• 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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Out of Her Shell

Topaz was less than pleased about the events of the previous day, even before I had the chance to explain. “Idol, you can’t just give foals away to random mares!”

Not one to be easily distracted, I nodded and continued hanging my helmet on its peg near the door. “I was not aware I had given any mares a single foal, let alone multiple.”

“I… okay, that sounds even worse when you phrase it like that, but Idol, dang it, it’s still a valid point! What were you thinking, you barely knew her in the first place?! She shows up every few months for some fresh love-”

“I begin to think you are making this sound more lurid on purpose now.”

“-maybe I am, hush- and you just decide ‘hey, this foal I’ve been looking out for and has specific needs might be able to do well with this person I barely know or trust?!”

“...It did make sense at the time.”

“And does it now?”

“Nnnnnno. Not as such.” I admitted, shifting uncomfortably under her steely gaze. “She is… troubled.”

“It’s like there should be a whole system around vetting individuals seeking to care for children, isn’t it?”

“It is, actually. Somepony should look into that.”

She stomped a hoof. I endeavored to avoid her eyes, but it is difficult for a changeling to not know they are being glared at, particularly when the glarer explicitly wants you to be aware of such. “It’s called adoption, Idol, there’s a whole field of study and bureaucracy around it. You know that, you’ve read books to the children at an orphanage!”

“I… but that is for foals without parents or caretakers. This is different!”

A small sigh. “It’s not, Idol. Not really. Sometimes a foal’s caretakers realize they aren’t cut out for the job, or they don’t want it,or they’re afraid they’ll fail something important. Honestly, you can be stunningly oblivious to anything that isn’t directly related to you, you know that?”

I tried to defend myself, though truthfully my heart was not in it. I was not even sure I was doing a passable job, but the Nurse... “That may be true- your pardon, it is true- but… the Nurse was not ill-suited for the job. Nymph was not yet ready to assume her duties to the hive, and the Nurse-”

“Brought her to you. Against your will, and told you to do it. Pretty sure you can’t skirt this one, buggo.”

I did not pout. “That seems unfair. Both the situation and the accusation; I would never.”

“Yeah, well, that’s life. And I guessed you were trying to do the right thing in that way you do. So figuring out ‘what’ next instead of ‘why’ is the big issue. What are we going to do about her?” Topaz adjusted her glasses so she could glare over them while still seeing me, and I noted her bun looked exceptionally tight. Never a good sign.

“How… are you so well informed on the topic, already? I was still trying to decide how to tell you about it in the first place.”

“Nymph showed up and told me.”

I tried not to flinch, but Topaz was clearly displeased. “Ah. That is… not what I told her to do.”

Not the correct answer, clearly. Another sigh escaped the golden pegasus, but this one was a bit more fond. “Children can be willful. I kinda think you were spoiled by Twilight being nearly perfect when it came to ‘not being a troublemaker’.”

“It does seem like she saved being troublesome for her adulthood.”

The professor snickered. “Heard about some sort of harem spell gone awry. Definitely let her hair down, didn’t she?”

“It was very much not that, thank you.” I had my own ideas of such spells, and I did not approve of the adjusting of minds in such a manner. It was one thing to coax and tweak emotions, I could not fault any changeling for such a thing, but to force them where none existed was… anathema. It was both false and unsubtle.

“I know, I know. It’s just fun to tease you. You really do need to talk to Nymph about this, though.” Topaz pulled a face. “And we need to give her a better name than Nymph. Or ‘The Nymph’, for that matter. It’s a little too on-the-nose.”

“I already have a name!” Nymph stated proudly, standing on her rear legs to push a box onto a table. Topaz looked flustered and her eyes flitted around the room, obviously trying to determine where the little changeling had come from. Under the couch, I decided, though I opted to leave the Nymph’s new hiding place undisclosed. At least, I hoped it was a hiding place, and not a new tunnel dug underneath the furniture. Children of all species tend to have questionable ideas about structural integrity. One merely needs to see a griffin’s first nest to see the truth of that.

“Other than Redshock,” I stated automatically. “Naming yourself after a color you have trouble with is only bound to cause additional strife.”

“No, not that one. When I went outside the hive I was supposed to start calling myself Cersus!”

I blinked. “Pardon?”

“Pincers, like on an earwig.” Topaz informed me. “Or the feelers on the backside of a silverfish. Or the last segment on something like a grasshopper where there isn’t anything else.”

“N-no, I actually knew that from previous discussions. I do pay attention, I will have you know. But… Nymph, you have a name?”

“Well… yeah. I was gonna gather love.” She blinked up at me. “... so I was going to get a name. How else are we supposed to talk to each other without going ‘who here is a changeling’?”

I stared. “And… how does that work?”

She pouted. “Adults are supposed to know this. I say something about a cersus, like, I have something with an earwig pincers on it and I talk about cersuses… cersii? Whatever, I talk about them, and I seem a little weird, but if someone brings up that you can almost make out the carapace on the earwig… bam! That’s probably another drone named Carapace. Get it?” The infiltrator-in-training threw her hooves in the air, sending little green sparkles flying.

“Please do not set that rug on fire. This is the first I have heard of such a thing.”

“Well, you aren’t an infiltrator, duh.” Her hooves went over her mouth. “I don’t think I was supposed to tell anyone about that… I mean… that’s a secret, isn’t it? Aw, crickets.”

“I do not… that is to say-”

Topaz saved me from potentially being forced to lie to a child. “You probably shouldn’t tell other ponies, but I’m helping you and Idol stay out of trouble and hidden. I sort’ve need to know things so I can-” Her face fell. “Oh my Faust, I’ve had a half-dozen random ponies make absolutely inane comments about insects, one of them even pointed out the imago on a dragonfly nymph and that was just so stupid I think I might have insulted her to her face! Are you telling me that was a changeling, from your hive, that thought I was one of them?!”

“...Prrrrobably…? We had a list of words and stuff we were supposed to memorize and that’s… an adult insect?”

“I could have had so much information… years of additional data…” Topaz was slumping to the ground, slowly crushed by the weight of realization. “...so many research subjects, dangling in front of my eyes…”

“...Is she gonna be okay?”

“If she survives the despair of opportunity lost, she will be fine.” I assured the little changeling. “If you wish to help her, you could weigh yourself and let her know how much you have grown since the last time you stopped by.”

“She likes weird things.”

“She is a weird pony. But we like her for that.” I frowned. “I should… start calling you Cersus, then?”

“I dunno. I don’t think I’m supposed to use it yet… and I’m not really an infiltrator out gathering… so… maybe not? I like it, though!”

“Perhaps a name more suited for a pony so we can talk to and about you without arousing suspicion?”

“...oooh. I could be… um… Tourmaline!”

“Where do you get these words?”

“Books. Daring Do talks about finding a bunch of them.”

“...Fair enough. I suppose that would-”

Topaz snapped out of her reverie where she was no doubt cataloguing every conversation with her peers for any who might have been a changeling. “Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa, Harmony, no, please. If my mother finds out there’s a filly named after a mineral in my house she’s going to make assumptions, I will never live it down. And did she say ‘crickets’ as an expletive? That’s adorable, you never did that.”

“No. I have not.” I stated firmly, shaking a hoof dismissively. “I assume it is a young changeling… thing. But Nymph, if Topaz has qualms I suggest you consider another name. She helped choose my own, after all. And this shape. She’s very good at it.”

The Nymph-Cersus looked at me with all the cutting disbelief the young are capable of when they feel you are telling them a parable in lieu of the actual explanation they desired, but she did not vocally challenge my assessment. “Aww. I like Tourma, though… how about… Wyvern!” She made a snarling sound that was far too large for her diminutive frame and ‘belched’ more green flame.

“Ponies do not have dragon names, cutie marks, or powers. And before you suggest you could be a dragon, I do not possess the pay to make that believable.”

“Aww. Can I at least be an alicorn?”

“Order, no. Never do that.”

“You’re just no fun.”

“There are a grand total of three of those and everypony pays attention to them. One is slightly pink, the other is very pink, and the third ponies are still skittish around. Beyond that, impersonating royalty is a crime. That would make things more awkward between us.”

“Yeah, I guess trying to trade me off like a sack of potatoes kinda does that.”

“...Ah. And how long is this going to hang over my head?”

She rubbed her chin, thinking it over carefully. “How long can I milk it for?”

“Fair point. I shall let you get away with it until I no longer do.”

“Well that doesn’t seem fair, how am I supposed to use that?”

“The changeling filly attempting to leverage guilt on me for trying my best in a situation beyond my control claims I am being unfair. Woe is truly me.”


“Truly a loquacious argument. If I may interrupt your pontificating, I would like to speak with Topaz alone.”

“Well… okay. Don’t touch that box. I’m just putting it up here until I get a cocoon made. I don’t want it getting wet.” With that, she went back into Topaz’s basement.

I, of course, immediately checked the contents, which only made my landlady sputter in outrage.

“Idol, she just told you-”

“And I did not agree to those terms. Cards, several comics, a… plush figure of Daring Do… a number of various ribbons and gifts I can only assume she has gotten from her friends.” I shook my head. “It is not appropriate for a changeling to keep mementos of such things.”

Topaz firmly closed the box and pushed it away from my hooves. “And? You keep mementos.”

“And… nothing. They are hers. Besides, I am not a very good changeling; I am an exile. Hardly an individual to emulate, in any case. I am not sure how a changeling is supposed to be raised, and I intend to defer to you on these matters.” At Topaz’s spluttering, I tilted my head. “Is there an issue?”

“Me? Why would you trust my judgement?!”

“My own proves questionable. I… told Mothchaser I am not a pony.”

She blinked. Then, with a slow groan, she put her face in both hooves. “I thought you couldn’t do that! Why would you do that?!”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time. I may have imbibed a beverage at Princess Luna’s insistence that left me in an altered state of mind. Quite good though. I think.”

She stared at me from between her hooves, over her glasses. “He thinks. I think the Guard has an unhealthy fixation with drinking. You’re killing me, Idol. So she knows you’re a changeling?”

“Not that much,” I admitted. “There do seem to be certain compulsions against revealing myself outside of specific conditions. I perhaps could have told her, but… that I am not ready for.”

“You can explain yourself but not intentionally reveal yourself. But you can reveal that you aren’t a pony, so long as you don’t say you are a changeling, unless the person already seems to have a general idea of what you are?”

“That seems complex but accurate. Perhaps a compulsion to prevent directly revealing ourselves to other infiltrators?”

“That would be a really dumb way to get caught, I guess. Honestly… it seems like a lot of these orders are about basic things. Don’t get caught, don’t go north and freeze to death, which would probably get you caught, don’t have children, which… your children would apparently be eggs, which would be weird, and you’d get caught… I wish you could be fascinating without raising my blood pressure. Regardless, Mothchaser?”

“She showed up at my room.”


“She had… expectations.”

“Oh.” Topaz bit her lower lip. “That must have been… awkward. Did you at least let her down easy? I mean, she deserves that much for not being… you know, an absolute mess after the whole thing with Discord.”

Flinching, I tried to explain, but… “I could not give her what she wanted, but I believe I was able to give her a sufficient massage in lieu of the other. The explanation came after.”

“...You gave a mare what was probably the best sensual rubdown of her life after inviting her into your room, told her you weren’t a pony, and then sent her on her way?”

“That seems to be the way of it. I have done similar for you.”

The mare covered her strangely reddening face with one hoof, shook her head, and began marching away, apparently intent on checking on the Nymph. “You’re a monster, Idol.”

“What? What do you mean? Topaz? What is that supposed to mean?”

The Moon Princess bounced on her hooves in a manner most reminiscent of my young charge. Having had several weeks with Nymph-Cersus in close proximity, I was immediately worried. “Yea, good Sir Idol, I am given the clean writ of health!”

“Bill,” I corrected, relieved. The young changeling was proving most… rambunctious. Though entertaining, I was strongly concerned that I was somehow failing to raise her as a proper changeling. But no, I focused on my current situation. It would not do to let my mind wander during other duties.

“I am neither avian nor being charged for his services. Tis a writ.”

“Is it written down?”

“...Tis not.”

“Then it is a bill.”

“We do not think thou art correct, but your confidence leads us to question. We shall then defer to the standard parlance.”

“So… a bill, then.”

The Princess gave a grumble. “Yes, yes, a bill. But no matter, I am free! Free of this accursed tower and this accursed castle and admittedly-quite-nice room! Free to roam about on our own recognizance in full!”

“Just in time for Nightmare Night, as you had hoped.” I cheerfully offered.

She hesitated, but nodded. “Tis but a few nights hence, indeed. Though perhaps we are overzealous in our desire to rejoin society on that, of all nights...”

“I shall hear none of it.” I informed her, firmly. “Your highness has been looking forward to the event for months and I shall allow no crisis of confidence to besmirch your preparations.”

A bitter laugh. “And how shall you go about preventing my descent into self-doubt?”

“I believe I owe you a brief tour of Canterlot.”

She brightened again, and the stars in her mane actually glittered. “Sooth, you did indeed promise me such. In fact, Niece Cadance has been guiding me in the usage of a spell for just the occasion.”

I tilted my head, then closed my eyes and allowed myself a sigh. “‘Emerald Glen’, your highness?”

“Just so!” And suddenly the Princess was wrapped in a bit of magic and the familiar mare was again before me, though… slightly larger, overall. And a unicorn instead a pegasus, as Cadance tended to prefer. More to the point, it was also notably more stable than Cadance’s own.

Interested, I prodded lightly at her side, and almost immediately felt wings beneath. “Are you quite sure you wish to hide wings instead of horn?”

“It does occur that if one is not aware of my horn, they could gouge themselves quite badly. Besides, thou art possibly the only person in all of Equestria who would so grope the Royal Wings. Thou art quite fresh with this familiar form, we may yet have word with our niece.” I yanked my hoof back as if burnt, and she grinned at me. “At ease, at ease, merely a jest. In truth, I may have flicked Cadance’s horn out of curiosity. I would rather avoid a repeat performance of something that could so easily shatter the disguise.”

I felt relief wash over me. “Could you perhaps adjust coloration somewhat? Emerald Glen has been seen in the company of Lieutenant Armor on occasion and he is very familiar with it-”

“Do tell, I never would have imagined~”

I gave the princess a flat look and continued as if she had not interrupted. “Unless he is with Cadance at the time, he will likely believe you to be her in disguise. Such an interaction would be…”

“Say no more, say no more. Though such could be fun, I would not torment my niece so. And the Captain-to-be is hardly my type.”

“Just so.” I nodded, and she gave me a look before the color seemed to bleed from her disguise, leaving her a lovely shade of gray with a pearlescent mane which grew longer, then still longer until it was nearly as long as her ethereal one was. On her slightly taller body, it was quite striking. “More practice, I take it?”

A cheeky smile. The princess was an artist, and I could tell she was enjoying herself. “If we are going to go out, why not as a pony out of someone’s dreams?”

“No Emerald Glen, this.” I acknowledged.

“Let us call this one… Lady Moonstone?”

“Fair enough. Shall we inform the castle of our leaving?”

“Bah! Our sister slumbers, no doubt. If any know of this form it will defeat the purpose of holding it. We shall sneak out, as our niece does!”

I briefly considered denying the accusation, but I was beginning to strongly suspect Cadance and Shining rendezvoused more often than even I knew about. I could hardly blame them; their courtship was stretching long. Captain-to-be, Luna had called him. Soon enough. The thought warmed me for him, and I decided to support this bit of whim. “As you command, your highness.”

Princess Celestia raised one imperious eye as she looked down upon me and her formerly and perhaps not-so-formerly wayward sister, currently in disguise and sneaking out of the palace. I carefully did not notice that the co-ruler of Equestria tried to hide a small plate of freshly-baked and frosted cookies behind her back, but I did allow myself a small moment of solidarity against our dietary overlords and their caloric tyranny. Unfortunately, I then realized that I was also in something of an awkward position.

“...I can explain.”

Both eyes now widened. “Harmony help me, Idol, that isn’t necessary.” She cleared her throat. “A moment of your time? If I may steal him from you?” She nodded to Not-Luna, then motioned for me to step aside with her, very carefully concealing her snacking paraphernalia under the wing she used to guide me away.

“Your majesty, I-”

“Hold, Idol,” sighed the sun princess, fondly. “I am aware of your proclivities and that is your business. To my knowledge you have been almost completely dedicated to your duties towards my sister with very little time for...indiscretion even in your personal time. I can overlook an unauthorized tour of the palace for yourself and a friendly mare, you are by no means the first to do so. I only ask that you not make a habit of it, and try not to tarry overmuch before returning to my sister’s side. She is already nervous about her upcoming visit to Ponyville. It is good for her to have someone to encourage her to be more outgoing.”

Relieved to finally have the elder sister’s blessing, I nodded fervently. “I shall return to her and continue to encourage her outgoing as soon as we finish speaking,” I assured the solar diarch, quickly. “Of course, I went to her before even beginning my shift-”

Celestia politely coughed. “I should have known Luna would encourage you. She has always been more… open-minded about such things. I trust you will relieve her worries about her upcoming trip when your… tour is complete?”

“It shall be done.”

“Wonderful. You are dismissed, Corporal.”

“If I may, your Highness? Cookie tends to hide excess buttercream vanilla behind the pickles when the day’s baking is complete. Merely a bit of gossip. I scarcely know why I mention it.”

She gave a small ‘hmm’ of intrigue and her eyes flicked back down the hallway. “Perhaps I should… take a small walk back to the kitchens. Just to stretch my legs one last time before bed.” She gave a nod to myself and to Not-Luna, and we scampered away, Luna only barely stifling a hearty chuckle until we had finally fled far enough from the castle.

Not-Luna grinned with absolute delight. “My sister remains none the wiser? I thought surely I would be confined in my tower posthaste!”

“You are not a misbehaving filly, your majesty.”

“I certainly feel like one! Most invigorating. Though her ire was most certainly focused upon you. If not for that, I dare say she might have discovered my ruse.”

I deigned not correct her, but… then again, had Princess Celestia noticed that it was, in truth, her sister I was escorting? I had thought she was ‘in’ on it, but upon closer consideration of our discussion…

“‘Tis unlike my sister to show such jealousy. How interesting, young guardstallion.”

My thoughts ground to a halt. “Your highness, please!”

Luna’s grin broadened, gleaming as if it were a sliver of the moon itself.

“Art thou entirely sure about this?” Not-Luna questioned with some skepticism, nervously tapping a hoof as she eyed the neon sign with its archaic symbols and animated tilting wine glass and the pointy-toothed logo. “Idol, I do not think this is an appropriate place for me to be any of the time. Though perhaps thematically appropriate for somewhere to go before a harvest festival themed around my own fall from grace, a bar…? Tis a far sight from a potter’s guild, true, and the play was most entertaining, but this?”

“Nonsense, your highness. Officially it is a club, not a bar, and I have it on good authority it will be entirely to your tastes. And the food is good as well.”

“‘Twas our understanding that clubs usually had waiting lines and the like…?”

“This one caters to a slightly different clientele as a rule. Canterlot does not have quite the bustling nightlife of Manehattan, but I think you may like it.” I knocked on the door, and a small eyeslot opened. I was quite jealous, in truth; I had argued that the castle doors should have such slots, and was informed that there were large portholes in each, but nopony liked carrying a ladder to and fro in order to use them, and as a rule the castle doors tended to be opened or guarded from the outside. Still. I approved of the extra security. “One Lady Moonrock and escort.”

“Moonsto- nevermind.” She gave a nervous smile to the peering eyes, and the door slowly opened for me to lead the disguised princess into the dimly lit building. “I am still unsure of this place. What even is the name of this establish...ment…?”

“I believe it is ‘The Night Mares’, my lady. And as for why I brought you here, specifically…” I shrugged, eyeing the other patrons. “I believe they are, as they say, ‘your people’.”

Luna’s mouth fell open, and she stared in wide-eyed amazement at the ponies dancing around on the colorful floor, the flashing lights… and the very distinct lack of stallions. Several of the dancers did seem to be emulating very stallionesque courtship movements, but I was confident the princess would recognize that…. But no, she seemed to be staring at me now. Odd. “H-how… we don’t… we aren’t-!”

I murmured quietly. “Your highness. Much has changed in your absence. For one thing, such interests are no longer relegated to quiet places for the most part. In truth, only those who care for lineage, old families and the nobility truly care about such things anymore, and even some of those will happily prepare alternative arrangements to ensure continued bloodlines. But occasionally, it seems courtship is more easily performed when one can focus on… other interested parties?”

“But how?!” came the insistent near-whisper. She seemed quite shocked, but ponies always did when I caught on to this. As if a changeling could ever be not aware of the tastes of the ponies around them. Love and lust were simple terms for a variety of flavors, after all. With time, one could even learn to distinguish the nuances, to some extent.

Gently, I urged her on, though her legs seemed to have locked and a little more force was required to keep her mobile. “Lady Moonstone, of all those seeking your favor, I would say you did show the most interest in the armonica player. I am many things, but not always a fool.”

“And they will… reciprocate… the interests I may show…?” There was a hopefulness, even something of a hunger in the princess. But fear as well. I tried not to think on how the world had apparently been in her youth, and I would not pity this divine being. Pity was beneath her, but sympathy I was developing in spades. My kind could never show interest in anything of the sort, but perhaps I could enable her in some small way.

Still, I could make no promises for others. Princess Luna’s faux shape was fetching, but less lovely than the dark form that was so complemented by her beloved night sky. “That is for you to find out. A shot of liquid courage before you approach the dance floor? Whatever the special is, please. Two.” I motioned to a husky unicorn bartender whose mane seemed to glow in the odd violet light of the bar.

She eyed me curiously, but nodded at the ‘Lady Moonstone’ before preparing for the both of us a stout glass of… clear fluid with coffee beans. To my concern, the beverages were lit on fire, and gently but not with extreme caution slid over to us. A bit of violet magic matching the overhead lights extinguished the blue flames, and I noted that the result smelled rather pleasant. I toasted Luna with my own, and we downed the beverages. Luna gave a small cough, but nodded appreciatively before taking a deep breath, placing her glass down perhaps a bit harder than absolutely necessary, and striding to the dance floor.

I allowed myself a small smile, and turned back to the approving bartender. “Another, please?”

Author's Note:

Thanks again for all your support, everyone! Real life keeps getting in the way, I'm afraid, and I spent a number of weeks traveling since last chapter for work stuff.

Join us on the Discord!

And if you'd like to drop a buck in the hat, Here you go!

Some fresh art to share, please give the artists some love!

Chapter 10 Cover art by TyScope!

Chapter 11 Cover Art by TyScope

And something special from Amura-Of-Jupiter courtesy of... someone! Seriously guys, who commissioned this, I really appreciate it and I'm flabbergasted. XD

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