A Novel Tale

Novel Tale is an author that's been living in Canterlot for about ten years now. That's a pretty good track record for a changeling. He's even included a changeling character in his latest book, and his fans have been loving his take on such an obscure mythological creature, especially his biggest fan, Twilight Sparkle. Things are looking up!
Then an army of changelings from another hive attacks Canterlot.
Now all of ponykind knows that changelings are real, and his readers are sure to realize that the changeling in his book was too similar to the real thing to have just been based on a myth...



7. Chapter 6: The Hive, Part 1

Twilight and Nurex continued deeper into the earth. The stairs at the entrance to the tunnel had given way to a more lenient grade after they had descended about twenty feet. It had also widened out to a comfortable size, tall enough for even Princess Celestia to walk at full height and wide enough for about four ponies to walk side by side. Twilight had expected it to start getting dark, but was surprised to find strange crystals giving off a soft green glow that were embedded in the walls at regular interval. She wanted to ask Nurex about them, but it was so quiet that she was hesitant to break the silence. Instead, she pulled out her notebook and wrote down all she had observed in the cabin as she went.

A few minutes later, the cave narrowed down to a single entrance that seemed to open up again afterwards. There were two changelings standing in front of the entrance, presumably guards. They were larger than Nurex, but again, Twilight couldn’t really tell them apart otherwise. Their eyes were glued to Twilight as they approached.

One of the guards spared a look at Nurex. “Nurex...” He turned back to staring at Twilight. “...and pony. You are both free to enter. You are to make your way directly to Queen Polistae’s chambers.” The two guards stepped aside.

They entered the hive proper. They were still in a tunnel about as large as the one they were in previously, but Twilight could see what appeared to be a larger chamber up ahead. She could hear a buzzing noise and what she thought was scattered talking. When they finally entered, Nurex paused to give Twilight time to take in the sight before her.

The chamber was very large. The closest size comparison she could make was the Grand Opera House in Canterlot. She figured one could fit a few hundred ponies in here, and that wasn’t even counting the air space overhead! If this was considered a small hive, she couldn’t imagine what Chrysalis’ hive must look like.

In the center of the chamber was a very large pillar of the same glowing crystal she had seen throughout the rest of the hive. It was the primary source of illumination for the entire cavern. She noticed there was a small portion of the crystal pillar about a third of the way down the bottom that was unlit, and wondered what purpose that could serve.

The cavern itself was shaped like a quarter-sphere. The far wall of the cavern, where a stage would be if this was the Canterlot Grand Opera House, was mostly flat and was filled with numerous hexagonal chambers like some kind of giant honeycomb. Most of them were partially covered in some sort of semi-transparent green substance, with only a small, pony-sized hole providing entry. She surmised that these must be what passed for rooms for the changelings that lived here. The rest of the cavern curved away from that wall with various tunnels leading off to who knew where.

Speaking of changelings, there must of been at least a hundred of them walking or flittering about the main chamber when she entered. And they had all stopped what they were doing and were now staring right at her, making her feel more than a little self conscious. She couldn’t help but wonder if this was how Fluttershy felt in public situations. Thinking back on what Nurex had said, she realized that she must be the only source of emotional energy down here. She must appear as a beacon in the middle of the night to them.

They began moving again, Nurex leading her to a tunnel off to the right. As they went, Twilight took a good look at some of the changelings watching her, and once again, could not discern any differentiating features except for size. They all had the same light blue carapace plate and magenta eyes that Nurex had.

Twilight spoke quietly, not wanting to be overheard by all the changelings watching her. “Novel... um...”

“I prefer Nurex when I’m in changeling form.”

“Okay then, Nurex... all these changelings look the same to me. How do you tell each other apart?”

“It’s the holes in our legs and the notches in our ears and wings,” Nurex said as he held up a leg and extended a wing for Twilight to take a look at. “We all have a unique combination of holes and notches.”

Twilight examined Nurex’s leg and wing and then took a closer look at some of the changelings near them. She realized Nurex was right, they did all have different sets of holes and notches. She couldn’t imagine actually using that as a way of telling individuals apart! Changeling brains must just be set up differently from ponies', she guessed. She recorded all of this in her notebook.

They had entered the tunnel that presumably led to the queen. The tunnel was supported by arches of the glowing green crystal, giving it a sense of great importance. Twilight thought it was certainly appropriate for the tunnel that led to the queen of the hive.

Her curiosity had finally grown too strong for her to ignore. “Nurex, what is it that makes these crystals glow like this?”

Nurex looked up at one of the arches as they passed underneath it. “I’m, uh, not sure how exactly they work, just that they glow like that when you siphon emotional energy into them. They can glow for quite a while on only a bit of energy, so it’s a pretty good lighting system for us.”

This led Twilight to another big question her mind. “What about that giant crystal pillar in the main chamber with the unlit portion?”

“Oh, that’s basically just a giant clock. Queen Polistae charges it every night at midnight. The unlit portion starts at the bottom and slowly moves up the pillar, reaching the top at noon, then slowly goes back down and hits the bottom around midnight. Then she starts it over again! It takes more than a bit of magic mixed into the emotional energy to do it, which is why the queen does it, but it’s well worth it for helping us keep track of time while living underground.”

Twilight hadn’t considered how difficult time keeping must be when one didn’t have a day/night cycle to work with. She thought it was a rather ingenious solution. “And that pillar is the same type of crystal as these arches?” Twilight asked, to which Nurex nodded. She stepped up to the next arch to get a closer look at the crystal. “Fascinating...” she said as she scribbled in her notebook. “Do you think I’d be able to take some samples of these crystals back with me? I’d love to examine them more closely,” she asked without looking from her notes.

“You’d have to ask the queen about that. Speaking of which...”

Twilight looked up from her notes to see that Nurex was now standing in front of a set of doors with a final crystal arch as the frame. The door was made of an opaque green substance, likely the same substance that the covers over the hexagonal rooms in the main chamber were made of. The substance actually carried some of the light from the crystal arch surrounding it, causing the door to glow slightly. She put her notebook away as she approached, figuring it would be in poor taste to take notes while meeting the queen.

There were a pair of changeling guards standing outside the door. For once, they were easy to tell apart from other changelings, as they were wearing armor made of some material Twilight couldn’t identify. One of the guards addressed them. “Queen Polistae is expecting you. You may enter.” They opened the doors and let Nurex and Twilight pass through.

Twilight stopped just inside the entrance to take in the chamber they had entered. There was a path going down the center, with rows of large columns of the glowing crystal going up to the ceiling on either side. Stretching between the crystal columns like spider webs was more of that same green material the door had been made of, but shaped into images and patterns that reminded Twilight of the stained glass windows that decorated the walls back at Canterlot Castle. Much like the door, the green substance carried some of the light from the crystals columns, creating a rather spectacular overall effect. At the end of the path the ground rose up slightly and there was a magnificent throne. The throne was giving off a green light, but it looked like it was made of more of that green substance. Twilight guessed that it must have been built on top of one of those glowing crystals. Then Twilight took notice of the changeling that was on the throne.

She had the same general body structure as Chrysalis, but that was where the similarities ended. Whereas Chrysalis’ mane was ragged and a sickly green color, Polistae’s mane was a bright turquoise color and was done up in a bun that Twilight had often seen on some of the high class socialite mares back in Canterlot. Her mane bun had long, thin shards of the glowing crystal sticking out of it, no doubt in order to hold it together. Her tail was the same color, styled in a curvy way that Twilight was certain Rarity would love. The holes in her legs were filled with that green substance, and they must have also had shards of the glowing crystal inside them, because they were giving of a green glow similar to the throne she sat upon.

The overall effect gave her a very regal, haughty demeanor, a veritable aura of importance. Combined with what Twilight knew changeling queens were capable of, she found her to be rather intimidating as well. Nurex had assured her that she wouldn’t harm her, but she couldn’t help but feel somewhat hesitant, almost afraid, to approach her. It wasn’t the same kind of fear that Chrysalis had instilled in her, a fear for her life. It was a fear that she wouldn’t live up to this queen’s expectations, and unlike most noble ponies she knew, Twilight found herself actually caring what this changeling queen thought of her.

The changeling queen had an unreadable expression on her face that Twilight had often seen Celestia use when dealing with noble ponies. She spoke, and she sounded slightly impatient. “Nurex, pony, please approach the throne that we may speak.”

Twilight realized she had been standing there for nearly half a minute just taking everything in! She blushed in embarrassment. Nurex led the way to the throne and Twilight followed just behind. Thinking it impolite to stare at the changeling queen any more than she already had, she looked to some of the... tapestries? Murals? Twilight wasn’t sure what to call the spider web like arrangements of the green substance stretched between the crystal columns that they were walking past. Some of them depicted other figures like the changeling queen, no doubt previous rulers of the hive. To Twilight’s surprise, others depicted ponies. Twilight guessed that these must be the pony forms of particularly notable changelings in the hive’s history. She made a mental note to ask about it later.

She was brought back to reality by the sound of Nurex clearing his throat. She looked back to him and saw that they had now reached the throne. Nurex bowed before the queen. “Queen Polistae.”

Twilight was quick to copy him. “Y-your highness...”

“You need not bow to me, pony. You are not one of my changelings and I am not your monarch. Rise, and tell me your name.”

Twilight blinked. That wasn’t the kind of response she had been expecting. She did as she had been told. “My name is Twilight Sparkle, your highness.”

Polistae smiled, but it somehow did nothing to make her seem less imposing. “Welcome then, Twilight Sparkle, to my hive. I do believe you are the first pony to ever set foot in a changeling hive of their own free will. That is quite an accomplishment. I am quite curious, however, as to how you learned of us.” She looked to Nurex. “Nurex, would you like to explain?”

Nurex cowered as his queen’s gaze fell upon him. “W-well, my queen, uh, you see, interest in my book series was, uh, dropping off, so I wasn’t getting as much emotional energy. So, in order to boost interest, I, uh... kinda... put a changeling character in my last book...”

Queen Polistae had the same neutral expression on her face that she’d been maintaining since they had entered the room. “I see. And you did not think to run this by me first?”

Nurex reeled back as though he had been struck physically. “Well, i-it did cross my mind that you might want to know first... but I just figured that since ponies thought that we were only myths, that it would be okay...” He looked back up to her with a pleading look. “And it was working just fine until those other changelings attacked Canterlot!”

“Yes, thus bringing us to the reason you two have come here. Nurex, we are going to have a talk later about taking liberties with a changeling’s identity. For now, however, I wish to hear the full story of what occurred in Canterlot three days ago.”

“I think I can help with that, your majesty,” Twilight said. “It all started when I got an invitation to my older brother’s wedding...”

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