Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 64

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Chapter 64

We stand in silence for a moment, before the butler speaks up again. “Would sir wish to elaborate? Or would sir prefer to continue the tour?”

“Hmmm, I suppose we could continue the tour, it’s not exactly fully thought-out yet. Though I know where you could get a star. I’ll explain later.”

The changeling made no motion that it cared one way or another, and begins to lead me down another corridor, the rough-hewn stone mostly covered in simple pieces of cloth surrounding a side-passage. I look into the side passage and see that it’s a poor rendition of a playroom. There’s several lopsided blocks, but not enough to do anything with, and a couple of trinkets likely meant to be toys. Several little changeling nymphs were in the room, in crude pens made from wooden poles and what looks like fish netting.

“The nursery I take it?” I turn to the butler for confirmation. It nods, and I look back at the room. Each of the nymphs has turned to look at me, and about half are retreating away from me in the little pens they inhabit.

“So, how old are these anyway?”

“The youngest is twenty-one years of age. The eldest is thirty-nine.” Not a single one appears older than four.

“More of Chrysalis’ bitchy cursing, or do you just age slower than turtles?”

“The old queen stole their growth to offset her own death by age. They should have all left and created their own clusters, but the old queen felt she knew better than nature.”

“Yeah, so she’s an age vampire. Well, was. She really fucked you guys up, huh?”

“Sir is most accurate.”

“alright, what’s next? Do you guys even have a kitchen or... what? Can you put love in a bottle or something?”

“The distillery is this way, if sir would care to see?”

“Uh, sure. Why not?” No idea what’s being distilled, but it can’t be that bad.

The butler leads me on again, and I take the time to think over what exactly to do for my plan.

“If sir is interested?” the butler asks, breaking my concentration. I look over and see a series of vats and tubes and things I’d expect at a water processing plant. The crusty remains of some kind of yellow-green material is dried to most of the pouring channels and the visible sides of the crucible-like vats.

“Alright, let’s see what you got here.” I pause. “Wait, it’s not poisonous, is it?”

“We do not harvest toxic love, no, sir.”

“So, what, I drink it, or...?”

“If sir wishes, but there is so little as it stands. This is, however, the distillery, and is not used much anymore. There is very little love gathered by the hive much anymore. If sir would like to see the kitchen and storage room?”

“Sure. Though now I’m curious. What does love taste like?”

“It depends on the love, sir.”

“You mean, the variety? Huh. So what do you have in the way of ‘flavors’ then?”

“Not much, though sir might be interested in a twenty-two year early love.”

“Early? You mean, like that teen-romance crap that everyone thinks is real until it’s over in three months?”

“Precisely, sir. It has a very heady, sweet taste.”

“And a reality check for an aftertaste? Guess I’ll find out. Let’s try it.”

The two of us moved towards the preparation room, and the butler showed the normal-sized pantry full of empty space, dust, and three bottles. One is a watery green, another is a dark green, and the one grabbed by the butler is a yellowy-green.

“Wow, you are pretty low. So I assume making this stuff is a bit more complex than beer, given that the main ingredient is pheremones and emotion.”

“No need for pheromones, sir. The royal jelly is quite pleasant on its own.” The butler prised the cap from the bottle, and placed a pair of tiny shot glasses, filling each just under halfway. “If sir would not mind this one going off-duty for this? This one has yet to feed this week.”

“Go for it, not my place to deny a guy a snack.” I take the shot glass, and take a light sip just to taste it.

The flavor that hits my tongue is not actually unpleasant, and makes me feel wistful. Not for anything in particular, but wistful nonetheless. It is, however, almost unbearably sweet, and I have to swish it around my pallette to weed out the overwhelmingly sugary feel.

“Huh, yep, that’s teenage love. So sweet you think it’s perfect, and makes your head a little cloudy.”

“Yer quite right, mate. Aaah, bottoms up.” The sudden australian accent throws me, especially because of how fake it sounds. The drink is downed by the changeling in one gulp, and the butler gives an odorous belch.

Well, I guess if I acted like a bootlicker all day, I’d like to be myself for a few minutes. Can’t really blame him. I finish off the rest of the love-drink. It’s really quite interesting.

“So, how do you guys make this stuff, anyway? I mean, turning love into a liquid?”

“The queen secretes it when enough love energy is gathered by th’ harvesters. The royal jelly is processed, then gets turned inta this. In its raw form, it’s way too potent for normal ‘lings, and only the princesses and queens can handle it safely. Also, sweet as it might be, that shotglass is a week’s rations fer me.” the wavering accent seemed to shift between several others during the explanation, but the butler looked contented after its ‘meal’.

“So, you don’t have much because... Chryssi kept all the love for herself, or what?”

“We have been encamped in this hive for the better part of a year, with Chryssi gobblin’ up everythin’ she could to keep at the peak of her power. However, she was really just dooming us all. The last month, we’ve been keepin’ to tha tunnels cuz we didn’t want to piss you off, ye blodger, so we haven’t got any more stock to fill. Specially with her new highness havin’ just finished her third molt. She won’t molt agin fer another week, and that’s the soonest she’ll be able to produce more jelly. then, it’ll get processed, and then we c’n start eatin’ agin. And that’s assumin’ that we find a replacement, her new highness doesn’t get herself killed, you don’t kill us, Celestia or Luna doesn’t just kill us, the pink alicorn with the nice voice doesn’t seek vengeance and kill us, a dragon doesn-”

“I get it. Your chances are shit. And... wait, you mean Cadence?”

“Yeah, that’s the one. Seemed real nice, ‘till she brok out of her cell. I was the one on watch, but the old bitch forgot to tell me to stop ‘er if she escapes, just watch. Ah, I got flogged somethin’ good fer that ‘slip up’, especially since I conveniently left a cart to get them back to the wedding in time. Never got told not to, an’ all.”

“For someone who uses magic to create an army of mindless slaves, she sure didn’t have the brains to lead them. Maybe that’s why she wanted me...”

“Nah, you busted her illusions good. Thought you looked, ah... delectable. I don’ see it myself, but the old bitch liked her mates strong of will. Got her jollies breakin’ that.” The changeling glared angrily down at the empty shot glass. “Like her eldest daughter, her new highness.”

“Well, guess she had a problem, because I’m not that easy to control. Ask Luna. Anyway, I have my plan. You guys need a star?”

“Well, more like we’d need someone long-lived enough to protect the queen for the rest of her life, because losing that protector would make her daughters try to kill her. Or something powerful enough to bend time itself and give her something like four hunnerd years to get over being beaten every time she spoke, and starved if she wasn’t perfectly obedient, and have it all happen in the space of the next week.” The ‘ling stopped for a moment. “Or to act like a big-arse battery.”

“Well, I’m not sure how long it’d take for the new queen to get in gear, but I’ve got a millennia before I kick the bucket. As for a battery, I got more energy than the air around me can handle. That’s where my idea’s coming from.”

“Er, I meant a soul battery. She’d have to be willingly given a big chunk o’ yer life to get he power she’d need. And after what she’s been through, there’s no guarantee she wouldn’t just burn out.” the changeling shook its head sadly. A moment later, I see its ears perk up. “Actually, you cowed the entire hive. Y’ might be able to scare the hive inta thinkin’ you’d kill us all if the current queen dies of something other than nat’ral old age. Well, unnatural now. She’ll only live t’ a hunnerd if she’s lucky.”

“So I just have to, what? Freak them all out? Threaten ‘em?”

“Basic’ly. Ye’d be pretty much our tyrant king, but y wouldn’t need to be here or do anything but be a big, threatn’n presence. Kill things out in the world sometimes. Normal stuff, if yer press coverage is to be believed.”

“Sorry, but they exaggerate a bit. I don’t kill or even hurt anything unless they piss me off. I’m no crazy axe-murderer. As for being king of the changelings, I’d really avoid that, just saying.”

“Nah, not king. Changelings don’t have kings. Ye’d just be a tyrant dictator doling out death and destruction if you’re displeased. Idunno, blow up a chamber or somesuch and make a point. hey, by th’ way, y’ killed the previous queen afore she named her successor. You willing to name ‘er?”

“Uh... I... huh. Maybe. I just don’t really see why she doesn’t think of a name for herself? Secondly, I’m going to assume you guys aren’t stupid or anything. If I just blew up a chamber, what would that do? I’d be wrecking your home, and on top of that, I wouldn’t even have a reason for it. The only gripe I had was with Chrysalis. You guys’re fine.”

“Show of force! It’s traditional. And y’ do it while making a speech that the current queen will stay the current queen if the hive wishes to exist, that sort of thing. We’ve got a ton’v spare chambers now, most of us starved off from too little love. Why’d ya think there’s just you, me, and the drink in the guard’s main supply room?”

“Dang. You got a point. So I just have to show off, tell everyone to listen to... the new queen whatever her name’s gonna be, and that’s it?”

“Well, give her a name, say you’ll avenge her death if she kicks the bucket, then blow up a chamber to show you can. then, walk out, and ferget we exist.”

“That seems easy. And I might not even have to destroy anything. I can be imposing in general once I start showing my power off. Of course, the guards down there will be sent back to Canterlot. See if you can get them up here. I’ll explain our plan, and then I’ll start my little show.”

“Can do, misterino. Guess yer ‘boss’ now, heh.” the changeling gave a sloppy salute, then composed itself, taking in a deep breath, letting it out and standing straight. “If sir would follow this one? Sir will be brought to the side chamber near the Grand Chamber to prepare.”

“Heh, sure thing.” This guy could be the man of a thousand faces, even if he wasn’t a changeling.

So we’re in the side chamber with the guards. I turn to the diplomat-slash-guard in charge.

“So here’s my plan. I’m gonna go crazy, cause some damage, generally put the fear of god, or me that is, in them. You ponies will be sent to Canterlot with your charm-doohickeys. Just tell Celly everything’s cool and we have a plan. I’ll take it from there.”

The guards don’t look like they like my plan, but they go with it. One by one, they activate their amulets by tapping them to my sparked-up fist, and I stride into the main chamber. Might as well make it theatrical, right?

Next Chapter: Rise of Renaissance Estimated time remaining: 26 Hours, 19 Minutes

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