Bartering With Changelings

by Orcus

Chapter 1: In the Heart of the Badlands

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The Badlands was a harsh place, full of nothing but dry, arid desert. A death sentence for the unprepared, yet, life there persists. And, in some rare cases, as with the love-devouring changelings, life utterly thrived.

The throne room from where Chrysalis, queen of the changelings and matriarch to her hive, sat with what few of her subjects made up her royal court was carved right from the reddish-brown rock which littered the desert landscape. Light showed through carefully-sculpted cracks and lines in the stony ceiling, illuminating what lied below in a faint glow.

She had been called from her current plotting on the inhabitants of Equestria on something that demanded her full attention. According to the report, her ever-loyal soldiers had grabbed what could only be described as something abnormal. Signalling that the tedious wait was at an end, the large stone doors leading to the room began to open, and two figures started to walk in. The first one, who was leading the other, was clearly a changeling dressed in sapphire armor. Following behind him was a significantly taller and leaner thing that immediately caused the queen to raise a brow. Chrysalis, in all the hundreds of years she had been around for, had never seen what she was now witnessing.

The being, clad completely in dark clothing that covered every bit of itself, save for its hooded face and a pack of some kind resting on its hunched back, shambled forward with a limping gait. The only thing that could be seen of its face as it approached was multiple, small, greenish, tentacle-esque appendages that seemed to constantly worm around, as well as a pair of piercing, yellow, pupil-less eyes gazing out of the murky darkness. Its overall form caused Chrysalis to ponder just what it was, for it possessed a decidedly not pony-like shape. It was upright, with but a single pair of legs, as well as long arms that ended in hands.

"My queen, we found this interloper practically knocking on the front door," the drone spoke to her. "Before you ask why he appears to not have his love sucked out like the juice from an apple, it is because we could not find any within him, and before we could kill him he asked specifically to have audience with you. He said it dealt purely in the realm of 'business'."

"You have my appreciation, Captain," Chrysalis thanked, before setting her full attention on the creature. "Speak, worm. Who are you, what are you, and why have you come here? And no tricks! I'll know if and when you're lying..."

"I am but a wandering vendor," the hooded figure began to reply in a low and guttural, but clearly male tone, bowing his head slightly as the multiple feeler extremities continued to wriggle about from his concealed face. "To specify further, I am an Agent sent by my masters, the Nine, to explore this land. I have been directed to this location to scour and search for but only one thing. And that thing is something your kind might possibly recognize as coins."

Reaching a gloved hand into the side of his robe, he pulled something out of a pocket that had the appearance of a flat metal circle of sorts. "Coins resembling these."

Enveloping the strange coin in a halo of light green energy from her crooked horn, Chrysalis gently tugged it from his grasp and brought it up to her face for a closer inspection. It looked like a goldish-bronze-tinted disk, with one side showing off a greenish gemstone of sorts in its center. The queen let out a hum as she recognized its basic shape.

"Well, I do have memory of coming across a few of these when we first carved my kingdom out here. We deemed the things as worthless relics, and didn't pay them much mind..." Chrysalis replied, finishing her thorough examining the object, letting it drift back down to the being. "I am sure that if my subjects scrounge around hard enough that they shall find them once more. That doesn't mean that I'm willing to give them over to you for nothing, creature."

"There is no need for worry of that sort," the being insisted with a raised and steady hand, still keeping his courteous tone despite his throaty voice and ever-twitching demeanor. "I have been instructed to trade material possessions for these artifacts. They are worthless to one such as the Nine and I, but I'm sure your kind could find some sort of use for them. I have all manner of books, clothing, tapestries, precious gems, armor, and the occasional weapon for sale, if it piques your interest."

Upon hearing these words, Chrysalis brought two hole-filled hooves to her snout as she contemplated her final answer, shifting the occasional look and glance at the few members of her court with the turns of her head. "What is your name?" she finally asked, staring back at him.

"I am Xûr," he answered. "I am but a tool for my masters and I have purpose. And that purpose is trade. Nothing more."

"Very well, 'Xûr'. I have thought it over, and I officially permit you to barter with my changelings for what you seek," Chrysalis smiled, exposing her fangs better. "...All in exchange for your wares, of course."

"You have the thanks of the Nine," Xûr bowed again in humble fashion. "I am also at liberty to let you know that I shall not stay here for long, your highness. The Nine bid I travel to many a location in constant fashion, so you shall be rid of my presence soon enough."

"Yes, yes, whatever," she replied in an uncaring fashion. "Just leave my sight before I change my mind! I have work I must return to..."

Xûr gladly turned about and began to hobble away in as slow and doddering of a movement as when he arrived, with the captain making sure he stayed on course. While the changelings in the court began to whisper among themselves over the events that had just transpired, Queen Chrysalis continued to watch the alien being with a curious, if not somewhat perturbed gleam in her green eyes.

"Hmph. What a strange, wretched creature..." she mumbled to herself, all ready to forget the moment and return to her plotting against the ponies she despised so very much.

Next Chapter: A Desperate Request Estimated time remaining: 7 Minutes
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