• Published 9th Mar 2014
  • 35,082 Views, 7,352 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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Chapter 62

Idol Hooves awoke, groggy, stiff, and feeling every one of his twoscore years. He tried to get to his hooves, but they did not immediately obey. It took a deliberate attempt to dismiss the fog in his mind, but still he felt… muddled. His bearings were off… The throne room? That would only be possible if-

Cadance sat in Celestia’s throne, face twisted by concern and grief. “Good. We thought we lost you, soldier.”

Still dazed, he could do little more than lower his head. “Forgiveness, your Highness. I… I fear that I fell asleep on the job.” He looked out a window and blinked rapidly at the pink glow of a shield. “Harmony help me, Shining Armor will have my hide! Are we under attack?”

Cadance let out a scoff of disbelief. “You really did hit your head, didn't you? That… thing apparently popped up right after your little 'episode'. You burned a hole in your own room. You raved like a pony gone mad and rushed into the throne room."

The slate gray unicorn rubbed at his horn as if expecting it to be tender. "I recall none of that," he confessed, ashamed. "But if it was enough to make Shining pop a shield like that, I must have been quite the spectacle. Your fiance is probably looking for you this very moment, his nerves are already frazzled from being so close to your wedding."

Cadance's face went slack. "...Wedding…? My wedding? Not just officiating?"

"Of course not. Who else would the Captain marry, after a courtship almost a decade in the making?"

"No one, of course," she managed with forced laugh. She cut her eyes at one of the maids, who fidgeted nervously.

He frowned. "Your Highness, are you well?" He couldn't ever really remember Cadance seeming… jealous, he supposed. But, he'd been doing this for a few years. The princesses had their quirks, and even Celestia had her moments. Still, that seemed wro- Idol Hooves blinked, unsure what had been concerning him, but he bowed. “I must beg forgiveness again, your Highness. That was entirely too forward of me. I am...”

Cadance sat up straighter, more imperious. “In light of your malady, you will be forgiven. But I do not expect to see you in the castle until you are well again, is that clear? You are on leave until further notice.”

“Your Highness, that’s-”

“I have spoken. Go home.”

“Your Highness, I can still serve! And I am shamed to-”

At the unicorn’s distress, her expression softened. “Enough. I think you’ve worked yourself to exhaustion and now you’re paying the price.”

He looked pained, but nodded slowly. He felt… exhausted. Just bonewrenchingly tired. “Perhaps I am. Princess Celestia did warn me many times to take more time off. Maybe… maybe I should have.”

“A matter no longer up for debate. You are ordered to take this time off. Enjoy the time you have.” She smiled, almost sadly. “You’ve done well. Rest, now. Dismissed.”

And there was no arguing with that, so Idol Hooves took a deeper bow, trotting for the door.

“And if you see Shining Armor… tell him I’ll explain everything.”

A gracious ruler indeed, he thought. “I shall see that he gets the message as soon as possible.”

The unicorn trotted through Canterlot, feeling oddly pleased with himself. He felt… lighter, somehow. Perhaps it was the wedding? Love was in the air, or something. Still, he felt… musical.

“Mmm-hmm hmm-mmm mmm-hmm hmm-mmm…~” A glint caught his attention, and he noted a cart parked dead in the middle of the city circle. He stared for a moment, briefly considering not bothering, but… he was a guardspony. This was a clear violation of the rules, and it would have to be dealt with. A set of wings poked up from behind the cart as the owner was clearly busy, but that was hardly the thing that had grabbed the guard’s attention.

“Excuse me, ma’am. You can’t set up shop here. The center part of the circle is for immediate takeoffs and landings only. There is no stopping in the center circle. And I’m going to need to see a permit if you’re going to sell weaponry even in the outer ring… Gretel?” A griffon poked her head up, then gave the broad smile that was every salespony’s trademark.

“Oh, hey, if it isn’t officer… uh… Doll?”

He gave her a tight smile. “Madam Gretel. We have spoken of your antics in excess. I was under the impression you went back to Griffonstone, after Bold Bigflank was officially spoken for.”

“I did, I did, but… the atmosphere here is just so nice, you know? And Griffonstone is just… boring. So, I thought, how do I bring the best part of Griffonstone here? And I says to myself… craftsmanship! I have never met a pony with good knives.” The beak twisted in a broad smile. “No steel like Griffish steel! You ponies got your gold and your junk iron, but when’s the last time you sunk one of those crappy wooden knives into a chunk of good steak?!” With that, she slammed a slab of… flesh onto the table, then pulled two wicked gleaming blades from where they were hanging. “See these? Never rust, never get dull, never break…”

He gave her a look of disgust as a serrated blade sank into the... the… carrion. “You are aware most ponies do not consume meat?”

She froze. “We-... uh… don’t… some?”

“You’re getting blood on your table. And while they may, never in public.”

“...Broken eggshells and lice, I’m an idiot. What kind of penguin is going to buy a butcher’s knife in Equestria?”

He considered. “It might be fine for coconuts? Better than a mallet, I suppose.”

“What a waste of a good knife. Pellets!” She looked upset. “I sank every gold I had into this. These are great knives! They’re hardly weapons, I mean, you could but… I guess ponies don’t have talons, but... ”

“Hmm. The Guard is always in need of blades. They might be interested in some.” He admired the craftsmanship. While he knew nothing of knives, these were clearly quality. One in particular, a thin blade with an unusual curve, was stealing his attention, and it seemed to be paired with another, less curved blade. Something about them seemed… perfect. He wasn’t sure for what, yet. “What about those two?”

“Huh? Oh. Filleting knife and a boning knife. Matched pair.” She took the blade down, showing him how it flexed when pressed against the surface of her cart. “Great for getting the bones out of fish without chopping your meat all up. Really more of a thing for the elderly and the young, you know, can’t let them choke on the fish bones. Other one is for bigger game. Can field strip a carcass in five minutes with this bad boy,” she boasted, quite pleased. “Got one just like it in my personal collection.”

He nodded, interested despite the morbid sales pitch. “I’ll take both. They might be useful.” At her surprised look, he shrugged. “One should always be prepared, I suppose?” Bits changed from hoof to talon. “And get that cart over to the outer ring like it belongs. There is a fine if you do not, but feel free to use my name and that I only gave you a warning. It is a holiday.” He nodded once in farewell, then marched off with his new blades.

The griffon shivered, not entirely sure why… save for the fact that she was pretty sure it wasn’t any kind of holiday.

“-something something holiday cheer~” He’d incorporated a little two-step shuffle backwards, a new bounce to his step. He felt fantastic, even if he was strangely exhausted. A ramble around the park before he went home was exactly what the doctor ordered, he decided. He smiled as passerbys, joked with other guards in the middle of patrols, and simply enjoyed… living. There was only one explanation.

He must have been working too hard.

One young filly took note of him, and even waved, which he returned cheerfully. When she approached, he smiled welcomingly… and she froze. The odd little red-headed thing actually looked upset before she fled back to her playmates. He looked around; nobody else that she might have been spooked by. Ah well. She’d mistaken him for someone else and embarrassed herself, then. It happened all the time in uniform.

He laughed, continuing home, unmindful of the distress he’d left in his wake.

“-do the pony pokey and you turn yourself about, cha-cha, that’s what it’s allll about-” He finished, hanging his helmet on the peg by the door, leaving it swinging open. He’d splurged on some other shopping. Some various odds and ends, more clay, some marble, he’d always wanted to work on marble, after all. Chisels. And those absolutely lovely new knives. He wasn’t even sure why he’d bought them, honestly.

“Well, someone is certainly in a good mood! Talk with Cadance went well, I take it?”

“Everything went famously.” Idol turned, smiling at his landlady. Then he froze, staring at her. Strange things began to run through his head. Things he’d never thought before. Things he’d never dreamed. He looked at her in a new light, and suddenly, he knew. She looked him up and down, then frowned, taking her own step back, troubled. Slowly, his smile changed, becoming cheshire-like. The knife twirled around his hoof, and the balance was amazing. He’d thank the griffon again.


“Topaz. There is something I find I have always... wanted to do.” He caught the door with a rear hoof, and slammed it shut.

It really was just the start of a magical day.

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