• Published 28th Jun 2012
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A New Hero - Alex The Lone Wolf

What if there was another pony who joined the pony gang? (Look at longer description...)

  • ...

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To There and Back Again

I studied the hive, and in the distance, there were changelings swarming around it, flying from here to there and there to where. At a far distance, they looked just like bees, and I had never been one to be a fan of bees, especially since I wasn't sure if I was possibly allergic to them.

"Oh, this is so strange." Discord said. "We're here and that's there, and I clearly meant for us to be there and not here." He gestured over the hive.

"Oh, I-I can probably explain—"

"Oh, well. If at first you don't succeed..." Discord cut off Thorax and prepared to snap once more before Starlight held his paw back with her magic.

"Maybe we should come up with a plan first?" She suggested.

"A what?" Discord responded, literally blowing away the magic Starlight had on him.

"You know, figuring out the best way to do something before you actually do it?" Trixie stepped up and told him with a foul mood.

Discord laughed and patted her on the head like a child. "Oh, that's adorable. But you see, unlike you, I can do anything."

"Uh, actually—"

Discord placed his paw in front of Thorax's mouth. "That's all very nice, but really a waste of time. We have me. And what else could we possibly need?"

"A draconequus with magic and half a brain might help." Trixie fired her shots.

"Why are you here again?" Discord turned to his attacker. "I mean, it's not like you're going to stop the changelings by pulling a rabbit out of a hat." He momentarily worked his illogical magic and pulled out another Trixie from the bottom of the hat. "At least my magic can do something."

"The thing about magic here is—"

"Like this!" Discord snapped, disregarding any words coming out of Thorax's mouth and summoning an armored pig to ride on top on. "For Fluttershy!" He charged forward, only for the pig to disappear out of thin air once he passed the cliffside. "Yaaah!" He reached for the edge of the cliff and pulled himself up. Afterwards, he summoned another pig by snapping and sending it over the cliffside again without him being on it. Like before, it simply vanished, but this time, I could see a trail of magic leave and follow directly to the hive.

"I've been trying to tell you!" Thorax angrily stomped his hoof. "Nothing other than changeling magic works here. Chrysalis' throne is carved from an ancient dark stone that soaks up outside magic the same way changelings soak up love. It's how she keeps the hive safe."

Starlight proceeded to test this by stepping forward with a bit of magic on the tip of her horn, but like Discord's magic, any trace of it had been sucked up and rendered useless.

"If you ponies are done fighting with each other, need I remind you that we should be listening to Thorax?" I brought up. "He's the only changeling known to ponykind who's willing to help us bring down the place he very came from, and here you are bickering like foals."

"I assume you have a plan?" Trixie asked me bitterly, seeming to take my comment as an indirect insult.

"Well, it's definitely not fighting about who's the better magician." I responded. "Can we please work together and come up with a real plan this time? The longer we stay here, the longer the changelings get their work done. Who knows what else they're planning to do?"

"Without magic, it's hard to do anything." Starlight returned to the group. "I was hoping Discord could have just rushed in and finished the job in ten seconds flat, but I guess that idea seemed a little too good to be true."

"So, what are we going to do now?" Thorax asked, looking towards each of us.

"Nopony else is coming." Starlight reminded. "So somepony better come up with something." There was a brief moment of silence between all of us, and everypony pretty much spent it glancing at everypony else. As much as I personally wanted to come up with an idea of my own, it was hard to think with the kind of vibes I was getting from everyone else. Not to mention that Starlight was already asking for a plan only a few seconds into our allotted thinking time. "Anypony? Anything?"

"Unless we can get in and everyone trapped inside out without alerting the changelings at all, I can't see a rescue mission happening without magic at the least." I sighed from frustration. "According to Thorax, we practically won't be able to do anything with that throne in there."

"About that throne…" Starlight momentarily thought to herself. "If we get into the hive and destroy it, can we get our magic back?"

"Uh-huh!" Thorax answered.

"And how are we supposed to destroy it?" I asked. "If we wanted any change, we'd probably need magic. But, we can't use magic if the throne still stands. If Chrysalis was smart enough to protect the hive with the throne in the first place, I highly doubt the throne is brittle as a bundle of sticks."

"If I remember correctly, the throne is pretty solid." Thorax recalled.

"Well, unless somepony else has something else, I say it's all we got." Starlight settled.

"This is a terrible plan." Discord mentioned. "How are we even supposed to get to the hive?"

"We walk?" Trixie returned with snark as every other pony began to jump off the cliffside and head across the barren wasteland that the hive stood on.

"I haven't walked that far in a millennia!" Discord protested, releasing simultaneous groans from both Trixie and Starlight.

I spent what time I had during our walk trying to think of something better than the poorly taped up plan we had, but anything I could come up relied on the use of magic, which we didn't have. Chrysalis really did think things through this time. It was actually really scary. As glad as I was to not being the only pony challenging a hive of changelings, I was still very afraid of where we'd end up by the end of the day.

"Athena." I heard my name being called, causing me to quickly pick my head up off the ground.

"Huh?" I turned in the direction the voice had been heard, leading me to find Starlight observing me a bit seriously.

"You're able to teleport back to Alex, right? In a way that doesn't necessarily use 'magic', so to speak?"

"I know what you're thinking." I acknowledged. "That was one of the first things I thought of, but there's a few problems with that. For one, even though I'm able to do that without unicorn magic, I'm not entirely sure if it still counts as magic Chrysalis's throne still forbids. Second, I could try it out, but there lies another problem. I'm pretty sure that wherever Alex is, there's a whole bunch of changelings nearby. I don't think it's very smart to risk being caught the instant I get back to him."

"But, don't you have some kind of power inside of him?" Starlight asked.

"To some degree." I answered. "But nothing I can think of that would bring the changelings to their doom. The only kind of 'power' I've been able to help unleash needed every one of his friends. There's only so much he can do on his own. Heck, for as long as I've been in there, there's only so much I understand about his light. Unless he's releasing some kind of joint attack with all of his other friends, I think I'm more useful out here than in there…" I partially said under my breath, beginning to feel a strong sense of guilt for some reason.

Starlight sighed. "We're really in a pickle now. I honestly wish Discord was able to use his magic, so we can have this wrapped up in a matter of minutes. I didn't get any good sleep last night."

"You and me both." I stated before we heard Discord ranting behind us.

"Oh, I don't know how any of you manage not being able to disappear and reappear whenever you want!"

"Well, I, for one, definitely miss you being able to disappear!" Trixie responded in a fit of aggression.

"Give Discord a break. None of us knew we weren't going to be able to use magic." Starlight defended.

"I did." Thorax mentioned.

At the sound of Thorax's voice, I stopped in my tracks and turned towards him. "Hang on, Thorax. This is something I should have asked you first, but if the changelings find you inside, what's going to happen to you?"

"What do you mean?" He asked with a cocked eyebrow.

"You left the hive." I reminded. "There's no doubt they know you now as a traitor. So, if they find you roaming about in their hive, are you going to get some kind of really bad punishment? Maybe far worse than us?"

"Well…" Thorax worriedly turned away. "The first thing I can think of is that they'll suck up any ounce of love I have. And when a changeling has every bit of love removed from inside them, well, I'm sure you have a pretty good idea of what happens after."

"In that case, are you sure you want to come with us?" I asked sincerely. "You're already doing so much for us, and I'd hate to lose you because you were risking your life for us."

"You know what they say about being a hero or villain." Thorax mentioned with a strike of confidence. "There's no way I can stand by and let this happen. It's either all or nothing. Besides, I could always use my power to try to come up with something. I'll change into a rock if I have to."

"That reminds me." Trixie pointed out. "Any of you could change into literally anything. In that case, how do we know the pony, or changeling, we're talking to is really us?"

"Trixie's right." Starlight stated. "If we get separated, it might make sense to have a way to make sure we are who we say we are."

Discord apparently seemed to finally reach up to us after having dragged his mismatched legs over. "Oh! Like a secret code! How about if I say 'we are' and you say 'doomed'? Or you say 'rescue' and I say..." In the midst of his rambling and pacing, Discord found himself tripping over a portion of the land that had been split and poking above the ground.

"How about if we say 'klutzy' and you say 'draconequus'?" Trixie came up with after witnessing his fall.

"'Klutzy draconequus'." Starlight repeated to herself. "Works for me."

"I'll definitely remember it." Thorax said.

"Well, at least we have that covered." I joined the others as they continued walking forward, leaving Discord to bitterly lag behind. "Great job, Trixie. I almost hadn't even thought of that."

"Well, somepony needs to remember that you can't always expect to rip the very fabric of space and time to get what you want." Trixie had clearly directed this towards Discord, but she suddenly widened her eyes and leaned over to Starlight to whisper in her ear. "No offense."

Starlight rolled her eyes and continued facing towards the front.

After a few more minutes of walking, Thorax galloped up towards the front and stopped everypony. "Hold on a second!" He hushed loudly. "There should be guards up ahead." He turned his head and appeared to look for some kind of opening. "This way." He gestured before leading the pack.

"We should let Thorax take point from now on." I suggested to Starlight as we followed him. "He's the only one who knows the area."

"I agree." Trixie added and turned towards the back of the group to find Discord a little behind. "And let's leave the draconequus behind us. If any other changelings start chasing after us, he'll be the first."

"As much as you clearly don't like him, Trixie, we need to all stay together." Starlight advised. "We need any help we can get, especially Discord's."

Trixie rolled her eyes. "If you say so."

Thorax circled us around the guards, leaving me to watch out for Discord and give him a kick every now and then to hurry and catch up. To be honest, I couldn't tell if he was purposely acting all mopey and disgruntled for not being able to use magic, or if his physical body was actually out of shape. After making sure the guards hadn't noticed any of us whatsoever, Thorax signaled us to enter a certain part of the hive. As we did and looked around, I saw a whole bunch of disgusting holes everywhere. For some reason, this gave me pretty bad chills, and I started feeling itchy all over.

"Okay. I am definitely glad you came." Trixie expressed towards Thorax out of gratitude, turning the tide in their strained relationship. "I don't think we'd be able to find our way without you."

"You definitely wouldn't." Thorax mentioned, pointing to a particular spot behind us.

Just as we looked back we found the entrance/exit closing itself eerily.

"Um, where's the way out?" Trixie asked.

"It's a changeling hive." Thorax explained. "It shifts and changes like we do, and we're the only ones who can navigate it. It's total chaos to non-changelings." He turned around and began walking in the direction of another pathway that had just opened up, almost as if he easily predicted its motion.

"Well, it's decent chaos." Discord critiqued after we cautiously walked through. "I don't know if I'd call it 'total'."

"Let me guess." I followed up on Thorax's explanation. "It's just another form of protection for the hive, right?"

"You got it." Thorax replied. "But as you may have already noticed, one of the major flaws with our security is that any changeling could easily get past it if they really wanted to. Of course, that wasn't really a problem for our queen. Every changeling has always been extremely loyal to her. Never in their minds have they ever thought of betraying her and going against the hive."

"…except you?" Starlight mentioned.

"Except me…" Thorax returned a bit sadly. "Still. I don't want to sound like I'm bragging or anything, but I don't think you all would have a chance if I wasn't here. We may not have a whole army of changelings to help us, but I'm glad I can be a big help when it comes to getting past the security here."

"Thank you, Thorax." I gratefully expressed. "I don't know what we'd do without you."

"If you can take us straight to the throne without alerting any of the changelings, we have a better chance of coming up with something to destroy the throne for good. Then, Discord can wipe them out in an instant." Starlight clarified.

"That's the plan." Thorax acknowledged.

"Are we sure that I'll get my magic back when we destroy this throne thingy?" Discord brought up with a condescending kind of attitude.

"If Thorax is right, then yes." Starlight answered.

"Well, that's reassuring." Discord responded with sarcasm.

"Thorax is right." I believed. "We just need to figure out how exactly we're going to destroy this throne."

"What if we don't figure out how we're going to destroy it?" Trixie questioned worriedly. "What then?"

"I... don't know." Starlight reacted hesitantly.

"That's reassuring." Trixie surprisingly responded in the same manner as Discord had.

I sighed, willing to brainstorm and throw out anything I could come up with. "Maybe we could destroy it with love…?"

"Love?" Each one of them turned to me, staring at me with a look of confusion.

"Chrysalis was literally blown away by love when she first attacked." I brought up. "If we could somehow replicate that here, maybe it could create something powerful enough to blow the throne to smithereens?"

"Oh, sure." Discord was the first to react to this idea fresh out of the oven. "We could just get all the changelings to love each other like you ponies do. That's a splendid idea." He leaned over to one of the bags Trixie had packed and began rummaging through it. "I don't suppose you brought any throne-destroying tools along with these useless sideshow props."

"Asks the Lord of Chaos who can't go for a walk without whining nonstop!" Trixie fired back.

"Yes, but when the throne is destroyed, I'll be able to rip the very fabric of reality to save our friends, while you'll still be a self-absorbed, below-average illusionist!" He argued.

"Self-absorbed?!" Trixie screamed out, revealing how offensive she found that remark to be. "Why, you...!"

"Cut. It. Out!" Starlight intervened between the both them by nearly screaming out in an effort to shut them up. "I'm just barely keeping it together, and it would be wonderful if you two could actually try to help instead of bickering like foals!"

"Okay." Discord answered in a dejected tone as Starlight moved on forward.

"How can we help?" Trixie asked in a similar manner.

"Don't ask me!" Starlight responded as I noticed a spike in her anxiety levels. "I couldn't even handle giving advice at the Sunset Festival, and I had magic then! And the four of us are as good as useless! At least Thorax knows where we're going."

"Um, guys?" Thorax called out up ahead. "I think we're lost."

"What?!" I raced over to him and took a look around where he had been standing at. There were more holes that were constantly changing than I could count as far as the eye could see. I faced him with what felt like a pleading expression. "I thought you knew the way!"

"It's been a while." He admitted. "I was feeling pretty confident up until now."

"Oh, great." Trixie said behind us. She placed the bags she had been carrying onto the floor and simply sat down. "We might as well just sit here and wait for the changelings to soak up all of our love or whatever gross thing it is that they do." She faced Thorax and seemed to pull up a worried look as she asked him a question. "How often do you all get hungry?"

"Actually, I haven't been since my time at the Crystal Empire." He answered. "And changelings are always hungry. We can never get enough love."

"Well, that's just super—"

"But you aren't hungry at all now?" Starlight interfered to ask a more important question.

"Athena asked me the same thing before we met up with you all." Thorax recalled as he looked at me. "Ever since I made a few friends who were willing to share their love with me, I haven't had to feed or take love at all." He flickered his wings.

"Is that about the same time your wings changed?" Starlight noticed.

"I guess so." Thorax responded with a shrug.

A loud yawn slipped in between a rather important conversation, and it obviously came from none other than Discord.

"While I would love to sit around chitchatting about feeding and not feeding, I have a Fluttershy to save!" He voiced extremely loudly, nearly causing me to stuff my hooves into my ears as if it would actually silence his voice instead.

"Are you crazy?!" I dashed towards him and stopped him before he could say anymore. "Any changeling within a mile could have heard that!"

"Oh, you keep saying that, but I haven't seen an actual changeling since we got into this hive." Discord attempted to reason with.

"Just because you haven't seen any changelings doesn't mean they're not in here!" I countered with. "It's a huge hive!"

"Uh…" We heard Trixie say out loud in a shaky voice, ceasing the words coming out of our mouths. At this point, we began to hear distant humming as if it had been coming from a swarm of bees. "W-What's that?"

"A changeling patrol!" Thorax warned.

I pointed in the direction the sound had been coming from and angrily faced Discord. "Is that good enough for you?!"

"To be fair, they could have very easily heard your voice instead of mine." He crossed his disfigured limbs against his chest and closed his eyes in denial.

"Aargh!" I groaned out in frustration, but I had to overlook it for now. Nearby, I could hear Thorax hyperventilating as Starlight attempted to calm him down.

"We need to come up with something quick!" Starlight suggested.

"And what do you expect us to do?" Trixie replied. "We have no magic, and it's not like my illusions are gonna save us!"

Starlight suddenly gasped before approaching her. "Do you have any of your smoke bombs?"

"Are you kidding?" Trixie stated rhetorically, which, in other words, meant that it would be foolish to think that she didn't have smoke bombs.

"Quick! Throw some of your smokes to Thorax!" Starlight instructed.

Trixie looked like she had questions she wanted to ask, but at the sound of other changelings quickly swarming in, she dug into her pack and threw a hoof-full over. "Don't let them drop to the ground!" Trixie warned Thorax.

Thorax quickly held out his hooves and juggled them a bit as he caught them. "What am I supposed to do with these?!"

"Thorax, change into Trixie! We're going to give the patrol a little 'magic' show." Starlight explained.

"Oh!" Trixie seemed to catch onto something. "I see what you're getting at! Thorax, when you've got the patrol's attention, use those smoke bombs and I'll get their attention over there!" She pointed towards another particular part of the gaping area we had been in. "Then, just follow my lead from there!"

"G-Got it!" He changed forms, allowing Starlight and Trixie to gallop on ahead.

"Come on!" They directed towards Discord and me, having us quickly get our legs in motion.

It happened within a matter of minutes, but the plan that Trixie had supervised involved both Thorax and her switching places to provide the patrol the illusion of teleportation. Trixie and Thorax used the smoke bombs they had on them to constantly "switch" back and forth, which ended up leaving Thorax to guide the patrol away from us. However, as we watched the group chase after him, two of the changelings from the group used a different kind a path for some reason. Were they taking a different route?

"Not exactly great and powerful, but effective." Discord somewhat praised.

"Hm. I'll take it." Trixie proudly popped in between us.

Another Trixie soon approached us, causing Starlight to raise up the code word for the first time.


"'draconequus'!" The two of them immediately answered before Thorax returned to his normal form.

"Ugh. I really think we need a new code word!" Discord complained.

"Hey. To be fair, if the changelings knew we were using a code word, the last thing they'd figure it'd be is something like 'klutzy draconequus'." I raised a fairly good point.

"The plan worked." Starlight added. "That's what really matters."

"That was a pretty good plan." Thorax mentioned.

"But we still don't know where we're going." Trixie brought up.

"Actually, we might." Starlight responded. "Two of the changelings didn't go with the rest."

"Oh!" Thorax slapped his foreleg onto his face from realization. "With an intruder in the hive, they went to protect the queen! Good thinking, Starlight!" He praised, causing an embarrassed chuckle to spill out from her mouth.

"Let's just hope we can come up with something on the spot like we did just a few minutes ago. I'm pretty sure that since the changelings know that we're here…" I obviously glanced over to Discord as I said this. "There's going to be a lot more changelings roaming about."

"Well, if we hadn't been spotted, we wouldn't have figured out where the throne room is, so I'd say I'm a genius." Discord replied with.

"Let's just get moving." Starlight suggested. "We don't want to stay at one place for too long, and we don't want to lose the trail the other two changelings are leaving behind."

"Excellent idea." Trixie began following Starlight as she led the way for the rest of us.

Like a three-dimensional hedge maze, we crept through various holes in the walls at different levels of height. Thorax had to point the path out to us every now and then since he was the only one who could fly naturally. However, eventually, we found the pair of changelings moving into a room that was heavily guarded by six other changelings, leaving us at a standstill.

"Now what?" Trixie asked in a whisper.

"We... go in." Starlight answered anxiously.

"Even if I wanted to, there's no way past the guards. We'll be spotted for sure." Thorax warned us.

"We need some kind of... distraction." Starlight suggested.

"Ugh." I groaned. "If I knew where Alex was, I could easily lead them away without being caught."

"I'm fresh out of smoke bombs." Trixie informed.

"Normally, I'm the most distracting thing I can think of, but without magic..." Discord said.

"You shouldn't underestimate yourself." Starlight mentioned with an odd smirk on her face.

"What are you talking about?" Discord inquired.

"You've got a knack for annoying the heck out of anyone." Starlight explained.

"Yes, but how am I supposed to do that?"

"Oh!" I remembered a particular event where all eyes were on him. "Remember that thing you did at the Gala? You were distracting everypony with your bad jokes."

"They weren't bad!" He refuted. "Everypony else just lacked a sense of humor. Besides, I still needed magic for my props, and, as you can see, I don't have any magic at the moment otherwise we'd already be done with this."

"I've got a microphone." Trixie pulled one out of her bag.

Discord sighed heavily as he swiped it out of her hooves. "Of course, the illusionist would bring something like this along with her show props." He began to casually make his way over to the changelings. "Fine, I'll do what I must." When he was literally right smack-dab in front of them, I was almost scared for him. Nevertheless, the changelings must have been confused at first because they didn't do anything the instant they saw him. "Hello, changelings and changelettes!" He announced after tapping the microphone a few times. "Believe me, I was just as surprised as you are that I'm here! When I heard that I'd be playing for a bunch of changelings, I was beside myself! Then I realized, it was just one of you."

"Ugh…" I groaned.

It seemed the feeling was mutual for the guards as they inched closer to him with an aggravated look on their face.

"Come on!" Starlight hushed over to us. "We need to go while he's keeping them distracted."

The rest of us began to dodge and weave through sharp pillars that were large enough to provide us cover as Discord continued to try to amuse the guards at the door. "But, seriously, this isn't the toughest crowd I've ever been in front of. But it's definitely the easiest to bug!" The guards were more confused than annoyed this time. "'To bug'? Is this thing on?" When they had advanced on Discord enough to leave some comfortable room on the back, we quickly trotted towards the door, opening it just enough to slip on through. "Well, if you think that you can do any better, be my guest!" Discord tossed the microphone away before having to run away from a pack of rampaging changelings. I actually felt a little bad for him.

"It is absolutely ridiculous that that worked." Trixie stated.

"You think he'll be okay?" I asked.

"Without his magic, it's hard to say." Starlight admitted. "But, we've just gotta count on him losing them. For now, we just have to wait until he comes back…eventually."

Each of us hid behind a piece of the wall for the time being, but every minute that passed noticeably made everyone else feel antsier. I didn't blame them. We were on the path to the throne room, and it was only a matter of time before more changelings would come through and most likely spot us.

"We can't wait for Discord. Between seeing him and Trixie, the castle will be crawling with guards soon." Thorax advised.

"But if we do manage to destroy Chrysalis' throne, we'll need him." Starlight argued. "He could take on the entire changeling army by sneezing if he wanted to."

"Maybe he's stuck hiding in a place filled with an army of them." I brought up. "If we can destroy the throne, then he can easily get out of trouble and pop back in with us."

"Or, he's probably already been captured!" Trixie quietly panicked.

"Hello? Fellow rescuers?" We heard his voice at the door. However, the way he worded his arrival sounded odd.

"We can't stay here. We gotta find the throne." Thorax and the others approached him without question.

"Ooh!" Discord expressed weirdly. "I heard some of the changelings who were chasing me say that they know where it is!"

It seemed I wasn't the only one who caught on to how weirder than usual he was being.

"'Klutzy'...?" Trixie began.

"Hmm?" He questioned at first before answering with something else. "Oh. Yeah. I-I can be klutzy. Now, follow me."

A changeling was among us, and it was obvious he was going to lead us anywhere but the throne room.

"You know that's not Discord, right?" Starlight whispered to Trixie.

"Obviously." She returned back.

"This way! We're almost there!" He waved over to a tunnel on the left of the fork in front of us.

I knew it wasn't actually Discord, but his behavior was admittedly creepy. It was like somepony who was trying to be all friendly to you but really just wanted to capture you for some sick and twisted game.

"I know this trick." Thorax noticed. "If he says to go left, we should definitely go right. He's leading us to a swarm waiting to attack!"

Several seconds were spent between us as if we were allotted to think about how we were going to proceed with this, but Trixie soon sighed in defeat. "Okay, I'll handle it. You two just get ready to run into the other tunnel."

"Wait, what?!" Starlight reacted with shock. "Trixie, you can't! I won't know what to do! We've already lost Discord; I can't lose you too! Without magic, I—"

"Starlight. You got us this far with just my illusions and Discord's annoying personality. You don't need magic to figure out what to do next. I know you're afraid to be in charge, but you are really good at it! Listen to your best friend."

"Do you need help?" I offered, not liking the sight of self-sacrifice I was currently witnessing.

"Absolutely not." Trixie immediately declined. "If there's a swarm in there, there's no doubt I'll be captured. As much as I'm afraid, I'm not letting them take more than they need. Now, go!" She exclaimed and turned over to the fake Discord. "Hey, Discord! Want to see the new trick I've been working on?" She approached him, placed a piece of cloth that covered both her hoof and his claw, and pulled it off to reveal that she had cuffed him with a string of tied fabric. "I call it the 'Changeling Catcher'!" After observing the aggressive look on the fake's face, she immediately turned back to us. "Run!"

Thorax and Starlight began galloping off behind me, but I couldn't move my hooves for some reason. Trixie and I weren't close, but I found it extremely hard to just leave a pony like this behind without even trying to help.

"What are you doing?!" She noticed me as she pulled back the changeling that was trying to follow the others. "Get out of here!"

"L-Let's knock this one out and leave together, Trixie!" I advised an alternative.

Each of us heard a buzzing, causing Trixie to look up from where she was at. "It's a little too late for that! Hurry before they see you!"

Before I could even try to step in to do something, she screamed as she immediately had been pummeled by a countless number of changelings. Trixie was right. Even if I would have stayed to help, there was no doubt I would have been in the same boat as her. A few of the changelings from the pack turned their head at me and hissed. I yelped before quickly running in the direction of the other tunnel. I turned and swerved through whatever paths I could find to escape as I heard the swarm behind me.

I came across one particular part of the hive that would have served as a dead end had it not been for the holes that were constantly changing. There were a few other pathways that were either permanent or stood unchanged for a longer period of time. However, I didn't have time to pick and choose, especially since I had lost the others by staying behind with Trixie. All I could do was wing it, and I decidedly chose one of the far ones, thinking for a second that the changelings would probably search the nearest ones.

I panted heavily as I tried to calm my nerves and catch my breath once I felt I was safe. However, I heard a faint voice coming from another part of the area I had been in. I followed the voice until I found another path showcasing a large area from up above.

"Have you captured him yet?!" An angry familiar voice echoed out.

"Not yet. However, we managed to catch another one of the intruders."

"Forget the intruders! The Prince is more important!"

I gasped based on what I had been listening to. The Prince? Is she talking about Alex? Did he get out?!

"We have patrols all over the hive, but it's going to take a while to find him, especially with these intruders getting in the way." As they continued talking, I suddenly noticed a shocking sight above. There were these…pods that housed many of the ponies we knew that had been captured. My eyes had caught sight of everypony that I shared a close bond with, but to prove my theory, I didn't see Alex in any of them. In that case…where is he?!

"Hurry and find him!" I heard below, turning my attention back to the conversation. "If we are really to benefit from this, we need every important figure gathered here. I will not stand by while there's some rat in the hive."

Chrysalis revealed herself by this large and extremely-sharp looking bedding of stone, and I could only believe that this was indeed the throne since she had been on it. Just as I began to think about what my next move was going to be, I noticed Starlight walking in from the bottom entrance, but she was alone. Was it really her? Or another changeling? That wouldn't make sense…

At either point, I tried finding another position at an unprotected flank. I squeezed through various holes in the direction I intended to go without straying too far off from the throne room. At the same time, I heard Chrysalis voice, and it seemed that she caught wind of the solo pony that had made her way into the throne room.

"One little pony all by herself. Oh, how will I ever prevent this daring rescue?"

Just hang on, Starlight!

As I seemingly made my way to the back area of the throne, I suddenly came to a stop following a large gasp escaping from my lips. A changeling hissed right in front of me, but it hadn't been facing me. However, I noticed it had been kicked to the side, and a pony tackled him over to another gaping hole. From what I could see, the hole was another vantage point of the throne room. Since Starlight had been inside the throne room, I was expecting it to be Thorax, but it wasn't. Although, that didn't stop me from once again gasping sharply at the sight of him.

"Alex!" I cried out. I knew I should have been wary of it being another changeling, but there was absolutely no way. For one, unless it was Thorax, there was no reason for another changeling to fight each other like that. Thorax said that they were extremely loyal anyway. Besides, knowing Alex for my entire life, and having this eternal connection with him, there was just no doubt in my mind that it was really him. "I missed you so much!" I raced over to him to hug him.

As he noticed me grow closer, he immediately placed a hoof to his head and backed off, causing me to stop in my tracks.

"W-What's wrong?!"

"Get away from me." He ordered, covering one eye with his foreleg.

I was shocked to hear this. Being separated for so long, I'd expect he'd be happy to see me, but he wasn't.

"Alex, are you okay?" I tried to step closer and held out a caring hoof for him, but he only groaned out in pain and continued to back off. "A-Are you hurt?! Let me help!"

"N-No!" He exclaimed out. "You're ruining everything!"

"W-What?" I was extremely confused. "What's with you, Alex?!"

"Just leave me alone. I don't have time for you to annoy me." He glared at me with what looked like the utmost hatred. At this point, I noticed an alarming saturation of color within his aura. His body was practically filled with red all over, more than I've ever seen in a changeling around here.

Did Chrysalis cast some kind of spell on him?

"Whatever it is, I'm going to take care of you!" I promised and proceeded to return back inside of him, but as I tried, I immediately received a sharp pain in my head. No way! Did Chrysalis's throne also block out my power? But, it didn't feel like it had been sapped away from me. It felt more like a poisonous kind of force was blocking my path!

"I'm giving you a chance to run, and you better take it." He warned.

Something about his attitude was familiar, but I wasn't willing to just do his bidding and leave him by himself. He looked like he was hurting when I got closer to him. If Chrysalis casted some kind of spell on him, maybe it could be broken somehow if I just got close enough? Without the use of my power, I didn't know what else to do, and it was all I had.

"I'm not going anywhere until I fix you up!" I approached him, causing him to painfully snarl. Just as I was about to lay my hoof on him, I was immediately struck down. He kicked me away. As I recovered from this, I felt hurt, both physically and emotionally, but I just had to convince myself that this wasn't the real Alex at the moment. "Stop and let me take a look at you!" I demanded.

"That's exactly what I don't want!" He returned.

"Are you hiding something from me? Is there something you don't want me to see?" I asked.

"…you could say that." His answer was vague.

It was clear that I wasn't going to get anything helpful this way, so I needed to force whatever I needed out of him. First and foremost, I needed to figure out why he had been covering his left eye like that. I furrowed my eyebrows and prepared to charge over to him. He tried to escape, but I could assume that the pain that was inflicted by my presence slowed him down greatly.

"Let…me….see…!" I struggled to pry away his hoof and he growled in return. It wasn't long before his strength seemed to give out. I pushed away his hoof, and the first glance I got at him was absolutely frightening. I stood there in absolute shock, finding myself unmoving to the sight of his left eye. It was bloodshot red, like if the color from his emotional aura had leaked over to his eye. I couldn't move whatsoever at the sight.

"You shouldn't have done that." He stated before mustering whatever strength he had left and threw me towards the same hole he had kicked the changeling out of.

By mere inches, I narrowly avoided the sharp jagged rocks below. Instead, I had landed on something concrete but flat. In turn, I was dazed for a moment, hearing a hollow voice ring in my head.

"By replacing the most beloved figures in Equestria, my drones will be able to store all the love meant for them and return it here to me. Everypony will do as I command, and my subjects and I will feed on their love for generations!" A blurry figure soon came into my view. "Oh, hello? What do we have here?" By the time I was well enough to move around, it was too late to do anything about the queen of the changelings staring directly at me. "Attempting to overthrow my throne as well, I see? Remove yourself at once. The queen sits there."

I felt my body being carelessly flung across once more. I landed nearby a group of changelings, but my eyes caught one in particular with a different set of wings. "T-Thorax…?" I softly called.

Chrysalis's wicked laugh echoed throughout the large and hollow room as she laid on top of her throne in a satisfying manner. "What a pitiful rescue attempt. As if you really thought you could stop me in the current state of your abilities."

"You're doing this all because you want to feed on love, right?" I heard Starlight's voice say from a location I couldn't pinpoint. Chrysalis stretched her head out and seemed to listen for the origin of the sound. "But, Thorax told each of us something important! You don't have to take love from others in order to feed!"

"Ridiculous!" She hissed as she stomped onto the ground besides a certain rock. From there, she grabbed a hold of a tail with her mouth and flung her towards where I had been. As for her, she had a couple of changelings hold her down as Chrysalis approached her. "The hunger of changelings can never be satisfied!"

"Exactly!" Starlight attempted to reason with. "Thorax left the hive and made a friend. He shared love, and now he doesn't need to feed. You don't have to live your lives starving all the time!"

Surprisingly, she was turning heads inside the room, but it wasn't enough to create a full-out mutiny.

"You know nothing of the changelings or what it takes to be their queen!" Deeply offended, Chrysalis pulled Starlight towards her with her magic and threw her against a rock. "I decide what is best for my subjects, not some mewling grub!"

"I know what it's like to lead by fear and intimidation!" Starlight managed to respond with. Meanwhile, I noticed the throne that wasn't too far from where I had been at. No changeling bothered to hold me back because of how weak I looked in the first place, and they seemed too distracted with Starlight's speech to do anything in the current moment. Despite how disoriented I had been, I began making my way to the throne. "And I know what it's like to want everypony to do what you say! But I was wrong. A real leader doesn't force her subjects to deny who they are! She celebrates what makes them unique and listens when one of them finds a better way!"

Some kind of a force suddenly stopped me, and I was soon dragged away to be pulled in with the others.

"Look at all of you!" Chrysalis shared in an outrage. "Preoccupying yourselves with a blabbering pony so much that you nearly let one of them slip onto my throne unguarded! See what happens when you listen to someone other than me?! I'll show each and every one of you what happens when you turn your back to the hive like Thorax here has!"

Chrysalis fired a beam at Thorax, lifting him off the ground from his entrapment.

"No! Stop!" Starlight cried out.

"Just as soon as I drain every last ounce of love from him and show my subjects what a real leader is!" Chrysalis promised and hung her jaw wide open to suck in a beam that came straight from Thorax's chest.

"I can feel the love inside me slipping away...!" Thorax strained with a painful look. "I can't hold onto it much longer...!"

"Then don't!" Starlight suggested behind a couple of guards that held her back. "Sharing love is what made you different, to begin with! You should share yours with Chrysalis! Give her all of it!"

The tide of events turned once Thorax seemed to listen to Starlight's advice. Instead of a beam being pulled away from him, it seemed the love he had was strong enough to overcome the queen's degenerating thievery. She had suddenly been pushed back towards her own throne, cracking her seat. In the next moment, something enveloped around Thorax. It was some sort of cocoon, similar to the stage between a larva transitioning into a butterfly.

"T-Thorax…?" I managed to lift myself off the ground and poke at the cocoon.

There a was blinding light, and before I knew it, there was a completely new pony in front of me. Well, there was something.

"Are you okay, Athena?" He asked worriedly.

It was definitely his voice, but…what was he? "I-I think so…" I could only respond with before Starlight approached us.

"This is what happens when you give love freely instead of taking it! If you share love and care about others than just yourself, you can live a much better life!" Starlight pointed out to every single changeling in the area.

At different spots inside the throne, bright lights emerged. Rumbling occurred as if the hive had been overrun by a massive earthquake. I felt something shield me, but everything had grown too bright to see anything. It was only a matter of time before I'd be able to figure out the fate of my own current standing.

I was scared when everything seemed dreamy-like for a second, but then I found that Thorax had been hovering over me in a defensive kind of stance. Not only that, but we had ultimately been shielded by a magical barrier. Turning to my left, I found that it had been Starlight. I churned out a breath of relief.

"Thanks, you guys…"

"Are you okay?" Starlight asked as they both worriedly faced me.

I felt a little exhausted, but I believed I was okay for the most part.

"Yeah…" I answered.

I looked around and found a colorful group of changelings all around us. In fact, they were much more attractive than they were a few seconds ago. Looking back at Thorax, he looked stronger and taller for some reason than all the others, but I think that was because he was stronger. Out of every other changeling, he was the lone wolf who was brave enough to change their ways. Not to mention that he probably had a lot more love stored inside him.

Nevertheless, I kept scanning my eyes among the crowd around us, but the one particular pony I was looking for wasn't in sight. I decided to look around myself, searching in the direction I had last seen him. I began worrying that he had possibly been buried underneath all the rubble, and with each second that passed, the antsier I felt.

Just as I felt like bursting into tears, I saw a faint glimpse of his coat, and I quickly rushed to it without question. I found him lying on top of a pile of rubble, and I was absolutely ecstatic to see him. However, I needed to make sure he was doing alright.

"Alex?" I lightly shoved him with my hooves. "Wake up. Please, wake up."

Thankfully, he didn't scare me too much when he started moaning and groaning himself awake. He placed a hoof to his head, reminding me of our short encounter from before. I analyzed his emotions, but they weren't red whatsoever like last time. He had to be back to normal now.

"Athena…?" He slowly opened his eyes, and I could only imagine he was able to make me out.

"Yes...!" I immediately hugged him. "I missed you so much! I'm so glad you're okay!"

"Mm…! What happened?" He asked as I found myself holding him a little too tight.

Before I could answer, a large amount of rubble slammed on the floor from not too far away where Alex and I were. The sound of extremely ticked off hissing ensued before it had been cut short. There, on her own, Queen Chrysalis stood against many of us grouped together, including her own transformed changelings.

"When Twilight and her friends defeated me, I chose to run away and seek revenge!" Starlight approached her boldly. "You don't have to! You can be the leader your subjects deserve." She held out her hoof, and for a surprising minute, it appeared as if Chrysalis pondered about her suggestion.

Considering my history with her, it was the first time I had ever seen Chrysalis appear troubled and weak. She had cautiously raised her hoof and was inching it closer towards Starlight's. Suddenly, she slapped Starlight's hoof away, looking at her with the utmost grudge.

"There is no revenge you could ever conceive of that will come close to what I will exact upon you one day, Starlight Glimmer!" She backed away and immediately fled, taking off to someplace unknown.

I helped Alex up and walked him over to the group when he seemed a little more aware of his surroundings. It wasn't long before a few of the others approached him in concern.

"You okay?" Twilight asked.

"I've got a headache, but I'll be fine." He replied.

As Fluttershy began to take a better look at him, I turned towards Thorax and observed his evolved state for real this time.

"Wow, Thorax. You look so…majestic."

"Do I?" He picked up his hooves and looked himself over all around. "Well, without Chrysalis in the picture, I guess I'm their new leader now…"

"Thorax, as the new leader of the changelings," Princess Celestia approached him, "I look forward to discussing how we can improve our relationship in the future." He bowed in response to her proposition. She turned around and faced the rest of us. "However, for the moment, perhaps it is best that we leave the Changeling Kingdom to the changelings."

"Splendid idea!" I heard Discord cut in, clapping wildly. "Now who's ready for some celebratory tea at Fluttershy's?!"

"Oh!" Fluttershy took a look around at the massive group that was upon us. "Uh, everypony?"

"Actually, now that you can snap your claws and send us absolutely anywhere again, I think I have a better option." Starlight offered.

"Anywhere that isn't here." Discord agreed, holding his claws up at Starlight's recommendation.

Everything seemed to be wrapped up nicely with a little bow on top as we celebrated our close call success at Starlight's old village. It seemed that she made peace with her past when it came to her old subjects, and she was now enjoying the festivities as the rest of us gathered together at a table outside.

"So, I'm able to rip the very fabric of reality again." Discord felt the need to mention.

"Yeah, yeah. And I'm still a self-absorbed, below-average illusionist, right?" Trixie recalled.

"Actually, I was going to say a couple of those illusions were slightly above average." Discord admitted. "If you ever need a little chaos in your act, let me know."

"Ha!" Trixie laughed out loud. "When pigs fly!"

"Your wish is my command!" Discord predictably reacted, summoning flying pigs with a single snap, leaving the two to ride off at a whim.

"Okay." Rainbow Dash said after witnessing the odd scene between Discord and Trixie. "Somepony is really gonna have to catch us up on what we missed."

"I've got that covered." I volunteered happily, willing to do almost anything now that I was reunited with every one of my friends. "It's kind of a super long story, but I think I can sum it up enough."

"Looks like you pulled through." I heard beside me. Alex was looking at me with what appeared to be a soft yet proud grin, but he was holding his hoof against his head as if his head was still aching. "I don't know what exactly you guys did, but you did it. I'm even surprised Discord helped, seeing as he's never anywhere to be found when we actually need it."

"Truth be told…" I answered. "He was only in it to save Fluttershy."

"I suppose that's what friends do." Fluttershy giggled at the idea while the other ponies merely rolled their eyes. I guess I didn't blame them.

"Hey. What about you?" I asked Alex. "Are you doing okay? Do you remember anything that happened in the hive?"

"We were trapped in those pods." Twilight reminded. "I don't think any of us besides you five remember anything."

I shook my head. "At some point, Alex was out and about. Chrysalis had sent her changelings to look for him, but they couldn't find him." I turned back to Alex to tell him the story directly. "I found you around the throne room, but it's like you didn't recognize me or something. We…uh, well…" I hesitated in describing our confrontation.

"What?" He asked as he leaned forward, clearly willing to know.

"You were…aggressive towards me." I decided on.

"Huh?" He placed his hooves on the table. "Was I? I-I don't remember any of that at all! Are you sure it wasn't just a changeling?"

"I can't say one hundred percent, but I'm positive it was you. It's just…" I paused, feeling myself become drained at just the thought of it. I chose to leave it in the past since it was a time to celebrate instead of worrying about things like that. "I don't know what it was, but it's over now. Let's just enjoy the festival here."

Of course, Alex couldn't rid himself of what I told him so easily, but I believed he just needed time to let everything sink in.

I began worrying myself regarding that confrontation. There was something that still scared me about it. However, just like with a lot of other things in life, I learned to ignore it and focus on the festival for now.

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