• Published 4th Dec 2016
  • 10,255 Views, 750 Comments

Dear Small Pony Book - Carapace

Princess Cadence and Prince-Captain Shining Armor have given Thorax a journal to document his days in the Crystal Empire so they can help him learn from his experiences. This can only go well.

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2. The Winter Spirits are Jerks

Dear Small Pony Book,

Winters are far colder in the Crystal Empire than they ever were in the Badlands.

No matter how thick I’ve made my cocoons, I’ve been left shivering in the cool night air that hangs thick in the lower chambers of the castle. I’ve even been forced to procure several blankets in which to wrap myself within the gelatinous confines of my cocoon.

It’s quite the trick, let me tell you. I daresay that no pony could manage it when wrapped in a cocoon—then again, changeling slime tends to be a bit more sticky on pony coat, while my carapace has a special agent to allow me to move when I wish.

After my little, debacle with Flurry and her wayward oatmeal, I began to feel that chill settle in again. It’s a rather strange thing. It felt as though it had managed to worm its way into a crack in my carapace and spread beneath it, covering my body in its frigid embrace. My knees would shake and my joints felt oddly achey. I even had to double check a few times to make sure there weren’t icicles growing within the holes in my legs!

When I went outside for the first time in this weather, well, it was far worse. Shining Armor had to enclose me in one of his shield spells and shouted for a young officer by the name of Sunny to wrap her magic around me until they could carry me back into the palace. I learned that day that the mare’s magic had an oddly warm sensation to it—something I truly miss right now, Small Pony Book. With that said, there is something to note:

Pony magic has different feeling to it, sometimes. When Shining is playfully grabbing me out of my hiding spots, it feels ticklish and tingly. Princess Cadence’s feels similar to Sunny’s, but with more … love to it.

Which brings me to the main point of this entry: Hearth’s Warming, a pony holiday.

The Crystal Palace had been decorated with colorful lights, boughs of holly, and red and gold streamers that wrapped up the crystalline columns. The entire palace seemed to glow, the lights painted the crystal a myriad of colors that seeped into the walls themselves and made it look like a bit, tasty piece of cake.

It wasn’t, though. Please don’t ask me how I found that out, Small Pony Book. Just know that it ended with a very unpleasant taste upon my tongue and more embarrassment than the time I put Flurry’s diaper on her head when Shining caught me. I still recall how hard he laughed.

Still, that didn’t distract from the cold. The winter had not been kind to me, a southern changeling, and my hosts were starting to grow weary of my constant refusal of aid. It all came to a head this morning.

I had ventured forth from my room, an old guest room that the guards helped me clean out so I could set up my cocoons as I pleased at night, only to discover that the morning chill I’d grudgingly accustomed myself to felt more like a face full of the endless blizzard raging beyond the city’s protective shield. My carapace stuck together, I felt pain shoot through my joints as I beat a hasty retreat into the safety of my room and promptly wrapped myself in a cocoon of my thickest blankets.

Only then did I realize a terrible flaw in my design: by bringing my blankets into my warm slime cocoon, I left them wet each morning. Without sending them to be washed and dried—along with my apologies for having to deal with changeling slime—they were just as cold as everything else in the palace.

With a miserable chitter, I discarded my wet blankets and made my way over to the closet, I would have to make due with what I hadn’t used the night before if I wanted to survive the cold. To my dismay, only a few thin woven blankets remained, the sort my hosts would snuggle beneath while they sat on the couch and red a book together. Not nearly enough to survive winter’s onslaught.

But I had little alternative. I slung them over my shoulders, back, and hindquarters and sat down, rubbing my hooves together and breathing upon them in hopes of spreading warmth with friction. My ears lay flat against my scalp, a tiny whine escaped my lips. “Why does it have to be so cold?” I complained aloud.

Winter, however, did not have mercy upon me. I cursed it a thousand times, begging the First Mother to find the Winter Spirits and sink her fangs into their necks. Since they loved making poor, innocent changelings like myself shiver and feel like our chitin was brittle, they deserved to feel the tingling sting of our venom coursing through their veins until they were rendered motionless.

Stupid Wendigos.

Not for the first time, I wished to be born a pony. If I had their fuzzy, velvety coat, I could at least have some measure of protection against the Winter Spirits’ terrible embrace. What’s more, I wouldn’t feel like my entire carapace was about to crack if I fell.

My teeth chattered together. I summoned my magic and concentrated on the picture Crystal Hoof’s form I had stored. His coat wouldn’t protect me entirely, but it would at least help me make it to the dining room, where I could huddle close to one of the torches and beg some nice pony to bring me more blankets.

I needed to recoup. Winter Spirits or not, Flurry Heart would be most upset if she did not get silly faces this morning. Her morning ritual demanded silly faces after breakfast, whether I was a miserable, shivering, frozen mess of a changeling or not.

Gritting my teeth, I took a deep breath and used my transformation spell. Green fire sparked and washed over my form. Soon enough, Crystal Hoof lay huddled in the cocoon of blankets. I shivered and rubbed my new pony hooves together, the friction of my false coat gave me a measure of help in warming myself. But not nearly enough. A slight chill sent me curling up into a little ball to shield myself.

My blanket cocoon wasn’t enough. I needed my heavy blankets to combat the Winter Spirits, but they were soaking wet.

I heaved a sigh, my breath came forth in a white mist that trailed up toward the ceiling. I would just have to suffer the cold a little bit. Once I made it to the dining room, I could find some warmth. Slowly, I forced myself to stand despite my shaking knees. With another deep breath, I ventured forth—shivering and chattering—from the comfort of my bedroom and hastened to my destination.

If I moved quickly, the Winter Spirits wouldn’t be able to freeze my carapace as easily.

The guards and palace staff were in good spirits as they went about their duties. They would smile and greet one another by name, like a big family of glimmering ponies, and offer assistance when needed. Despite the biting cold against my false pony hide, I couldn’t help but smile as I watched a young mare named Tourmaline direct a stallion named Stout Heart to float a sprig of mistletoe up to hang over the archway.

Once his task was complete, Stout Heart turned to her and asked, “Is that centered right, Miss Tourmaline?”

Tourmaline tilted her head and hummed, her crystalline mane twinkled in the morning light. “I think so,” she demurred. “Thank you, Stout, you’ve been a big help. But there’s one more thing I need you for.”

His ears perked up. “Oh? What’s tha—”

She darted forward and pecked his lips. Tourmaline drew away, fixing the blushing guard with a half-lidded gaze. I will confess, they looked quite delicious at that moment, but I was far too cold to ask for a nibble.

Not to mention, Shining Armor mentioned it being rather rude to interrupt an intimate moment to ask for a bite the first time I’d done so, and I sincerely doubted Tourmaline would appreciate it either. The look on her face suggested that this request had been anything but innocent—it was carefully crafted so she had Stout Heart right where she wanted him.

I scuttled by, silently praising her for a scheme worthy of a changeling. She would have him wrapped around her glimmering hoof soon enough, I suspect.

Leaving Tourmaline to woo her stallion, I trotted down the corridor and into the main hall. Evergreen needles crunched beneath my hooves, the scent of pine wafted into my nose. If the palace looked like a cake when alight, the main hall was the epicenter of the Hearth’s Warming explosion.

A great wreath hung from the archway above the grand staircase, holly intertwined with red and gold-trimmed ribbons wound around the railings, and, at the very center of it all, stood a mighty evergreen tree decorated with multicolored lights, glass bulbs, and a gold flame at the very top to signify the Fires of Friendship, or so I was told.

But none of that mattered to me this morning, Small Pony Book. As pretty as the scene was each and every time I laid eyes upon it, it all fell by the wayside as I pressed on. I weaved my way by a trio of gossiping mares carrying a load of laundry, giving a polite, yet shivery nod in reply to their calls of “good morning.” I paused to grip one of my blankets in my teeth and tug it tighter, one last gallant effort to hold off the Winter Spirits while I searched for a nice torch to curl up beside and warm my carapace.

The instant I set hoof inside the dining room, I felt warm air rush to meet me. My eyelids fluttered shut and a smile tugged at my lips. This, Small Pony Book, was much more preferable. The Winter Spirits had clearly been chased from this room so all occupants could enjoy a meal without worrying about their frigid embrace.

Idly, I noted that I was the first to enter—which meant my hosts and Sunburst had either yet to rise (unlikely) or were trying to coax Flurry to stop flying about and come eat her oatmeal (the over-lady is a very wily filly, and her skill in evading our grasp rivals some of my own kind). Naturally, with no Royals, there was no breakfast. The cooks always waited for their loving rulers before setting the table.

Which meant I had plenty of time to warm myself. I set my sights on one of the torches lining the walls and padded over to stand beneath it. The instant I felt the gentle touch of warmth against my body, I let out a happy moan and laid down on the floor, wincing at the cool crystal. I wrapped my blankets around myself until I was in a nice, woven cocoon, enough to protect me from the cold floor and trap all the heat it could.

Phase one of my plan was complete. All I had to do next was wait either for a staff pony to come by and prod at the pile of blankets that suddenly appeared in the dining room, or just wait for my hosts. Flawless reasoning, in my opinion.

I curled up in my blankets and closed my eyes. Resting my eyes while I waited wouldn’t hurt.

Or so I hoped.

I awoke to good news and bad news. The good news was that I was no longer a frozen, pitiful, shivering mess of a changeling. The bad was that I felt the familiar burn of a fever spread beneath my carapace like wildfire.

My body was covered in a cold sweat, soaking my once dry blankets until they clung to my false coat like slime to a real pony.

I opened my mouth to whine piteously, more a hatchling’s cry for help than a former infiltrator of the Badlands Hive. Instead, a ragged groan escaped my lips. A shiver ran down through my body, drawing forth a whimper as the realization hit.

Fever. A thousand curses came to mind, each aimed at the Winter Spirits. There was no time to be sick! I was expected to entertain Flurry Heart! There were silly faces to make and “peekaboo” (my personal speciality) to play, not to mention all the decorations I needed to double check for edibility just in case Shining Armor had been lying when he told me the popcorn around the tree wouldn’t taste good by the time I got to it.

I tried to move—really, I did!—but my muscles ached, screaming for me to stay still while my body worked to fight off the fever that left me so weakened.

The familiar static tingle of unicorn magic washed over my body, my ears flicked at the sound of tinkling bells filling the air. My body began to rise off the floor with the blankets. Finally, somepony had found me. I tried to call out, but I could do little more than moan.

My rescuer stopped levitating me for a moment. There was a beat of silence. “Thorax?” Sunburst’s voice asked. He rolled me over onto my side and gently parted my blanket cocoon so he could look me in the eye. “What are you doing on the floor?”

“W-Was cold,” I murmur, clutching my blankets around my body despite their dampness. “Feel sick now.”

Concern flashed across his face. Sunburst stepped closer and maneuvered me in his magic’s grasp so he could lay his hoof upon my forehead. He winced. “You’re burning up. How long have you been laying here?”

I tried to shrug, but found myself too weak. “Not sure. My room was cold, so I came out here to lay near the torches. Waited for somepony to come by so I could ask for more blankets.”

“So you fell asleep and woke up feeling sick.” Sunburst sighed as he withdrew his hoof. “Cadence is going to be upset, you know. We tried to get you to stay in their suite’s sitting room, or at least one of the guest suits with a fireplace.”

I whined in protest. Royalty wasn’t supposed to do that for a lowly changeling like me, Small Pony Book. But my hosts don’t like that answer, they insist on doing this sort of thing whenever I’m in need.

Sunburst gave me a light bop on the forehead. “None of that,” he chided with an almost tired smile. His horn flashed brighter, he began to levitate me again. I could feel him wrap a warming spell around me as he removed my dampened blankets. “Just sit still and rest, Thorax. I’ve got you.”

I would have liked to argue, but the spell felt so good. I curled myself up and mumbled my thanks.

“No problem, Thorax. Let’s go find Cadence and see where she wants me to put you.”

That got my attention. “Not her room,” I slurred.

He chuckled. “I don’t think you’re going to have veto power. But don’t let me stop you.”

I cracked open an eye and tried to fix him with my best petulant glare, but he simply smiled. Setting my jaw, I made to argue the point further, but a tickling sensation upon my nose gave me pause. I sniffled. The tickle remained, my eyes began to feel watery and scratchy. I wrinkled my snout to try and rid myself of it, but it was stubborn.

“Thorax? What’s—”

The tickle spread throughout my snout, my eyes squeezed shut as I let out a great sneeze. I heard a yelp, then the familiar squelch-splat! of my slime hitting crystal.

For a moment, neither of us said a word. I kept my eyes shut, afraid to look and find my friend turned rescuer stuck to the wall in a mess of my slime. “Sunburst?” I called weakly.

“I’m fine,” he said with a hint of fright to his tone. “I ducked in time.”

I let out a sigh of relief. “Sorry.”

“Accidents happen, don’t worry about it. Let’s get you somewhere warm so you can rest.”

My friends are wonderful. The Winter Spirits, on the other hoof, are jerks and deserve an overdose of changeling venom.

Hopefully, the First Mother heard my plea and will move to enact vengeance on my behalf posthaste. The Wind Spirits have well-earned her wrath.

As I made mention in my previous entry, Princess Cadence is a wonderful mare, Small Pony Book. I daresay that her capacity for love is matched only by her fellow princesses, and that was a feat in and of itself.

At some point, I’d sneezed and dropped my Crystal Hoof form, giving her a look at me without anything to hide my state.

The instant she laid eyes upon me and took note of the lack of shine to my carapace, she knew something was amiss. Her demand for Sunburst to tell her came swift, she wrapped me in the soft cerulean glow of her magic and relieved him of his burden, then sent him to fetch the doctor. A warming spell was applied before I even knew it, I snuggled into my blanket cocoon and tried to rub my cheek against her aura (yes, I know that is impossible, Small Pony Book) to show my thanks.

She noticed that too and smiled despite the situation. I felt her love flow through her spells, I let out a small moan as I tasted its sweet nectar upon my tongue. She pushed open the door to the Royal Suite and trotted inside with me floating behind her.

Shining Armor stood just a few steps from the door with little Flurry riding upon his back. He blinked twice, his gaze flitted between Cadence and myself. I am not sure what he saw when he looked back at her a second time, but his face settled into a concerned frown. “What’s wrong?” he asked softly.

“Thorax is sick,” Cadence replied in a matter-of-fact tone. She paused to kiss his cheek and nuzzle Flurry, which gave me a second to feebly wave to my cooing over-lady, and continued on her trot. “I’m not sure if it’s a headcold or just a flu, but Sunburst says he’s feverish. Apparently, he was cold in his room, then came out looking for somepony to ask for blankets, and fell asleep.”

I heard Shining suck in a breath through his teeth. He heaved a sigh. “Thorax,” he said with a hint of a groan, “didn’t you run into any staff ponies?”

Well, yes. I had. But they were all so busy tending to their duties, far too busy to help a lowly changeling like myself.* I decided to explain just that. Minus the part about me being a lowly changeling.

Needless to say, neither liked it one bit. “We’ve been over this several times,” Cadence said slowly, pausing only to draw in a deep breath. Her concern was slowly bleeding into righteous indignation. She fixed me with a Look, her eyes flashed with both concern and a hint of tired irritation that made my insides squirm.

I let out a squeak as her magic guided me over to lay on the large plush red couch, my head rested upon a pillow as soft as clouds. I averted my gaze out of shame. “I don’t want to be a burden,” I said weakly. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep on the floor and get sick.”

“Nopony means to get sick, you silly colt.” My earfins twitched. She called me a colt, not a bug or a changeling. She spoke of me like one of her own kind.

Cadence’s horn flashed, the levitation spell around me flickered out as she sent a tendril of magic to open up the linen closet. A pair of thick blankets floated over and spread wide before laying upon me. I couldn’t help but hum in appreciation.

But she was not finished. Cadence laid a hoof upon my head, a frown creased her beautiful face. “Definitely feverish,” she murmured. Shaking her head, she spoke at normal volume, “This refusal to change rooms ends today, Thorax. I can’t let you stay down there in the cold any longer. You’ll be staying in our suite until you’re well, then you may pick one of the guest suites in this wing.”

I felt my heart skip a beat. Her concern and want to help were gratifying, truly. I had longed for friends such as these for so many years! But I couldn’t accept.

They are Royalty. I am not.

My face must have betrayed my feeling, for her eyes narrowed and flashed with something I saw a long time ago—the same light that flashed in her eyes before she battered Libellula and several of my kin senseless. Determination. She was going to get her way and I was going to sit on my new bed and like it.

And we both knew it.

“This is not up for debate,” she said. “I have no problem with you playing with Flurry or asking questions about our culture, or anything of the like. You have the freedom to decide what you do, but as long as you live in our palace, that has some limit. Shining and I reserve the right to step in when your wellbeing is at risk. Understood?”

I tried not to squirm beneath her gaze. My efforts were in vain. “Yes, Princess.”

“Good.” Her smile was back in place as if nothing happened. Cadence hummed a tune as she set about doting on me as though I were her own, Shining even came over and shot me a bemused smile as he joined in checking me over.

Flurry, on the other hoof, decided to investigate. With a flap of her young wings, she flew off Shining’s back and landed on the arm of the couch. Cooing curiously, she babbled in her baby talk and prodded my head. I tried to lean up to meet her eye, to smile and show her I was okay, but I couldn’t quite get there. So I settled for leaning into her tiny hoof.

It seemed to please her, but not enough. She looked to her father and pointed at me. “Tora!” she cried, demanding an explanation.

“Cousin Thorax is feeling yucky, Flurry,” Shining replied. “He needs rest so he can play another day.”

“Tora yucky?” Flurry repeated. She leaned over me, scanning as if she could tell what illness ailed her favorite changeling subject. Her bottom lip poked out in a most adorable pout, her ears drooped. She petted my headfin with her tiny hoof. “Tora,” she whispered. “Seepy Tora.”

Seepy Tora—she wanted me to sleep. That was three Royals ruling in favor of rest.

I was well and truly relieved of my duty to entertain my over-lady. With a shaky smile, I nodded and closed my eyes, and let her pet my fin as I drifted off to sleep.

Silly faces would happen once I awoke from my slumber. Double my usual silliness as payment for the delay.

*Cadence was most displeased when she saw me write this, which means that I will receive a Lecture (her tone suggests the capitalization is required) once I finish this entry. Evidently, this is called “self-depreciation” and she “dealt with enough of that when Twilight was a filly and when she was trying to get Shining to stop making excuses and date her."

Author's Note:

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