• Published 6th Aug 2012
  • 30,450 Views, 1,058 Comments

My Little Changeling: Friendship is Weird - Niaeruzu

A changeling attempts to learn about friendship in Ponyville.

  • ...

Episode 6: Suncloak the Valiant

Suncloak the Valiant

With a yawn, Suncloak rolled onto his back.

He was just lazily laying on the couch, having done nothing of any importance all day. He had taken a walk around Ponyville, but that wasn’t very interesting. After all, almost all his friends were out of town; Vinyl Scratch was off to some party in Stalliongrad, Lyra was helping out with a concert in Canterlot, and Bon Bon had joined her to take a small vacation. Derpy was still in town, but she was very busy with her job as mailmare.

The changeling stretched his legs out, yawning yet again. His pet moth, Emerald, perched herself on one of his front hooves. “I wish there was something to do,” Suncloak said.

Predictably, Emerald didn’t respond. She couldn’t speak, after all. She shook her body, which probably had to be a shrug. Sort of.

“Well, I wasn’t expecting you to give a clear answer anyway,” Suncloak told the moth. “You’re a moth. What do you know about jobs, or hobbies?” He hadn’t ever seen a moth working at a store. Or anywhere, for that matter.

Emerald turned around indignantly, as if she was telling him to find it out himself. She didn’t fly away, though.

Suncloak sighed. He’d probably never understand this moth. Not that he really tried. She only followed him around because she preferred changelings over ponies, for some reason.

Using his free hoof, the changeling tapped himself on the chin, thinking. He used to be a royal guard in the hive, but that was a really boring job. Mostly because he was terrible at it, and it was just a role he had to fill for a while. It consisted of doing nothing other than patrols and the like, which was useless anyway, because changelings always did what the queen asked of them. There also wasn’t the chance of a pony infiltrating them, considering ponies couldn’t magically make holes in their hooves to go with a disguise.

It struck him that, now that he wasn’t bound by the rules of the hive anymore, that he was completely free in choosing what job he wanted, if any. That presented a few other problems; what did he want to do? What kind of job would be fun? He thought of multiple occupations changelings could have within the hive: teacher, construction worker, any military position, and many more. None of those sounded even remotely interesting, though.

On the subject of hobbies, he also drew a blank. The only thing he found fun was spending time with his friends, after all. Considering most of them weren’t around right now, he’d have to find something else to do.

So, in the end, it came down to just hanging around the house and talking to his pet moth, who couldn’t even talk back. Ultimately, it just brought him full circle. The circle of boring.

That was, until someling knocked on his door. And pretty frantically, too.

Suncloak jumped up, both from being startled and because he was just slightly excited, throwing Emerald into the air. Luckily, the moth could regain her balance into the air, but she flew upstairs, seemingly annoyed. Whatever, she’d calm down.

Whoever was on the other side of the door, however, wasn’t calming down. Their frantic knocking continued, even speeding up a little. Who could be this panicked and come to Suncloak for help?

The changeling opened the door, but before he could say anything, found himself being violently shaken around. As his head went back and forth, he could see a grey and yellow blur, which was apparently what was shaking him around.

“Suncloak! You have to help me!” Derpy shouted, only shaking the changeling back and forth when she spoke. “I need to deliver a really super-important package tonight, the Doctor is away on a special clock emergency and Dinky will be alone all night and I can’t find anypony to foalsit her!” She stopped talking, letting up on her abuse of Suncloak as well. “Please!” she added, shaking one last time.

Still in the distressed pegasus’ grasp, Suncloak had to take a moment to recover. His eyes lolled about in their sockets. She said something about help, but he didn’t really catch what she said after that. Something about Dinky. But hey, she was his friend, and she needed help. “Sure,” Suncloak said as soon as he could focus his eyes.

“Oh, thank you thank you thank you!” Derpy shouted, picking Suncloak up, quickly flying to her own house, opening the door, and depositing the changeling in the living room. “Dinky has to be in bed by dark, I’ve already fed Will, don’t do anything dangerous, and there’s food in the fridge. Thanks, bye!”

Suncloak quickly recovered from the lightning-fast ride. “But I don’t even need to—”

Derpy loudly slammed the door shut as she left, cutting the changeling’s sentence off.

“—eat.” Suncloak hesitantly finished.

He looked around the room. What did Derpy need help with, again? The room was the same as usual. Table, couch, stuff like that. And Dinky, looking at him expectantly. “Hi!”

Suncloak scratched himself on the head, trying to remember what Derpy had said. “What did I agree to?”

“Mom needed somepony to foalsit me,” Dinky explained, “even though I can take care of myself.” Yeah, right. Suncloak seriously doubted the little filly’s words. If she was anything like changeling grubs, she’d need almost constant supervision.

Wait a second, did he just get suckered into foalsitting? As in, keeping watch on a filly? One of those things that he really didn’t like? Bah. It was that a friend desperately needed him to, else he’d bail out instantly. And then there was an issue... “So, how does this ‘foalsitting’ work, anyway?”

Dinky arched an eyebrow. “We do fun stuff, I go to bed before dark, and that’s it. Don’t changelings have that, too?”

Well, in some way. But not any way Suncloak was ever affiliated with. “Pfft. I was a royal guard,” he scoffed. “I had to watch the queen, not baby changelings.”

Though, in hindsight, both were about equally needy. And annoying. The only difference was that Queen Chrysalis was much stronger. He could handle one little filly, so this would be easier than his old job. Plus, ‘fun stuff’ sounded like fun. “So, what kind of stuff did you have in mind?” he asked Dinky.

The little filly tapped her chin with a hoof for a while, thinking. After a few seconds, her face lit up. “Wait just a second!” she said, going in the hallway. A few moments later, she reappeared, holding a box in her mouth. She deposited it on the table. “Shall we do this?”

Suncloak looked at the box. A puzzle, featuring a picture of some happy pony princesses. Not too hard, right? It just depended on the amount of pieces... “Two hundred and fifty?!” Suncloak said as he saw the number on the box. Wasn’t that way too difficult? “You sure?”

Dinky gave him a pair of big, sad, puppy dog eyes. “Please?”

Suncloak groaned. “Fine.” A puzzle wouldn’t be too bad. Far from the best thing ever, but it was better than sitting at home and doing nothing. He opened the box and started picking out random pieces, trying to fit them together. It was sort of tricky to handle the little pieces with his hooves.

Dinky, on the other hoof, started picking several pieces out of the box and putting them in a separate pile. “I’ll make the edge. That’s a good place to start!”

Right. Suncloak rolled his eyes. Like a little filly would have a superior tactic to him. The very thought! Just watch; he’d cobble some pieces together, and at that point, Dinky wouldn’t even have connected two. In fact, after a few minutes, the changeling already had a nice cluster of six pieces.

When he looked at Dinky’s progress, however, she had already finished the entire edge of the puzzle, and was already making progress on the rest! She eyed the part Suncloak was working on. “Can I have that part?” she asked. “I think I know where it has to go.”

Suncloak half-heartedly gave all of his progress to her. Whatever, beginner’s luck.

A few hours later, it was almost dark. Suncloak and Dinky were in the little filly’s bedroom, which had a little bed, a whole lot of toys, and even a plank hanging on the wall, with a few children’s books on it. The room was lit by a small oil lamp hanging from the ceiling, casting flickering shadows. Dinky climbed into bed and settled under the sheets.

Suncloak turned for the door. “Good night,” he curtly stated, seeing as Dinky was ready to go to sleep.

“Wait!” Dinky called out after him, causing the changeling to turn around. “Can you tell me a bedtime story?” she asked.

Suncloak sighed. He turned around to tell her ‘no’, and all the reasons accompanying it: she was a filly, he didn’t like fillies, and changelings never needed bedtime stories to get to sleep, so she didn’t either.

However, Dinky deployed her big, watery eyes again, and added a little pout for good measure.

The changeling bit his lip. Okay, this might be slightly difficult. He might not like fillies, but he didn’t want to upset her. He just had to word it somewhat differently.

“Please?” Dinky said with a tiny voice.

Suncloak sighed, his defenses broken. “Fine.” He looked around the room, finding something suitable to sit on. He settled on a small chair, setting it down next to the bed and sitting on it, somewhat awkwardly. “What kind of story?”

Dinky pointed at her bookshelf. “Can you tell me one of those?”

Suncloak randomly picked one of the books. With a quick motion, he flipped it off the shelf, catching it in his hooves. It featured a picture of a pony in shining armour on the cover. A classic story about knights and princesses, huh? He opened the book. Might as well get this over with quickly.

“Once upon a time, before the pony princesses were around, Equestria had a king. His name was... was...” Suncloak paused for a moment. “Ar... Urt... I can’t pronounce this.”

“Aww,” Dinky said, suddenly having a sad look on her face.

Eugh. Suncloak might not like fillies all that much, he did like Dinky a bit. He didn’t like seeing a pony sad, either, even though that felt a bit weird. He could think of something. He was a changeling, and changelings could come up with stories like no other! In fact, that gave him an idea. He cleared his throat demonstratively. “Once upon a time...”

Once upon a time, before the pony princesses were around, Equestria had a king. His name was Hengstry the Fifth, and he was a pretty good king. Everyling... uh, everypony in the land was happy, although danger was always looming on the horizon.

One fateful day, the king had called upon his most trusty knights, the Knights of the Square Table with Rounded Corners. His daughter had been abducted by a foul witch, and one of the knights needed to save her. Out of all of them, the king chose the one who was obviously the most brave and cunning of the land.

That knight was none other than Suncloak the Valiant, the only changeling knight in the whole kingdom! He was in front of the gates of the king’s castle, wearing a suit of armour, which glittered brilliantly in the sun. It covered almost his whole body, only leaving a bit of space for his muzzle and eyes. On his side, there was a large lance, currently pointing upward. It was secured to his armour with an adjustable clasp.

He was all set to go on his heroic journey, except for the fact that he was still waiting. Waiting for his knave, in fact! After all, he already wore the heavy armor, so he’d need somepony else to carry around the supplies, and other important things. Impatiently, Suncloak tapped his hoof on the ground.

A few minutes later, A grey pegasus mare arrived, wearing simple rags, much like a peasant. Her blonde mane poked out from under the hood she had pulled over her head. More importantly, though, she also wore two bulging saddlebags. The weight stopped her from flying, but that didn’t seem to bother her as she ran up towards the knight.

“Derpy Hooves reporting for duty, sir!” she said, giving a salute. “Or is it my lord? And am I even supposed to salute?”

Suncloak sighed as his trusty knave went on a tangent. She was prone to doing stuff like this. A few moments later, though, Suncloak could spot a little filly hiding slightly behind the mare. She was a light purple unicorn, with a blonde mane. She stuck close to Derpy, for some reason. “Who is this?” Suncloak asked.

“Oh!” Derpy said, pulling the filly close. “This is Dinky, my daughter. I brought her along, because it’s Take Your Daughter To Work Day. I’m going to show her how to have adventures and be a knave!”

The armored changeling groaned, slapping himself in the face with a hoof. “Fine.” He didn’t want to argue about this, and besides, it’d be an easy quest anyway. Beat the sorceress, save the princess, done. One thing bothered him, though. Weren’t they supposed to invent special days like this in about a thousand years, or something?

“So, where are we going today?” Derpy asked. She dug around in one of her saddlebags, pulling out a map of the land.

“Not very far,” Suncloak said, taking a look at the map. It was relatively featureless. It had a picture of a castle, where they were now, and several pictures of towers, villages and mountains. The changeling pointed at one of the towers. “That’s the tower we’re heading for. This won’t take long, and it won’t be hard.”

Dinky hopped up and down in excitement. “What lives there? Bandits? A minotaur?” She paused for a moment to gasp. “A dragon?!”

Suncloak shook his head. “No. A witch has abducted the princess, and is holding her there.”

Disappointed, Dinky deflated. “Only a witch?”

Psh. Suncloak rolled his eyes. When he was little, there weren’t even witches or wizards around. They had to make do with parasprites or similar small stuff. And they’d like it! “Let’s just go,” he said, starting on his journey.

Derpy turned to Dinky. “I’m sure we’ll see a lot of really exciting things. Promise!” Her words had the intended effect, because Dinky immediately perked up. “Now, let me show you what being a knave is all about,” Derpy continued, as she followed after Suncloak. Dinky happily followed after her mom.

Fat chance, Suncloak thought, this is just going to be a routine job.

Not much later, the trio of a brave adventurer and two peasants had reached their destination. Before them stood a tall tower made of grey stone, with no features aside from a simple wooden door at the bottom, and a single opening near the top, functioning as a window. Quite a quaint little place, if it wasn’t for the fact that an evil witch lived there.

Suncloak went forward, inspecting the door. “This’ll be easy,” he said, taking his distance. Using the clasp on his armor, he pointed his lance at the door. Since it was made of wood, it would stand no chance against the cold steel of the knight’s weapon. With great speed, the changeling charged forward, determined to get rid of his obstacle. The lance hit the door with a hard impact.

Though, the door didn’t give. In fact, the lance bent significantly, forming an upward arc. It was stopped by the telltale crackle of a magical shield around the door. Like that, it halted for a moment, the lance being held tight by the arcane magic.

“Uh oh,” Suncloak said, realizing what this meant. Stupid sorceresses with their magic. The shield around the door pulsed, catapulting the changeling away. He shot away like a comet, landing a fair distance away from the tower.

Concerned, Derpy and Dinky ran after him, eventually seeing the changeling impact the land quite hard, and quite a ways away from the tower. Once they reached him, Suncloak was already trying to stand up. “Are you okay?” Derpy asked, trying to help the knight.

Shakily, the changeling stood up, rattling in his armour. “Bluh,” he said, though he wanted to point out that aside from a dent in his ego, he was fine. As soon as the rest of the world stopped moving around, he inspected himself. His armour only had a few stains on it, but half of his lance was completely mangled. He flipped the weapon back again, so that it was pointing up. Sort of.

“What do we do now?” Dinky asked. Obviously, she didn’t know. Suncloak was the knight, after all, and not her. What would a filly know about intricate planning?

“We try again,” Suncloak said, heading toward the tower again, his knave and her daughter in tow. This time, he required another approach. The door didn’t work, so this time, he’d have to try the other obvious option. The window.

When he reached the tower again, Suncloak picked up a small pebble from the ground, and threw it at the window. As expected, it was caught by the same magic shield, and dropped back to the ground. So, a shield around both the door and the window... This would prove problematic.

Just then, though, something appeared in the window. It was a minty green unicorn mare, wearing a set of a pink and purple dress and one of those strange spirally hats. She stuck her head out, trying to see who just threw something at the tower. Upon seeing the changeling and two ponies below, her face lit up, and she gasped. “Sir Suncloak!”

“Lady Lyra!” Suncloak shouted upward. “I have come here with my knave to rescue you!” he said, gesturing at Derpy. “Oh, and my knave’s daughter is here too.” He dismissively gestured towards Dinky.

“Great!” the princess shouted back. “So, uh, what’re you waiting for?”

Suncloak raised a hoof, about to tell Lyra that he was just about to set his cunning plan into motion... until he realized that he didn’t have a plan. “Actually, I can’t get in,” Suncloak said. “Would you look around and see if there’s an entrance I could use?”

“Can’t we just knock and ask nicely?” Dinky interjected.

Suncloak sighed and rolled his eyes. “This tower belongs to a witch. The kind that abducts princesses. She isn’t going to just hand Her Highness back to us.”

Dinky cast her head down, slightly ashamed at her silly proposal. However, she was quickly comforted by a hug from her mother. “Don’t worry, because sometimes, you need a lot of silly ideas to reach a good one,” Derpy said. “Or at least, that’s usually how these trips go.”

“Oh! Oh!” Lyra shouted. “I have an idea! Give me a moment!” She turned around and hung her tail out the window.

The trio down below stared at it for a moment. “Uh...” Derpy said in a hushed tone. “Suncloak? Do you know...?”

Suncloak merely shrugged. “I have no idea.” What was the princess trying to accomplish with this?

“Well, what’re you waiting for?” Lyra shouted, her tail still hanging out of the window. “Climb!”

Suncloak, Derpy and Dinky shared some very confused looks. “Excuse me, princess,” Suncloak said, “but what do you want us to climb?”

“My tail! Duh.” Lyra said. She turned around, gripping her tail in one hoof and swinging it around a bit. It looked quite awkward. “You can climb in the tower using the long hair of my tail.”

What followed was a lengthy, awkward silence, accompanied with Suncloak silently mouthing ‘What in the hive?’. The silence was only interrupted by the occasional chirping bird.

“Wait a second,” Lyra said, taking another good look at her tail. “Whoops! My tail isn’t that long. Sorry, wrong fairy tale!”

The three supposed rescuers down below all slapped themselves in the face with a hoof. “This... I... What are you even talking about?” Suncloak asked, not even removing his hoof from his face.

“I don’t see you having any better ideas!” Lyra said indignantly, letting go of her tail. “I mean, maybe with the help of a wizard or something you might be able to break the shield, but—” Suddenly, she was gripped by a dark aura of magic and yanked back with a surprised squeak.

From the window appeared a new mare; a white unicorn with red eyes and a messy blue mane and tail. She was wearing a shabby black dress to go with it, making her look all the more pale, and especially evil. “Hey! What’re you kids doing on my lawn?” Upon seeing Suncloak, though, she waved. “Oh, hi Sunny!”

Suncloak raised an eyebrow. “You know me. Who are you?” Even though he himself was the most famous knight of the whole kingdom, obviously, he didn’t know of any particularly well-known witches around these parts.

“Who am I?” the witch said. “Who am I?! I am the Scourge of the East, the Weaver of the Dark, the Pale Magician! I am Vinyl Scratch!”

“Vinyl Scratch?” Dinky asked from the comfort of her bedsheets. “That’s kind of a silly name for a witch.”

Suncloak slightly lowered the book, giving the filly a deadpan look. “Who’s telling the story here?” Though to be honest, ‘story’ was being generous.

“I’m just saying!” Dinky countered. “She has all these cool titles, and then she has a name like that? Lame.”

Suncloak rolled his eyes. “Fine. Moving on...”

“By the way,” Dinky said, before the changeling could continue reading, “this story is really wei—”

“Moving on!” Suncloak interrupted her.

“I mean, my name is, uh... Black Scratchica! Tremble in fear and other scary stuff!” Without waiting for an answer, her horn started glowing with a dark aura. “Or, you know, just run in fear of my lightning bolts.” With that, she started sending vicious bolts of lightning to the three below.

“You know what? Let’s retreat!” Suncloak said, already turning around to advance in a different direction. He wasn’t fleeing, because that would be cowardly. He was quickly followed by his two helpers, who were in fact fleeing. It was very obvious, looking at the way they ran, with their limbs flailing in a very cowardly manner.

Once they were out of the witch’s range, the trio halted, catching their breath. “Well,” Suncloak said after a moment, “that didn’t go as planned.”

“We had a plan?” Dinky asked. Of course they did. It was made up on the go, but it was a plan nonetheless.

“So, what do we do now?” Derpy asked.

“Maybe there’s somepony close by who can help us,” Dinky said. “Maybe even right around the tower!” This, obviously, was an absolutely terrible suggestion, so Suncloak decided to ignore it.

The changeling tapped his chin. “Well, the princess suggested we look for a wizard to help us get into the tower. Is there a wizard in the neighbourhood?”

Derpy took the map out of her saddlebag again, checking it thoroughly. “There’s a wizard at an old castle, not too far from here. Maybe we can ask for help there.

“Well then!” Suncloak said. “let’s go meet the wizard!”

Dinky sighed. “Fine. Wizard.”

Another small trip later, the daring trio had reached the dilapidated ruins of an old castle. However, that wasn’t the interesting part, as just outside of it stood a small wooden house. Smoke rose out of its chimney, telling Suncloak that the house was currently occupied. Eagerly, he went over and knocked on the door.

A small moment later, the door opened. On the other side was a cream-coloured earth pony mare, with a pink and dark blue mane and tail. She wore a blue wizard’s hat and cape, both decorated with stars and bells. The bells jingled soothingly with every movement she made. “Hello?” she asked.

“Greetings, wizard!” Suncloak said. “We’re having trouble with the witch, Black Scratchica, who doesn’t live too far from here. She has abducted the princess, and we need to get her back. Can you help us?”

The wizard thought for a moment, then motioned for the three to step inside. “Come in.”

Suncloak, Derpy and Dinky entered the little home, to discover that it seemed a whole lot roomier on the inside than it did on the outside. The whole place was made up of one room, which was neatly kept. There was a bed, multiple chairs around a cluttered table, filled with scrolls and writing material, and several desks topped with magical doodads and various alchemical ingredients.

The wizard took a seat at the table, wiping a whole load of what was apparently junk off. “Sit down,” she said, sounding strangely pleasant for a wizard. “You were talking about a witch?”

Suncloak nodded and sat down at the table, joined by his trusty followers. The chair was a bit rickety, but that might’ve been because of the changeling’s heavy armour. “Like I said, the witch Black Scratchica has abducted Princess Lyra. We tried saving her, but there was a magical shield surrounding all of the openings of the witch’s tower.”

“Ah, ah, speak no further,” the wizard said. “For I am the wizard Bon Bonicus, and I know exactly what you need. You need one with magical prowess to lower this shield for you, so you can save your princess. Am I correct?”

Suncloak gave her an unamused look. “Gee, how could you tell?” This prompted Derpy to covertly kick his leg under the table in an attempt to get him to be more polite, but because the changeling was wearing armour and she wasn’t, it hurt the pegasus a whole lot more.

Derpy bit her lip in pain for a moment. “Can you help us, please?” she asked between clenched teeth.

“Sure!” Bon Bonicus said. “You will need to speak with a dragon that lives nearby. He’s friends with the witch, and might be able to help you get in.”

“Why a dragon? Can’t you help us?” Dinky asked, fidgeting nervously in her seat. Probably afraid of those oversized lizards.

Bon Bonicus sighed. “No, sweetie. I might be a wizard, but I’m an earth pony. I’m incapable of doing magic.”

...Huh. She was right. “How does an earth pony become a wizard, anyway?” Suncloak asked.

“One should not question the ways of wizards.” Bon Bonicus glared at the changeling, who quickly decided not to pursue this train of thought anymore. After all, if an earth pony somehow became a wizard, who knew what they were capable of?

“So, where does this dragon live?” Derpy asked, trying to steer the conversation in the right direction again.

“Ah,” the wizard said, “this particular dragon lives all on its own, in an old castle surrounded by tales of yore and ancient legends. Nowadays, this castle is no more than an ancient ruin, forgotten by most. It is fallen and decrepit, guaranteeing that the dragon will not be bothered by outsiders.”

“And where might this castle be?” Suncloak asked. “In the frozen north? The searing desert to the south? Or maybe beyond the impassable hills in the east?”

“Nah, it’s right outside,” Bon Bonicus said. “I like being left alone, too. So I built my house right next to it!”

Suncloak, once again, slapped himself in the face with a hoof. “Well, I suppose it saves us another trip.”

“Thank you for your help, miss wizard,” Dinky said.

“The pleasure is all mine,” Bon Bonicus blushed slightly, however. “Now, as I said, I like to be left alone. Leave,” she said with a sudden, stern expression. Right after that, though, her face lit up. “Or would you like to join me for some tea?”

“Nope,” Suncloak said, beckoning towards Derpy. “Me and my knave have a dragon to talk to and a princess to save.” He made an offhoof gesture towards Dinky, saying, “Oh, and you’ll have to come too, I guess.”

“Fare thee well in thy travels, then.” Bon Bonicus stood up, showing the trio the door again. When they were outside, she gave them a slight bow. “If you ever require my services again, you know where to find me. But only in case of emergency.” With that, she closed the door.

This left Suncloak and his companions in front of the dragon’s castle. There didn’t seem to be a way in, as the castle was surrounded by a large moat, and the drawbridge was raised. A pegasus or a changeling might’ve been able to fly in, but their current equipment was far too heavy for proper liftoff. “Hey!” Suncloak yelled. “Anyling in there who can lower the bridge?”

No answer. “What do we do now?” Derpy asked.

Dinky opened her mouth to make a suggestion, but Suncloak interrupted her. “We force the bridge down, obviously!” He tapped his chin as Dinky slinked off to sulk. “But how?” the changeling asked himself.

Derpy pointed at the chains keeping the drawbridge up. “Maybe we can do something about those.”

“Great idea!” Suncloak said. He proceeded to remove the lance from his armour, weighing it in his hooves. “I bet I can throw my lance at it. The chains will break, the bridge will drop, and we can get in.”

Sure, the lance was still mangled, but Suncloak was pretty sure he could throw it hard and precise enough to make it work. He took the lance in one hoof, somehow being able to hold it using the holes in his hoof, and stood up on his hind legs. He teetered about for a short moment, his armour making it hard to balance, and ultimately threw his body forward, launching the lance with all his might.

The lance plopped onto the ground not even two meters away from him. Suncloak stared at the lance for a few moments in absolute silence, expecting something to suddenly happen to it. For the lance to fly away and hit its target, or something. The lance, however, didn’t move. “Well, that was anticlimactic,” Suncloak said.

Derpy approached the lance and picked it up, wiping away a little bit of dirt. “Can I try?”

Suncloak sat on his hindquarters, crossing his front legs. “Sure,” he grumbled. She could try, but she probably wouldn’t succeed. She wasn’t a valiant knight, like him, after all!

Derpy took the lance and stood on her hind legs, somehow managing to hold the large, metal object. She took a few wobbly steps back, then ran forward and threw the lance.

The lance soared through the air with amazing velocity, going high into the sky. Too high, in fact. It rocketed clean over the castle, disappearing into the distance. None of the three could hear any sound from the lance, aside from the initial roaring of the wind as it took off. They just had to assume it landed somewhere far, far away.

Suncloak’s jaw dropped.

“Wait, how do you miss a castle?!” Suncloak exclaimed, looking at the part he just read again. That didn’t make any sense! It’s a castle! It’s huge! How do you miss that?! He turned the book sideways and upside-down, to see if he had missed anything, but to no avail.

“Yeah, that’s a kind of weird part of the book,” Dinky said, already looking a bit drowsy.

“But!” Suncloak protested. “It’s an immobile pile of rocks! I don’t even think it’s physically possible to—”

Dinky interrupted him with a big yawn. “Can you please tell the rest of the story?” she asked, blinking a few times to keep herself awake.

“Of course,” Suncloak said. Still, missing a castle. Unbelievable.

Suncloak stood up, his armour rattling slightly. “You’re a nightmare to the ponies in the armoury, you know that?” This wasn’t the first time they had lost a weapon on their journeys. Sometimes, that was Suncloak’s fault, but far more often than was necessary, Derpy managed to viciously break even the most well-crafted pieces of weaponry.

“No, silly,” Derpy said, “I’m only your knave, I’m not a knight.”

Suncloak decided not to slap himself in the face this time, if only because he was afraid he might suffer permanent damage if this kept up. “Whatever. What do we do now?” He honestly didn’t know. Now that his lance was... somewhere else in Equestria, they didn’t have any way to get into that castle.

“You know,” Dinky spoke up, “mom can leave her saddlebags here and fly in to check.”

Suncloak’s eyes widened in surprise. That was actually... “Very smart!” Derpy said, finishing the changeling’s thoughts for him. Beginner’s luck, that’s what it was. But sort of clever nonetheless.

“Go ahead and do that,” the knight said, “it’ll be a bit difficult for me to get out of my armour without help, so you’ll have to go alone.” Truth be told, Suncloak wasn’t even sure why he wore it. It was heavy and hard to move around in, and he almost never needed protection anyway. And if he did, it was more often against magic. But no, knights had to wear armour, because apparently, that’s what knights do.

“Aye aye, sir!” Derpy said, taking off her heavy saddlebags, which hit the ground with a dull thud. “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” the pegasus said, spreading her wings and taking off. She quickly disappeared into the ancient ruin, and for a few minutes, everything was eerily quiet. Suncloak expected the dragon to make some sort of ruckus upon Derpy’s entry into its domain, but the telltale roars were suspiciously absent.

And indeed, a few minutes later, Derpy returned. She held a small, folded piece of paper in her mouth and looked somewhat disappointed.

“What did you find?” Suncloak asked, approaching the mare.

Derpy spat out the piece of paper in her hoof, giving it to Suncloak. “Seems like he isn’t home.”

Suncloak looked at the paper. Well, he’d have to unfold it first. He started flipping it open, but it took way longer than expected. As he flipped and flipped, it almost seemed as if the small piece of paper was growing in size. After a while, the changeling was holding a gargantuan page, which simply read ‘Gone fishing at Scratchica’s tower’ in gigantic clawwriting.

Suncloak groaned, dropped the paper on the ground, and simply proceeded to walk off in the direction of the nearest tree.

“Wait, where are you going?” Derpy asked, taking a look at the paper once again. “Scratchica’s tower? ...Oh.” She looked over to Suncloak, who was now preoccupied with repeatedly slamming his head into a tree. Luckily, he was wearing a helmet to protect him.

Dinky joined her mother and peeked at the paper. “Huh. Guess I was right about somepony being able to help us near the tower. Although, I guess it should be some dragon,” she said, adding a small giggle.

Suncloak joined the two again, his eyes lolling about and his head shaking. “We should go back to the witch’s tower. Let’s get this over with before I give myself a migraine.”

As the knight turned around to leave once more, Derpy bit her lip. They might be a little bit too late for that.

Not much later, the trio found themselves at Black Scratchica’s tower. Again. The dragon they were looking for was fishing somewhere around it, which meant they’d have to find a pond, or a river. As such, they decided to avoid the tower for now. Wouldn’t want to get more lightning bolts sent after them, after all.

After a few minutes of searching, they could see the hulking mass of a green dragon with yellow spines, hunched over next to a river. The knight and his companions were looking at its back, so they couldn’t see what exactly the dragon was doing. Presumably, it was fishing, but you never know what kind of diabolical things dragons could be planning.

Luckily, the dragon hadn’t noticed them yet. “What do we do?” Derpy asked, keeping her voice low.

Suncloak rolled his eyes. “What we usually do when it comes to dragons, of course.”

“Nicely ask them?” Dinky ventured. Cute, but wrong. There was only one way to deal with dragons. Especially dragons who were in cahoots with evil witches.

“Well, I don’t have my lance anymore,” Suncloak said, giving Derpy a quick glare, “but the usual tactic should work.” Without further comment, he rushed toward the dragon, yelling “Chaaarge!” He wasn’t named ‘the Valiant’ without a good reason, after all.

The dragon, however, took note of this fierce battle cry. Slowly, it turned around, arching an eyebrow at the changeling. It held a tiny, pony-sized fishing rod in one claw, which it gently set aside. Calmly, the dragon set his claw down right in front of Suncloak, causing him to bump into it.

The knight staggered back a few steps. “Hey! What’s your problem, dragon? Do you know who I am? I’m Suncloak the Valiant! You should—”

The dragon let out a deep, rumbling sigh, and curled up his thumb and index finger. With a half-hearted flick, he shot the changeling away, sending him right back the way he came. The dragon let out a small yawn, and went back to his fishing again.

Derpy and Dinky watched Suncloak soar over both their heads, landing somewhere out of sight. Derpy ran after him to help, but Dinky, on the other hoof, went up to the dragon.

Slowly, and perhaps a little bit scared, she walked over to its massive hind leg. Very carefully, she poked it. “Um, mister dragon?”

Slowly, the dragon turned around again, this time keeping hold of the fishing rod. It looked around, seemingly unsure as to where Dinky’s voice was coming from, until it saw her. The dragon’s long neck snaked down, confronting Dinky with its massive head. Its large, golden eye peered directly at the filly. “Aren’t you a tiny pony?” the dragon asked, with a deep, baritone voice. Even though its tone was quite gentle, it intimidated the little filly.

“Why did you shoot my friend away?” Dinky asked, pointing at Suncloak, who was still a ways off in the distance, hobbling towards them, joined by Derpy.

“Your friend attacked me. I defended myself,” the dragon rumbled. “‘Tis only just. Though I have to wonder why a little filly such as you is friends with such a...” The dragon paused for a moment. It arched its head up again, taking a short moment to scratch its chin with its free claw. “Brash, uncouth individual,” the dragon spoke, lowering its head again.

Dinky rolled her eyes. “It’s Take Your Daughter To Work Day, and my mom is his knave.”

“Ah,” the dragon said. “I assume he is a knight, on a quest of great heroism?”

“Yeah. Heroism,” Dinky said, giving the dragon a deadpan look. The sarcasm wasn’t lost on her.

“Well then,” the dragon continued, “I do hope you aren’t here to defeat me. I’m all out of princesses at the moment, and it’s my day off.” He raised his head slightly to take a good look at Suncloak again. “Besides, I don’t think your valiant hero is in any condition to face me.” He lowered his head again. “Nor do I think he ever will.”

Dinky opened her mouth to disagree, but ultimately decided against it. Mostly because she didn’t disagree. “We aren’t here to fight you, we wanted to ask you something.”

The dragon mulled this over for a moment. “That sounds alright. Go ahead, ask.”

“Well,” Dinky started, just as Suncloak and Derpy joined them, “Princess Lyra has been foalnapped by the witch, Black Scratchica, but her tower is protected by a magical... thingie. We thought a nearby wizard could help us, but she’s an earth pony, so she told us you would be able to help, but you weren’t home, so we came back here. Can you help us, please?”

The dragon thought for a moment. “Black Scratchica? Abducting a princess?” It shook its head. “No, that’s quite unlike her. Are you sure there isn’t some sort of misunderstanding? She is a little bit... impulsive, after all. She has quite the electric personality.”

“We noticed,” Suncloak snarked. The lightning bolts she shot at them looked really painful, and he was glad none of them hit.

“But it’s true!” Dinky protested. “We saw the princess, and that witch even attacked us!”

The dragon glared at her. “I do not normally take kindly to such accusations toward a friend of mine.”

The two ponies and changeling took a few steps back. “I-I’m sorry, b-but...” Dinky stammered, but she couldn’t find the right words.

“Regardless,” the dragon continued, “you seem like a nice filly, unlike your barbaric friend.” Very swiftly, the dragon glanced at Suncloak, though the changeling had no idea why. He wasn’t ‘barbaric’. He was a knight! He was supposed to fight with every dragon he came across! That’s what knights do! “Therefore, I will help you,” the dragon said.

The faces of the three lit up, but especially Dinky’s face. “Really? Thank you!” the little filly exclaimed.

The dragon nodded. “I need to see this for myself. Shall we go, then?” He casually tucked his small fishing rod under one of his wings and started walking towards the tower. For him, it was a slow, casual gait, but Suncloak, Derpy and Dinky almost had to run to keep up with the giant dragon.

Quickly, they reached the tower. The dragon sat in front of tower and arched himself up, sitting on his hind legs. Its vast size made the tower look tiny in comparison. The dragon took a moment to clear his throat.

“So how’re you going to do this?” Suncloak asked. “Fire breath? Tear the roof off? Use some kind of ancient dragon magic?”

The dragon rolled his eyes. “Of course not.” He bent down, and very, very gently, tapped on the door with one finger.

Very briefly, the door crackled, the magic force field being lowered from the other side. Afterward, the door opened, revealing Black Scratchica. She instantly noticed the dragon. “Hey! ‘Sup?”

The dragon bent down once more. “These nice ponies, and one rude changeling,” he said, slightly nodding towards the three, “came to me and told me something about you foalnapping a princess. Might you be so kind as to explain what is going on?”

The witch seemed to process this for a moment as she slowly glanced over to Suncloak and his two helpers. Suddenly, her face lit up. “Oh, you’re the knight I was playing with earlier!”

“Playing?! You almost fried us!” Last Suncloak checked, having lightning bolts thrown at you wasn’t exactly ‘playing’!

“Nah,” Black Scratchica said, waving dismissively. “I was missing you on purpose. We were having fun!”

The dragon loudly cleared his throat. “And what about the princess?”

“Oh, she’s still upstairs, I think. We did a lot of stuff today!” Scratchica stepped aside. “Wanna join us? We were just playing some board games.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Derpy said, her face twisted in confusion. “You’re playing games? Then why did the king ask us to retrieve her?”

“I don’t know,” Scratchica shrugged. “I asked for permission from the princess, and she said that it was okay.”

Suncloak raised one hoof, and looked at it for a moment. Maybe, just maybe, if he hit himself hard enough... Before he could do anything, though, Derpy gently, but insistently forced his hoof on the ground and shook her head. “I can do that for you. At least you won’t be hurt as badly.”

Suncloak groaned. “Fine, but only because I trust you.”

Given the green light, Derpy slapped Suncloak in the face. Not too hard, not too soft. Just the right amount of force to justify his immense frustration with this... situation.

“So... there’s nothing wrong?” Dinky asked, tilting her head.

“Aside from the fact that this witch is crazy? Yes, everything’s fine. Somepony just forgot to inform the king about this,” Suncloak said.

“I’ve seen crazier stuff at parties,” Scratchica said. “Don’t worry, I’ll just get the princess for a moment.” Quickly, she rushed back inside the tower again, and up the stairs.

Derpy still looked very confused. “Are we kind of like a... royal retrieval service right now?”

Suncloak groaned. “I have no idea. What I do know is that this was a royal pain in the—”

“Sir Suncloak!” Princess Lyra exclaimed, quickly walking down the stairs. “Dad sent you to pick me up? How nice!”

“Yeah, I...” Suncloak paused for a moment as he realized something. “Yeah, he did. Let’s, uh, go back to the castle?” Quickly, he leaned over to Derpy and whispered into her ear. “I swear, I’m not getting paid enough for this. If the king doesn’t let me retire after this, I can’t be held responsible for whatever happens next.”

Derpy’s eyes widened. “You get paid?” she whispered back.

“I’ll just grab my stuff,” Lyra said, rushing back up the tower again.

Suncloak groaned, awkwardly hoofing at the ground. “So, I guess this whole thing was just a misunderstanding.”

“Sorry,” Scratchica said, scratching herself behind the head with a hoof. “Maybe we should’ve told the king what we were doing.”

“It’s okay,” Derpy said. “Just remember it for next time, please? I wouldn’t want to go on another wild goose chase like this.”

“Can do,” the witch said, just as Lyra came running back down the stairs again. She jumped at Scratchica, giving her a big, friendly hug, and then stepped outside.

“Well, I guess that means the princess is saved,” Suncloak said. For certain definitions of ‘saved’, that is. It didn’t really feel like saving, though.

“Bye Scratchy!” Lyra said, enthusiastically waving at the witch. Yeah, ‘saved’.

Before they left, Dinky briefly turned to the dragon. “Thanks for helping us, mister dragon!”

The dragon sat upright again, and gave a slight bow. “It was my pleasure. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I was doing some fishing.” With that, he dropped on all fours, walking off toward the river again.

As the three ponies and changeling took their leave, heading back to the king’s castle, Dinky had the biggest possible smile on her face. Derpy quickly nuzzled her. “You seem happy. Did you have fun today?”

Dinky nodded vigorously. “Yeah! I got to see all these amazing things, and I even talked to a dragon!” Her smile turned into a large grin. “And in the end, I was right all along!”

“The knight, his companions, and the princess all safely reached the king’s castle. After that, the knight and his companions would have many more adventures, and the princess and the witch often played together. And they all lived happily ever after.” Suncloak closed the book. “The end.”

“Sheesh. That was the worst thing I ever...” Suncloak started, but trailed off as he saw Dinky. The little filly was fast asleep, snoring softly, so the changeling slowly and quietly set the book back on the shelf. Silently, he set the chair he had been sitting on back where he found it, blew out the light, and left the room.

Slowly, taking care not to make a sound, Suncloak closed the door. He didn’t want to wake Dinky up, after all; if he did, he’d probably have to read another of those weird stories to her. One was enough, thank you very much. He went back to the living room of the Hooves residence, though he wasn’t really sure what to do. This meant he was done foalsitting, right?

Wow, foalsitting. That wasn’t something he ever saw himself do when he still lived in the hive. Or after that, for that matter. Then again, a lot had changed in the meantime.

Lost in thought, he wandered over to the table. The puzzle he and Dinky had started earlier that day still lay there. It wasn’t completely finished, a relatively small number of pieces was still scattered around. Dinky had done most of the puzzle, much to the changeling’s chagrin.

Suncloak sighed. He’d gone from being a royal guard, to foalsitting a little filly. That already sounded strange, but even stranger was that he didn’t really care. He liked living in Ponyville too much to really be bothered about the change.

The only thing he was worried about, was that he didn’t really know what would be coming next. After all, now that he’d changed this much, what would be next? He was already sort of helping a group of changelings fit in. That felt weird, too. Changelings weren’t supposed to help each other, unless the queen commanded them to. Yet here he was, doing just that.

His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of the front door opening and closing. He went into the hallway to see Derpy putting her mailbag down on the ground. “Hey Suncloak,” she said. “Everything okay?”

“Of course,” Suncloak answered. “Why wouldn’t it?” To be honest, he could think of various reasons, but most of those were really implausible. Plus, it was beside the point. Everything was fine.

Derpy breathed a sigh of relief. “Great. Sorry for... you know, getting all hysterical and stuff.”

Suncloak waved it off. “Eh, that’s what friends do, right?” He was pretty sure they did, at least.

“Well, thanks anyway,” Derpy said. “This probably isn’t really your thing, but I was really desperate to find somepony.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Suncloak admitted. And it was true! Not nearly as bad as he had imagined. He might even say that he had a little bit of fun.

Derpy let out a big yawn. “Wow, I’m really tired. Spent all day flying, after all.” She tried blinking the sleepiness out of her eyes for a few moments, but to no avail.

“You get to bed, then,” Suncloak said, slipping past her, opening the door and stepping outside. “Good night!” he said as he closed the door. Just before it closed, Derpy returned a “Good night!” of her own.

As the changeling walked home, he noted one thing: he felt oddly good about himself. That, and he thought he’d learned something new.

“This week’s lesson is that everyling, no matter their age, is worth listening to,” Suncloak said. The other changelings were currently in front of him, and the eight of them were standing in the cave they gathered in every week.

“Even me?” #145, the little grub, asked. His eyes were as big as saucers, the tiny changeling being ecstatic due to receiving a compliment from an adult.

Suncloak rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you too, I guess.” Though the little guy hadn’t really proven if it was true, yet.

#145 lit up at that, sporting a huge grin and shaking with excitement. That was only briefly, however; #14 quickly stopped him by planting a hoof on his head. “Calm down, little nymph. After all, he hasn’t even told us how he found out about this,” she said, looking at Suncloak and arching an eyebrow.

“Well, you know,” Suncloak said, waving a hoof about in a bad attempt to mime his answer, “I got it from, uh... a filly I was foalsitting.” Almost mumbling, he added, “And a book.”

The whole group was silent for a while. The other changelings just stared at him, very awkwardly. Slowly, #14 opened her mouth. “...Okay. That actually makes sense.” She spoke in an oddly sincere tone. The other changelings quickly spoke their agreements.

“Wait, what?!” Suncloak almost shouted. “You’re changelings! You can’t just be okay with this!” This was the dumbest way to learn something ever, and they thought it made sense? What was wrong with them?!

“Sure we can,” #21 said. “I’ve learned stuff because of sillier things, to be honest.” He shrugged. “A book kind of makes sense, really. Could you explain it?”

Suncloak groaned. Fine. Now they had the gall to do something he hadn’t expected, either. “Long story short, the filly in the book had way better ideas than the main character, and was often right. The filly I was foalsitting was pretty smart, too. Happy?”

“Yep!” #145 said. “But I learned something really important, too! ‘Cause yesterday, I...”

As he listened to to the grub’s story, Suncloak couldn’t help but be both annoyed and surprised. Surprised that the others didn’t even chuckle at him for such a weird lesson, and annoyed because it turned out he was wrong about them again.

Strangely enough, he felt happy, too. Happy that his efforts were really teaching the other changelings something.

And, considering that the others’ behaviour had changed a bit as well, he felt glad that they too were happy. Weird. #145 told his story with great enthusiasm, proudly presenting what he had learned and even praising his pony friends. Seeing the young changeling talk like that filled Suncloak with a little bit of pride.

It did a whole lot to convince him that he himself wasn’t crazy, either. After all, if other changelings were having a good time living among ponies, then it couldn’t be that weird, right?

Suncloak smirked a little bit. Or ‘crazy’ was just contagious.

Author's Note:

Whoops, this took a while. Suddenly got a job and I had to get a normal sleeping schedule, sheesh. And then my body has the guts to take time to adjust to that. Jerk.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it!

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