• Published 5th Dec 2021
  • 1,123 Views, 23 Comments

A King’s Brood - eemoo1o

Thorax never asked to be leader. He certainly never believed he could fit such a rank. Now, he must face his fear of confrontation and disappointment for his Hive's reformed legacy to continue on, even when threats begin to arise around every corner.

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Chapter Two: Asking Ember

Author's Note:

This A/N will most likely be deleted after I finish the book, but I'd just like to say for any further notice that this book will most likely fluctuate between 'On Hiatus' and 'Ongoing' depending on the time between each update and whichever tag I deem necessary at the time. Also, the title of the chapter might change some time soon as it was decided before I finished it.

“And they just...” Ember lifted a brow as the two walked along the outskirts of the Dragon Lands, where the green forest met the dry, volcanic biome of Ember’s territory. “-walked into your room?”

“Mmhm,” Thorax nodded sullenly. “I just don’t know what to do, Ember!”

“Well,” Ember started again, huffing, “they shouldn’t have done that! What about our assertiveness lessons?”

“I’ve tried all of that back when there were unreformed Changelings that still insisted on feeding off of love,” he excused, suddenly feeling awful - his stomach twisting and turning inside of him - as his dragon-friend’s ruby red eyes seared into him, “but this is different, I guess.” He took a deep breath. “They all want to know what’s going to happen to the future of the Hive.”

“And that’s not your fault, Thorax,” Ember said sternly. “Until you find a solution, you don’t tell them anything.”

“That doesn’t seem very communicative.” Thorax thought for a moment on how that decision might unfold. The Hive might usurp him once they deemed his decision unwise, and un-leader-like. They might choose to exile him, and perhaps even Pharynx if he tried to defend him.

“Like I said when we first met: make it known that your decision is final,” Ember smashed her cerulean fist down into her other claw. If they had just met, Thorax was sure he would have flinched, but now - after a few months of befriending Ember - it barely even phased him. In a way, her dominant behaviour was much like Pharynx’s. “Trust me.”

“I do,” Thorax smiled, but soon found himself sighing. “It’s just that when I wasn’t willing to kick Pharynx out back when he wasn’t reformed, some of my pack were thinking about overthrowing me as their leader!” He admitted, now feeling a little sorry for himself, and for Ember for having to listen to his complaining. “It’s just that - now - everything in my head seems to return to that. So, it’s kinda just gone back to ‘please follow my directions’ and ‘please listen to me’, again.”

Ember halted, and crossed her arms. As she narrowed her fiery eyes at him, he felt his insides churn with nerves - both good and bad - and heat rise to his cheeks. “Define ‘some’...”

Thorax bit his bottom lip in reply. He didn’t exactly know how many - let alone who - wished to disown him as a leader. He remembered Starlight and Trixie telling him that they had some suspicions after Pharynx had metamorphosed, but Thorax didn’t have much faith that they were wrong. He released the breath he had forgotten he had been holding, and resumed their stroll.

“Every outcome I can think of always seems to backfire.”

“In your head?” It didn’t really sound like Ember was asking for confirmation. She was always so sure of herself, even when she struggled to come to terms with something she wasn’t all that skilled or knowledgeable about, like friendship. Thorax nodded. “So, why not keep it between you, Pharynx, and some of your advisors?”


“You don’t have advisors?” Ember groaned. “Thorax...”

“Well, Queen Chrysalis had them!” Thorax tried to defend himself. “But never used them! A-And I just assumed, seeing as the Hive doesn’t plan on invading... infiltrating, or going to war anytime soon - or ever - that I wouldn’t need any! That I’d just... go to political summits, talk to Pharynx about a couple of things, and that was it.” Aloud, the assumption seemed rather lousy and badly thought through.

“First thing’s first,” Ember said, her tone harbouring a blanketed edge that only Thorax and her pride could really detect; Thorax knew this was one of those times where he should take note; “get yourself some advisors. Start a council. Make sure to get Pharynx involved, too.”

Thorax nodded. “I know it sounds stupid,” he lamented, changing the subject back to what it had previously been, “but ever since I became leader I have more insecurities than I ever did.”

“Because of Chrysalis.” This time, Thorax knew that she wasn’t asking. Ember was simply stating what she knew already, or - at the very least - had figured out on her own.

“You could say that,” Thorax remembered the personal upbraidings he’d received face-to-face with ex-Queen Chrysalis for being too soft and too spineless. Most Changelings in the Old Days would have yearned for an encounter with her, whether it have been through strategising to infiltrate a small town, or through a simple acknowledgement of their existence.

Not Thorax, though.

No, he had first-hand knowledge of what she was like when faced with someone who might have gotten in her way, or enabled one of her many schemes in one way or another. He doubted she would have cared to reprimand him herself if not for the multiple reports of his kindheartedness.

If not for the fact that he had said it to his face once or twice in a moment of anger, Thorax wouldn’t have known that Pharynx had also been hit, demoted, or threatened by her - and his peers - on several occasions for his actions. By protecting him or promising that he would shape up under his own watchful eye, Pharynx had been endangering his social status and rank in the Hive. Yet he did it anyway, and Thorax was grateful.

Thorax knew that ex-Queen Chrysalis might have been the cause of his present issues with leading the Hive, but it could have been something else. He didn’t really wish to dwell on the subject.

“So, why don’t you ask Princess - uh -” Ember rolled her claw around in hopes of remembering the name of the creature she was thinking of, “Twilight... Glimmer about it?”

“Twilight Sparkle,” Thorax said, smiling in amusement. “You’re getting there.” Ember groaned, putting her face in one of her claws, and he put a hoof on one of her shoulders to comfort her. “Remember: if she has wings, it’s Twilight Sparkle. If she hasn’t-”

“It’s Starlight,” Ember replied, and Thorax could sense her agitation at the supposedly-similar ponies. “Yeah, yeah,” she crossed her arms again, “I know.”

Thorax fished through his mind in hopes of finding a piece of useful advice. Eventually, he suggested: “Why don’t you make an acronym?”

“A what-now?”

“You know!” He exclaimed, and their eyes met as his smile grew genuinely. “Like, uh...” he trailed off, and looked around. He saw the smaller, darker blue scales that dotted themselves around Ember’s body, and then smoke rising from a fire-geyser in the distance. “Tiny Scales for Twilight, and - um - Smoky... Gems for Starlight!”

“Huh,” Ember seemed to take Thorax’s help into consideration, as she tapped her chin with a single blue talon. “That’s... actually not a bad idea.” She smiled, before pointing her talon at him. “But don’t expect me to use it if it doesn’t work.”

“I won’t,” Thorax smiled. “But I know you’ll get there eventually.”

Ember paused, and he knew that she was struggling to fish for the word she had in mind. “Thanks.” She said at last, and Thorax gingerly clapped his front hooves together by shifting most of his weight to his back legs.

“You’re doing great,” Thorax praised, and Ember looked up at him with an uncharacteristically coy smile. “I believe in you.”

She only let out a single breathy laugh, crossing her arms as she spoke. “You know there’s... too much of a good thing, right?”

Thorax snorted as he quietly laughed back, lifting a forehoof in the process. Moments like these - with those he cared about, but with Ember especially - were flavourful, both physically and emotionally. He savoured them greatly. “Oh, there can never be enough encouragement for your friends!”

“Yeah,” Ember assented softly, “friends.”

Thorax was unsure of why she was confirming the fact, but tried to shrug it off of his conscience. She would tell him if something was wrong - wouldn’t she? No: he had trust in Ember. If she needed to tell him something, then he should - and would - let her say it on her own terms. But, he had to motivate her to speak of her concerns back when they had first interacted on a friendly basis. What would show the most trust?

“Is... everything okay?” Thorax asked, putting an end to his internalised debate.

“It’s fine,” Ember shook his hoof off of her shoulder, and tucked her wings into her back.

“But it’s not!” Thorax countered, the guilt from raising his voice already washing over him like a heavy storm.

“It is, Thorax,” Ember sighed, and relinquished the matter that Thorax had been clawing at, before smiling. “Just remember to turn into, y’know, a bear when they don’t listen to your orders, and everything’ll be great.”

Thorax gave an uneasy smile. “Thanks.” There was a moment of silence as the two walked, and Thorax started to think of what he would say, but found his mind blank. “Can we, uh, practice what I’m gonna say?”

“Sure.” Ember replied, her smile slithering into a grin. “First, you’re gonna want to get every Changeling together.”

“Interesting,” Pharynx mused, nodding slowly. Thorax smiled at him, before he hit him over the head. “So Ember told you to do what I did months ago!”

Rubbing the back of his head with a chitinous hoof, Thorax knew that wasn’t exactly true. It had been before Pharynx’s reformation, and the militant Changeling had jibed to Thorax that so he could cover all of Equestria in drum circles, leather-tasseled vests, and ‘kooky floral shirts’ he’d need a form of government inside of the Hive to discuss the measurements of peace-symbol necklaces and to analyse the Equestrian stocks for wooden-beaded jewellery and headbands. And in a passive-aggressive manner, no less, after Thorax had suggested he tagged along to a political party with the Princess Celestia and the Canterlot democrats.

“Actually-” Thorax began as he replaced his hoof on the ground.

“I don’t want to hear it, Thorax,” Pharynx’s tone bore a sharp hiss, but he soon relented it with a sigh. “What else did Ember say?”

“About this? Oh, nothing much,” Thorax shook his head, and rubbed his left foreleg with his right hoof; “except that maybe we should ask Princess Twilight about it.”

Pharynx jolted up with an electric flutter of his red wings. “The one who used to manipulate a whole village?” He frowned almost the second he finished speaking. “Really? Wow,” he gave a quick laugh, “Ember really is teaching you how to be more assertive.”

“Well, what do you think we were doing?” Thorax shot back, but all it really sounded like was a rhetorical question asked in the sweetest way possible. “Sitting around and making flower crowns?” A bright blush adorned his cheeks upon realising what he had just said, what he had just done. He had spoken back, and to Pharynx of all creatures. Butterflies began to form as he thought of Ember’s approval when he told her the next time they met up.

Okay, Thorsass,” Pharynx monotoned as he rolled his lilac compound eyes, “you got me; that’s exactly what I thought you were doing.”

Right - well - uh, good. It- It’s good that- that you - uh -” Thorax knew that if Pharynx had been using a form with arms, they would have been crossed, “-got that.” Wait, no, that hadn’t made much sense. How should he have responded to that?

“Leader of the Hive, mares and gentlecolts,” Pharynx quipped, before closing his elytra and sealing his scarlet wings inside. “So...”


“We gonna talk about it, or are we going to wait until it becomes an even bigger problem?”

Oh,” Thorax felt his ears drop, as did his gaze, “that.”

“We have to talk about it at some point, you know,” Pharynx entered Thorax’s quarters without much permission on his brother’s behalf, but they knew one another well enough - especially since Pharynx’s belated Change - to know what the other would say or do. The entrance sealed behind Thorax, who watched his elder broodmate dive onto his guest chair and rub his carapace against the soft back.

“I know,” Thorax exhaled, and as he approached his tall reading chair Pharynx chose to pounce over the table and seated himself there instead. One of Thorax’s cheeks lifted in confusion. It was one of the few instinctual attributes that the brother’s shared between them. “Uh, Pharynx? What are you doing?”

“I’m territorially insecure,” even though Thorax knew that his brother was jesting - in spite of his straight-faced countenance - he wouldn’t have put it past Pharynx for it not to be true, but the truth was soon stated as he pressed and rolled his own back against the back of the chair: “I’m trying to figure out which one I like more.”

Shaking his antlered head, Thorax sat himself upright in his guest chair, and closed his eyes. Even if it was just for a moment, he wished to take the time to remember what it was like before his excessive panic would settle in as he and Pharynx tried to talk about the problem at hoof in need of addressing. Thorax took a deep breath, and exhaled as he drew out a long and steady forehoof.

“What are you doing?” Pharynx parroted Thorax’s previous question to use as his own. Despite not being able to see his brother, Thorax could tell he had most likely narrowed his eyes to inspect him from across the table.

Upon opening his eyes, Thorax’s thesis had been proven correct. Pharynx averted his stare and cleared his throat. Thorax could only silently address his brother with a feigned smile: they were dreading the conversation just as much as the other.

“Would you like some tea, your majesties?” Cilia broke the silence as she entered.

Pharynx gave Thorax a pointed look. He understood the expression perfectly; it said one word, and one word alone: guards.

Thorax made an elongated exhale through his nose: I know. “What would you like, Pharynx?”

“Don’t care,” despite his previously incisive countenance, Pharynx now decided to adopt some curt form of ambiguity. “Get whatever.”

Thorax sighed, and fought the urge to rub his temples. It had been a long couple of months with Pharynx, but also some of the best he had ever gotten out of him. Perhaps they had been long because of the strain of leading a Hive that schemed to overthrow him after every possible decision in need of making.

Thorax opened his mouth to order with a smile. He had grown rather fond of green tea over any other since the Great Change, and he knew that - despite the facade of complaining and grumbling when served it, or anything for that matter - Pharynx didn’t mind it either. In fact, the longer his groaning, the more he was subtly showing that he found his liking for the snack or beverage, or so on, a weakness. Thorax made sure to reassure Pharynx that liking things didn’t make him weak, but it usually seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Thorax caught himself. He had ordered green tea yesterday - well, Pharynx had - right before his chamber was flooded with complaining First-Changelings, and he had to quench their thirst for answers with vague and incomplete responses, or understanding statements that informed them of his nescience on the matter.

What if he had drunk the last of the green tea the Hive had to offer? He hadn’t even finished the whole pot, on account of the startling disruption his alone time had received! Some of the tea had even been soaked up in the pages of Wuthering Hooves, making the paper all wavy and crispy, like the corners of burnt pastry. The book was still open and face down on his table, too; Cilia, or another Changeling that was to enter his room in search of him, must have seen it.

Thorax imagined their shaking heads and tutting tongues. What if they all grouped together and decided they didn’t want a clumsy Changeling like him to lead them? What if he was to order green tea again, reminding them of his accident from the day before, and they overthrew him?

What if - on top of all of that - the Hive really had ran out of green tea, and Thorax deciding to order it when there was none left spoiled his image for the eyes of the whole Hive, and made him infamous for a greed comparable to ex-Queen Chrysalis’?

And then they overthrew him.

Thorax gasped for air. The sudden action made Cilia flinch, and was not dissimilar to a drowning pony finally coming up to the surface to find air. He wasn’t that sure whether or not Pharynx had been startled too, because his hearing was buzzing like a Changeling’s wings, and his sight was getting rather blurry, almost as if he was face-down in a lake. He’d be known throughout the rest of the diminishing Changeling history as the Green Tea Glutton.

“Are you feeling okay, your majesty?” Cilia inquired slowly, her brows furrowing.

“Green’ll be great,” Pharynx huffed, his compound eyes glued to Thorax like a wolf to a deer.

Cilia only smiled at his answer. “Very we-”

No,” Thorax pressed a smile, his answer just a mere wheezing noise. “Chamomile.” He coughed, his throat now much drier than before. He hoped to clear his wheezing before talking again, and licked his lips in the process. “Chamomile would be amazing. Thanks.”

“Right,” Cilia’s smile had dropped like a penny out of a moth-eaten pocket. “Of course. Chamomile it is!” She beamed once again and departed, leaving the brothers in absolute silence... if Thorax’s hyperventilating abated.

Pharynx sighed, and put his head in a hoof that balanced on the right arm of his chair. “Chamomile? Really?” Thorax knew that his brother was watching him like a hawk, with the pretense of being over his behaviour. The pair of lilac eyes bore into him, from bottom to top, to left to right, and vise-versa. “You read too many pony books.”

That said, a magical aura roughly the same colour as Pharynx’s eyes engulfed Wuthering Hooves, and levitated it over to the elder Changeling’s eye level. Pharynx - with his horn and red antlers alight and pulsating with a matte lilac - did stop moving the book until the in between of the two crinkled pages was practically pressed against his nose. Pharynx then poked his eyes out from over the book, for his gaze over Thorax to remain sharp and vigilant.

Thorax gasped for air again, and tried Princess Cadance’s breathing technique. As opposed to the day before, it took a few tries instead of just one for Thorax’s body and mind to calm themselves. Once every quivering body part stilled itself, Thorax - continuing to do so with his mind - got up from his seat, pulled Wuthering Hooves into his cyan-blue magic, and made his way to his modest bookshelf.

Okay,” Pharynx huffed at last, and so Thorax decided to stall himself by reordering his few books, “we both know this isn’t about tea, so why don’t we just cut to the chase and talk about it?”

Okay,” Thorax took a deep breath, and returned to his seat. He lifted a forehoof out of habit when talking about his more negative feelings, and then the other. “So...” he could only halt, finding talking to Pharynx much more labouring than doing so with Ember or Spike, and moved one of his forehooves to the back of his neck; “you, uh, remember when everypon- ling,” Thorax corrected himself quickly, “when everyling transformed but you?”

Yeah,” for a moment, Pharynx forgot to read the room, and grinned with a snippy chuckle. “Those days were fun...ish.” His countenance fell into a frown, and Thorax fought the urge to throw himself over the table to hug him.

“They... weren’t so great for me, either,” Thorax admitted, putting his hooves back down onto the edge of his seat.

“You don’t have to tell me,” Pharynx said, and put an amused hoof onto his forehead and arched himself backwards. “Oh, Phaaarynx! This one time, this pony didn’t like hugging and kissing, and so that made this other pony banish her to the moooon..! Oh, Phaaaryyynx...”

Thorax watched as Pharynx mimicked him in a whiny falsetto. He rolled his eyes at the performance, and continued for Pharynx to readjust himself: “And... you remember how a bunch of people wanted you banished?”

Pharynx pulled a face. “You weren’t going to actually do it, Thorax.” It should have been a question. It really should have, but Thorax knew that his brother had confidence in his statement.

Thorax inhaled deeply through his nose, and found himself sighing when his emotions pressed down onto his chest so that most of his lungs’ capacities for air were compromised. “I thought about it.” He said, at last. Sharing thoughts and feelings was meant to take weight off of one’s shoulders, not put more on. Thorax felt at least ten stone heavier.

Pharynx seemed to wilt at that, and awkwardly tilted his head so that he stared into the table that currently divided them. In the physical sense, anyway. “Oh.”

Yeah,” Thorax breathed, his mind numbing to any further verbal coherence.

“Your tea, your majesty,” Cilia entered the thick atmosphere with a smile: she carried herself on three hooves as she used the fourth to carry the tray of tea-things. Upon setting the tray in the centre of the table, Cilia bowed at Thorax, and then Pharynx, and they thanked her for her service - Pharynx much more reserved in doing so, and Thorax additionally for her kindness - before she left them be.

“And you’re still beating around the bush,” Pharynx said at last, breaking the silence into several little pieces. “So, what does this have to do with your freak out?”

“A bunch of Changelings wanted to kick me out if I didn’t kick you out!” Thorax exclaimed, before hurriedly pouring himself a cup of chamomile tea.

Thorax could tell that his brother fought the urge to droop again at that. Instead, he guiltily rubbed his left foreleg with a hoof, and ohed again. “Right.” Thorax opened his mouth to change the subject, but Pharynx spoke again instead. “So, you think that everyone’s gonna overthrow you if you pick the wrong thing?”

Thorax hummed and nodded. “Mmhm. And now it seems like my first weeks as leader all over again! Especially with the whole, y’know...”

Y’know...” Pharynx parroted with an eye roll. “Yeah. I know.”

Thorax used his magic to open the top drawer of his right bedside cabinet, and take out a quill, some ink, and a piece of parchment. It had been a gift from Princess Twilight shortly after Princess Celestia and Starlight anointed him the ‘New Leader of the Changelings’. “Ember told me to ask Princess Twilight on the matter.” He said, setting the quill in the pot of ink, which he then set on the table, and the piece of parchment soon followed. “So that’s what I’m going to do.”

“You do that, Thorax,” Pharynx muttered, and then remained in his seat to simply stare at his younger brother. It wasn’t until Thorax began his opening sentence of humble greetings and polite ‘how do’s, that he piped up on the previously spoken subject that Thorax knew was bugging him. “They’re not going to do that, Thorax. There ain’t going to be another me.”

“I know,” Thorax smiled, trying to add some light to the conversation; “there’s only one of you, right?”

“Heh, right,” as he replaced his head in his hoof, which was again balanced on the arm of his chair, Pharynx grinned in turn, albeit it was much less known than Thorax’s. If not for his trained eye on the matter, Thorax would have missed it. It went as quickly as it came. “You’re the leader, Thorax. Maybe you should start acting like it.”

Thorax snapped the tip of his quill against the paper, and groaned before sharpening it with another piece of the writing kit Princess Twilight had kindly gifted him. “Maybe I shouldn’t even be leader. I never even asked-”

“Asked, schmasked,” Pharynx retorted. “Look, I know you’re probably tired of every single pony telling you that you were chosen to be leader for a reason - and I am too - so just know that with enough practice, you can become an okay leader. And... in your own way, you are now, and because of that your decision should be final.” Pharynx had lifted his head to slam one of his hooves into the other to punctuate his assertion.

Thorax smiled shyly, a pink tint to his typically lime cheeks. In an effort to hide his blush, he tilted his head to the right and slowly continued to write his letter to Princess Twilight, making sure to select each word carefully. “Thanks, Pharynx.”