• Published 30th Dec 2016
  • 9,315 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 2

"Thorax, can we help show the princess around, too?", a cyan changeling asked, trotting along backwards in front of his alpha in a not-so-subtle attempt to grab his attention.

"Can you breathe fire for us, purple dragon?", another drone requested, fluttering over Spike's shoulder and venturing a hopeful grin.

"Are you really powerful, princess?", a third asked Twilight with a tilt of his head. "I heard you destroyed an entire landscape battling a creature from far away. Is that true? How strong was the creature? Did the really tall princess we saw last week help you? Did her hair get in the way? It looked like her hair would get in the way."

"Come on, you guys, it's not very polite to crowd our guests."

Thorax's voice fell on the drones like a warm blanket, as close to scolding as the soft-spoken changeling could get. All the same, bug ears flopped dejectedly in response. The guilt of disappointing the undisappointable worked, perhaps, even better than yelling.

"It's quite alright, Thorax," Twilight said, mindfully observing the curious bug ponies as they fluttered into view. "It's perfectly natural that the changelings are just as curious as we are. You're generous enough to share changeling culture with us, and I'm happy to share knowledge regarding Equestria, as well."

"Oh, you misunderstand, Twilight," Thorax chuckled. "I think they're mostly just interested in entertaining themselves."

Twilight furrowed a brow. "What do you mean?"

"Ever since the major work on the hive got completed last week, a lot of changelings have been finding themselves pretty bored," Thorax stated, peering around to find all compound eyes conveniently turned away from him. "I can't say Chrysalis's reign had many positive points, but she did keep everyling busy constantly hunting for food. Coming up with some recreational activities we can do around our hive is on my list of things to look into."

"Oh, well, if it's a list you need help with I can most certainly help with that," Twilight stated confidently, fluttering her wings for emphasis.

"And if the changelings are bored, I've got just the answer for that!", Spike chimed in, wiggling his backpack. "Ogres and Oubliettes is really fun, and requires a whole lot of imagination and focus - it'd be perfect! I sure hope you guys have big tables around here!"

Thorax beamed to his guests, then glanced again to the hovering drones. This time they met his eye readily.

"Well Spike, if you'd like, you're welcome to take these guys and start teaching them how to play," Thorax suggested. "I'm sure they'd like to sit down and relax after that excercise against the salamander. I can give Twilight a brief tour of our hive in the meantime, and we'll catch up with you when we're done."

Spike pondered the idea for a few moments, scanning Twilight for a sign of confirmation. The purple alicorn nodded.

"It's fine by me, Spike," she said. "It's up to you - would you like to get a head start on your game, or would you like a tour of the hive with me?"

"Well...I can take a tour of the hive any time, especially if I start coming here more often," Spike reasoned aloud. "I'm eager to set up, since I didn't get a chance to do much when Celestia and I were here, so think I'll start teaching the changelings how to play."

Spike observed the numerous colorful bug ponies, some of whom had already landed on the floor upon hearing the plan.

"What do you guys think?", the dragon asked, "wanna give my game a try?"

"I'll try anything once," one drone replied.

"I have no idea what an oubliette is, but it probably beats laying around all day," another reasoned.

The remaining changelings nodded their heads in agreement, and Spike beamed.

"Alright, every changeling who'd like to learn how to play, follow me!", Spike proclaimed, before dashing off down the corridor.

"Wait, Spike! Do you even know where you're going!?", Twilight yelled after him.

The dragon came to a screeching halt. He turned to find that not a single bug pony body had moved. Instead, all eyes stared at him in a unblinking fashion.

Sweat oozed from his scales. Even his shepish smile was met with apathy.

"Yeah, about that - Thorax, where's the best place to play my board game?"

"You can use the main eastern cavern Spike, there are some table-like structures we crafted," Thorax replied. "I'll be sure to end the tour there."

Thorax shot a glance at Tibia, who had been hanging around the rear of the party.

"Tibia, I don't know if you would like to try Spike's game or not, but could you stay with Spike and the others for now? I want to make sure one of my lead guard changelings is with each of our guests. I'm going to take Tarsus with me while I take the princess on our tour."

"Oh, of course, Thorax," Tibia replied dutifully.

With a nod and motion of his hoof, Tibia rounded up the small group of drones plus Spike and made his way down the tunnel. By contrast, Tarsus appeared by Twilight's side from seemingly nowhere, eliciting a jump from the alicorn in response.

"Don't take too long, Thorax!" Spike called out. "I want to show you how to play, too!"

"Don't worry Spike, I promise I'll be there!", the regal changeling replied, waving a hoof as the group vanished through a morphing hole in the far wall.

"You know, Thorax, it's truly remarkable to be here right now," Twilight said softly, meeting Thorax's vibrant magenta eyes. "Standing next to the changeling leader, Spike running off to play games with changelings...none of this was even conceivable for so very long. It's truly wonderful."

"Princess Celestia said something similar when she was here, actually," Thorax mused, leading Twilight and Tarsus down an alternate morphed hallway. "And of course, I feel the same way. I didn't fit in with my kind for so long, but now I actually have the chance to help every changeling discover the same friendship I was looking for. It's an amazing feeling."

"...and now...we are about to enter a world of mystery and magic. A world of thrills and perilous danger, in where only the bravest will prevail. A world where the very hearts of your fellow changelings will be put to the ultimate test. Changelings, I present to you, Ogres...and Oubliettes!"

Concluding his dramatic intro, Spike wiggled the flashlight under his chin, highlighting barred teeth. Seven varieties of aloof interest stared back, and a bug pony yawned.

"...but, I still don't get what an oubliette is," a drone said suddenly, clearly bothered by the fact.

"Yeah, purple dragon, what is this game even about?", another piled on, slumping his chin upon cool stone. "Also, if we're gonna play with flashlights then you should probably know that Chrysalis forbade fireflies and most other forms of yellow light in the hive."

Spike blinked. The drone seated nearest to him had seized his flashlight, and now thrummed his wings feverishly upon staring into the blinding bulb.

"First off, my name is Spike. Secondly, I'm glad you asked," Spike replied, laying out a large game map across the table-like rock. "Ogres and Oubliettes is an adventure game where you pretend to be someone you're not - a character of your choice - and go on all manner of adventures with your fellow players. We use dice and this book to determine if your actions are successful, as we attempt to defeat the evil Squizard and his army of minions. Basically, you use your imagination to go on fantastic adventures, from the comfort of your own home. Er, hive."

"Imagination?", the drone adjacent from Spike mimicked. "But wouldn't you rather go on a real adventure, fighting actual creatures?"

"Do ponies even go on real adventures? Or do they just play this game?", a second one asked, peering at the game map with scrutiny.

"No no, guys, this is just-"

"Are these the kinds of games ponies play?", yet another drone put out. "Because this is nothing like what changelings do."

"Uh, well, what do you all normally do for fun?", Spike followed up. The changelings exchanged glances.

"Lots and lots of play fighting," one said.

"Tackling, sneaking up and scaring," a second said.

"I pretended to be a rock and made another changeling jump in the air, once," a third put in, his tone brimming with pride.

Spike ever so subtly raised an eyebrow.

"...I think we Equestrians have a whole lot more to teach you guys about than just friendship."

Twilight quietly soaked in her surroundings as she walked, a levitating quill rapidly scribbling across three different books floating above her head. Changeling architecture was surely fascinating.


The imbued magic within the hive's structures​ must be linked to changeling DNA, activated whenever a changeling or group of changelings approached. It was elegant, but also a perfect way to detour any form of outside intruders. Simply amazing!


She'd have to dedicate a chapter of 'Changelings and Changed Forms' - her first to-be book about changelings - purely to changeling hives and their inner-working mechanics. Maybe she could obtain a sample of the infrastructure for research purposes and-

"Princess Twilight?"

Her eyes glazed over, and Twilight shook her head as if shaking herself from a trance. The frantically scribbling quill came to a stop, and the purple alicorn looked to Thorax, her political pony aura returning to her.

"Yes, Thorax?"

"Are you okay?", Thorax asked, not sure if he should be concerned or laugh. Spike had given the changeling an idea of her obsessive tendencies, but he was pretty sure he could have calmly declared war on Equestria, and Twilight wouldn't have batted an eye. Well, at least not for a few seconds.

"Of course!", she replied, commanding her books and quill back into her saddlebags. "I apologize, I didn't mean to space out like that. Your hive is just so fascinating! I've never been in one before - well, not while fully conscious, anyway - it's certainly a lot to take in."

Thorax nodded. "That's fine, I don't mind you taking notes. If anything I bet knowledge about our kind will start to repaint the image changelings have been known as, for so long. I just want to make sure we get to our main tour points, too. I don't want to disappoint Spike, he's been so eager to play his game with me."

"Of course, please lead on, your highness," Twilight said with a small bow of her head.

The trio came to another morphing doorway. The hallway beyond opened to a massive chamber riddled with tiny, drone-sized holes covering its walls. Unlike previous rooms, these holes did not morph, and were arranged in perfectly organized rows.

"This is the old nesting chamber," Thorax said, fluttering his wings and encouraging the princess to join him in the air. "It's sort of like a conjoined bedroom for changelings. Every drone who lives in the hive burrows a hole for themselves in the nesting chamber wall, and that's where they sleep at night."

"Oooh...", Twilight muttered aloud, her pupils dilating. With a mind of its own, her horn illuminated, and out came the series of quills and journals once more.

"Of course, now that we've discovered we regain strength through closeness, a lot of us have started sleeping in clusters," Thorax continued. "We were doing that in the throne room at first, but as more changelings started to participate, we ran out of room. So now we have a communal nesting chamber in the lower part of the hive - it's a large room with compact walls for extra warmth during the winter, and lanterns that can be dimmed. Just about every changeling can fit in there, and it's super multipurpose."

"Princess Celestia did mention you all slept in groups now to regain strength, that's so fascinating," Twilight commented, her quill a blur. "But if you're creating a new chamber dedicated to resting, what will become of this one?"

"Oh, we'll keep it around," Thorax replied, losing himself in a faraway gaze towards the series of bed burrows. "Not every changeling is into the closeness thing, some prefer to rest alone, and that's fine. There are also times where changelings just want some peace and quiet. This chamber will be great for that now since most changelings will prefer to sleep in the newer chamber. This room can be downsized now but it'll always have a purpose."

Twilight gave a satisfied nod, jotting down a few finishing notes.

"Alright, let's move on, Twilight, I've got a lot more to show you," Thorax said with a smile, leading the way through another morphing hole in the wall.

"Consider me an excited sponge of knowledge, your highness!", Twilight replied with glee, following his lead.

"Alright, so let's see," Spike muttered to himself, drawing another of the drones on a tiny character standee piece. This changeling was in battle armor and had duel spiked maces, and a large shield with a changeling face on his back. "We've now got 'Cynibor the Demolisher'."

"That Squizard is toast," Cynibor's changeling counterpart said, giving his neighboring drone a hoof bump.

"Yeah he is," the receiver replied. "My character has earth magic. He'll just summon a bunch of salt and shrivel that squid up."

"You're thinking of slugs, not squids, idiot," another drone scolded, emphasizing his insult with a tap of his own head.

"Well my salt is powerful enough to shrivel squids."

"Says who?"

"Says me, so shut up."

"Don't tell me to shut up, slime-for-brains."

"Don't tell me what my character can and can't do, bug breath."

"Who else am I missing, though?", Spike put out, ignoring the ongoing bickering. He looked around the table to match game pieces to their owners. "Razo the Rowdy, Sir Demonax, Gadaric the Gallant, Cynibor the Demolisher, Phrixus the All-Seeing, Obax the Oubliette..."

At this point in the listing the changelings put up a cease-fire. All heads turned towards the sixth drone in their party - a red and green drone who shrugged his front legs.

"If he wasn't gonna tell me what an oubliette was, I was gonna be one," the changeling said simply.

"...and of course, me, Garbuckle the Magician," Spike finished. "But there are seven of you. So, who hasn't made a character yet?"

The changelings exchanged glances, giving various head shakes and hoof shrugs whenever suspicion befell them. Eventually all eyes drew towards the last changeling in the room - a certain orange-tinted drone who had been quietly observing the game unfold.

"Yeah, it's Tibia," a drone muttered in monotone. "That's a shock."

"Thorax wanted you to play too, Tibia," another said with mocking reproach. "I heard him."

"Actually, he said to come with you guys, and that's it," Tibia corrected. "But, I don't mind playing. I just can't think of a character."

"You can be anybody you want, Tibia, that's what's so fun," Spike encouraged. "First, why don't you think of a class you'd like, maybe you'll think of a name from there. There are magicians, archers, healers, warriors..."

"Well, I do like the idea of healing...", Tibia pondered, rubbing his chin. "Then I can help everyone when they inevitably get their butts kicked in battle."

There was a resounding wave of groans. Spiteful raspberries blew from around the table.

"Classic Tibia," Obax the Oubliette drolled. "All in favor of succumbing to our wounds should we fall in battle?"

There was a unanimous raise of hooves. Tibia rolled his eyes as the remainder snickered.

After experiencing both the new and old nesting chambers, Twilight was shown the nursery hive, where eggs and larva were cared for.

She had to be pried away from them.

The tour then visited several of the hive's 'pillar chambers', or large caverns that acted as hubs for the endless tunnels throughout the hive. And following that they stopped by the throne room, itself. The purple alicorn had seen it before, of course, but only blurred from inside a cocoon.

Along the way, Twilight's quills faithfully archived every thought and observation, forming complete sentences and rapidly filling page after page. The Equestrian Archive of Foreign Bodies and Beings would have quite the update when she returned.

The very last stop was a personal favorite for Thorax, and Twilight was already certain it was her favorite part of the tour, as well.

"...this is just what I needed," Twilight muttered aloud, the speed of her quills having greatly reduced along with her focus. The entire lower portion of her body had submerged in steaming hot water, while her books and quills continued to scribble away, floating a safe distance from everything wet and steamy.

"We only recently discovered this," Thorax said, sitting down in the water as well and giving a shiver of content. "It's a natural hot spring. It was completely closed off, but when we were excavating further underground to expand territory, we broke it open."

"Was that while Chrysalis was still in power?", Twilight asked softly, laying her head back against the warm stone and allowing her heavy eyelids to close.

"It was. As you can probably guess, she allowed noling to use it but her, so we forgot about it until recently," Thorax explained. He extended his wings in the water to let them flex and relax. "Of course, our wings don't work very well when they're wet, but we don't mind. This is one of the deepest, most secure places in the entire hive. Intruders would never be able to navigate this far, even by accident."

"Thorax lets all of us use the hot springs as long as he doesn't end up getting complaints of changelings fighting over it," Tarsus added, letting just his lower hooves soak in the bubbling water. "He starts shooting disappointed looks whenever we start squabbling with each other."

"Oh, Tarsus you don't need to get into that-"

"Some of the really young changelings have started calling him 'Papa Thorax', because of how attentive he is with them."

"But, Tarsus, I don't think the princess needs to-"

"Pretty soon a whole bunch of drones began calling him 'Papa Thorax' whenever he gave us that disapproving look. Now, it's practically his title."

Twilight giggled to herself. Thorax failed to pass off the rose blush assaulting his face as an effect of the bath.

"It's funny, my friend Fluttershy has something she calls the stare, which gets animals to obey her when they're misbehaving," Twilight mused. "But Thorax, that's adorable. I think it's wonderful you're so attentive with the changelings. That's nothing to be embarrassed about."

"I know, Twilight. Tarsus just thinks it's funny to put a spotlight on me every chance he gets," Thorax said, glaring a hole between his lead guard's eyes. Tarsus grinned shamelessly from the opposite end of the hot spring.

"But that's why I'm your favorite, right Papa Thorax?", the bug pony replied, cocking his head to the tune of a sly tone.

"Not with that attitude you're not," Thorax replied with matter-of-fact, dawning a little smile, himself. "In fact, I'd have to say Tibia is beating you to the top of that list, today. He offered to keep Spike entertained, after all, whereas I'm doing most of the work, here."

Before Tarsus could reply, the sound of hooves crossing stone began to echo through the dark, damp chamber. A few shadows meandered down the staircase, soon revealing a small group of changelings chatting among themselves. Upon spotting the occupants, the upbeat conversations came to an abrupt end.

"...oh, uh, hello Thorax!", one drone forced out, waving a hoof.

"Is that the Princess of Friendship?", another drone whispered to his neighboring bug pony.

"Yeah, Princess Twisparkle," the other drone replied with certainty.

"What are they doing in the hot spring, together?"

"...we'll just come back later, then," the most forefront changeling announced, promptly spinning on his hoof and pushing his fellow bug ponies back the way they came. Several changeling heads poked up above the crowd, eager to catch one more glance before they were ushered out of sight.

The sound of gossip-heavy whispering lingered through the chamber until the small squad vanished. Thorax met eyes with Twilight, and the two shared a mutual, hearty laugh.

"For better or worse, I think that wild fire is going to spread farther than that salamander's fire ever could have," Twilight said with a giggle.

"I'm terrified to say that you're right. First a pleasant visit from Princess Celestia, now being seen in the same hot spring with you...I'm never going to hear the end of the rumors, now," Thorax chuckled, standing up and shaking himself of water. "But on that note, it looks like we should get going. There'll be a line if we wait around much longer."

"I agree, and I think I have a very good grasp of changeling hive layouts now, all thanks to you," Twilight offered with a pleasant smile. She gently squeezed her mane through a compressed layer of magic, then stashed away her books and quills before turning to the vibrant monarch.

"We should head over to meet Spike and the others. I'm sure he's more antsy than ever to get you in on his game."

"Honestly, I wonder if he's managed to grab the interest of the drones," Thorax offered, leading the way up from the damp caverns and back into the quiet underbelly of the hive.

"Hopefully they're at least a little bit interested."

"You can't cast an inanimate object spell, you have no mana!", a drone bellowed, pointing his hoof accusingly across the table.

"I do and we both know it," the accused changeling replied, crossing his hooves. "You're just a sourbug because Spike gave me one of his mana potions and not you."

"Guys, guys, come on," Spike tried to interject, only to be swiftly drowned out by more yelling.

"Would you guys shut up and come help me already!?", a third drone remarked, pointing both hooves at his own character piece on the board. "I'm being attacked by a hungry hydra, all by myself! I can't think of how to not get eaten with you two going on about mana potions!"

"Not our fault you frolicked off by yourself," a fourth drone muttered under his breath, his head planted as he awaited his turn. Hydra fodder changeling shot him a dirty look.

The once calm and quiet cavern reverberated with bickering too plentiful to make out. Bug ponies flailed their hooves, pointing at one another and fluttering their wings in anger.

Spike slapped his face with his palm. It was almost as bad as trying to hang out with other dragons.

"C'mon guys, let's help Gadaric overcome the hydra, then we can all move on to-"

"You guys don't even care about teamwork, you just wanna level up till you can sweep everything you come across," hydra fodder changeling grumbled. Sinister stares assaulted him at once.

"You ran off!"

"Only because I wanted to go on an adventure and you guys didn't!"

"Hey, hey!"

Like a thunderclap scaring fillies under their sheets, the drones shuddered violently at the loud voice, their bickering quelled in an instant. With wide eyes a few heads turned curiously towards the far corridor. Standing in the entryway with a disapproving glare was Thorax, a slightly taken-aback but very impressed Twilight just behind him.

"Uh oh, 'Papa Thorax' is back."

"Shut up, shut up, he'll hear you!"

"Really, you guys? Do I have to be around all the time just so you'll behave?" His tone dared a reply, but none came. The alpha changeling approached, and bug ponies seemed to shrink into the floor. By the time Thorax's shadow cast across the table, only the eyes and ears of changelings were visible past the table's edges.

"And why when we have guests here of all times?" Thorax continued. "Princess Twilight and my good friend Spike came all the way from Ponyville to visit us today, and he's trying to play a game with you. Can't you guys get along for their sake, if not your own?"

"...sorry, Thorax," one drone mumbled, touching the fronts of his hooves together.

"I guess we got carried away with the game," a second added, speaking to the floor.

Thorax turned his attention to Tibia, who had been quietly sitting at the far edge of the table, content in merely praying he wouldn't be noticed.

"Tibia, I left you here to look after everyone. Why didn't you keep things under control?"

"I, uh," Tibia stuttered, rubbing his leg under the sudden spotlight, "I thought it might be part of the game."

"And you didn't clarify with Spike?" Thorax followed up.

"Well, no, because...as soon as I figured I should, it got way too loud to talk to him."

Thorax stared at the drone for a long while, then buried a hoof in his temple. Leading his former rowdy peers with kindness and understanding was not nearly as straight-forward as he hoped it'd be.

"No harm done everyone, I'm not upset, and I'm sure Spike isn't either," Twilight assured, quickly nudging Spike in the head as soon as he opened his mouth for a sarcastic remark. "Everyone has times where they don't agree. I'm sure if you give some thought to how your fellow changelings might feel in the future, you'll all more easily start to understand each other."

The bug ponies nodded vigorously at their bailout opportunity, donning exaggerated grins as soon as Thorax glanced their way.

"Thank you, Twilight," Thorax said softly, eyeing the drones with knowing skepticism. "And I want to apologize to you, Spike. I'm sorry they messed up your game for you. If you're still up for playing, I think I'm ready to join in now, at least for a little while. I imagine Twilight would like to discuss some things with me, as well."

"Oh, no worries," Spike dismissed, picking up a few stray game pieces that had been knocked over in all the fighting. "They learned all the rules really well, and, honestly, this sorta thing just happens sometimes. We can pick back up where we left off, all we gotta do is make you a character."

"And I am perfectly content in letting Spike have his time with you and the changelings, your highness," Twilight added in, finding herself a relatively comfortable spot on the stone floor and creating a nest of books and papers. "I need some time to reflect over my notes and organize my thoughts, anyway. You and I can discuss things further this evening. Please take some time to relax."

Thorax found himself a spot at the gaming table, and the group prepared to once again embark into the land of Ogres and Oubliettes. Meanwhile, Tarsus quietly made his way towards Tibia, prodding his friend's chitin.

"'Too loud to hear him', huh?", Tarsus hissed with snark, just loud enough for Tibia to hear. The changeling glared.

"Yeah, so what?" Tibia defended. "I'm not good at getting wound up changelings under control, that's your thing. He should have stuck your butt here with the group and I could have gone on the tour with the princess."

"True, but I think we've reached a rather hilarious development," Tarsus snickered, watching Tibia's glare turn to a frown.

"And what's that?"

"That even 'Papa Thorax' is better at yelling than you are, now," Tarsus concluded, grin widening as Tibia's mouth flattened. "More importantly, that I'm definitely his favorite again after this little fiasco."

"He's about to settle down and start playing the game, you know," Tibia replied, tone saturated with condescension. "You sure you don't wanna go snuggle his hoof or something, Tarsus? Being his favorite and all. Maybe he'll even let you curl up in his lap like a puppy."

Tibia stuck out his tongue. It was Tarsus's turn to frown.

Author's Note:

They may be sparkly and no longer hangry all the time, but that doesn't mean they changed the core of their personalities and habits. :trixieshiftright: Papa Thorax has his work cut out for him.

Asides changelings I've decided to develop (i.e, Tibia and Tarsus thus far), I've simply decided to give no names to other drones. I've found some past authors have assigned numbers to them, but I found this idea to be rather distasteful. :twilightsmile: Bug ponies have names, we simply don't have time to get into all of them~ :raritywink:

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