• Published 30th Jul 2016
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The Night Mare's Guard - Shadow Quill

The Changelings haven't been sitting idle the three years they haved been gone. Now they're back and better than ever, with their sights set squarely on the alicorns of Equestria. One dark mare, shrowded in mystery, sits right in the crosshairs.

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13 Crystal Changelings

The tunneling spell created the same disorienting spiral of gravity that it always did, making my stomach flip several times as space and dimensions warped around Luna and I. The spell opened up above us as it should, depositing us in what I immediately recognized as the plaza directly under the Crystal Palace. I shifted into my guise of Silver Shield on instinct, hoping that nopony saw us coming out of a changeling spell. It wouldn’t do for my identity to get out before I was ready to reveal it.

“You there!” A gruff voice cried from behind us.

I turned to see a Crystal Guard walking towards us, his wings were folded at his side but the sword strapped across his back was nothing to sneeze at. His steel grey coat was mostly covered by his silver armor, although his bright red mane stuck out like a fifth hoof compared to the rest of his body.

He seemed to realize who it was that was standing next to me, because his eyes grew wider and wider as he approached, until he dropped into a bow and spread his wings at his sides, “Your Highness, I’m sorry for addressing you as such, I did not recognize you.”

An idea flashed in my mind as Luna regarded the pegasus with a blank stare, “Princess Luna has news from Canterlot that needs to be shared with the populous as soon as possible.” I stepped forward to get the guard’s attention, “Can you and your troops gather up the common folk in the square so that we can share the news with everyone. I’m afraid there isn’t time to go into details, but it is a matter of grave urgency.”

His gaze flickered from me to Luna a few times, “O-Of course sir, we’ll get the townsponies here as soon as we can.” He threw a hasty salute before racing off to gather his fellows.

I turned to Luna with a smirk, “Looks like we get to greet our new subjects today. Won’t that be fun?”

“Of course my love.” She replied in a monotone. For a moment I expected her to say more, but when there was no indication she was going to continue I let out a soft sigh.

I led her through the doors on one side of the plaza and up the stairs to the balcony overlooking the square, “Sometimes I wish mind control allowed for some of the old personality to remain. You were so much more fun to talk to when you were my charge.”

Luna remained silent at my side as the square slowly began to fill with ponies. Most of them were wearing expressions that were a mixture of confusion and uncertainty, their charged emotions reaching me in waves as more and more ponies gathered below us. Before long the entire space was filled to the brim, and I heard the soft click of hooves behind us as two guards took up posts beside the stairs. I cleared my throat as I stepped up to the balcony edge, Luna mirroring my movements as the crystal ponies gazed up at us.

“Ponies of the Crystal Empire,” my voice rang out and echoed off the buildings behind the assembled masses, “we come to you with grave news. Canterlot has fallen,” I paused for a moment as alarmed murmuring spread like wildfire, “the princesses have fallen,” I smirked as the murmuring took on confused tones, although they shifted into cries of fear as I shed my disguise, “and the changelings lord over Equestria in place of your former alicorn rulers.”

“What have you done to Princess Luna?!” One pony yelled as she took a hesitant step forward.

I bared my fangs in a sadistic grin as I draped one wing over her back, “She has been stripped of her magic, just as the other alicorns have been, although she has proven to be an interest of mine in the time we have been together. So, even though she no longer rules the night and has no free will of her own, I have chosen her as my mate, meaning that she is now Queen Luna, just as I am your new King.”

I sighed as I heard the unsheathing of swords behind me, “Oh please, do you really think a couple of pegasi guards can do harm to me when I have defeated alicorns?”

“We can certainly try,” one muttered around his sword hilt as he and his fellow flew to either side of me, “we won’t let you take over the Crystal Empire without a fight.”

I rolled my eyes, my horn glowing briefly as I put them both under a sleep spell. Their weapons clattered to the plaza below as their bodies were enveloped in my magic, my power slowly moving them back to their original posts by the steps before dropping them like so much dead weight.

“Now that we have that out of the way,” I muttered, “I will not seek to control you as your rulers have in the past. You are free to go about your lives as you have up till now. The only new law that you must take into account is that changelings are now superior citizens to ponies. If a changeling is in need of love, they have the right to take that love without permission and without consequence. They will be, in a sense, members of the royal family after all.”

Several ponies shared uncertain looks before one called up, “You don’t mean?”

I nodded, “My mate and I will be starting a new hive here in the Crystal Empire. Therefore, any changelings you meet will almost undoubtedly be our children. Keep that in mind when you interact with changelings over the coming years. Also, even if they are not our offspring, changelings from my mother’s hive are to be given the same treatment. If anypony so much as speaks to a changeling wrong and I hear of it,” I narrowed my eyes as my horn glowed threateningly, “be warned that the punishment will not be merciful by any stretch of the imagination.”

The masses shrank from me in fear, and I let them simmer in it for a moment before allowing the magic to fade from my horn, “If there are no questions, then my queen and I will be taking our leave. We have much to do and little time to do it, so you are all dismissed until I see fit to call upon you again.”

I turned and walked back into the palace, the raised voices of the citizens ringing in my ears even after the doors had closed behind us. I forced my mind to other topics as Luna followed me through the halls, the guards either making fools of themselves getting out of our way or by trying to attack me. The guards that were of the latter group were knocked out without a second thought, while their fellows who backed off were left to stare at our retreating forms in fear, the slumbering forms of their comrades lying at their hooves.
It wasn’t long before we reached the royal chambers, as depicted by the crystal heart and blue shield affixed to the doors. My mouth turned down slightly in annoyance, and I ripped the decorations off with my magic before tossing them aside. The carefully crafted crystal shattered as it impacted the floor, and I snorted once in contempt before I pushed the entrance open. Luna followed me into the room like a puppy following its master, and I closed the doors behind us before securing them with a seal spell. Nopony was going to disturb us unless I allowed it.

I led her over to the massive bed and climbed onto the plush surface, feeling it give slightly under my weight as Luna climbed up next to me. I glanced at her with a smirk as a fresh wave of love washed over me, my veins pumping with power and my stomach filling near to bursting. And yet, there was something else I had in mind for our little private moment, after all, a hive can’t start itself now can it.

“Come here my sweet.” I murmured as I pulled Luna to me with a wing, “Lie down and let me treat you like the royalty you are.”

“Of course my love,” she replied in monotone, her back hitting the mattress with a soft thump as her wings flared outward.

I couldn’t help but feel turned on by the way she was laying there, waiting for me, and I climbed up and over her with a wide grin as her breath washed over my chest. Her glazed green eyes met mine as my member hovered over her opening, yet for some reason something felt off. Here I was, about to make the former Princess of the Night my mate and begin our rule as King and Queen of the Crystal Hive, but the only thing I could feel in my mind was disgust. Luna’s eyes were still locked with mine, her body waiting and open for me to take, yet it seemed like a hollow accomplishment. There was no subtly in this conquest, no sly manipulation or hard work put into achieving this. Her mind was mine by all rights but it was as if her body was something I hadn’t earned yet. For some reason my subconscious was screaming at me that I didn’t deserve her like this, that I was better than this.

I growled and shook my head, “What am I thinking?! I am King of this hive, I have every right to take my Queen in mind and body to further the prosperity of my people.”

Then why is it you feel like she wouldn’t want this, that you haven’t earned the right? A soft voice muttered in the back of my mind.

I wanted to shut that voice out, to just take what was mine and damn the consequences, but as I looked down at Luna’s dull green eyes my stomach pinched like I was going to be sick. I growled again as I climbed off the bed, muttering under my breath as I paced back and forth. Luna rolled onto her side and watched me with her blank expression, her wings folding against her sides as I battled with my own mind.

I stopped and made a wordless cry and I ground my fangs against each other, “I’ll start on the hive tomorrow, once the crystal ponies get more accustomed to having us as their rulers.”

Is that the only reason? That annoying voice chipped in again.

“Shut up!” I yelled at the wall, “I am King! Nopony can tell me what I can and cannot do!”

Not even yourself? it muttered. Maybe you aren’t as sure about your choices as you think.

I pressed my hooves against my head, trying to block out that aggravating voice that seemed to question everything I thought. I sighed with some force as I walked over to the doors, undoing the seal before pushing them open.

“Remain here Luna.” I ordered over my shoulder, “Do not allow anypony to enter unless I say you can.”

She nodded, never having moved from the bed, “As you wish, my love.”

I closed the doors again and placed another seal to deter any would-be rescuers from getting at my mate. The guards might not risk doing anything so stupid, but there was no telling if any of the commoners would try something in a desperate attempt to free her from my control.
I was just about to take a step down the hall, when a large ring of green fire erupted from the floor and spread out for almost a dozen feet. My momentary surprise was quickly calmed as the forms of twelve changelings materialized from the black hole. As the magic under them faded, I noted that each was wearing the dark purple armor of the Queen’s Sentinels. Only the most accomplished of soldiers could join their elite ranks, and only if a drone defeated one of the current members in single combat. Given the QS only had a maximum of twenty five members, the presence of nearly half their rank before me was nothing to scoff at. I had no idea why they had been sent to me, but it certainly for a very good reason.

The one at the front of the group nodded her head, the others following suite as she handed me a scroll. It was tied with an emerald ribbon and sealed with my mother’s crest, a pair of black changeling horns crossed over a cracked Redstone heart. Only the Queens and Kings of the changeling race had crests, so I knew for a fact that this was an official letter from my mother. Why she had to go about with all of this was beyond me, but I guess formality would never go out of style, no matter how annoying.

I took the scroll in my magic and snapped the seal cleanly down the middle, placing it and the ribbon to the side as I unrolled the coarse paper.

To my dearest son,

I understand that you have had little time in which to secure your place as the new ruler of the Crystal Empire, but I felt it necessary to have some of my best soldiers sent in order to make sure things go smoothly. Major Carapace and her fellows will be your personal guard to do with as you see fit. I only hope that the creation of your new hive goes smoothly.

On a side note, I have found that having Princess Celestia and her followers around is quite fun. The anguish they express every time I bring up their dear Luna just fills me with glee. Not to mention the games I can play with them without their magic to get in the way. Although, hearing that loudmouth Rainbow Dash try and sound intimidating can grate on one’s nerves if not put in check. So, I stick them in the dungeons when I grow bored of their yammering. In any case, I wish you the best of luck, and await news of your new hive.

With my best regards, and my most sincere support,

Queen Chrysalis

I nodded once, burning the scroll with a flash of green fire before turning to the waiting Sentinels.

“So you are here to act as my personal guard, is that correct?” I asked.

The first, Major Carapace if I guessed correctly, nodded as she and her fellows snapped to perfect salutes, “That is the case Your Highness, although you may reassign us as you see fit. We have been relieved of our stations as Sentinels and have been placed under your command.”

I nodded, “Well then, the first thing I’m going to do is give you your new titles. From this moment on, you will be known as the Silver Shards, protectors of the royal family and enforcers of my will. Major Carapace,”

“Sir!” She dropped her salute and stood at crisp attention.

“Congratulations Shard,” I continued, “you have just been promoted to the rank of Colonel and will be given the title Shard Master. As such you will act as the leader of the Silver Shards and see to it that everyday matters are taken care of. It shall fall to you to make sure that your soldiers are cared for and are fit for duty. If you encounter any trouble with the locals, come to me and I will sort out any misunderstandings. Have I made myself clear?”

She nodded, “Yes sir! Permission to dismiss the Shards in preparation for new assignment?”

“Granted.” I watched as they began to break ranks but raised my voice as an idea hit me, “Wait a moment!”

All eyes turned to me, the newly promoted Colonel pausing with one hoof in the air as she looked over her shoulder at me, “Yes Your Highness?”

“See to it that one of your soldiers guards this room.” I gestured to my new quarters, “My Queen is currently resting inside and I don’t want anypony to disturb her.”

Carapace nodded and pointed towards one of the Shards, “Lieutenant Stinger! See to it that the King’s chambers are looked after! We’ll work out shifts later once we get things working around here, but I’ll make sure to have you relieved by sunset.”

“Ma’am!” Stinger replied as he flew over and took up post on the left side of the doorway.

I nodded, “That will be all for now Colonel. I shall be taking a stroll of the palace now, so I will require an escort while you see to business.”

She nodded, her gave flicking over to another soldier, “Major Wasp, escort the King while he performs his duties!”

“Ma’am!” The smaller drone jumped into a salute, although I detected a slight shaking in her legs as she walked up to me.

I glanced down at the younger drone with interest as I began walking down the hall, taking note of her slightly jerky movements and how her gaze seemed to flicker from me to other targets and back again.

I waited until we were out of earshot of the other Shards before I spoke, “You seem nervous Major, is there something wrong?”

She jumped slightly at my words, her wings buzzing slightly before she could get them back under control, “Oh, n-no sir, I-I mean Your Highness! I-I’ve just never been that good with solo assignments.”

I lifted one eyebrow in interest, “Do tell. I’m curious as to how such a nervous drone like you could attain the rank of major in the Queen’s Sentinels.”

She seemed to shrink for a moment under my scrutiny, our hooves falling silent as we came to a stop in the middle of the hall. “W-Well I’ve always been a great fighter, a-at least that’s what my instructors told me b-back when I was a new r-recruit.” She scuffed one hoof against the floor, her gaze firmly planted between her forelegs as she continued, “I w-was never very good at d-doing tasks on m-my own, at least when there wasn’t anypony there to make sure I did it right. I would just get so n-n-nervous when the responsibility of whatever I was s-supposed to do fell on my s-shoulders and nopony else’s.”

Her tail tucked between her legs and I noticed that her wings seemed to be pulled tight against her body. “I-If we could n-not talk about this please, Your Highness? I-I don’t like being the center of attention m-much at all.”

I nodded, turning back to face forward as I began walking again. Wasp fell in at my side and for a while we didn’t say anything. The few pony guards we passed paid us no mind, and for a moment it was almost like I was back in the old hive, taking a stroll for the sake of doing it. Nopony telling me I had somewhere to be, nopony asking me for something that I had no authority to give them. And especially nopony trying to butter me up because I had influence with the Princess of the Night. I shivered at the thought of the nobles that had talked with me on rare occasion, trying to make me convince Luna that there were new laws and taxes that just had to be passed, all for the sake of their own greed.

Finally, after what seemed like hours of just walking along in comfortable silence, we came back to the doors of the royal chambers. Lieutenant Stinger was still at is post, making no move to look at us or otherwise react as I stepped past him to undo the seal.

I turned to Wasp and said, “Stand out here with Lieutenant Stinger until I return. I think it’s time we got to sample some of the famous Crystal Empire food I’ve heard so much about.”

She nodded, taking up post on the other side of the doors as I pushed them open. Her gaze became locked in the forward position as the doors closed behind me and I took note of the fact that Luna was still lying on the bed, exactly as I had left her several hours before.

“Come Luna,” I said as I walked up to the side of the massive piece of furniture, “let us go and see if the famed palace kitchens have anything worth eating.”

“Yes my love,” she droned as she climbed out of the bed and stood at my side.

Once again I was hit by the same strange feeling I had felt before, that sense that something just wasn’t right. Yet no matter how hard I tried, it continued to slip from my grasp before I simply growled and shook my head.

“Right,” I muttered, “let’s be off then.”

Together we walked out of the room and made our way down the hall, Wasp and Stinger falling in behind us like shadows without a word. It took a few tries to find the dining hall, but when we got there I was surprised to see that the grand table had already been set with a massive spread of food. Salads, soups, pastries and more took up most of the twenty-foot crystal slab, the two seats at the end seeming out of place compared to the veritable feast before us.

My eyes were drawn to a caramel-coated unicorn as he walked out of a set of double doors on our left. His dark green mane was slicked back and his black uniform was pressed to perfection. He jumped slightly as he spotted us, although he quickly recovered as he dropped into a bow.

“The castle staff thought it would be a god idea to prepare dinner for you should you wish to dine tonight.” he glanced up with a slightly nervous expression, “Is this to your liking Your Highness?”

I nodded once, “You seem to have outdone yourselves with tonight’s feast. I can scarcely choose what to sample first.”

I walked past the stallion and took my seat at the head of the table, Luna sitting in the second chair while Wasp and Stinger took up positions behind me against the wall.

The servant walked up and rubbed his hooves together in a nervous motion, “Is there anything you would like to try first, Your Majesty?”

I shook my head as I levitated what looked like a cream of vegetable soup from the far side of the table, “I think I can handle feeding myself for tonight. Tell the castle staff that I will be expecting breakfast, lunch and dinner every day from this point forward. I do not care what is served so long as they do not do the same dish in a row. I had little in variety before I came to Equestria, and I wish to exercise my freedom to taste something new every now and again.” I glanced over at the unicorn and narrowed my news slightly, “Is that understood?”

He nodded furiously, his legs shaking once or twice before he could get his nerves under control, “Absolutely Your Highness! I will make sure the kitchen knows what to do.”

“Also,” I added as I ladled the soup into my and Luna’s bowls, “tell the staff that I expect them to do everything in their power to assist my guards in whatever they need. That includes living quarters, assistants for paperwork and the like, those sorts of things. If they fail to give my new guards what they need without a good reason,” I let the threat hang as I glanced at the stallion out of the corner of my eye.

He sputtered for a moment before nodding, his eyes wide as he took several steps back, “I-I’ll see to it that the needs of your guards are met without delay. Umm, uh, if you’ll excuse me, I-I think I’m needed in the, uh, kitchens.”

I smirked as the terrified pony beat a very hasty retreat, “Never gets old.”

After that, dinner was a fairly quiet affair, with only the soft noises of silverware clinking against crystal plates and bowls to disturb the silence. I had to admit, even though changelings didn’t require food to survive if we had love, it was still rather pleasant to taste the massive variety of flavors that had been laid before us. The soups were smooth and savory, while the pastries were so crisp and sweet that it was almost overpowering. Even the simple salads, which looked innocent enough at first glance, were covered in a tangy sauce that made the crunchy leaves sing against my taste buds.

We retired for the night after that, Major Wasp taking over Stinger’s post outside our chambers as the great doors closed behind us. As a precaution I placed the seal on the doors again, hoping against hope that it was overkill on my part. With that done I climbed into the bed with Luna, letting her horn rest against my cheek as her head curled under my chin. Her forehooves and chest were pressed against my own, and her mane formed a second blanket over our bodies as we curled into one another. For a moment I thought about trying to mate with her again, to finally get our hive started before the crystal ponies could think up some crazy scheme. And yet, that small voice in the back of my mind kept telling me that it wasn’t worth it, that I hadn’t earned that right. My stomach twisted again and I winced as my body toiled under the strange feelings.

I growled as I closed my eyes, letting Luna’s breathing sooth my mind as I began to drift off, “One way or another, we will have a hive together. I won’t let these idiotic feelings get in the way of that. Come tomorrow, you and I will be having our moment together, feelings about the past or not.”

Will you really? That little voice asked, Will you really betray Luna’s love like that?

I ground my fangs in frustration, opening my eyes and looking down at Luna’s sleeping form. “Luna? Do you love me?”

Her eyes opened and flashed slightly as her gaze met mine, “Of course my love. I will love you forever and for always.”

A surge of emotion followed her words, and yet even as the power flowed through me, there seemed to be something missing. It was as if there was a part of me that the love couldn’t reach, like there was a hole in my chest that the energy couldn’t fill. Sure, it filled my stomach and strengthened my magic, but there was something more that I couldn’t seem to find. It was as if her feelings had become stale, bland, like a fresh loaf of bread left in storage for too long.

Her love had become empty.

I stared at her as she closed her eyes and went back to sleep, and yet I lay there, unable to calm the raging thoughts that were bouncing around my head. Had I been mistaken? Was Luna’s mind spell not complete? Was there something missing from my control over her that led to this deficiency in her love? And yet, that little voice kept calling out from the depths of my mind, and try as I might, I couldn’t shut it out.

Forced love can never compare to true love. You had true love as her guard, and you gave it up when you betrayed her.

I fell into a fitful sleep, my dreams plagued by image of Luna’s deadened eyes, of Celestia crying out for her sister, and of the other ponies that had been paralyzed with fear as my mother cackled on Celestia’s throne. It was not a pleasant night, and even as the dawn light radiated through the window, my haunted mind refused to let the images fade. I looked down at the sleeping Luna, and my stomach turned over in disgust as my mind conjured up the image of her mindless eyes staring up at me, our bodies entwined in passion as I took her most sacred treasure.

I rolled out of bed, stumbling as I made my way into the bathroom. I placed my front hooves on the rim of the sink and looked at myself in the mirror. What met my eyes was a broken stallion. My normally confidant eyes were red-rimmed and haunted. My mane and tail were in literal tatters instead of their normal cobweb appearance, and my carapace was scuffed and dull instead of its usual silver sheen.
I washed my face with cold water, trying to banish the dark thoughts that swirled in my mind, and yet it did little good as more seemed to gather the longer I looked into that accursed mirror. I pushed off and walked back into the bedroom, taking in Luna’s form as her sides softly rose and fell. My stomach twisted again and I forced my gaze to look elsewhere in the hopes of banishing the pain.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I removed the seal from the door and called out, “Guards! I require your assistance!”

The doors swung open and two new faces walked in. Wasp must have been relieved at some point during the night.

“You called for us Your Highness?” The mare on the left asked.

I glanced over at the slumbering mare in my bed, “Yes, give me a moment. There is something that I need to do first.”

I walked up to the bed and tapped Luna’s shoulder with one hoof. Her eyes opened slowly and she smiled as she looked up at me.

“Good morning Luna.” I said with a smile, although my churning insides made the action bittersweet at best.

“Good morning my love.” She replied, a wave of emotion washing over me for a moment.

And yet, the energy I received just made my stomach feel worse, so I cut myself off and let the emotion wash over my guards instead. They inhaled sharply as the raw love surged through their systems, and I noticed that they seemed to almost grow under the sheer power it gave them. I sighed as I beckoned Luna from the bed, her almost robotic actions following my command as we stood in the center of the room. The guards watched with curious gazes as I stood directly in front of Luna.

I closed my eyes to collect my thoughts for a moment, letting my head clear before my horn lit up with magic. I placed it against Luna’s forehead and allowed the magic to flow into her mind, slowly but surely performing its work as it wove from seal to seal. Finally, it broke through the last of the enchantment, and I heard Luna gasp as she stumbled back a step or two.

I opened my eyes and saw that Luna’s eyes had returned to normal. Her ocean blue irises locked on me and filled to the brim with shock. Her mouth was hanging open and she seemed to be trying to speak, and yet nothing escaped her lips except for incoherent nonsense. I turned my back and faced the window, letting the sunlight warm my chitin as I spoke.

“You are no longer bound to me.” I said, my voice firm to try and hide the discomfort I felt inside, “You are no longer my Queen, and I release you from my service to do with as you will. Shards, escort the former Princess of the Night to the train station. From there you will bring her back to Canterlot and turn her over to my mother. You may let Queen Chrysalis known that I have grown weary of Luna’s presence, and will require some time to think about who my next Queen shall be.” I paused for a moment to keep my voice under control, despite the warring emotions inside me, “That is all, you are dismissed.”

The only sounds I heard were those of the guards and Luna as they walked out of the room, and I forced my gaze to remain firmly fixed on the rising sun. I felt a slight bit of moisture sun down my face, but I ignored it as I tried to get my mind under control. My eyes remained firm and resolute, despite the drops of water that hit the floor at irregular intervals.

That’s funny, I thought to myself, the sun is shining, so why is it raining in my chambers?

Any staff who happened to walk by the doors would swear that they heard somepony weeping, yet they held their silence and moved along, for fear of the source should they make themselves known.

Author's Note:

So sorry about leaving you guys hanging so long, but I've been up to my ears in homework. Yay college and the million-and-one things we need to do!! NOT!!
Anyway, what do you guys think of this new development? Is Silver growing a conscience? Is there something ahoof that might mix things up? Who knows? Oh, wait, I DO!!!
Anyway, hope you guys like this one and I plan on getting to the next chapter post-haste!! Just so you know, pestering me about updates will get me to write them faster, so the more comments I get asking for more content, the faster the book gets completed!!
See you all next chapter,
Shadow Quill, Messenger of the Moon.