• Published 1st Jan 2022
  • 1,162 Views, 257 Comments

The Light Within Us - theOwtcast

Be careful what you wish for; you might get exponentially more. Someone really should have warned Thorax what he was getting himself into by wanting friendship so badly.

  • ...


I wasn’t left alone for long after returning to the throne room. Not that I’d intended to be alone; I’d approached Psycho right after the speech and asked him to give me an update on how the drones were doing, and he’d done so while we flew back to the top of the hive. Urtica had followed at first, chuckling excitedly at the piece of parchment in her hooves that I’d seen her scribble things on during my speech, but she’d left us close to the top. Psycho’s monologue got interrupted only a couple of minutes upon our landing next to the throne shards, when a dozen of black drones flew up and positioned themselves in a loose formation around us, their piercing glares fixed on me, evoking more memories of another life that I’d rather forget.

“Can I help you?” I asked, hoping to break some of the tension and switch my mindset out of feeling inferior.

“We wanna talk to you,” one of them said.

“Sure! I’m listening.”

“You said a few minutes ago that you didn’t see the need to maintain the changeling army.”

“Yes.” Uh-oh. It’s happening already, isn’t it? I snuck a glance at Psycho; he was still here, keeping a close eye on the group. He must have sensed trouble before I had!

“And if we understood you correctly, that effectively meant that you were disbanding the army right then and there. You weren’t just asking for our opinion, were you?”

“Uh, that’s right.”

“And yet, you asked for our opinion on whether we’d like to paint or sing or whatever you had in your namby-pamby ponylike mind that we should start doing.”

“And what’s wrong with painting or singing? I’m sure if you just tried it-”

He gagged. “And what, become a pathetic pony? We’re changelings, for Hive’s sake! We don’t stoop down to the level of our prey!”

“They’re not our prey anymore-”

“They should be! The day we stoop down to their level and be ‘friends’ is the day we stop being changelings, and it disgusts me to see how many of those… ugh, grubs… down there did that without a second thought!”

“Why do you think you’re ‘stooping down to their level’ by accepting friendship?”

“What else would you call it?”

“It’s a wonderful feeling! If only you’d try-”

“Not a chance in Tartarus! I can’t believe I’m still bothering to talk to you! C’mon guys,” he said, turning to the rest of the group, “let’s go find Chrysalis and join her! Or better yet, help her come back and rip this clown apart! I can’t believe we thought coming here would accomplish anything…”

“Good luck finding her,” Psycho barked at them as they took to the air.

The one who had spoken to me landed in front of Psycho while the rest remained hovering in place.

“What’s wrong, oh loyalest of servants?” he spat out. “Afraid we might succeed?”

“Not at all, in fact, I’ve got teams looking for her right now. You know first-hoof how hard it is to find a changeling who doesn’t want to be found, don’t you? I’ll take any help I can get in bringing Chrysalis to justice, even if I have to resort to relying on the likes of you!”

“Hm. You wouldn’t have talked like that yesterday, would you, Mister First Not-commander?”

“I learned my lesson this morning, not that it’s any of your business what I would or wouldn’t say, Cockroach.”

“And a fine lesson it is,” Cockroach snorted. “Too bad… I was kind of hoping this cringeworthy blue carapace of yours was a disguise intended to throw our beloved king here off guard, but guess I was wrong! See you at the sharp end of my fangs, morons!”

“Do as you wish,” Psycho retorted as Cockroach was rejoining his peers in the air, “but I’m warning you not to stray too far from the hive or attempt any funny business or you’ll face consequences! Right, Thorax?”


“There you go.”

“Heh, we’ll see.” With that, Cockroach and his squad flew away.

“Why’d you have to imply that they’d get punished?” I asked Psycho when the last black drone was out of sight. “You know I’d rather resolve this without punishing anyone! I haven’t even decided what to do with Chrysalis if we find her!”

“Thorax, unless you somehow figure out a way to get them to transform, I’m going to keep assuming threats and punishment are the only language they understand, even if the ‘punishment’ part has lost most if not all of its intimidation effect with you at the throne. No offense.”

“None taken, but I really don’t want to be seen as a wrathful tyrant! Was that really necessary?”

“Yes, and Pharynx will tell you the same thing when he gets here. I know I never gave you a reason to trust me, but you trust him, don’t you?”

My heart skipped a beat at the mention of my brother’s name.

“Yeah, now that you mention it, when is he coming back?”

“No idea. Last time I checked, he hadn’t yet reported to Elytra. Mind if I go check on the cocoon-releasing teams? I’ll swing by the communication hub while I’m at it. Oh, and looks like you’re wanted again.”

I turned around and saw a few colorful drones hovering at a respectful distance.

“Okay, do what you need. I think I can handle things here now.”

When he left, I invited the newly-arrived drones to come closer. They did, but instead of speaking up, they simply eyed one another hesitantly, as if they hadn’t decided which one of them should speak up.

“Fine, I’ll go,” one of them muttered just as I was starting to think they might need some encouragement. She stepped forward and bowed, and the others hurriedly bowed in turn. “Your Highness-”

“Please,” I interrupted her, trying not to show my annoyance over this kind of behavior, to somewhat questionable success. Why hadn’t I told them in the speech that they could drop the bowing and all that? It was starting to look like I was going to have to repeat that every time someling came to me! “Just call me Thorax, and there’s no need to bow! Now, you wanted to see me?”

“Yes, um… about your speech… We discussed your suggestions and we might have a few ideas, if you’ll approve of them.”


“Well, word spreads quickly about things that affect the whole hive, and what you did today was impossible to miss,” she shrugged. “Knowing who took the throne, some of us started to wonder if we’d be getting this kind of change. So, yeah… we kind of already got to the point of figuring out what we’d like to try a hoof at if permitted by the time you told us we could.”

“So let’s hear it!”

But the only sounds coming from them were silence and tense shuffling, even after the spokesling of this group tilted her head at me to signal the rest to come forward. I groaned inwardly. Why was everyling so hesitant and stuck-up all of a sudden? They’d never acted like that around me before! Then it hit me: they’d never acted like that around me before, but they must have around Chrysalis! Gee, and I’d thought I’d had it bad…

Instead of waiting for one of them to step forward, I approached the whole group and sat down in an attempt to look less imposing. Less threatening? I didn’t see myself as threatening at all, but with this new body, I might have to rethink my criteria.

“Will this make it easier for you?” I asked with a hint of a smile that I hoped was encouraging enough.

“Um… maybe…” one of them finally said. “If I may… I was wondering if you’d be willing to let me plant a garden somewhere?”

Finally! I grinned, and some of the tension in her posture melted away.

“You see,” she continued, “I posed as a gardener in Baltimare a few years ago, and I didn’t care much for growing plants at first, but I realized over time that the job was really relaxing… maybe a little more than I should have allowed myself at the time… Anyway, I kind of miss doing that, so if you would be so kind to grant me a patch of land anywhere, no matter how small…”

“I think there’s a huge wasteland around us that could use a bit of livening up. Think you can do something about it?”

Her face burst into a grin. “Really? I mean, thank you! Thank you thank you thank you! Um, is it okay if Thorn joins me?” She pointed at one of the other drones.

“Antenna…” he protested under his breath.

“Anyone who wants may join you,” I said. “Just between us, don’t be surprised if I drop by every once in a while too!”

You’re interested in gardening?!” Thorn asked.

I shrugged. “I’m far from an expert, but I did grow some flowers in the Crystal Empire-”

“What kind?”


“Oh. Uh, we’ll make sure to include some of those, okay Antenna?”

“Uh-huh! C’mon, let’s get to it!”

When they left, another drone raised a hoof.


“Will you permit scientific experiments in the hive? Aside from anything you request to be analyzed or invented, that is.”

“Why not? Were you planning to start a fire?”

“No, of course not! I just- I just thought, if ponies can do it as they please, maybe we can too? But if you think it’s too dangerous-”

“Relax- um, I didn’t get your name…”


“Relax, Sleuth, I was just attempting a joke. Yes, you may conduct experiments, but try not to get ahead of yourself and blow something up. It’s okay to start small if you haven’t done that kind of thing before, and I don’t think we’re in a hurry to come up with any new inventions.”

“Wow.” There was something peculiar about the way he’d said it. I tilted my head.

“Oh, don’t mind me,” he said. “Just amazed by how different your attitude is to Chrysalis’ when those drones found that weird ointment. Nevermind… I should probably get going… and thanks.”

“Sure, you’re welcome…” Ointment? Could it be the one I thought it was? I decided to find him or Psycho later and ask about it.

I watched him as he trotted off, then turned my attention back to the two drones still in front of me. The one who had spoken first nodded to the one who had so far been silent.

“I don’t have an idea of my own,” she said, “ but I like your idea for an arts-and-crafts group. Do you have any definite plans for it yet?”

“Well, I’d like it to include a wide variety of creative activities, and I’d leave it to the participants to decide what they want to do and how they want to do it, and it’d probably be a good thing if they had someling they could ask for help, but aside from that, I didn’t have the time yet to go into more detailed planning. Why?”

“I’d like to lead that group, or supervise, or however you prefer to call it.”

“I think we can work something out, but I can’t promise you’ll be the only one interested in the position.”

“That’s okay! It might actually be a good thing to have more of us, so we can work in shifts and always have one of us available!”

“Good idea! Though I’m not sure if we have any tools of the trade to actually start the group yet…”

“I’ll see what I can find,” she said and flew off, leaving me alone with the drone that had first dared to approach me.
“So…” she said, smirking. “Pretty big step up from being a janitor, huh Thorax?”

“I guess so…” I eyed her curiously. She was unusually comfortable around me compared to the other reformed drones; how had she gotten there so quickly?

“Don’t you recognize me?”

I blinked at her.

“Sorry, no… but your voice is vaguely familiar, though I can’t place it…”

“I’m Proboscis.”

Oh. I slapped myself. “Of course! I… uh… you weren’t brown the last time I saw you…”

“Relax, I’m not your supervisor anymore! I shouldn’t be surprised that you didn’t know who I am. Like you said, I wasn’t brown before, and this is probably the first time I’m not yelling and hissing at you.”

I chuckled nervously.

“Wow, I must have treated you worse than I realize if you’re still this tense around me!”

“You were doing your job, and I was…” I sighed. “I was constantly distracted by wanting something better than what I had.”

“And you found it.”

Indeed, I had. But those happy days had been in the Crystal Empire, which wasn’t my home anymore. I was here now, introducing my greatest wish into reality though I’d never expected to live to see it happen! This should have been the happiest day of my life, so why weren’t my spirits on top of the world? Was it simply the initial reaction to the big change in my life? Probably, but what if it wasn’t? What if I never found the same happiness I’d briefly had on the other end of the world?


Her prodding snapped me back into here and today.

“You alright?” she asked. “You zoned out for a minute there.”

“Yeah, I’m fine… just thinking about things…”

“Well, at least that didn’t change!”

We both chuckled.

“So, how can I help you?”

“I do have some practical things to discuss, but first, I want to apologize.”

“Oh, you don’t have to-”

“Yes I do! And I want to apologize! You’re not nearly the first one who was ever assigned janitor duty as punishment, and dare I say, you might not have even been the most useless worker, but I still hated you because of those crazy fantasies you had. Remember how I used to say that, if I had a nearly-drained cocoon for every time I heard you whine about friendship, I’d never go hungry? Well, you were right all along, and the only cocoon I needed to stop being hungry was my own when I realized how wrong I’d been… how wrong we’d all been. Chrysalis only wanted us to survive long enough to die in her name, and you taught us to live! So yeah… I’m sorry I didn’t listen…”

“It’s okay… I know how hard it was. I never blamed you…”

She glared at me for a few moments, clearly not convinced.

“...okay, maybe I was frustrated by the whole system and by getting yelled at and beaten up all the time, but you weren’t the only one doing it, in fact, you weren’t nearly the worst one! And anway, those days are over and I’m trying to leave the pain behind me, and by the looks of it, so are you, so no worries!”

She shrugged. “If you say so…”

Another group of drones buzzed in, then came to a halt when they saw I was busy.

“Oh…” one of them said. “We saw Mystique leave the throne room and thought… We can come back later…”

“No worries, Hornet,” Proboscis said. “I can wait that long.”

“King Thorax,” Hornet said, landing in front of me and giving a slight bow, “we wanted to thank you for deposing Chrysalis and disbanding the army in favor of other activities.”

That caught me off guard even though all of these drones were colorful and, presumably, had accepted the new ways.

“Uh, you’re welcome, but isn’t it obvious that you-”

“We’ve transformed, yes, but you probably don’t know the background of why it was so easy for so many of us to make that decision all at once.”

I raised an eyebrow. Okay, she did have a point; I hadn’t expected things to go this well, and when they had, I must have… well, I must have assumed it had been the ecstasy of the moment of witnessing how much love I’d unleashed. But if there was more to it than that…

“I’m listening,” I said.

“The hive hasn’t been the same after you left. Chrysalis was constantly furious and demanding all kinds of impossible things, and that was just the beginning. If you thought she was nasty before, well, you haven’t seen nothing- okay, maybe you did, but the rest of us… We never realized how much rage she’d been letting out by torturing you, and suddenly you were gone and all of that shifted onto us.”

I cringed at the revelation. A gasp escaped my lips, and I was about to apologize for involuntarily bringing it on them, but Hornet wasn’t done talking.

“I admit, some of it might have been directed at your escape and the hunters’ ongoing failure to find you, which she couldn’t for the time being unleash on those directly responsible, but suddenly every smallest mistake was grounds for the kind of punishment you were routinely getting.” She shuddered. “I thought you were screaming so much because you were a hopeless wimp who couldn’t take a simple blast of magic… If I’d known-” Her voice cracked and tears welled up in her eyes. “If I’d known what you were going through every time, I would have been the first to stand against it… And I wasn’t the only one. None of us ever said anything for fear of being overheard, but we knew. We could see it in each others’ eyes that everyling who had had the taste of the ordeal was fed up and seriously considering following you into exile. Then you returned… Seeing how much love you’d gathered through sharing, how incomparably better our lives could be… that was the last straw.”

I stared at her wide-eyed. “I… I don’t know what to say...”

“So there you go. We owe you everything, and we’re sorry for not listening before! We’re still a long way from understanding friendship the way you do, including why it was always so important to you that you’d rather be tortured every day than to give it up, but this time, we’ll listen like we should have listened long ago, and we’ll do our best to learn.”

“Thank you,” I said, tearing up myself. “That’s all I ever wanted!”

“And we won’t disappoint! Now, we’re supposed to be opening cocoons and letting ponies out but we really wanted to say this. Mind if we get back to work?”


Proboscis and I remained sitting in silence for a short while after Hornet and her entourage left. I needed a moment to process what I’d been told, and I suspected she’d decided to let me recover from the confession. Unless she’d been on the receiving end at some point too and needed a moment to push the awakened memories away?

“Sorry,” I said eventually. “You said you wanted to discuss some practical matters?”

“Yes. I was wondering what’s going to happen with the cleaning-and-maintenance department under the new regime.”

“...I haven’t really considered it yet,” I admitted. “I suppose we’ll have to keep it running somehow even if your most permanent janitor has unexpectedly been relegated to a different function altogether…”

“The ‘most permanent janitor’ has been missing for over a year prior to the reassignment to the ‘different function altogether’, in case you missed the memo,” she said dryly. “We managed without you. Do you mind if I remain the supervisor? I’ve been one for so long that I have no idea what else I’d want to do!”

“I’m fine with that if you are. Uh, how are you going to find enough workers now that the army is disbanded and there won’t be any lazy drones coming up for penalty chores?”

“I don’t know. That’s pretty much why I came here.”

“Oh. Well, if we can get the drones to stop seeing janitor duty as a disgrace, which it isn’t in Equestria for example and they have enough janitors to go around, maybe that’ll solve the problem?”

“To an extent, yes, but I still don’t see a whole lot of them crowding my office demanding to be sent to scrub floors if they can sing and dance and paint stuff and whatever else you’re going to introduce to the hive.”

I pondered this for a moment.

“What if everyling pitched in? Say, make a roster for every section of sleeping burrows and rotate all drones sleeping in their respective section, and assign any permanent janitor drones to cover public areas. I was going to do away with security clearances anyway, so you won’t have to keep track of who is allowed where. If you don’t have enough janitors to do the work, borrow workers from the sleeping sections, and modify the rosters in such a way that no drone is getting disproportionately more work than others unless they request it. You can sign me up too from time to time if necessary, but I can’t promise that I won’t be needed elsewhere. Would that help?”

“Absolutely! It should also solve the issue of janitor duty being seen as a disgrace.”

“I’m just not sure what to do with any drones who refuse to cooperate…”

She waved it off. “Don’t worry about it. I may not be a First Commander anymore, but I still know how to kick insubordinate rumps!”

“You were First Commander?!”

“Yes, until the failed invasion of Abyssinia decades ago. Your egg wouldn’t have even been laid then… Long story short, the army I led got defeated spectacularly, and the only reason why Chrysalis decided not to execute me upon return to the hive is because I’d managed to kill the Abyssinian crown prince and his wife. As in, personally killed them. So instead of getting blasted into pieces, I got stripped of rank and relegated to janitor duty for life. Eventually she cooled down somewhat and I was allowed a promotion there too, so here I am.”

“And Succubus succeeded you?”

“Yes, though I wouldn’t have chosen her if it were my decision. She was vain and got too self-confident and careless over the years like I’d predicted would happen. That carelessness must have been the reason she got killed; she’d been so focused on the pack of maulwurfs in front of her that it never occurred to her that one or two might be behind her…”

“...and Pharynx finished the job and claimed her rank,” I mused. “Gee, Proboscis, I can lift your punishment! You don’t have to be a commander to janitors anymore!”

“Nah, I’ve grown to like it over the years! And like I said, I can’t think of anything else I’d want to do!” She got up. “Okay, I think I’ve taken enough of your time, so I’ll go now. I have some rosters to put together, and you’ve got another drone waiting for a word with you.”

I turned around, and sure enough, there was a black drone hovering above the pile of throne fragments. This one was alone, and I happened to know him.

“What do you want, Screech?” I asked, trying not to sound too exasperated.

“Nice speech there,” he said.

“Uh, thanks?”

“But I have a question.”

I waited for him to continue.

“You said we could do anything we wanted.”


“I want to beat ponies up and hunt them for food. Permission granted?”

“Of course not!”

“Why, if that’s what I want to do and you said we could do anything?”

“I said you could do anything as long as it isn’t violent or harmful!”

“Ain’t that a surprise? My favorite training dummy becomes king and says we can’t do bad things because it’s not nice! What are you, afraid I’d keep using you as a training dummy?”


“Hah! You know what? I so would! Come here, maggot, I’ve never had a deer-shaped training dummy and I wanna practice ripping off some antlers!”

I started to back away instinctively and braced for impact as he threw himself at me with bared fangs and a hissing tongue. I thought I was done with when a blue mist suddenly tackled him at the last moment! He hissed and thrashed, but Psycho had already subdued him before I’d had the time to process what had happened.

“Let go of me! Get off!” he sputtered.

“Shut up!”

“You just had to barge in, didn’t you?”

“Are you done making a scene or do I need to break your legs?”

“Watch it, big boy over there might cry if you disobey His Majesty’s nonviolent wishes! Or do you suddenly no longer care for his wittle feewings?”

That earned him a stomp on the head.


“I’m willing to take that chance,” Psycho sneered. “You done now? I can do this all day, just give me an excuse!”

“Guys, please…” I said.

“Oh look, here come the tears-” Another stomp interrupted his mockery. “Ow! Stop it!”

“Will you behave?”

“Ugh, fine! Just get off of me already!”

He did, and Screech got up with a scowl and a poorly-suppressed moan.

“Consider yourself lucky that Thorax is watching or you’d be needing a medic! As it is, you’re on janitor duty for a month, starting in the morning.”

“Uh, Psycho?” I tried again.

“And if I refuse?” Screech countered.

“Then I’ll find you and drag you there by the ears and you’ll be on janitor duty for six months instead of one. Fail to show up again and I’ll make sure Thorax isn’t watching when I come get you!”

“Psycho…” Why was I still bothering?

“My my, are we touchy today!”

“Don’t push your luck! One month starting tomorrow, and get out of my sight while I’m still in a good mood!”

He finally got the message and grumbled himself away.

“Sorry about that,” Psycho said to me. “I know you said ‘no violence’, but this guy was asking for it.”

“Fine,” I sighed, “but try to find a peaceful solution next time, please?”

“I’ll try to think of something. No promises, though. These guys don’t understand nice. Not that I’m much of an expert on nice, either, but at least I’m trying now. Anyway, I just talked to your brother. He’s still in the Crystal Empire but he might make it here by tomorrow evening if he hurries up and catches the last train out.”

I could have hugged Psycho at that moment; this was one of the best news today! Pharynx was alive and well after all! I hadn’t realized how worried I’d been about him until now; Chrysalis’ attitude about him must have affected me to the core! Part of me had feared I’d find Pharynx to be badly injured or even dead, but he was fine and on his way home, and chances were I’d see him again tomorrow! Oh, I couldn’t wait to hug him; I missed him beyond words!

“Thank you so much, Psycho! How has he been since I saw him last? Tell me everything!”

He sighed. “That… could take a while. Why don’t we have a seat?”

We did, and he began his tale of Pharynx’s mission to find me. He talked about what Pharynx had been telling Chrysalis and what Chrysalis had suspected him to really be up to. He talked about her concerns that her most trusted soldier had gone corrupt and about all the side-paths she’d taken to uncover the truth, about all the two-faced games she’d had his teammates play, all the rope she’d been giving him to hang himself with. He talked about the lack of evidence to support the theory I was still alive, about the switch of focus to an entirely different mission, and about a sudden revelation that I’d been around all along and the reawakened suspicions of my brother’s part in all of it. He talked about Chrysalis’ fury and about a convoluted plan to force the truth into the open.

I listened with amazement and growing dread; though Chrysalis had hinted at it during our showdown in the throne room earlier today, I’d had no idea how far Pharynx would have gone to protect the one thing he’d had no excuse to protect, and my heart hurt deeply now that I knew how bad a punishment he’d faced for it! Though I’d never in my wildest dreams imagine anyone defeating - truly defeating - and overthrowing Chrysalis, least of all that I would be the one to pull it off, I was beginning to be glad things had played out that way before it was too late. The weight of the crown and the impending hardships of running a kingdom completely unprepared for the task were a small price to pay if it meant my brother would get to keep his life!

But there were still a lot of things that Psycho’s tale had merely touched on, and I wanted to know everything! When he was done with the gross outline of the events, I began asking for details. My questions came with no regard for logical order or chronology; I simply asked whatever came up in my mind at any given moment. Some of it did come in clusters pertaining to a single event or train of thought, but not nearly enough to keep track of what I’d asked and what I still wanted cleared up, and it took a long while. I hadn’t realized the moon was already high up in the sky until a drone interrupted us, asking Psycho for assistance with something.

Now that I was finally alone, the magnitude of what I’d done and what I was trying to do hit me in the face again, but so did the realization that I was too tired to keep pushing myself to do more, and anyway, most drones would have probably fallen asleep by now. Better to follow their example and take a nap! I could continue what I was doing tomorrow! I wished I’d had the time to reach out to the other lands with a declaration of peace today, but it had gotten lost in the rush of dealing with everything else, so I decided to tackle that first thing in the morning, preferably with Urtica’s help, as I hadn’t the faintest idea what that kind of official correspondence was supposed to look like.

I headed into the hive’s interior and tracked the hallways further down. I’d been wrong about most drones being asleep; many teams were releasing the cocooned creatures and helping them come to their senses as I passed by. Psycho must have taken my orders on the matter seriously! It looked like they were barely halfway finished, and the drones were probably going to be too exhausted to continue pretty soon unless more were due to relieve them, but if it helped our soon-to-be-free-again prisoners, the exhaustion was going to be worth it!

About halfway to my sleeping burrow, I turned a corner and collided with a black drone, causing us both to stumble and nearly fall on our rumps.

“Whoa, sorry!” I said. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, whatever- hey, you’re Thorax, aren’t you?” Unexpectedly, there was no malice in her voice, only the kind of emptiness that was unnervingly familiar from a past life.

“Yes. I don’t think I know you, do I?”

“I doubt it. My name’s Grim and I just returned from Canterlot. Never thought I’d find this…”

I recognized the name from Psycho’s recounting of Pharynx’s adventures.

“No offense, but you’re kind of living up to your name at the moment.”

“None taken.”

“Anything I can do about it?”

“I don’t know,” she sighed. “Apex told me what happened… what you did and… and what you’ve been doing since and… well, I’m still half expecting to wake up in Luna’s bed and in her form, trying to forget the crazy dream I just had… but that’s not going to happen, is it?”

“Believe it or not, I’ve kind of been doing the same thing myself,” I chuckled.

“Heh… so assuming this isn’t a dream, I guess I’m going to have to think of something to do with my life, aren’t I? Except that I can’t think of anything… fighting was my whole life until yesterday, but even if you hadn’t disbanded the army, I don’t think I’d care to remain a soldier. I’m fed up with it… fed up with fighting and serving Chrysalis and with everything…”

“She hurt you, didn’t she?”

She looked away. “Not physically, but…” She sighed again. “Nevermind.”

“Want to talk about it? Or at least tell me if there’s something I can do to make you feel better!”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but why do you care? I just came back from a mission to replace an alicorn princess who turned out to be on friendly terms with you, and before that, I was in one of the teams sent to capture you!”

“I know all that, but I don’t like to hold a grudge, and you’re feeling bad about something and I don’t like it when others are feeling bad.”

She pondered this.

“Fair enough,” she said eventually. “I guess it fits in with what we were told about you. But I still don’t know how you can help me… unless… maybe…”


“I don’t suppose you know if the hatchery needs more guards?”

“The hatchery?” Where had that come from? “I don’t know, but I guess I can find out… Why? Were you thinking of taking care of the eggs?”

“If you’ll let me… or at least let me try? I can’t promise it wouldn’t be too- I mean, I can’t make any promises as to how long I could keep it up.”

“You almost said you couldn’t promise it wouldn’t be too painful, didn’t you?”

“How did you know- ugh, scratch that. You’ve probably been in this state far longer and more often than me and can smell it from a hundred miles away.”

“Uh, maybe?” The unsaid suddenly clicked. “Oh dear, you lost your eggs, didn’t you? I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to-”

“No, it’s not that, at least not in the sense you mean it.”

“...I don’t follow.”

“I’ve wanted eggs all my life, and I worked tirelessly to earn the privilege to lay them, but got sent to find you before I could exercise that privilege, and… well, I made a big mess of something in the course of the mission - I mean, a really big colossal mess - and Chrysalis revoked that privilege for life… so, yeah.”

So that was what this was about! I slapped myself and burst into laughter.


I composed myself quickly under her confused stare.

“Sorry, uh… You actually have nothing to worry about. I always hated the egg-laying-privilege thing and want to put an end to it, and I would have said so in the speech I held today, but I was kind of overwhelmed with everything that happened, and Psycho gathered up everyling for the speech before I was ready, and I had to improvise, and, well, I forgot. I probably forgot to say a bunch of other things I wanted to, now that I think about it… Anyway, everyling is now free to have as many eggs as they want, whenever they want, with whoever they want!”

Grim’s face brightened drastically at my words. “Really?! I’m not dreaming, am I?”

“You’re not dreaming! Go ahead, find yourself a mate and lay those eggs you’ve been waiting for! I’m sure you’ll be a great mother!”

“Hold on, I get to raise them, too?!”

“Of course!”

She was crying with joy and relief now. My eyes welled up with happy tears too. I’d never seen a drone so happy!

“Oh, thank you so much!” she exclaimed, wrapping me in a hug. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

“No problem!”

While she held me, I thought I saw pink ripples swirling around in the corner of my eye. Then she released me and I realized I’d been right; Grim was radiating tendrils of love that grew in strength rapidly until they enveloped her whole and formed a magical cocoon around her. The cocoon burst open shortly thereafter, releasing a new Grim, now blessed with hues of green and orange glistening on her chitin.

“Wow…” she muttered, looking herself over. “That felt… weird… but a good kind of weird… Uh, I don’t suppose you’d mind me tending to the hatchery until I have my own eggs to look after?”

“Not at all! Enjoy your new life!”

She bowed lightly and trotted off somewhere, trailing a bright, warm aura of love behind her. I allowed myself a moment to bask in it, then resumed my way to my sleeping burrow.

But when I got there, I found it filled with crates and bags and all kinds of stuff. Confused, I looked around again. Was I in the right place? It looked more or less the same as I remembered it, and I didn’t think I’d made a wrong turn somewhere, but how could I be sure? I hadn’t been here in over a year, after all!

A drone poked a sleepy head out of a nearby burrow.

“Thorax?” he mumbled. “What are you doing here?”

“Is that you, Cornicle? I think I’m lost. This is supposed to be my burrow, right?”

“It was. It got repurposed after you left. You were going to get executed and Chrysalis figured Pharynx would finally claim the First Commander’s quarters afterwards unless it turned out he needed to get executed too, so there was no need to keep it waiting for you guys.”

“Oh. Uh, where am I supposed to sleep now?”

“I dunno. Chrysalis’ personal quarters, maybe?”

I cringed at the idea.

“Eh, you’ll think of something,” he shrugged and returned to his burrow.

Okay, that was awkward. Why hadn’t it occurred to me that the burrow would have been reassigned or repurposed? It wouldn’t have been the first time such a thing had happened! I must have been more tired than I realized!

But that still didn’t solve the problem of where to sleep. I checked the burrow again; sure enough, it was filled to the brim, and I wasn’t in the mood for sleeping in a tiny disguise. Curling up on the hallway floor didn’t seem a whole lot better, and I really, really didn’t want anything to do with Chrysalis’ personal quarters, even if I had an idea where to look for them!

Oh well, the night was warm enough, and there had to be an opening to the outside nearby. I found it and flew up, back to the throne room, and curled up to sleep next to the fragments of the shattered throne. Not the most comfortable setup I’d ever had, but at least Psycho shouldn’t have too much trouble finding me if he needed to before morning.