• Published 5th May 2019
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Change: The New Kingdom - tom117z

It has been forty-three years since Queen Twilight Sparkle first discovered her lineage and claimed her birthright. And never has it been harder on her than when The New Kingdom is unveiled to the world.

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2 - News

Avia hummed a little tune to herself as she walked down one of the hallways of the Equestrian Hive. For all the years that passed them by, the mixture of stone and chitin around the Princess would never change. Always the same home she had known since she was a nymph, sitting hidden in the middle of a luscious green Equestrian field.

Sometimes she still had to wonder how it compared to the Badlands Hive, the home of her grandmother, Queen Chrysalis. That hive was but a heavily caved-in ruin in the middle of the Badlands, one to which Avia had never been allowed to visit. The young Changeling Queen had always been curious to see the hive where her mother had been born, but every time she had broached the subject Twilight gained a rather… pained look her eyes. That had usually caused the Princess to switch subjects before it could progress.

For all her curiosity, she had no desire to see her mother in pain.

And the pain she still felt towards Chrysalis’ death was deep. Enough so that it could reach any changeling’s empathic senses from a mile away. For all the stories of Crudelis and Immortalis, and the longing to have known her late grandmother, Avia couldn’t deny that she had been lucky to be born in a time of peace and harmony. Things before her birth had clearly been… troubled.

But that was decades past the world by this point. A whole generation had grown up knowing nothing but peace, at least on a major scale. No wars. No conflict beyond the occasional incident with various beasts from the Everfree Forest and other such places. The Council of the Changelings and the Equestrian Triumvirate were allies and had been for as long as Avia had drawn breath.

And it was all of this that Avia was due to take charge of in a short while during her mother’s absence. ‘Nervous’ would be an understatement as to how she was feeling. Queen Twilight Sparkle’s legacy and influence was strong, Princess Avia knew she had a lot to live up to.

Avia was struck from her musings when the corridor she was in came to an end, the world suddenly getting a whole lot bigger as the Princess of the Equestrian Hive emerged into the hive’s main atrium. The large open space spread out before her, filled with countless changelings walking and flying from one locale to the next. Ponies too, and even some other species, walked the various floors that made up the shopping mall-like place.

Avia smiled, trotting over to the railing directly ahead and propping herself up onto it. She looked down into the depths of the hive, seeing the statues at its centre. Queens Avia, the Princess’ namesake, and Chrysalis. Her great grandmother and grandmother respectively. Together they supported the crystal that protected the hive from the world above, covering the open crevice to the surface above the Princess’ head with both a shield and perception filter, as well as a glamour disguising the landscape. Everything one would need to hide something that large.

Avia then heard a sharp, excited gasp from behind her. “Princess!”

Avia turned to see a child rushing towards her, an excited look at the filly’s face. A glance past her saw the sheepish expression of the child’s mother, Puellula, as well as the amused looks of both Soronis and Iuvenes. These changelings Avia had known since she had been born, each now with nymphs of their own. Except for Soronis who, in her own words, “Had enough of mothering after Puellula”.

“Hello, Rose,” Avia greeted the filly in a friendly manner. The child had a very pony name, but such things were hardly uncommon anymore. “And what are up to?”

“We’re gonna go pick up Tutela and then go for a picnic up top!” the filly gushed. “Oh! Do you want to come with us!?”

“Rose…” Puellula addressed her daughter. “I’m sure the Princess is very business.”

“Awww, but-”

“Listen to your mother, Rose,” Soronis cautioned. “Honestly, Pue, she one hundred percent takes after you in the excitable department.”

“Isn’t that just being a child?” Iuvenes questioned.

“Pue was friends with the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Now that was a nightmare.”

Avia raised a hoof. “Um, I am a Cutie Mark Crusader.”

“Yeah, but the originals were far more destructive.”

Avia considered that a challenge for another time.

The three middle-aged changelings chuckled, particularly at the Princess’ clear indignation. Their jubilation died down after a few moments, Iuvenes moving to speak again.

“Heh, but yeah, Tutela is with her grandparents. She always loves sticking around, and they’re being particularly loving as of late since her thirteenth birthday is coming soon.”

“Mine too!” Rose peeped up excitedly.

“Teenagers, hives help you,” Avia joked lightly. “How is your mother anyway, Iuvenes? I spoke to Carduus just a few minutes ago over the link, but I haven’t seen her in a while.”

“She’s doing alright. Though she has another appointment with the doc in a few days,” the mare responded. “They say doctors make the worst patients, and they’re right.”

Avia frowned. “Is everything okay?”

“Just some check-ups, don’t worry, Princess. But my parents are past their primes, even if they won’t admit it. She’s trucking on, but I worry. She still has to look after Dad given his condition, but someone really needs to look after her more often…”

Avia hummed. She would look into getting someone to regularly check in on the two elderly changelings when their daughter wasn’t able. Given all they had done for the hive over their lifetime, they deserved that much.

Speaking of grandparents… Avia hadn’t seen her pony ones in some time. When was the last time…? What, six months ago? Near enough that? Avia couldn’t help but inwardly cringe at the amount of time, not since Twilight Velvet’s birthday…

After her mother returned from the expedition, she’d talk with her about it.

Of course, it would also give her a chance to see Celestia. She’d always acted like something of a grandmother to Avia as well, particularly in the gifts department, much to Luna’s oft irritation. All round, a trip to Canterlot seemed like a good plan in the coming days.

“Anyway, we really need to get moving. Rose,” Puellula called out to her daughter. “Come on, those sandwiches aren’t going to eat themselves.”

“Daisy, chicken… Oh, I think I’ll eat the lot,” Soronis teased the young changeling.

Rose gasped in offence at the audacity of the claim. “No, you won’t! Race you!”

And then she was off, racing down towards the home of Carduus and Panacea.

All the adults shared a laugh at her antics, before the filly’s relatives also moved to depart.

“See you around, Princess,” Soronis said in farewell. “Good luck with everything.”

“Thanks…” Avia replied as they departed, watching them vanish into one of the corridors.

Avia turned back around, glancing once again down at the statue of the two Changeling Queens. She had to wonder; would she be worthy of joining them there someday…?

With that in mind, she turned and left the atrium as well. She had left her mother waiting long enough.

Twilight Sparkle hummed a happy tune as she made notes on one of the many texts she had arrayed around her, every single one an account, legend or some other tome related to the three tribes and the land now known as the Undiscovered West. A well-known studious glint sparkled in the depths of the Queen’s eyes, a hunger and thirst for knowledge that would only be quenched when the deed was done.

It was also times like this that she missed Spike. Both for his company, insight and exceptional organisational ability befitting of her former number one assistant. If only the dragon hadn’t grown so damned big since she had taken rulership over the changelings.

She wondered how he was doing over in the Dragon Lands…

Not that she would besmirch the efforts of the elderly stallion assisting her now, he always acted as dutifully as his body would allow.

“That’s another one,” Carduus said, his magic passing another book to the ‘completed’ pile. “Though I may have to depart soon, your Majesty. I would rather like to be there when Iuvenes arrives to pick up my granddaughter.”

“That’s fine, Avia should be here soon,” Twilight replied with a nod. “We can go through this together while discussing her coming rulership in my stead.”

“Speaking of… How are things going with that?” he asked. “This is a big step. You must be worried.”

“Worried? Ha heh…” Twilight tried to dismiss with a not so convincing smile. “Why would I be worried? I mean, I was ruling a hive before I hit her age!”

“You didn’t exactly have much of a choice…”

“Pish, come on! I’m only leaving my only daughter in charge of a whole hive by herself for the first time and I’m scared she might not be able to handle it and oh gosh I’m cancelling the trip!

Carduus rolled his eye, just waiting for the Queen to finish her little moment and calm herself. It only took a few moments of applying the age-old breathing technique, but Twilight recomposed herself with a sheepish grin.

“Or that might be a bit hasty…” she admitted with a chuckle.

“Just a bit.”

“I am worried, though,” Twilight admitted with a sigh. “I know she can handle it; I really do. But there’s always the things that could go wrong in the back of my mind. I don’t want this to go wrong and hurt her confidence…”

“She’s come a long way from the filly who ran off into the Everfree Forest by herself,” Carduus disputed. “And your best advisor, if I am to toot my own horn, will be here to make sure she knows which checklist goes on which day.”

Twilight hummed. “Yes, I suppose you will. It’s just daunting, and I can only imagine how she is feeling. This needs to go right for her.”

“It will. I’m sure of it.”

Twilight and Carduus both felt a brief brush against their minds that caused their eyes to divert to the throne room doors. The guard outside had spotted Avia approaching from down the hall.

“And on that note, I should take my leave,” Carduus said with as low a bow as his crippled limbs could manage. “I should return to my family.”

“Please do. One of the guards outside can help you-”

“Twilight, I’ll be fine,” the former Captain of the Royal Guard assured the Changeling Queen. “There’s still life in these old bones yet.”

Twilight looked at him with concern. “All the same, I don’t think that wife of yours would be all too happy if I let you stumble back on your own.”

He groaned. “Right… Alright, fine. I’ll grab one of them on my way out.”

“I will be checking over the hive.”

He chuckled. “Don’t worry, I won’t duck out of this.”

At that moment, the doors behind Carduus opened to admit the very Princess that had been the centre of their discussion. She entered with barely hidden nerves, though her face brightened on seeing the both of them.

“Mother! Carduus,” Avia greeted the both of them, specifically looking towards the latter. “I ran into your daughter.”

“They’re heading to our place?”

“Yeah, all ready for a picnic according to little Rose.”

“Then I really should be going,” Carduus said with finality. “My Queen. Princess.”

Both royal changelings watched the stallion turn and go to depart the throne room. He vanished through the doorway, the pair just catching him address one of the guards outside before the entranceway was sealed up once more, cutting off the rest of the ensuing conversation.

This left the mother and daughter alone.

“Avia. Sleep well?” Twilight asked. “Your father pinged me over something about a nightmare?”

“Oh, he did, huh…?”

Twilight frowned. “Is something bothering you?”

“No no! Just nervous, I guess. I mean…” Avia gestured to all of the gathered tomes. “There’s a lot going on lately. I’m not sure I’m ready…”

Twilight smiled at her daughter’s honesty, standing from her throne and approaching her. She stood proudly over the smaller Changeling Queen for a moment, before leaning in to share a loving muzzle with her child. After a moment of these prideful affections, Twilight turned to return to her throne while gesturing Avia to sit in her own. A second obsidian seat nestled closely next to the Queen’s own.

Avia obliged, following on and settling herself within the seat. She glanced around the throne room, her eyes going over all that her mother had been working on. She spotted a few other reports nestled among the historical tomes and maps, likely the kind of work she’d soon be neck deep in…

“So, where do we begin?” Avia enquired.

“And you’re sure you are okay with this, sweetie?” Twilight asked. “You ARE more than ready. But if you really don’t want to do this…”

“Mum, I’m fine. Just nervous,” Avia replied. There wasn’t much point in delaying the inevitable. “If I want my own hive someday, I have to start somewhere…”

Twilight nodded. “Alright then. If that’s the case, then we’ll start with the schedule of my departure.”

Twilight’s horn lit up, the lavender changelings bringing forth a sizable but neatly stacked pile of paper. She carefully passed the stack into Avia’s own magical aura, letting her daughter begin to study their contents.

“There you will find our current plans for the expedition. Our timetable, it includes our plans for the Undiscovered West and when we predict our return. Feel free to make any further suggestions.”

“I’ve been helping you plan this for months,” Avia said with a titter. “I think I know the gist of it.”

“I just want to be sure,” Twilight responded. “There’s still another week to go, so some adjustments can be made. Have you been going over hive procedures and what your daily tasks will be?”

“I’ve been going over them since I was born,” Avia joked. “Though going over, them again wouldn’t hurt. And any last-minute pointers…”

“It’s what I’m here for,” Twilight agreed. “And, I suppose, you can always contact me over the hive mind if you ever need advice that Carduus cannot give.”

“Assuming you’re not busy.”

“It’s going to be a lot of travelling. I’m sure there will be a few spare moments.”

Avia hummed, leaning back in her throne. “I still wish I was coming along. I mean, I know why I’m not. This is a test. A big deal. But… You get to go to the Undiscovered West! Unicornia! Pegasopolis! The earth pony tribe!”

“Well, only one of those still exists in Equestria today,” Twilight pointed out. “It’s called Cloudsdale now.”

Avia snorted. Of course, the pegasi had just moved their whole city from one continent to the next…

“But I know you’re disappointed about not coming with us. So… how about I bring you something back? A piece of the old unicorn city-state?”

“You think it’s still there?” Avia asked.

“Something should be, even if it's at the bottom of the mountain,” Twilight responded. “There was still plenty left of that earth pony village on an island bordering the Undiscovered West. And if you want to see the longevity of unicorn architecture, you just need to visit the abandoned home of the great Mistmane!”

“I know,” Avia conceded. “It was just such a long time ago…”

“Hey, the Council Hive is even older,” Twilight noted. “There has to be something. And once we come back, the entire planet will be fully mapped out again. I know all our current outlines are woefully out of date, and barely pieced together from scraps, so we need to change that.”

“A thousand years out of date….”

“More than,” Twilight said with a nod. “It’s honestly a little silly it has gone this long in that state. As a scholarly minded changeling, I can’t let it continue.”

“Again, I wish I could come along,” Avia stated. “Though I do wonder what happened to those previous expeditions…”

“They didn’t have an army of guards at their backs,” Twilight mused. “Who knows what has moved into the area in the absence of civilisation. Wendigos could still exist. Other beasts that Grogar would have just loved to have designed… Or even just pirates and smugglers. It could be anything.”

“Maybe Discord knows?”

“Undoubtedly,” Twilight deadpanned. “But do you really think he’d tell us anything?”

“Good point.”

“But that’s what the escort is for. We’re better prepared than any private venture ever was,” the Queen declared. “Plus, a Changeling Queen with a penchant for organisation. I have tried to account for every outcome whether it be the old demons of Hearth’s Warming or anything else. Of course, I doubt I can account for every possibility.”

“Oh, come on! You’re the most efficient person in all of Equus!”

“High praise from my own daughter,” Twilight said with a chuckle. “But there’s always something.”

“Well, let’s go over the plans one more time,” Avia suggested. “Maybe I can try to spot something.”

“Feel free,” Twilight agreed. “Though we should finish recapping your coming duties first.”

“Ah. Alrighty then…”

Twilight gave Avia an amused grin, shaking her head as she moved on to the next pile. She brought up a rather new set of documents, ones marked with the seal of the Princess of the Moon. A separate one was by it, likewise, marked with the Princess of the Sun’s own official seal. She levitated them towards her daughter, who took them with a confused glance.

“What’s this? This is new.”

“We got them a short time ago,” Twilight informed her. “Celestia and Luna want you to go to Canterlot during your reign alongside your father. As acting Queen of the Hive and Captain of the Royal Guard respectively, they want you to meet with both them and Captains Vladimir Vespertillio and Valiant Snow.”

“Oh, Valiant!” Avia exclaimed in recognition, remembering the pony she’d met as a relatively new guard so long ago… “I haven’t heard much about him since his father retired and he ascended to Captain of the Solar Guard.”

“Well, here’s your chance. But I hear he has settled in quite well in Broad Sword’s absence. His father must be quite proud.”

“Heh. I’m surprised Vladimir hasn’t followed suit.”

“In short while, I imagine he will. His age is rapidly catching up with him,” Twilight agreed. “I believe he has a successor already in mind.”

“Well, that’s good. What is this meeting about, anyway?”

“Since our hive is both an ally of Equestria and technically beneath its sovereign soil, they wish to discuss a matter of mutual defence,” the Queen explained. “Particularly in regards to the increasing rollout of new firearms. Most pony units are having their old crossbows replaced with this new gear. I would quite like our own force to make the upgrade.”

Avia let out a breath. “That’s… daunting.”

“And a lot for us to consider,” Twilight continued. “We’re entering a technological renaissance, excitingly and terrifyingly. The Friendship Express and other public services are faster than ever. New aircraft, television sets…”

“How can they get colour from boring old projectors but not those boxes?”

Twilight laughed. “It’s a new technology. There are always kinks to work out. But anyway, enough of that. Returning to this meeting, the Princesses have-”

“My Queen!” came the shout of a flustered changeling as the doors were unexpectedly throw open, a guard rushing in rather frantically. “I’m sorry I- What I mean to say it-”

“Calm down,” Twilight commanded, sitting up in a regal manner and staring down at the flustered changeling. “Guard, explain yourself.”

And it was then that, much to the bewilderment of the two royals, that they suddenly felt a strange sensation from within the hive mind. It was a sense of unease and dread that was spreading like wildfire from changeling to changeling, whatever it was causing such distress being passed on by one changeling to the next.

And all of it was directed to the two of them.

“Twilight…” Façade’s voice suddenly came in over the link, sounding despondent and saddened. “Avia…”

Now Avia was scared. “Dad…?”

“What is happening?” Twilight demanded to know, only to have his regretful silence answer her.

“We just got word from our embassy in Canterlot,” the guard eventually managed to report. “The news just came in over hive link for the Captain. It was passed to us to give to you.”

“And apparently to the whole hive,” Twilight said disapprovingly. “What is bothering you so and why has it not been relayed to us via hive link?”

“I-it seemed inappropriate,” the guard stammered. “This… The Captain wished you to hear it face-to-face.”

“What’s going on…?” Avia asked worriedly. “What has happened?”

“Your Highness…”

“Answer her!” Queen Twilight ordered him dangerously.

The guard was silent for several moments, seemingly collecting his thoughts and attempting to figure out how he was going to relay whatever news he had received. All the while, the mournful feeling of dread persisted throughout the entirety of the hive mind, greatly degrading the Queen of the Equestrian Hive’s patience.

But, finally, he found his courage to deliver bad news to the Queen.

“It’s your parents, Night Light and Twilight Velvet,” the guard said apologetically. “Our embassy, just a short while ago, received word from Princess Celestia herself that they have passed away.”

The world stopped.

Both Twilight and Avia sat there, motionless. They each stared at the guard disbelievingly, unable to comprehend the words he had just relayed to them. Twilight Sparkle, in particular, started to shake, barely holding in a sudden surge of anguish.

This… this had to be a mistake! This couldn’t be… They…

They couldn’t be…

“How…?” Twilight whispered quietly.

“Little is known, but apparently they both slipped away during the night. We’re all so very sorry…”

The hive’s fears came to pass, the Queen’s pain being transmitted to all changelings within her reach. The Princess too shared in this dreaded revelation and all the horrors it brought, a simple truth coming to mind all the while…

She had just been wanting to see them again…

And now they never would.