• Published 1st Jan 2022
  • 1,163 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.

  • ...

Together Again

“He’s here,” Psycho announced a couple of hours later, calling my attention off the scroll and onto the drone he’d brought with him.

Though momentarily annoyed by the interruption, seeing the newcomer filled my heart with indescribable relief, and I forgot about the scrolls, about the demolished throne room, the hive, the difficulties I’d faced and the challenges that were yet to come. The rest of the world might as well have crumbled into oblivion; nothing mattered anymore save for this one individual I owed so much to!

As if in trance, I dropped the scroll held in my magic, sprang to my hooves, and ran up to him to embrace him in a tight, long-overdue hug.

“Oh, Pharynx,” I whispered, my eyes welling up with happy tears as I unloaded the richest, warmest stream of love onto him, “I’m so glad you’re back and alright!”

He tensed for a moment, as if unsure what was going on and what to do about it. Then I remembered: Psycho hadn’t told him about me! He had no idea it was his brother hugging him! It took him a moment to recover, but then he pushed me away and looked at me as if he’d seen the impossible… okay, admittedly, ‘the impossible’ wasn’t very far off.

Thorax?!” he exclaimed.

“Surprise!” I chimed, grinning widely.

I didn’t get much further when his initial shock faded and he tensed up again, stubbornly refusing to believe who I really was. I couldn’t blame him; according to Psycho, Chrysalis had grown very suspicious about his motives and intentions in regard to me and his loyalty to her, and had used me as bait in an attempt to trick him into revealing himself. Pharynx was neiter naive nor stupid; he must have gotten wise to her schemes one way or another, or sensed something wasn’t right at the very least, and gone into overprotective mode! Not having witnessed the ordeal that had ended in her deposal and my ascension, he still suspected foul play! But how to get him to believe me? This wasn’t going to be easy…

Unsurprisingly, simply telling him I wasn’t Chrysalis in disguise did absolutely nothing to resolve the matter. Oh well, it had been worth a try! But what to try next?

An idea popped into my head mercifully quickly: Psycho had mentioned a peculiar ointment found in a zebra’s hut in the Everfree Forest in the early days of the hunt for me, and the description of its properties had sounded uncannily familiar. Though I hadn’t yet had the time to examine the substance that the hunters had brought here to be studied in an attempt to figure out how to counter its disguise-undoing effect, I had no doubt this was the same thing the zebra had offered to treat my injuries with after an encounter with a couple of timberwolves, which had quickly led to the discovery of its effect on a changeling’s disguise! If I applied it onto myself now, Pharynx would realize I was who I claimed to be! But would he recognize the ointment for what it was? While waiting for Psycho to bring the jar, I realized the only way to ensure that would be to trigger the effect on Pharynx, but how to get him to cooperate if he was still suspicious?

Apparently, all it had taken was to ask. Okay, all it had taken was to shapeshift into my old form, thus implying I intended to demonstrate the effect on myself too, and then to ask him to do the same. It hadn’t gone without a fair share of suspicious glaring on his part, but before long, we both stood there undisguised and covered in greenish ointment. Good thing Psycho had brought us a cloth to clean ourselves up with! Or had he borrowed it from the drones cleaning up the throne room?

Though some of his suspicion melted away at this, Pharynx still wasn’t entirely convinced, and I had to resort to recounting a couple of things that had happened to us years ago with no one else around to witness it. That finally worked, and thank goodness it had, as I had no idea what else I could say or do to convince him!

We both had a lot of questions for each other to fill in the blanks in what we knew of the other’s adventures while separated, and we filled in those blanks readily. It was such a thrill to talk to him again after all this time, and how wonderful it felt to share with him everything I’d learned and accomplished! Heck, just seeing him again was music to my eyes; I hadn’t realized how immensely I’d missed him! Even better was that, for the first time in probably forever, we had a normal conversation, one that didn’t consist of him yelling and criticizing me for whichever mistake or a series of mistakes was on today’s menu and me cowering and whimpering at the onslaught; we talked like equals, and though he still retained a good measure of his signature grumpiness and sarcasm, I never once got a slightest hint of annoyance, let alone malice! Had the long separation done that? The promise of punishment hanging over our heads? The relief of being reunited? Whatever it was, the end result was amazing and warmed my heart blissfully! If only we could have had this in the old days; no doubt it would have helped us find a common language, and I’d never have doubted the love he’d had for me! I’d never thought the day would come, but for a brief moment as I described my ascension, I could have sworn I saw a glint of pride and awe in his eyes! He stifled it quickly, but I was sure I would never forget that moment: my big brother, my reluctant guardian ever since we’d broken out of our eggs, was finally proud of me!

Everything was fine until I told him we’d been unable to find the runaway Chrysalis yet and he asked to have his First Commander authority restored so he could lead the search parties.

“Hold on a minute…” he said after I informed him of one of my first decisions as king. “Did I hear you right? You don’t intend to send drones to infiltrate foreign cities and capture ponies, and you won’t wage any wars, so you’ve disbanded the army?!”

Well, so much about conversations on equal grounds. He looked to be ready to explode, and I could almost see flames coming out of his ears! I tried explaining my reasoning to him, but he wouldn’t listen! He just kept insisting that we were in bigger danger than ever before, and nothing I said made a difference anymore! Not even Psycho had been that stubborn!

Okay, think, Thorax, think… What to tell him?

A chance presented itself to mention the sharing of love and the activities that I’d started or at least given permission for. One of them had to catch his interest! Or maybe he’d have an idea for an activity of his own? But my hopes were crushed; he merely scoffed at the idea and even accused me of undermining our changelinghood in favor of pony ways! Where had that pride and civil manners disappeared? I was clutching at straws by now!

“I’m sure you’ll feel differently once you share love!” Please do it, Pharynx! You have no idea how much it would mean to me!

“And become like the rest of you?” he spat back. “No thanks! You’ve ruined the whole hive already, but you won’t ruin me!”

“But you’ll feel much calmer and more content with life! Everyling else does! Give it a chance… please?”

I said no!” he bellowed, storming off into a nearby hallway. “And don’t come to me crying when you realize the colossal extent of the mistakes you’re making!”

“Pharynx…” I called after him feebly, but he was already gone.

I just stood there for a while, completely at a loss about what to do. Where had it all gone so wrong? We’d finally had a normal conversation for once, without a hint of grudges or grievances, and he’d seemed glad to see I’d defeated Chrysalis and taken her place! Even more, most of the changelings had chosen to follow my example and to side with me instead of her! He wasn’t going to have to protect me constantly anymore, and could instead do whatever he fancied, so why wasn’t he happy? If I didn’t know better, I’d think he wanted trouble! But why would he? He’d spent his whole life getting the hive rid of trouble, so why would he want more trouble now that there was hardly any of it left?

Should I go after him, try to talk some sense into him? But where had he gone? And even if I managed to find him reasonably quickly, what would I tell him? I’d already exhausted all ideas, and all it had done was to fuel his anger! It didn’t make sense! If Psycho and so many other drones I’d never expected it from could have shared love and accepted peace and harmony, why couldn’t Pharynx? If he’d done so much for me already, why couldn’t he do just one more thing?

Was this the one-thing-too-many for him?

No. I refused to believe it! Why get himself injured and disgraced and labelled as traitor and why risk execution for helping me, only to refuse the benefits I’d ensured for our kind? There had to be something else going on! But what? And how to get him to tell me? How would I even get him to talk to me at all? I’d tried while he was still here, and he’d just left! True, I wouldn’t have known what else to say, but I would have listened! That had to count for something, right? Except that he hadn’t wanted to talk any more than he’d cared to listen! He’d just yelled and growled like in the old days! How were we supposed to get anywhere with that?

Crestfallen and unable to think of what to do about him, I returned to my scrolls.

The one I’d been reading still lay exactly where I’d dropped it, unrolled at the paragraph I’d gotten to before Pharynx’s arrival. I took it in my magic again and resumed reading.

Some time later - must have been at least an hour, maybe even two - I realized I was still staring at that same paragraph, reading it over and over and over again but failing to remember a single word. I barely even remembered who the scroll was about anymore! Pharynx’s attitude must have affected me more than I realized!

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Okay, Thorax, you can do this. Calm down and forget about Pharynx. It could have been the initial shock; he could still come around and accept your ways.

I returned to the scroll. I’d started reading it with the idea of figuring out something about diplomacy, but could it help me deal with Pharynx too? I hadn’t found anything especially helpful on either account so far, but maybe I just had to keep reading!

A little while later, I realized it was still no use. I set that scroll aside for now and took another, then one more only to get the same result every time! What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I remember a few simple sentences, Pharynx or no Pharynx? I groaned and extinguished my magic, letting the scrolls fall down, and only then I realized how dark it was. I took in my surroundings; the drones cleaning the throne room were nowhere to be seen, and the moon was high up in the sky! How had I not noticed?!

Obviously there was little point in insisting on reading the scrolls now despite the moonlight providing enough illumination. Even if I weren’t distracted by trying to figure out the cause of Pharynx’s attitude, it was late enough that sheer tiredness would hinder my progress. I was going to have to continue tomorrow, or at least, at the soonest convenience if matters of higher urgency turned up before I was done with the scrolls. The best thing I could do now was to lie down and get some sleep. With any luck, the solution to dealing with Pharynx would come to me once I was fresh and rested! Okay, probably not if my previous track record with him was any indication, but why not hold out some hope?

Then I remembered I’d been so involved in other things that I’d forgotten to check where I was supposed to sleep now. Was Psycho still awake at this hour? If he was, where would I find him? Come to think of it, where would I find him if he wasn’t awake? I had no idea where his sleeping burrow was! First Commander’s quarters, maybe? Yeah right, that was sure helpful to someling who didn’t know where to look for it! Somewhere in the castle? Possibly, but that was still a pretty big thing to search in the middle of the night… and the night was pretty warm and pleasant…

Oh, whatever. I could just sleep here one more night!

I tucked the scrolls into a gap between some throne shards at the bottom of the pile and curled up to sleep. I’d barely closed my eyes when some pretty intense prodding - punching, almost - startled me back into reality.

I looked at the source of the commotion and was met with my brother’s seething face.

“What have you done to our burrow?” he hissed. “Or my burrow now or whatever?”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s full of junk! What happened?”

“Oh… that… um…”


“Cornicle told me it got repurposed when you were sent after me. I wasn’t expected to need it anymore, and Chrysalis must have figured you’d either move to the one designated for First Commanders or… well… or that you wouldn’t need one…”

He snorted. “Figures. So, what, you fell asleep working or were you too lazy to move for the night?”

I tilted my head at him.

“You did claim Chrysalis’ bedchamber, didn’t you?” he asked.

“I haven’t gotten around to claiming any chambers or burrows yet. I was thinking of clearing out our old burrow, but there were more pressing matters-”

He facehoofed. “Thorax, you’re a king now! You can’t sleep around the commoners!”

“The ‘commoners’?”

“You know what I mean!”

“You didn’t have a problem with sleeping around ‘the commoners’ as you put it when you were First Commander!”

“That was different!”


“What does it matter? C’mon Thorax, get up!” He grabbed my ear and pulled at it.

“Why? Ow!” I stood up and he released my ear. “Where are we going?”

“Chrysalis’ bedchamber. You need to start showing some dignity!”

“By sleeping there?”

“No, by hosting a literary debate.” He rolled his eyes. “When have you ever heard of royalty sleeping on the floor next to a pile of rocks?”


“Exactly. Now what are you standing about for? Move it!”

“Where to?”

He looked stuck in indecision between facehoofing again, yelling at me, slapping me into focus, and any combination of the above.

“What? I don’t know where her bedchamber is…”

That helped him settle for a combination of a groan and an eye roll.

“You didn’t even check the place out?”

“Well, I… I had more pressing matters to attend to, and-”

“‘More pressing matters’? That’s, what, making sure everyling knows the exact schedule of their singing practice?”

“The discussion with the drones wanting to assemble a choir only took a couple of minutes!”

“And yet, I counted seven notices about it posted around on my way to our burrow alone, along with some other notices, and you still don’t know where you’re supposed to sleep! Since when do we have notice boards, anyway?”

“I might have suggested it this morning… didn’t think they’d be up already…”

“Well they are, so I hope you’re happy.”

“You don’t sound happy…”

“Thorax, this is my ‘happy’, in case you forgot.”

“You know, you could be happier-”

“Okay, shut up! Just shut up about that or I’ll beat you up so hard that you’ll turn black again without a disguise!”

I winced.

“Well, you coming or what?”

“Do I have to?”

“...now what?”

“I… you won’t understand…”

“Let me guess. You’re afraid she’ll jump you.”

“No… yes… maybe… I mean, it isn’t so much her jumping me, but rather the feeling that I don’t belong there… and the memories of her… and, uh, it just generally feels wrong…”

“But being at her throne doesn’t?”

“Her throne got blown up. Didn’t I tell you?”

“Since when are you so nitpicky?”

“I am?”

“Ugh, this isn’t getting anywhere… Just come along, will you?”

I hung my head with a sigh and relented. He led me into one of the hallways I hadn’t tried before. I would have probably gotten around to exploring that part of the hive sooner or later anyway even without being prompted, except that Psycho would have probably decided to familiarize me with the area pretty soon if Pharynx hadn’t beaten him to it. He’d mentioned something about having prepared Chrysalis’ bedchamber for me, hadn’t he? Or had I misinterpreted that remark in my half-awake state?

Either way, as uncomfortable as I was with the prospect of claiming Chrysalis’ bedchamber, part of me couldn’t help but wonder what it looked like. Undoubtedly it was bigger and fancier than any sleeping burrow assigned to the regular drones, but I could only guess at anything beyond that! I didn’t know for sure, but I imagined few drones would have had the clearance to go there; I certainly hadn’t! Had Pharynx? He’d never said anything either way, but was it because he hadn’t thought it wise or necessary, or because he hadn’t known anything about the place other than its location?

Pharynx came to a halt sooner than I’d expected and gestured at a gate that was mostly nondescript save for a somewhat bigger size than that of most burrows and caverns, but not overtly so. I peered inside. The cavern was spacious, about half the size of the Crystal Castle’s throne room, which wasn’t as big as some of the other caverns in the hive I knew of, but it was easily the biggest one intended for personal use, and there was little doubt about its purpose: though the walls were stripped of any decorative elements that might have once stood proudly on their shelf-like bulges, they still had the air of bearing witness to something sinister and intimately rotten; the floor and ceiling were cleaned to perfection, likely to remove all trace of the cocoons that had to have been here and of the messy aftermath of releasing the creatures inside, and in the centre of the cavern stood a roughly conical, stump-like rock with a peculiar cocoon on top. This cocoon, unlike all the others I’d seen in my lifetime, was empty of creatures alive or dead, perfectly smooth and symmetrical, and affixed to the rock beneath it in such a way that the slime in the middle lay directly on the rock’s upper surface and the blanket of resinous shell was stretched over it and attached to the rim of the underlying rock to create something similar to the upholstery I’d seen on some of the chairs in ponies’ homes.

I came closer and poked at the strange cocoon. It yielded under my hoof and wobbled slightly when released, much like any ordinary cocoon would, and though it looked fragile, it didn’t break, in fact, it felt sturdy enough to withstand a much bigger force than I’d presented it with. Other than that, nothing happened, and I let out a breath that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. What had I been expecting? That it’d explode and kill me and everyling else in sight?

“What now?” Pharynx said from behind me. “Never seen a bed before?”

“This is a bed?”

“What’s it look like? Of course it’s a bed!”

I looked at it again. Okay, it was about the right size… and it might be comfortable too, in a weird way… Not that I was itching to try it! No matter how I looked at the bed, something about it was vaguely disturbing…

This was Chrysalis’ bed, I reminded myself. Pharynx, and probably Psycho too, wanted me to sleep on it, and that image alone was disturbing enough! But something told me there was more to it than plain old reluctance to use an object that had belonged to the queen who had caused me so much pain and anguish. Had her bed absorbed her hatred the same way cocoons normally conducted love? Was her rotten aura imbued in the whole room and every object within it like an unseen dark guardian against any who dared take this malignant sanctum from its rightful owner and claim it for themselves?

But stifling as the aura of the room was, Pharynx still expected me to claim this space as my own. Couldn’t he feel the overwhelming darkness?

“What are you waiting for, an invitation?” he grumbled, and some of the dark aura seemed to fade. Had his presence dispelled it, or had it only been a product of my anxious imagination?

“Oh! I, um…”

“Ugh, I’ll die and rot away waiting for you to make up your mind! Is the First Commander’s bedchamber available? I’ll sleep there since you’ve so considerately written off our old burrow!”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, sure,” I said absent-mindedly.

He trotted off and I remained standing next to the bed a little longer, staring at it, trying to convince myself to give it a try because, obviously, I was going to have to do it sooner or later, when-


“Hey!” Psycho protested; just as I turned around to the source of the sounds, I saw him open his wings to keep himself from crashing into a wall that he’d been catapulted head-first into, and he flew back in the direction he’d come from.

I ran out into the hallway. There, at the entrance to another chamber, stood Pharynx and Psycho, blue face scowling at the black one, purple eyes vowing murder to the red ones. One looked ready for the slightest excuse to make ample use of his fangs and the other was undeterred by no longer having his own.

“What’s going on here?” I asked, not really expecting to get a reply.

“Your brother needs to learn some manners, Thorax,” said Psycho, not taking his glare off Pharynx.

“And this fleabag needs to learn to respect boundaries!” Pharynx retorted.

“Since when is this your bedchamber?”

“Just because I chose against using it doesn’t mean it wasn’t mine!”

“Maybe it was once, but you lost it when Chrysalis stripped you of rank!”

“And you think you were officially promoted to replace me? Get a grip!”

“Guys, please!” I tried again. “Can’t you share the room?”

They both looked at me as if I’d told them to level the hive and bring us a pack of timberwolves to dance with.

“Not even for one night?” I smiled sheepishly.

“No,” they growled in unison, then continued the scowling contest.

“But one of you will have to give up the room if you don’t want to share!”

The only thing that had done was to intensify the steam coming out of their ears.


No effect.

I groaned and rubbed my temple. What to do now? Pharynx was my brother, and Psycho had abandoned his hatred towards me and proven himself a capable and trustworthy assistant; I didn’t want to kick either one of them out of the room they both wanted! But I was going to have to do it if they couldn’t sort it out between themselves! If only there was a way to make them both satisfied!

“Guys!” I exclaimed. “Can you please please please put up with it until morning? Then we can discuss it when we’re all fresh and rested…”

“No, Pharynx insisted. Psycho simply huffed.

“Okay, uh… how about this? Psycho, you stay in this room tonight, and Pharynx, you share the room with me, and we’ll discuss the matter tomorrow?”

That did the trick, at least temporarily. They gave each other a quick scowl and trotted off in opposite directions, Pharynx to Chrysalis’ - mine, now - room, Psycho back into this one. I sighed in relief.

Pharynx was already curled up on the floor when I returned to my room.

“Uh, Pharynx? You wanna take the bed tonight?”

“What, it’s not warm enough for you? Or soft enough?”

“No, it’s just… I have this thing about sleeping where Chrysalis used to sleep…”

“Well tough luck, it’s yours now!”

“You sure you don’t-”


“Fine…” I sighed and reluctantly laid on the cocoon. It wasn’t really uncomfortable, but I still preferred my old bed in the Crystal Empire, or even the floor, and now that Pharynx had gone silent, that awful aura had returned. Was it real or simply a figment of my imagination filling in the vacuum? Either way, it wasn’t letting me sleep.

I kept stirring and trying to doze off until Pharynx’s breathing went steady enough to suggest he was sound asleep, then I got an idea. I got off the bed as quietly as I could, lifted him carefully in my magic and moved him onto the bed, then curled up on the floor and closed my eyes. This was much better!

I’d barely begun to sink into the realm of dreams when I felt something pull at my tail and lift me off the ground. I snapped my eyes open to the upside-down room and Pharynx with my tail in his mouth, flying around.

“Hey! What gives? Put me down!”

He did.

“...ow.” I’d landed on my antlers and tipped over on my back, but it didn’t feel like anything was broken. Pharynx landed next to me as I was turning myself right-side-up. “What were you doing?”

“Putting you where you belong,” he said.

“But I don’t like that thing! Can’t you-”

He hissed in my face.

“Okay, okay, fine!”

He curled up on the floor again, but not before staring me into returning to bed and making sure I decided to stay there. I sighed in defeat. This was going to be a long night…

Author's Note:

This chapter was due yesterday, but I was tired after coming from work and finishing house chores and just collapsed onto the couch, and later forgot about it. Sorry :fluttershysad: