• Published 30th Dec 2016
  • 9,312 Views, 456 Comments

The King of Love Bugs - NavelColt

Embracing the power to share love rather than steal it, the changelings seek to reinvent themselves and their kingdom, while Thorax works to introduce the idea of changelings in Equestria, one escapade at a time.

  • ...

The Crossroads of Friendship and Love - Part 1

Spike felt his breath breach the gaps between his claws. "Well, look at it this way, Spike old boy. On the plus side, she's not mad about those notes."

With the enthusiasm of a newborn foal, Twilight Sparkle trotted around her library, venturing from bookshelf to bookshelf and whisking books out in magenta auras of magic. In no time at all, two stacks of levitating books were following the young princess wherever she went, and growing taller by the minute.

"Twilight, are you absolutely sure all of those are gonna be necessary?", Spike asked skeptically, putting together a small, modest backpack at the central reading table.

Twilight halted her collecting spree just long enough to shoot the dragon an incredulous look. What a ridiculous question to ask.

"Of course, Spike," she replied, examining another floating book when it pined for her attention. "We're going to be visiting the changelings today, and unlike Princess Celestia, I plan on being there a while."

Spike cocked a brow. The book horse's prances became overly-excited gallops, and the animated stacks of literature threatened to spawn a third.

"Princess Celestia covered the basics of the plan regarding ponies and changelings looking forward, and that was almost a week ago," Twilight narrated, her voice echoing around the library as she moved from spot to spot. "But what's really exciting is that she wants me to be the one to work with Thorax on some initial friendship behaviors and future plans!"

"You mean as opposed to Starlight doing it, like in your little fantasy?", Spike quipped, trailing the alicorn with his gaze. "When you put it that way I guess it does make sense. Geeking out over changelings is probably better than smacking them with a giant flyswatter."

"Oh, ha ha ha," Twilight mused with deadpan. Her echo preceded a scrutinizing stare around the corner of a bookcase. "I swear, I'll be an old mare by the time you let me forget about that one. Oh, naturally we'll also be there today to document all the new knowledge there is to know regarding changelings and their culture!"

Spike rolled his eyes. "Naturally, though I'm pretty sure that part is more you than it is Celestia's orders."

"Oh, Spike, I'm so excited!", Twilight exclaimed, far too giddy to pay attention to dragon sarcasm. "I hardly had any time at all to interact with the changelings when Queen Chrysalis was defeated, or at the dinner, but we have the entire day to spend with them, now! Oh the things we're going to learn!"

Having finished his backpack, Spike hopped from the wooden stool he had been standing on and made progress towards the library doors.

"As long as you don't take up all of Thorax's time while we're there, then I'm both happy and on board for learning new things," he declared. "I learned a lot in the short time Princess Celestia and I were there, and I bet there's a whole lot more even still."

"Exactly, Spike, think of the possibilities!", Twilight replied with earnest, dotting her sentence by dropping two and a half stacks of journals and reference books on the central desk with a resounding thud. "The changelings have been hostile for so long, we know as much about their culture as we did the dragons', prior to Princess Ember rising to power! And the entire changeling culture just went through a drastic change, to boot! I bet I can fill three books, easy!"

"Just make sure you give Thorax a little breathing space, Twilight," came a familiar voice from the hallway doors. "He doesn't seem to work well under pressure. When things got hairy for us, he looked like he needed a paper bag to keep himself from hyperventilating."

Twilight turned her attention to the front of the library, where a light purple unicorn now stood, eyeing her with knowing amusement.

"Oh, Starlight! I'm glad you're here!", Twilight exclaimed, a bright light flaring from her horn. All at once the stacks of parchment and paper vanished, replaced by two unassuming saddle packs.

"I love this spell!", Twilight squealed with glee, clapping her front hooves together. "I sure wish I knew this 'bottomless bag' trick back in magic school."

Weathering a sigh, Starlight walked to the central table. The unicorn's eyes synced with Spikes' in the observation of afternoon Twilighting.

"...she didn't register a thing I said, did she?"

"Nope, she's in the zone. Just ride the wave - she'll snap out of it eventually."

"Starlight, not that I'm worried, but are you sure you'll be okay watching after the castle?", Twilight asked abruptly, trotting over to the pair with her saddle bags now in place. The tense lip was one thing, but the concern lacing her voice was a dead giveaway. "Spike and I will be gone at least a couple days, and you'll be by yourself unless you have Trixie over. Well, if the map calls some of our friends somewhere, then I suppose you might see them briefly, as well."

"Come on Twilight, it's not like I haven't watched over the castle for you several times, before," Starlight said with a chuckle.

"I know, it's just that this may be the longest you've had to look after the castle, before," Twilight explained, leading the way from the library and down the lavish castle corridors. "Depending on how in-depth discussions go, and what Thorax could use help with, we may be gone even longer than I'm expecting."

A magenta storm forced open the castle doors, and Twilight trotted out into the warm, sunny afternoon. Her friends followed her down the castle's front steps, and together they convened on the modest dirt road leading to Ponyville.

Out from her saddle bags Twilight levitated a rolled up scroll, turning to Starlight with her full attention.

"Alright, Starlight. This is a list of everything we have to eat in the castle. I've done some reorganizing of the food storage areas since the last time you looked after the castle, so if you can't find something, all you have to do is refer to this list and-"

A hoof pressed itself over Twilight's mouth. A teal aura gently took the scroll from her, and she watched it float by her protige's equally charmed smirk.

"Honestly, Twilight, I can handle it. You and Spike should really get going though, if you want to have plenty of time to talk with Thorax. I'll hold down the Fortress of Friendship for you. In return, say hey to Thorax for me, will you?"

Her motherly anxieties arrested, Twilight nodded. She employed a comforting smile she so often used on the unicorn.

"Of course I will. And, you're right. I'm sure you'll have a relaxing time while we're gone. If you need anything, our friends are right around the corner...you know, proverbially."

Twilight turned to face the south-west winds, squinting through her chilled lenses to the distant horizon. Her former excitement reclaimed her. Her thirst for knowledge, and her readiness to assist a friendly ally now an all-consuming purpose.

"Ready, Spike?", she called, more rhetoric than affirmation. Spreading her wings, she glanced to the young dragon.

"Born ready, Twilight!"

Spike climbed atop Twilight's back and the two took to the air. A flock of butterflies in his belly signaled their ascent, and the castle dropped from view. As clouds engulfed them, the distant visage of Equestria expanded from over the mountain tops. Spike glanced back to find Starlight a mere speck on the ground, waving a hoof from the castle's front steps.

"So, Twilight, what are the chances we can actually start calling the castle, 'The Fortress of Friendship'?"

Spike wore a goofy, hopeful look. Twilight shook her head.

"...not a chance, Spike."

"Tarsus, can I ask you a strange question?"

With a flick of his ears, a blue and orange changeling turned once again from his work. A few feet away, a green drone gave him a sheepish look.

"I suppose, as long as you're still doing your part over there," Tarsus replied with snark, fluttering upwards to smooth out a section of wall. "If your mouth keeps moving faster than your hooves, I can't be held responsible for my actions."

Nearly a week had passed since the sun monarch had visited the hive. With the interior of the southern side now complete, all that remained was a few watch towers on the exterior of the hive's up-most crown. While Thorax had pushed for them to take it easy, the drones wouldn't have it - the satisfaction of completion was within reach.

"Do you think Thorax cries a lot?", Tibia asked.

"...you're right, that is a strange question," Tarsus stated flatly, instigating an annoyed look, but ignoring it. "Well, yeah, I guess he does. I mean, I guess he does compared to most other changelings. Literally all the time, always, compared to Chrysalis. Why are you asking?"

"Last week, when the sun princess was here, Thorax invited my squad and I to rest with him," Tibia explained, moving on to another section of railing. He flipped himself upside-down in mid-air, giving a little variety to the redundant work. "But then we all woke up to him crying. He didn't really tell us why, but he seemed okay, I guess. He wasn't hurt or anything, I just can't stop thinking about it."

"He's always been touchy-feely, maybe that means you cry a lot," Tarsus mused, now helping Tibia smooth out the various railings surrounding the tower's peak.

"Yeah, he's a soft-shell alright," Tibia said with a chuckle. "You know I wasn't sure what to think about the whole 'sleeping near your fellow changelings makes you feel stronger' thing at first, but it really works. It's really nice to see how happy it makes Thorax to see us spending time together."

"It's nice to feel like our leader actually takes us into consideration, for once," Tarsus added. "Could you imagine Chrysalis ever doing anything like that with us?"

Tibia snorted. "'If you fools have time to loaf around, you're not putting the needs of the hive first!'"

The two drones shared a small fit of laughter.

As Tibia began to wipe the tears from his eyes, something in his peripheral caught his attention. North of the hive, approaching on hoof were two small shapes amidst the expanse of vegetation. Casting his work aside, the bug pony fluttered out past the tower and narrowed his eyes.

"What is it?" Tarsus inquired.

"Someone's coming," Tibia replied, fluttering out a few feet farther. "It's hard to make out. It almost looks like..."

Tibia let out a sudden gasp, ascending a few inches in the air.

"What? Who is it?", Tarsus asked again, fluttering over now as well.

The approaching figures peaked over a hill, and there was no mistaking them, now. It was Spike, the small dragon from Ponyville, accompanied by a brilliant purple pony. Though the species eluded the changelings from this distance, the mane and coat color were unmistakable. So many times had they been taught to capture her on sight, and been told of her and her friends' transgressions against the hive, by their former queen.

"That's the Princess of Friendship!", Tarsus exclaimed. "We need to let Thorax know, right now!"

"Wait, wasn't the Princess of Friendship pink?", Tibia asked, putting a hoof to his chin.

"That's Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, you dope, the Princess of Love," Tarsus replied, shaking his head and grabbing the bug pony, pointing once again towards the slowly advancing pair. "That is the Princess of Friendship, Twilight Sparkle. Now come on, hurry up!"

Tarsus buzzed down the exterior of the tower in a rapid spiral, vanishing inside by way of a hole at the hive's base. Tibia puffed out his cheeks and stuck out his tongue before dogging after his friend.

"He doesn't have to yell at me, I was never on intel. How am I supposed to know these things?"

"Do you feel that, Spike?", Twilight asked with a radiant smile, trotting along with a spring in her step.

"My aching feet?", Spike replied with deadpan.

"We get to be an instrumental part in helping the changelings and ponies forge a brand new relationship, isn't that exciting!?", Twilight finished, ignoring dragon sarcasm in favor of giddy remarks for the second time, today. "And just look at their hive! It looks so amazing! They've done so much in just three weeks!"

"Remind me again why we're on foot, though?", Spike asked, unable to let his mild grievances go. "We flew all the way here, so why are we walking, now?"

"Spike, it's incredibly rude to teleport or fly into the capital of another kingdom, even when being expected," Twilight said in her 'knowledgeable teacher' voice. "Especially for me. I'm a princess representing Equestria, meeting with another kingdom's leader. We don't want to offend Thorax or the other changelings, do we?"

"This is Thorax, remember?", Spike replied with a skeptical eyebrow. "I don't think you could offend him if you tried, Twilight."

"Even so," Twilight countered, "there's nothing wrong in being courteous, Spike. I'm sure your feet will survive."

Spike took a few more steps, mulling over a response, but soon came to a dead stop. Though his feet touched soft grass, the sensation of hot magma began to curl his toes, as if he was standing on a bed of molten rocks. The young dragon looked to Twilight with abrupt concern, wondering if it was just him. Maybe his feet really wouldn't survive, after all.

"Uh, Twilight?" he stammered.

"Ooh, I wonder if Thorax will let me see the young changelings, too," Twilight contemplated, little stars in her distracted eyes. "I bet there are larva and baby changelings we've never gotten...to see... before."

Noticing the searing pain shooting up her hooves at last, Twilight pranced around desperately before taking to the air for safety. She glanced at Spike, noting the rising alarm in his face at last.

"Spike, do you feel that-"

The sound of a roaring blaze drowned out her words. The friends turned just in time to dodge a blast of fire.

Spike yelped in surprise and leaped behind a rock for safety. He stared past Twilight's figure like a deer caught in the headlights, his lip quivering. "T-Twilight...what is that thing!?"

Twilight turned to face it, but couldn't believe her eyes. Crouched low to the ground a dozen feet away, now blocking their path to the hive was an orange lizard, a little larger than a timberwolf. Its six legs gripped the grass while its wide head pivoted to and fro. Beady black eyes sent a shiver down her spine, and she could see a long, thick tail slam the ground behind it. Upon her attempt to move, an otherworldly hiss erupted from its cavernous mouth.

"That's a...", Twilight began, only to feel her breath leave her. The creature lit its entire body on fire. "That's a salamander, Spike!"

"What's a salamander!?" Spike called from behind his rock, as Twilight quickly threw up a magical shield to quell the flames billowing from the creature's mouth. The fire dispersed across the bubble shield's surface, blackening the grass surrounding it.

"Magical reptiles that generate fire! Their saliva contains magical properties - it's used in a wide array of potions!" Twilight explained, still finding time to teach amidst their life-threatening situation. "But I don't understand, they live in arid places and near active volcanoes, why is one here!?"

The creature was now a mere foot away from the princess, its gaping maw testing the resilience of her shield with an unrelenting heat wave. Twilight braced her legs against the ground, staring into the jaws of the lizard with fierce determination. Her horn was primed for a magical blast, and her heart raced to the endless inferno filling her view.

"Spike, stay where you are!", Twilight yelled, her horn sparkling with electric power. "I'm going to lower my shield, but don't worry, I have a plan!"

"Uh, Twilight, I don't think you'll need one!" Spike yelled in reply.

Twilight spared a quick glance at the young dragon. He was smiling. How could he be smiling?

"Spike, what are you talking about-"

"Tarsus, I need you to distract it with your squad while I push it back from the front!"

"Yes, Thorax!"

"Tibia, get Spike and Princess Twilight to safety!"

"Of course, Thorax!"

A blinding turquoise blast rained down from above, knocking back the salamander and disrupting its fiery attack. Mouth agape, Twilight watched as two groups of changelings rushed in from overhead. The drones surrounded themselves in magic auras using their horns, and took turns slamming into the fiery creature's sides, making it forget all about the pony and small dragon.

"Princess Twilight, please, come this way!" Tibia urged, gently nudging the princess in the side with his forehead.

"Oh, o-of course!", Twilight said absently, fluttering her wings and taking to the air again. Spike too had been retrieved, and now enjoyed a scenic view from the back of red drone.

With the pair safely escorted away from harm, Thorax touched down in front of the angry creature, still hissing and covered in a deadly flame. Spike and Twilight looked on with bated breath.

"You have been told you are not welcome in this kingdom, anymore!", Thorax asserted, rigid antlers glowing with electric blue magic. "You will leave and make your home elsewhere, or you will be made to leave."

"I love when he gets intense!", came the excited voice of a changeling to Twilight's left. "Come on, blast him, Thorax! One more for good measure!"

"Yeah, what he said!", Spike reflected, only to get a light bonk on his head from Twilight's hoof.

The salamander flattened itself as it continued to hiss, but made no further attempts to attack. In perfect symmetry, Thorax held his ground, staring down the fire lizard with calm reserve, ready to launch another blast of power at the slightest movement.

But the tactic worked. At last the creature drew back, leaving a scarred trail of ashen grass as it retreated towards the far southern forest. Thorax stood firm until the creature was lost from view, at which point he let out a deep sigh.

"...that was awesome, Thorax!", Spike proclaimed, breaking the tense silence with reckless abandon. "You've gotten so powerful! That thing totally turned tail and ran!"

"Thanks, Spike, but it was a team effort, for sure. And, I'm sorry about that, Twilight," Thorax said, his demeanor softening again as he joined the small group. "Are you okay?"

"Of course. Thank you, Thorax," Twilight breathed, pacing her breaths to recover from the sudden encounter. "I take it you've had problems with salamanders, before?"

"Well, I guess you could say that," Thorax replied. Joined by his guests, he lead the way back towards the towering hive, enticing his drones to trot and flutter along after him.

"It may look pleasant and green now, but this entire region used to be a desert wasteland, where salamanders were quite common," Thorax explained, motioning a hoof towards the rolling hills around them. "After the changelings transformed, the land started to bloom with vegetation in a way it never had, before. The salamanders are upset at the loss of their habitat, so they're more aggressive than usual. Unfortunately they've also been inadvertently causing wild fires with all the new plants around. We've been trying to push them to relocate."

"They're not friendly at the best of times, but now they're even more grumpy," Tarsus chimed in, hovering along above Thorax's head.

"That seems like an understatement," Spike mumbled.

"At any rate, I'm glad you both made it here safely, salamanders aside," Thorax said with a relieved tone, turning to meet Twilight. "When he visited with Princess Celestia, Spike was telling me how much you've been curious about changelings, Twilight. I'm sorry I haven't been able to reply to most of your letters, but I'm happy to answer any questions you have while you're here."

Twilight's frazzled composure from being assaulted by a magical creature melted into oblivion.

"Oh yes, I am excited to learn more about you all!", she exclaimed with a grin. "Princess Celestia mentioned a few finer points of what she learned while here with Spike, but I'm so eager to see things for myself! And of course, my visit today is for your sake as well, Thorax. Princess Celestia would like me to help you with where to go next, regarding our kingdom's relations."

"And don't forget, Thorax, we gotta spend some time together today, too!" Spike added. "I brought my starter set for Ogres and Oubliettes, and I can't wait to show you how to play! I just know you'll love it. Some of the other changelings can play too if they want, the more players the more fun!"

"Well, it's only early afternoon," Thorax chuckled, using his magic to create an opening in the hive's thick exterior. "I'm sure we'll have plenty of time for everything. First things first though, I'd love to give you both a brief tour of our hive's highlights. We've just about finished our re-construction, and to be honest we're pretty excited to show it off."

"I wouldn't have it any other way, your majesty," Twilight replied with contained glee, following the changelings inside, Spike by her side.

"Ah, Starlight old girl, you've got to start finding ways to get those two out of town more often."

A fully satisfied look on her face, Starlight Glimmer sat down at the castle library's central study table, laying down a pizza she had just picked up from Pizza Hoof. With a large stack of spell theorems and magic history sitting by her left waiting to be read, her extra large pizza with basil and hay on her right, and the castle absolutely silent until tomorrow evening, she was set for the afternoon.

"Take your time, Twilight, I think I'll be just fine here on my own," the unicorn giggled to herself, levitating a slice from the box as she opened her first book.

Author's Note:

Starlight Glimmer is best cameo. :raritywink:

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