• Published 5th Dec 2021
  • 1,125 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 Four: Others

“So, we have gathered you all here today to reassemble the royal advisors,” Pharynx addressed the room of thirteen Changelings before Thorax and himself. “Thorax decided it would be best to let you decide what you want to do with your position. I heard some of you switched professions.” He was trying to be nice about it. As nice as Pharynx could be, that was.

“What Pharynx is trying to say is that -” Thorax cleared his throat; “we understand that some of you may not want to rejoin, and your decision will be perfectly fine - it’s your decision, and we can’t force you into something you might not want to do.”

You might not be able to,” Thorax’s ears pricked up and turned on instinct to listen to his brother grumble. By the corner of his eye, he shot Pharynx a pointed look. As pointed as what he could muster: he wasn’t really a pointed Changeling, after all. If anything, his ‘look’ was probably a glance that bore a nervous stammer.

So,” Thorax continued, giving Pharynx’s remark no verbal recognition, “if any of you would like to leave, by all means, do it now.”

A lily-green medium horn with a set of dark blue eyes and carapace raised his hoof and shuffled out of the group towards the exit. A knot bubbled in Thorax’s barrel at the sight of him, and a pungent scent of mucus, charcoal, and timberwood travelled up his nostrils. He recognised the Changeling, yet he was a stranger. He felt like it, anyway. Otherworldly, almost. Thorax felt like setting eyes on him gave some sort of deja-vu effect, while meeting someone completely new.

“You can go,” he heard Pharynx say on his behalf. He was too enveloped by the stranger to detect his brother’s tone.

The name Hallux was busy lingering on Thorax’s tongue like an unsuccessful, weak poison. He felt forgetful and knowledgeable all at once. A sickly feeling burnt in his throat, like he had just downed a full glass of bitter white wine. Whatever he was feeling, it felt horrible! He never wanted to feel this ever again. But, it only got worse as his eyes met with the other Changeling’s.

A lilac sheen glossed over the dark blue, and Thorax found his breath trapping in his throat. It felt all but a daydream, what happened next. It was a sensation Thorax had never felt before. Time seemed to stop, almost, as the two competed in a silent staring contest - no, a war of plea - as ‘Hallux’ was leaving.

In a fleeting couple of seconds, Thorax’s vision pulsated, and he was brought to a void where Pharynx, his own brother, was exiting the meeting room. Unlike with Hallux, Thorax knew that something was off immediately: the deja-vu was there, but the sureness of a stranger was much stronger, because Pharynx seemed worried. Nervous, even.

Never had Thorax seen Pharynx’s compound lilac eyes flicker that way, that strongly. He had never seen his brother’s dark steel chitin look so whole and untouched by cracks and scars. He had never even seen his scraggly purple wings droop so low in nerve-wracked caution.

A muffled, gravelly call echoed in Thorax’s ears.

The moment was over, and the second Hallynx disappeared out of the door, Thorax found himself back in the brightly coloured meeting room. He blinked in confusion. The feeling was gone, and he felt fine. Physically, at least.

“-rax! Thorax!” Pharynx barked, and Thorax found himself being twisted around, his rosy-purple eyes meeting his brother’s lilac ones. A shiver ran down his carapace. Thorax determined that Pharynx looked rather worried, and thus he shivered again.

“Yes, Pharynx?” Thorax clad himself in a nervous smile.

Yes, Pharynx,” Pharynx mocked, “no, Pharynx!” He hissed. “What happened?”

“I- you-” Thorax was happy to know that he was breathing again, but another shiver ran down his back. He was feeling cold and staticy. Perhaps he had accidentally gorged himself on too much love? That couldn’t have been it, he’d be hot and sluggish if that was the case. But, it felt as though residue magic was swimming through his bloodstream like there was no tomorrow.

An electric zap swirled in Thorax’s ears. He shook the sensation off by shaking his head.

“Should we go after him?” Pharynx whispered. Thorax shook his head much more carefully this time for his response.

“You saw that?” All Thorax could really do was rasp.

“I smelt it,” Pharynx corrected with a grimace. “If that infiltrator thinks it can come after us, it has another thing coming!”

Thorax, stammering, looked back at the other eleven Changelings and presented a nervous laugh and smile combo. “We’re really sorry about this.” He turned back to his brother swiftly: “You gather a couple of the guards and see if you can find them, or at the very least the Changeling they were impersonating. I’ll stay here.”

“Affirmative,” Pharynx said, and at that departed.

Thorax, having just watched his brother leave, cleared his throat. The panicked chittering in the air subsided. A silence set over the room of a dozen Changelings as he scraped together a couple of sentences to say to the twelve before him.

As Thorax opened his mouth to speak, a yellow shorthorn put one of their hooves up. “I’d actually like to return to my current job.” Philtrum licked their lips, and put on a smile. “I’ve actually preferred gardening to Hive politics.” They frowned, and their orange eyes softened with a thin grief. “Sorry, your majesty.”

Thorax smiled right back at them. “No worries, Philtrum. You can leave.”

“With that thing out there?!” Retina, a blue no horn with orange eyes, exclaimed. “We should all hide!”

Thorax could feel his face contort, but he forced it to keep only a little stern. He prayed for his voice to act the same, and not come across as an elaborate pantomime of assertiveness. “Now, is that any way to treat anycreature?” He asked the group, and the chittering revved up again in a baffled manner.

“He can’t be serious!”

“King Thorax-”


“No buts,” Thorax allowed himself just a fleeting second of self-praise. “How would you like it if the entire Hive treated you that way? I’m sure all of us here have experienced it firsthoof from some of the ponies! But, that doesn’t give us the right to do the same!”

A murmur of approval and agreement came to a crescendo, chittering heads bobbed supportively, and the aura of adoration permeated the room. Thorax smiled to himself: really, sometimes this ruling job was rather fulfilling. And nutritious.

Thorax was in that state of deep half-slumber where he could feel himself twisting and coiling around in his sleep, from one pillow to the next, up and down, left and right, etcetera and etcetera and etcetera. He could feel that, and yet he remained asleep, wandering through his empty arable hive.

The New Hive, usually bustling with life and heartwarming noise, was societally desolate. Thorax was left in the misty state of lazily-made unconsciousness. As he took many sheepish steps forward, he could - in an almost meta fashion - feel the heavy press of tiredness on his cheeks, just under his eyes, and the ache in his shoulders from his own tossing and turning.

The only explanation Thorax could conjure in his mind was that he was dreaming. It didn’t stop Thorax from desperately calling out for Pharynx. Despite the fact that it was his own voice that sounded, it felt as though he was listening to another.

Pharynx? Anyone?”

A set of glowing lilac eyes pierced through the thick fog that filled Thorax’s imagination. Out from the haze came a familiar grey-black creature, with holed legs and a grime-coloured neckfin. Its almost serpentine tongue flickered around the lips of its seemingly hungry, grinning maw, deftly skipping past its white walrussy fangs.

“Pharynx? W-Why are you-” Thorax stumbled back from the hungry, slowly approaching unreformed Pharynx, and then more figures emerged, each as identical and salivating and predatory as the next. What seemed like a million unreformed Pharynxes prowled and skulked towards their engaged hunt: Thorax.

Each of their lilac eyes glowed so intimidatingly, the patch of Hive - now completely dark and shrouded in fog - became eerily brilliant with light. Thorax found his legs much too long for his scared, oafish form, and he tripped over his own hind hooves. Fight or flight was activated, and everything in Thorax’s almost-paralysed body absolutely screamed ‘flight!’.

Thorax tried running: he couldn’t. He tried flying: he couldn’t. He tried transforming: he couldn’t. A burning breath was hitched in his throat; panic made his eyes sting and legs wobbly. Thorax bit his lip to stifle a sob, and his vision grew watery. He could feel the corners of his mouth ache and eyes go watery as he whimpered into his pillow.

Hallux emerged from the fog, covered in dregs of red cocoon slime, and the First Pharynx donned a significantly malicious grin on his sharply-fanged muzzle. A Changeling lunged from the right and sank their teeth into the side of Thorax’s neck, just before his shoulder. Thorax couldn’t move; he yelped, though, as the attack had hurt agonisingly. Then, Hallux said darkly, “You let me get captured, Thorax.”

Thorax finally jumped over the enclosing predators - not unlike a startled deer over some forest brush - and ran as fast as his dream-legs could take him while he twisted awkwardly in bed again. He should wake up. Why couldn’t he wake up?

A silhouette rushed by Thorax when he stopped halfway through the thick blanket of fog. He wasn’t out of breath, nor was his chest burning with exertion, for it was a dream that he was trapped in. He kept telling himself to wake up. He couldn’t.

Thorax peered ahead, and spotted the aforementioned silhouette: it was another unreformed Pharynx clone, although its countenance wasn’t ravening, but rather wary and frightened: brows furrowed; downturned lips; twitching nose; looking over its shoulder, it disappeared further into the mist.

Thorax followed, and he could feel his head weasel under one of his pillows. He needed answers. “Wait! Come back!”

The next scene was just as misty: a green coniferous forest with a floor of dead leaves and loud, gossiping twigs and some downed moss-freckled logs, either whole or hollow. With each step Thorax took, dry leaves crunched and brittle sticks snapped; as he looked around, he found himself alone, and no wildlife made noise. Dead silence, apart from the snap-snap-snapping twigs.

The snapping stopped. The mist thickened. The Thorax panicked. “H-Hello?” He asked, choking on the lump growing in his throat. “Pharynx? Ha- er, Hallux?”

Two shadows went by. One on the right: the larger and blurrier of the two, being a creature with two prongs on its head. Thorax dared say that the figure was as tall as Princess Celestia, just a bit larger than himself. The second was on the left: smaller, and filled with imperfectly circular gaps. Thorax could see the lilac glow of its eyes.

As the first greyish silhouette vanished, a sparky sizzle collected in Thorax’s head, from the nape of his neck to the tip of his horn. It was staticy and almost painful, like a prick of a small pin, but Thorax held his head all the same as an aftertaste of lightheadedness swayed him. It went as soon as it came, and thus he went after the second figure.

“Come back!” Thorax heard himself calling as he ran. “Please listen to me! Come back... please?”

The Changeling did not stop. Instead, it seemed as though it picked up its pace, and disappeared into the fog. Thorax stopped, and as if he was out of his own mind, turned right with his head held low and began to wander.

As if by magic, Thorax found himself at the edge of a lake in a sandy clearing at the centre of the forest. The lake water was dark but pristine; the mist foamed over the top of it seemed to clear as Thorax bowed his head to drink. As he lapped at the water, he noticed how his tongue remained dry, and the only wetness he could feel was his slimy saliva squished between his bed and chitinous cheek. His tossing and turning had stopped, but he felt so emotionally and sensually uneased, his nerves made him feel sick.

Something about this was too wrong. Indescribably wrong. Unwakeably wrong.

Thorax watched his grey reflection. It distorted with every lick he gave the water’s surface; it rippled and shifted but Thorax could still make out his own compound eyes and long, round antlers. Everything but the water was still and scarily calm.

Silence. Stillness. Dimness.

A one-eyed, horribly scarred ex-Queen Chrysalis lunged out of the water towards Thorax. She rasped, screeched, and echoed, “Wretched niece!”

Thorax awoke with a start. He gasped loudly, sat up in his canopy bed, and in his lap landed his beaten pillow. Upon finding comfort in his dark room, Thorax sighed in relief. His heart was racing, his shoulders were shaking, and his muzzle was covered in drool. He used his pillow to wipe it away, replaced said pillow back where it belonged, and used Princess Cadance’s breathing technique.

“Your majesty!” Thorax recognised the gruff voice of Trachea - a cyan long horn - as she charged into his chambers. He ignited his horn to cast a blue light through the darkness and then he noticed Chilblain - a yellow short horn - by her side. They both wore their ink-coloured helmets and held their spears in a foreleg each. “We heard you screaming!”

Had he been screaming? They had been guarding his room, Thorax was sure of it, and of course, it had to have been Pharynx’s doing. He wasn’t sure whether he should thank his brother later, or gently chastise him.

Thorax licked his dry lips, and checked the side of his neck where the Changeling had attacked. No blood, no wound, no pain. “I’m fine, thank you,” he said, “just a bad dream.” He closed his eyes for a moment, saw the old, lunging ex-Queen Chrysalis in his mind, and then went rigid as he opened his eyes with a sigh.

“Is there anything we can get for you, your highness?” Came the nasal voice of Chilblain.

The words ‘No, thank you’ danced on Thorax’s tongue and shaped his lips, but after he pondered over Hallynx, and the swarm of unreformed Changelings in his dream, he took a moment to make up his mind: “Get Pharynx. I need Pharynx.”

“Of course, your majesty!” Trachea said, and the two saluted, turned, and began their departure.

“Oh,” they turned back to him, “please. And thank you.” They nodded, and Thorax sighed again once he was left alone.

Using his hooves, he opened one of his bedside drawers and took out the few pages of Mirage’s diary. Perhaps they could explain his bad dream. If it wasn’t ‘just a bad dream’, that was. It couldn’t have been. It was too... exact. Was that the right word to use? Because, too exact was what his dream was, as well as too scary.

Thorax filed through Mirage’s pages by the dim blue glow of his antlers and horn. Everything was written in symbols and squiggles and some of the words - if they could have even been called that - seemed to be cut off from where they had been ripped out of their home in the diary’s cover. Thorax shook his head; was now the time to give up hope?

If it was, and the Hive was forced into endangerment as generation after generation, then it would be all his fault. He and Pharynx would be stuck, sitting back and watching as what they had built up completely diminished before their very eyes. Thorax’s eyes stung at the mere thought: Ocellus gone; the Hive abandoned; their own lives lonesome.

Lonesome... What if he and Pharynx unreformed? Then everything that he had stood up for would have been a waste, and he would be infamous, and everycreature - especially Pharynx - would hate him and-

Thorax inhaled sharply, held his breath, and then drew it out of his chest with an elongated hoof.

“That’s really getting old, you know, right?” Pharynx entered Thorax’s chambers with a lantern lit with golden light and a cardboard box in his pulsating purple aura.

“It doesn’t exactly go away, Pharynx,” Thorax spoke back, and Pharynx hopped onto his bed just in front of him. He put the lantern on the bedside cabinet, and placed the box between them. “What’s this?”

“After that Princess of yours sent some of Mirage’s pages, I recognised the smell of them,” Pharynx said, and with his hooves he pulled out a narrow, rectangular notebook from the box. Its cover was brownish-black, charred, and well-worn, and its browned pages were uneven and loose with a thin, tattered old ribbon clamped somewhere between. “Think this is the rest of it.”

Thorax peered inside the box. Accompanying the notebook was a dirty spine of a feather or quill of some kind; a large, moth eaten brown sheet of fabric - Thorax pulled it out, and realised that it was a really old scarf -; some rocks that the Old Hive was made out of; and lastly, a little black crown with blue beads at the end of the three points.

Thorax’s stomach sank when he saw the crown, for it was identical to the one attached to ex-Queen Chrysalis’ head, with the exception being its slightly bigger width. At last, Thorax looked at Pharynx again: “Pharynx, what is this?”

“Things I collected from Chrysalis’ room when everyling reformed,” he admitted; “well, what was left of Chrysalis’ room.” Clearly this was difficult for Pharynx, by the was he averted his gaze and spoke quietly. Thorax neither encouraged nor discouraged him. “I was gonna show you it tomorrow, but what’s a better time than the present, huh?”

“Pharynx,” Thorax said in a warm, sweet voice, “why didn’t you tell me about this?”

“Oh, great,” he sneered, “am I in trouble, now?”


Pharynx sighed. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. No need to be like that.” He sighed again. “I jus’ thought - y’know, at the time ’nd all - that you’d, I don’t know, be upset and tell me to get rid of it.”

Thorax put a hoof on his brother’s shoulder. “I would never do that.”

The reaction of shrugging the gesture off was delayed, but eventually it did happen. “I haven’t looked in the book, if that’s what you’re thinking. I never felt the need to.”

“Well, now we have a need to,” Thorax said. Perhaps there was an understandable answer awaiting discovery. There was, on the very first page. Thorax took a moment to process what he had read: he laughed in hindsight, and almost wryly if he had the nature to do so, “Pharynx, we are so dumb.”

“Speak for yourself.” Pharynx grumbled, but tried peering past Thorax’s gamboge antlers. “What’s it say?”

“It’s the code to the cipher that the entries are written in.”

“You’re joking.”

“Most of the symbols are letters, and the squiggles are full words.” Thorax frowned. “At least, that’s what it says.”

“Well? What are you waiting for?” Pharynx used his magic to take out a piece of parchment, a quill, and a bottle of ink. “Let’s translate it.”

Thorax noticed that Pharynx was prepared to write himself, and the first thing that came to mind was how it was usually a bad idea to write in bed. Shining Armor and Sunburst had very much told him so. The second thing was how Pharynx had always shown impatience when it came to quills, and demonstrated a heavy hoof when it came to using one. Usually, Pharynx’s quills would snap on impact with the paper, and then Pharynx’s impatience and wrath would inflate drastically as he tore the piece of paper to shreds.

Surely that was what was expected after being taught how to write as an angry adult, and not as an angry - but much smaller and manageable - foal. And, while Thorax hoped and believed that his brother had gotten better, he wasn’t quite ready to let that happen with his own pieces of parchment and quills, especially seeing as they were a gift from Princess Twilight herself.

Thorax traded Mirage’s diary for the writing triad quickly. “Okay,” he said brightly, as if nothing had been traded, “what’s first?”

Pharynx grumbled, taking on his usual role of dry pessimism against Thorax’s bright optimism. He flicked from the first page to the first entry multiple times. “T -” Thorax wrote it down, and Pharynx flicked between the pages again upon rubbing his hoof against the covers - “O, D - uh - A, Y... today!”

“You’re doing good,” Thorax encouraged, as it was second nature by now, and clapped his hooves together.

Pharynx gave a look of daggers, and Thorax bit his lip. There was a moment’s silence, one half comfortable and half awkward, pained, and eventually Pharynx spoke: “So, bad dream, huh?”

“That’s why I wanted you here,” Thorax said.

“I figured.” He was waiting.

Thorax took a deep breath. He wasn’t going to leave a detail out, no matter how difficult it would be to translate into an accurate description. He wasn’t going to leave a detail out. Perhaps a question would help ease the confusion. “Have you... ever had a dream where you can feel yourself sleeping?”

Pharynx seemed to take a moment to think. He stared at Thorax quite blankly for some time before settling on an answer. “Can’t say I have. Why? Is that what happened? You got freaked out, an’ you woke up?”

“No,” Thorax’s nose crinkled. “Well, yes. Sort of. Oh, Pharynx! It was so strange!”

Pharynx paused, “I’m assuming there’s more, then.”

“I was outside,” Thorax said, “and I was myself, but it wasn’t the Hive. Nopony was there, and it was really foggy.”

Ooh,” Pharynx’s lilac eyes rolled around in their sockets. Thorax winced.

Please, Pharynx,” he said gently, “this is- I think it’s serious.”

“Well, I’m here now. No more bad dreams are gonna get you, Thorax. I promise.” Through the dreary lighting arrangements, it was hard to say if Pharynx had cracked a small, tactful smile.

“It’s not that it was a bad dream, Pharynx,” Thorax sighed, thinking slowly, “it’s what was in the dream that I’m worried about.”

Pharynx’s upper lip curled in a grimace of disbelief. “...The fog?”

“The Changelings.” Thorax whispered, remembering that the two guards, Trachea and Chilblain, were outside his chambers, potentially listening.

“But, I thought you said there was no one-”

It wasn’t really in Thorax’s nature to cut across when someone was talking, and both he and Pharynx were well aware of this - as was everyone else that knew Thorax - but now Thorax couldn’t help it. He needed to get his point across. “Until there were, Pharynx!”

Pharynx rolled his eyes, but kept quiet.

“They weren’t from this Hive,” Thorax averted his gaze to Mirage’s diary at Pharynx’s dark hooves.

His brother seemed almost intrigued, now. “This Hive?”

“You know that infiltrator from the advisor meeting this morning?” Pharynx simply nodded. “And how Queen Chrysalis always knew when one of us tried deceiving her?” Another nod. “Well, I think that when I zoned out, I...” Thorax took a deep breath, “saw past his disguise. He, well- he-”

“Out with it, Thorax. If this is a skill you have, then-”

“He looked like you, Pharynx.” Another interruption, followed by another silence. However, this time it was much thicker and nerve-wracking. Thorax swallowed a mouthful of slime.

Interesting,” was all the indication of a response that Pharynx gave. Thorax knew he was puzzled, and upset. “Like I am now?”

“Unreformed,” Thorax mumbled, now rather abashedly. Still, he continued: “There was a whole swarm of them. Surrounding me. And then, Hallux - the Changeling that was impersonated - came out, covered in red mucus and leftover cocoon, and said it was all my fault that he was captured, and then I couldn’t-”

“Red cocoon,” Pharynx seemed submerged in shock and thought as the information warily sunk in. “I’m such an idiot.” He whispered under his breath, and Thorax barely caught it.

“No, Pharynx, you’re not,” Thorax didn’t believe he was helping much. “That would make me an idiot, too.”

“No, Thorax,” his voice was raspier than usual, “it doesn’t.” He flicked to-and-fro between the first two pages of Mirage’s old diary again.

“I know you’re upset, but-”

“Not upset, Thorax, just tired.”

Thorax sighed. “Let me finish what I have to say, then.” Pharynx waited, but Thorax could tell he had grown a little impatient. Perhaps he should try to egg him into a session at one of the feelings forums. “I followed the infiltrator into the woods. They weren’t our woods, though. It was still really foggy, and I lost them. I came across a lake, and started to drink from it. Then, this old version of Queen Chrysalis jumped out of the water at me, and I woke up.”

Old? What do you mean old?”

Well,” Thorax thought for a moment until his temples felt as though they were being pressed into his skull, and his horn’s light went out from magical strain, “by now, everything had gone pretty grey. Not black and white, but really... not bright and colourful. Like all the saturation had been sucked out.” Silence; Pharynx was waiting. “Her hair was pretty pale, and one of her eyes had been scratched out. She was pretty messed up. I think she was missing a few teeth. And she said something like, uh, ‘wretched niece’.”

“We’ll talk more tomorrow,” Pharynx said, landing on all four hooves beside Thorax’s bed and using his purple magic to put everything back in the cardboard box. He lifted his lantern with magic, and balanced the box on his back, against the back of his neck. “I think we just both need time to think.”

Thorax agreed, “Okay.” A brief memory sparked in his mind. “Princess Cadance used to say that Princess Celestia used to have visions in her sleep.”

“You’d better write a letter then.”

Thorax knew he would. “Okay,” he said, and laid his head down on his pillow, “goodnight, Pharynx.”

There came no response, and then all of the light in the chamber was gone.

Comments ( 4 )

This is a really intriguing story! The dark and heavy thoughts that constantly weighs on both Thorax and Pharynx, probably, minds are interesting in of itself. The story really feels organic, especially the unexpected potential danager that was triggered during the meeting.

I can't wait to see where you go from here, Wordsmith!

Apologies for not commenting sooner, but I really wanna know who the niece is—

Do you want spoilers?

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