• Published 5th Dec 2021
  • 1,124 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 Three: Book of Equestrian Creatures

Dear Thorax,
I appreciate your faith in me when thinking of a candidate to ask for help.
My first instinct was to search for any books on Changeling culture, and I suggest that you and your brother do the same. Spike, Starlight and I searched through all of my own books, and then we checked Canterlot Library.
I’m sure Princess Cadance or Sunburst made sure to tell you that Canterlot Library is the most plentiful and knowledgeable library in all of Equestria! So, I was sure that whatever you were looking for would be there. (Princess Celestia even let us look in the restricted area! Can you believe that?)
But, I regret to inform you that we didn’t find much on Changeling culture, except for a couple of pages from Mirage’s long-lost diary. Do you know anything about it? Do you have it? Does Chrysalis? Did it even exist in the first place?
I digress. I asked Princess Celestia if I could lend you the pages that we found, and she agreed, and told me to tell you that you can keep them for as long as you please, seeing as they’re a part of your culture. Who knows? They might prove useful to you, whereas Princess Celestia, Starlight, and I couldn’t make top or tail of it.
Do Changelings have their own language? You never said anything when you were staying in the Crystal Empire. Speaking of, have you tried Princess Cadance and my brother? I’m sure they’d be pretty eager to help you! Sunburst, too. I hear from Starlight that he and I have a pretty similar stand on obtaining and sharing knowledge.
I will admit that since receiving your letter, I have begun to grow more and more curious about Changelings, perhaps even more-so since you revealed yourself just over a year or so ago, and ‘the Great Change’, as you put it.
There’s so many gaps in culture that not even you or Pharynx (especially Pharynx, from what Starlight and Trixie told me about him) know how to fill. It really makes you wonder what Chrysalis’ thought process was like. Did she lack the foresight to see a premature or irrefutable end to her reign? Did she not want to share knowledge as a fail-safe in case she perished or was dethroned in some way?
Has Chrysalis made any appearances around the Hive since she disappeared? Perhaps you could interrogate her if she does. Starlight has been on the lookout the most out of all of us, as it was her who Chrysalis declared that she would exact revenge upon. I doubt she won’t purposefully miss the opportunity to seek revenge on you, either. We all wish for you to remain safe and vigilant. Although, Starlight and I are sure Pharynx has told you that already.
While I was talking to Princess Celestia (and then as I briefed Princess Luna on the matter just as Starlight and I were leaving shortly after sunset), they informed me that Chrysalis was around the same age as what they were. Do you think that you have a similar life span now that you’re the leader of the Changelings? Oh, I have so many questions! So many cavities of knowledge in need of filling!
Celestia also gave me your and Pharynx’s tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala to send once I’ve written this in preparation of me inviting whomever once I become ruler of Equestria. Invites are also being sent out for my coronation - I hope you and the rest of the Changelings will be able to come! I hope to keep everycreature united for as long as possible.
Getting back on track (my apologies for getting side-tracked, there), I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty of asking Fluttershy about the matter to see if she might own the book on the subject. She’s the creature expert, after all.
As you can see by the contents of my parcel, the answer is: yes, she did.
The book is called ‘Book of Equestrian Creatures and Where to Find Them’. I’m not sure how true the book might be on your species (up until the Canterlot Invasion, the appearance hadn’t even been illustrated!), but it’s worth a shot, right? I pray to Princess Celestia herself that what you might find in Mirage’s pages or the Book of Equestrian Creatures and Where to Find Them is somewhat useful. If not, I owe you my sincerest solicitude.
I must admit, though, it certainly is an interesting situation. But, as I’m sure Starlight and Ember have told you countless times, I’m sure that there is a reason for you being leader and not another Queen.
I wish you good luck in searching for what you’re looking for.

Yours sincerely, Princess Twilight Sparkle

P.S. I was told to proofread this. I’m sorry to hear of your situation, buddy. And I’d like to apologise for Twilight’s questions. Hope you find an answer soon, Thorax. - Spike

Thorax sat back in his cushioned chair and blinked. Once collecting his racing thoughts into one lane, he replaced the letter in its envelope and left himself staring at the unopened parcel. Inside could either be the answer to all of his and Pharynx’s questions by including a crucial part of their species’ history, or it could be complete moose cud.

Pharynx wasn’t too appreciative of his brother’s silence in the seat opposite, it seemed, and groaned vehemently. “You didn’t just drag me here so you can keep me waiting all night. C’mon, Thorax,” he rolled his eyes, “I’m practically on the edge of my seat. Out with it!”

Thorax only inhaled through his nose and used his right forehoof to slide the envelope half way, but Pharynx snatched it up in his purple aura with his red antlers ignited and pulsating with the magical conduction, and ripped open the envelope in an act of carelessness and anticipation.

Thorax observed his brother closely for some form of visual reaction. He watched as his compound eyes ran over every line like they were running a literacy marathon, and for most of the reading he would be quickly muttering or slurping words under his breath in hopes of helping himself untie any knots in his flow that might come his way the further into the letter he read. Then, to Thorax’s surprise, he reread.

Upon halfway through his third reading, Pharynx’s attention snapped to Thorax - his lilac eyes wide and seemingly quite angry - and so the two were caught in a split-second’s staring match. Pharynx growled and dropped Princess Twilight’s letter like a hat, and then grabbed the parcel as the hideous black and purple creature he used to defend Thorax as when the two were nymphs.

With his beastly crab-like claws, he shredded the brown paper of the parcel off of its contents - despite Thorax’s warnings and pleas not to in fear of harming the book or ripping Mirage’s lost pages, but Pharynx seemed deft enough in the skill - and then, in a flash of purple, Pharynx was sitting back down with the Book of Equestrian Creatures and Where to Find Them in his hooves and Mirage’s pages on the table next to his own half-empty teacup and saucer of oolong.

“‘Where to-bucking-Find Them’,” Pharynx seemed enchanted in the title of the large book. But he was also angry. “Where to-bucking-Find Them!”

“What is it?” Thorax had flinched at his brother’s outburst, but it was nothing he hadn’t seen before.

“This book is from centuries ago,” Pharynx eased back into his seat, and quickly massaged his temples as he used his magic to lift his tea to slurp. “‘Where to Find Them’ isn’t going to be in the Changeling section, Thorax. It’s just gonna be a bunch of horse-headed theories and that’ll be that.”

Thorax confiscated the book by taking it in his own blue aura. He checked the index, and soared past the A-through-Ces with his eyes and navigating hoof until he reached Changeling just above Chimera. He didn’t delay flicking through the many crispy browning pages to number 189.

“We’ll take whatever we can get,” said Thorax, at last. He was smiling with hope, but Pharynx’s mood was already soured. Thorax only fell silent as he brisked through, and sighed with his ears down. One of them pricked up the second they caught Pharynx’s right hoof gently but impatiently tapping against the arm of the chair, while he held his head in his left. “Well, it’s all unreformed.”

“You don’t say?” Pharynx quipped dryly.

“The mare that wrote the chapter apparently ‘studied a Changeling colony from afar’,” Thorax let the book rest solely in his forehooves, so that he wouldn’t suffer a migraine later from an overuse of magic. “Then, she was almost captured, but escaped.”


Uhh...” Thorax could feel his heart palpitating as it tried to stay in place, but was quickly dropping to the pit of his stomach like a stone in water. Eventually, he came to the conclusion that he should read out loud: “‘Given their similarities to insects, it would be safe to assume that Changelings are eusocial creatures, much like bees or mole rats. Drones paralyse and cocoon their prey with slime they produce themselves’.”

“I could have told you that, Thorax,” Pharynx was almost ready to shred the book into a million pieces. Thorax could tell by the way his top lip was quivering and curling, like that of an agitated dog. “Heck, even you could have told you that! It’s Changeling One-oh-one!”

Thorax sighed, and then so did Pharynx.

“Is there anything else?” He asked, exasperated, stilling his querulous hoof. “Anything to do with reproduction? Royal jelly? Kings?”

Thorax hummed in reply as he continued to scan through the next couple of pages, until his eyes landed on a word he didn’t recognise for what he supposed was the second or third time throughout the page he found himself on. “Pharynx?” Pharynx’s gaze met Thorax again. “What’s an... ovipositor?”

Pharynx blinked. “A what?”

“‘Some insects are renowned for having an ovipositor as a part of their female anatomy. Perhaps Changelings are the same if they do not practice eusociality’.” Pharynx only shook his head in disbelief at this, and Thorax grew even more disheartened. “So, that’s not true?”

“What did I say?” Pharynx thundered, erecting himself in Thorax’s reading chair. “I told you that-”

“I know, Pharynx,” Thorax lifted a hoof to silence his aggravated brother, and to both of their surprise it actually seemed to work, “but if we’re not willing to read whatever we can find on the matter, why should we expect a solution?”

Pharynx slouched back into something similar to his previous position, only now both of his forelegs were limp at his sides and his countenance projected something of disbelief at Thorax. Thorax didn’t think he had seen his brother wear such a face since the first time he had set eyes on his new form. Not even beforehand, either. He believed it had been the first - and now was the second - time for him to have ever seen Pharynx even remotely shocked. As Pharynx cleared his throat, Thorax inhaled sharply. Had he over done it?

What kind of sorcery is this?! Thorax almost leapt out of his chair as he heard his brother’s raspy voice boom. But he hadn’t seen his lips move at all! Had he picked up ventriloquism all of a sudden? Since when did Thorax grow a backbone? That Dragon Lord must be doin’ something right. Maybe don’t ruin his momentum.

“I-” Pharynx’s throat seemed dryer than usual, which resulted in more rasp than usual. He coughed and his tongue ran a lap around his mouth. “Right. Carry on.”

Thorax couldn’t pry his eyes off of Pharynx, and his head slowly turned from side to side in disbelief. No. What just happened? That couldn’t have been real.

“What do you mean ‘no’?” Pharynx must have misunderstood the gesture and perked back up into his original self in a matter of nanoseconds.

“No, I mean- uh-” Thorax shook his head again as he fumbled for an excuse. “Never mind. I thought I just- I’m just imagining things.”

“Careful,” Pharynx smirked, “remember what Chrysalis used to say?” Thorax remembered all too well. “Imagining things will put you in an asylum!”

Thorax chose to ignore that, and instead returned to the book. “‘The leader is distinguishable through appearance and the respect it is given, and doesn’t seem to partake in such activities, but is always the first to feed, whether it’s from a victim or one of its own’.” Thorax, alarmed, looked up at his brother. He could tell by the shift in the air around them that Pharynx had a similar reaction, although he merely pursed his lips in turn.

“Chrysalis probably did that, too, you know,” Pharynx commented, “It’s like spiders.”

“I- right,” Thorax blinked in surprise, and it was at that moment he saw Pharynx’s true infiltrator come to light.

What? I thought everybody knew that.”

Thorax only went to the following page: “‘Fortunately, I have not witnessed a Changeling first-hoof, otherwise I wouldn’t have lived to write this very book’.”

“Meaning, she just gathered what she could from a bunch of locals,” Pharynx rolled his eyes. “Just read out the important bits, Thorax! We haven’t got time for this!”

“Right, sorry,” Thorax mumbled, and scanned through with his eyes and hoof, as he had done with the index. “I... don’t think there’s much else,” he brought himself to admit, “except that ‘Changelings don’t have wings, and they burrow underground’.”

Pharynx shook his head in disbelief as an answer, and let out an exasperated sigh as he rolled his eyes back. That’s probably just evolution, idiot.

Right,” Thorax closed the book and smiled awkwardly as he placed it on the table, “only the important bits. Gotcha.”

“Well,” Pharynx stood after he downed the last of his tea, gargled the dregs, and stretched. “I’m going to scare off-duty drones.” He sniffed the two pages of Mirage’s lost diary, and tilted his head with a thoughtful hum.

Pharynx!” Thorax hissed. He covered his mouth instantly, looking as apologetic as he possibly could. He removed his hooved from his muzzle and retried: “Pharynx,” he was much calmer, which he knew disinterested his brother after his outburst, “we don’t call them that anymore. I thought we agreed that it was derogatory.”

Fine,” Pharynx groaned as if he were a stubborn nymph again. “I’m going to scare the guards that are off-duty. You know where any of them are?”

“Why can’t you just let them enjoy their time off?” Thorax asked, frowning.

“To keep them alert in case Chrysalis does decide to make a surprise visit! Besides, isn’t your thing knowing where everyone is at all times?”

“My thing?” Thorax repeated, incredulous. “You’re their general!”

“I don’t know what they’re up to during their pansy-time!” Pharynx said, bearing a point, somehow knowing all Thorax could do was eventually relent. “So, where are they?”

Thorax thought for a moment and sipped his tea. He closed his eyes to reevaluate his brother’s words, and began to control his breathing so it became deeper and calmer. When he found himself ready to give an estimated answer based on the activity schedules for the day, distant chattering from a few places in and around the Hive, and scent. Thorax hadn’t really prepared himself for the last one. “Craft time, the training sector, the north-east wing, and somewhere just near the beginning of the forest. Does that help?”

“You’re improving, I see,” Pharynx gave an open grin, and turned to leave through the opening entrance.

Improving?” Thorax parroted, and then groaned as he put two and two together. “You couldn’t have done that yourself?”

“What’s the fun in that?”

“Lazy!” Thorax accused playfully, but Pharynx only shook his head. Though, Thorax could still catch his prolonged grin. “Don’t forget your ticket!” Thorax levitated the second golden ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala so Pharynx could take it in his mouth. He must be on the brink of a migraine, too. Or was he just being difficult? Did he purposely wish to soil the ticket with his bite mark? He was clamping down pretty hard...

“Stupid pony dance,” Pharynx nodded, talking through the ticket, “got it.”

Once Pharynx left, Thorax got up and stretched. He moaned habitually as his tense muscles eased, before making his steady way to his bedside drawers on the right side of his bed. Perhaps he should write to Princess Cadance and Shining Armor, just in case. Mirage’s pages could surely wait until later.

“So, no luck with Twilight?” Ember frowned. She and Thorax were sitting next to a lake of a clearing in the forest neighbouring the Dragon Lands.

“Well, I haven’t read the pages of Mirage’s diary, yet,” Thorax admitted, using his hoof to open the Book of Equestrian Creatures and Where To Find Them to the first page on dragons. “Twilight seems to think it’s in a different language, like Changeling.”

But,” Ember filled in automatically, “you don’t know Changeling?”

“Actually, the opposite,” Thorax said - which puzzled Ember a little - as he gingerly tapped the open book’s pages with his right hoof. “It’s mostly just a bunch of hissing, clicking, chittering. You know,” he shrugged, “bug noises. It’s just that... it’s never really been written before.”

“Ah, I see,” Ember nodded, before clearing her throat with a guttural ng-hm. “I could ask around with some of the older dragons to see if they know anything on Changeling Kings and reproduction, but I-”

Thorax found himself lighting up at that, and hugged Ember’s midsection closely. “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” He felt like he couldn’t owe her enough for that.

Ember groaned with a roll of her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Thorax. I get it, you like hugging and stuff.” Despite her tone of speaking, Thorax could feel her patting his back. The warm emotions she had began radiating all at once at the sudden hug were strong. Thorax could only will himself not to feast himself without Ember’s consent.

Thorax grinned a little giddily at the wave of emotion. Ember rarely expressed content - typically emotional, as the exception always seemed to land on when she was just after eating a hearty meal or delicious snack - and when she did it wasn’t a lot. Every positive emotion that she generated always managed to warm Thorax’s very core like the sun through a magnifying glass.

Thorax pulled away, his smile still pulling at the corners of his lips. “Could you check the stuff about dragons? Pharynx and I aren’t too convinced how credible the whole thing is.”

Ember shifted her weight so that she sat more upright. “I thought you said there wasn’t much in there about it.”

“There’s some stuff about osi-somethings and Queens eating some Changelings,” Thorax rubbed the nape of his neck. “Pharynx said it’s a bit like spiders.”

Ember frowned and snatched the book up in a similar manner to what Pharynx had done with Princess Twilight’s letter.

“Are you going to the Grand Galloping Gala?” Thorax asked as he watched her read line after line. How had he never noticed how radiant her fiery red eyes were? Her cerulean scales seemed to be glowing also, but Thorax knew that they couldn’t have been - not really - because she was the Dragon Lord, and she hadn’t placed a summoning for every other dragon to heed.

“Yeah - Tiny Scales sent me a letter,” Ember muttered. “Most of the stuff in here seems true. There’s not much in here, though, and it seems that most of the pages were just filled with sketches of us.” She pointed a talon to one of the larger and more defined drawings. It took up most of the bottom half of the page she had the book opened on. Ember looked up at Thorax, and to his surprise she smiled. “Why? Wait- this is a friendship thing... right? Inviting friends to go to fancy events with you?”

Thorax found himself smiling brighter than he ever had before. “Yeah! I was thinking - maybe - you’d like to go with me?”

“And what about Twilight’s coronation?” Ember’s smile dropped: “You were invited to that, right?”

“I haven’t had my invitation yet, but I was told that the Hive was invited. So, there’s nothing in here that isn’t true?”

“Just the thing about eating our young,” Thorax could tell that Ember was holding back the urge to shout. He was proud of her. “Although, even if that was true, there wouldn’t be any for us to eat.”

Thorax reeled, and his eyes widened. “Oh, no! Has the same thing happened to you?”

Ember’s cheeks went pink. “No! I’m not the one to lay all of the eggs. Dragons aren’t like that.”

“Then, what’s wrong?” Thorax eased himself closer to her, and waited patiently for her to answer. What kind of friend would he be if he wasn’t willing to listen to her problems as much as she did his?

“The eggs won’t hatch,” Ember said. “They’ve all been put in the egg-hatching grounds, and as Dragon Lord, I’m meant to watch over them until they hatch, but they won’t and haven’t.”

Thorax shot up. “What are you doing here?”

“Don’t worry, Flare and Clinker are there while I’m taking a break.”

Guilt scraped through Thorax’s carapace in a cold flush. “Because of me?”

“Thorax, it’s just a small break. I don’t think-”

“We can talk there,” he opened his elytra and spread his wings. “I don’t want to be the one who gets you into trouble.”

As she stood up, Ember scoffed in amusement. “You could do that even if you tried.”

Thorax smiled coyly as his response formed in his mind: “Good thing I’m not trying.”

With that, Ember had led Thorax - who made sure to carry the Book of Equestrian Creatures and Where to Find Them under his left foreleg - to the egg-hatching grounds. Like the rest of the Dragon Lands, it was dry, hot, and buzzing with the smelly fumes of sulphur. Thorax, used to the smell enough by now, barely even wrinkled his nose. The grounds - true to their moniker - were full of dragon eggs. Unhatched, but dragon eggs nonetheless.

“This is the hottest place in all of the Dragon Lands,” Ember said pridefully, but soon noticed Thorax’s profuse sweating. “Uh... are you okay? Do you want me to get you a water, or something?”

Thorax imagined her doing so, but predicted that it would either evaporate before his very eyes, or would heat up to temperatures only a dragon would be able to find even remotely cool. “No, thank you.” He muttered.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with them!” Ember proclaimed. “Usually, a dragon egg is meant to take just a couple of days to hatch.”

“Maybe they’re too hot,” Thorax crouched down next to a nearby clutch of eggs, and took note of the smoke that billowed out of the cracks underneath them every minute or so. A puff of smoke hit Thorax in the face, and he pulled himself back and stood, coughing into his free forehoof with his weight pushed onto his hind legs to keep balanced. “Or,” he wheezed, “is that a stupid question?”

Ember grinned, “There’s a reason why they’re in the hottest place in the Dragon Lands, you know...”

Thorax carefully placed the Book of Equestrian Creatures in Ember’s front claws, and crouched back down to the clutch of pale, multi-coloured eggs. “Have you tried talking to them?”

“They’re eggs, Thorax,” Ember retorted, “they can’t talk back.”

Pharynx had said the exact same thing with the last eggs that had been in the Hive’s nursery. However, Thorax’s persistence, mostly due to the positive effects it had on Flurry Heart back when he babysat her for Princess Cadance and Shining Armor, had reformed most of the eggs inside before they had even hatched, a feat which Thorax was rather pleased about. Thorax didn’t reply, and instead rubbed a hoof along one of the eggs closest to him. “Are you nice and toasty in your little beds?” He asked them. “You’re meant to come out, now. I know it’s probably all lovely and cosy in there, but you really should come out...”

“Well,” Ember sat down next to him, and - with the book resting on her thighs - patted Thorax on the carapace. “You tried your best, but I’m afraid dragons just don’t like huggy-feely things. Thanks, though.”

Thorax thought for a moment. “Have you asked Princess Twilight for any help?” He hated to suggest it, as she had already gone out of her way to help him, but if that was what was needed, Ember should do it.

“I got a letter saying that Smolder is coming back tomorrow for a couple of days to see her brother,” Ember shrugged. “It said she was bringing the animal one with her. Maybe she’ll know what’s going on.”

“Oh! If anypony knows, it’ll be Fluttershy. She’s the one who lent me the book.”

For what Thorax estimated to be the next hour given the position of the sun, Thorax and Ember chatted and tried a couple of techniques they had learnt from observing the wildlife in the woodlands that neighboured their respective kingdoms, from pushing the eggs closer together to collecting large leaves to blanket them.

Thorax had even transformed into a roc to incubate one of the nests of eggs himself. He had singed a few feathers, which would surely translate into a couple of burns on his chitin later, but to no avail. It had been to help Ember, in any case, so what were a couple of burns really?

However, their time together had to come to a forced end, as they knew that Thorax would be needed - dare he say missed - back at the Hive, and Ember would need to continue her duties as Dragon Lord in the Dragon Lands. Pharynx would be wondering where he had gotten off to, anyway.

“I hope Fluttershy will know what to do,” Thorax said, before wishing Ember good luck. She did the same for him, and they parted without another word.