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Fanfic / Without a Hive

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A My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction regarding the adventures of Nictis, a Changeling Infiltrator. He is just learning how to pass as a pony so that he may embark upon his future career of gathering the energies of love and friendship for the sustenance of his Hive, when a tragic accident results in him being stranded and forced to live among the ponies for a long time as a female pony, Meadow Song. As the years pass, the maturing changeling finds that her identity as Meadow becomes increasingly more real than his old life as Nictis. Whom will the Infiltrator prove loyal to at the last, when he/she must decide between loyalty to his Hive — or to her new friends?

Written by Phoenix_Dragon. Can be found here.

The tropes found here include

  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: The consequence of the ill-fated attack of Queen Chrysalis on Canterlot as detailed in "A Canterlot Wedding", from the changeling POV: the Equestrians now know that the changelings exist, and assume them all to be hostile. It is this which destroys Meadow's happiness with Spark. Ceymi was seriously worried about this.
  • The Bartender: Sunshine Wheatstalk, who runs "Wheatstalk's Pub" in Manehattan.
  • Becoming the Mask: The main story arc, for Nictis.
  • Bittersweet Ending: By the end of the story, Nictis understands both love and friendship, and realizes their value. He's also incidentally done an awful lot of good as Meadow Song, and is in a good position to work as Nictis to enable changelings and ponies to peacefully co-exist, when the changelings become ready for this. But he's paid some terrible prices for this — Meadow Song has apparently lost Spark Wheel's love, with no guarantee that Spark will ever forgive her for her long deception (even though it to a large degree stopped being a deception by the end. What's even sadder, Nictis' love for Spark seems to be exceptionally strong even by pony standards, given that it has been induced in a member of a species which normally does not feel romantic love at all. The outcome avoids being a complete Downer Ending largely because both Nictis and Spark are alive and in improving situations: Nictis has found an open place in Equestrian society and Spark seems destined for success; there is hope that they may reunite.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The changelings and ponies, from each other's POV. changeling morality is based on absolute loyalty to one's own Hive; and callousness, distrust and ruthlessness toward all other beings. This makes the individualistic, kind, trusting and universally-ethical ponies difficult for the changelings to understand: even the Infiltrators but dimly comprehend much beneath the surface of pony ways.
  • The Bully: Bigs, a large orphan colt who is scary to smaller orphan colts. Also later, when he is a petty Obstructive Bureaucrat, who can similarly frighten ponies in need of municipal assistance.
  • The Casanova: Cherry Runner, whose name is a Stealth Pun, given that he apparently attempts to seduce young and innocent looking mares.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Meadow Song and Spark Wheel.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Implicitly offered by Celestia, and accepted by Nictis and some other changelings, by the end of the tale. Long before this, Meadow has become far more symbiotic than parasitic in her relationships with ponies.
  • Dark Secret: Meadow is really a changeling, and must keep this secret from everyone especially her One True Love.
  • Defector from Decadence: After years living as a pony, and knowing what true love and friendship feel like, Nictis is utterly unsuited for the Spartan and cruel world of the changelings. The great irony here is that Princess Ceymi had described pony society as being literal "decadence"...!
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Spark, to Meadow Song. And it works. He gets the mare. Too bad for him he didn't realize she is actually a male changeling Infiltrator, making this a Subversion. Then, in a Double Subversion, Meadow really loves him!
  • Dramatic Irony: After Princess Ceymi, in the form of Starry Eyes has gotten killed, Nictis in the form of Meadow Song spends the night with Starry Eyes' parents, Gray Oak and Misty Dawn. They mourn Starry Eyes and Meadow has to pretend to be sad about this, because her cover story is that Starry Eyes took her in as a guardian. They show Meadow family pictures of Starry Eyes, in chronological sequence. At a certain point, Meadow no longer has to pretend — she's genuinely grief-stricken. The reason why? That was the point after the real Starry Eyes died on her wilderness expedition, and Princess Ceymi found her corpse and took her identity. Not only were the parents unaware that they really should have been mourning back then, but — even more ironically — Princess Ceymi was in fact Nictis' mother so by pony standards Meadow really has something to mourn. And even more ironically than that, by changeling standards maternity is irrelevant. Yet in fact Princess Ceymi was Nictis' beloved mentor and role model, and may well have looked upon Nictis as her special son in the PONY fashion — having been partially corrupted by pony culture long ago. So Meadow really is distraught. This is a very'' emotionally-complex story at places!
  • The Dreaded: Princess Celestia, for the changelings. She controls the Sun, and can rain down hot fiery plasma on her foes. What's not to fear?
  • Elite Army: The Infiltrators, compared to normal changelings. They are smarter, better trained, far more skilled both at shapeshifting and impersonation, and are well aware of their own importance to their Hives.
  • Emotion Eater: The changelings need this for psychic nourishment, though they also eat more normal foods. Depending on how much they drain, the effects on the victim range from inconsequential to serious in terms of life force lost. Meadow discovers that she can subsist on very tiny quantities of Spark's deep love for her, supplemented with small amounts of the diffuse friendship and gratitude she can get from others, with no apparent ill effects on any of the ponies concerned.
  • Enchanted Forest: The Everfree Forest is a mostly-trackless forest full of dangerous monsters once one enters deeply or goes off the few roads.
  • From Bad to Worse: The revelation of Meadow Song's true nature, from the POV of Spark Wheel. Your One True Love suddenly morphs into a changeling. When did the changeling replace her? Is the real Meadow Song still alive? Oh no, silly pony. Meadow Song was always the changeling. You loved a lie. This is not actually made any better, from Spark Wheel's POV, by the fact that Meadow Song really loves him — in other words, that his love was strong enough to convince a real changeling to switch loyalty from the Hive to himself. Know why? Because Spark has no way of knowing this for sure, and he doesn't know enough either about changeling culture to realize what a rare gift he's been given.
  • Heroic BSoD: Happens to two characters, due to the same event Meadow's Non-Equine Lover Reveal to Spark:
    • First, Spark collapses into helpless sobbing when he realizes that the most uplifting friendship and greatest love of his whole life has been directed toward (what now he thinks is) a total lie. Hard to Break the Cutie more effectively than that.
    • Then, Meadow, once she has teleported to (temporarly) safety, does exactly the same thing, making it obvious — if one hadn't realized this before — that her love for Spark was genuine. What's worse is that Spark can't see this This puts Nictis very close to his personal Despair Event Horizon.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: Nictis is consciously aware of this danger, since one of the last things Princess Ceymi (who may be suffering from it to some degree herself, as she likes the pony parents of her main cover identity and seems to have rather un-changeling maternal feelings toward her offspring Nictis) warns him of is to never forget who and what he is truly. This does not save him from Becoming the Mask after years spent in isolation from changelings and contact with ponies, especially Spark Wheel.
  • False Friend: Meadow, to Spark. At first.
  • Food Porn: Meadow's first reaction to pony sweets — specifically, a raspberry smoothie.
  • Foreshadowing: Almost the last thing Princess Ceymi says to Nictis before being killed by a manticore is a lecture on the importance of remaining true to changeling culture despite the temptations of the Equestrian way of life. Guess what happens to Nictis?.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Spark, when he grows up. By the end of the story he has invented a VTOL heavier-than-air aircraft, in a culture where electricity and the internal combustion engine are recent innovations, and has progressed a fair ways toward making it practical.
  • Gender Bender: Of an unusual variety. Nictis is a male changeling, and changelings are naturally bisexual regarding sex used as a lure. Meadow, his main pony identity, is a definitely heterosexual mare. And Spark is a definitely heterosexual stallion. Meadow and Spark fall in love, without Spark being aware of Meadow's true identity. Thus Niticis loves Spark, the unusual thing (by changeling standards), being that Nictis has a personal love and that it is an Interspecies Romance (changelings would normally see non-changelings as "prey"), and Spark loves Nictis without realizing that what he is loving is both alien and male.
  • Gender Reveal: Averted, because Meadow Song never gets around to letting Spark Wheel know that "she" is actually a male changeling. This is because she doesn't have time, and Spark's reaction to finding out that Meadow Song is a ''changeling'' is bad enough. We still don't know if Spark still loves her after finding out she's a changeling, let alone if he still loves her after finding out "she" is a male! (Though Equestrian culture would be more tolerant on both matters than would human).
  • Good Feels Good: Quite literally, for Meadow Song, in that as an Emotion Eater nourished by The Power of Love, her best strategy to feed as a solitary and unsupported Infiltrator is to make ponies like, or even love her. This leads to her being increasingly nice to the ponies around her, which accelerates her Becoming the Mask. Her total downfall as a loyal member of Hive Chrysalis comes when she realizes that she can keep Spark around her by "pretending" to really like him, which is what opens her to Redemption By Love.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Princess Ceymi gives her life to protect her trainee Infiltrators. And, it is strongly implied, Nictis in particular.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Sort of. Nictis is male, but his alter-ego Meadow is female. And it is Meadow's emotions which in the end prompt the change of heart.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: Or rather, Ponies are Cthulhu. Wise changelings, such as Ceymi, are seriously intimidated by Equestrian capabilities. From a changeling POV, they come in four castes, one of which has godlike powers, they have amazing wealth and technology, and there are tens of millions of them. Ceymi (and later Nictis) is well aware that if the changelings arouse Equestrian wrath, their species may well wind up toast.
  • Hive Mind: Averted. While the changelings are eusocial, they have individual identities, emotions and thoughts.
  • Hive Queen: The ruler of any changeling Hive. The Queen of Nictis' Hive is none other than the infamous Chrysalis.
  • The Ingenue: Meadow doesn't realize it, but she is completely out of her depth in Manehattan. Though by pony standards she's a ruthless manipulator, she remains in many ways fairly innocent up until the point when she realizes to her horror that she must leave Spark — possibly forever.
  • Interspecies Romance: Between Meadow Song and Spark Wheel — though Spark thought Meadow was a normal pony. It might have ended better if Queen Chrysalis hadn't attacked Equestria.
  • Lovable Nerd: Spark Wheel. Nictis finds him delicious.
  • Love Across Battlelines: Meadow Song and Spark Wheel, in general because of the hostile attitude of changelings toward ponies (though of course Spark doesn't know at this point Meadow's a changeling), but specifically when Hive Chrysalis attacks Equestria. In very short order, Meadow Song is forced to flee, but not before making her Non-Equine Lover Reveal. We still don't know Spark Wheel's ultimate decision on the matter!
  • Love Epiphany: Happens when Nictis/Meadow realizes that he/she will not let Spark come to harm even for the good of the Hive. The realization horrifies Nictis, but by then it's far too late for the poor little Infiltrator.
  • Mama Bear: Two characters in particular.
    • Princess Ceymi takes this attitude toward her trainees in general, and Nictis in particular. This leads her to give her life to save her trainee patrol.
    • Meadow Song becomes increasingly protective toward Spark Wheel, going so far as to nearly blow her cover when Big Shot is especially cruel to him. She rationalizes this as protecting an especially rich source of sustenance (since Spark practically worships her), but in fact this demonstrates her growing genuine friendship for Spark.
  • Manipulative Bastard: One of an Infiltrator's standard skills. Nictis becomes terrifyingly good at doing this to ponies, the more so because she becomes very familiar with pony culture and is a natural empath.
  • Masquerade: How the changelings are able to survive. Most of their prey are not even aware of their existence. Maintaining this secrecy is made easier due to their special changeling capabilities and the fact that changelings need not kill or even noticeably harm the prey in order to obtain their sustenance.
  • Mugging the Monster: Bigs assumes that because he's scary by the standards of orphan colts, he can intimidate Meadow. Poor choice of targets, pal.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Meadow quickly discovers that her long-term interests surviving in Equestrian society are best served by doing good, rather than evil. By the time she's finally uncovered, she has not only become a heroine to her fellow orphans as a filly, but as an adult mare a dedicated social worker who has brought aid and happiness to thousands of unfortunate ponies. Oh, and she gave a young Gadgeteer Genius the encouragement he needed to develop his talents, to the point that he was able to build a heavier-than-air VTOL craft with late 19th century technology. Meadow makes her Heel–Face Turn in deed long before she does in her own mind!
  • Non Human Lover Reveal: Meadow Song, to Spark Wheel. This occurs at the worst possible time for Meadow Song, as the changelings' invasion of Canterlot has just been reported and Equestria is mobilizing for war, Big Shot has realized Meadow's true identity and called in the Guards on her, and Meadow must flee to avoid capture. To make things worse, one of the first things Meadow tells Spark after revealing her true identity is that she had been his False Friend at first; she says this before telling him that she now really loves him. Things do not go well: Meadow flees, leaving Spark in the throes of a Heroic BSoD at the revelation, and Meadow herself breaks down once she has made it to (temporary) safety.
  • Noodle Incident: One of the minor disasters for which Meadow Song arranges relief in Manechester is "... an incident involving a student of magic, an ancient arcane artifact, a modified and unintentionally amplified Come-To-Life spell, and a three-story-tall statue of Celestia.—how the remorseful student got off with a mere apology and helping the clean-up still escaped Meadow ..." We never learn anything else, but that must have been fun to watch (from a safe distance)!
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Bigs enters the story as the petty bully of the orphanage, an orphan colt who is scary only to even smaller orphans. He quickly becomes Meadow Song's special Asshole Victim and Chew Toy, who seems to exist primarily to give the writer someone on whom to demonstrate Meadow's Manipulative Bastard skills without having us lose sympathy for the little Infiltrator. When we meet him again, he's an obnoxious bureaucrat in a position of power over Meadow, who shows by his existence that Equestrian society is imperfect (as characters such as Prince Blueblood do in the main series). Meadow is even able to terrify him as an adult, causing him to suffer major Villain Decay, despite his original lack of serious menace. Guess who directly uncovers Meadow Song? And thus destroys her happy little world with Spark Wheel? Yep.
  • Orphanage of Love: The Rising Sun Orphanage. No one there, save for Meadow Song herself, is worse than a bully, and even he's not really all that bad. Furthermore, the kindness shown there is one of the factors which sets Meadow Song on the path to her Heel–Face Turn, even though she doesn't realize this at all at the time. Full stop — the place was nice enough that it started turning a CHANGELING INFILTRATOR into a good pony. That's some orphanage!
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Princess Ceymi, in an early demonstration of the fact that the changelings are not monsters to their own kind. Poor Ceymi. You probably didn't want to attack Canterlot. She's also Nictis' mother — but that doesn't mean much to changelings.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Meadow Song and Spark Wheel. Not only is Meadow Song really a cover identity of Nictis, but they are different species and since changelings regard the very concept of genuine friendship or love with non-changelings to be nonsense, it takes Meadow Song a long time to realize she actually cares for Spark Wheel. And then Hive Chrysalis goes to war with Equestria... and at the last moment, with Guards closing in, Nictis makes the Non Human Lover Reveal, utterly horrifying Spark Wheel. Notably, the situation hasn't really been resolved by the end of the story, contributing to the Bittersweet Ending.
  • The Vamp: Meadow tries this in Manehattan. Hilariously subverted, as the first stallion she picks brings her home and crudely comes on to her, which utterly surprises, and disgusts the extremely sexually naive Infiltrator. She completely freaks out at his behavior, and makes some pretty extreme threats. Cherry takes the threats far more seriously than would a human, owing to the essential peacefulness of pony society, and he winds up calling the Guard on her. Being a Manipulative Bastard, Meadow manages to redirect their attention to Cherry's crude advances and divert it from the clues that she is a Changeling Infiltrator. She eventually winds up in a one-sided friendship with a stallion so utterly boring that he has trouble keeping the attention of someone who is literally trying to feed off his emotions!!!
  • Villain Protagonist: Nictis/Meadow. Though he's heroic by the standards of his own culture. And she eventually has a change of heart.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Nictis/Meadow. Well before her Heel–Face Turn, it's obvious that Meadow isn't very malicious; she mostly only does what she needs to survive. She only really hurts a few ponies, two of whom deserved it, one of whom she is remorseful for hurting, and with the last of whom she winds up falling in love.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Spark Wheel's implicit question to Meadow Song when she is revealed as a changeling.
    He stood rigidly for several seconds, the only sound being that of more shouts from their home. Then his ears drooped a little. His stance weakened as he drooped. His voice came out quietly "So, all of this... I'm just... food?"
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Princess Ceymi is Nictis' ideal changeling, the one whom he always envisions praising or criticizing his actions. Princess Ceymi is also Nictis' natural mother, though this means little in changeling society. Ironically, Nictis' growing obsession with what Ceymi would want, after Ceymi's death, is a sign that she is being assimilated into pony culture.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: The ponies are for the most part good and kind beings; the exceptions (such as Big Shot or Cherry Runner) act badly because they cannot resist temptations (for status and sex respectively) than out of a design to do evil. Even the changelings are more misguided than evil: they need love for sustenance, and fail to see that they could live more successfully in the long run as symbiotes than parasites. The only really-evil character in the whole trilogy of which this is a part seems to be Queen Chrysalis.