• Published 29th Jan 2020
  • 73 Views, 2 Comments

Council of Crowns: Rise of the Royals - ShadeLeshyr



Ancient Changelings throw off the shackles of oppression and push toward a new age.

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The Collective Begins

Fear and anger.

These were the two emotions presence in the group of changelings marching their way into the center of the hive. Surrounded by Warriors that hissed and snapped their jaws if the group tried to drag their hooves, Onyx and his new friends were being marched toward their doom. This was something that they knew beyond the shadow of a doubt and they were doing all they could to stall their journey.

The Infiltrators were looking around, their shifty eyes trying to find some way to escape while the rest were resigning themselves to the fate that awaited them in the Queen's chambers. Descending into the parts of the hive that only the Warriors and Heralds of the hive had ever seen before, Onyx took in the sight of the tunnels themselves. Being some of the original paths, they had been crafted over centuries of the Queen's life and bore the marks of such construction. Nameless Diggers, now long gone, had taken great care in making these wide tunnels and shaping them to have a jagged, haunted look. A final defense meant to play on the fears of the creatures above if they got this far.

Made to terrify surface dwellers and yet now they held the same effect on him...

The gathering could feel the Queen's presence long before they every came in sight of her. She existed as an oppressive weight that burdened their thoughts the closer they came to her, trying to squash the growing sensation of self-awareness they had begun to experience... and she could sense their resistance.

Her attention fell upon them like the hive itself had collapsed around them, suffocating them and making every step feel as though their limbs weighed more and more. A deep, animalistic rage poured from her in a flood and Onyx felt his heart stop for a moment before the impending wrath as it bore down on them from up ahead. In numbers that he couldn't comprehend, the eyes of the hive turned upon them and the Queen's rage refracted through countless bodies that had become aware of them.

He was alone before a fury that burned through his veins like fire. How did he dare to be apart. To be different and step into a realm that he had so little understanding of? To defy the will of the Queen and be an extension of her will?

These thoughts were raging through his mind as they were finally shoved forward into the grand chamber of their ruler. Massive and lit with the pale light of changeling slime, the entire structure made him aware of how small he was in the grand scheme of the world... and then there was her. A titanic form of chitin, the ancient Queen towered over them like an angry goddess. One of her mighty hooves could have crushed him into paste without a thought and craning his neck, he found himself looking up toward the creature that decided every little motion he'd taken since the day he'd hatched.

Beneath a tangled mass of web-like growth that formed a facsimile of a mane, two green orbs stared down through the darkness toward him. This was something different than the drones he'd observed for the past few weeks in silence. A distinct disk of emerald sat within the frame of each of her eyes and centered even more still was the oval abyss that threatened to consume him in the fires of pure ferocity. This... this was the Queen.

She invaded his thoughts like a fang to his brain, the impulse forming like a demand for information. He was just a simple Digger; he held no chance in withholding what she wanted from her as his mind spilled out the answers instinctively. In the same moment, the flood of thoughts and feelings draining into the Queen's demand were not just his own.

The others bled their experiences into the void of the hive mind and the hive gnashed at them for their disobedience. In the end, they were not so different. Each of them, from Chirp to Hope, had been filled with a sense of longing. Searching. Then came the inevitable: a desire to escape. To explore the world and themselves.

SACRILAGE!!

The impulse was a force like the sky had fallen upon them and the nine rebellious changelings fell to the floor under the metaphysical weight. Onyx could barely breathe. He was defective and must be destroyed. If only the Queen would let him stand so he might throw himself into the final embrace of whichever changeling would be his killer as penance for his stupidity! He was alone and would die a lonely death!

...Not...Alone...

It was not his thought. It wasn't the Queen's either. Amid the storm of hate, another mind touched his. Pulled him closer and sheltered him as best it could.

Hope...

The Herald was in agony, yet something within her was stronger than the rest of them. She pulled them in through their connection and took the brunt of the Queen's wrath as she attempted to crush their minds beneath her will. It would buy them a few precious seconds to be together in this final act of defiance.

However... they were not ready to die yet.

Joined together in the mind of the Herald, the multitude of thoughts became a ringing chorus of ideas.

Pain, not good! Shouted the Caretakers over the roaring Queen. Holding strong! Stronger together! Declared the Warriors, their bodies rising in response to their shared mind and used their strength to reinforce the Herald's mind. Within the greater hive mind of the Queen, a shiver of something... cold rippled across them all before her wrath doubled its assault against them, bent on destroying them down to the last thought.

Too strong. Must retreat. Cautioned Silence. Queen knows. Will follow, Shadow added, must vanish from her knowing. If only it could be that simple. The Queen always “knew.” There was no way to be unseen by their Queen. One way... Hope's whispering thought came to them all and each of them understood in a single instant through the intimate interaction.

So they all took a deep breath... and severed themselves from the Queen's hive mind.

The sudden quiet was deafening as the rage of their ruler and their fellow drones fell away. Ears ringing, Onyx fought the urge to curl up and shiver in fear at the sensation of being alone. His entire life, the hive had been there, filling his mind with the impulses of the Queen and the sensory information shared between all the changelings of the hive. Now there was only his own, limited view... and the gentle nudging of Hope's mind, urging them to rise and escape. His own will gone, Onyx could only follow the impulse of the one of them that hadn't gone silent from the change. He wasn't the only one as the rest of them rose to turn and follow Hope as she ran.

Whatever effect the severing had upon them seemed to be intensified among the changelings still connected to the Queen. She herself had reeled back as though struck and hissed at the ceiling while the once unified hive-members stumbled and fell out of their way easily enough as Aegis and Fang instinctively moved in front of Hope, using their heavier bodies to muscle through. Onyx could feel the others clinging to the shared mind Hope and pulled them into desperately, just as he did.

Where go? Fang inquired rapidly. Confusion filled the group as their eyes snapped back and forth between adjoining tunnels in their panic filled run. It was the first time that Onyx had started to understand how much the hive relied on the plethora of knowledge available to them through the hive mind. While the others were beginning to become frantic, Stone and he pushed forward the information that every Digger knew: they layout of the hive's tunnels. It was likely that any creature not in possession of that would wind up wandering up and down dead-end tunnels designed to stall invaders.

Rushing headlong through the paths committed to memory, the shared mind came to a conclusion: they needed to leave the hive entirely if they did not want to be destroyed. The Queen, however, had other ideas. A shrieking roar of hatred sounded through the tunnels and it didn't take the connection to the hive mind to understand that every drone in the hive would be out for their blood now. The Infiltrators were quick to point out that there would be no way to get out of the hive through the normal paths once the drones were coordinated again while the Warriors expressed an inability to fight such numbers.

Then Onyx remembered back a few weeks. To a cave full of crystals and the rock from which he had taken his name. It was a strange feeling to suddenly interject and give an impulse of his own. It was even more strange to feel the thought resonate within his fellow changelings as the group turned away from their current path and dove toward the quieter tunnels of new excavations. Unfortunately, the were not quite abandoned.

Rounding a junction toward their destination, a hive Warrior stood before them, baring their fangs and hissing angrily as they no doubt informed the closest Herald of their position. The minor lag between relays was the group's salvation as Aegis and Fang lowered their heads and charged forward, catching the dependent thinker in their rush and tossing him over the group with a flick of their heads. They picked up the pace, knowing that soon these tunnels would be swarming with drones looking to kill them all.

Finally coming to the spot where once there had been a tunnel, Onyx instinctively pulled Stone's attention to the spot where the dirt didn't match and began to dig with two bodies like neither of them had done before. Dirt exploded beneath their hooves as the two of them put years of mastery to work, fueled by the spiking adrenaline in their veins. Twirling together in an unconscious duet of motion, they packed and shoved dirt to the side, forgoing the usual hardening slime in favor of making a quick, temporary tunnel.

The hisses and pounding of hooves from behind them lent strength to their hooves as Onyx reached backwards with his mind, leaving Stone to coordinate their bodies moving forward. Latching onto one of the stronger-bodied Warriors, he pushed the knowledge of tunnel collapsing into them and caused them to lash out at the weakened dirt. With a swift connection of hoof to dirt, they dropped the passage behind them, hopefully slowing their pursuers enough to allow for escape.

For a few terrifying moments, it seemed like they had veered off course at some point until a surge of hope came from Stone as the two Diggers pushed forward in the vibrant crystal cave. Pulling his mind back closer to his own body, he drew the attention of the group upwards toward the whole in the ceiling. Most of them balked at the height, having never flown before but it was time for the Infiltrators to shine. Pressing information into their fellows, they coordinated the bodies and spread their wings, buzzing them rapidly as they rose into the air and darted for the opening.

Upwards the rose and slid into the open sky beyond the hive.

Freed to observe his surroundings, Onyx couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of colors that presented themselves to him. As they flew upwards, he became aware of the tall pine trees that greeted them with lively greens and vibrant browns. All around them, small creatures startled by their ascent scurried away. Higher and higher into the air they flew, the single mind formed of many consciousnesses steered toward putting as much distance between themselves and the murderous hive behind them. With luck, the Queen would recall her drones once they were safely beyond the reach of her hive mind.

The problem was that besides the Infiltrators, the rest of them could only fly so far on their untested wings. It didn't stop them from feeling the wind on their faces and see a world that stretched so much further than they could have every imagined. Beneath them, the woods stretched on for miles until they could just make out the edge of it and the small twirl of smoke that marked the village beyond.

Chirp chimed in, a curiosity to see the home of the stallion that had changed their states of being. The feeling resonated within the group, but was tempered by the caution of the Infiltrators and Warriors about needing to lay low for a while and the Caretakers reminding them that they would need to feed relatively soon. Taking charge of the collective, Hope placed their priority on finding a safe place to rest and recover from their escape, already feeling the strain in their wings.

Using nine sets of eyes, they scouted the winding woodland, tracing sections of a river running through the area until a clearing at the edge of the river made itself known to them. The half circle of soft grass gave them a good spot to land and thus the changelings returned to the ground. As his hooves touched the grass, he jumped slightly at the springy mass and watched the other permanent under-grounders do the same, much to the amusement of the Infiltrators.

Testing it beneath his hooves, Onyx only partially paid attention as Hope tested the air with her mind. Satisfied that they were outside of the impulse range of the hive, she quickly instructed the two Diggers to make a small place to rest and it wasn't long before a small tunnel had been dug and reinforced a little ways back from the bank and a sleeping space had been widened at the end for them all. Even with the sun still shining just beyond their hovel and curiosity burning in their veins, their bodies were exhausted at this point.

Curling up within their shelter, there was a moment of pause as a thought bounced between them: did they return to themselves to sleep? The thought of being alone inside of their own minds was a daunting prospect at this point and frightened the more skittish changelings in the group. In the end, the nine equines chose to go with the majority feeling of needing the companionship with the Infiltrators caving in after the fear resonated across the connection.

Settling their bodies down to sleep, the group began to seek comfort in each other and the multitude of thoughts roaming from each of them. Onyx could only consider that the situation felt like a large step for a few moments before exhaustion claimed him and he drifted away among the instincts and ideas of his fellow rebels...

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