• Published 28th Feb 2017
  • 5,594 Views, 731 Comments

That Changeling's a Bad OC! - Raugos



What is a changeling to do when she finds herself dragged along on a Daring Do adventure? Fangirl right the heck out, of course.

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Chapter 1

“Seriously? Is this how the book starts?”

Maxilla rolled her eyes as she flipped past the prologue of Daring Do and the Skull Crystal. Quibble Pants might’ve been on to something when he said that AK Yearling was losing her touch; starting with the Fang of Wrath, each new instalment in the series had an ever-increasing number of clichéd elements typically associated with terrible fanfiction.

Ominous rumble of thunder just as the villain makes thinly-veiled threats? Oh please.

As a professional author of Daring Do fanfiction, she knew better than to rely on such lazy tropes. She liked to think that she had more dignity than that.

However, even if some of the books turned out to be garbage, she had to admit that it was glorious garbage that she gobbled up and enjoyed on a regular basis, so she really had no room to complain. Not too much, at any rate. Ragging on a story’s flaws with her fellow fans was half the fun.

Not wanting to leave the warm nest of blankets on her couch in the living room, Max levitated a mug of hot chocolate over and took a sip before getting back to reading. Cold, evening light filtered in through the windows, dimmed further by the heavy clouds and rain pattering against the glass. Ponies would get a headache trying to read in such poor lighting, but as a changeling, she could see pretty clearly in anything short of complete darkness. As a bonus, the absence of light usually discouraged unwanted visitors.

The hours blurred together as she lost herself in another one of Daring’s adventures.

At some point, she noted that night had descended upon the world outside, and the spring shower had turned into a full-blown storm filled with angry thunder and lightning. She even heard some hailstones clacking against the roof and sneezing.

Wait, what?

Max perked her ears and lay still. Sure enough, she heard a distinct sneeze from somepony plodding around the backyard, and a dark silhouette rose into view through one of the windows, casting a long shadow across the floor of her living room. The hatted figure had a mare’s profile and put her muzzle right up to the glass, apparently in an attempt to see if anypony was home.

After a quick check to ensure that she hadn’t neglected any details on her female earth pony disguise, Max simply lay still and watched as the mare flitted from one window to the next. A pegasus, judging by the feathered wings. She paced indecisively for a minute or two outside, glancing this way and that whenever Max caught sight of her.

Unless the peeping mare had some visual-enhancement magic on hoof, there was no way she could’ve spotted Max whilst laying still on the couch in such poor light. And though a flash of lightning briefly illuminated the interior of her house, the mare must’ve had her eyes focused somewhere else to have missed her.

Finally, the mare disappeared from view.

Ten seconds later, scratchy, tapping noises came from the front door, followed by a decisive click when the intruder finished picking the lock.

Hmm. Should’ve bolted it.

Still, Max grinned as the door swung inward. Visitors were generally off limits for capture and cocooning, but missing burglars were far less likely to draw the attention of authorities, and therefore perfectly fair game. She was far less enthusiastic about the chilly rain and wind that blew in from outside, let alone the streaks of mud that the mare left everywhere when she forced the door shut and slid the bolt into place.

Max frowned as the burglar heaved a weary sigh and slumped with her back against the door, radiating green-sweet relief and yellow-sour apprehension, with a roiling undercurrent of thrill and excitement. The relief was a bit odd, considering she had yet to successfully make off with anything valuable, but the rest of her emotions were in line with what she expected of a burglar in action. The pith helmet and collared shirt, not so much.

The heck? Is she pretending to be Daring Do whilst stealing stuff?

And a pegasus, too. Her wings had several tattered and broken feathers poking out at odd angles, and Max caught a whiff of blood as the mare rose to all fours and trotted towards the kitchen, dripping water all the way. Quietly, she slid off the couch and stalked after her.

Once inside the kitchen, the intruder took off her saddlebags and placed them on the dining table. It apparently contained something weighty, judging by the muted thump it made through the thick fabric when it struck wood. Unburdened, the mare headed to the sink, turned on the water and used the dishcloths to clean up several cuts on her legs and sides, working with unusual efficiency in the near-darkness. Max figured she’d probably had a lot of experience doing stuff half-blind.

Next, she went to the larder and, with the temporary help of a lit match, located a jar of honey and applied some of it on her wounds. Apparently, she knew of honey’s usefulness as an antiseptic, too. Definitely an outdoors type.

But what the hay is she doing in my house?

Her actions didn’t make a whole lot of sense. A plain burglar wouldn’t show up injured and waste precious time treating wounds on-site, and some unlucky traveller in need would’ve just knocked and asked for help instead of breaking in. And neither would dress up like a fictional treasure hunter in the middle of the night.

Max blinked as the mare feverishly devoured a couple of raw carrots and began tearing into a hunk of bread, barely pausing for breath in between bites. A desperate, homeless mare might’ve made sense, except for the part where she’d expertly picked the lock. A beggar probably wouldn’t have the means for a decent cosplay, either.

Whatever. She’s not getting anything for free.

She stepped into the kitchen and reached out to turn the lights on, but her hoof paused just before hitting the switch.

A chilly sensation crawled at the back of her mind, like a milder form brain-freeze from careless slushie-drinking, except that it came with whispering voices just at the edge of her hearing, too indistinct to make out the words. She flicked her ear up and swivelled them, but that made no difference to the intensity of the voices; they seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once, like they were inside her skull.

Slowly, she felt her eyes drawn to the intruder’s saddlebag on the table. Whatever was inside, it called to her.

After making sure that the mare was still busily munching away on some grain bars, Max silently tiptoed closer to the dining table, dimly aware that she was being incredibly stupid on top of looking like a complete goof, what with her loose jaw and probably vacant expression. Not that she cared, though. All that mattered was reaching the saddlebags and whatever lay within; it felt like a couple’s first, sweet kiss to a starving changeling who’d lived an eternity alone on the moon.

Max unfastened the buckle and flipped the bag’s cover open and stared at the smooth, flat and circular rock of a size that could comfortably sit on her upturned hoof. The whispers in her skull rose to a crescendo, urging her on with meaningless words woven together into a chilling song.

Yeah, yeah, I’m on it…

The instant her hoof touched the stone, the whispers died out. True darkness spilled over her vision like black ink, and a dull roar filled her head as her stomach leaped into her throat. She was falling, blind and cold into a vast emptiness that somehow still managed to crush her with immense pressure with every passing second. And then… eyes. Thousands of them surrounding her, oddly distinguishable in the dark despite their pure black colour – all boring directly into her soul.

“Come,” said a deep, rippling voice.

Max had no idea how to do that in a directionless environment, but the speaker’s tone left no room for hesitation or disobedience, so she simply nodded.

“Now.”

The pressure lifted, and Max opened her eyes—only to have them stabbed by blinding light.

She hissed and shielded her face with a foreleg.

“Hey, are you all right?” somepony asked.

Blinking away the pain, Max slowly moved her foreleg aside and saw Daring Do leaning directly over her, with a blazing ball of light and a wall of wooden panels directly behind her. A second later, she realised that she was lying flat on her side right next to the kitchen table, looking up at the ceiling and its sole lightbulb.

What the hay was that?

Max scrambled up onto all fours and looked at the larder, which was now short of one intruder. She then slowly turned back to Daring Do, the only other pony in her house.

“No. Freaking. Way,” she said.

The mare’s golden-brown coat and streaky grey-black hair matched Daring Do’s colouration and style perfectly, minus their current state of matted wetness from the rain and a few reddish-pink streaks where she’d been cut to the skin. Her pith helmet and collared shirt looked like they had seen some real use in the wilds, considering their grimy and somewhat worn appearances. Wiry muscles rippled underneath her coat as she put up both forelegs in a placating gesture, and though she wore a disarming grin and trembled slightly from either exhaustion or cold, her magenta eyes remained sharp and lively.

For a moment, Max thought that a fellow changeling must’ve gotten wind of her interests and mistaken her for an actual pony, and subsequently disguised itself as Daring Do in an attempt to feed on her fangirl output or something. But she quickly ruled out the possibility of ‘Daring Do’ being a fellow changeling, as she could still taste her emotions, now tinged with sugary-blue concern. Technically edible and great for working up an appetite, but thoroughly impossible for a changeling to produce. Her kind’s emotions, although comparable with their pony counterparts in flavour, would only provide about as much nourishment as ash and dust.

“Hayseed. You’re the best Daring Do cosplayer I’ve ever seen,” Max murmured.

The mare tilted her head. “Uh, thanks?”

Max then spotted the black stone on the floor, a little ways off where it had rolled underneath the table, and the memory of falling into the abyss inside her head came rushing back. A pit formed in her stomach when she realised that the experience might’ve stripped away her disguise, but a quick glance downward and the sight of her teal coat allowed her heart rate to drop a couple of notches.

Phew. Back to business.

Gritting her teeth, she advanced on the Daring Do cosplayer-thief and growled, “Who are you, what are you doing in my house? And – ” she jabbed a hoof in the direction of the black stone “ – what did your magic rock just do to me?”

‘Daring Do’ flicked her eyes to the rock, then back to Max. A grin crept onto her face. “Heh. This might be a little hard to believe…”

“Try me,” Max interjected. “You’ve got ten seconds.”

She nodded. “Okay, since you asked for it, I’ll be straight with you. I’m Daring Do, and I’ve been tracking the activities of a group of cultists who’ve been stealing a whole bunch of artefacts from various museums and universities around Equestria the past several years. Couple of weeks ago, I managed to recover a few of them, but it turns out that they’re a pretty persistent bunch when you’ve got something they want.”

Max blinked. “Eh?”

Daring tilted her head towards the black stone beneath the table. “See that? It’s the last one that they haven’t managed to steal back from me, but they’re trying real hard. Spent the last five days flying and running from Manehattan to Canterlot and back again to Baltimare and stopping at every hidey hole I had in between, and they still managed to rough me up a bit when they last caught up.” She rubbed a bruise on her shoulder and winced. “They have decent trackers, I’ve got to admit.”

Max felt a massive headache coming on, but the mare wasn’t done yet. She crawled under the table and came back up with the black stone resting atop her upturned hoof. Max was just about to swat it away when she noticed the faint swirls of green light playing across its surface, forming a sharp and angular glyph that reminded her of a crisscrossed array of bony claws. The glyph itself was static, but the green light pulsed along the pattern like blood in a vein.

“The best minds at Camel Bridge and Ox Fjord University have always suspected that these were more than just paperweights, but were never able to prove it,” Daring continued. “They never responded to alchemy or magic of any kind. But this crackpot cultist – who may not be such a crackpot after all – claims that they’re keys of some sort. And it looks like you have activated it, somehow, which means that they’ll probably come after you once they find out. We need to get moving quickly before his goons get here.”

Max stared at her.

For a moment, she wondered if maybe this whole thing was just some elaborate prank set up by one of her rival fans. Or maybe a free trial of one of those Daring Do Adventucation programmes they were trying to promote. It would at least explain the degree of authenticity in this Daring Do’s getup.

Yeah, right.

Glancing out a window, she fully expected to find a crew of cameramares of hiding underneath a camouflaged tent, just waiting to capture the look on her face. But she only saw the dark hills and forest in the rain, brought into start contrast by a distant flash of lightning. Still, it didn’t disprove anything…

She snorted. “Uh huh, sure. And you think I’m going to fall for this?”

The mare shrugged. “I get that a lot. But trust me when I say that we’re in trouble, and the sooner we get moving, the better. I don’t normally like dragging others into my work, but you’ve got something I don’t, and I can keep you safe until I figure out what that is.”

“No, wait, hang on.” Max shook her head to clear it, strode forward and poked the mare in the chest. “We’re not striking the right tone here. You broke into my house, tracked mud all over the floor, ate my food, and dropped some rock enchanted with some weird trippy spell that made me black out, and then act like letting me tag along with you is some huge favour? I—”

“Shh!” the mare hissed. She darted over to the window, ears perked and swivelling this way and that, wings a-twitching and half-unfolded in readiness.

After a silent stretch, she sighed and turned back to Max, saying, “Look, this really isn’t the time and place, but if you’re worried about damages, I’ll mail you a cheque in a week or two. But for now, we need to get you to safety, and that means getting out of here. I know I’m asking a lot, but you do not want to tangle with these guys, especially if they think you have something they want. Which you do, by the way. You saw something when you touched the stone, didn’t you? I know a trance when I see one.”

Max stared at the glowing rune. She could almost feel a presence in it. Emotionless and faint, but a presence nonetheless. And what she’d seen had felt pretty real…

Turning her gaze back to the mare, she tuned out the patter of rain on the roof and rumble of thunder. She then cleared her throat and said, “You’re Daring Do.”

“Yup.” ‘Daring Do’ exuded concern and urgency, but Max could taste absolutely no inkling of dishonesty or nervousness in her answer.

“So you’re basically saying that all those books aren’t fiction, they’re autobiographies…” she drawled with an arched eyebrow.

“Got it in one!” Grinning, Daring Do made a swirling gesture in the air with a hoof and added, “A little bit of embellishment here and there, plus some editing for dramatic effect. Also, a tiny bit of censorship at times. Gotta keep in line with the teen rating, you know?”

Still no deceit. The mare was either a supremely talented liar with a creepy degree of emotional control, or she’d lost her marbles and actually believed that she was really Daring Do. Max wondered if any psych wards had lost a patient recently.

“C’mon, we don’t have all night,” Daring said as she slipped the stone back into her saddlebag and slung it over her back. “If we hurry, we can give them the slip in the woods before the storm lets up.”

“And then what? Drag our flanks to the nearest doctor once you catch a cold in the woods?” Max snorted and gestured at the bloody rags she’d left in the sink. “You’re hurt, you’ve got bags under your eyes, and from the way you were stuffing your face earlier, I can tell that you probably haven’t eaten anything worth mentioning for a couple of days. Also…” She frowned at Daring’s tattered wings and said, “You can’t fly, can you? You’re not holding them up right.”

Daring flexed a wing and winced. “Heh, not tonight, at any rate. Good eyes, kid.”

Max’s frown deepened. “My name is Sunny Spring. And I’m not a kid.”

“You’re right. You sound more like my mother right now.”

A moment of silence elapsed, during which Max’s eye twitched. Then, Daring chuckled and gave her an apologetic grin. “Sorry, Miss Spring, force of habit. You’re right; I’m a little beaten up, but we can’t exactly check into a hotel right now, can we? The sooner we find a safe spot in the woods, the sooner I can rest and figure out our next move.”

Max stared at her for a moment, searching her eyes for any physical sign of deceit. No such luck; she really had a pretty good poker face. With a sigh, Max trotted over to the stove and fetched her kettle. It was still hot to the touch, with water sloshing around inside. “Fine, I believe you. Just a little drink, and then we’re off, okay?”

Daring glanced out the window hesitantly, then nodded. “Okay, but make it quick. And while you’re at it…” She turned to the larder and shot a hopeful look at Max. “Do you mind if I pack a few—”

Max rolled her eyes and waved her off. “Yeah, yeah, help yourself.”

Whilst Daring set about stuffing some provisions into her saddlebag for their escape, Max busied herself making tea, starting with a sprinkle of leaves and petals into a pot filled with a generous amount of hot water. Then, after stealing a glance to see that Daring was preoccupied, she shifted her left leg back into its natural form and secreted a small glob of pod ichor from her foreleg cavity and dropped it into the pot. It dissolved quickly enough in the tea, and she shifted her leg back to the pony variety before biting the tray and carrying them over to Daring Do. She then poured a cup for each of them and took the first sip.

Daring downed the whole cup like a shot of hard cider and smacked her lips thoughtfully. “Hmm. A little on the sweet side, but not bad. Jasmine?”

“Daisy,” Max corrected. “Homemade.”

“Lovely.” She then shifted her saddlebags and started towards the living room. “Let’s get moving. We’re making this easy enough for them as it is.”

“Give me a moment to lock everything up.”

A frown creased Daring’s brow, and for a moment, Max thought she might just say no. But after a couple of seconds, the mare gave her a curt nod.

Max made a show of running to and fro, rattling locks of every window out of Daring’s sight. A minute passed. Then two. All the while, Daring paced in the living room, alternating between fidgeting at the front door and peeping out the nearest window. Each time Max passed her, though, her movement looked progressively sluggish, and she kept blinking her eyes and shaking her head whilst staring at the floor, as if contemplating its appeal as a makeshift bed.

“Sunny, did… did you put something in the tea?” Daring slurred.

Max fought back a smile and called out, “Just sugar and lots of love. Why?”

She heard a thump, followed by a gentle snore. This time, she allowed herself a grin.

Too easy.

* * * * *

Max missed the thrill of dragging a victim into storage for feeding at her leisure. She paused for a moment to savour the memory of the Canterlot invasion, of ponies squealing and yelping as the swarm descended upon them and wrapped them into cocoons. But the memory soured quickly enough once she got to the part where the ponies blasted them out of town with a gigantic bubble of love energy, and she felt a frown coming on when she remembered being kicked out of the hive not long after that for completely stupid reasons.

Bleh. Who cares about those grubs.

She dragged Daring Do through a trapdoor hidden beneath a rug in the kitchen and dumped her on an old mattress to snore away in the dark. The ingested ichor would keep her sedated for a couple of hours, but considering her exhausted state, her body would probably just take the opportunity to sleep all the way till morning, so Max wouldn’t have to worry about her.

Cleaning up the mess she’d made in the living room and kitchen proved less enjoyable, but Max hadn’t bought her house just to let it turn into a pigsty. She cheered herself up with the prospect of feeding later, whilst the mare dreamed sweet dreams brought on by the ichor. It had been a long time since she last supped on the luscious and savoury stream of fulfilled subconscious desires.

Not that she needed it, though. She already had a substantial reserve of energy leeched from adoring fans in every major convention she’d attended, some of it was even meant for her, being a fairly reputable fanfiction writer amongst them.

Whilst she worked, she kept the lights dim and her eyes open for company. If the whole Daring Do thing was a prank or scam, she fully expected her accomplices to come knocking or sneaking in to see what’d happened to her. If she’d been stupid enough to dash off with Daring Do, they’d probably ransack her house whilst she was gone. And on the off chance that some cultists really were chasing her for some magical treasure, she supposed she could—

Max stopped that train of thought with a vigorous shake of her head.

Nah. Ponies can’t be that dumb. Daring Do can’t be real.

Can she?

She paused in mid-swipe of mopping away mud from the floor and threw a sideways glance in the direction of the hidden trapdoor, waiting for Daring Do to come bursting out of the basement to kick her flank into next week…

Nothing of the sort happened.

The clock chimed eleven just after Max had finished cleaning up. By then, the storm had mostly blown itself out, leaving only a steady drizzle to shower the hills and forest outside. Trees barely rustled in the breeze, though she found it still had a cold bite when she stepped out to make a quick sweep of her garden and backyard for intruders. She saw none, and tasted only the simple feelings of a few woodland critters here and there.

After checking all the locks, she retired to the secret basement for the night. Using an improvised system of wires to pull the rug over the trapdoor from underneath, she was able to hide the entrance to her secret lair. Down there, the walls were covered with her favourite posters of Star Trot, Daring Do and a couple of hot Shining Armour portraits that Chrysalis would probably have flayed her for owning. She kept her collection of comics, novels and toys on dozens of shelves surrounding her bed and writing desk, all of which were lit by colonies of bioluminescent mushrooms growing on smears of secreted resin. To complete the picture, Daring Do lay curled up where she’d left her on the spare mattress, cuddling her saddlebag like a teddy bear.

The attention to detail in her appearance was exquisite.

Max rubbed a hoof through the mare’s coarse coat and mane. Not dyed, as far as she could tell, and she found no trace of magic that might’ve had the same effect. The mare even had the same eye colour, as she discovered when she carefully peeled up one of her eyelids. No contact lenses.

She whistled softly, shaking her head.

The mare had either found some revolutionary technique for recolouring herself to match Daring Do, or she must’ve won some cosmic, eldritch lottery to have been born with the exact traits of everypony’s favourite fictional treasure hunter.

Or maybe, Daring Do is really real, a little voice at the back of her mind whispered.

“Right. And I’m Princess Cadance,” she muttered.

A dull thump interrupted her train of thought. Max flicked her eyes upwards, tensing when it turned into a series of heavy thuds. It sounded like multiple sets of hooves trundling about upstairs, and judging by the ruckus that followed, they were not being stealthy about it at all.

She padded up the stairs and stopped right at the trapdoor. Muffled voices reached her perked ears – gruff adult mares and stallions, three or maybe four of them in total, radiating a mixture of urgency and determination with a small measure of simmering annoyance.

Max’s temperature rose when cracks and crashes punctuated their low voices. They were breaking her stuff up there! But she kept her temper in check and waited; though she had enough energy for a prolonged tussle with maybe a couple of royal guards, three or four thugs might prove too dangerous, especially if they had skilled unicorns. Anypony bold enough to ransack a house without first checking for the owner’s presence would probably have no qualms about breaking a few bones, or worse.

“Any luck?” asked one of the voices, more clearly this time. It sounded like he’d entered the kitchen.

“She’s definitely here,” said a female. “No tracks leaving the premises, and it looks like somepony has been cleaning up the place.”

“Check the basement.”

Max’s heart raced, and she quietly inched away from the trapdoor, coiled and ready to leap away if they yanked it open or bashed it in.

“Just trash in the basement!” somepony yelled.

Phew.

It looked like using the house’s original basement as a decoy whilst she personally dug out and furnished the hidden one had finally paid off.

“Blast that mare!” A wave of spicy-red anger pulsed through the trapdoor as the voice’s owner stomped a hoof. “Fine. Get moving. Maybe we didn’t cripple Miss Do’s wings properly after all. We’ll do it right next time.”

One of the ponies above suddenly gave off a whiff of foal-like glee. “So, since we’re done here…”

No. Put those away right now!”

Max heard a crackling hiss, followed by some muffled clattering.

“Oops.”

“Oh, for land’s sake, Short Fuse!”

A wave of sour-white panic slammed into Max as the intruders uttered a colourful mixture curses and expletives, most of which involved naughty pony bits. Hooves thundered on the floorboards, growing fainter by the split-second, until silence reigned.

Scowling, Max pushed up the trapdoor to take a peep.

A red, cylindrical rod about an inch thick lay on the floor directly in front of her. A similar pair of sticks had rolled to the far corner of the kitchen as well. Then, Max realised that the rods all had hissing, sparkling fuses attached to their ends, and the nearest one just about a tail-length away from her muzzle had a fraction of an inch left to burn.

Oh, grub.

Max spun round and dove to the bottom of the stairs, shifting into her natural form in mid-air. She drew on every ounce of stored energy she had to fortify and harden her chitin, and a green aura enveloped her entire body a split second before incandescent light brighter than the sun seared her eyes. Something like a sledgehammer smashed into her hindquarters and sent her flying towards the bottom of the stairs. She slammed face-first into the floorboards, which caved in beneath her and exploded upwards to form a splintery crater.

Dust and bits of wood and crockery cascaded down from above, bouncing off her head. Her ears rang incessantly, as if a bat pony had taken up residence in them and was constantly going ‘Eeeeee!’ in an attempt to scramble what little sense she had left in her brain.

Max’s coughing created a little mushroom cloud of grey dust as she dragged one foreleg over the lip of the crater and dragged herself up. It didn’t work. Her trembling leg collapsed and refused further instruction. Her vision swam. Her wings buzzed erratically, unable to generate enough lift to carry her weight, which felt heftier than a whole cartload of bricks.

She blinked once. Twice. Felt dirt and wood grinding against her right cheek. She couldn’t even lift her head anymore.

Somewhere out of sight, Daring Do let loose a tremendous snore.

Max bared her fangs. Oh, I am going to absolutely murder her flank.

Her eyelids slid shut, and she felt no more.