• Published 20th Aug 2016
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Stormageddon: Changeling Spy - Shakespearicles

Follow the life of Stormageddon, a changeling spy for the Royal Guard.

  • ...

The Canterlot Welcome

We passed through the extra security at the train station with little difficulty. The prince and his guest tend to receive an expedited pass in these sort of situations. They even went so far as to make sure we had a wide berth around us as we waited on the platform to board. I could see a couple of pegasi installing a new window where I had jumped out with Sweet Leaf.

"Here," Shining said, passing me a notebook and pencil.

"What do you want me to write down?" I asked.

"Everything I say."


"So ponies don't wonder who you are!" he whispered. As he did, I looked around at the ponies around us, whispering to eachother and giving me curious looks. I suddenly felt very exposed.

"Yes sir!" I said, playing the part of his assistant. He went on to recite a bunch of boring scheduling items, appointments, and whatnot. Nonsense to me, and I knew it perfectly well. But it did the trick. I was just another assistant. The other ponies stopped looking at me and paid me no mind. The repair pegasi finished sealing the window and gave the all-clear signal to the train porters.

"All aboard!"

We boarded first, ahead of the mob, and headed toward the back of the train.

"I'm just saying," he said, continuing the conversation from the carriage, "you should consider joining the Guard."

"Seriously?" I asked, incredulously, "After just escaping-" I didn't want to say 'prison' aloud so near a crowd, "...you know? Now you're suggesting that I go back? Into the lion's den?"

"Sure. It'd be the last place anypony would look for..." he trailed off, leaving out whatever word he had in mind. 'Changeling', 'criminal' etc. "I'm just saying, think about it. It might be the opportunity you've been wanting to see the world." I didn't respond. I tried to honestly consider it. But the very idea of it just seemed inconceivable. Me? In the Royal Guard? I'd be trading one form of prison for another. If I thought I was taking a lot of orders from ponies before... We settled into the royal car of the train. It was a caboose, made up into a lush sleeper car with a king-size bed, couch, desk with chair, and even-

"A mini-bar!" I squeed as I opened the cabinet.

"Get out of there!" he shouted.

"Hey, gimmie a break. I almost died today."

"The fact that it's 'almost' IS the break you're getting!"

"You're no fun," I said as I dug through the bottles. "Wow, you have some really top-shelf stuff!"

"You're barely old enough to drink. How would you even know what the difference between good liquor is?" he asked.

"That's the nice thing about being a changeling," I said, shape-shifting into an older pony from Ponyville, Berry Punch. "Built-in fake I.D." I grinned at him before resuming my raid. "Holy macaroons! This Applejack Daniels is older than I am!" I held it up, showing it to him. "Come on! We gotta!"

"We don't gotta do anything. Now put that away before-" He was cut off as the train started to pull away from the station. He staggered and sat into the chair at the desk. "Seriously! Don't-"


"Too late!" I said, opening the pristine seal on the bottle, bringing it to my lips. By the stars! It was smoother than silk-wrapped jazz coming out of a Teflon saxophone!

*Bloop bloop bloop*

"Hey!" he protested as I imbibed with utter disregard for moderation. I held a 'one moment' hoof up to silence him. "That's a four-hundred-bit bottle of cider!"

*Bloop bloop bloop*

He gripped the arms of the chair in frustration as the train moved and wobbled, getting up to cruising speed. I finished my greedy pull.

"Ahhhh!" I sighed at last, feeling the sweet burn of the liquor in my belly. "You can put it on my tab," I said as I offered the bottle to him, pointing it in his general direction.

"No thank you," he said through his clenched teeth.

"Really? Seems like you could use it. You seem awfully tense," I said, motioning to his hooves gripping the chair.

"I don't drink anymore," he said.

"Oh. Well, now you do." I shape-shifted into his form, taking another swig.

"Hey!" he shouted.

"What's the matter? Did I get your bad side?" I asked, shaking my new, white rump at him.

"Change. Now!" he ordered.

"Sheesh, sorry!" I feigned, swapping back to Berry.

"What in Equestria is wrong with you!?" he asked. I held up the bottle in one hoof, partially peeling back the disguise, revealing my true, black chitin beneath.

"Well, if I had to take a guess..." I said with an overwhelming amount of sarcasm.

"Do you just have completely no changeling self-preservation instinct?" he asked, rhetorically I presumed. "You never take the form of the same pony in the same room!" The light turned on in my head.

"Ah, I get it. You wouldn't want anypony coming in and then the whole 'he's the impostor, kill him!' scenario," I said, with an extremely inappropriate grin.

"How can you be so cavalier about this?" he asked. "And how are you at all able to stand in a moving train after drinking so much!?"

"Well, for the first question, it's easy. When you've almost died as many times as I have, everything else tends to get the volume turned down. And since I can just change into anypony else at will, stealing a few bits here, buying a drink there, I never need to be accountable for my actions, so... you know, no consequences. As for the second question, uh, wait, what did you say?"

"Standing. Train. Drinking," he recited, curtly.

"Ah, right," I recalled. "Well you see, years of pulling this little stunt-" I did a little sashay with my tail as an older mare, "has made me a... what you would call, an-" I belched, *Braaarrpp* "advanced drinker."

"Great..." he groaned.

"You... you sound like Applejack, like that. All disappointed and judgmental-like," I said, pointing the bottle at him again. "But you've never had to trot a mile in my horseshoes. Doing what everypony tells you to do. Always having to hide who you really are. Everypony acting like they're ashamed of the very fact that you exist!" I took another drink. "And now, there you sit, all shocked and surprised that I turn out messed up. Well YOU would too!" I shouted. He just sat there in silence. His expression was unreadable. But then so was everything at that point.

"Everypony seems to know the BIIIG secret about me except ME!" I shouted, "It's like- is there some higher force at work here!? Am I asking too much out of life to want to know the truth about it!?" He sighed, resigning to let me vent my frustrations. "Dibs!"

"Dibs?" he asked, confused.

"DIBS!" I repeated pointing at the bed as I finished the bottle.

"You can't call dibs on MY bed!" he said.

"Too late!" The floor began to move out from under my hooves. I tried to aim my fall toward the massive mattress.

My last clear memory.

I don't dream often.

Or hell, maybe I do. But I just don't remember it. That's usually the case for most ponies, right? Especially after a tango with the cider bottle. Sometime I dream about my parents. I've never met them. But in my dreams, they're tucking me into bed. I can't see their faces because my eyes are closed. Or the lights are off or something. Stupid dream logic.

"We love you, Storm."

"I love you too, Mom."

"We're so proud of you."

"Thanks, Dad."

"Burn them all!"

"Wait- what!?" My head popped off the pillow. My heart was racing and my pillow was wet. With sweat or drool. Definitely not tears. I remembered having a dream about my parents, and then... fire? Flames, burning...

The morning sun beat down on me through the window. I kicked the hot covers off of myself. Celestia's sun bore into my eyes as a not-so-gentle reminder that the happiness of cider has a cost eventually. I wanted to shape-shift into a pony that didn't have a hangover. But it didn't work that way. Mages of olde have tried for centuries. But there simply was no magical cure.

The empty bottle rolled back and forth on the floor in a slow, oscillating pattern as though- the room was moving. The room was moving! I sat up and felt the blood exit my skull in a sudden drop in blood pressure. My vision dimmed and I fell back down against my pillow. Even with the sack of down feathers cushioning the blow, the sudden accelerations of my head felt like my brain was being rattled around inside my skull with a bunch of broken glass. I cradled my head and tried to steady myself, sitting up again, slowly this time. I surveyed the room.

Bed, couch, desk, world rushing past outside- I'm on a train! It all came rushing back. Prison, the Prince, the train. I felt movement in the bed beside me. Prince Shining Armor was still fast asleep.

So of course, since I'm an a-hole and I routinely make poor life choices... I shape-shifted into Princess Cadance.

Here's the thing about shape-shifting:

Most ponies think it's all about appearances, but it's really not.

Sure, getting the look right is hugely important... at a distance. But up close, it's all the other things that matter. The sound of their voice, the smell of their scent, the texture of their fur. Those details are much more difficult to master. And I had barely little interaction with the Princess to get the finer details down. I just hoped to get the smell of cider off of my breath as I whispered,

"Good morning, sweetie."

His eyes opened, focusing on mine. I didn't even have a chance to get out a quick chuckle before his horn was glowing, gripping me in his magical grasp. I immediately regret this decision.

"No," he growled, rising from the bed in a slow, steady motion, as he held me in the air with perfect focus. "No!" Even as he held me, he slammed me with his nullification spell, stripping me of the disguise. He added something to it. I want to say it was... fire. Unlike the first time he peeled it away, he did so this time with a side of pain! And there really isn't enough exclamation points to describe the hellfire that ran over me as he peeled the disguise away along with, what felt like, the top layer of my skin. It was the kind of pain so sharp that you can't even scream. You can't even breath. You literally can't even.

"Do. Not. Ever! take Her form," he growled, pressing my black carapace to the floor. I could feel myself flattening somewhat beneath the weight of his magic. The floor boards under me creaked from the force pressing down on me. "If I ever catch a changeling taking her form again, I will END them on sight! Do you understand!?" I had neither the freedom to move my head to nod or air in my lungs to comply. Thankfully he assumed the affirmative and released me.

"Huuuuauaaaaah!" I hadn't meant to make any noise. But apparently that was what lungs sound like having air rush into them after being crushed completely empty. I gasped and panted on the floor like a spastic fish out of water. I wanted to say some kind of apology. But he clearly didn't want to hear a thing from me as he stared out the window. Counting to ten, I presume.

See, I have this really bad habit of finding where ponies' lines are by crossing them. Well... I had just found his.

Occasionally I get little reminders like this in my life. Even though I can shape-shift into a unicorn, I don't have the same clout with magic as the real thing. 'Time and training,' Princess Twilight would say during our lessons. 'Time and training'. But the part she left unsaid was 'patience and dedication', ' studying and hard work'. All, virtues I lacked. That, and a fair bit of common sense, basic decency, and manners. If shape-shifting into a changeling victim's loved one wasn't evident of that enough. No, there was no verbal apology enough for that. Even still...

"Sorry," I gasped. I didn't expect forgiveness. But what else could I do? He didn't turn to look at me. Counting to a hundred, I suppose.

"We're nearly there," he said, with a calm I wasn't expecting, "You should get dressed." I hadn't packed any clothes. But I understood perfectly well what he meant. I shape-shifted back into Dawn. I sat there on the floor a while longer. The room was quiet but for the sound of the locomotive and the wheels of the train on the track beneath us. And the empty glass bottle rolling on the wooden floor. I picked it up and put it back in the cabinet, closing the door. Shadows whipped across the floor.

I turned and saw the skyline of the city cutting across the low, morning sunlight.

"Canterlot," he said, turning around at last. The train began to slow. "The station is coming up quick. It's not very far into the city," he said in an even tone, seemingly as content as I, to pretend that none of this just happened. But just the same, I would walk away from this moment with an important lesson: Prince Shining Armor was not a stallion to cross.

The train came to a stop in the station, and he and I stepped out onto the platform. Guards were there, waiting. I felt myself getting nervous before remembering in whose company I was. Standard fare for royalty, as they escorted us to a carriage to Canterlot Castle.

I feel remiss in failing to describe the Crystal Empire in detail. See, at the time, I was a little preoccupied with stealing the Crystal Heart to notice the architecture. Plus it was dark. And then again, when we were leaving, I was focused on the stallion in the carriage with me. But from what I saw through the window of the carriage and train defied words. It's truly a splendor to behold, an inspiration for poets, both in it's colors and architecture. The way the crystalline structure refracted the ambient light in a thousand-thousand different ways, offering a unique spectacle to every part of the surrounding land.

I mention this now, in comparison to Canterlot. Not to say that the Crystal Empire is any more magnificent than Canterlot, or the reverse. Canterlot has a beauty all of it's own that is different but equally difficult to adequately articulate. I would say that it's beautiful in a more traditional sense, which I find ironic, given that the Crystal Empire is a great deal older, if the historians are to be believed. Perhaps the experience is subjective for every pony.

For me, seeing Canterlot up close was an affirmation of the reality of the place after seeing it so faintly in the distance all my life, whereas the Crystal Empire felt almost alien, like it was a lucid dream, made real.

Even perched on the side of a mountain, Canterlot just seemed to make more sense, physically. The Castle especially. It was wider at the base, and grew more narrow on the way up, as opposed to being suspended in the air aloft four crystal pillars like the Empire's Palace. It had all the basic parts of a castle that I had come to expect from the literature, both fiction and reference alike. Towers? Check. Battlements? Check. Moat? Check.

"Even a drawbridge!?" I asked aloud as I watched it lower for our approach.

"Even a drawbridge," he answered, clearly accustomed to the reactions of first-time visitors to the city. We rolled in through the gate. I could see the eyes of every guard fixed on our vehicle as we rolled through. "Are you sure you don't want to consider joining?" he asked, motioning to all of the uniformed ponies.

"I... can't see myself doing that," I said. He nudged my shoulder, gaining my attention.

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right," he said.

"Hmph. All the adventure of guarding a wall," I said.

"There's more to the Guard than babysitting the wall. You should see for yourself," he said. I erred on the side of cautious optimism.

"Consider it considered."

"I guess that'll do, for now," he sighed. The carriage came to a halt and the door opened. He stepped out first, and I followed, notebook in hoof, recording everything he said, like a good assistant. "Let's get you to your room." The bellhop took his bags. He followed the bellhop. I followed him, up into the Castle.

The inside of the castle had a weird effect. It was simultaneously overwhelming and yet boring. At first glance, it completely blows your mind at the staggering scale of it all. Seriously. Those first couple of minutes were magic. I was entranced. But as I began to scratch beneath the surface of all the flash, the stained glass windows and tapestries, I found that the halls and walls were repetitive and same-y. Rectangular bricks, right angles, even the archways were basic construction underlying the superficial glamour. Perhaps my eyes had just been spoiled by the random geometry of the crystal buildings of the Empire.

We stopped outside of a door in a hallway that looked like many of the other doors in other hallways et cetera et cetera. It was a wonder that ponies were not constantly lost around here. But then, perhaps that was an intentional defense. The bellhop opened the door.

"This will be your room," Shining said to me as the bellhop moved down to the next room to place Shining's bags inside. "Thank you," Shining said to him, dismissing him with a tip of a few bits, waiting until he was gone. He turned back to me. "I need to attend to a few things here in Canterlot. You have room service. Feel free to use it. Just... stay in your room okay? Stay out of trouble for just- twenty four hours. That's all I ask." He was practically pleading. "I mean it. Do NOT mess this up for me. Promise?" I nodded. "Say the words!"

"Okay. I promise."

"I need to take care of a few things and visit somepony. I'll be back later tonight, in the room next door. We'll leave for Ponyville at dawn. Just..." he waved his hoof at me emphatically, as though he were trying to strangle the point into me. "You already promised. I- trust you," he said, as though the words tasted bad in his mouth. "Don't betray that." He turned to leave. Silence on my part would have been a suitable option. So of course,

"Visit who?"

"That's not your business!" he called back, leaving the hallway through the doorway at the end.

"Whom," came a voice.

"The hell!?" I asked of the phantom voice from apparently nopony in the hallway. I spun around a couple of times, searching.

"Whom," it repeated. I looked up at one of the hanging banners, the relative source as best as I could figure. A pony peeked out from behind it after a moment of enjoying my befuddlement. "You meant to say, 'visit whom'," she said, hanging upside down.

"Whom are you?" I asked. She rolled her eyes, which now that I had gotten a look at them, were slit pupils like a cat.

"No, 'whom' doesn't work there," she said with a yawn, stretching her wings. Her wings were not the usual wings of a pegasus, with feathers. They were a navy-blue leathery membrane, like a bat's wings. She grinned. "First time seeing a bat pony?" she asked.

"Um, yeah," I replied.

"I could tell," she said, slinking down from the drapery, shuffling her dark-blue two-tone mane over her grey fur. "I always can. It's that same combination of shock and curiosity every time."

"So do you always make a habit of correcting grammar while eavesdropping?" I asked.

"No. But I find the confusion of 'who' and 'whom' particularly grating," she said.


"No. Not really."

"Okay..." I was unsure how to proceed. Usually I was the crass one in a conversation. Was this what it was like talking to me? No wonder I had so few friends. "So... why are you eavesdropping?"

"I'm surprised that you are surprised by it. Didn't anypony tell you that the walls have ears around here?" she asked. I shook my head. "Well then, a little bit of advice. Watch what you say. You never know who's lissstening," she said with a bit of a hiss. Just looking at her ears, I believe it. They weren't comically huge, but disproportionately bigger on her head than a normal pony, with long tufts of fur at the tips.

"You're very good at dodging questions," I said. She walked over, tapping me in the chest with her hoof.

"You know what? You're right." She smiled.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"I work here."

"Here?" I pointed at the drape.

"In the castle. I'm a Royal Guard Pony," she said. I raised a dubious eyebrow. "Night Guard," she added.

"Yet, no Royal Guard armor," I pointed out.

"Again, Night Guard. And as you can see..." She motioned to the window. Bright sunlight poured in. "I'm off shift." She walked around me in a small circle. "Knowing what's going on in the castle is my job. Eavesdropping just happens to be a way of doing that." She leaned in, uncomfortably close, grinning, revealing her fangs. "I just correct grammar for fun."

"So... if you're spying on me, doesn't revealing yourself kind of defeat the purpose?" I asked. She shrugged.

"Maybe. But something tells me that you have just as much to lose by reporting me as I would. Something tells me that you're not supposed to be here either."

"I was invited here. Escorted by the Prince himself, as I'm sure you plainly saw. What other authority do you need?" She just kept smiling that confident smile of hers.

"Oh, just something about the way he was practically begging you to stay in your room... almost as if he doesn't want anypony to know that you're here."

"What do you know?"

"I know a great deal, in fact. I am a trafficker of information. I make it my business to know everything that I can," she said with a glint of pride.

"Care to share?"

"Ah, but information has a price, no?" she said.

"What's your rate?" I asked. She shrugged.

"Depends on the information."

"Whom is the Prince going to go see?"

"I believe that he said it's not your businessss," she said.

"Why thank you. I'm so glad to have you around in case my ears don't work anymore," I said with sarcasm thick enough to sink in a pool of mercury. "I heard what he said. Why won't he tell me?"

"Ah, a 'why' is more tricky to answer than a 'whom'," she said. I was doing a poor job of hiding my frustration. She leaned in, "Here's a free one. The Prince is going to visit his mother, Twilight Velvet, who lives in Canterlot. He's been a mama's colt since before he joined the guard. Everypony knows this." She gave me a bit of a sideways look. "Well, almost everypony. He visits her more often, now that his father has passed, consoling the widow, presumably."

"And why would he not want me to know then?" I asked. She shrugged again.

"Perhaps he was assuaged by the idea that at least one pony was unaware of his 'mama's colt' stigma. It does carry a bit of a shame with it, no?"

"I wouldn't know."

"Would you not? Fassscinating," she said, smiling.

"So why tell me this?"

"Because I find you interesssting, Dawn," she said. It occurred to me then that I had never told her my name.

"How do you know my name? I never told you."

"It's my business to know," she said. "It wasn't hard information to come by. 'Dawn. Prince Shining Armor's new assistant'," she recited. "And yet... that's all there isss. Just a name. No other records at all. Almost like you just fell out of the sssky." I narrowed my eyes at her. "The Prince has been doing a good job of covering up having an affair with you. I admit, I admire the effort he's made to erase you just for an affair. I would ask you about it myself, but you would just deny it."

"We are NOT having an affair," I scoffed.

"I say it here, it comes out there." She shrugged.

"It's a baseless accusation, with no proof!"

"Then I guess you'll have to forgive us if we keep an eye on you while you're here," she said, turning to leave.

"Wait! You never told me who you are."

"You're right," she answered flatly. "But feel free to ask."

"Who are you?"

"Ask me again," she said.


"Ask me again."

"Okay. Who are you?" I asked a second time. She smiled, utterly radiating smugness. Of what, I couldn't understand.

"When you can ask me twice, while only asking once, you'll know my name," she said, cryptically.

"Who-are-you-who-are-you?" I asked quickly. She smiled and patted my head.

"Don't overthink that little assistant brain now," she said, giving me a quick kiss, nibbling my ear, before taking off, flying down the hallway and disappearing into the dark rafters.

I stood there in the hall a few minutes more, staring into the darkness, straining my eyes, and ears. I couldn't see it, but I'm sure there were more than one set of eyes looking back. All I could hear was my own heartbeat. It was beating faster than I would have cared to admit. I stepped inside my room and closed the door behind me. Behind the double walls of the fortified castle, I wouldn't have even thought to bother locking the door knob. But after that encounter, you better believe I did.

The deadbolt too.