• Published 5th Jul 2014
  • 6,555 Views, 539 Comments

The Halfling - Scarheart



On a clear night, a certain changeling mother makes her way while under hot pursuit to the newly built Temple of the Sun in the Crystal Empire. Her kingdom is shattered, her loyal followers are few and scattered. What does she want?

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1. Sanctuary

Edited by shadowblades.

A dark figure slid through the shadows with sure, silent steps, her hooves seemingly brushing the ground with the barest of scrapes. The light of Luna’s moon cascaded softly upon the sleeping city in a light glow. The stars twinkled in the night sky above. The great half-spherical barrier keeping the perpetual winter at bay shimmered faintly, giving the sky a translucent glow of violet light. The guarded figure stopped every once in a while to check on the small bundle strapped to her back in a crude, makeshift saddle. With her followed three smaller figures, each one as deft and nimble as she. Often did her gaze linger to the great spires of the citadel rising up as if to reach for the moon. It had once been the home of a tyrant; a true monster.

The mare in the shadows was well concealed, her gossamer wings and crooked horn suggesting she was not exactly a typical pony. No words were uttered between the quartet as the three smaller figures bore shapes akin to her. The bundle on her back moved and a tiny little voice began to fuss—he was waking up. Darting into a place where the shadows were darkest, the mare bade her entourage to take up positions of overwatch with a sharp, low hiss while she tended to the precious hope she carried. A gentle glow of unearthly green flared along the length of her horn and the bundle was lifted with the greatest of care. The mare shifted herself as comfortable as her nerves would allow and smiled through her fangs at the little creature staring right back up at her. The precious bundle was wrapped in a thick, warm blanket. Deep blue eyes searched about sleepily, glowing softly with pure innocence. A curious mix of yellow-gray chitin and fur blended with each other, smooth and soft, yet velvety to the touch. A tuft of orange mane poked out from between his ears, nestling deep within the folds of his blanket. Soon he would be weaned and needing solid food instead of the pure diet of love from his mother. Upon seeing his mother’s face, he smiled, his tiny hooves reaching for her. She complied, giving him a nuzzle, feeling his hooves brush over her snout and cheeks as he giggled into her chitin. As she held him, she also fed him, pouring out her heart to which he greedily accepted. It was also imperative she keep him silent and shushed him with a gentle nudge of soothing magic to still his vocal chords, coaxing him to focus on his feeding. She had enough this time, though she herself was drained and had been so for a while. There had been no time to feed on emotions, nor time to eat something more conventional. Why, the last apple she had eaten had been two days ago! It had been even longer since she found enough love to replenish her magic.

It was clear this was her child, her son, her little colt. It was also quite clear he was not exactly a full nymph—there was pony in his blood. His tiny wings were not like hers; they bore tiny little feathers. Nor was there a nub of a horn in the middle of his forehead. No, he was a half breed, the blessing, or curse, of mixing the blood of a changeling and a pony. Try as she might, the mare knew she could not hope to protect him from those who would rather see him dead.

As she fed her son, her thoughts flickered to past events, how they fell upon each other in a series of disasters until she had been forced to this most painful of decisions. She would have to fight for him, but also as far from them as possible. Those hunting her wanted her newborn. Again, her gaze lingered to the spires of the crystal fortress. Even in the moonlight, the gleam of beauty most often seen in the rays of the sun could be seen, even felt. Most important of all was the Crystal Heart, the ancient artifact which generated love and protected the city’s inhabitants from most evil things. The mare was drawn to it, as were her three companions. The want to feed was strong in them. It had been a while since they had last replenished their always diminishing stores.

Such was the life of a changeling; to feed upon the strongest of emotions, yet never be completely satisfied. Certainly, other more conventional foods could sustain a changeling’s diet, but an emotion like love was essential for a healthy life and access to their innate magical abilities. Without a store of emotion, they could produce no magic. There was always the gaping void within, always hungry for more, never satiated.

Never before had she thought she would be in this position, to be forced to relinquish her power, to flee from those who she had once regarded as her subjects. No egg had been lain, but she instead bore her son live and with great discomfort. Try as she might, the cruelty of a live birth gave her a newfound respect for the ponies who endured the process.

The changeling was drained of energy. Her reserves from her last feeding had been paltry to begin with. Life on the run had given her little opportunity to replenish. Since the kingdom had splintered, she had been the prey of those who would usurp her position and take what had been hers for centuries. Such was the life of a changeling queen. If weakness was perceived, then other would-be queens from their clannish hives would emerge and challenge her for control of her kingdom. Usurpers, the lot of them! Even other queens from other kingdoms might catch wind of a struggling kingdom and move to absorb territory and changelings into their own fold. The uproar of the past year had been confusing, messy, and impossible to guess a winner to this point.

There was a hiss from one of the guards. They were still being followed. In a society where silence and stealth meant survival, there was little needed to be done or said to communicate, even urgently.

She ceased feeding her son, smiling down at the little foal as he returned the gesture. Big trusting eyes met hers own exhausted gaze. To break the connection she was wont to do. Yet she found her eyes flicking to her subordinate, her head swiveling slightly as she nodded once in agreement.

Yes, she sensed them. Apparently the permanent snow storm beyond the dome is not enough to deter them. The Queen wanted her guards to leave her. Too many had given their lives in protecting her to this point.

Such a thing would be impossible. They could no more abandon her as they could abandon themselves. The oaths had been made in blood and bound by magic. They were hers unto death and could not leave her even if the mere thought crossed their minds. The Queen found herself regretting the thought as the weight of the lives lost in her name haunted the back of her mind and prowled her dreams when she stumbled across sleep.

The Queen nuzzled her youngster again, flicking her tongue through his mane to soothe him to sleep. There was always a trick to making nymphs sleep when a mother needed them to be still. She sighed, placing her son upon her back and safely on the make-shift saddle. Certain he was secure and warm, she regarded her loyal changeling neutrally. Being just fed, her son would not stir from his slumber for a good while, should luck hold. A glance of gratefulness, passing and as brief as the bat of an eye was all that was needed. The guard’s eyes were filled with pride at the token gesture. The others felt his pride and shared in it, their love for their queen unshakable.

Loyal to the end.

They would stay. Not even Cerberus could pull them from their queen.

In the distance, near her eventual goal, the sound of bells pealed into the early morning. The sun would be up within the hour. Celestia would grace the land with her presence. The changeling queen cocked her head to one side, considering a time when she nearly overpowered a goddess. Oh, how the power of love had made her overconfident! On the cusp of victory, she was denied and the love she sought for herself and her changelings was turned upon her. Five years of work undone by one oversight.

She shook away those bitter memories, lucky indeed she herself had escaped with a few scars and a slight limp to her back left leg. She relented. The mare tasted the air with her nostrils. Her long ears went flat. They needed to change forms, assume disguises.

Without question, the three dropped near her, their forms sheathed in green fire as their dark forms shifted. As the Crystal Empire was inhabited by Crystal ponies, it was easy to assume the odd crystalline earth pony forms. Such a choice was not exactly wise, as most of the local ponies knew each other in one way or another. With the influx of visitors from the south, it made more sense to appear as a tourist than anything else. Families often journeyed to the Crystal Empire and the recently freed inhabitants were more often than not eager to meet friendly faces from the nation that had freed them.

They would have assumed other forms earlier, but the lack of energy to hold them forced the changelings to keep to the shadows. The chase had worn them to their bones, though none would admit to weakness. They carried themselves proudly and with purpose. Their goal lay in sight, but their foes were closing in on them.

Hope lay with Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and her husband the Prince Consort Shining Armor. The irony of the situation was not lost on the fallen queen, but there was little choice left to her at this point. All of her allies had all but abandoned her, all because of the little halfling sleeping between her wings. No mother worth a grain of salt would forsake her own flesh and blood. This particular mother was no different, even going above and beyond the point where most mares would see the wall of futility before them and give in.

A soft hiss, a warning reached her ears. The pseudo ponies moved as one out from the alley and into the quiet street. The lit lamps along the street bathed them in ruddy light, torches of magic fueled by the Crystal Heart. It seemed everything about this city ran on positive emotions. Why a tyrant like Sombra would have wanted it remained a mystery to all but the Royal Sisters. The crystalline homes and shops were beautiful. The city was beautiful, perhaps one of the most wonderous of wonders in all the world even after a thousand years hidden from it. But, there was no time to enjoy it.

Through the silence of the night, the hunters drew ever nearer to their prey.

One of the changelings hung back, assuming the form of a generic unicorn with no discerning features. Just an average unicorn, like any who had come to live in the ancient city. Attuned to watching for the barest of hints of pursuit, he was fully aware the silence around him was as deadly as a ravenous pack of Timberwolves. The only sound to be made was those of hooves striking the cobblestone street.

They passed a patrol of four Crystal Guard, but made no attempt to contact them, nor warn them. Revealing themselves here was too risky. The reaction from ponies would no doubt be less than understanding when changelings would suddenly appear before them. They were watched, but upon seeing a sleeping foal on the back of a smiling mare, they let the four pass without a second glance.

The bells beckoned them, drawing them nearer. Perhaps if they could find sanctuary within the House of Celestia, or even the House of Luna (which was preferred), the nuns within would take them without question. No other ponies could claim to uphold the beliefs of Friendship and Harmony more than those who worshipped the goddesses of the sun and the moon. Through them they would reach out for help. From within the sanctuary and hallowed grounds of Equestria’s religions did the changelings hope to garner enough pause to be heard.

Several minutes passed uneasily for the small group. The foal slept on, completely unaware of the threat.

The attack came from the shadows, two dark forms leaping out as silent demons. Fangs glistened in the light of the moon for a flash of a moment. The queen shied away from the attack, immediately giving herself distance and assuming a posture to protect her son. One of her protectors darted, taking the nearest attacker in a headlong tackle. Both tumbled onto the street, hissing furiously at each other as the second attacker leaped over them and at the changeling queen.

She reared, lashing out with her hooves, snarling. The smaller assailant took a glancing blow to the side of his head and was knocked off the intended target of her throat. Instead, he crashed into her chest, staggering her backwards as his fangs found her skin and bit through. Her form flickered, failing. Her son suddenly wailed in fright as he was jolted awake. Rearing again, the queen struck down the attacking changeling as he tried to rise to his hooves. Her powerful strikes struck again and again and he went down in a bloody heap, twitching.

Her changeling magic failed her as her reserves weren’t enough to maintain the form. Green fire washed over her body and the queen was suddenly exposed in the middle of the street with a dead changeling at her feet and a wailing foal on her back. Hissing angrily, she spun as her ears caught the sound of buzzing wings behind her, just in time to catch a pair of glowing compound eyes closing in on her with grim purpose. She gave a hard toss of her head, her crooked horn suddenly a jagged weapon. It pierced and tore through this new attacker’s throat, causing him to gurgle and choke as his life suddenly was bleeding away. Blood plastered her mane and face.

Her foal, very much frightened, cried louder. One of the queen’s guards was at her side, ushering her to safety as the other two defended against superior numbers. The number of attackers was still unknown, but such small groups were common, as they set about to wearing down their targets instead of using overwhelming numbers, especially in heavily populated areas. Assassin teams usually numbered at most a dozen, usually led by a Royal. They would gladly kill her child and take her head home as a proud display for whomever they served. Three lay on the ground. None of them would ever move again.

One of her guards was limping badly, but wore a grim smile as his opponent had gotten the worse of the encounter. His disguise still held true. All three of them were around her, ushering her to onwards. They knew what was expected of them. The love for their queen drove them onwards, encouraged her. None even looked towards the wailing foal even as she gave him a reassuring coo. Around them lights flicked on in windows as the commotion outside had awoken some of the inhabitants.

Into the shadows they disappeared, taking another darkened alley. Three dark forms lay upon the cobblestones in their wake.

Several blocks over, the bells of the temple could still be heard. They invited the queen even as she settled her child down, ignoring the wound in her chest. She had experienced worse in her lifetime. Still, one of the guards administered aid with a bit of his magic, enough to staunch the flow of blood. All four were breathing heavily. They were already exhausted.

Without a word, they pressed on as soon as the foal had settled down. The queen’s magic was all but gone and already there was a commotion behind them. The bodies had been found. Cries for the guard drifted into the predawn sky. One of the guards darted ahead, taking to the sky as he shed his disguise. The insectoid buzz of his wings faded. The other three hurried along, the queen needing support. She was sore and hurt more than she would admit. The two remaining guards pressed against her sides and kept her up as she suddenly found her legs unable to bear her weight. Still, she could not afford to stop moving. Her contact awaited her and hopefully a safe place for her son.

A priestess awaited them at the temple. She was known to the queen, an old friend as far as such relationships went for changelings. Having been loyal to her family line for generations, the current priestess’ own bloodline had served and served well. The queen remembered this one well, having grown up with this city’s priestess. Changeling priestesses were their own caste and were considered separate from the Royals. Tradition dictated they were the bridge between the common changeling and the more powerful noble caste. Their origins were mysterious, though the common belief was they were a throwback to the ancient changelings. Purity of spirit, wholeness of being, worshippers of love. The teachings were passed down from teacher to student. Ancient scrolls written in a language only known to those of the Religious caste carried the core values and beliefs of ancient queens long lost to the fog of history.

The queen huffed, disgruntled she had to rely on others to keep moving. Her thoughts to the priestess drifted off as she focused on the simple task of putting one hoof in front of the other. The second attack came and quickly.

Bolts of green energy struck first the guard on her left, then the one on her right. Both cried out in pain, blasted several feet behind her. She dug deep into her reserves, her horn flaring up as slitted eyes flashed and rapidly drew nearer. Somehow, she managed to sidestep the next blast of magic, hissing in pain from the effort. A snarl escaped her lips as she replied in kind, blasting the attacker squarely in the chest and straight through his body. He went limp and was dead before he struck the ground. Through sheer will and stubborn pride she somehow remained on her hooves, gritting her fangs as sweat began to bead her body. Something was tossed at her hooves. Instinctively she jumped back and noted with a growl the details.

It was her guard’s severed head.

A voice laughed, low and from the shadows before her. “Such is the fate of those who choose to follow a fallen queen.”

“What is your name, assassin?!” demanded the queen as she stood tall and defiantly. Her son squirmed on her back, fussing again.

“You will know me as your demise,” came the reply.

“Perhaps,” the queen told herself, stepping forward boldly. Her cerulean eyes darted from side to side, her fangs bared as her tail swished in her wake. The changeling’s magic reserves were nearly depleted and her soul screamed at the lack of energy. She needed to feed on emotions if she hoped to be able to cast the simplest of spells. Two, perhaps three more bolts of magic was in her before it failed her completely. Her empty stomach screamed for solid food. It had been several days since her last proper meal. Focus was difficult to come by.

The bells continued to peal, beckoning her still. Should she make it to her destination, even her enemies would have to respect Sanctuary. Her wings strummed as she simply threw caution to the wind and took flight. The exertion taxed her greatly, but she was no longer concerned for her own safety. Her son wailed again.

From the ground and between buildings came more bolts of magic. The queen darted from left to right, but there were too many. The lights flashed, bathing her with glows of lethal potential. One struck her fair and square in the belly, and she fell. Pain shot through her like a hundred daggers stabbing at her insides. She bit back a cry of pain, nearly losing her foal. Desperately, she tried to make sure he was safe. Cries of fright filled her ears and the relief washed over her despite the pain. Unwanted spasms wracked her tortured body. Flecks of her own blood began to rain on the streets below.

Three more changelings emerged from below. Fangs flashed in the light of the moon. The queen turned to face them, but she felt so sluggish. Breathing was difficult for her suddenly. Something was terribly wrong with her insides. Summoning up her will, she blasted the nearest attacker with vengeance, disintegrating him. The queen gasped from the effort, nearly falling. It was as though her head threatened to burst into flames. The killing blow had overtaxed her, forcing wave after wave of agony through her frame as her magic tapped directly into her life force from using too much power.

High above she heard the distinct sound of feathered wings. Pegasi! The Guard! Where were her own protectors? Fallen?

“Halt!” came a cry.

The other two changelings saw a flight of Royal Guards dive down upon them. Hissing in rage, they scattered, their wings carrying them with an agility few pegasi could hope to match. The queen ignored them, focusing on getting to her destination. She held her son to her chest with her forehooves. “Shh, mommy’s here..,” she whispered into his tiny ears.

“Halt!” came the command, much nearer now.

She could see the spires! How did they suddenly get there so quickly? The temple had to be to Celestia, as a bronze sun was set dramatically upon the highest point. It was new, having been built recently, she observed with a detachedness. Slowly the sensation of numbness was overcoming her, but she could not give up—she was so close!

Her destination lay before her, hope and sanctuary! They would not touch her on hallowed ground! The great doors swung open as she began to drop, staying focused. The priestess had told her the nuns had allowed changelings to come there for protection. The marbled steps were tantalizingly close. She could hear the wingbeats of the pegasi.

Her hooves touched ground and she stumbled, her weakened rear legs unable to hold her weight. A grunt escaped her lips and she groaned in agony as she toppled forward, her mane flying in all directions. She rolled to her shoulder and skidded to the massive doors of the temple.

“Sanctuary!” she cried hoarsely. “For the love of all that’s holy, Sanctuary!” Her words tumbled and fell from her throat, some barely intelligible.

Her foal cried. It was a happy sound to her ears. She looked down at him as panic drove her to think he was hurt. The sound of hooves striking stone sounded behind her. She didn’t care. She was on holy ground. The doors swung open and a robed figure peered out blearily into the predawn morning.

“Who goes there?” an old voice demanded. The speaker was an old unicorn, dressed in simple robes of gold trimmed white. “A changeling? What is this?”

“Sanctuary, damn you,” hissed the queen. “Not for me, for my son!”

“Who are you?” demanded the pony. It was difficult to tell what kind of pony, but it sounded like a stallion. “What manner of child is that? Bah! No time for such talk! You are wounded!”

“Step away from the changeling!” ordered a stern voice.

“She has asked for Sanctuary and she obviously needs immediate medical care,” snapped the old stallion. He turned back into the sanctum of the temple. “Fetch me the sisters! Have them bring the medical kit!”

“Prince Shining Armor will hear of this!”

“Then do not let me from detaining you from your duties, my son,” said the elderly priest. He emerged from the temple fully and knelt next to the queen. “Your kind are welcome here. There is a chapter house on these grounds for your kind. Sanctuary is granted.”

Two small unicorn mares emerged, looking about with confused expressions as they eyed the guard, then the pseudo-pony lying on the steps of the temple. There was green...blood? everywhere.

“Sweet Celestia, she’s wounded!”

“Cha-cha-changelings,” hissed the queen. Hooves reached into her field of view for her child. “No! Mine!” she cried, drawing him nearer to her chest. “No assassins will take my child.” Her horn flared, but sparked uselessly.

“It’s a colt,” noted one of the nuns. “Aww, he’s cute!” she cooed, mostly for the benefit of the mother.

“My baby,” insisted the changeling mother.

“Of course, of course!”

The foal was taken away and she tried to reach for him. “No!”

“Get them inside. Be quick!” insisted the priest.

“Yes, Father. Shall we tell the High Priestess?”

“She is a changeling. It would be prudent to inform a changeling priestess one of her kind is bleeding on our doorstep. Send one of your sisters!”

The guard had all but been forgotten. “But she’s a changeling! She’s a hostile! There was a battle in our streets!”

As the wounded queen was carried inside, the robed stallion eyed the confused pegasus with a calculating glare. “Why don’t you go get the changelings that did this to her? I’m sure they’re getting away right now while you’re trying to arrest one that’s bleeding to death.”

“But—”

“My son, she is not going anywhere. She is in no condition to flee. Why don’t you inform your superiors she is here. While you’re at it, see about apprehending those responsible for doing harm to a mother. They were after her because of her foal. Halflings are considered abominations. Go with Celestia’s Light, my child!” With that, he slammed the door shut in the stammering pegasus’ face.

The vaulted ceiling of the inner sanctum carried the echo of rapid hoofsteps as the nuns carried their unexpected patient towards the back of the temple. A series of smaller rooms eventually gave way to a small courtyard garden. A fountain bearing the benevolently smiling statue of Princess Celestia seemed to watch them as they passed by. A third mare joined them, this one dressed in black robes. She was taller than even the priest. Her crooked horn jutted ahead of her cowl.

“So, she did come,” her layered voice observed wryly.

The stallion stopped dead in his tracks. “You knew?”

“I suspected, Father.” Her smile was wan. “Ever since her failure at Canterlot, she has had no kingdom. You know this.”

The older pony shivered. “So, she’s the one? She is the queen who took Princess Mi Amore Cadenza’s place?”

She nodded solemnly. “Indeed. The very princess who gave changelings a home here in the fabled crystal city. The very ruler of this land who granted me permission to eventually have a temple for changelings to call their own. Truly she is the Princess of Love.”

“Remarkable,” noted the priest as he raised his eyebrows. “She must be notified.”

“Indeed. I would be more than happy to relay this information to the palace on your behalf.” The tall changeling priestess smiled warmly. It was a smile that never seemed right on her visage. It had to be those fangs, the Father surmised.

“Lady Zeala, I could not ask you do shirk your own morning rituals. Perhaps you might know of changeling magics? Perhaps you might be able to heal this mother and perhaps you can see to the health of her wee foal?”

She slid alongside him smoothly as he continued his journey, trailing after his guest. As his hooves moved with a slow and even pace, she glided along with the stride of a dancer. “It is no trouble at all. I suspect the small one to be the offspring of Prince Armor.”

Wide old eyes spun on her in disbelief. “Don’t say such a thing!” he hissed louder than he meant. “It would break the princess’ heart!”

Zeala smirked. “Is that an assumption, my friend? Can you claim to know our ruler?”

He scowled, turning his attention to the path leading towards the temple ground hospital. It was a small facility, modern and the most recent addition to the religious sector of the city. Already it was springing to life as word of the unexpected guests spread like wildfire. Above, the sound of winged ponies passed as the number of guards were noticeably higher. “No, I cannot imagine her reacting in such a manner. It will hurt her, but she’s long since forgiven her husband for events beyond his control. I simply cannot believe…” He snorted, shaking his head. “There will need to be verification—a test. There must be no doubt. Leave nothing to chance.”

A young earth pony monk in brown robes was staring after the bloody form being carried. “What is going on, Father?” he asked the old stallion as he strolled by. “Father Sun Cloud?”

“Clarence, there you are, my boy!” The priest smiled at the colt. “Fetch me pen and parchment and a spell flame for transporting a letter. Be quick, boy! May Celestia guide you!” He shooed the youngster off with a gentle prodding of a hoof. Clarence scurried off, nodding eagerly as he hastened away.

The next ten minutes were frantic as the ward erupted with activity. The doctor had been roused the moment word of a wounded pony had reached the doorstep of his quarters. With a head full of bedmane, he stared in disbelief at the dark changeling form awaiting him on the gurney. She eyed him blearily, breathing raggedly. An ear swiveled, locking on him before flicking through a bought of pain. She was covered in blood. Her wounds were grievous, especially her stomach.

“Name of the patient?” he asked one of the nuns trying to keep a compress over the changeling’s ruined belly. The blood was green. “How odd,” he noted.

“She hasn’t said,” replied the mare. Her horn glowed a soft amber as she used her magic to keep the bandage in place. “Your nurses are on their way. I’ll stay until they relieve me.”

There was a grim nod. “That’ll have to do. What’s her pulse?” There was not much time left for the changeling in front of him, if any.

Author's Note:

With this story, I would like to welcome shadowblades back as he more or less took over the editing without me even asking. What a nice guy! I want everyone to thank him for lending his considerable talents to this story to make sure I don't trip over my own words.

Anyways, this is my take on the SA/Chrysalis love child trope. Let's see if I can't put a different twist to it.

All comments and suggestions are welcome. I really don't know where I'm going to go with this. Inspiration struck and I went with it.

Edit 1: Made a slight change to the paragraph where the queen used the last of her magic to kill a would-be assassin.
Edit 2: Removed references to hives as they were supposed to be kingdoms. A hive are more like clan in this universe, with a changeling matriarch leading it.

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