Honey Pie II: The Wrath of Chrysalis

by SPark

First published

Pinkie Pie and Sweetcake should be living happily ever after, despite the fact that some ponies in Ponyville aren't entirely pleased to have a changeling around. But it turns out that angry townsponies are going to be the least of their problems

Pinkie Pie and Sweetcake ought to be able to live happily ever after. After all, he helped save Ponyville, and Celestia herself publicly acknowledged him as her subject, despite the fact that he's a changeling. The ponies of Ponyville should welcome him with open arms. It turns out, however, that the fact that some of them don't is going to be the least of his problems.

Cover art by dreamingnoctis.

You are Driving Me Frantic

I spun and tumbled away from the changeling drone's lashing hooves. My horn was already glowing, and as soon as I'd rolled clear of the creature's attack, a beam of power shot out at her, pushing her back. She hissed at me; I rolled my eyes. "So much melodrama."

She charged at me again, teeth bared, head lowered. I put up a glowing green shield that easily blocked her. I didn't want to let her touch me, that was the only handicap I had in this fight. Otherwise, things were hopelessly one-sided. She was just an ordinary drone. I didn't even know why Chrysalis kept bothering. Perhaps she thought that one of them would eventually get lucky.

This one wasn't going to be the lucky one. As she slammed into the shield a second time, I inverted it—a little trick that Twilight had taught me—so that now it enclosed the changeling instead of me. Her horn flickered to life, sending a pathetically weak spell bouncing off the inside of the shield, leaving it completely untouched.

She hissed again. I chuckled. "You're not impressing me. I really don't know why you keep trying. You have to know by now it's not going to work."

The changeling suddenly vanished in a flash of green fire. An instant later Pinkie Pie was standing there. "Let me out! Please let me out!"

"Oh for..." I glared at the changeling, feeling all the past two months' frustrations boiling up in me. "Are you particularly stupid? Is the queen sending mentally damaged drones out after me now? You know that even if I hadn't just watched you change right in front of my eyes, I could still tell you're not really Pinkie, right?"

"But you couldn't hurt somepony that looks like your special somepony, could you?" She looked at me with big, blue, terrified eyes. I couldn't taste her emotions, of course, but I wondered if she really was afraid. I hadn't killed any of the drones sent against me yet, but did she know that?

"Hey, Sweetcake!" The real Pinkie Pie trotted out of the kitchen into the front room of Sugarcube Corner. Her eyes immediately went to the shield and the trapped clone of her inside it. "Wow. I see why you were feeling so annoyed. Silly changeling, you can't make Sweetcake think you're me! He can feel me in his head, but he can't feel you."

"Not anymore, at least." I sat down and heaved a sigh. "This is getting kind of old." I scuffed one perforated hoof against the floor as I tried to think of some solution.

"I guess we should take this one to Twilight too?"

"Yeah." I picked up the green bubble that held the changeling and floated it towards the door. "Maybe she'll have thought up some idea for how to deal with this mess."

We got a few looks as we walked through town with the captured changeling in tow. Ponyville was fairly used to me by now. I didn't always get a warm reception, but with the Elements of Harmony, not to mention Princess Celestia herself, willing to vouch for me, most of the town had at least accepted that I wasn't dangerous. It didn't hurt that I'd rescued the Mayor and a bunch of other ponies from a changeling invasion a couple of months ago. Still, the sight of Pinkie Pie bouncing along, followed by a changeling carrying a more subdued Pinkie in a magical bubble, was bound to draw a little bit of attention.

When Twilight came to the door she eyed the captive changeling with annoyance. "What, another one?"

"Yep!" said Pinkie. "Chryssie doesn't know when to quit, I guess."

"This one was being Bon Bon," I said. "She came in to buy a cookie, which was my first clue something was off."

"Well, bring her in and I'll put her in stasis for you. Spike can send to Canterlot for another guard escort to take her in for questioning. Not that I expect we'll learn anything new from her."

Twilight ushered us inside. I carried the changeling, which had started kicking and struggling, in with me. "Calm down," I told her. "She won't hurt you, I promise."

"Indeed not. Set her down over here, why don't you?"

I dropped the changeling gently to the floor. Twilight's purple magic closed over mine and I let the green bubble pop. A moment later the drone was out cold, reverting to her natural form as she did so.

"This makes five now," said Twilight with a frown. "I can't help but worry that she'll start sending larger groups soon. In fact, I'm rather surprised she hasn't."

"After two failed invasions, the hive is probably too short on resources to send out any large groups."

"Yes, but doing it this way is shockingly inefficient. She's wasting resources all the same, sending them one at a time. If she had ordered all five of these to wait and attack together they might have gotten you."

I shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. But my old queen doesn't necessarily think in terms of efficiency. Her hive has always been the biggest and most prosperous in Equestria. Before the invasions, she'd never failed at anything, or lacked for anything. It's going to take her time to learn how to use her resources efficiently. She may be thinking in terms of conserving resources now, though, since she hasn't sent an under-queen after me. Efficiency may follow."

"I thought changelings were all about efficiency? You've said that changelings don't play games, or waste time with music or art."

"That's the drones. The workers and infiltrators and everyday hive members prize efficiency. We exist to serve the hive and the queen. Wasting time would be failing in our purpose. Chrysalis though, she does whatever she wants. Even if it is sloppy and stupid."


"She did everything exactly wrong when she invaded Canterlot. No infiltrator with any training at all would replace a pony without studying their mannerisms and habits. She didn't bother, she just took Cadance's place while knowing almost nothing about her. No infiltrator would merely trap the ponies they'd replaced in a cave, they'd be certain they were secured in a nest, properly cocooned. If I'd pulled anything like that on any of my infiltration missions I'd have been sent back down to tend the fungus gardens. But she was the queen, no one was going to tell her she was being an idiot. At the time it never even crossed my mind that she might be doing anything wrong."

"Oh." Twilight looked rather startled. "So if she'd done it right..."

"You might never have noticed. She still would have seemed oddly forgetful, perhaps, but she wouldn't have seemed like a completely different pony."

"How come that makes you so angry, Sweetcake?" asked Pinkie.

I shrugged. "She just... I don't know. I used to think she was the most wonderful thing in the world. But she betrayed her whole hive by failing like that. Maybe even by trying it in the first place! We were prosperous enough without needing to rule Canterlot. She risked everything, acted like an idiot, exposed our existence to the world, and for what? Something she wanted, not something the hive needed. Then she did it again, trying to get revenge on you here in Ponyville. And now she's doing it again, trying to get revenge on me! Even though I'm not part of the hive any more, I still don't wish them ill. They deserve better than her."


The crisis over for now, Pinkie and I went back to Sugarcube Corner. Mrs. Cake greeted us with concern; she was one of those who didn't hate me for being a changeling, much to my relief.

"You're still a Cake to me, dearie. I know you're not related, but neither are the Snack Cakes. Those other changelings though, they worry me. One of them might hurt you."

"That's sweet of you, ma'am, but I can manage them." I smiled. "None of them have Pinkie's love to power them; with that, I could take on half the hive."

"If you say so, dear."

"Can you take on a birthday cake?" That was Mr. Cake, emerging from the kitchen. "It needs the base layer of frosting, and I think you can do the decorating on this one too. You've been getting much better at that lately."

I grinned. "I think I can handle that, sir."

"Ooo! Can I help! Can I, can I, can I?" said Pinkie.

"Well... Daisy ordered this for Lily's birthday, and you know how fussy Lily is. It has to be just perfect, and your hoof isn't quite as steady as Sweetcake's."

"Aww." Pinkie's face fell.

"Only because it's not my hoof I'm using." I tapped my horn with a smile. "Why don't you mix the frosting for me? You're good with colors, you can decide on the decorating scheme."

"Yay!" Pinkie bounced. "Sugar! Butter! Here I come!" She bounced into the kitchen, and immediately a cloud of white burst out the door as she managed to drop a bag of powdered sugar. "Oops!"

I laughed and went to help her clean up.


Several hours later the kitchen had been cleaned, the cake had been decorated and delivered, and Pinkie and I were getting ready to close the shop down for the evening. I was back in the kitchen, cleaning. I generally let Pinkie take the register. Sales tended to be lower when I was there. However much the Elements and Celestia vouching for me had helped, there were still many ponies in town who found me off-putting.

The front door suddenly flew open with a bang. I couldn't see the door from where I was, but I could easily hear a high-pitched, panicky voice shouting, "Is that thing working today? I need to know if it touched my cake! It's here, isn't it? Isn't it?!"

I could feel the shock running through Pinkie as she stared at the hysterical pony. I stayed put in the kitchen. Going out there right now seemed like a very bad idea. "Lily? What's wrong?"

"Pinkie, please tell me that you baked my cake. I need you to tell me that you baked my cake. Or Ms. Cake. Or Mr. Cake. And not..."

Pinkie's voice was flat and full of anger, which I could taste as well as feel. "Not my special somepony? Mr. Cake baked your cake, but Sweetcake decorated it."

"I knew it! The horror! The horror! I think I might faint!" The door banged again as Lily left, trailing a wail of overwrought terror behind her. When I walked out into the kitchen, a hint of her fear lingered there, showing that it wasn't entirely an act. I sighed as I tasted it.

Pinkie echoed my sigh. "That was not very nice of her."

"No. Maybe I should go back to looking like a pony after all. Everypony would still know what I was, I wouldn't be lying, but it might help some of them stop being so afraid of me."

"Maybe." Pinkie leaned against me, and I put one filmy wing over her. I blinked as I realized that somehow I didn't have to reach up to do that, not even a little. Her back fit under my wing perfectly. We were exactly the same height, when I wasn't taking some other form. Except now it seemed that we weren't.

"Pinkie... is it just me, or have I gotten taller recently?"

Pinkie stepped away from me and started to look me over, but the door suddenly banged open again. I half expected Rose, Lily's close friend and fellow hysteric, to be there, but instead Twilight Sparkle was standing in the doorway. "Ah, good, you're both here. Princess Celestia has summoned you two to Canterlot."

I stared at her, feeling Pinkie's sharp surprise mix with my own.

"How come?" asked Pinkie.

"She didn't say. She sent a message with the guards who came to escort that captured changeling back to Canterlot, asking me to bring you both with me to see her. The guards are waiting for us with a chariot now."

"Okie dokie. Just let us close up the shop first."

That took only a few moments more, and then we were on our way across town, once again walking a course between Sugarcube Corner and the library. This time, however, the scene that greeted us when we arrived was a bit different. There were half a dozen armored guards-pegasi standing in front of the library. Four of them were hitched to two sky chariots, one of which contained the changeling we'd caught earlier, chained in place by a set of hoof-cuffs and wearing a restraint ring on her horn. She looked terrified.

Twilight jumped up into the other chariot. Pinkie Pie followed, but I hesitated, looking at the shivering changeling. If she had been a pony, the fear would have been chokingly strong on my tongue. I jumped up next to her. I didn't touch her, that would connect me to her hive bond, and to my old queen, which I quite definitely did not want to deal with again. "They won't hurt you, I promise."

"They will," she whimpered. "They'll kill me, like they killed the others."

"What?" I looked at her in confusion. "They haven't killed the other changelings!"

"Yes they have. We've all felt it. They were snuffed out, just gone."

"Did you feel them suffer? Did you actually feel them die? The ponies may have cut their bonds with the hive, but..."

"They were gone! They're all dead!" She was practically hysterical. I wanted to reach out to touch her, to offer her physical comfort, but couldn't.

"They're not dead, I promise you. Please, it'll be okay. You'll see."

She just hunched up, huddling in her corner of the chariot. A moment later the guards pulling it started forward, becoming airborne in a matter of seconds. I sighed, giving up on reassuring her, and instead just watched as Ponyville dwindled below me. We passed through a cloud—cold mist flying past, making me shiver—then came out into bright sunlight above. It was a fairly cloudy day, so now there wasn't much to see, the ground was obscured by a fluffy white blanket. The only things in sight were the two chariots and the pegasi escorting them. Growing bored, I closed my eyes and concentrated on my bond with Pinkie. Soon I could see what she was seeing and hear what she was hearing.

She and Twilight were speculating on why Celestia had called for us. Twilight was certain it had something to do with the continuing attacks on me, and I had to agree. As the hours-long flight continued, however, their conversation wandered to topics that interested me less and I let my attention drift away from Pinkie's senses. Ahead I saw Canterlot Mountain looming above the clouds, the bright spires of the palace clearly visible from its upper slopes.

The changeling next to me suddenly spoke. "One of us will succeed eventually, you know. The queen never fails to get what she wants."

"If that were true, Chrysalis would be ruling there right now," I said, gesturing at Canterlot.

The changeling snarled and lunged at me, the ties holding her cuffed hooves down preventing her from actually moving, but I recoiled all the same. "That was merely a temporary setback! Once you are dead and that horrible Twilight Sparkle is out of the way, I will...!" She stopped suddenly, and fell silent.

"Hello, Chrysalis," I said, with another little chuckle. I suppose I should have been upset, or afraid, or feeling some kind of turmoil at realizing that my former queen was speaking through the drone, but mostly I just felt sorry for the poor drone. "I'd say it's nice to talk to you again, but it isn't, really."

The drone let out a screech of anger and began shouting, "You sniveling worm of a drone! You dare address your queen so? You are not worthy to kiss the ground my hooves have touched! You will regret your disrespect, I promise!"

I flinched back from the rant, glad that the drone was restrained so that she couldn't reach me. She just kept screaming, seeming to have an endless supply of angry insults.

Thankfully, as soon as we landed in the palace grounds, the stream of obscenities cut out and the drone went back to huddling in terror, which probably meant Chrysalis was no longer gracing us with her presence The guards escorted us through the palace's broad corridors, two walking close on either side of the captive changeling, the rest bracketing Pinkie and I more loosely. Even so, I was quite aware of the wary tension, bitter and chalky, that radiated from them when they looked at me. To their eyes I was nearly identical to the prisoner in every way. Only the cutie mark on my flanks marked me as different from other changelings.

Soon we were no longer walking in the broad corridors of the palace proper, but in the narrow halls carved out of the mountain's flank. Here, among other things, lay the palace dungeons.

The guards ushered us into a barren guardroom. They stayed outside as we went in, save for the pair bracketing the captured changeling. The room wasn't terribly large, and contained only a simple desk. Though a door on the far side, I could glimpse a cell-lined corridor beyond. Shining Armor was waiting for us inside. I'd never met him before, but I recognized him easily-but then anyone from my hive would, given the time Chrysalis had spent on him. The changeling's escort deposited her in front of him. The poor thing cringed, obviously expecting something horrible to happen.

"Twilight, Pinkie, Sweetcake. Thanks for coming. Unfortunately, before I can explain what is going on, I need to make certain that we aren't being overheard."

His horn lit with a magenta light, and a moment later a shield snapped into place around the changeling. This was no ordinary shield, though. I recognized it instantly, and winced in sympathy. No sooner had the shield formed over her than the changeling collapsed, letting out a wail of hopeless despair. I knew exactly what she must be feeling. She had just been cut off from the rest of her hive, left alone in her mind for the first time in her life.

"Come on, you'll be all right," said Shining, with more tenderness and sympathy than I'd expected. He gently picked the wailing changeling up in his magic, dispelling the shield as he did so. He carried her down the corridor and slid a cell door open. He set the changeling down inside, out of my line of sight. A moment later the wailing stopped.

"What's going on?" asked Twilight, ever-curious.

"We have discovered something a little strange about the changelings we've captured," said Shining as he trotted back over. "When first captured, they are aggressive, defiant, or, more recently, terrified, but never friendly. They'll be almost suicidal in their attacks, and when they can't attack, they scream and curse violently. Yet as soon as I get them inside my shield and cut their ties with their queen, they change. The immediate result is what you've seen here, they're in a great deal of distress. The very first one we caught was... not good. But we have almost a dozen of them now, between the ones we've caught trying to infiltrate the guard and those who keep attacking Sweetcake here." He nodded at me. "Once you get two of them together they recover fairly well. And they're very different from how they were when we caught them. Come see."

We followed him back down to the cell he'd visited earlier. It was a roomy cell, with plenty of space for the changelings inside to move around. Considering the demeanor of the ones I'd fought, I wouldn't have been surprised to see all of them glaring at us, bristling with menace. But instead they were calm. Several seemed to be napping, and one was grooming another's wings, gently cleaning them with her teeth.

One was also holding the new arrival, nuzzling her reassuringly. That one looked up at us with a faint smile. "I can't exactly thank you, Captain, for doing this to her. But I do thank you for bringing her to me as swiftly as you could."

"I regret the necessity of it, ma'am, but it is necessary."

The changeling nodded. Then her gaze turned to me. "You must be Sweetcake."

"Uhm. Yes?"

"They've started calling me Minder, because I mind the others." She looked down at the new arrival, who was clinging to her tightly. "I've been here the longest, I was caught not long after that idiot's failed invasion."

I blinked. "Chrysalis, you mean?"


I looked over at Shining. "She was here when I was?"


"Then... why... why not put us together? Why have Pinkie watch me, and not just put me in a cell with her?"

"We caught her three days later, and she was not injured. Celestia wouldn't let us put you into a cell until you were healed, and by then you and Pinkie had bonded."

"I was sent back into the city once Chrysalis had recovered, to begin setting up a second invasion," said Minder. "More idiocy. Of course the ponies would be checking for changelings. I was revealed almost immediately."

Shining nodded. "I'd been informed of the intelligence we'd gotten from you, Sweetcake, about losing your hive bond. As we didn't want to have a spy reporting everything she saw directly to Chrysalis, I used my spell to cut her connection. It worked."

Minder shuddered. "Yes. Thankfully I was not alone for long."

"Considering how traumatic it seemed to be, I was actually considering bringing her up to stay with you, to see if that would help. But less than a day later we caught a second changeling trying to infiltrate the royal guard. When we put him in with her, they both calmed considerably. You probably would have ended up with them eventually, but you bonded with Miss Pie instead. Celestia insisted that we couldn't force you and her apart. Since then we have seriously considered releasing Minder and the others. But having them here helps any other changelings we catch. And without a bond to a pony it is a bit harder to trust that none of them will go back to their old hive."

"I wouldn't. Not while Chrysalis is there. The others won't either, if I tell them not to," said Minder. Her expression was firm and determined. Looking at her narrowed eyes I realized that they were blue-green rather than pure blue. Under-queens had green eyes. Was she somehow becoming one? Under-queens were made; the food they were fed, and the will of the queen herself, shaped them as nymphs. But when a hive had no queen, the absence of her pressure on the mind would make the strongest of the under-queens start becoming a queen. In the absence of an under-queen, could an ordinary drone become one?

"I wish I were certain I could believe you," said Shining, heaving a sigh. "It would be in all our best interests to work together."

"I have a possible solution," I said, a little hesitantly. I wasn't quite sure about this, but it should work.

"Oh?" Shining tilted his head slightly, his ears pricked forward.

"If I join their bond, I can see if they're telling the truth."

"Is that safe?" asked Twilight.

Pinkie bounced up and down a bit as she nodded. "Yeppers! It'll be fine."

"You won't get... sucked in, or something?"

"Nope!" Pinkie smiled at me. "Sweetcake can break the bond if he needs to. He did it once already." She gave me a little nuzzle, gratitude for the way I'd chosen her over my old hive trickling from her into my mind. I nuzzled her back.

"Well, if you're certain, I guess I won't stop you."

I nodded, then turned to the cell. Shining Armor opened the cell door once again. I stepped inside and went to Minder. "If you will permit me?" I asked her softly. She hesitated, then nodded and held out a hoof to me. I took it with my own. In that instant of physical contact our minds made contact as well. In that moment, my mind filled with the sense of Minder and the ten other changelings in the room.

The contact was quite different from my previous experience with re-establishing my hive bond. Then I had been connected to the whole of Chrysalis Hive, several thousand minds strong, that had welcomed me back as one of their own. The queen herself had reached out to me and shuffled through my mind like a stack of note cards, reading my memories easily.

Now I felt only a few minds, and they did not exactly welcome me. In fact, there was a strange sense of tension. None of the changelings felt any hatred towards me, and I couldn't sense any conscious desire to reject me, but there was a feeling of resistance to my presence. I felt Minder in particular pushing back against me.

Yet she seemed as puzzled by this as I was. I sensed confusion from her, even while some part of her was fighting me, pushing against my mind, alternately trying to shove me away and pull me in.

Acting on some instinct I didn't understand, I pushed back, not exactly pushing her away, but asserting my mind in the bond. For a moment the tension remained, then suddenly it vanished, and her mind was open to me like a book.

Confused but curious I brushed through her memories. They revealed exactly what she had told us, including her resentment of Chrysalis' stupidity and the damage that it was doing to the hive.

We agree on that, then, I said silently to her.

These ponies trust you, she replied. Can you convince them to set us free?

What will you do if I do?

We... she paused, suddenly confused again. I had thought of leaving Equestria, of forming a small hive well away from Chrysalis and the old hive. Now I am not certain. What would you have us do?

Stay, I said. At least for now. Chrysalis is too stubborn to stop sending new changelings, and they will need you. I will see if I can get you let out of this cell, but you can still stay here in Canterlot, and take care of any new prisoners.

If the ponies will let us, that is a good plan.

I nodded to her, then turned back to the ponies. "They haven't been lying to you. They want nothing more than to be allowed to form a hive in peace. They... we, resent Chrysalis, now that we're free of her. They want to stay here, and help the other changelings, but they don't want to stay in this cell."

Shining nodded at me. "I believe you. I'm sure Celestia believes you as well. Convincing the rest of Equestria to allow changelings to live among them though... That is much easier said than done. For their own sake I can't release them right now."

"I understand," I said.

"I promise that they'll be released as soon as I have somewhere to send them where they won't be harmed," said Shining Armor as he once more opened the cell door.

I shook my head. "Before I go, there's something else I need to do." There was one more thing I had sensed from the tiny hive. Hunger. They must have been getting a little bit of sympathy from the ponies around them, but sympathy alone was not much for eleven changelings to live on. Meanwhile I had more love and friendship than I could possibly use. I bent my horn to Minder's and transferred a generous portion of that energy to her. She sighed contentedly as she accepted it from me. I went to each of the others in turn, giving them as much love as I could spare. I realized as I fed the seventh drone that I was drawing my reserves dangerously low, but I couldn't bring myself to be stingy with the love energy. The poor drones needed it so desperately.

Pinkie Pie, thankfully, knew what I was doing, and as I started to flag she concentrated on her feelings for me, letting me draw a steady flow of rich love from her. I fed the last of the little hive and pulled just a thread more from Pinkie so that I wouldn't collapse. Pinkie herself felt a little bit tired, but not overly drained.

Thank you, said Minder when I had finished.

It was the least I could do.

It was far more than Chrysalis would have done in your place, was her reply.

Author's Notes:

Welcome to the next installment of Honey Pie! It will be updating once a week until completed. Feel free to leave your comments below, and don't forget to upvote and +fav before you go if you enjoyed it.

The Thought of Meeting You

As we walked down the halls towards our rooms, I found Twilight walking beside me, while Pinkie chattered away cheerfully at Shining Armor. He had told us that tomorrow there would be a meeting with Celestia, Luna, and a few others to decide the final fate of the fledgling hive. Until then, we could relax and enjoy the delights of Canterlot.

"So what exactly did you do at the end there?" asked Twilight as we walked. "We unicorns use horn touching as a means of transferring magic, is it the same for changelings?"

"It's similar," I replied with a nod. "Emotional energy and magical energy are fairly interchangeable for us. But I wasn't preparing them to cast any spells, I was feeding them. They've been near starvation all this time."

"I have stationed the most sympathetic guards I could find to watch them," Shining Armor said over his shoulder, apparently having overheard, "but I couldn't think of any way to get love for them."

"What I gave them should last them for a while, and I can do it again as needed. I'm getting more than enough love to go around, so I don't think it will be a problem to keep them fed."

"Well, that's good, I guess," said Twilight. She paused for a moment then asked, "You're still connected to them, right?"

I nodded. "I could cut the bond if I needed to, but it's kind of nice having someone other than Pinkie there."

"They're not going to... I don't know, influence you, or something?"

I considered how best to explain it. "I suppose in small ways we will influence each other, but the bond between hive-mates doesn't change who we are. It shares information, and emotions, but it doesn't share personality." I glanced at Pinkie and added, "If it did, I would be much more hyperactive and random than I am."

Twilight chuckled. "Very true. But breaking their bond with Chrysalis changed the other changelings."

"The queen is the hive. Her bond is different, and her influence is far more profound."

"Ah. I think I see."

I was saved from further questioning by our arrival at our rooms. Not that I minded satisfying Twilight's curiosity, but I was tired. I'd used up far too much energy feeding the other changelings. I hardly looked at the spacious room Pinkie and I had been given; I simply collapsed onto the bed.

Pinkie climbed in next to me. She yawned as she did so, visual evidence of what I could also sense through our bond—she was tired too.

I'm sorry, I said silently to her, feeling a little bit guilty. This had been the first time I'd ever actively pulled from her, and not merely drawn in the energy she'd already given off.

I don't mind. I could tell how hungry and weak they all were. I wanted to help them. I like making changelings happy too, after all! I just need a nap and I'll be fine.

Yeah. I caught myself yawning too. A nap sounds great.

Pinkie wrapped her forelegs around me and snuggled up against my chest. Can you be less poky?

Well... all right. I could spare enough energy to shift; that didn't take much. I changed into the pink stallion's form I wore most often. Pinkie sighed contentedly and pressed close to me. I wrapped my forelegs around her too, and drifted off contentedly with her head tucked under my chin.


I woke with Pinkie Pie nuzzling my ear. I sighed happily and opened my eyes. "Morning, sleepyhead," said Pinkie.

I blinked at the sunlight coming in through the window. "So it is." I hadn't really meant to sleep all evening and on into the night, but apparently I'd needed it. I felt good; even asleep, Pinkie's love for me had restored my energy. I wrapped my hooves around her and pulled her close. She lifted her muzzle and kissed me. I let my eyes slide closed as I kissed back, to better feel what she was feeling.

As a drone, I had no sexual nature whatsoever. I'd panicked the first time I'd sensed lust from Pinkie, having no idea how to deal with it. But as we'd gotten more used to each other, we had come to enjoy a certain amount of intimacy. It had never really gone beyond kissing, but even though I didn't seem to be capable of arousal myself, I could enjoy sharing the feelings that Pinkie got from our occasional make-out sessions.

Knowing what she liked, I held her close, stroking her fluffy mane and then running my hoof down her back to eventually end up caressing her cutie mark. She kissed me harder, her own hooves going around me.

Even though it didn't really matter to me, Pinkie always wanted to return my attentions. She started running her hooves up and down my back, pushing close against me as she did so. The feel of her body against mine was somehow different today. I could feel her arousal, of course, her breath against me now a heavy, rapid panting, and the spicy taste of lust hung like a fog in the air around us. But there was something else now, an answering heat, not on my tongue or in the bond we shared, but tingling down my spine.

My breath caught. What was this? How could it be happening? I pulled back from Pinkie, feeling confused and uncertain.

Pinkie sensed my confusion and let me pull free from her embrace. Sweetcake? What is it?

I don't know. I found I was trembling. Even separated from Pinkie, that tingle of fire was still there. I knew what it felt like, but that was impossible. Fear spiked through me. Was something wrong with me? Remembering an old legend about changelings who spent too much time as ponies and stopped being changelings, I swiftly changed back to my natural form. Relief filled me for an instant. I hadn't really thought that I'd fully turned into a pony, but it was the first explanation I could think of for how I could feel what I was feeling.

If not that, though, then what?

It's okay, Sweetcake, said Pinkie gently. Whatever it is, it's not hurting you. She reached up and cupped my cheek gently. I sighed, trying to relax. A little more of that strange, impossible heat stirred at her touch. She kissed me again and it was electrifying.

I shouldn't be able to feel this... My protest was weak, but I couldn't shake off my worry.

Pinkie, though, wasn't worried at all. She reached out to me, sharing her enthusiasm with me. I've always wished you could do something other than just listen to how I feel when we're together. Feeling excitement like this is good! It's better than cupcakes or balloons. Sometimes I think it might even be better than parties, and it ought to be shared. I don't understand why either, but I think it's a good thing. She broke off the kiss and smiled at me. It feels good, doesn't it? Change back, and let me show you how good it can feel.

I changed again, resuming my equine form. Pinkie's hooves went around me, pulling me in tight, and she kissed me again, hard, her tongue pressing into my mouth.

I wrapped my hooves back around her and kissed her in return, feeling the strange new fire burning higher within me. I didn't know what was happening, all this was so bizarre and impossible. Yet as Pinkie's hooves began to wander over my body, and the fire I felt blazed higher, I found that I no longer cared how or why.


Some time later, as I lay holding Pinkie, sated yet still confused, I remembered that we were no longer entirely alone. The little hive was a gentle hum at the back of my mind, nothing like the old hive had been, but still there.

Feeling vaguely embarrassed, I reached out to them. Somewhat to my surprise they weren't really paying me any attention. There was a faint sense of amusement from Minder, who greeted me wordlessly as my mind brushed against hers, but none of the others seemed to have noticed what I'd just been doing.

Then again, they were drones. Drones didn't have any interest in sexuality. But I was a drone too. None of this made any sense!

You don't need to be such a worrywart. If there's a reason, we'll figure it out eventually. Until we do, it's really nice to be able to buck with somepony I love. I never had a special somepony before I met you, and sometimes I have kind of bucked with somepony who wasn't, because they were so sad and it was what they needed to cheer them up, but I don't usually do that, because it's hard to not hurt ponies when you get all mixed up with bucking and love kinds of things when you don't really love them. I do really love you though, so everything will be all right. She hugged me close. I chuckled softly. She was right, in her long-winded and easily side-tracked way. There was no point worrying about it.

Eventually Pinkie let me go. "I'm getting hungry. We should go get breakfast before the palace kitchen starts setting out lunch! They have amazing muffins!"

I smiled and nodded.

The rest of the day passed without incident. We spent the afternoon wandering around the palace gardens, simply enjoying each other's company. As the shadows began to lengthen, Pinkie and I were summoned to the promised meeting. A pair of stone-faced unicorn guards escorted us to a council chamber, where a round table held a dozen or so seats. Celestia was there already, sitting on a throne-like chair built to suit her stature. Her sister Luna sat on a similar chair beside her. Twilight was already there as well, flanking Celestia on the other side. Pinkie sat next to her, and I sat next to Pinkie.

Moments later Shining Armor and Cadance entered as well, Cadance sitting beside Luna, and Shining Armor beside her. Both of them nodded to me, and I could taste nothing but friendly regard from either of them. Considering what my hive had put them through, that was somewhat surprising. They were obviously remarkable ponies.

Two final ponies filed in, one a middle-aged stallion with a quill cutie mark, carrying a notebook. The other was an elderly mare in formal robes. They both took seats next to Shining Armor, leaving the seats next to me empty.

"Welcome, Swift Note, Lady Scroll," said Celestia. "Now that we are all here, let us begin." Her voice fell into a formal cadence as she continued, "We are meeting here to discuss the fate of the independent changeling hive, currently represented by Sweetcake," she nodded at me. "Present at the table are myself and Luna, representing the throne, Shining Armor representing the guard, and Lady Scroll representing the Nobles' Council. We also welcome Princess Cadance, my student Twilight Sparkle, and Pinkie Pie, Bearer of the Element of Laughter, as advisers, and Swift Note as scribe."

Swift Note's quill darted over the paper as she spoke. "I believe we should begin by allowing Sweetcake to tell us what the hive wishes."

I swallowed. Speaking in front of strange ponies was not something I was used to. I couldn't taste any hostility or fear in the room, but Lady Scroll had a hint of wariness that verged on suspicion about her that worried me. Still, I felt Pinkie giving me a gentle mental hug. To my surprise I felt Minder doing the same. You do speak for the hive, and you are a better representative than Chrysalis could ever be. Just speak the truth, it is simple enough, she said. Feeling a little better, I spoke.

"The hive wishes to find a way to coexist with ponies. Our main goal is simply to survive peacefully. We have no desire for conquest or conflict of any kind. Chrysalis is an aberration, and we want nothing to do with her and her hive."

"You still have to feed on ponies, though." Lady Scroll's muzzle gave a little twitch, and I caught a whiff of distaste from her.

"The process of feeding," broke in Celestia, "is not as harmful as some ponies might have you believe, Lady Scroll. You can ask Miss Pie about it if you like."

Lady Scroll looked at Pinkie, who bobbed to her feet cheerfully. "It's not anything bad! Sweetcake feeds off me all the time, and you can see that I'm just fine! It's not like he's a leech all sucking the life out of me; that wouldn't be any fun at all. He's more like a sponge, sort of mopping up extra bits of feeling that leak out! It doesn't hurt at all. I really like being able to help him by letting him feed; it makes him happy and I love making ponies happy. Even if he weren't my special somepony I think I'd still want him to, because it makes him happy. And I guess it keeps him from dying too, which is kind of important. It's not right to say somepony shouldn't have food, even if somepony is actually some changeling."

Lady Scroll's eyebrows both went up at Pinkie's enthusiastic babble. She chuckled. "Well, if it leaves you with such energy, youngster, I can believe that it's not harmful. I envy your enthusiasm."

"I had a whole dozen cookies at lunch, so I have lots of sugar to help!" said Pinkie. A laugh rippled around the room. I thought to myself that I couldn't have found a better ambassador than Pinkie Pie.

"I believe all present here can accept the postulate that this feeding does no harm to ponies," said Princess Luna. "Yet the general public will not be so easily swayed. There has been a certain amount of hysteria since the attempted invasion. Indeed, I believe Shining has dealt with a rash of false changeling accusations of late."

Shining heaved a sigh. "Yes. They've finally started to tail off, but for a while it seemed like there were a dozen every day. Everyone with a grudge against their neighbor was suddenly convinced they were a changeling. If we didn't have Twilight's changeling revealing spell I don't know what we'd have done. With it we could easily prove or dismiss such accusations. But they're a troubling sign. Ponies are afraid. I feel that the number of accusations has dropped off because ponies have run out of neighbors, not because they've stopped being afraid of changelings."

"Perhaps that's all the more reason to have a visible population of friendly changelings here," said Cadance.

"Perhaps. But I would worry about acts of violence against them," said Shining. "We can't ask them to risk their lives in order to provide an example to ignorant and bigoted ponies."

"They are, admittedly, quite safe where they are," said Twilight with a wry smile. "But leaving them imprisoned really isn't an option either. Especially not if they want to be freed."

She turned to me, and I nodded. "They do. Shining has been taking good care of them, and now that I'm here they can be fed properly. But they want a chance to establish a real hive."

"What about sending them somewhere away from the major population centers? Protecting them here in Canterlot will be difficult, unless we want to have them live in the palace itself. But perhaps in some smaller town?" That was Cadance again, and there were several nods around the table as she suggested it. I nodded too.

"That's not a bad idea," said Twilight. "Sweetcake has been living openly in Ponyville for a couple of months now. There have been problems, but no actual acts of violence. It's quite possible that a small hive could live there peacefully."

"Given that these creatures are changelings," said Lady Scroll, "could they not simply be released to live in secret? Even in Ponyville, the citizens will resist the idea of having a changeling hive established among them. Need this be public knowledge?"

"Not necessarily," said Celestia. "Yet I find myself doubting the wisdom of establishing such a secret."

"Secrets get out," said Pinkie. "Not all ponies are as good at keeping them as I am."

"We might do more harm to the trust our subjects have in us than good, were they to discover we had been hiding such a thing from them," said Luna. "The crown has its secrets, certainly, but we must choose them with care."

"Indeed." Celestia nodded solemnly.

"So I guess Ponyville it is then," said Twilight. "Assuming it's all right with the hive, that is?" She looked at me.

I half-closed my eyes and asked Minder what she thought. Living openly among ponies would sound utterly mad, she told me, save that I know you've done it. If you can, we can. We are willing to follow you there.

I turned my attention back to the room. "The hive is willing," I said.

"Very well." Celestia gave me a warm smile. I tasted that odd sort of love from her again, and recognized it now as being maternal. She loved her ponies as a mother loved her foal, or as a queen should love her hive. "However, before the new hive can be established in Ponyville, something must be done to put an end the involuntary immigration that is resulting from Chrysalis' current attacks. So long as there are new changelings who must be prevented from spying for her, the hive will be needed here in Canterlot to aid them."

I nodded, as did most of the other ponies, though Lady Scroll looked a bit puzzled. Apparently she didn't know about the recent attempts to infiltrate Canterlot or the attacks on me.

"Chrysalis is a blight upon the world," said Luna harshly. "Her desire for power cannot be tolerated. She must be eliminated."

There was a brief, startled silence. Then Twilight chimed in. "I would prefer to arrest her and try her for her crimes, if possible, but I agree. Her invasion was a crime against Equestria, and her continuing attacks are a crime against her own people."

"She shouldn't be queen of anything," I found myself saying, and in the back of my mind Minder shouted her agreement as well. "She seems to believe that you are killing her subjects when you catch them, yet she's still willing to spend their lives for the sake of petty revenge. More than that, the changelings she is sending are infiltrators. The hive needs them. All she's doing is harming her subjects."

"I agree," said Celestia. "She is abusing her power and her subjects. Unfortunately that is a problem easier denounced than solved."

"Yes. She is at the heart of the hive, and there are several thousand changelings there. Every last one of them, from the least worker drone to the most powerful of her under-queens, would die to protect her," I said. "So long as she is their queen it would take outright warfare to get at her. Much as I would like to see my fellows freed from her, I can't ask that of you."

"So long as she is their queen," said Twilight, thoughtfully. "What if she weren't? If there was some way to sneak in Shining's barrier spell, and cut her off from the hive, what then?"

"I'm... not sure. I think the whole hive might go into shock. Not as badly as those who've lost their hive-mates as well as their queen, but it would still be traumatic for them. However else it affects them, though, they certainly wouldn't be as fanatical, nor as coordinated, without her."

"I would still have to get to Chrysalis to cast the spell though, which means getting past all those changelings," said Shining.

"I can cast it as well, and so can Cadance," said Twilight.

Shining shot her a flat look. "I am not letting either of you go in my place."

"I believe I may be able to master this spell as well, nephew," said Luna. "Yet any plans we might make now are plans made in the absence of knowledge. I know that Sweetcake and those of his new hive may tell us much, yet there is much that they might not see, nor know. My guards are highly trained in covert actions. I shall send a few of my best to the hive, and seek out whatever secrets it might contain. If there be a way to spirit a pony into the innermost sanctum and deal with Chrysalis by stealth, they shall find it."

"Certainly a frontal attack is out of the question," said Shining with a nod. "So stealth is well worth considering."

"Luna speaks the truth about the skill of her guard," said Celestia, with a nod. "So if there are no other suggestions..." She looked around the room, and when there was nothing but silence, she nodded and continued. "We will have Luna's guards scout the hive. Further decisions will wait on whatever information they may bring us."

Author's Notes:

Random note on the use of "buck" for sex:

I've had some people complain about it, either because it's too silly, or because it seems wrong to use a word that's part of the everyday work vocabulary of ponies like AJ to also mean something crude.

I present two counter-arguments:

One, the pony saying it has been Pinkie. Can you even picture her saying "make love" or "have sex"? She is Pinkie. She would say something silly. If she were human, she'd be saying "bang". As she is a pony, she says "buck." (She might say "fuck" but that just feels cruder than the tone I wanted to set for this story.)

And two: "bang", "come", "rut", "screw". All words that are used in the everyday vocabulary of many people. People who don't even snicker when saying these words. (Unless they're about 15, then they always snicker. I remember being that age.)

Now She's Hit the Big Time

With Luna's guards off finding out whatever they could about the hive, I found myself at loose ends.

I'd spent some time with the guards in question—a pair of burly bat-winged ponies—showing them how to find the hive and telling them what I could about what they'd find inside. I had to wonder about their ability to sneak into the hive, but they both seemed quite confident. Once they had left, however, there wasn't really much for me to do.

Luna had said that it would be a few days before any further action could be taken, and suggested that we return to Ponyville. I considered going, but given that I would need to return every day or two to make sure my little hive was fed, I decided to stay. Pinkie had arranged for somepony to help the Cakes at the bakery while we were gone. Said assistant was funded from the royal treasury, which I learned had a fund to help support the Element Bearers when they were called away from their lives to aid in some crisis. Apparently this qualified.

Twilight was still here as well, spending most of her time taking advantage of the easy access to the several large libraries in Canterlot.

Shining Armor had arranged to move the little hive from the dungeons to a large suite of rooms in the palace proper, very close to the room I shared with Pinkie. The door was still closely guarded, but that was for their safety as much as for any other reason. I visited them often, but they needed little from me. Were they a working hive, with nymphs to tend, food to grow, and emotional energy to collect, I might have been of some use, but the only reason they needed me at all right now was to keep them supplied with love.

I was getting that in even more generous measure than usual. Pinkie was completely delighted with my newfound ability to feel passion, and our time together was providing more than enough love for me to keep myself and the hive fed. I was pleased too, but I couldn't keep a nagging worry from hovering in the back of my mind. It didn't make sense. It seemed to be an entirely benign gift, but it was hard to trust that gift when I didn't understand it. I was a drone. Simply taking pony form had never given me the ability to make love before. I'd never heard of any such thing save in the wildest of changeling myths, and in those stories the changelings had become trapped as ponies. Outside of the realm of myth, Queens and under-queens mated, as did the rare males, but never the drones.

Still, with nothing else for us to do, Pinkie and I spent quite a lot of time in our room, exploring each other.

I had thus far always taken pony form while doing so. Pinkie had no aversion to my natural form, but she said she found my carapace hard and uncomfortable to snuggle up to, and my fangs made kissing awkward, so no matter what form things began in, eventually I always took my colt's shape for her.

This night was no exception. I had already shifted when Pinkie first snuggled up against me. She lifted her head and nuzzled at my horn, making my eyes go unfocused as a ripple of heat washed over me.

I could tell that her full attention wasn't on what she was doing. She was thinking about something. I brushed my mind against hers a little more closely, curious about what could be distracting her.

Somewhat to my surprise she was thinking about what it would be like to try and make love to me in my changeling form.

Hard, poky, and probably impossible, I told her silently. I don't even have genitals.

Yeah, but we could still do lots of things that way, was her reply. I like trying different stuff. I guess I could have you be different ponies, but you've already been a unicorn and a pegasus for me, and having you be somepony I know would just be weird. So I want to try you just being you.

Well, if you insist. I changed, green fire rippling over me, revealing my black carapace once more. Pinkie chuckled, giving off appreciation and gratitude, along with curiosity and a hint of arousal. She went back to my horn, curved rather than spiraled now, and nuzzled it again. The sensation was actually slightly different than it had been moments ago, though still quite good. I let out a soft moan as she began to lick at it. I felt that strange heat, alien and yet by now also familiar and welcome, rising in me again.

I slid my hooves around Pinkie, pulling her to me. Her hooves went around me in turn as I nuzzled at her neck, and when I could feel her enjoying my nuzzles, I dared to nibble gently, taking care with my long fangs.

She giggled. That tickles! She didn't tell me to stop though. Her hooves ran along my wings, making them twitch when she caressed the sensitive joints at the base. With her hooves caressing me as she nuzzled and licked at my horn, the heat I felt grew even greater. I was breathing faster, and a warmth began to gather between my hindquarters.

Pinkie let out a sudden squeak of surprise. "Eep!" She pulled back from me, feeling startled and confused. I felt confused too. What had just happened?

Pinkie looked down, and I felt her surprise increase. "No way! You're even more poky now. I thought you didn't have genitals?"

"I don't. I..." I looked down too. I did. I felt a shock of panic run through me. What was going on? This was not possible!

I tried to gather my thoughts somehow. I felt the hum of the hive in the back of my mind, soothing me. They were calm. The hive was not in danger. There was no need to panic. Still, my mind kept spinning in confused circles. This made even less sense than my ability to feel arousal did! Pinkie's giggling didn't help me get my thoughts together at all.

"You really are a boy changeling now," she said cheerfully.

"Uh. N-no, I'm pretty sure that's an ovipositor."

"Oh." A little flicker of confusion and worry dampened her giggles, the feelings so close to what I was feeling that I almost couldn't taste them. "I gotta ask if that means you've been laying eggs in me? 'Cause remember what I said about not being sure about actually wanting to lay eggs and have pony-lings?"

Somehow her worry calmed my own. I smiled and put a reassuring hoof on her shoulder. "It doesn't work like that. Changeling eggs can't grow inside a pony. They grow inside of pods somewhat like the ones we put replaced ponies in. I, uh, maybe have been laying eggs in you," for some reason this made me feel flushed and embarrassed. "But I cannot possibly be fertile; I haven't mated with a male changeling. They would never grow in you even if they were fertile. Though I guess if one impossible thing can happen, then maybe another can... But no, there has to be a reasonable explanation for this!"

I got to my feet and started walking back and forth, trying to think. Pinkie's head went back and forth, watching me as I paced.

Suddenly it dawned on me. "I am an idiot. Pinkie, what color are my eyes?"

"Uhm. Green? Wait. That's not right. I mean, they are green, but they're supposed to be blue, aren't they?"

"Blue-green, or all green? Do we have a mirror? No, wait, just look at me, please?" I half-closed my eyes and reached out for Pinkie. She cooperated with my sudden idea, letting me look at myself through her eyes.

I had changed, sometime over the last week or so since I'd last looked in a mirror. I'd never paid my reflection much attention; vanity would have been absurd in a drone nearly identical to every other drone in the hive. Now, however, that was no longer the case. My half-closed eyes were pure, jade green. My crest and tail were tinted turquoise. My wings and wing-cases were brighter, more iridescent than a drone's. My horn was a little bit longer. I was fairly certain I was taller than I'd been as well. I was an under-queen.

Of course.

I'd noticed how Minder seemed to be changing into one, prompted by being separated from Chrysalis and the hive. I'd been separated even longer than she had. No doubt my assuming authority over the little hive here had accelerated the process, and the love I was getting from Pinkie Pie would have provided more than enough energy for such changes over the last few days. Under-queens, unlike drones, could and did reproduce.

I opened my eyes, my mind reeling. Pinkie bounced over to me and stood by my side. She put a hoof on the top of her head, measuring herself against me. "Yep, you are taller too. I dunno how I didn't notice it before!"

"A lot of distracting things have been going on," I said, still feeling more than a little dazed. I sat down on the floor, folding my wings and trying to corral my scattered thoughts. Pinkie came and sat next to me, leaning against me. I nuzzled the top of her head. I had to be a good six inches higher at the withers. I remembered how I'd noticed that she fit beneath my wing, nearly a week ago. I'd been slowly changing all this time, it had just sped up over the last few days.

"So, now what?" asked Pinkie.

"Now..." I shook my head, not certain. I reached out to the hive. As usual, none of them save Minder were paying me any particular attention. She, however, seemed to be curious. She was wondering what had caused my emotions to be so chaotic over the last few minutes. I took a moment to wordlessly explain what had happened to her.

Ah. So. I am becoming an under-queen. That makes sense, though I did not know it was possible for a drone to do so. Yet I find I am glad. I want to care for these other drones, as is an under-queen's duty. You are senior to me, and your magic is stronger. You have more love, so you will become queen.

I shouldn't have been surprised, since it followed from what I already knew, but I was. Me. A queen. Like Chrysalis herself. It was absurd. How could I possibly be a queen? Then I laughed. The queen of a hive of one dozen, including myself. I could probably manage that. Like Minder, I wanted to take care of the others.

What's so funny? Pinkie's query interrupted my thoughts. She couldn't hear Minder. She was connected to me, and so was the hive, but Pinkie's bond didn't tie her to any of the others, only to me.

It appears that I'm turning into a queen, I explained. The queen of a hive of one dozen. I laughed again. A baker's dozen, if I count you.

Pinkie giggled. I'm a baker, so that totally makes sense!

I chuckled and nuzzled her again.

Does that mean you're going to want to have changeling babies now?

What is it with you and babies?

Pinkie shrugged. I dunno. I like babies. I like babysitting. I want to have babies of my own someday. Not right now! But someday. Babies are nice, even if they are also a lot of work. But isn't that what queens do, have lots and lots of babies?

Well, as you say; someday maybe. But not right now! This hive hasn't even got a male yet. I'm not actually certain how we could get one. They don't come from drones, drones are all technically female, even if we're... uh, even if they're all sterile. Even if we did find a male... I put a foreleg over her shoulders and pulled her close. I'm not sure I'd be interested. You're the one I love, Pinkie. But in any case, right now I'm definitely not ready to be responsible for a bigger hive. No way.

That's probably good. She snuggled up in my embrace and nuzzled my cheek. I love you too, she said, and then she kissed me.

I kissed her back, letting my concerns fall away. That spark of heat rose in me again, and I tasted a hint of spice from Pinkie. We were kinda doing something when all this figuring things out happened, said Pinkie. Why don't we go pick up where we left off?

That sounds like a good idea to me, I replied, and I pulled her even closer.


My hooves sounded loudly on the marble floor as I followed the guard through the palace. Pinkie walked beside me, bouncing less than usual. She'd been having another low day, though she hadn't quite slipped down into complete depression. I couldn't blame her. It was frustrating to sit around with nothing to do, when somewhere out there was Chrysalis, still plotting her revenge.

The guard stopped outside the dungeon and nodded for me to go in. I trotted through the door to find Shining Armor there, along with two more guards, flanking yet another captured changeling.

"Ah, you're here. Now we can proceed," said Shining.

I nodded, saying nothing more. Chrysalis was still listening. That was, no doubt, why the new changeling hadn't been brought to the room where the others were. No need to let her know that we had formed a new hive. She probably wouldn't like that at all.

Shining cast his spell, and the changeling collapsed immediately, a thin wail of despair rising from her. I went straight to her side and nuzzled her while the guards removed her hoofcuffs. Her wail cut off as her mind clung to mine with something close to desperation.

It's all right, I soothed. I'm here. We're all here, see? You're not alone. The rest of the hive reached out as well, Minder and the others welcoming her warmly.

Come, I'll take you to them, I said, and rose. She rose too, pressing against my side as if afraid to lose contact with me. I tucked a wing over her protectively.

"Let us know if you find out anything useful from her," said Shining. I nodded. This was the second new changeling they'd caught in the ten days since the council. The previous one hadn't known anything new, but there was always a chance that this one would have some news of Chrysalis' plans. As we walked through the palace halls, guard escort trailing behind us, I gently rifled through the drone's memories.

She had been sent to replace a minor government functionary—it seemed that Chrysalis had finally given up on getting changelings into the guard—but had barely reached the palace before walking through a changeling revealing spell, getting seen, and getting caught.

That was nothing too surprising. What was surprising was that she knew just a little bit about another attempt by Chrysalis to get her revenge on me. When she had left the hive, a team of infiltrators had just been sent to Ponyville. There were six of them, and they were to capture me and take me back to the hive if possible. Apparently Chrysalis had finally decided that sending her forces one at a time wasn't working.

I heaved a sigh.

Find something bad? Pinkie asked.

We're going to have an interesting time when we get back to Ponyville, was my reply. There's a bunch of changelings there, waiting for me to show up. They're supposed to capture me, not kill me, so there's that. But given what Chrysalis said about wanting me dead, I suspect that's so she can have the pleasure herself. I sighed again. I wished she would stop being so obsessively vindictive. Life would be so much easier for her hive—and for everyone else as well—if she would give up her plots and put her effort into taking care of her hive, the way a queen should.

Why don't I go tell Shining about that, while you take her to the others?

Sure. You can meet me at their suite afterward.

Pinkie nodded and turned to trot back the way we'd come. The guard ignored her and stuck with me. He was there to make sure there weren't any incidents with frightened or angry ponies attacking us. The palace halls were seldom crowded, but we did pass a number of ponies. Most of them ignored us, as they were getting used to seeing changelings about, but I caught the occasional taste of fear or hate on the air as I walked by, along with a few glares and one startled, fearful flinch as a pony looked up and noticed us.

The drone pressed more tightly against my side every time we came near a pony. She was terrified of them. I could feel her fighting the urge to change, to hide from them. She knew I didn't want her to, but she wanted to. It seemed like the hive's overall state of fear and paranoia was getting worse; each captured changeling was more fearful than the last. I did my best to soothe her, but it was difficult. Chrysalis' direct influence was easily broken, but the ideas picked up from that influence were harder to dispel.

Thankfully we finally reached the suite where my small hive was located. The guard accompanying us nodded at the two stationed outside the doors, then headed off to some other duty. I opened the doors and went inside.

The sitting room inside was more or less a pile of changelings. Counting myself and the newest arrival, there were fourteen of us now, and they were all present here. With little else to do, the drones spent most of their time sleeping and grooming one another. I smiled, remembering learning about pony grooming behavior and the bonds of friendship it formed. Bonding wasn't quite the same for changelings, but grooming was an important communal activity for us as well. Especially for the queen. As I settled myself in the center of the room, the others crowded around me. The new changeling was still pressed close, refusing to leave my side, but four or five others surrounded me, wanting to groom me. I closed my eyes and let them. They drew a great deal of pleasure from touching their queen. I'd never myself been in a position to get as close to Chrysalis as these drones were to me, but I knew that the drones of her hive felt the same way. Back then I would have been ecstatic to have the chance to touch her.

I knew from the memories of my hive-mates, past and present, that Chrysalis had always simply accepted such attentions as her due and never returned them. I couldn't bring myself to do the same. I might be the queen here, but I was also a member of the hive, and not long removed from being a mere drone myself. So I bent my head and started to gently groom the wings of the new arrival, using the inner curve of my fangs to scrape over the delicate membrane, working wax from a gland at the base of them out along their length. The newcomer finally relaxed as I did so, closing her eyes and letting go of her fear.

The door opened again and Pinkie Pie came in. She picked her way through the scattered changelings to me. She nudged one of them aside and snuggled up against my other side. "Special somepony privileges," she said with a smile. The drone moved without complaint; though none of them could sense Pinkie directly, they all seemed happy enough to accept her among them. There was a flicker of unease from the newcomer, but even that faded away swiftly beneath the combined reassurance of myself and the others.

I bent my head and nuzzled Pinkie. It was odd how far down I had to reach now. When we'd first discovered I was changing I'd been perhaps five or six inches taller than Pinkie. I was now at least that much taller again. I seemed to be growing about an inch a day, which was actually a bit alarming. Taking over the little hive had sped my growth, and the generous amount of love energy I held probably didn't hurt either. I was still far shorter than Chrysalis, but I was taller than all but the tallest of ordinary ponies now.

Interestingly, Minder seemed to have stopped growing. Her eyes were still greenish, but she was only a little taller than the average drone, and her crest hadn't changed color either. She was somewhere halfway between a drone and an under-queen. The others still deferred to her, and she had her own little circle of groomers, but I suspected that was simply because there wasn't enough space for all of them around me.

Pinkie heaved a sigh and rested her head on my shoulder. I put a wing over her. "I wish this was all over," she said. "I want to go back to throwing parties and making ponies happy."

I pulled her close against my side. "I know you do. So do I. Hopefully Luna and her night guard will find a way to bring down Chrysalis soon. I don't know why it's taking them so long. But surely it has to be soon."

"You'll still help me throw parties, and bake cupcakes, and all that, even though you're a queen now?" Pinkie lifted her head and looked up at me, her ears down. I tasted a hint of sadness and worry from her.

"I will. Pinkie promise," I said, sketching the necessary gestures. "Maybe not quite as often—I imagine setting up a proper hive will keep me busy. But as often as I possibly can."

Pinkie smiled faintly and put her head back on my shoulder. "I'm glad."

"I love you," I said softly to her.

"I love you too." Her loved flowed around me, and I once again drew it in, until I was brimming with it. I felt the others drawing on it as well. The hive hummed happily in the back of my mind, Pinkie sighed contentedly by my side, and everything was right with the world.


We were still lying together in a pile of changeling drones a few hours later when Twilight came to find us. "Hey Pinkie. Hi, uh, Sweetcake?"

"Hello," I said. I tasted confusion from her, a faintly floral taste this time.

"You look... different."

I chuckled. Of course. We hadn't really seen much of Twilight during the past week; she'd been up to her eyebrows in books. I knew my crest was getting quite a bit longer than it had been, and was starting to drape a bit like a mane, on top of it having changed from gray to teal blue, and my eyes having changed from blue to bright green. I wondered if they were developing pupils yet. I'd have to check. "As far as we can tell, I'm turning into a queen, since this hive doesn't have one."

"Oh." She blinked at me. "I see! Can you tell me... No, wait, I'm supposed to tell you that Luna's spies finally came back and there is going to be a meeting in about ten minutes. Celestia wants you both to be there, and asked me to escort you there."

I extracted myself from the changeling pile and rose. "Very well." Pinkie got up too, yawning and stretching. She looked and felt much more cheerful now. Some days nothing would shake her from her funk, but other days all it took was a little love and perhaps a nap.

We followed Twilight out into the corridor. She kept looking up at me as we walked. I could taste the curiosity from her. Eventually I said, "You can ask whatever questions you're thinking of. I don't mind."

She coughed. "Uh. I just can't help but wonder... I mean... you're a male, aren't you? How can you be a queen? Are you changing gender, then?"

I shook my head. "Drones are all technically infertile females. Actual male changelings are rare and never leave the hive. So no, I'm not changing anything."

Twilight frowned. "But you said Pinkie should call you Mister. You kind of implied you were male. Why would you lie about that? And you, and Pinkie... I mean, I thought Pinkie was straight!"

Pinkie giggled. "Silly Twilight. Of course I'm straight."

"Huh? But Sweetcake just said he... uh... she? Sweetcake is female. Isn't that a problem?"


"But... what..." Twilight sputtered, and confusion filled the air around her. Pinkie giggled again, and I couldn't help but chuckle too.

"Sweetcake is a boy to me. That's all I care about. He can be a queen to the changelings, and that's fine."

"I... have no idea how to make sense of that," said Twilight, rubbing her head with one hoof.

"Perhaps it would help if I explained the way changelings think of gender?" Twilight nodded, so I continued. "We aren't like ponies. In hive life, gender roles as ponies know them don't really exist. Physical gender only matters when it comes to the fertile members of the hive. Every role in the hive that isn't directly related to breeding is filled by the drones, who are technically female but more or less genderless. The drones who don't leave the hive and take pony form don't have much of a gender at all, the way ponies think of it.

"Infiltrators, though, start picking up pony gender roles. Though we are all effectively neuter, we have to take male and female roles when we take male or female forms. Gendered behavior is so important to being a pony that very few infiltrators can master both males and females. We tend to start favoring one or the other fairly early in our training." I smiled at her. "I have been female a few times, but I found myself tending to take male forms early on. I learned and adjusted to male gender roles throughout my training. So in pony terms I do tend to think of myself as masculine. That doesn't have anything to do with breeding or genitals or anything like that, though."

"See?" said Pinkie. "Like I said, he's a boy to me. He's a boy in his head, and he can have whatever kind of body he likes, so that doesn't matter."

"Interesting. I suppose it makes sense that changelings would treat physical sex and gender identity as differing issues. I could write a paper on this. It's something that's never been studied before!" Twilight grinned, sudden enthusiasm bubbling from her. "Whoops, we're here," she said, coming to a sudden halt. Indeed we were. We stood in front of the same council chamber, the doors already open, and more or less the same group of ponies as before were gathered there. Lady Scroll and the scribe were absent, but Luna was flanked by one of her night guard, presumably the one she'd sent out to scout the hive.

Twilight, Pinkie and I took our places around the table. When we were all seated, Celestia rose and spoke. "This meeting is somewhat less... official than our previous gathering. Equestria is not willing to declare war against Chrysalis and the changelings of her hive, so any action discussed here is and must remain that of individuals acting as private citizens, without the support of the government. That said, I believe that we may find ourselves unable to take any immediate action against Chrysalis at all. Luna, if you would explain?"

Luna stood. "I am certain that all those present are aware of the ten days that have elapsed since our last meeting. I myself did not expect the scouting to take more than three or four days. Unfortunately it proved much more difficult than any of us could have anticipated. Commander?" She nodded at the bat pony.

He nodded and spoke, his deep voice somewhat rueful at his failure. "Turns out the hive has several layers of magic around it. Selective shields, the kind that'll let one thing through but not another. I probably don't have to say what these weren't letting through. Turns out that changeling wards against ponies work on thestrals too. So we had quite a time getting in. The spells had an ancient feel to 'em. Been there a long time. It'd be possible to bull through 'em, but the whole hive would probably notice. Not something one can do subtly. We had to wait two days before we got a chance to slip inside at all. They pulled the outer spell down over one entrance when bringing in some of those pods with captured ponies. But that just got us into the outermost tunnels, and the place where they store the pods. We never found a way to get into the inner chambers. We did all the scouting we could while we waited for a chance to get back out again, but we didn't find anything that this fellow here," he nodded at me, "hadn't already told us."

"I had no idea there were anti-pony spells on the hive," I said, feeling chagrined. I also felt a bit concerned. The commander had mentioned sneaking in with captured ponies. Taking replaced ponies back to the hive was not normal. What was Chrysalis doing?

"Well, you wouldn't, what with not being a pony," said the commander with a toothy grin. "You'd never have felt them."

"One can see how this presents us with a severe setback," said Luna. "With covert action being nigh impossible, I recommend a swift precision strike. The spells could be broken, and the hive invaded. An all-out drive into the heart of the hive to remove the head of this particular serpent could be done with minimal loss of life."

Celestia shook her head. "Yet not without some loss, and it is likely that most of those lost would be innocent drones, who would fight for their queen. It is for their sake as much as ours that Chrysalis needs to be removed from power. Killing innocents to meet our objectives would make us no better than her."

"Casualties happen in war, sister," said Luna, but she said it gently.

"I know. But we are not at war with the changelings."

"Not yet. If Chrysalis refuses to back down, however, the day may come. That changelings walk among us to feed I can tolerate. Yet her constant attempts to place her creatures in positions of power here in Canterlot tell me that she is still bent on conquest, and that I cannot. The presence of captured ponies within the hive cannot be ignored either. We do not know who they are, but whoever they may be, they cannot be left to languish there. One way or another, Chrysalis must be brought down. If it takes a war to do so, so be it."

Celestia nodded. "It may come to that. I hope we can find another way, but if it does come to war, I would consent to your plan. For now though, no, it is not an acceptable solution."

"Surely there has to be some way to get a pony inside the hive?" said Twilight, frowning.

Shining Armor replied, "Shield spells aren't easily subverted, Twily. I should know. That kind of selective-passing shield is my specialty. Breaking one is easy enough, if you have enough power. Slipping through one when you're the thing that it's specifically tuned to exclude is pretty much impossible."

Twilight sighed. "I know. I just wish I didn't."

"What about burrowing under it?" said Pinkie brightly.

"We looked into that," said the bat pony commander. "The outer shell goes right under the ground, it's not just a seal over the entrances. Some of the inner spells only cover doorways, so it might be possible to dig through a wall once inside. But getting a team in, and then hiding the digging while working near the heart of the hive is just not going to happen. Hundreds of changelings pass through those corridors. We needed every bit of our shadow magic simply to remain unseen while walking among them. Excavating would draw far too much attention; we'd never pass unnoticed."

"So that's it then. We can't get a pony inside the hive." Twilight looked deflated as she spoke.

"Nay. Yet not all here are ponies," said Luna, looking at me. "You could pass through the spells. I believe that your skill with magic is sufficient to learn the necessary spell to sever Chrysalis from the hive and remove the serpent's head."

"I could get in, but I couldn't pass unnoticed. I wouldn't be part of their bond. They'd know instantly that I was a member of another hive. I'd be chased out immediately. Doubly so, now that I'm no longer just a drone. They would never tolerate a rival queen within the hive."

"Couldn't you use your disguise ability to look like an ordinary drone?" said Twilight.

I shrugged. "Probably. It still wouldn't fix the problem of the bond though. I'd be recognized as an outsider immediately."

"Could you not ask for an audience with Chrysalis, as some sort of ambassador or envoy?" asked Luna.

I shook my head. "Hives deal with other hives by drones meeting on the borders. The queens can see and speak through their drones, so there's no need to ever risk their personal safety by allowing a foreign drone near them."

"It seems we are at an impasse then," said Luna sourly. "So we do nothing, and in the end war will come and lives will be lost."

There was a long, gloomy silence. In that silence a sudden memory floated to the surface of my mind, and with it came an idea. I turned it over for a moment, trying to think through the consequences. It would be very dangerous, but when measured against the possibility of outright war, the risks might well be worth it. With a knot of fear in my stomach, but with Pinkie instinctively reaching out and helping me to remain calm, I spoke.

"There may be a way."

To Be Where You Belong

"Ponyville Station!" called the conductor as the train came to a stop. "Everypony off who's getting off!" Pinkie and I stepped from the train amid a crowd of other ponies. I looked around at the ponies thronging the station, on high alert. Somewhere in Ponyville lurked six changelings, bent on mayhem. They could be anypony. They might be right here, ready to attack immediately. I wished they would; I wanted to get this over with.

Unfortunately, we left the train station without seeing any sign of changeling attack. Somehow I wasn't surprised. Chrysalis had never done anything efficiently before, so why should she start now?

We drew no more than the usual number of looks as Pinkie and I walked through town. I wondered what the ponies of Ponyville would have thought of me, were I not currently disguised. I had used my shape-shifting talents to do something very strange indeed; I'd turned myself into an ordinary drone. Would ponies have run in fear at the sight of a near-queen? I hoped I would have the chance to find out someday, if everything went as planned.

We reached Sugarcube Corner without incident. The Cakes greeted us happily, and Pinkie practically dove into the kitchen. "Need to bake!" I chuckled and went up to our room.

The changelings weren't waiting for me there either, so I flopped down on the bed, letting my eyes slide half-closed, and watched Pinkie bake. She was bouncing all over the kitchen, completely delighted to be back at last. This meant, of course, that she was getting as much flour on her as in the bowl. It was good to feel her so happy, though.

The rest of the day passed without incident. As I lay beside Pinkie that night, I found I couldn't sleep. The changelings were out there, six infiltrators from my old hive—my former siblings—waiting to attack at any moment. I wished they had found me today. If they didn't attack soon there would be problems.

"Can't sleep?" said Pinkie quietly.

"No. I keep worrying. It's strange to want to be attacked, but I wish they would and get it over with already. If they don't soon, Shining's spell will wear off, and then I'll really be in trouble."

"We can go back to Canterlot and have him cast it again."

"True. But we can't keep doing that forever. And everything else that we've set in motion can't wait forever, either."

"I'm sure they'll attack soon. They're just not very organized, so they probably didn't think to watch the train station or Sugarcube Corner. Lots of ponies saw us yesterday though, so I'm sure whoever they're being will hear about it."

"Yeah. I hope the ponies they've replaced are all right, too."

"I'm sure they are." Pinkie nuzzled me reassuringly.

I sighed, not having any reply to give. They probably were. If they weren't, there was nothing I could do about it. Pinkie soon drifted off by my side, but I lay there, staring at the ceiling, for a long time before sleep finally found me.


That morning I worked in the kitchen alongside Pinkie. We'd both woken early enough to do most of the baking for the day, and the Cakes had thanked us and gone upstairs to take care of their two babies, a task which Pinkie often helped with and which I tended to avoid. I wouldn't know what to do with a changeling infant, let alone a pony one. I always had the feeling that I would somehow break one if I touched it.

Muffins, on the other hoof, were not something I worried about breaking. My horn glowed green as I pulled the latest batch from the oven. A glance at the clock told me that the shop was due to open in just ten minutes, so I headed for the front counter, an assortment of finished pastries in tow, to stock the display case in preparation for the early morning rush.

The was a click from the door.

My head snapped up, to catch a glimpse of green. Somepony—or something that wasn't a pony at all—had just picked the lock with magic. The door swung open and six ponies filed in.

Even if I hadn't already been certain what they were, they way they moved—stepping as one, every motion bristling with menace and aggression—would have told me that these were the changelings I'd been waiting for.

They're here, I told Pinkie. Stay put until they're gone, then you know what to do.

Yepparooni! Good luck. I could tell she was worried, but her mental voice was cheerful all the same. She believed I could do it. I hoped she was right.

"We open in ten minutes," I said mildly to the changelings as I walked around the counter to face them. I found I was strangely calm.

None of them answered, they just advanced on me. I recognized the forms they wore. One was a brown-coated stallion, Time Turner, who I often saw coming in with Derpy for a muffin. The easily-panicked Lily stood beside her equally-skittish friend Rose, and the more sedate Daisy was there as well. Bon Bon, with her roommate Lyra, completed the sextet. All of them ponies who did sometimes come into the bakery in the morning. But of course these were not ponies at all.

A moment later they'd dropped their disguises and leaped at me.

I flicked a shield into existence even as they jumped, scattering the attacking changelings across the room as they rebounded off of it. The one that had been Time Turner recovered first, shooting out a thin beam of green magic at my shield. I wanted to laugh, it seemed so feeble. The shield didn't even shiver. It would be so easy to invert it and catch a few of them. I had more than enough power to summon a second shield. Probably a third and a fourth too, which would be plenty to encapsulate all of them.

Instead I just maintained the shield I'd raised. One of the other changelings joined the first, drilling her magic into the shield. I let my horn blaze just a bit brighter, as though I needed more power to hold the doubled attack off. At that, the other four attacked too. I let my shield flare, as if stressed, and then popped it.

The beams impacted me, throwing me back against the counter. I yelped. That had hurt. Fortunately it hadn't broken my disguise, nor harmed the second, invisible shield that clung to me like a second skin. Shining Armor had cast that spell, and as I let myself slide down to the floor, groaning a little in pain, I knew his spell was about to be tested.

I looked up to see the drones standing over me. One of them spit, sending a large gob of green resin flying out to cover my horn. I felt a little bit of tension go out of me at that. The horn was the one area not covered by Shining's spell. Covering me completely would have cut my bond with Pinkie and the small hive. I didn't want either of those things to happen, especially as I wasn't completely certain I could re-form the bond with Pinkie. If one of the changelings had touched my horn, I'd have been pulled back into Chrysalis' hive, and that would have been very bad. There was no risk of that now, though.

Of course the gob of goo also meant that my magic was nearly useless. I scrambled to my feet and was immediately tackled by the nearest drone. The next few minutes were a chaos of lashing hooves, during which I took several hits that would have been bruising were it not for the hardness of my carapace. Finally one of the drones kicked my feet out from under me and I went down. Next thing I knew I was pinned firmly under two of them, while a third spit another wad of resin onto my forelegs. I fought; I wasn't going to let them win that easily, but in the end it was useless.

Moments later I lay on the floor of the shop, panting, front and back hooves glued together with green resin that was rapidly hardening to a cement-like consistency. The six drones stood over me. One of them grinned broadly. "The queen will be very pleased," she said. The others grinned back. Then the one who'd spoken lit her horn. The rest did too, and in an instant green fire flashed over us all, teleporting us out of the shop.

It was a rough teleport, leaving me feeling nauseated and singed. Glancing around I saw that we were on the edge of town. I also noticed the six lighting their horns again, and braced myself. The second teleport was even rougher. It was all I could do not to vomit. Fortunately that seemed to be the end of their magic, as instead of teleporting again, they picked me up roughly and slung me over the back of one drone. I didn't fight, I just let them carry me.

The second teleport had brought us into the Everfree forest. Soon, the little group was wending its way through the woods, moving with wary caution. There were few things here that would take on so many changelings, but those that would were dangerous indeed. Being attacked by a forest monster wasn't at the forefront of my worries, so I tuned the passing forest out. Instead I reached out to Pinkie. She was, as I had hoped, at the library with Spike. I looked through her eyes as his green fire consumed a sealed scroll. Everything was going according to plan.

Pinkie noticed my attention and spoke silently. You okay?

A little bruised, and really wishing that they were better at teleport spells, but otherwise fine, I replied. I tried not to convey the nervousness that flickered at the back of my mind. Things were going well so far, but getting captured was the easy part. The hard part still lay ahead.

Meanwhile, I had to put up with the rather uncomfortable ride across a drone's back. They switched off which one carried me as the hours passed. Though I couldn't keep track of which one was which, they all looked very much alike. Without a hive bond I had difficulty telling them apart.

They stopped at noon and ate a brief, basic lunch. I was not offered any food. By then we'd reached the edge of the Everfree. The forest lay in a fairly thin band here, and beyond it stretched the badlands. With the early autumn sun still far too hot overhead, they set off through the twisting canyons. Rocks towered over us, reaching higher as we went. Soon we walked in shade at the bottom of a narrow slot that wove a sinuous path among the plateaus.

I knew this path. I'd usually flown above it, but I'd walked it as well at times. It was cool in the shade, but it was also dusty. My captors stopped now and then to drink. They didn't share the water with me. My mouth was soon parched and coated with dust, and I was almost glad that I was being carried rather than having to walk.

As the day lengthened, however, my thirst occupied my mind less, and what lay ahead loomed larger in my thoughts. My stomach was a clenched knot of fear by the time the sky darkened to its sunset colors. I felt Pinkie sending me reassurance, and Minder and the hive too hummed with soft confidence at the back of my mind. They trusted me. They knew I could succeed. I wasn't so sure, but I drew strength from their presence.

By the time the sunset light faded and the stars began to come out, the landscape around me looked far too familiar. Even in the dark, the outcroppings were easily recognizable. We were almost there.

We turned from the broad canyon we'd been traversing into a narrow side canyon. Stone walls rose all around us, soon blotting out the sky above. The point at which the path ceased to be a canyon and became a tunnel was impossible to pinpoint, but the point at which it became the hive was marked by an obvious change. The walls became regular, forming a smooth, organic arch overhead, while the floor was carefully sculpted into an even, ribbed texture that gave a good purchase underfoot. There were small crystal globes embedded in the ceiling, shedding a dim, greenish light. It would still have been very dark to pony eyes, but mine adjusted to it easily. The entrance was also marked by a pair of guards, the warrior drones slightly taller than the infiltrators who carried me.

The tunnel soon met others, and before long we moved amid a throng of changelings going about their duties. The hive never slept; there were always drones at work, tending to the fungus farms, caring for the egg pods and nymphs, keeping the tunnels in good repair; there was an endless supply of work to be done.

Most of the drones paid us no attention as I was carried deeper into the hive. They had no reason to be curious. The hum of the hive mind was peaceful, so they knew that all was well. If all went according to plan, however, it wouldn't be peaceful for long.

After some time, we came to a part of the hive that I'd never visited before. We were at its very heart now. Guards flanked a high arched door, which was decorated with an abstract motif of flowing curves. The doors to Chrysalis' throne room. I'd never had cause to be called before her, until now.

The guards opened the doors.

I was carried inside and dumped on the floor with no chance to get my bearings. I found myself staring up at an arched ceiling, far above. I struggled to right myself, then found myself picked up in a strong magical grip and held upright at eye level with a pair of all too familiar eyes.

Chrysalis. She smirked at me. I almost felt as if I should be tasting her smug satisfaction. I heard the doors shut and looked around to find that we were alone.

"I stayed up late just to see you, little grub. You should feel honored." She strolled down the beetle-green carpet that ran the length of the throne room, towards the huge, ornate throne at the end of it, pulling me with her in her magic. I waited and let her pull me.

Pinkie Pie was a tickle at the back of my mind. Distance thinned the bond a little, and she was more than a day's travel away, back in Ponyville.

Minder was present too, and she was much, much closer. I could practically hear through her ears as she moved through the desert night. She was almost in place...

My mind snapped back to the throne room when I heard a soft, cheerful humming. Chrysalis had reached her throne. She climbed up onto it and settled herself, planting me in front of her. She used her magic to position me like a doll, making me kneel in front of her throne. I put up no resistance. Not yet.

"I have been looking forward to this moment for some time," said Chrysalis, still smirking at me from atop her throne.

I just looked up at her, saying nothing.

"What, you're not going to beg for your life? I'm sure you will, eventually. I'm going to take my time, you know. I plan on thoroughly enjoying my revenge on you for daring to defy me and spoil my plans." She started humming again. The tune was curiously bright and cheerful. Suddenly, somewhat to my surprise, she started singing. "Here comes your doom," she sang, smiling at me almost fondly.

Here comes your doom

Here comes your doom, and I say

It's gruesome

Little changeling

It's been a long, cold loveless exile

Little changeling

It feels like years since you've been here.

Here comes your doom

Here comes your doom, and I say

It's gruesome

My mind was pulled away from the spectacle of the queen's delighted song of revenge by a tug from Minder. The music faded for a moment as I looked through her eyes and saw the same canyon path I'd walked only minutes ago, viewed from the cliffs above. Two tall, dark shapes flanked her, peering down into the dark canyon below. Her wings buzzed and she stepped off the edge of the cliff. It was almost time...

Little changeling

The smile's returning to our faces

Little changeling

It seems like years since I was there

Here comes your doom

Here comes your doom, and I say

It's gruesome

Doom, doom doom, here it comes!

Doom, doom, doom, here it comes!

Now! I shouted it in my mind even as my horn suddenly flared, casting the one spell that the resin on it couldn't block, for it didn't touch the world at large, it affected only me. Green fire flared over my body, burning away the drone's form I wore and replacing it with my larger, true form. The change in size as I grew a foot taller shattered the resin that bound me, the bonds crumbling away from horn and hooves.

Chrysalis's singing rose into a screech of anger and she launched herself at me, not realizing the futility of her attack. Even as she was bunching to spring, my horn flared into life as a second spell sprang to my mind. One that Shining Armor had taught me, and which I'd rehearsed over and over again until I could cast it perfectly and swiftly. A bubble of green snapped into being around the queen.

She collapsed onto the steps of her throne, as abruptly as a puppet with its strings cut. For a moment I hoped that it might end there, that the shock had been too great and she'd passed out.

Then she screamed. It wasn't a scream of pain, it was a scream of rage. She rose to her feet, her horn blazing, and shattered the spell.

Oh buck, oh buck, oh buck, was all that went through my mind. I was very dimly aware of Minder's excitement and knew that she was guiding Luna, Twilight Sparkle, and a squad of the Night Guard through the tunnels towards me. But even with the whole hive thrown into leaderless chaos by what I'd just done, they still had to force their way through hundreds of confused changelings. If Chrysalis left this room, she would be able to re-establish contact with the hive. I had to keep her here until the princesses arrived.

Right now, however, she didn't seem remotely interested in leaving the room. She seemed much more interested in flattening me. I dove aside from her first maddened charge, tumbling across the floor. I didn't even look back, knowing she would be right behind me, but came out of the tumble with a leap that sent me aloft, wings buzzing.

I heard her shriek, and twisted in the air just in time to avoid a beam of power that that scorched a line across the ceiling behind me, leaving the resin bubbling and spitting in its wake. I formed my magic into a shield, a simple wall of force that would hopefully keep her from frying me immediately, and spun in mid-air to face her.

She hissed at me and rose into the air as well, streaking up to meet me. Her horn was aglow, and this time she flung a gigantic, sizzling green fireball at me. There was no dodging that. It slammed into my shield, shaking it but leaving it intact. I strained with everything I had to hold it. I had gone into this with as much of Pinkie's love as I could carry, and that was a lot, but Chrysalis was frighteningly strong. I considered a counter-attack, but decided that discretion was the better part of valor. All I had to do was delay her. Getting killed trying to swat her myself would do me no good.

She snarled and threw another fireball at me. This one seemed a little smaller. That was odd. I would have thought that she would escalate things again. I didn't have time to think about that, though; my full attention went to holding the shield in the face of this second attack. No sooner had the fireball dissipated than Chrysalis herself was flying up at me, horn first.

I dropped abruptly, almost to the ground, and she whirred by overhead. She turned with far too much speed for something her size and flew back at me. Yet again I frantically twisted aside, but not far enough. She clipped the edge of my wing as she passed, sending me tumbling out of control.

I crashed hard into the stone floor. Chrysalis came down on top of me like a ton of bricks. Her horn scythed towards me and I raised my head in an instinctive gesture, blocking it with my own horn.

Our minds met.

It was like being dropped into the middle of a hurricane. She was a raging storm of emotions. Hatred and anger battered at me, and somewhere in the back of my mind I felt Minder falter as that onslaught spread into the minds of my hive as well. Behind hatred and anger, though, lurked other emotions. Even while I lay beneath her, practically helpless, I could feel terror coursing through her. She was afraid. Frustration came with it, and fed the rage that threatened to completely overwhelm my mind.

Trying to fight my way free somehow, struggling physically and mentally against Chrysalis' enraged attack, I caught a snatch of thought. She was out of magic. She'd spent it all already. Hope surged in me and my horn lit, grabbing at her with a crude telekinesis spell.

Even as I grabbed her she whipped her head around, her horn stabbing into my side. Now it was my turn to scream. The point of it shattered my chitin and drove into the flesh beneath. The shock made me drop my spell. Chrysalis twisted to rise to her feet above me. I wish I could kill you slowly, her mind hissed into mine, and she reared up, neck arched, horn ready to impale me completely.

A magenta glow sprang up over me, Chrysalis' horn striking sparks off of it as she struck. "I don't think so!" said a blessedly familiar voice. I turned to see Twilight, Luna, and Minder, flanked by a dozen of the Night Guard.

"No!" Chrysalis' voice raged in my head even as it filled my ears. Feeling even more mentally battered than physically hurt, I finally summoned the concentration to cast the spell that cut the connection between us, leaving my mind in blessed silence. Even as I did so, deep blue magic wrapped around Chrysalis, holding her captive. She hissed, and I'm sure her mind was still screaming, but I was blissfully unable to hear it anymore.

Wow. That was crazy. But it worked! I could nearly see Pinkie Pie bouncing happily as she spoke in my mind.

It did, I said, feeling incredibly relieved. I started to get to my feet, but Minder was at my side, pushing me back down.

You're injured. Let me tend to you, my queen.

I was aware of a great deal of angry screeching from the captured Chrysalis as Minder knelt beside me, but with her magic drained and both Luna and Twilight there to handle her, I felt fairly safe in dismissing her from my thoughts. Instead I looked down at the wound in my side. I winced. The whole plate was cracked, and a hole at the center where the chitin had been completely shattered was freely oozing greenish blood.

Minder set to work cleaning it out, which she did by licking the wound, picking fragments of chitin out of it with her teeth as she found them. I flinched as she worked. It was necessary, but also a little bit painful. When it was clean, she spat on it, sealing the crack with a blob of resin that swiftly hardened.

It still ached, but it felt better than it had. I got carefully to my feet. "Are you all right?" I looked up to see Twilight walking towards me. Behind her, a pair of wary bat ponies guarded the door, while another pair guarded Chrysalis, who was so wrapped up in shining magical restraints that you could hardly see her. Princess Luna was also standing next to her, her horn glowing, preparing some sort of spell.

"I think I will be," I replied. "Minder patched me up."

"That's good." Twilight smiled at me, and I tasted a mixture of admiration, excitement and guilt from her. It was a very strange combination. "I'm sorry we didn't get here sooner. You did an amazing job holding her off for so long."

"I was an idiot," I said ruefully. "She was nearly out of magic; I had plenty. If I'd been a little more level-headed, this would have been a ridiculously uneven contest. As it is, I am very grateful you got here when you did."

"So am I. Pinkie would never forgive me if I let something happen to you."

Ah, yes I would! I'd be super, super sad, but it wouldn't have been Twilight's fault, said Pinkie, obviously still listening through my ears.

I chuckled. "Pinkie says that she would forgive you, but all the same we are both very glad you came to the rescue."

Twilight smiled. "Luna's building a portal so we can take Chrysalis straight back to Canterlot. Going back out through the hive is probably too risky. You and Minder can come back with us, of course."

I nodded and looked around for Minder. I frowned when I couldn't see her anywhere in the room. She should have been easy to spot, even in the relatively dim light. I reached for the sense of her with my mind, and found her outside, walking through the unusually empty tunnels. The drones had gone into hiding, it seemed. I didn't blame them. They'd just lost their queen and been invaded by ponies. I knew that Twilight and Luna had used non-lethal methods to fight their way in, which the chaos of losing Chrysalis had made possible, but quite a few drones had no doubt been rather roughly handled by the pair all the same.

I focused my attention on Minder, trying to figure out why she had ventured out into the hive. I sensed an odd feeling of determined purpose around her. What are you doing?

What is best for the hive, was her reply.

I pulled my attention a little closer, looking out of her eyes. She was in a corridor I recognized, it led to a sleeping chamber. In fact she was at the chamber's entrance now. She stepped inside and was faced with a dozen drones, all of them looking terrified and confused. I felt more than a little confused myself. Then Minder leaped forward, her hooves reaching for the nearest drone. Even as she moved, I realized what she was doing, but it was too late to stop her. A moment later a cacophony seemed to explode into my aching head as my hive and Chrysalis' hive became one.

Or tried to become one. I could feel a kind of tension, a pressure building in my mind. The new hive and the old pushed against each other, with that same weird feeling I'd felt when I first touched Minder, trying to join together while simultaneously trying to reject each other and pull apart. On top of that, a babble of mental voices erupted into my mind. My tiny hive was peaceful and harmonious, but this hive wasn't. Without Chrysalis, the under-queens were fighting for dominance, a mental battle like a constant shouting match, all of it suddenly right there in my head. I put a hoof to my head, a spike of pain going through me. After the mental beating Chrysalis had given me this was too much.

SHUT UP! I shouted. They all fell instantly silent and, at the same time, the tension between the two hives vanished like a popped soap bubble and they were one again. One that immediately bowed to me, the mental murmur that began again from that stunned silence like a thousand voices whispering, "My queen."

Woah, said Pinkie silently.

"Oh buck," I said out loud, and dropped to my rump on the throne room floor.

Your head is suddenly all glowy and bright! What happened? asked Pinkie.

I think I just accidentally became queen, was my rather dazed reply.

"Sweetcake? Are you all right?" Twilight was peering at me, radiating worry and concern.

I groaned, resisting the urge to curse again. Minder! What the buck did you think you were doing?

What is best for the hive. All of the hive. None of the under-queens would care for the hive like you will. You have cared for us better than Chrysalis ever did. You are like Queen Sepal, when I was a nymph.

"Sweetcake?" Twilight's worry was growing stronger. "Did something happen?"

"Minder just elected me queen of the whole sun-forsaken hive," I said, the pony expletive summing up how very un-enthused I was about my sudden elevation. I rubbed my head again, feeling the headache intensify. My throat was still parched, my stomach was empty, my side was throbbing dully, and I felt awful. But with the hive buzzing in the back of my mind again I also knew what my new position required of me. "So I guess I won't be coming back through the portal with you after all."

"What? Why not?"

"Because the hive needs me right now. They're terrified. Chrysalis wound them up into a fever pitch of aggression and paranoia, and in their eyes all her crazy rhetoric has been proved true tonight. Ponies invaded the hive. Their queen is gone, dead for all they know, and there was no under-queen strong enough to just step in and take over. They're terrified and in utter chaos, and if I cut them out of my mind, I'd be leaving them to suffer." I sighed. "I don't think I want to be queen, but they need someone to be queen, and for tonight at least I guess it has to be me."

See? This is why you should be queen. You think of the hive first, and yourself second.

Oh shut up. Maybe so, but I still kind of wish you hadn't done this, I said to Minder, feeling cranky.

"I see," said Twilight. Trying to keep track of two different conversations wasn't helping my headache. "Well... you'll be all right here?"

"Yes. They wouldn't hurt me. I can have them leave you alone as well, if you'd rather go back the way you came."

Twilight looked over at Luna. Her horn was still lit, and a glowing web of magic hung before her. Twilight shook her head. "Luna is almost done, so we might as well just go back directly. I'll go let her know you're not coming." She trotted away, leaving me to sprawl exhaustedly on the floor. It had been a very long day, and it wasn't even close to being over.

Minder appeared in the doorway again, carrying a basket filled with mushrooms in her teeth and a container of water in her magic. I will care for you, and you will care for the hive, said Minder softly. The guards flanking the door moved to stop her, but let her through when Twilight gestured them aside.

She passed the water to me and I took it eagerly, guzzling half the container in one swig. I suppose I forgive you, I said. She just smiled and gave me the basket of mushrooms. I devoured them eagerly, finding the taste a little bland, but also comfortingly familiar. This was the food I'd lived on for most of my life.

With those needs tended to, I became more aware of the feel of the hive in the back of my mind. I felt a mental hug, and smiled as Pinkie Pie reached out to me. Your head is all hummy and busy, she said.

I sighed again. Yes. It's odd, I had actually gotten used to being mostly alone in my mind. It was strange having the small hive there. Having such a huge hive now is even stranger.

I'm sure you'll be used to it in no time! If you're not going back to Canterlot, will you be coming here?

I wish. I think I need to stay with the hive, at least for a day or two while I figure out what to do.

Okie-dokie-lokie, said Pinkie cheerfully. I chuckled a little. I was very glad she was still there. I had the feeling that I was going to need her more than ever now.

"We're going," called out Twilight. "Are you sure you're not coming with us?"

"Yeah," I replied. "I have too much to do here. Though if you need to reach me, the hive there is still mine, so just tell any of the drones and I'll know."

"That's... weird but useful," said Twilight with a little smile.

I smiled tiredly back.

"Come, Twilight, the portal is open!" called Luna.

"See you, Sweetcake," said Twilight. She turned and trotted after Luna through the glowing disk that hung in the air. The night guard went after them, the portal closed, and I was alone.

Except, of course, that I was not alone. I was never alone. I smiled tiredly and got to my hooves. There was work to be done.

The first thing I did was reach out to the under-queens. They were a mixed lot. Several of them were vastly grateful to me for taking over. A few seemed fairly indifferent, apparently to them a queen was a queen and so long as the hive had one they didn't care who. A few more, however, were full of anger and resentment. They were each convinced that they would have won the battle for dominance and become queen. I had taken that from them. Those I ignored for now. I would have to deal with them eventually, but now wasn't the time. To those who didn't currently hate me I said, What does the hive need?

They were surprised to be asked. I caught a whisper from one ...like Sepal... and a murmur of confused communication ran between them. They weren't used to being asked. Chrysalis did what she wanted, their duty was to obey.

I am different, I told them, and then asked again. What does the hive need?

Reassurance, said one. Tell them the ponies have left.

Set them about their duties, said another. Routine is comforting.

Energy, said a third, the hive's stores are low and the drones are hungry.

Another, though, responded to that with scorn. Don't ask for the impossible. How can she feed us all?

I will do what I can, I replied.

I reached for the hum of the hive, two thousand drones buzzing in the back of my mind. The ponies have returned to Canterlot, I told them, projecting soothing calm at them. They are not our enemies, they wanted only Chrysalis. She is gone too, but I am here. I will take care of you. I felt some of the agitation in that hum fading as I spoke. I could still feel specks of fear and uncertainty though. I sought them out, one by one, finding the minds who still feared. I touched each one in turn, offering a comforting mental embrace and further reassurance. They were safe. No drone had been harmed by the ponies. All was well. I encouraged those who had tasks to return to them, and those who did not to sleep and rest. I could not fully soothe all of them, not without pushing myself into their minds to the point of thinking for them, but most were willing to let go of their fears and return to their lives.

Soon the hum of the hive was a serene, drowsy thing in my mind. It was not perfect, a few were still upset, and all were hungry, as the under-queen had said. Yet it was much, much better than it had been. I relaxed, feeling better now that the hum in my head was less agitated.

That task accomplished, I walked on weary hooves to the door I knew lay behind the imposing throne. Through it was a chamber only slightly less magnificent than the throne room itself. Chrysalis' bedroom was smaller, but far more opulent. A gigantic bed—pony style rather than the mats that changelings tended to use—lay at the center of it, hung about with silk drapes that matched the colors of Chrysalis'—and my—wing cases. My attention, however, went to the feeding crystal set into one wall.

The hive's feeding crystals were attuned to each other. Energy fed into one would be dispersed among them all, so the state of one was the same as the state of all others throughout the hive. This one was nearly empty. I could barely make out a feeble golden spark at its heart. I was shocked to see it like that, I'd never seen the hive's resources so low. We were the most prosperous of the hives; we always had plenty of energy. Except it seemed that now we didn't. No wonder Chrysalis had run out of magic.

I knew that the love energy that I carried wouldn't go far among so many, but it would be criminal for me to keep it when the hive's store of food was so low. I went over to the crystal and touched my horn to it. The love I'd stored ran into it easily, like pouring water downhill. I didn't resist the pull, but let it suck the power up freely. Eventually the energy in the crystal reached equilibrium with the energy in me. I considered, and balanced how I felt now with the state of the hive and the changelings in it. I pushed a bit, giving the hive more. I only stopped when I started to feel faint. Finally I lifted my horn, gratified to see that the tiny spark had spread into a dim golden glow. It was still not much compared to the way I remembered the feeding crystals, but for now I'd done all I could. Now it was time to rest.

I fell into the huge bed and was asleep before I'd even found a pillow.

Author's Notes:

Song filking by Jordanis.

Editing by Mahmoth. Comma splices found by Nyerguds. (I should really do a better job of crediting the people who edit and proof read for me.)

The epilogue will be posted sometime between now and the end of the week.

Honey Pie, Come Back to Me

I woke with my head pounding and my side aching. Blinking my eyes slowly, I found I was still in Chrysalis' bed. Minder was curled up on the bed a few feet away. Reaching out to the sense of the hive, I found it was nearly sundown; I'd slept the whole day through. I also found that the vague sense of danger that had woken me was an alarm at one of the tunnels, the one that I'd come in through, in fact. I wearily pulled my attention to the drones there and looked out through their eyes. To my surprise I saw a very familiar pink pony standing in the tunnel, just outside the hive proper. Pinkie?

Yep! It's me! I felt you being all tired and stuff and I knew you'd been giving away all your love again, so I came to give you more. I brought our friends too! We'll have a big ol' love and friendship party for the hive!

Indeed, behind Pinkie I made out several familiar forms. Applejack was there, and Rainbow Dash, and even Fluttershy and Rarity, the former peeking out from behind her mane, the latter looking rather grimly determined. Through the drone, I tasted their emotions, and it was wonderful. There were hints of nervousness and revulsion, but I could also taste clear, bright, sweet friendship, mixed generously with Pinkie's love.

Thank you. Thank you so much. I'll have the drones escort you here right away.

I instructed one of the warrior drones guarding the entrance to lead them to me. I also lowered the shields that kept ponies out of the hive, both the outer and inner ones. They answered to me easily, as though I had set them myself. Then I touched those drones who were in the tunnels along the way, asking them to stop and clear the path. Partly that was for Rarity's sake, having her in the midst of a hurrying swarm of "bugs" wouldn't do much for her mental state, I was sure. Equally, though, it was for the sake of the drones. There was an air of worry to the hive's hum; they were afraid of these ponies. So it was to spare them as much as to spare my pony friends, that I cleared the path.

That done, I rose from the bed. I started to stretch, but stopped when my side twinged painfully.

As I rose, several drones came into the room. They had an expectant feel about them. A brief touch on their minds and I realized that they were servants, here to groom me. I knew exactly what a sorry state I was in, so I settled on a low couch and let them.

Bad as I still felt, though, I couldn't bring myself to just lie there and be tended to without returning the grooming. The drone whose crest I started cleaning first actually squeaked and jumped when I did. I chuckled. Relax, I said softly to her and continued my work. She did, and a moment later was in an almost comical state of delight. I could faintly hear her mind going, The queen is grooming me! The queen is grooming me, over and over.

I could feel Pinkie and the others drawing nearer as the drones worked. I wished I could just lie here all morning and let them groom me, but, thinking of Rarity again, I decided it would be best if I dismissed them. Thankfully there was time enough for them to get me looking at least slightly less disheveled, and for me to give each of the drones at least a little bit of attention, before the ponies arrived in the throne room.

I heard their hoofsteps, and their voices raised in curiosity and wonder, as they came through the vast, echoing chamber. Pinkie was chattering cheerfully. Just hearing her so close lifted my spirits. She was always with me in my mind, but I'd missed having her there to hold. "We're almost there!" she said to the others. I could hear the clatter of hooves as she bounced up and down.

Then she was there, silhouetted in the doorway. She didn't pause there for even an instant; she flung herself at me in a flying tackle. I caught her, ignoring the flash of pain from my side, and held her tightly. Her sweet love flooded over me, washing away all my tiredness and pain.

The drones that had been grooming me scattered with nervous squeaks of fear. I soothed them and asked them to retire as the other ponies walked into the room.

"Oh my! This is not at all what I had expected," said Rarity, looking around the lavish chamber. She sounded almost delighted.

Pinkie giggled. "What did you expect, beds of goo and creepy cobwebs and slime everywhere?"

"Well..." Rarity blushed just a bit.

"Man, you could fit all of us on this bed and have room left over!" said Rainbow Dash. She bounced on the bed, which woke Minder. "Oh, sorry," said Rainbow.

Minder blinked at her, then smiled. "You are here to help the hive, so all is well." She put her head back down and closed her eyes, not remotely bothered by the ponies.

"Howdy there, Sweetcake," said Applejack. "At least I figure you're Sweetcake, since you got Pinkie Pie stuck to you like mud on a pig, an' you got yer cutie mark still an' all," she grinned at me, "but I can't help but notice ya' look a little different than last time I saw ya'."

"Oh. Yeah. I've, uh, turned into a queen." I shrugged.

"Pinkie was tellin' us about that."

"It's so exciting!" said Rarity. "A friend of mine, suddenly royalty!"

I chuckled. "I'm not certain most ponies would consider me royalty." I could still taste a certain tension in Rarity. She was in the middle of a hive of "bugs", and I was right there, a great, big queen bug. Pinkie always liked hugging me better in pony form anyway, so I shifted to my usual pony shape. It was a bit odd having this shape be shorter, rather than taller, than my changeling form.

That, unfortunately, meant that the resin that had been bandaging my side simply fell off when I changed. I hadn't quite thought that part of changing through. In this form I had a long slash across my coat, rather than a crack in my chitin, but the raw puncture just over my ribs was more or less the same.

"Oh! You're hurt!" said Fluttershy.

"It's fine," I said. "Minder took care of it yesterday."

"I don't think it should just be left open like that though," said Fluttershy. "It might get infected."

"I shall tend to it," said Minder, climbing off of the bed. Rarity squeaked in surprise—rather like the drones had—as Minder pushed past her. Minder nudged Pinkie aside, then knelt beside me and began gently licking the wound. Her saliva was thick and slightly greenish, so I knew she was making a different type of resin, one that took more effort, but would also be stronger and more flexible. It was the sort that egg pods and captive pods were made from.

It stung a little, but I was happy enough to let her tend to me. Pinkie leaned against my other side and nuzzled me. I nuzzled her back. I was still drawing love from her. I was taking it carefully, I didn't want to exhaust her, but I needed as much as I could get—both from her and from the others.

"Thank you all for coming," I said to them. "Tell me how things have been in Ponyville while I was gone."

"Ain't been nothing much happening, really," said Applejack.

"It's been the quietest week I've seen in ages," agreed Rarity with a nod.

"I'm glad. I'd hate to have more than one disaster turn up at once," I said.

Rarity looked around, then settled herself gingerly on a second couch that stood near mine. "Pinkie said, well... she said that you and the hive needed food."

I nodded, once again admiring Rarity. There was a hint of acrid fear in the air around her as she spoke, but she hadn't let it stop her.

"How does this feeding business work, anyhow?" asked Applejack.

"I believe Pinkie described it once as being like a sponge. Ponies constantly give off emotional energy. I merely soak it up."

"So you are, ah, feeding right now?" said Rarity, looking—and tasting—just a little queasy.

"Yes. Mostly from Pinkie at the moment, but a bit from the rest of you as well. When Minder is done I'll go and transfer some of that energy to the hive." Minder was still lapping at my side, building up a thick layer of flexible green resin. She felt almost smugly content. In her eyes everything was just as it should be. I was queen, she was tending to me, and all was well with the world.

"I don't feel anything," said Rarity.

I chuckled, refraining from mentioning that I wasn't really drawing on her right now, she didn't currently taste especially appetizing. "It is quite painless. The idea is generally to do so without being noticed, after all. But I assure you that it does no harm."

"It sure ain't done Pinkie none." Applejack grinned.

"Nope! I like feeding Sweetcake, it makes him happy, and that makes me happy. I bet making his whole hive happy would be even better!"

"Speaking of which," I said, looking down at Minder, "I think that's enough, Minder." She nodded and lifted her head. A large patch of flexible resin was glued to my side, completely covering the injury. I would appreciate it if you would leave, I asked her silently. Rarity is not comfortable while you're here, and both for her own sake and the hive's, it would be best if she were.

Of course, my queen. Minder rose, gave me a little bow, and left. That done, I rose to my feet and went to the feeding crystal. It was dimmer than when I'd left it last, though not quite as bad as it had been when I first saw it. Changelings had been feeding during the day, and whatever other energy might have come in, it hadn't been equal to the amount drawn out. I touched it with my horn and let it pull all the energy I had just obtained from Pinkie from me. Once again I kept pushing after that point, giving it every drop I could spare. The warm golden glow I saw when I lifted my horn made me smile. Then I sagged a little, my headache returning.

"Poor Sweetcake." Pinkie was immediately at my side, supporting me. I leaned against her, and she guided me over to the bed, feeding me love again as I went. I could tell that she was tired too, though, so I didn't pull much from her. Pinkie helped me climb into the bed, and then climbed in next to me and cuddled up.

"Why are you so tired all o' the sudden?" asked Applejack.

I lifted my head and looked over at her. "I'm trying to keep the entire hive fed. I don't even know what Chrysalis has been doing, but whatever it was, it wasn't working terribly well. They were practically out of energy when I got here." I sighed. "And all Chrysalis could think of was getting revenge on me, even while her whole hive teetered on the brink of starvation. All those drones, just like I used to be, who have nothing to do with this absurd conflict. How can I do anything but give them all I have?"

I felt a soft touch at my back and looked over to see that Fluttershy had climbed onto the bed next to me. She hugged me, and I hugged her back. "You are a very good person, Sweetcake, to take such care of all those poor creatures." I felt her friendship for me, sweet and warm and wonderful. I pulled in as much of it as I could without actively draining her.

"You're being very generous," said Rarity with a smile, more at ease now that there were no "bugs" visible to set off her phobia. She too climbed into the bed, though she just sat on the edge and put a hoof on my shoulder.

Applejack sat next to Rarity and smiled at me. "I reckon we can't just let yer friends starve either, so we'll lend a hoof however we can. That's why Pinkie asked us to come."

Rainbow Dash plopped down on the bed and flopped over on her back nearby. "Yeah. I figure we owe you one for Ponyville anyway. If it weren't for you, I'd still be stuck in one of those freaky pod things. That wasn't much fun."

"Thank you all. Thank you so much." I felt tears gathering in my eyes. Their friendship was so wonderful, not just to taste, but to know that they were there for me.

Friendship is stronger than I could have thought, I heard Minder say softly in my mind. I chose better than I knew when I chose to join the hives so that you could rule. With friendship and love you will be a true queen, like the old queens, who led us to prosperity and happiness.

As friendship and love flowed free and clear into me, I found myself able to believe that Minder might be right. Perhaps I could help this hive find prosperity and happiness again. Whatever I did, though, I knew I would do it with Pinkie and my friends at my side.

Author's Notes:

Thank you all for reading! Thank you to everyone who has left a comment, a thumbs up, or a favorite. Authors feed on that stuff like changelings feed on love. Thank you to everyone who's pre-read and pointed out my mistakes. Thank you to everyone who's turned up in my chat room to talk about the story. Thank you to everyone who's followed me. All those things have been a big part of helping me fight the depression that started me writing Honey Pie in the first place.

P.S. If you'd like to support me in making more stories like this, consider becoming a patron.
This is the end of the Honey Pie material I have ready for publication, but it's not the end of Honey Pie! Sweetcake and Pinkie still have more adventures ahead of them. Part III (working title: Revolution Number Three) is being worked on right now. Unfortunately it's a bit of a mess and my writing muse is being uncooperative. I can't give a date on when it will be ready for publication. Just know that it is out there, and it will turn up eventually. (And please, for the love of Celestia, stop asking me when! It will happen when it happens, pestering me about it will not make it happen faster.)

Meanwhile, I have many non-Honey Pie stories published here, ready for reading. You might consider checking out one of them! They cover a variety of different topics, characters, and genres, so there's probably something in there you will like.

Thanks again, everyone! It's been awesome!

Return to Story Description

Other Titles in this Series:

  1. Honey Pie

    by SPark
    39 Dislikes, 25,473 Views

    The victory over Queen Chrysalis has left a single changeling stranded in Canterlot, alone and broken. A certain pink pony is also alone in the Canterlot night. What will become of this unlikely pair?


    5 Chapters, 31,235 words: Estimated 2 Hours, 5 Minutes to read: Cached
    Published Mar 6th, 2014
    Last Update Apr 11th, 2014
  2. Honey Pie II: The Wrath of Chrysalis

    by SPark
    25 Dislikes, 10,757 Views

    Pinkie Pie and Sweetcake should be living happily ever after, despite the fact that some ponies in Ponyville aren't entirely pleased to have a changeling around. But it turns out that angry townsponies are going to be the least of their problems


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