in a number of dreams, hers are delicate things.” She paused, considering. “...mostly.”


“'Tis none of your business what her dreams are, Corporal. I only warn you that you can do her great harm. Thou… do have something of a reputation.”

I flushed. “Rumors and nonsense, your highness.”

“And… the business with the sock?”

I lowered my head, acknowledging my mistakes. “I… was under a mistaken understanding of what it meant. And none thought to correct me, as none have before brought the matter up in my presence. Much makes sense now.”

She looked skeptical, but let the matter lie. “Well. I suppose I truly cannot claim superiority in any such matter. Sister had quite a laugh when I complained how difficult it was to peel grapes nowadays. I had never even really considered that one simply didn’t have to. Still, it feels strange. Apparently there exist varieties that still require it, but...” A shrug. “Some habits are harder to break than others, I suppose.” A wan smile bloomed even as she yawned, taking note of the first rays of the sun breaking above the horizon. “Such as my being an unrepentant night owl. Get something to eat and rest. Your replacement will doubtless be here momentarily, and if you even open your mouth to tell me that I cannot be left unguarded I shall cast you out of this tower through yon balcony. I would love to see this featherfall enchantment you have for myself, after all.”

I gave the princess a tight smile that very clearly did not open my mouth, saluted at her good-natured wink, and went to see to her orders. One could always approve of being ordered to breakfast, even if I was not sure I felt like sleep. I wanted to make. To build, to… I don’t even know what. Not to sing, but to compose. Not to paint, but to design. And I knew… nothing of these things, I conceded, and thus knew not even where to begin. Very strange. But interesting. Luna’s Moonshine would have to be sampled in the future, though under far more controlled circumstances.

Early breakfast or not, I was not expecting to find another princess being accosted on my way to my room. Moreover… I rather didn’t want my machinations discovered quite so early. Given that this accostation was not a violent one but far more like the outrage Celestia often suffered from the nobility, I confess I may have tried to slip by more or less unnoticed.

“I can’t believe you married us!”

Cadance blinked. “I… what?” The pink princess’s face scrunched in confusion. “...What?”

Bold blustered. “Married me and Wispy.”

Cadance pursed her lips, chewing on the inside of her cheek as she considered. “Wispy and I, and… I didn’t? It was practice. There were no witness and I even specifically said I wanted to practice taking vows. There was no kissing of the bride or groom, so even if it wasn’t under false pretenses, I wouldn’t consider that legally binding. It’s part of the ceremony. An important part, that I very intentionally left out because I knew you’d probably do it.”

“I… well, Idol said that Shining wouldn’t go that far and he’d still be witness-”

“Oh, that’s very, very true, if he hadn’t cast a shield around us to keep things silent. It’s the sort of thing that starts rumors. I mean, yes, I told Idol I was probably going to be presiding over a few personal ceremonies and I was nervous and he- oh!” Her hoof went to her mouth, but she couldn’t quite hide the twisted combination of amusement and aghastness. I began considering making an escape. “That is sneaky! I cannot believe he insisted I take the two of you-”

“Waitaminute, he told you to take us-”

Yes, escape was becoming a very attractive option. If I scaled the wall and used a window, I might even make it. But… my impromptu breakfast was still uneaten, and I feared it would grow cold in crisp morning air. I would have to rely on being unnoticed in the commotion.

Wispy’s voice breathed in my ear. “You… bastard.”

Apparently so attractive that the option escaped me, as it turned out. I cursed its cowardice even as I prepared for both the onslaught and cold oatmeal.


“I may have willfully misinterpreted the situation. Also, I was under the impression you two were not in a relationship when I made such arrangements. It was the two of you who decided to go along with it.”

“I… am going… to kill you. This is not idle chatter. This is a declaration to murder. You’re going to die. I might even laugh maniacally. A professional declaration of intent-to-villainize.”

“It is good to maintain professional standards for such things, though I did presume I would be the villain in this role and you would be the disgruntled hero seeking to right a great wrong,” I accepted, a bit disappointed. “Might I recommend an axe?”

“No! No plotting!” the pegasus fumed, working herself into even greater stormclouds. Perhaps my meddling had been rather roughshod; I feared another physical correction was incoming. “For Harmony’s sake, Idol, I’d actually gotten used to the idea and now I’m not even-”

Bold’s ears flicked back at those words, though he truly looked more flummoxed than angry. “Wait. You’re... used to the idea?”

Wispy suddenly put me in mind of Mothchaser when I had invited her to my room. And a hundred other moments, to a lesser degree. I definitely had to resolve that matter. It was odd, seeing someone so bold suddenly so tentative, but now… the feelings between them were still strong, still passionate, but now there was a sudden shyness between them. Neither of them thought the other had considered this relationship ‘serious’, I knew, but they couldn’t keep their hooves off one another. It had been a longstanding game between them, played for so long neither knew how to break the stalemate. Cadance had once compared it to a strange game of removing and replacing blocks in a tower, forever raising the stakes and yet never quite tumbling it down even as they stripped stability from it.

More concerning, it was difficult for even me to be so willfully ignorant when faced with such a clear and obvious mirror. And yet… and yet I still relied on emotional feedback more than visual or audible. I had somehow never managed to note Mothchaser’s interest. Had, in fact, presumed that it could not exist because I would have felt it. But then… her interest was in Idol Hooves. The pony. Who I was, but since Idol Hooves was not a real pony, I could not be aware of the emotion? Or perhaps it was something closer to the curse that Princess Cadance herself suffered; unable to know what feelings were directed at her? But no, that did not track; I was aware of every other feeling directed towards me, I was sure. I feared it would have to be related to the Orders.

Damn, had Luna’s brew had made me introspective on top of inspired? A dozen projects started, nearly asking Mothchaser to teach me about sound sculptures, and who knows what else I had begun that Luna had either not noticed or not thought worth mentioning? Worse still, I was ignoring the results of my meddling with Bold Bigflank and Wispy Nimbus.

“-not so much that I’m not used to us as that I don’t think I really minded the idea that we weren’t just dating and that since I already figured out how I was going to tell my folks the worst part of it was--”

Oh good, Wispy was rambling. I hadn’t missed much.

Bold was considering all of this, nodding slowly. “So… what you’re saying is… you wouldn’t be against marrying me?”

“Well, no, I wouldn’t, I just-”

“D’you wanna get married?” Bold asked, blithely.

Cadance facehoofed with both hooves and glared at me so fiercely I began to wonder if there was a celestial body she could banish me to. Celestia banished Luna to the moon… Supposedly Luna could banish her sister to the sun… where would Cadance send me?

Not if you ask like that, you big-!”

“Oh, well then-” Bold took a knee and Wispy’s jaw dropped. Cadance’s followed moments later.

I allowed myself a grin. I did do good work. But I had to admit Bold’s proposal the second time was far better, and that might have swayed Wispy more than any of my meager manipulations. I chose to make my exit in the more appropriately dignified and standard manner, past the gawping Princess who was only now overcoming shock.

“You’re a jerk, I hate you, and I can’t believe that worked.” Cadance pouted prettily.

“Do not hate the player. Hate the game.” I quoted, with all the authority I could muster.

“It’s my game!” She stomped in mock outrage. “I had a whole thing planned. Roses, music, moonlight, they’d have been swooning!”

“Those two do not do ‘swooning’, Cady. They enjoy the scandal.”

“I’ll get you for this, Idol. Don’t you think I won’t!”

“That is two threats of villainy in one day. I feel strangely accomplished. A princess, this time.”

“Oh hush, go eat your sugar soup.”

“...There is more oatmeal than sugar.”

“Riiight, honey and sugar soup.”

I pursed my lips, but I no longer had an argument and she knew it. A point for her, then. We nodded, score understood, and we went on our ways.

The changeling before my door was a familiar one. Truthfully, few changelings needed to visit me more than once, perhaps twice a year, and many only came to refill because they had provided assistance to still other changelings, whom I then refilled in turn. Some never returned, and I hoped they were well, but knew that some mistrusted their fellow exiles far more than others. The crystals did not hold energy indefinitely, however, and it seemed that my constant interactions with an alicorn whose powers involved a… heightening, perhaps a purification of love, made me a relatively constant source of refreshment.

The mare ahead of me, however, had five crystals. Had been bringing those crystals to me… perhaps every season. She was no longer so frail, so frightened as when I had met her years ago, but… I feared she had never found what she had been looking for. There was a certain ‘hurt’ from her that was unusual for our kind.

I did not typically pry, but perhaps it was lingering effects of Luna’s moonshine, even as I replaced dim crystals with brighter ones, placing hers amongst my collection so that it was not too terribly noticeable. “Why… were you banished, if I may ask?”

She gave me a flat look, clearly unwilling to speak of it. I had asked once before, years ago, and she had been displeased then as well, and refused to discuss the matter. Still, years of quiet sympathy and assistance had accrued some sort of social debt within her, and she relented. “...I wanted a larvae. The queen deemed me unsuitable.”

I blinked. “That is… unusual.” Truthfully, to my understanding the hive was in a sort of constant growth, and refusing to allow any to reproduce would mean another would have to lay at least twice before even stasis in population was achieved. “I have never heard of such a thing.”

“My first egg was deemed unsatisfactory, and chosen not to hatch.” Bitterness seeped from her, outrage even. “I was told to choose a different sire and try again. Again I was deemed ‘unsatisfactory’ and told not to bother seeking a different sire.” She glared at me. “I sought to prove my third would be fine by hiding it.”

I blanched. There were few things the Queen was very explicit about. All eggs were brought before her. There were to be no exceptions. Without her guidance, absolutely no eggs were to be allowed to hatch. Any found outside of the nursery…

“I was caught with two eggs. They were… farther along than usual, but the Queen herself inspected both of them.” There was outrage, boiling over within her. “And… destroyed them. I tried to stop her. It did not go well. I did… not know what became of eggs the Queen decided should not be hatched.”

Well, that was… horrifying. And yet… “I… may have a task for you.” If she was this protective of the young, even in the face of the Queen herself…

“You have an offspring.” Her voice was stunned. Horrified, amazed, hopeful… and hungry. Yes, perhaps this would work.

“No. That is… not possible, for us. As I believe you know.” Nymph was cheerfully oblivious to us, reading one of her blasted Daring Do novels. I did not know how the bumbling archaeologist managed to keep surviving destroying temples and stealing artifacts, but she was certainly prolific. I had let slip once that I had met her and the hatchling had shrieked in absolute joy. Children were strange.

“Then how?!”

“Nymph was brought to me to finish her training and see to her health. She would have been… unsuitable for the role of infiltrator. She is…” I hesitated, not sure if Topaz’s claim of ‘colorblindness’ was as well known as she insisted. “...unable to see color. But if we can… resolve that somehow, she could return and be-”

“So it is a broken nymph.” She tilted her head, staring at me in disbelief. “Why do you still have it?”

I blinked, tilting my own head. “Because she needs me. But I am ill-suited to this. I do not know what I am doing. You, however-”

She scoffed. “If you want the broken nymph destroyed, do it yourself.”

I do not recall willing myself to move. I do know I had her pressed against the cavern wall, hoof over her mouth, and suddenly I had a fury that I did not know what to do with. “...Never. Speak that. Again.” I dropped her, backing away, shamed at my own outburst. “...I had been hoping you would care for her. It is… what you wanted, is it not?”

She only rubbed at her jaw, annoyed and not in the least cowed. “I want my own. What care have I for this pitiful thing?” She laughed, mockingly. “By the Queen’s commands, I cannot even purchase eggs at the market. If I buy a dozen chicken eggs, if I ever dare think of them as ‘my eggs’, I am compelled to cast them to the cobble and crush them all. It will be all I can think of until the deed is done. By all means, give me one that the Queen has deemed better than my own and still proven flawed.” The grin she gave me was wicked, chillingly so. “The Queen will get her back, I assure you.”

“...I believe we are done here.”

“Yes. I believe we are.” She left, surely navigating the caverns below Canterlot as only a subterranean species can.

I watched her go, dismayed, confused, and hurt. While I had never pried too far into the affairs of other exiles… this was the first who had shown open hostility towards the hive. Or the Queen. There was… something bordering madness there. I did not know our kind suffered from it. It was more troubling than I could put into words.

The Nymph was no longer reading her book. She merely stared at the page, and hurt flowed from her. “...Am I really broken?”

I settled down in front of her, lifting her chin and meeting her eyes. “I fear we are all broken, Nymph. But you are far less so.” My eyes flitted back to where the exile had gone. “I want you to stay with Topaz for a few nights. At least. Even if you do not come into the house, I want you near the entrance of her home so that we may check on you.”

She blinked rapidly, then seemed defensive. “Why? I can take care of myself.”

“Assuredly you can,” I accepted, “but I do not think I like that one knowing where you rest your head.”

Her response was quiet, but she seemed more relieved than belligerent. “...kay.”

To my great consternation, I had another visitor waiting in front of my door… and this one of my own making. Though, to be fair, she was waiting in front of my door, in an alcove, near the ceiling, so I am sure many would have been forgiven for not noticing her. Still…

“Good morning to you, Mothchaser. May I help you?”

The batpony fluttered down, wringing her wingtips. “You… um… you said that ‘all I had to do was ask’, right?”

I nodded slowly. “I did say that.”

“Well…” She took a deep, steadying breath. “...I’m asking. Can I come in?”

“...Certainly.” And with that, I held the door open, and the thestral slipped in.

I found her admiring the wall of crystals. “It’s… a little less spartan than I expected.” Her approval was plain, and I was honestly a little flattered.

“I confess much of it was Shining’s. When they moved him to officer quarters, he offered to leave some of it until I had a new roommate. But I have enough time in service to warrant my own quarters, and as such the room is mine and his spot is saved for whatever use he wishes to put it to.” I suspected it was canoodling with Cadance, but knew better than to suggest as much. “The crystals are mine, however.”

“They’re nice.” She agreed. “Is it like… a feng shui thing? The energy of crystals and stuff?”

“Ah… more or less.”

“Nice, nice...” Silence stretched between us for a small eternity before she finally mumbled. “So…. so how do we do this?”

I motioned to the bed, and her eyes grew wide and trepidation washed over her. She stamped it down, went over to the perfectly smooth, military-taut bed and cautiously rolled onto it, hooves held over her in front of her chest and tail wrapped around her leg. She shifted almost desperately from demure, to eager, to simply nervous, and I feared things were already not going as she expected. I did hate to disappoint, but I twirled a hoof and she flushed, rolling again so hooves were under her and wings above. She bit her lip, though she tried to hide it as she struggled to get her breathing under control again as I approached.

“I… ah… um… just… be-”

I smiled fondly, and she silenced herself. “Be at ease, Mothchaser. All you have to do is wish for me to stop, and I shall. I promise.”

She flushed even deeper, nodded, and resolutely looked ahead, waiting for my next move.

She did not expect me to lay hooves on her back, and her squeak of surprise made that very evident. Still, I knew roughly what I was about. I had wanted to try this again, and yet really, the only ones who came to my room were other changelings, who this did not seem to work on. I had convinced Topaz to let me try this on one of her legs after she had stumbled during a long day teaching, and she had been most grateful. But Mothchaser was here, and, in my opinion, she had earned this with her trust. She made a few muffled noises into my pillow as I continued to work on her, popping joints, deftly working hooves into spine and shoulders, haunch and hocks. Before long her noises became an almost chittering purr of approval, and I found that tension was almost completely removed from her body.

It was only when I began to work her wings that she gave any form of actual protest. “H-hey, those are delicate, you have to-” I took one of the wing joints in my hooves and gave it a very gentle squeeze until the joint popped and she gasped, tensing before going limp in relief. “Wait… whuh…?”

I continued, working her wings with deft hooves, feeling every bit of strain, every last ounce of tension was completely stripped from her. When I was done, Mothchaser looked as though she had run a marathon. And she was drooling on my pillow. That said, every outpouring of breath seemed to be a happy praise of my work. “Now, how do you feel?”

“I feel… wait, this… this isn’t…!” She seemed to struggle to find the words.

I put a hoof to her lips. “I know. But… I cannot give you that.” At her hurt expression, I clarified. “I cannot. Not in that I do not want to, but that I am physically incapable. It is… not my purpose.”

She seemed dazed. “Not your purpose…?”

“I am meant to serve, Mothchaser. It is truly all I am good for. I do work. I assist others. I obey. This is… what I am. I know what you seek of me… but it is something I cannot provide, and cannot be. My purpose is to do my duty, do it well, and be forgotten.” A trace of bitterness in my own words. I silenced it. She did not need to know the depths of my pain and I felt no need to share it.

“Ponies change who they are all the time. You could-”

“Ponies do,” I agreed. “...But I cannot. This is not a thing I can change. Nor, I fear, can it be changed.”

“So… wait.” She tried to sit up, trembling. “...It’s true then?”

I frowned, not sure what she was talking about. “...Pardon?”

“They used to joke that you were some kind of… golem-pony… thing. Is that… is that true?” She seemed absolutely dumbfounded. I did not intend to reveal myself, and… in truth I did not think I could. Somehow I had sidestepped my Orders, but not entirely. A side effect? Perhaps.

“I cannot say. But… no. I am not a pony.”

She sat back, stunned. “Damn. I mean. We always joked about it, sure, but… wow. You just came out and said it. Like. They said you were a construct, made to make the Guard look good. And maybe to boost Shining into being Captain so he could marry Cadance, I mean everyone knows about that-”

“You… joke about it?”

“Well… yeah. I mean…” She let out a chittery giggle, nervous. “The night guard has a joke that if it smells like coming home, it’s Idol Hooves coming on shift.” At my concerned look, she clarified. “It’s really a thestral thing. You don’t smell exactly like a pony, you kinda smell… um… good.” She cleared her throat. “Like. Really good. Nobody can really put a hoof on what it is but we like it.”

“...I do recall one of the unicorn night guard begging me for my cologne and then rolling all over me when I told him I had no idea what he meant. It was important for a ‘big date’.”

“Oh yeah, he absolutely got lucky with that one, then. Bold move, but I actually bet it worked?” At my stunned look, Mothchaser blushed. “It’s uh. Yeah. It’s a thing. Actually had to hold one of the New Moons back because they wanted to see if you tasted as good as you smelled.” I stared. She coughed. “So… what about all the…” she motioned towards the door as if knocking and I realized what she meant.

“Ah. I provide them with emotional support and little more than I have done for you today.”

Her head fell into her hooves. “You’re not a stud, you’re a masseuse. Oh dear Faust, I’m an idiot…”

“It is not quite like that. I am practicing. I would like to receive more training, I am really just an amateur. I have very little time and no accreditation to speak of.”

She looked up at me from her hooves. “You’re not… you’re not messing with me, are you?”

“I am not messing with you, Mothy.” I sighed. “You are one of the only ponies who knows the truth of this. I have misled you and done wrong by you. I would make amends.”

“I think maybe we both screwed up here. But… no harm, no foul, I guess…?”

I nodded, but had to ask. “I would very much like to remain friends…?” I extended a hoof to her.

“Yeah. Yeah, I think I need to… to think about all this, but.. Yeah. I think we can do that.” She shook my hoof for a long minute, looking at me… then drew me in, her lips meeting my own.

There was a torrent of emotion. I could feel it, but I could not taste it, could not sense it inside me. It was there, then gone, as if it had never been.

She drew back, looking embarrassed but quite pleased with herself at my shock. “And if you ever can… maybe invite me back?” With that, she rushed out, the door hanging open behind her.

That had not gone as expected. I had not done what I expected. In truth, I never thought I could. And what Mothchaser had just done… it had certainly revealed the truth of my inability to feel her interest. I was colorblind in my own way, apparently. And I was exhausted. There was too much to consider.

All duties done, I climbed into my own bed, flipped the damp pillow over, and fell into sleep. As always, I did not dream.

Author's Note:

Bunch of art this time!

Tyscope on Deviantart has put out a lot of cover art, and I'm going to need to see if there's any way I can display that. In the meantime...
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9

So go on and give him some love, yeah?

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