• 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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Hark, the Lady Moonstone Returns

“Sometimes thou desireth to go… where everypony knoweth thy naaaaaaame~!”

I chuckled, but truth was that I felt a bit warm myself. Perhaps half a drink too many. Not quite a full cup. Well within the boundaries of propriety. “Your highness has perhaps imbibed a bit too much courage.”

“Nonsense! And Lady Moonstone is no highness. She is… perhaps a bit more apt to frolic but sooth, we have never felt better. ‘Tis like a stone from off our back we knew not that we carried.”

“You are doing it again,” I could not help but continue to poke at the near-giddy princess. She had cheerfully cavorted until her legs shook, had danced vigorously, and had even tried a bit of odd musical mimicry that involved a small collection of ponies with signs to indicate the next lyrics. One mare had actually swooned at the stage, which had done much for Luna’s confidence in the matter.

“Fie on you,” she responded, sticking her tongue out at me. “This night has proven delightful and unless the tree of Harmony itself sought to correct me, I will not be disheartened.”

I blinked, not entirely sure I had heard her. “The… what, your highness?”

“Never thou mind. The point remains, sir Idol… you have accomplished your goals.”

“Goals, your highness?”

“You have indeed distracted me from my fears. Ponyville will fear Nightmare Night no longer, this I swear, for I shall win them over as surely as I have won over the Night Mares!”

“…Perhaps her majesty should rethink shaking her flank at Ponyville? Such a thing is perhaps less befitting of the crown.”

Cad! We had not even considered that.” Luna sniffed, then gave a small shrug. “…Maybe a little flank-shaking. Lady Moonstone can do many things, yes, but she cannot woo.”

“There was more than one ‘woo’, for I seem to recall her doing so while riding the crowd after her karaoke pleased it so.”

She flushed, but couldn’t hide a small, sheepish smile. “A different woo, then. But perhaps I move too fast. It is simply… invigorating to be able to exercise such attraction without immediate scorn.”

“As Lady Moonstone,” I cautioned quickly. “Princess Luna’s tastes are not public knowledge as of yet; announcing them too suddenly could be seen as aggressive, and in poor taste.”

“There is that, as well. Few are above a princess in social standing. It would be customary for me to be wooed, not to woo. Bah, our sister leaves us a fine bale of hay to carouse; ‘tis inappropriate for us to pressure those beneath us but so few have the courage to approach in turn…”

I gave her a look, allowing myself a bit of amusement. “There is the bard.”

“The armonician sought inspiration and is attracted, but I fear I am more muse than mate to her. I will be no passing fancy, Corporal Hooves.”

“A conundrum, your Highness,” I considered, weighing what little I truly understood of high society, and also wondering if that was actually what one called someone who played the armonica. “...There are, of course, the Elements of Harmony.”

Princess Luna froze, her eyes wide. “I… what? Surely that… t-that could not be allowed.” She cleared her throat, then hurried on ahead.

I had struck a fatal blow with a casual comment. Intriguing. It seemed the Princess had a bit of hero-worship towards her saviors, freshly uncovered. More to the point, it was delectable. “Ahhhh. One of them has already caught your eye, then? Surely not… Rainbow Dash?”

“Too colorful,” came the terse admission.

“Surely not the Pink Demon, then.”

“I do not believe it appropriate to call the Element of Laughter a hellspawn, Corporal, but… I confess, we prefer to keep our laughter less than manic. But I barely know them. Should we truly be gossiping so?”

“I believe I could truss one of them up in a sack and deliver them as tribute, your highness. If I ask politely, Fluttershy may even climb in.”

Wings flared and her disguise began to falter. “Corporal!”

I bowed deeply. “Forgiveness, your Highness. I have gone too far.”

A choked laugh escaped her, mirth soothing the rippling illusion around her. “You truly are a cad. But of the best sort. Pray ask no more, we are embarrassed enough. If we seek to woo, we assure you we will not misuse the guards to have a potential mate brought to us in chains.”

“Of course not, your Highness.”

“...Unless, perhaps, they were into such a thing.”

Your highness!”

Upon our return, we found the castle security in an… elevated state. It rather suddenly occurred to me that perhaps entertaining the Princess of the Night’s desire to ‘sneak out’ was… a little more extreme than simply not turning Princess Cadence in during her various outings.

Come to think of it, Princess Cadence did not actually have a dedicated guard, unless one counted Shining. Which I did, to be fair, but one pony does not a dedicated guarding force make.

“HOOVES?! Where the actual buck have you been? Is that-” A familiar batpony held a hoof to his mouth, and for an instant I thought he was biting into his own hoof. Moontrotter was usually so much more stable. Then again, his charge had potentially vanished into the ether; concern was warranted. “Oh dear Faust, I’ve got to send you to the captain, he figured you were either dead or captured or- just… just go! Ma’am, I’m going to need you to come with us!”

Luna, still in the guise of Lady Moonstone, gave me a wild-eyed stared, biting her lower lip, but allowed herself to be herded away by the panicky thestral. Sighing, I headed to the office of the acting Captain of the night guard, Second Lieutenant Mockingbird. I rarely interacted with him directly, as I was more technically part of the Day Guard and did not typically answer to the thestral, but I had always found the stallion to be stern and very insistent that those who served under him were to be in proper parade polish at any given time.

In short, I quite liked him. It was, however, his second-in-command that tended to get results from the others. Lady Nerium was… hard to pin down, exactly. Most ponies shied away from her, but I found her refreshing and surprisingly easy to talk to, especially for a thestral. And for a noblepony, she was practically sensible, if a bit… quirky and flippant towards one of her monarchs.

Still, I did not think either were going to be well-pleased with me. From the volume of his office, I began to reconsider returning at all. “-don’t care if you’ve searched her room twice, look a third time, and if we don’t find anything we’re going straight to Celestia and she’ll probably send me and my commission to the sun, and Harmony help me if you lot won’t be next. Find. The. Princess!” There was a moment of silence. “...NOW!!!” The herd of bat and non-batponies that burst from his office nearly gave me a heart attack, but I quickly tamped down that old fear and the swarm was quickly past me. I marched up to the door and gave it a few quick, resolute pounds.

“Bucking tartarus, what now?!”

“Easy, dear one. You’re going to raise your blood pressure. We’re going to find her. Princesses don’t just vanish into the night.”

There was a brief pause, a strong pulse of emotions and what I presumed to be a quiet and tender apology. I resolutely waited until the “Enter!” came before I even presumed to touch the door again. Some things, even in the guard, were meant to be private.

Lieutenant Mockingbird was sitting at his desk, one hoof in front of his muzzle as he tried to make sense of what seemed to be a hastily compiled nest of reports. The other was tapping rather rapidly on the desk, and I presumed at least one leg was jostling as well. The stallion’s hair was cropped even shorter than my own, but it was shockingly black… save for the patches that were stark white, almost certainly the source of his name. He didn’t bother looking at me, but he was clearly furious. “Hooves, you damn well better have a good explanation for where the Princess is or a great explanation for why you left your post. Report. Now.”

Nerium cleared her throat pointedly, and fixed me with a displeased glare. “According to Moontrotter, he returned in the company of an unknown mare.”

“...Tartarus, Hooves.” He finally looked up at me, anger and disbelief evident. “Are you serious? Of all the stupid things, you chose tonight of all nights to get your candle wicked? Are you even aware that Princess Luna is missing?!”

“Nnnnno,” I disagreed, hesitantly. I was not entirely sure how to broach the subject of Princess Luna’s secret excursion. Nor, for that matter, was I sure how to relay my part in it. Or enabling thereof..

“Well congratulations, you’re her personal guard and she’s gone.”

“...Again… no sir. She is on the castle grounds as we speak.”

Nerium looked over her shaded spectacles, blinked, then peered at me, head cocked as she glared. “...I can never tell if he’s obtuse or just confident.”

I could not tell if the snapping sound was that of the papers hitting the desk or acting captain’s wings. “The first, damn it. She’s still missing!”.

“She was not here earlier. But she is back now.” I confirmed. “I am… quite certain of it.”

Nerium’s red eyes widened, and she rubbed her chin with a leathery wing. “Well. He’s not lying, at least. But...”

I scowled at her, displeased at the implication. “To a superior? I would never, Lady Nerium.”

A hoof slammed on the desk. “Then explain yourself, for Harmony’s sake!” I was about to do so, when there was an almost echoing pounding on the door, which then flew open and one Lady Moonstone rushed in.

“Idol! The thestrals speak of us glowingly! Too glowingly! ‘Tis unbearable! We had no idea and… oh. Our- my apologies, I did not realize you were in a meeting. Shall we return…?” The pale unicorn stumbled to a halt and then a single hesitant hoof pointed towards the door. She favored the two batponies an apologetic if toothy smile.

Nerium dropped. It was the single most perfect prostration I had ever seen, and I was immediately beset by jealousy. Cadance and Celestia always caught me mid-bow, and told me to stop. This thestral had the act down to an art form. My respect for her, admitted recently lessened, increased exponentially. “Our Lady of the Night! Your humble servants beg your forgiveness for this horrible offense! If we had known it was you-”

Moonstone’s eyes went wide. “Who? Me? I know of no Lady of the Night. Who could that be?” The pale eyes narrowed. “...And we think that phrase has other connotations we would prefer not to be known by. If we were her, which we are not. And I think, again, if we were she, that we, meaning she, would not want thee, meaning you, to bow thusly.”

“Meaning you should stop.” I clarified, helpfully, more familiar with interpreting the Moon Princess’s vocal mishaps. “They never allow it.” At Not-Luna’s glare, I gave a small shrug. It was true, after all.

Mockingbird coughed, looking very, very tired. “Nerry. Explanation, please?”

The pale mare flushed. “You don’t… Idol Hooves is correct. Princess Luna is indeed safely returned to the castle. All is well.”

“All is well? How in…” He trailed off, staring at ‘Lady Moonstone’. Then his mouth half-opened and his jaw faintly tensed in what I had learned was a thestral’s ‘pulse’... and said jaw fell open entirely even as Nerium dropped again. The mare was fast. I wondered briefly if she practiced.

“Your Highness, I again beg your forgiveness, I am by no means used to keeping my husband in the dark on such matters of import, and I was not aware you would… that is, I would not dare to think I should be held privy to your wisdom-”

Moonstone sighed, and her illusion dropped. I made a mental note that anything short of a full transformation was apparently incapable of hiding one from a thestral, again blessing my luck. “Oh, hush. Get up, get up,” the princess grumbled, marching over to Lady Nerium and rather forcefully pulling her to her hooves. “None of that.”

“But… but your majesty-”

“Highness. Good heavens, Idol, have you gotten somepony else involved in your madness?”

“I have not, your Highness. Perhaps she is merely aware of your innate majesty and wishes to appropriately call attention to that which you refute?”

“Are we really having this discussion again?”

“I am merely making an observation, your Highness,” I proffered with a bow.

Luna sniffed. “Obsequiousness does not become you.”

“I shall endeavor to fit the role, should you insist.”

“Harmony forbid. Captain, your mouth catches flies.”

Said officer’s mouth closed with an audible ‘click’. “Lieutenant, ma’am. Your Highness. The Night Guard is in name only, we do not have separate rank-”

“Fie on that. We’ll have to make changes. Though I confess it was interesting to meet the stallion running my night guard in a less formal manner. I scarcely recognized you.” She pondered a moment. “...Then again, we have been quarantined for an age and we were not quite ready to resume our responsibilities on return to Equestria...”

“There… was supposed to be an official re-revealing after you were ready to resume your station. Where have you been?!

“Mocker! That is Princess Luna, you cannot scold her like Nighthawk wandering in after daybreak!”

“By the stars, you’re right. I can’t keep tabs on one filly, let alone a Princess.”

Luna seemed delighted, “You have a daughter? Would that be the one I saw hanging from sister’s balcony trying to peer at me with binoculars? Her mane was dark as yours, but I do believe she shared Nerium’s coat.”

“That would be the one.” I confirmed, cheerfully. “She delivers her father’s dinner when he forgets.”

“...I’ll clip her wings, I swear to Lu- the moon. She’s going to be the death of me if you don’t do it first. She can’t be wandering the castle, and I told her to go straight home.”

“Children are a trial and a blessing.” I mused, trying to keep a straight face.

Nerium laughed. “More foals her own age would keep her out of trouble, I think. But there aren’t really that many of our kind in Canterlot. Half of the time, I think one of her friends puts her up to these things.”

Keep her out of trouble? It’s more like that Redshock I worry about. Like to see what her father thinks of what our kids get up to. The stories I hear about that one, he’s probably at wits end. Then again, he never lost a Princess.” I blanched internally. I was not even the young changeling’s sire, and I struggled mightily even as I resolved to demand just what she had been ‘up to’.

Luna looked abashed. “We… I really did not think my absence would go noticed. We have only just been given a writ-”


“-whatever, of good health. I only supposed… that none would truly be interested in seeing me so soon.”

“Your Night Guard has been sick with worry. Idol here is practically useless for information save that you’ve been improving!”

“Her highness has a right and expectation to privacy and confidance. Confidence?” I scowled at myself. “I am unsure which terminology to use. Regardless.”

The chastised princess scuffed a hoof on the marble tiles of the castle. “There is truth in his complaint. We did not mean to neglect our own guard… nor were we aware of the depth of their affection towards us. Recompense must be made.”

Now it was Mockingbird’s time to appear chastised. “Ah, your highness… I didn’t mean to suggest-”

“Nay, nay, you were correct. We have guards for a reason; sneaking out should at very least be planned accordingly with those who have made it their duty to ensure my protection.” Luna bit her lip. “...I am planning to go to Ponyville for their Nightmare Night celebration. If… it pleases you, pick a number of your best and they shall serve as our escort.”

“That’s not much advance notice, your Highness, but… well, Idol Hooves, I suppose-”

“Idol Hooves shan’t be accompanying us on this mission.” I blinked, and made to protest when the Princess cut me off. “Our sister has made it clear that you were to use more of your ‘days off’ I believe? We have imposed upon you too much already. If you wish to accompany, you shall do it as a civilian and will be ordered to partake of the festivities.”

I had served through her Highness’s quarantine only for betrayal most regal. Such was the purview of royalty, I supposed. “I understand, your grace. If I may be excused to quell the concerns of the rest of the guard?”

Mockingbird grimaced. “Shades of Harmony, see to it. They’re probably prying the cobblestones up. They’d damn well better be.”

To my surprise, and a strange mix of displeasure and delight, the Night Guards were about to start prying up the castle floors to try to determine where their charge had gone. My revelation that the Princess had simply wanted to try ‘sneaking out’ was not met with cheer, which I appreciated and understood. I did not reveal the identity of Lady Moonstone, though some others seemed to have ‘gotten it’ while most assuredly did not.

Thank Order, Mothchaser had figured it out in moments. She almost cackled. “C’mon, Iddy, you can tell me. It’s Moonstone, right? Awful disguise, you can’t tell me that there’s some noble mare with a night connotation to her name that hasn’t already introduced herself to the court since Luna arrived. Especially some supposed night owl looking like that, it’d be like Fleur De Lis breaking up with Fancy; everybody would know in a heartbeat and the flower sellers would be able buy their way onto the Wonderbolts.”

“The… flower sellers who are overwhelmingly earth ponies?” I clarified.

“Okay, maybe an exaggeration. But not much of one, Spitfire’s a merc. She’d use the money to put on the best Wonderbolts show of the decade. They’d probably be riding fireworks and the pegasi would catch them. Heard she nearly pulled her mane out when Nimbus got engaged. Apparently she almost had her.”

I opened my mouth to argue, but realized I was not equipped to dispute the facts, save the last. “I do not think she did. Wispy is a guardsmare, through and through.”

“A Wonderbolt captain full of hot air. Who would have guessed?”

“A fair point. I believe it is a requirement of the job. I believe she will get the Element of Loyalty, on the other hoof.”

“No bet, everyone knows that one is an enormous fangirl. Rainbow Dash is going to do the whole nine yards, tryouts, training camps, everything that folks who aren’t getting fast-tracked do. I’ve heard she just kinda likes that stuff?”

“My experience with her was different.”

Mothchaser gave a snort. “You know, I’m not actually surprised? You get the weirdest responses out of people.”

There was a scoff and an impolite noise. Another thestral, the ‘New Moon’ who had challenged me to durians, being very rude and listening in to a casual conversation. “I really can’t believe you, Mothy. You’re mooning over this stallion, go through all this dung for him, he leaves his post and shows up with a strange mare in the middle of the night and you’re still all over him. Seriously, Moth, come on. You’re embarrassing yourself.” The words were not… harsh, but they were certainly chiding. Teasing, yet not?

I frowned. “It is not like that-”

“You’re just jealous that I’ve been to his room and you can’t work up the courage.” Mothchaser broke in with a cheerful grin.

The sputtered outrage was a thing to behold, but to my great surprise, some of it was apparently feigned. What in Tartarus… “Luna’s dappled flanks, Mothy, you can’t just say things like that!”

“It is true, she has been, but-”

“He’s very good.” Mothchaser purred, draping a wing over my back. “You should stop by some time with me.”

“I could most likely handle you both in a single morning.” I confirmed, trying hard not to roll my eyes.

The thestral flushed. “I… he… Mothy! He’s… you’re after him, aren’t you?”

“He’s actually a bit too much for me to handle alone. He turned my legs to rubber.”

Her compatriot’s jaw now fell open entirely. “I… uh… you see, I was just… um… maybe, I gotta go!”

We watched her expeditious retreat. “...That was mean.”

“You went with it!”

“It took me a moment to realize you were not specifically referring to the efficacy of my massages.”

“Yeah, well. You’re the one who seemed bothered that everyone thinks you’re a stall-whorse.”

I blinked. I… had not intended to reveal that, but… “...Thank you, Mothchaser. That is… more kind than I deserve, and wise besides.”

“Yeah, well.” She scuffed her hooves, and by Order, she was as proud as she was embarrassed by the praise. “Deal with it, Golem. If you can’t fix your own problems, it’s up to your buddies in the guard to help.”

I snorted and continued both my rounds and my reassurances to those still not in the know about the Princess’s return from her little escapade. But I confess, I may have been smiling.

I returned home to an odd scene of Topaz holding what appeared to be a deck of cards before her face, a young changeling sitting across from her.

“Seventy-seven. Come onnnnnnnnn, Miss Topaz, elevenses don’t count! Nopony has trouble multiplying eleven times things.”

“Oh yeah, smart filly… how about… this one!”

“One hundred thirty two.”

Topaz blinked, and checked the card quickly. “...Alright, alright, maybe you have this-”

“It’s just two twelves side by side and kinda overlapping.”

“...I understand exactly what you mean but I can’t begin to understand how you learned it that way. Ponies write the numbers over one another, not on top of each other like that.”

The Nymph - Cersus - scoffed. “Ponies are weird. They take so much paper to do this stuff. Just write over the first numbers and you can tell-”

I had made the same consideration, once. I hung my helmet on the hook by the door. “Eight, nine, five, and seven.”

My young charge blinked, then scowled most ferociously. “You broke it, and now it doesn’t work anymore!”

“It is better to know the correct way of doing a thing as opposed to a method that will betray you in more complicated settings. Flash cards?”

“Just quizzing her on mathematics before we get back to grammar.”

“It’s not fair, nopony talks proper like that.”

“Speaks properly.” I corrected, without thinking. Both Topaz and Nymph stared at one another, and grumbling, the young changeling gave Topaz a single bit. “...Did you place a bet upon me?”

“I placed a certainty.”

“Do not teach the Nymph to gamble.”

Topaz snorted, but there was a sparkle in her eyes. “Me? Idol, would I do that? Besides, she’s the one who thought you wouldn’t. There, you see? Idol’s way of speaking is technically correct, but it sounds wrong in certain contexts. In court, it’s considered a little archaic. In legalese, written, if you don’t sound like that, you’re wrong. So it’s important to know what you’re signing, and how to read it.”

“He doesn’t say ‘hear ye, hear ye’, so that isn’t right either.”

“Hearken to her words, young Nymph. She speaks truly.”

Don’t copy that. For Celestia’s sake, Idol, don’t get her started talking like Princess Luna.”

“Even Princess Luna does not speak so.” I sniffed. “But Topaz is right. It is important to know what is proper even if you do not choose to uphold it.” I considered briefly how to phrase the next bit to ensure my point was thoroughly understood. “Don’t do what’s wrong and you’ll surely be alright.”

Topaz gave me a flat look. “That sounded so incredibly wrong coming from you. It feels like lightning ought to strike.”

“And in that case, I would ensure that the local weather patrol is fined. May I borrow Nymph for a moment?”

“Huh? Oh. Let me see, let me see…” She rummaged in a bag and pulled out a comic book. “Daring Do, number fifty-six, fresh off the shelves. Good job, Cersus.”

I had forgotten to use her name. Again. Even after correcting myself. Again. I sighed. “Do you know a… Nighthawk?”

“Sure do, she’s fun. She’s a batpony!”


“She says we can call her a batpony.”

“I see. Did you, by chance, talk her into spying on Princess Luna?”

“I… um. Not so much talk her into it as… convince her to go through with it?”

“An important distinction,” I acknowledged. “...You are grounded.”

“What?! Come on, can you even do that-?!”

Author's Note:

Gah! Sorry about the massive delays here, folks. This chapter was a little hard to get out, what with the holidays and a massive writer's block. Still, I'm pretty happy with it, and the next chapter or two should flow considerably better.

As always, comments are an author's food pellets, and I'm starving lately!

Buy me a coffee or drop a buck in the hat if you like my work!

Join the COTG Discord, we love seeing new faces!

Edit: sorry for the spam, think I accidentally hit unpublish on my phone or something.

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