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King And Kin

by GFG

The road to the Changeling Hive remained as treacherous as before.

Sand and stone bore all the same wear beneath her hooves as she trod. Desert skies and low-hanging sun burned upon her back with every step, beads of sweat rolling down her coat and mane.

With burning lungs and a racing heart, Limestone Pie trudged her way home.

Perhaps home wasn't the right word anymore. The Great Shift had happened without her. Despite her. What had been purpose before now was merely a memory. Like the wind-carved plateaus of eons past.

Wherever it was she was heading, she was determined to reach there by noon.


In name, Thorax was a king. In practice, he felt little more than a jester. Not always, but especially now.

Red-faced and wide-smiled, he gazed upon the Saddle Arabian ambassador seated across from him with increasing despair. The ambassador--no, Lionheart was his Pony name--stared back, his keen eyes narrowed at the lunch they had just been served.

Dandelion and daisy sandwiches, hayfries, baskets of fruits, assortments of cupcakes and fritters and all other sorts of sweets, tempted them. To drink, several bottles of Sweet Apple Acres cider cooled over ice. The condensation alone smelled heavenly. Thorax owed Applejack so many favors for that one.

And though the meal looked scrumptious, the Hive was never cleaner, and each and every creature had treated Ambassador Lionheart with nothing but respect, well...

Even if Thorax weren't a Changeling, he still would've tasted the bitter tension in the air.

As soon as the meal arrived, Lionheart's demeanor shifted from a polite, yet detached keel, to one of stonefaced silence. Their minute chit-chat screeched to an abrupt halt.

The stallion's powerful, broad shoulders and proud, braided mane seemed to tense all at once when the lucky nymphs--so proud to be serving such an honored guest!--set down the serving platters. Doubtlessly, they had tasted the surprise and disgust that radiated from Lionheart, too, and scurried away.

Which left Thorax, King all in name, with Lionheart, a true emissary of his people, alone.

What had felt like eternity had likely been less than a minute. And yet, Thorax knew he had to say something.

"So..." Thorax cleared his throat. "Have you ever been to Sweet Apple Acres?"

Lionheart tore his gaze from the food to him, but said nothing.

"Ponies line up for miles to get that cider," Thorax continued with a nervous chuckle. "Miles. I've heard about times that Rainb--ah, the Element Of Loyalty--herself wasn't able to get some before it ran out!"

As Thorax forced another laugh, the ambassador responded only with a noncommittal grunt.

The air still tasting the same, Thorax switched topics. "Ah, most of the desserts are special recipes from the, er, Element Of Laughter. Some of the Hive have even trained in her own kitchen!"

More shaky laughter echoed through the empty room. Lionheart stared at him in cold, icy silence. Silence that, by the second, tasted more like fury.

"A-a-and the sandwiches-" Thorax swallowed his stutter and tried to forge on-- "well, they're Princess Twilight's favorite. I think they replicated the recipe, um, v-very--"

The throne room door slammed open.

Thorax jumped and fell from his seat, smacking his head against a serving tray on the way down. While he groaned and rubbed what would surely be a bruise, he noticed two things.

One, that Ambassador Lionheart had only glanced in the direction of the opened door.

And two, that a pony he had never met was stomping towards them. The white-hot spice of pure anger wafted through his fangs and burned his nostrils with every step she took.

"Umm..." As he stumbled back into his seat, doing his best not to knock the table on his way up, Thorax asked, "Wh-who are you? Can I help you?"

The mare, her fiery eyes boring into Thorax, did not acknowledge the Ambassador. Nor did she glance in his direction. The taste of his emotions quickly changed, becoming as hot and painful as hers. Thorax coughed.

Lionheart sneered at Thorax, seeming to sense his discomfort. At last, the ambassador opened his mouth. Before he could speak, however, the mare shouted her answer.


"Soldier one-one-seven, of the fifteenth regiment, Infiltration Unit!"

Every syllable of herself, of her true identity, brought forth a venom and vitriol that coursed through the mare known as Limestone Pie that she had longed to feel.

Anger was good. Anger was grounding, solidifying--a firm foundation to return to and taste at the end of a day of pretending. The things she had been angry about over the past two--no, almost three--decades paled in comparison to the flavor of the true, righteous anger that poured through her now. Delicious, divine. Deserved.

Curiously, she could taste, amongst the palatable smattering of the "King's" fear and confusion, another source of anger. A little different than hers, but just as delightful. It emanated from the tall, bronze pony--or horse, maybe, if it mattered--seated near Thorax. She paid him no mind, other than to nibble briefly at his rage. Tasty.

In response, the false King's eyes went wide. In hopes of popping them out completely, she let herself be for the first time in years.

Green tendrils of flaming Changeling magic removed the hideous disguise. In an instant, she was her true self. All black chitin and sharp fangs and rough edges. None of this rainbow paint and sparkly glitter and other gaudy sheets of lies and foolishness.

No, she was a Changeling. A real one. Maybe the last.

And she wanted answers.


"... Y-you're..."


Her voice was different, too. More raspy, more chattery. Less mammal, more insect. It tunneled into his mind the way the Hive's used to. Or, at least, that's how it felt to him.

"Real," she said again. "A real Changeling," she spat, her forked tongue whipping between her fangs, "not the pathetic half-breed you made yourself and the others into."

Her words stang. Not just in meaning, but in tone. Sun and moon, her voice hurt. Had they all sounded like that? Had Spike had to push back against that drilling sensation when Thorax spoke to him? Had they all?

"Queen Chrysalis recruited real Changelings like me to be her hidden force throughout Equestria." She spoke slowly now, and though she did not move, her words circled around him. "To replace ponies completely. Kidnap leaders. Abduct influencers." What could only be called a smile unzipped across her face. "Steal foals."


The mighty roar of Ambassador Lionheart's voice released Thorax from his stupor. Her voice held no power in the shadow of this mountain of a stallion.

He rose from his seat--not to stare down at the Infiltratior, but at Thorax. "You claim reformation, peace, and diplomacy, and your people steal foals?!"

((Ran out of time + writing on a phone is hard, feedback on what I have so far would be cool though! First ever Iron Author and it's cool, would love to do this again with an actual laptop.))