• Published 26th Oct 2019
  • 1,945 Views, 91 Comments

Winds of Change - theOwtcast

Only months after being accepted in the Crystal Empire, Thorax puts his life on the line to help his friends and save Equestria.

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“How much longer is this going to take? Trixie is going crazy in here!”

“I’m working as fast as I can!” I told her for the thousandth time. “Do you want to take over?”

“Erm, nope.” She kicked at a pile of dirt. “Seriously, Thorax, are you sure you’re going in the right direction? We’ve been digging for days, and still no sign of that underground part of the hive you talked about!”

“Actually, it’s been more like one day, maybe two, but not more than that. And yes, I am sure. We should be there soon!”

I got a snort in return.

Though I’d been doing my best to keep morale up, it was a difficult task under the circumstances. With me digging, Discord sticking around on the other end of the tunnel where he had access to magic - we’d found by trial and error that while anything conjured up from raw chaos magic would be undone by the suppression field, things transfigured from already existing material tended to remain - and Starlight and Trixie hauling the earth I’d dug out to him to turn into food, water, breathable air, headlamps, and whatever else necessary, we’d been making steady progress; but the urgency of our task had pushed us to the limits, both physically and mentally. I feared it wouldn’t be long before one of us collapsed with exhaustion or started a fight!

As much as I hated to admit it, I was beginning to think collapsing would be a good thing, at least before we breached the hive. It would delay our progress, sure, but what could happen in a few hours? Nothing world-shattering, I could bet! On the other hoof, finishing the tunnel quickly would be of no good if we got captured shortly afterwards because we were too tired to notice patrols or to run from them!

If only I could convince myself to take my own advice!

“Is that all?” Starlight pointed at the small pile of dirt waiting for her to haul to Discord. I’d been so lost in thought I hadn’t noticed her arrive!

“Oh, right… I guess I got a little carried away… Hang on, I’ll dig out some more…”

She put her hoof on my foreleg.

“How about you take a break? You’ve been at this forever!”

“But the princesses-”

“A few hours won’t kill them! But if we work ourselves to the point where we can’t keep our eyes open… that might.” She hung her head. “And you’ve been working harder than any of us, and we can’t lose you… you’re the only one of us who knows his way around here!”

“I’m sure you could manage without me,” I tried to comfort her. Knowing the hive’s nature and my friends’ disadvantage of blocked magic, I didn’t really think they could, not for an extended period of time anyway, but would I make as big a difference as Starlight believed? I wasn’t so sure.

“Nothing doing! C’mon, you’re taking a nap, and I’ll handle Discord and Trixie if they have any objections!”

I relented and returned to my own form. I wouldn’t need the disguise to sleep, and being myself was more comfortable either way.

We walked in silence for a long time. Every now and then, I would turn back in the direction of the far end of the tunnel, one I’d been digging tediously. Though I’d been fairly sure I hadn’t strayed from the right direction, Trixie’s consistent nagging had planted a seed of doubt in me. What if I was wrong? How much longer would we end up stuck here before I had to admit it? I thought I was beginning to sense some love up ahead, possibly from cocooned ponies in the hive, but it was so faint; how could I be sure that I wasn’t imagining it out of the desire to finally be out of this darned tunnel?

And once we did get out of the tunnel and into the hive… what then? The idea to get into the throne room was insanely ambitious; could we really pull it off? There would be hundreds of patrolling guards on the way there, if not thousands or tens of thousands! How were we supposed to dodge them all? And how long would it take us, assuming luck was on our side?

But what if something went wrong? No, not ‘if’; ‘when’! A team of four intruders was bound to get noticed, especially since two of them could hardly spend five minutes together without bickering about the smallest things! Just give them an excuse, and they’d be at each other’s throats constantly! How long would it be until they got out of control at the wrong moment and the guards noticed? We couldn’t outrun the whole hive of drones bent on capturing us, but could we confuse or outsmart them?

And what about me? Starlight had demonstrated so much confidence in my ability to lead them through this; could I live up to her expectations? I’d been away for so long; how could I be sure that I still knew the hive well enough to find the safest way to the throne room, to instantly invent the most effective possible strategy for dodging the guards as and when we came across them and for getting our friends out? Had I ever known the hive well enough to do that? I didn’t think so! Was I still familiar enough with it to recognize dangers and opportunities as they present themselves? Probably, but would I come up with the best response, or at least one good enough, quickly enough? Maybe, maybe not.

And a no less troubling point to consider: could I avoid getting captured?

“What’s on your mind?” Starlight broke the silence.

“Nothing, really,” I lied. No need to put additional burden on her!

Something’s troubling you, I can see that. Why don’t you tell me?”

“Just thinking about what happens when we get in,” I admitted.

“I see.” Her face darkened. “I take it it’s not good?”

“Well, it is going to be hard, no point in denying it. But if we’re careful, we might be able to make some progress. Mind you, that’s a long way from succeeding!”

“But it’s a start!”

“Yes. it’s a start.”

We walked some more.

“So what’s with the wings?” she asked eventually.


“Back in Ponyville, when you dropped your disguise, I noticed your wings were… well, shinier than we first met, almost like you’d carved them out of crystals.”

“Really? I haven’t noticed.” I glanced at them. It was difficult to tell under such bad lighting, but I thought I could see what she meant.

“Oh… I must have assumed it was, how to call it, a fashion choice?”

I was going to tell her that my appearance didn’t matter that much to me as long as it wasn’t scaring ponies away, but then she opened the door to what I assumed was our original air pocket - the door hadn’t been there before - and the sight beyond stopped me in my tracks.

The air pocket was now several times bigger than I remembered it. Every surface was tiled with rainbow-colored, Discord-shaped marble, some of them glowing; cushions and couches floated in mid-air, and a hovering disco ball puffed clouds of vapor in which a number of goldfish swam. A flower sculpture of Fluttershy sang and tapped its hoof to its own rhythm, and a few dust bunnies were hopping all over it. The upside-down candles were still floating randomly about, some of them now turning randomly in whatever direction they pleased. The whole room was spinning on a roughly horizontal axis, and the wall contours were arranged in such a way that there was always something to step on when coming in from the tunnel. Discord lounged on the rear side of the largest couch, sipping a smoothie through the bottom of the glass and eating… changeling-shaped cookies?

“What…” I muttered, staring transfixed.

“Oh, right, sorry!” Starlight almost slapped herself. “I forgot I should prepare you for this!”

“Well, now I’ve seen everything,” I sighed, struggling to overcome my dumbfoundedness by the sight.

Discord noticed me and pushed the bowl of cookies behind the couch - well, out of sight, anyway, since I wasn’t sure what counted as ‘behind’ in the context - where they exploded in small fireworks.

“Hey!” Trixie jumped out, cradling her singed tail.

“Oopsie,” Discord snickered.

“How long has all this been here?” I asked.

“Most of the day or however long we’ve been here,” she shrugged. “Does this mean you’re done digging?”

“No… It shouldn’t take much longer-”

“Trixie clearly remembers you said that ages ago! Admit it, you’re lost!”

“I dragged him here to take a break,” Starlight stepped in my defense.

“This isn’t the time for taking breaks! The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can go home!”

“Except none of us will be going home if we’re in no condition to deal with the hive full of changelings once we get there! And we’ll need Thorax if we want to have any hope of getting through them! He needs rest, whether you like it or not!”


“You think I like being in this situation? I don’t - none of us do! But we came here to help our friends, and let me remind you, you volunteered to stay with us even when Discord offered to send you back to Ponyville! So get a hold of yourself and think of some way to be useful, or at least don’t make things harder for the rest of us!”

Discord opened his mouth to say something, but Starlight stifled him.

“That goes to you too! I don’t want you two bickering in there where the whole hive will be on top of us if either of you lose control and start yelling like you’ve been doing half the time since we got here! Whatever it is that ticks you off against each other, I want you to settle it right here!”

“Fine,” they said in unison.

“Well, then,” she sighed. “Thorax, take some rest while you can. You’ve earned it!”

“Thanks, but mind if I don’t consider it earned until our friends are safe at home?”

“Don’t you start now!” She rubbed her forehead.

“Sorry,” I smiled sheepishly. “Are any of these cushions taken?”

“Nah, take whichever you want,” Trixie said absent-mindedly, still pouting from Starlight’s rant.


I curled up on the closest one and was asleep before I knew whether or not the others had continued arguing.