• Published 1st Jan 2022
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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.

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King of All Changelings

Office of King Thorax, HRH
Badlands Hive
Changeling Kingdom
To: (foreign leaders)
Re: Coronation

Dear friends and allies, dear all,

You are cordially invited to the coronation ceremony of Thorax, the recently-appointed leader of the changelings and the torch-bearer of love and benevolence of his kind. The ceremony is to be held on Friday, December 4th, starting at 11.00 hours, in the Throne Room of the changeling hive. A royal banquet shall follow the ceremony, and guests shall be given opportunities to tour the new hive and to socialize with its populace as and when desired.

We will do our best to provide appropriate accommodations to the guests arriving from afar in advance to this momentous occasion and to meet everyone’s needs for the entire duration of their visit. Rest assured that we have abandoned our hostile practices and that no guests will come to harm by honoring this invitation.

With kindest regards,

Banshee, head of the Coronation Organization Committee

Urtica, head archivist of the Changeling Hive

I set down the final draft for the invitations, having read it for the thousandth time, and sighed heavily. The coronation itself was tomorrow and everything was ready: the invitations had been sent and RSVP’d, the decorations finished, the chefs had already begun preparing the food in the kitchen the hive had hastily fashioned for this purpose, the musical numbers were allegedly selected and practiced to perfection but kept a closely guarded secret even from me, Rarity had completed the final of countless designs for my outfit, and Grim had just returned from Canterlot with the crown crafted by one of the best jewellers in the known world.

Everything was ready to go… except for me.

I glanced at the invitation draft again, fighting hard to resist the urge to start reading it for another thousand times as if it would help any! Overthrowing Chrysalis had been a shock to us all, but everyling except me seemed to have recovered from it pretty quickly, even the renegades, even if they disapproved of the big change. I’d thought I’d recovered and gotten used to the idea of being in charge, but I’d been wrong: as soon as Pharynx had set in motion the process of organizing my coronation, the confidence I’d built in the meantime crashed and died, and my old fears and worries awoke again wailing and roaring and destroying everything in their path. He could have at least informed me he was going to do it! Then again, I would have tried to stop him, to talk him out of it; even though I was aware on a rational level that this was the logical next step in my being a leader, on an emotional level, I was painfully not ready for it! Why did it have to be so soon? Why couldn’t he have given me more time? Why did we have to go through it at all?

To solidify your role as the leader, he’d said. To have you officially recognized as the king and to make it that much harder for Chrysalis to try to lay claim of the throne again.

Of course, that made sense on a conscious level. I could feel in everyling’s auras that I’d done something fundamentally good for the hive and I didn’t feel like I was unduly bragging about it whenever the matter got mentioned. But I knew just as well that being a good leader required more than good intentions, and I wasn’t sure that I had whatever the ‘more’ included. Sure, I’d managed things so far… somehow… but was that going to be enough in the future?

At least we could have kept it smaller, more down-to-earth… just us changelings and a few friends hanging out, no great ceremonies polished and rehearsed to perfection, no uptight, high-society manners that made it near-impossible to avoid embarrassing oneself, no fancy decorations that would only be good for one day and useless afterwards, no spectacular speeches…

Gosh, the speech… I was expected to address my subjects and guests with a speech at the end of the ceremony, and I didn’t know what was stringing up my nerves more: that it was expected to be perfect, given the occasion, or that I still had no idea what to say! I must have begun a hundred drafts but all of them flopped within the first few sentences! A few drones had tried to help and ended up with something that tried to sound friendly and optimistic but with an overall tone too similar to battle rallies to be usable for a coronation speech; I couldn’t blame them, as this was what they’d been taught to do for most of their lives, and it was going to take then more than a few days to clear themselves of the deeply-ingrained old habits. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that much time on my hooves, and I had to think of something today and with still enough time to rehearse it, or tomorrow’s speech would end in disaster! Why couldn’t we have at least gone without the speech?

Because every coronation ends with a speech, Pharynx had said. Your subjects have to be shown that you have a vision of how to lead your kingdom and told what you expect from them. No one cares if you’re too nervous to say two sentences, not to mention what it does to your image as the king, so quit freaking out!

If only it were that easy…

Seriously, Thorax, he’d said to my umpteenth panic outburst, if you can’t handle being the king, how in the name of eggshells did you become one? How do you expect to lead a kingdom if you can’t handle a few royal duties?

As hard as it was to admit it, he had a point. I had been performing royal duties for a while now and was kind of starting to get a hang of them… or not, but at least they were less scary than in the beginning, even if I still had a long way to go until any of it started feeling natural, assuming it ever was going to happen. Would it be too bad to consider this just another royal duty? It was more daunting than most of the others, but I’d only have to do it once, so maybe it was better to get it out of the way now than to keep postponing it indefinitely… knowing myself, I’d still freak out over it no matter how much we postponed it! And as much as I didn’t care to be the one to wear the crown, I couldn’t ignore that most of my subjects had chosen me over Chrysalis, and I believed they were better off with me than with her… Was I being egotistical? Selfish?

For some strange reason, forcing myself to see the coronation as just another royal duty helped me calm down somewhat, and I was able to think more clearly. I still didn’t know what I should say or how long my speech was supposed to be, but I wasn’t the first leader to ever be crowned, and according to Pharynx, every new leader had held a speech at their coronation. If only I could find out what their speeches were like! Maybe I could use that to help me!

I went to the archive and asked Urtica about it.

“Yes, of course we have transcripts of coronation speeches!” she said. “No infiltrator would have dared to mess up relaying them to the hive verbatim! Some of it proved valuable for Chrysalis’ plans over the centuries! Not that I expect you to use them for the same purpose but… I’m sorry, why do you need them, if it’s okay to ask?”

“You know I’ve been struggling to put together my own coronation speech-”

“Oh dear, is it still troubling you? I thought you were getting help! You were getting help, weren’t you?”

“Yes, and it was a valiant effort on the part of everyling from several feelings forum sessions, but I don’t think announcing a full-scale invasion of Equestria is the way to go even if the invasion would consist of hugs and cuteness…”

“Yes, I see how that could go wrong… but copying other leaders’ speeches wouldn’t be much better!”

“I’m not trying to copy them, Urtica, I just need a bit of inspiration! Or at least a pointer on what it’s supposed to look like!”

“Oh, right! Sorry! Um, I’ll be right back!” She flew off somewhere into the depths of the archive and returned with a bunch of scrolls. “Let’s see now… King Grover… nah, that probably won’t do it… prince Rutherford, no… Queen Novo, eh, maybe…” She set that one aside. “Sable Spirit, now I forgot that one… uh, not really… Torch, definitely no… oh, here’s Princess Cadance’s! You can probably use that! Oh, and Princess Celestia- wait, that’s in Olde Ponish… I don’t suppose you speak Olde Ponish?”

“No. Maybe Sunburst or Twilight could help but there’s not enough time…”

“Then we can’t use Luna’s, either… and speaking of Twilight, here’s hers! Short but sweet, and I think it’ll help! Okay, what else… hmm… Chief Thunderhooves, now what was that one about- oh, right, a tirade about ancestors and tradition, hardly useful to you… next, Princess Rain Shine, could be something there… King Vorak, ugh, doubt it…”

“Okay, these will probably do,” I told her as she was sifting further through the pile. They’d have to!

“Are you sure? I can keep going through these and bring you whatever else looks promising! I can even try to find someling to help me translate Olde Ponish so you can use Celestia and Luna’s speeches too!”

“That’s very kind of you, but I don’t think I’ll have enough time to go through any more scrolls. I have to leave myself enough time to write something and then rehearse it.”

“Of course! Silly me, heh… but if you still need something later, I’m here all the time, so just drop by and I’ll try to help!”

“Sure, thanks!”

“And don’t worry about it! I’m sure your speech will be the best one in this stash!”

The best in her stash… She was going to archive my speech?! Why had she told me that?! Now my half-contained panic was threatening to go on another rampage! I had only a hoofful of scrolls to help me come up with something passable and only a day to perfect it, and it had to be perfect; I didn’t want future generations of drones and archivists laughing at my blunders immortalized on a piece of parchment!

But as I read through the scrolls, the panic wore off again. The speeches were indeed heartwarming and inspiring, just like the ponies who had spoken them, and through them, I saw the specter of my own speech, elusive at first, but slowly and steadily taking shape as I read on. By the time I finished the last scroll, I knew what I wanted to say: the same I’d wanted all along, I just needed a little reminder and a bit of guidance on how to put it into words.

I set the scrolls aside, took a blank piece of paper, and started writing.


“Are you sure about this tuxedo?” I asked Rarity as she was helping me dress up for the ceremony. “Wasn’t I supposed to wear the black one?”

“Goodness, no! What was I thinking?”

“I think it’s lovely,” Fluttershy said.

“Which one?”

“Um… both… and the ones you designed earlier…”

“Yes, what’s wrong with any of them?” I asked.

“They’re alright… for a more everyday occasion… but this is your coronation ceremony! It only happens once in a lifetime and only to the most worthy among us! You simply must look your absolute best!”

“If you say so…” I shrugged, as if I wasn’t nervous enough already. Loads of visitors had arrived last afternoon and this morning, Pharynx had implemented security measures that the old regime would be jealous of and I’d barely managed to talk him out of wearing full body armor to the ceremony - thank goodness because he was supposed to preside over it and I didn’t want the guests to get the wrong idea - and Twilight was still proofreading my speech. The last thing I needed was to constantly worry if my outfit was perfectly aligned!

“At least you’re not a queen, Thorax,” Starlight said, chuckling. “It’s just a tuxedo and cape. Imagine what you’d have to go through if Rarity had to design a gown for you!”

“Hmph! A tuxedo is no less worthy than a gown, darling, and do you have any idea how long it took me to weave all these amethysts into the cape?!”

“I know, you withdrew from the Manehattan fashion show to give yourself enough time-”

“You did what?!” I gasped. “Oh, Rarity, you didn’t have to do that! If I’d known-”

“Oh, pishposh! It’s just another fashion show! I can participate next year! But this… not everypony gets an opportunity to craft a coronation outfit! Do you have any idea how much that means to a boutique?!”

“Everything,” Spike sighed, gazing dreamily at his crush.

“You guys are done?” I asked Twilight, who had found herself a secluded burrow where she could proofread my speech undisturbed, and Spike had followed her in case she needed assistance.

“Yes,” she said. “I made a few minor edits for style, if that’s okay with you.”

I skimmed through the revised parts. “It’s perfect. Thanks! Um, do you think it’s passable?”

“I wouldn’t have written it better myself,” she reassured me.

“Done what better?” Rainbow asked, dashing into the room and startling me into tripping over the cape that Rarity was about to put on me. Good thing she’d made wing slits in the tuxedo so I could right myself without tearing up her hard work! It hadn’t been enough to keep her from screaming and fainting, but she recovered quickly.

“Watch it!” Twilight scolded her friend.

“Heh, it’s not my fault that I’m so awesomely fast that none of you guys can keep track of me! Oh and Thorax, the sky is perfectly clear now! Bet your changelings can’t do that, huh?”

“No, and we never really felt the need to control weather. It’s warm enough throughout the year, and with the hive being as unpredictable as it was, none of us cared if we didn’t know when the next rain would come. It was just another minor thing.”

“Nothing minor about this party!” Pinkie chimed, hopping into the room, with Applejack trotting in tow. “It’s going to be the bestest, most funtacular funtastic super-duper party changelings have ever seen! I’ve got balloons and streamers and confetti and music and cake! But why did you set up a boring party in another room?”

“It’s called a banquet, Pinkie,” Rarity corrected her. “Coronations are normally among the most formal events in existence, hence the banquet, but Thorax here wanted something to help everyone loosen up, and you’re the best one for the job. So, two different options for how to celebrate, and every guest can pick their preference.”

“Or go back and forth between the banquet and the party,” I added.

“Or that,” she agreed.

“An’ we baked enough food for both!” Applejack said. “Ah just hope none of them griffon cooks planted a fish in none of them pies…”

“Why would they do that?”

“Y’all ever met a griffon?”

“One or two, why?”

“We had one visitin’ Ponyville a while back, and she was mean somethin’ fierce! Got Fluttershy insulted out of her wits, she did, among other things, an’ Ah heard the whole Griffonstone ain’t no better!”

“I’m sure Blade did a background check on them-”

“Ahem, excuse me?” Grim interrupted us from the entrance. “The ceremony starts in fifteen minutes and Pharynx insists that anyone not in their designated seats in the next two minutes will be banned from the ceremony.”

I facehoofed. “Ugh, didn’t I tell him not to pester the guests like that? They’re not soldiers, for crying out loud!”

“It’s a security issue. You do realize there’s one unreformed and furious changeling unaccounted for, don’t you? There’s no telling what she could decide to do and Pharynx doesn’t want to take any chances… and frankly, neither do I.”

“Okay, fine,” I relented. The ponies and Spike were already trotting off, and Rarity only stopped for a brief moment to straighten my cravat, and Fluttershy gave me a quick hug.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “You can do this! And just in case you think you can’t, we’ll be there for you!”

I smiled and hugged her back. How had she known I needed reassurance?

“You need to get in position too,” Grim prompted.

“Oh! Yeah, um, sure… okay…”

“Hey, it’s alright! I don’t think she’ll come, not today anyway! She’ll expect heightened security, and she’s all alone now-”

“It’s not her I’m worried about… okay, maybe I am, but it’s more of a background worry… It’s the coronation itself, what it looks like, what it means… Can I uphold the promise I’ll give to my subjects by accepting the crown?”

“You already have.” She put a reassuring hoof on my chest. “No matter what happens today, Thorax, good or bad, know that you’ve made a bigger difference to us that anyone ever could, and the crown is a token of our gratitude and the debt we’ll never be able to fully repay! You’ve earned it and don’t let some trifle keep you from savoring your achievement!”

“Thanks,” I whispered, tearing up a little.

“Let’s go now. A coronation can’t start without a king!”

It was only a short walk from my bedchamber to the throne room, and we spent it in silence, as there wasn’t much left to be said for the moment. She then gave me a reassuring nod and disappeared behind the curtain that had been placed at the entrance to the throne room, and I was left alone for the first time today. As I waited for the ceremony to begin, it hit me once again, harder than ever, that this was the defining moment of my life and destiny: up until now, I may have had some maneuvering space of sorts, some excuse for mess-ups as being new and inexperienced, and I may have been able to delude myself that I may still only be a temporary leader until someling better and more capable came up, but as soon as I walked through that gate and received the crown, none of that would count anymore, and I would be expected to know everything and be prepared for anything… Could I do it? Could I live up to the expectations of my friends and my subjects and the rest of the world? Could I really be the king they deserved? What if I failed? How much would it take them to stop trusting me? What if they rejected everything I’d given them and reverted to the old ways because of one mistake on my part? What if-

The murmuring on the other side of the curtain ceased and my brother began addressing the crowd. As if all of the worrying wasn’t enough, I suddenly realized I had no idea how Pharynx had conceived the speech he’d just begun holding! We’d never rehearsed that, and with everything else that had needed taking care of, I’d forgotten to ask him about it! Knowing him, it would probably set a completely wrong tone and make it look like we hadn’t changed at all! My heart leapt into my throat in anticipation of something resembling a warrior’s manifesto and I couldn’t believe my ears when he instead started talking about the power of friendship and the glory of sharing love! Sure, it had a bit of a military undertone, but he sounded like he actually believed in what he was saying and didn’t mind showing to the world how passionately he embraced it! Could it be that he had in fact embraced my ways genuinely enough to write such a speech all on his own? For once, I didn’t care; listening to him warmed my heart and soothed the nerves that my worries had strung up a minute ago!

...only for those nerves to start screaming again as the curtain before me withdrew and I finally laid my eyes on the throne room. It was decorated with countless flowers, and dozens of flagpoles lined the edge of the plateau, carrying pastel-colored flags with the pattern of gossamer wings and my antlers over an ethereal heart, a design somewhat similar to the previous changeling flag which had featured Chrysalis’ horn and wings on the sickly-green background similar in hue to that of cocoon resin. I’d know the arts-and-crafts group to be working on the new flag, but hadn’t seen it yet, and didn’t think they would have sewn so many already! And the choir had outdone themselves, too: they were humming a wondrously-sounding festive tune that was vaguely familiar…

If any of that would have made me freeze in place, it would have been in awe, but awe wasn’t why I’d forgotten to breathe right now; it was the sight of the throne room chock-full of creatures from all over the world: mostly ponies and changelings, but also yaks, buffalo, dragons, Abyssinians, even a few griffons and zebras! All of their eyes were fixed on me, expecting… what, exactly? To honor my big day? To see me crumble and fall? To simply watch with no particular interest as I… uh, what was I supposed to do now? I’d rehearsed it, for hive’s sake! Was I just supposed to walk up to the podium or did I have to do something else first?

Pharynx took a chance while everyone’s eyes were off him to wave a hoof at me, thus snapping me out of it. Okay, so nothing special on this end, just walking over there and receiving the crown and sitting onto the throne… then the speech, right? Probably…

Okay, Thorax, you can do this… take a step forward and walk there, no big deal… you won’t trip or anything… they’re waiting for you… don’t blow the ceremony!

I took a deep breath and let it out to calm myself, and after putting some effort into releasing the tension in my facial muscles, I spread my wings from under the cape as instructed during rehearsals and began the graceful walk down the carpeted path. The choir transitioned from humming into singing.

As dawn shines on us every morn’
Our fire of friendship is reborn,
And all the love that we have shared
We cherish in every way;

Loyalty binds us and makes us strong,
Honesty shows that we belong,
And Kindness shared will unite us through each day.

The love in our hearts is here to stay,
Never again shall we steal it away;
Our troubled past has come to an end,
Where once there was foe, there will be a friend;
Our king was the first to walk down that path
And follow we shall as long as we draw breath!

I tried not to look around too much while approaching the podium, partly due to the lingering worry that I would trip over myself, but I did manage to notice that most of the guests were unfamiliar to me, which was understandable as we’d invited mostly various dignitaries but kept me from completely relaxing. At least my friends from Ponyville and the Crystal Empire had been assigned seats of honor in the front rows! Maybe seeing them so close to me would calm my panic?

Or maybe Spike would; it was a pleasant surprise to see him standing on the podium, holding a pillow with my crown on it! And what a crown it was! Its appearance had been another thing the Organization Committee had insisted on surprising me with, and now I knew why: such an intricate design was clearly the work of a grand master of the trade, and though no one in their right mind could look at it and not remain awestruck, I would have opted for something not nearly as elaborate if given the choice! How much had they paid for it?

Finally, I was at the podium, and the choir’s song once again turned into a quiet hum.

“Thorax,” Pharynx said, “you have performed a heroic feat and, in doing so, have ended the starvation that plagued our kind and opened the gate into a better life for us. Are you prepared to continue your work to ensure the changelings’ well-being and to secure our place in the world?”

“I am.”

“Do you swear on Harmony and your conscience that you will serve your subjects justly, wisely, and loyally just as they loyally serve you?”

“I do!”

“Then, by the power invested in me as your predecessor’s second-in-command, I present to you this crown as the symbol of your reign. May it be long and prosperous!” He levitated the crown off the pillow and put it on my head. “I now pronounce you Thorax, King of all Changelings!”

The crowd cheered and the choir resumed their song as I sat on the throne.

Hatred made us a vengeful storm
But love in our hearts has been born,
And friends we love like our families
Will always see us through;

Laughter will echo through the skies,
Generosity we will show our allies,
And Friendship’s the only magic that we need.

The love in our hearts will guide our way,
Never again shall we steal it away;
Our troubled past has come to an end,
Where once there was foe, now stands a friend;
Our love and praise is what we sing
To honor our new and rightful King!

The choir went silent and the cheering gradually ceased, and Pharynx nodded to me that I could hold my part of the speech now.

“Dear friends, dear friends-to-be,” I spoke, “this day is long overdue. For countless generations, you have suffered misery and loss at the mercy of Chrysalis and her soldiers, infiltrators, and prey hunters. For countless generations, we knew of nothing but war and hatred. I wish I could give you an explanation of why it had to be that way, why our first Queen could see no other options for her subjects, but I can’t; I can only give an apology on behalf of her and all the soldiers that obeyed her unquestioningly through the ages. I can’t make you accept that apology, but I want you to know that I am truly and very sorry for everything you and your ancestors had to endure from the changeling armies. No matter how much we resent it, the past cannot be changed in a way that would guarantee a favorable outcome, but let that troubled past be a lesson to us; may we remember our mistakes, lest we repeat them!

“This day is long overdue, but it has arrived at last. I hoped for such a day ever since I began my existence in this world. I dreamed of a world where no one would have to suffer and fear for their lives under the malice of another. I dreamed of a world of friendship and unity, of sharing of love; though I never lost hope that such a world would one day exist, I never expected to see it happen in my lifetime, and it never occurred to me that I’d be the one to make it happen. Though I’ll always be grateful to Harmony and Destiny for bestowing me with such an honor, I cannot let it be forgotten that I couldn’t have done it without my friends, who had seen the good in me and given me their trust and support, their love, when they had little reason to. They deserve as much credit and gratitude, actually more than I do, as it wasn’t easy to look past the prejudice and offer a friendly hoof to someone who should by all accounts have been their mortal enemy. They are the real heroes!

“The new era has arrived, but it is up to us to ensure that it remains. I may have made the first step, but I can’t walk alone, and I trust I won’t have to! We all need to work together to ensure a better future, and I know we can do it! We can overcome our differences, settle our disputes, heal the old wounds, and learn to trust and nourish one another! Together, we can help each other grow and better ourselves, to create a world the future generations will be proud of, not just for the good of the changelings, but for the good of all creatures! Let us ignite the fire of friendship, and let us keep it burning for all eternity!”

The crowd cheered again, but not for long; an explosion sounded from somewhere behind me, silencing everyone. Startled, I spun around, expecting Chrysalis or some other villain to reveal themselves, but instead, I saw a rainbow-colored circle spread through the sky and a team of pegasi in blue-and-yellow uniforms whoosh over the throne room and perform a series of stunning spins and swirls and all kinds of complicated aerial maneuvers designed to wow even the most demanding of spectators! But was I seeing it right? Sentinel seemed to be among them! Had she quit the Royal Guard and rejoined the Wonderbolts? Or was this simply somepony of uncanny resemblance to her?

No, it was her! The Wonderbolts finished their performance and landed on the remains of the old wall at the edge of the plateau, and I could see them clearly now! Rainbow Dash was among them, unsurprisingly, but I hadn’t expected to see Sentinel on the team too!

The crowd cheered once again, until Pharynx raised a hoof and invited them to the banquet in a few caverns some levels below. As the crowd was milling toward the exits and presumably the banquet halls, I decided to use this chance to ignore any protocols I was expected to follow and approached Sentinel.

“Hey, you,” she said, waving to the rest of the flying squad not to wait for her. Rainbow Dash remained, however.

“Did you see my rainboom?” she asked.

“I did, it was wonderful!”

“Aw, yeah! We didn’t time it too soon, did we?”

“No, I think not… I’d just finished my speech a few seconds before.”

“Awesome! That was the plan!”

“But how did you end up on the team, Sentinel? Did you quit the Royal Guard?”

“No, this was a one-time thing. Cadance and Shining thought I’d be interested when they heard Rainbow had gotten the Wonderbolts to perform, I said sure, why not, so they arranged it with Spitfire. Okay, I didn’t get to hear your speech, but it’s not every day that you get to actively participate in a friend’s coronation, so…” She shrugged. “I’d say I got a better version of the deal.”

“Is it true that Cadance also provided the crystals in your crown?” Rainbow asked.

“I have no idea! Everyling wanted to keep as much as possible as a surprise even from me… they said the crown came from Canterlot so I’m not sure…”

“Nevermind, I’m hungry! Why are we still hanging around here?”

I couldn’t argue with that. I was supposed to show up at the banquet and mingle with the guests, and they were probably wondering what was taking me so long!

The banquet itself was largely uneventful, and though I would have preferred to stick to my friends, protocol and good manners dictated that I had to be available to anyone who wanted a conversation. This had some interesting moments, as I managed to learn some guests’ reasons for showing up: the ponies unfamiliar to me were mostly nobility and other distinguished individuals I was likely to have some dealings with in the future, the dragons were following Ember’s orders, the yaks had learned of me from the crystal ponies and were considering diplomatic relations, and griffons and Abyssinians were simply curious. Discord pulled some minor pranks but behaved himself otherwise, Trixie attempted a fireworks show and I had to convince Pharynx not to throw her out, especially not physically which had been his intention, and Grim was having a hard time keeping up with Flurry while her parents and Sunburst ate, but that was about the extent of things not going according to plan. Eventually the food and drinks ran out, Luna raised the moon, and the guests left, some for their own lands and some for their assigned sleeping chambers.

Getting to spend some quality time with my friends would have been nice, but they were all already asleep by the time I was done with everything that required my presence, and truth be told, I needed some alone time after today’s events. I went to catch some fresh air in the throne room, expecting to be alone, but found Pharynx and Grim.

“What are you doing here this late?” I asked them.

“I could ask you the same thing,” Pharynx retorted. “We’re doing a security sweep.”

“Now?”

“Yes, now. Or would you rather have the throne blow up when you sit on it in the morning because noling bothered to check it was safe after a bazillion creatures stormed through here?”

“Don’t listen to him, Thorax,” Grim interjected. “We haven’t found anything. Did you like the ceremony?”

“You’ve outdone yourselves! But I do have some questions about the crown…”

“I knew it! Don’t worry, the treasury is no worse for wear!”

“You do realize I find that hard to believe, don’t you?”

“Okay, yes, I admit I did sound suspicious, but really, we didn’t pay anything for it!”

I facehoofed. “You just borrowed it indefinitely… I know I forbade stealing love, but it should go without saying that you shouldn’t steal other things either!”

“Stealing? No! I packed ten thousand bits of advance money, but it turns out that both of the jeweller’s daughters were grabbed by our prey hunters in early September, and thanks to your coup, they both came home alive, so the jeweller refused to take a single coin out of gratitude to you! He even pulled some strings with his fellow tradesmare in the Crystal Empire to get some of their crystals because he heard you used to live there! Go ask him if you don’t believe me!”

“So the crystals weren’t Cadance’s idea? Rainbow said they were…”

“Actually, I think they found out about the whole setup somehow and covered the crystal jewelress’ expenses or something,” she mused.

“What does it matter?” Pharynx interjected, continuing the security sweep. “You got your crown and a proper ceremony, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I got more than I expected,” I said. “Like your speech, for example. I’m so glad you put some effort into-”

“Save it! That wasn’t my original speech! I would have gone with something glorious but then that Starlight Glimmer walked in on me while I was rehearsing and asked if she could make a few minor improvements, so I decided to humor her for a bit, but then she started gutting up my speech and I would have gutted her in return if I could break the force field she set up.” He groaned. “The only part that remained intact was ‘We are gathered here today to’ and I was running late for the security sweep by then, so I decided to cut my losses and go with that sappy version. At least it fits you, so... “ He shrugged. “Okay, all clear. Dismissed!”

Every flag and flagpole except for one burst into blue flames and revealed a bunch of soldiers. I stared dumbfounded as they saluted and trotted off into whichever hallway was nearest.

“What, you didn’t honestly expect me to advertise the full size of the security team?” Pharynx asked.

“I thought they were actual flags…”

“They would have been if Mystique could get the drones to sew fast enough- What do you want, Blade?”

I spun around to face the newcomer.

“Excuse the interruption, but one of our pony guests asked if she could have a word with King Thorax.”

“Tell her to schedule an audience-”

“It’s okay, Pharynx, I’ll see her. Where is she?”

“This way.” Blade led me to one of the guest burrows and withdrew. I went inside and stopped in my tracks when I laid my eyes on the one who had summoned me.

“Soothing Dusk,” I breathed. “And Midnight Haze… I wasn’t expecting you…” Had they been invited? I didn’t think so, and in any case, I wouldn’t have expected them to show up after everything Soothing had been through. Not that I minded seeing them, and best of all, Soothing’s aura was much brighter than the last time I’d seen her!

“Yes, I… kind of surprised myself, actually…” Soothing shuffled nervously, and her sister put a gentle hoof on her shoulder. This time, there was no malice in her aura. “Are you really the same changeling who drained me of love?”

“I am. I’m still sorry for it, I wish I hadn’t-”

“That’s kind of why we made the effort to come here. After you… after word came out that you rescued the alicorn princesses and turned changelings into good guys, I began to wonder if maybe… if maybe I should have believed you when you came to tell me you were sorry, that I maybe should have given you a chance… so I requested an audience with Princess Cadance a few weeks ago and she made good on her promise to help me. One audience turned into a full week of meeting your friends and hearing about your life in the Crystal Empire, and hearing about how you buried yourself in a cave and starved yourself to near-death prior to being found and why you did it made me realize what an unimaginably good guy you really are, and you really did have to be beside yourself with starvation in order to attack a random pony, and I started to feel bad for how I treated you afterwards… so when Princess Cadance wrote to ask if I’d be interested to accompany her and the other Crystal Empire dignitaries to your coronation, I dropped everything and took my sister and… well, here we are.” She smiled nervously. “Midnight and I were closer to the back of the throne room during the ceremony so you probably didn’t notice us, and we only stayed at the banquet long enough to grab a quick meal and came back here because I still get nervous around strangers. But I wanted to tell you how much I admire what you’ve done and what you’re still trying to do, especially now that I got to see the hive and to be told what it was like before, and, uh… I never thought I’d say this, but if draining me was the price we had to pay in order to make it all happen… I guess I can live with it.”

“You mean…?”

She came closer and embraced me in an awkward hug. “I forgive you.”

Author's Note:

Best buggo finally gets his well-deserved crown!

Many thanks to Origami for his input on the coronation song :twilightsmile: