• Published 28th Mar 2013
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Noblesse Oblige - Brony2893



The changelings numbers are dwindling and many did not return home. Faced with extinction, their queen has only one option available to her.

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To Save a Species

”My fellow changelings…” I began to get the attention of the crowd below with my magically-amplified voice. When I was sure all was silent, I began again. “… I know times have been difficult, and many of us did not return from Canterlot.” I paused to look at the group gathered beneath my balcony. There wasn’t a single soul that stayed behind when we invaded. As I looked back down at the crowd of those who returned, a cold realization hit me.

There were a lot less faces than before.

“I understand there have been murmurs of discontent, and distrust,” Whispers echoed from the throng below. “I need each and every one of you to trust your queen, trust in me when I say the changelings will rise once more! She has a plan to bring us out of this decrepit position we find ourselves.” I paused once more to gauge the reactions below. Some had hope in their eyes, other scowled… and some could not even look at me.

“For the next day there shall be no work, for any of you.” That certainly got their attention. “Take tomorrow to properly mourn those claimed to the wilds, and pray for your brothers and sisters who have not yet returned,” I could feel the grief in the air as I brought up that particular topic. Were it not for the love I had stored in my energy reserves, none of us would have made it back to the hive.

“Please, return to your homes now. Announcements will be made in two days’ time. Until then, please stay warm...”

<><><><><><><><><><>

That was many months ago, and little had changed in that time.

The winter months would soon be upon us, and with the temperature of the southern mountains already dangerously low… I feared we would not last another season, let alone a whole year.

Changelings did not live in swamps or forests as most ponies assumed, well… not anymore since we were driven from our natural homes over the centuries. Now we were forced to live in the southern arctic wastes and build our homes into the very mountains themselves. It was normal to see a changeling wearing clothes to protect their fragile bodies from the extreme cold, even as we lived hundreds of feet beneath the surface and dwelled inside massive caverns.

Even then, inside my own bedchambers I wore heavy garments in an attempt to stay warm. We do not have the natural coats or high blood circulation of ponies. Changelings were never intended for the arctic. If our chitins got cold enough, they would literally crack open, leaving us vulnerable to infection. I shivered and pulled my robes tighter with my forelegs.

Using magic had been advised against for day-to-day activities that could be handled by one’s wings or hooves. It is a common belief our magic stems from love, which is only half the fact. Our magic fuels our life force, and our magic comes from love. Changelings cannot feed off the love of another; even two citizens who have gone through the rituals of matrimony will not thrive off the others love. My father once called it ‘one of the many weaknesses of our strange species’.

I looked out my balcony to the entrance of the cavern once more as I paced my room. Off in the distance I saw a small gathering as the gates opened. The weekly arrival of our undercover ‘love thieves’ were returning to the hive to replenish our energy reserves. It was common practice to send a minor into the world as a maturation ritual and have them return only when they had filled their bodies with as much love magic as they could.

But that was back when we thrived, back when it was only a rite of passage.

Now, every changeling that was healthy enough to leave was given the duty of a love thief. Do you remember when I said a changeling could not feed off the love of another? That is partially true at least. We can’t feed off their love, but we can transfer our magic—which fuels our life forces—to others. It is a bleak life and even with every hive member contributing, our numbers are still too low for anything long-term.

I felt a small surge of energy as the returning agents spread their love throughout the hive. It wasn’t much, but it would leave us feeling not so ill for a day at least. The next squad of changelings would be leaving any moment now, venturing to the closest of the southern pony cities to acquire love. With any luck, most of them will survive the frigid journey and eventually return to the hive. Were it not for the agents and my own contributions to the hive, we’d have all ‘starved’ months ago.

I steeled myself away from the window. I lifted myself up with my wings and went over to my large bed and climbed in, ready to retire for the ‘night.’ As I set down on the covers I heard a sickening cracking noise before a gut-wrenching snap.

The chitin above my right foreleg, just below the elbow had cracked and broken away. A hole the size of a grapefruit now showed my sensitive skin underneath. I lied down and cradled my appendage with silent tears. I must have looked like a foal crying over a bruised leg or scraped hoof. But in all reality, what pained me most was knowing there was no way to hide the injury from my subjects, and they were all too-willing to do anything to make sure their queen was alright.

Even if it meant sacrificing their own magic to sustain me.

<><><><><><><><><><>

I heard a knock at my chamber doors from behind me.

“Enter,” I commanded flatly without even turning from my balcony. The door creaked open as the familiar sound of changeling hooves on stone reached my ears.

“It is time for dinner, Your Highness.” The familiar voice of my personal servant, Skeer said. He was one of the uncommon changelings that had green eyes instead of the majority blue. “I had a hunch you would not be dining in the hall tonight, so I took the liberty of bringing your meal to you, Your Highness.” I turned my head around and saw Skeer holding a large platter of various, steaming foods on his back and supporting them with his wings. He also wore a dark, robe-like garment to combat the ever-present cold.

I allowed myself the slightest smile at the gesture. My people never lost faith in me, and would even give their own lives to see me safe. I remembered what happened the previous week when I forgot to hide my injury, and one of my subjects saw it. Without hesitation, she gave me the rest of her magic to heal myself... too much magic. I mentally shook the image of the drained changeling from my mind and met Skeer’s emerald eyes.

“Thank you for being so considerate, but your queen is not hungry tonight,” I lied, much to the disappointment of my shrunken stomach.

“My queen, forgive the insubordination on my part... but we are all hungry,” Skeer carefully, quietly countered. He was right though.

I had to choose my words carefully at that moment. If I lied and pretended to be ill, he too would have given himself up for my own health... something I—nor the general population—could afford.

“I already ate tonight.” I lied again, now fully turning to face him to—hopefully—give my words the extra strength they would need to convince him. “I left before you got here and ate early.” I said in a simple tone, hoping he would buy it. Skeer titled his head and narrowed his eyes at me for a few tense moments.

“Understood, my queen.” He nodded and turned to leave. “I will make sure this is promptly thrown-out and—”

“No!” A part of me shouted before I even realized it. Skeer jumped slightly and turned to me with a bewildered, skeptical look. Food was understandably difficult to find in the mountainous tundra, that went double for hot food. “Don’t... don’t throw it away. Share it with those close to you,” I closed the distance and placed a hoof on his shoulder to reinforce my words. “Such a feast should not be wasted.” I nodded to the steaming platter still on his back.

“I—I, yes, Your highness!” Skeer stuttered before recomposing himself and giving me a curt nod. I withdrew my hoof and saw what could have been a tear in his eyes, but it might not have been. Without any further conversation, he left my chambers with my dinner; now his to share with whom he wished.

My stomach had then chosen to voice its objection at my selfless act. I ignored it and returned to my thoughts. I shut the doors to my small balcony and decided to get into bed so as to keep myself warm, and avoid further cracking. I used my hooves to pull the thick blankets over me and stared at the ceiling in deep thought.

Not even a year prior, I would not have been so generous, so conscious of my subject’s lives and feelings. I was young and fell into the all-too easy trap of being a power hungry ruler. I silently berated myself once more for our failure—my failure at the Canterlot invasion.

I wanted so badly to blame the ponies for my plan being ruined, the princesses, I even tried to silently blame my own people, even though they had performed admirably. In the end... it was my own fault it failed, my own fault half of our population had disappeared in less than a year. The guilt I felt at all the lives lost because of my foolishness is something I still feel to this day. Many times I contemplated suicide to escape what I had done.

I wiped away a tear and pushed the covers away slightly, revealing the precious regalia around my neck. It was a blue, crystal heart set into a golden necklace my mother had left to me in her will. I never discovered the origins, it was always a mystery. My parents never told me where it came from, only that they ‘retrieved’ it from a far away land. I hadn’t known of its peculiar properties for many years. When I discovered it was a storage device for magical energy, I sought a way to use this to further the changeling empire.

Without consulting my subjects or advisors, I used the energy inside of my parent’s gift to increase my own powers to a degree I never dreamed of. I had grown physically, and magically into something never before seen by changeling society. In less than a month the entire population had been moved to the outskirts of Canterlot, awaiting my signal. The power I had from that crystal made me feel strong, invincible as I infiltrated the city. It also made me arrogant, which was my ultimate downfall.

In the end, something that could have pulled our species from its bleak, shunned existence had been wasted at the cost of literally hundreds of lives... along with the only other changeling that could have qualified as my mate...

...and it was all my fault.

For what felt like the thousandth time since our return, I pulled my blanket over my head and cried myself to sleep.

<><><><><><><><><><>

He was late. He was never later, and that made a knot form in the bottom of my gut.

I sat in my throne and waited impatiently for Skeer to give the daily report of the “city,” if a cavernous hive could be called that. Winter had officially started two weeks ago, and the temperature was already dropping rapidly. I’d ordered the majority of the hive into hibernation to reduce the needs for our already low supplies of food and magic. Only the most essential changelings remained awake, to gather food and love.

The city was eerily quiet, and my cavern castle felt empty and dead with most of my staff hibernating. The only sounds in my throne room was the occasional drip of water from an overhead stalactite. I’d been wearing my warmest coat with my blue crystal draped around my neck. I’m not sure why I’d taken to wearing it everywhere, maybe as a reminder of what I’d done.

I was broken from my thoughts by the telltale sound of changeling chitin on stone. I composed myself and waited for him to come closer.

“My queen, I have brought the pre-winter census report,” Skeer bowed before my makeshift throne. He silently reached under one of his wings and passed me a light, tidy stack of papers.

“Why are these late?” I asked with an impatient tone I immediately regretted.

“ My sincerest apologies, Queen Chrysalis.” Skeer took a step back and bowed deeply. “ However, there were.... there were some...”

“Out with it already!” I snapped at him and my wings flared fully. It was late in the day and I was eager to be in my warm bed with a belly full of food. Add my recent stresses, and I was not a happy queen.

“There were some complications,” Skeer squeaked out just loud enough for me to hear. He was almost to the floor now, cowered in fear. At that, I pulled myself back and felt my face drop.

“What.... what kind of complications?” I asked hesitantly. Bad news usually never reached my ears unless it was serious anymore, and that only meant something new had gone wrong. Skeer slowly looked up to me and regained his composure and confidence.

“My queen... the last large group of love thieves haven’t returned yet...” Skeer paused to rub a foreleg over another. “And they’re a week late...” If words alone could stop a heart, it would have been those.

“Are you absolutely sure they weren’t simply lost in a blizzard and missed the hive?” I asked with my voice full of hope, but deep down I knew it was pointless to ask. I bit my lip as he waited to answer.

“I’m positive, my queen. We dispatched a search party who found their tracks,” Skeer stopped and looked down with a look I couldn’t see. Perhaps he had family or friends out there. “The search party found their tracks leading off into the unexplored arctic. They were forced to give up after their leader was... after she was taken by a rogue dragon.” I could feel the sadness around him; he definitely lost somebody dear to him.

“I see.” Was all I managed to say as the news sunk in. I took a step back and flopped onto my throne, defeated. I rubbed my temples as I played the situation over in my mind, the papers from Skeer still in my other hoof. With the initial group gone, and another from the search party, I was down another eleven changelings. I took a moment to look over the census report, but it was all incoherent and incomprehensible to me at the time.

“Skeer, you’ve always been good with math and been my advisor and servant for a decade now. Tell me, how bad is the situation with the latest events?” I asked whilst setting the papers down beside my throne for later. I knew the answer from him wouldn’t be good, but that didn’t help any.

“My queen,” He paused to find his words. Eventually he reclined on the rocky floor and cleared his throat. His emerald eyes looked straight into mine, a rarity for him. “We have been through many hardships and always managed to scrape by, but I’m afraid with these eleven agents as good as gone... we can’t even meet the minimum survival requirements.”

I let my head fall in my hooves for some silent moments, trying to will this away or wake up from a bad dream and be in my real home. I felt tears welling up in my eyes, but I forced them back.

“How much longer do we have?” I slowly whispered without looking up.

“We’ll run out food and energy just as spring rolls around... right as the rest of the hive wakes up from their hibernation,” Skeer informed. “After that, it will be a week, two at the most before we all starve.”

“So... it has come to this.” I breathed, defeated and suddenly feeling very tired. I looked down to my crystal necklace and fiddled with it in my hooves, trying to think of a solution.

“Your highness, I had an idea, if I may...” Skeer took a slight step forward and waited for my reply.

“Go ahead.” I waved a hoof to him without looking up from the marvelous blue crystal.

“I believe it is time we abandoned our long-standing reputation as stubborn loners who refuse aid, and seeked assistance from the other species.” He said quickly and held up a hoof in defense, perhaps thinking I would lash out at him. I looked up to him with a blank face before calmly unfastening my necklace and laying it in my hooves.

“I believe that would be a wise course of action.” My voice had gone flat as I toyed with the crystal heart in my hooves, peering into its depths as if it had placed a spell on me. I mentally slapped myself back into reality and looked Skeer straight in his eyes. “Bring the best stationary we have to my quarters, and find our fastest, healthiest worker. Wake one from hibernation if you have to. We’re going to need these letters delivered as soon as possible.”

Skeer had the largest grin I’d ever seen on him as he snapped to attention and gave me a surprising salute. My agreement must’ve surprised him greatly.

“Right away, Your Highness!” And with that, he turned and stormed out of my sight.

Alone once more, I relaxed and fell deeper into my throne. The crystal heart was still in my hooves as I gave it a few more inspecting glares.

“You’re going to make a great queen one day, Chrysy...”

“You’ll make us proud, I know it.”

My parents’ words echoed in my mind. They had so much faith in me before they passed. They gave me everything I needed to rule over our homeland—now a deserted wasteland, and even the surprise of a city’s worth of energy stored in this mysterious, heart-shaped crystal.

And I wasted it all.

My glare intensified at the crystal.

“Mother, Father, you were wrong!” I yelled and threw the precious stone with all my might at the closest wall. Without bothering to even look at it, I stormed off to my room.

I had letters to write, and a civilization’s worth of pride to swallow.

<><><><><><><><><><>

Six rejection letters were spread out on my desk. Six letters... each from a different species refusing our plea for aid. The dragons, zebras, gryphons, saddle-arabians, donkeys, and even the remote buffalo tribes all left us to fend for ourselves. I shuffled through all of them one more time before sighing and tossing them into the fire. At least their cruel words would keep me warm for a few minutes.

Dragons and changelings had been mortal enemies since the ancient times, so their reply was hardly surprising. But to be given such harsh words from the more peaceful and understanding species was surprising. It was likely the news of Canterlot’s invasion had reached them, so the situation was hopeless.

Maybe not entirely hopeless... A rogue thought creeped to the front of my mind. ... there is still one species you have not asked for aid yet.

“No. They would sooner watch us writhe like worms before they even speak to us, let alone me personally.” I whispered to myself and pulled my coat tighter as I adjusted myself in the desk’s crude chair. I looked down to the necklace I had gone back later and retrieved. There was now a large chip in the center, and a large crack running up the middle.

You don’t know until you try. You don’t have enough subjects for an invasion. You don’t have any other choice. The voice spoke up again. You’ve already swallowed more pride than you thought possible... why not go a little further?

I looked over to my inkwell, quill, and a final, blank letter I hadn’t needed at the time. I stared at it for a few long, hard minutes before I eventually sighed to myself.

“What have I got to lose...” I sniffled and slowly reached my hooves out for my quill and shuffled the paper over to me. With trembling hooves, I dipped my quill into the inkwell, and began to write.