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



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

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Burning Drive

Despite my original intention of exploring, I actually did as I was told this time, and stayed in my room. I didn't even go down to the kitchen for dinner. Not that I needed to. One of the perks of being a changeling is the ability to feed off of latent love for sustenance. Actual food was pleasant, though. The room itself was nice enough. Better than back on the farm for sure. It lacked for entertainment though. The window had a great view of the wall of the building next door, and there was no mini bar. There were a couple of books, but they were just light, coffee table readers about the local sights. Sights that I would be missing during my visit, confined to my room. Partly from a royal order from the Prince. But mostly from a healthy dose of paranoia after my first encounter with a bat pony.

There was so much going on that I didn't know. And I really don't like not knowing. But it seemed the more I asked, the more I managed to only become aware of just how much I didn't know.

"That and smug bat ponies feeding me riddles," I said aloud to myself in bed, glancing around the room, half-expecting something to jump out at me. "Yeah, I said it. What of it?" I said into the empty room. Still nothing. Whatever. The fastest way to pass this time was to sleep through it.

BANG
BANG

"Gaahh!" I gasped, nearly leaping off the mattress from the shock of adrenaline.

"Dawn!" I heard from the other side of the door.

"What!?"

"It's dawn. We're leaving." I recognized Shining's voice now. I looked out the window. Indeed the sun was rising. It was tomorrow already. It had been one of those weird nights of sleep where it feels like you just blinked. No dreams, no waking up in the middle of the night. Not really feeling very rested either. But it was hard to tell with my heart going two hundred beats per minute. "Hey!"

"What?"

"Come on!" he shouted. "You locked the deadbolt."

"Oh." I climbed out of bed and opened the door. He looked inside, inspecting the room.

"Alright, let's go." He turned and we began to walk out of the castle. "Thank you, by the way."

"For what?"

"For staying out of trouble," he said. "I don't get very many days off. I appreciate being able to enjoy it. So, thank you."

"You're welcome."

Part of me, the a-hole part, wanted to ask him how his mother was. Just to see his reaction to the question. But I thought better of playing my cards all at once. It would mean a whole bunch of questions from him. And he would have far more to gain from the exchange than me. So I just kept it my little secret. After all, I hear that secrets are valuable. Who says I never learn anything?

"So, Ponyville then?" I asked.

"Yes."

I waited. It was something about the way he said 'yes'. As though there was more he wanted to say. Or not. The difference was subtle, and I might have been imagining it. I kept waiting for an 'or', 'but' or an 'and'. None came. But I wanted to be sure. So I took a guess.

"But...?"

"No buts."

"It seemed like there was something else you wanted to say," I said. He snorted.

"Hmff. There's plenty," he said, glancing up at the walls around us. My eyes followed his to the banners hanging from the beams and shadowy alcoves, and I understood immediately. Whatever it was that he wanted to talk about, he didn't want the locals listening in. We walked the rest of the way down to the foyer in relative silence. The bellhop pony from the day before was waiting by the main entrance with Shining's things, to load them onto the carriage to the train station.

The sun had only just risen as he stepped into the carriage. I lifted my hoof to climb aboard but hesitated at the last moment. I glanced back, over my shoulder into the castle, peering for anything that would look like a pair of slit, amber eyes looking back.

"What is it?" Shining asked. I waited and listened. My eyes and ears reported nothing, but I could sense it. I could feel it, just behind my eyes. That feeling that gives you chills and makes your fur stand up. That feeling of being watched.

"It's nothing," I said, getting into the carriage and closing the door. The driver pulled away from the entrance and we crossed back over the drawbridge, leaving the castle grounds. Looking out the window at the various sights again, I recognized more of the sights from what I had read in the magazines.

"So," Shining said after a few minutes of comfortable silence, "Now that you've had a chance to sleep on it, have you put any thought to my offer?"

"Offer?"

"To join the Royal Guard."

"Oh. Yes."

"You want to join?" he asked.

"Well, I mean, 'yes, I've thought about it'."

"And?"

"And... I've also thought about Sweet Apple Acres," I said. "And while it's not the life I would have chosen, I have responsibilities there. I can't just up and leave all of that."

"Seemed like you had no problem doing that a few days ago," he said. I looked away. He was right. But looking back on it now, the more I thought about it, the more it felt like I wasn't thinking clearly. Maybe it was the shock of the way my birthday went or something else. It all seemed so absurd to leave the safety and comfort of the farm life and almost getting killed. And for what? The vague promise of a stranger?

"I was a fool," I said. "And besides, they need me on the farm. Applejack and Big Mac are getting older. And Apple Bloom can't do all of the work herself."

"You don't think that they would be able to hire on somepony while you were in the Guard?" he asked.

Maybe they would.

"I don't know."

"Well, I just want you to know that my offer stands. The Guard will always be there if you decide to join," he said as we neared the station.

"So why are you so hot-to-trot for me to join the Royal Guard, anyways?"

"Well, I just think that somepony of your unique-" he glanced toward the front of the coach carriage, unsure if the driver could hear him, "skill set would be a great asset to Equestria."

"Oh really? Because so far it seems like the only thing I've been good for is kicking trees. Unless you count rampant, borderline full-blown alcoholism, theft, and almost destroying an Empire."

"You know-" he lowered his voice, "you know perfectly well what I mean! Your ability puts you head and shoulders above anypony else in the field."

"Oh? Is that how I got this?" I asked, pointing to the lump, still on the back of my head.

"All you need is a little training. No recruit comes in perfect," he said. I didn't answer. I was still unconvinced. He contemplated a moment, himself, wrestling with the idea of what he wanted to do next, and whether or not to actually do it.

He played his ace card. "I just thought that you would want to join the Guard so you could follow in the hoof steps of your father."

"My father was a Royal Guard Pony!?" I asked, practically leaping off of my seat. He just smirked and averted his eyes, teasing me. "Don't lie to me like that!"

"Hey! There is a lot I can't tell you about your past and parents, and I'm sorry. But I would never actively lie to you about them."

"Sir!" the driver called out. We arrived at the Canterlot Train station, coming to a stop. The way his yell was muted by the thick walls of the cab made me confident of our conversation's secrecy. Shining shot me a look for me to get into character. I nodded and took up the notepad and pen. The driver opened the door for us and I followed along after him to the train, obediently writing down everything he said. Which was nothing.


The train ride to Ponyville was about ten hours. If we played our cards right, I'd be able to make it back to the farm in time for dinner that evening. Although, in spite of it being a daytime trip, the gentle rocking motion of the train car and lack of restful sleep from the previous night had caught up to me. As soon as I settled into the couch in the Royal caboose, I was out.

"Hey." I felt a tap on the shoulder, nudging me awake. "Hey," he repeated. "We're here." I blinked my eyes open. The train had already stopped. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and got myself upright.

"What time is it?" I asked. He glanced out through the window and the clock tower in the center of town.

"It's a little after five," he said.

"Okay. Dinner is at six, sharp, every night. Sweet Apple Acres isn't very far. If we hurry, we can make it there within the hour." I quickly brushed my mane in the mirror before we disembarked. I was still wearing the orange and pink of Dawn. I would change once we got back to the farm. "Applejack always cooks more than we can ever eat. It's usually leftovers enough for breakfast and lunch the next day." Shining checked the bulletin board on the train station wall for the scheduled departure back to Canterlot that night. He decided he had time to stay for dinner.

"That sounds really nice. I haven't had Applejack's cooking since she catered our ten-year anniversary party," he said. I vaguely remembered that. It was a big event. But of course, I didn't attend. I stayed behind with Apple Bloom to watch after the farm. But I remember it was the first time that it was just the two of us alone as the two elder siblings did the catering.

Apple Bloom had even invited the Cake twins over. Pound and Pumpkin Cake. They're about a year older than me. But Pumpkin seemed to have taken a liking to me (as Pineapple). But of course her brother was being overly protective, even if he was only older than her by a minute. We've kept in touch since then, of course.

Pumpkin was certainly a mare worth coming back to Ponyville for. I smiled at the thought of her as Shining and I left the station. I enjoyed her company and friendship. But I could never see her and I being together. What with her being a pony and me...

...not.

ding ding Ding Ding DING DING DING!

We both staggered back off the street as a fire carriage came barreling down the street, bell ringing the whole way. Several ponies, both in and out of fire suits followed in a hurried gallop. Our eyes followed the commotion down the street heading through town, toward the setting sun.

No. Wait- The sun was behind us. The eastern horizon glowed brightly, just over the hill, smoke billowed up from a-

"Fire!" Shining and I both yelled. The retired Captain sprang into action. His training took over. Without a moment's hesitation, he ran toward danger, when most others would flee. I was hot on his heels. Over the hill to the east meant only one place.

Please, no!

I'm no athlete. My drinking sure doesn't help. I do manual labor for a living, but I'm hardly the strongest pony I know. Even if I shape shift into them, beneath, it's still my homologous muscles. For all the running I've done in my life, I'm hardly the fastest either. But I was that day.

I had never run so fast before in my life. I passed the veteran guard pony, and the mob of ponies following the fire brigade, whose job it was to be fast. The familiar road beneath my hooves flew past in a blur. The houses and trees turned to streaks of color in my peripherals. The orange glow ahead of me grew brighter as I neared. I crested the hill, arriving on the scene.

I've read about a place like this. Where bad ponies go when they die. Fire and pain. That's what this was. We'd had some decent size bonfires when I was younger. They were so hot you couldn't get very close. This was worse. It was worse than my nightmares. Sweet Apple Acres. In flames. The farmhouse was completely consumed in the blaze.

"Applejack! Big Mac! Apple Bloom!" I yelled at the house and the barn. I called out their names at the top of my lungs as I ran towards the inferno. The fur on my legs singed. I ran around the burning structure as close as I could bear, panting from the run, sucking in dry, hot smoke, continuing to call out to them until my throat burned. I heard beams snapping as the roof caved in. I felt dizzy, stumbling to the ground. My vision narrowed. A hoof on my shoulder. I didn't even look to see who was dragging me away. I couldn't look away. The bright fire in the night, burning into my retinas.

Everything slowed down. Fire ponies ran past me on either side in protective clothing, toting a hose from the water carriage. They were shouting, but it sounded so distant over the roar of the blaze. I couldn't understand what they were saying.

They fought the fire for hours. I could do nothing but sit there in the grass and watch. They fell back from the barn as another wall fell in. They focused on keeping it from spreading, spraying down the nearby trees, saving the rest of the orchard. The buildings were a total loss. There was nothing they could do but just let it burn itself out. It wasn't until midnight when the last of the flames were extinguished, leaving naught but a pile of smoldering ash and charred embers.

My hooves had been treated for my burns and wrapped in gauze. They were clutching the blanket that had been given to me by the first-responders. It was all I had left. It was almost midnight. The onlookers has already left once the excitement had ended. The fire ponies left once it was safe to do so. Only I remained, still sitting where I had been dragged. Just me, and the pony who dragged me away from another one of my near-deaths.

He had missed his train back to Canterlot. But he didn't say anything about it. He probably wanted to get some kind of lodging in town. But he didn't mention it. He said nothing. He just sat there beside me in silence. What would he have said? What could he have said, to somepony who had just lost everything. His home, and the closest thing he had to a family.

I sat there all night, leaning against the tree. I don't know when I fell asleep.


Burn them all

"Don!"


"Gah!" I jumped awake. The morning sun peeked over the town. My eyes focused. I had fallen asleep out in the orchard again. It was all just a bad dream.

My hooves were wrapped in gauze. I could still smell smoke.

"Oh no." It wasn't a dream. The sun lit up the area. The carnage of the farm homestead was total. There was nothing left more than a few feet high.

"Don!" I heard from behind me. Shining was walking toward me from the orchard with a small basket. "I- I thought you might be hungry." He offered me the basket. Apples. I spent my whole life getting sick of apples, and now strangely, I found myself wanting them more than ever. I took a bite of one. It was perfect. The taste and texture both. Juicy and delicious. That was when it hit me. The whole night had been so surreal. It didn't even really register to me what had happened. It was almost like it was a bad dream, even as it was happening. I felt my heart rip in half. I coughed and choked, gasping for air, spitting up the chewed bit of apple.

I cried.

He waited while I wailed out to the empty sky, falling to my knees and crying out to the heavens or whoever would listen. His only solace was a hoof on my shoulder until I had no tears left to shed.

"I'm sorry."

I tossed away the rest of my apple. I was still hungry. But I couldn't bear to taste it again. I stood up and marched straight over to the remains of the house. The metal door leading down to the stone cider cellar was still in good shape. It had debris on it, but after clearing it away, I was able to open it.

I had been given a bedroom in the farmhouse. But in my rebellious teenage years, I decided to move down to the basement. It was where my bed still was. It was a strange fate that it and I were the only things to survive. I walked into my room to collect a few personal effects I had left behind before. Though I had no idea where I'd even be bringing them. I had no plan. Nowhere to go. A familiar plain brown box had been put under my bed. I pulled it out and opened it. It was Mac's yoke and my birthday card. I opened it. Inside was a fern leaf.

A fern leaf

In a flash, my dark despair was burned away by intense anger.

"Need a hoof?" Shining asked from the stairs. I turned to show the leaf to him.

"This fire was no accident," I said. He looked at the leaf.

"Sweet Leaf, you think?"

"I KNOW!" I barked, crushing the leaf in my hoof. "It's identical to the one on her cutie mark. I've never seen a fern like this growing anywhere around here. There's no other explanation." I stormed out of the cellar, looking all around the open of the farm for any sign of her. "How could she have possibly gotten out of the Empire? And then beaten us here?" I asked.

"I don't know. She must have been on the first train, stayed on to Ponyville instead of getting off in Canterlot like we did. I'll put out an Equestria-wide APB. We'll get her," he said, "I promise."

"No! I'll get her!"

"Don, don't make this personal."

"It's already BEEN made personal!"

"Let the Royal Guard handle this," he said. I turned back to the ash of the barn, kicking a bit of it with my hoof. All my life, all I've ever wanted was to know who my family was. Now I did. And now they were lost. Now all I wanted was my revenge. But I wasn't going to be able to do it alone.

"Maybe I can do both," I turned back to him. "There's nothing for me here. I want to come with you to Canterlot and become a Royal Guard pony like my father."