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[Starfall] The Long Road to Diplomacy (Closed)


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Radiant's eye twitched, but he stood straight and at attention. As much as he hated to admit it, and as much as he felt they were trotting right into a death trap, Agile was right.


"Alright. We're pretty much there anyways, so we're going to the town." Helping said. Agile, go let Diamond know. He's in the cabin, talking with Lead. I'll try to get Radiant not to cause an international incident while we're here."


Radiant resisted the urge to grumble.

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"That's the spirit," Agile nodded.

He turned back to the cabin, before heading there himself.  His mind was buzzing with information, and he couldn't help but let his thoughts wander.  What if this entire shenanigan was a plot by the Heir of Magic?  I'd hate to call the Heir a villain, but he did seem quite willing to get rid of them.  Or maybe this was orchestrated in joint effort by the Changelings and the Chaos Cult-or-whatever?  They knew that we would get hurt...and that the nearest healing place would be the Hive.

At that, he found Diamond.  

He turned to the Crystal Pony, before grabbing onto his shoulder to face him face-on, "I don't know who you are, where you came from-or how you came about our mission.  But I will not let you endanger the Minister,"

He turned away, walking towards the front of the zep again. He left his comment lingering in the air, "We're going to the town-the 'Ling Hive,"

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"I don't plan to endanger him, either." Diamond said. He walked with Agile, though with a slight limp from the stab wound. "The last thing we need is to cause a scene. If it wasn't for the fact that we were both injured, I would suggest leaving Radiant behind to guard Lead. As it is, while I would rather prevent an international incident, if someone were to attack us, he's our best chance at defence right now."


Helping, Lead, and Radiant were waiting for them at the front. Helping spoke up. "I did spend a little bit of time learning Lingish, but Diamond did mention being more fluent, so he'll be our interpreter. Many Changelings do speak at least a little Equish, but the signs are written in native tongue."

Radiant shot a questioning look at Diamond.

"The Crystal Empire does trade with the United Hives. As such, there are classes that teach their language." Diamond said. "I took a few courses back when I was young, when I wanted to get into the trading business. Even if I ended up under a rather different career path, I still practiced the language. Seems to have come in handy, eh?"


Diamond stepped forward and opened the door. Before them was a barren rocky landscape. Various Metal artistic structures that Radiant couldn't make heads or tails of littered the area, next to large holes into the complicated, sloped cave system. Green lights circled each entrance, and were placed on posts around the statues. Each entrance into the hive had a sign in Lingish that described what each entrance led to.


"Alright, we're looking for a hospital... Hospital..." Helping muttered as Diamond looked. He pointed at one sign next to metal statue that sort of looked like a waterfall caving in on itself, with birds swimming up it like salmon.

"Health Center, 7 down." Diamond said, and headed off in that direction.

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Agile watched as the group debated in the front, working out the small details of language and communication.  I'm sure there's an easier way and just point to Diamond and my injuries.  He had once more resorted into his training of silence and observation, his senses sharpened, and he dulled out the conversation.  He noted down every detail of the zep, and let himself sense the movements of the zep.


At last, they reached the Hive.  Diamond flung the door open...


into a very interesting landscape.

Interesting.  *cough.


There was a bland floor of rocks and sediment, but not before a dump of metal...litter?  A beautiful green fairy circle of lights surrounded various entrances to the Hive-caves, and he had to keep himself from grinning at the beauty of it.


Diamond quickly pointed out the Hospital, and the group began to walk in the area.  Agile walked ahead, scouting for trouble.  His mind was sharp, but his eyes kept drifting back and forth between the metal and lights.  He marveled at the architecture of the entrances, and the coordination of the Changelings.  He marveled so hard, that he almost walked into one.


Candles was...a strange Changeling.  Her horn was long and sharp, more like the tip of a sword than a magic-casting agent.  Her wings were smaller, and lay drooping at her sides.  But the most interesting thing Agile noticed about Candles: her headress.  Or rather, her crown.  It's pearl teeth held a painite center-which in turn held a large red beryl.  Red beryl.  The most valuable gem known to Ponykind.  


He didn't react right away-in fact-he simple stood and stared at her.  She stared back.  Should I say something?  "We come in peace,"


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Diamond took notice of the Changeling, and gave a small nod. He spoke; His voice came out as an odd series of whistles, chirps, and clicks. <<Good day, ma'am. We were on a diplomatic mission not far from here when we were attacked. Could you please lead us to your Health Center so that my friend and I could recieve medical aid?>>


Radiant Silver stood stiff, resisting the urge to weild a defensive stance. As much as he did not trust Changelings, we has wise enough to follow his orders to not cause a scene.


Helping Hooves' eyebrows raised a fraction of an inch. Diamond was certainly talking a lot more eloquently in this tongue.

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Candles stood still, before bowing her head.  With a slight quiver of magic from her lethal horn, she conjured up something...

Agile grimaced.  

Is that...bug juice?!

In front of Agile and Candles was a pot of 'bug juice', a long, metal stick, and a thick glass-like piece of green secretion.

She dipped the metal stick into the juice, writing in perfect Equestrian on the glass: 

Greetings, Minister and guardsponies.  I am Candles.  Welcome to the United Hive. She paused and bit her lip, wondering if she should tell them a bit more about herself...and her tainted image within the Hive.  After a few seconds on thought, she decided to keep her secrets, and handed Agile the glass.

Agile looked at it in a few seconds of bewilderment, before turning to the Minister, "Her name is Candles, and she welcomes us...and...she writes in Equestrian?" 

He held up the piece of glass.

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"Well, among my short time in the United Hives, I can fairly say that I have not seen something like that before." Helping Hooves said. "Neat."


Diamond was quiet as he looked the changeling up and down. "She may be hard of hearing, or mute. This seems to be a fairly old method of soundless communication." He lit his horn, and upon the reverse of the glass wrote out a message in light. It was a trick he had learned in his earlier days of his career from wiser soldiers, a way to map out plans without the need of parchment and with greater detail than drawing in the dirt.


My name is Diamond Edge. Could you please direct us to your health clinic?

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Agile smiled at Diamond's realization, pleased that the Crystal Guard could prove to some use.  Still, he remained wary~

He came out of nowhere!  And I never got any notification that a Crystal Guard would be joining us...granted, this entire mission has been quite... he paused in thought...wary-making.


Candles smiled, but the smile was a well-practiced one.  Her mind was puzzling with thoughts.  Should I help them?  What if the Hive dislikes them?  What if...they find out who I really am?  Nevertheless, she nodded towards their request.  The one named Diamond Edge seemed most consistent in understanding her, but that frightened her more than anything.  If there's anypony that will find out who I am..it'll be him.

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"We shouldn't stay here longer than we have to." Diamond said. "Changelings are not hostile to normal ponies, but seeing guars and soldiers will cause trepidation."


Diamond was a bit wary as well. This was likely to be uneventful, but best to take no risks. He waited patiently for Candles to lead them.


A pair of Changelings walked by. They were on the younger side, with bright neon tattoos covering the entirety of their body. One had smooth blue lines, the other jagged yellow. Both had piercings in their ears, one with small yellow and green luminescent rings around the whole of one ear, the other a single piercing in both that supported what looked like tiny neon pink daggers. The pair were chatting it up in Changeling, noticed the group of ponies, and steered clear of them.


Radiant steeled himself from gawking at the audatious designs.

Diamond rolled his eyes slightly. Kids these days.

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Candles was just about to take them to the nearby medical centre, before two Changelings walked by.  She saw them whisper at the sight of her and the Guards, and she instantly lowered her head in shame.  No doubt they were gossiping about her...

Her mind began to predict the conversation, and the harsh words filled her ears:

Oh my gawd.  It's that Changeling.

Can you even call her a Changeling?  She's so deformed she's moreso a bug than a 'Ling.

Ewww...what's she doing with ponies

Just when you thought she couldn't disgrace herself anymore...

The pair steered clear of the group, choosing not to help, or associate with herself and the guards.  She bit her lip, and blinked furiously a few times: I won't let anyone see me cry.  

Agile, on the other hoof, smiled at the Changeling pair.  Ha!  Sporting daring 'art' like some of those 'hipster ponies' in Canterlot.  It's nice to see something familiar in a totally surreal place~ He waited for Candles to point them to the hospital, or even take them there; but she stood fast and blinked a few times.  He gave her a slight poke, "Where is it?"


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Candles gave a weary smile, before shaking her head.  She pointed to the direction of the Hospital, before leading the group there.


Agile turned to the group, "Can we trust her?"  A simple question, but the one that preceded the rest that he had:

Is she leading us to our doom?

Is this all part of a plan?

What is happening?

Are we going to make it alive back to Canterlot?

Where is she taking us?

Who is Diamond?

Will I ever be able to see my family again?

Will I ever be able to go home?

What's really happening here?

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"Of course, she hasn't done anything to prove otherwise." Helping Hooves said.


"She hasn't done anything to prove we can trust her, either." Radiant said.

"She is taking us to the hospital, and as far as I'm concerned that's enough." Diamond said.


The caves were home to several storefronts. It was a rather surreal sight- Traditional bored cave walls, lined with old-style lamps filled with glowing green... Stuff. However, there were holes in the cave walls, perfectly square and rectangle, which held windows and doors not out of place of any given pony town. Through those windows were stores that, likewise, looked perfectly ordinary for the pony visitors. They were even lit with pony-designed lighting. There were signs, advertisements, and fliers along the cave walls. All bore the Changeling language, of course.


"...So what do their 'cities' look like?" Radiant asked.

"The same but bigger." Diamond replied almost automatically.

"I've never been to one- been meaning to, one of these days- But since they don't have space for whole underground skyscrapers, companies buy out sections of the cave." Helping Hooves explained. "I bought a map of one of the bigger hives once. I'd probably get lost within seconds."

"...They have companies?" Radiant asked.

"Why wouldn't they?" Helping Hooves said. "They have an economy."

"I figured they'd, I don't know, be communist. Just seems fit for bu-" Radiant started, only for Diamond to kick him in the shin.

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Agile walked beside Candles, all while taking in everything around him.  There seemed to be a little discussion about trust behind him, and he gave a sideways glance to the trio.  He slowed his pace and let Candles lead them, standing near the group.  He lowered his head and muttered-just loud enough for them to hear-


"We cannot trust anyone, even each other.  Remember what Changelings are-they could replace one of us at any time.  And do not forget that Candles can understand Equestrian,"


His expression was severe, almost cold as he lifted his head and kept his eyes forwards.  He tried to take in the little details about Candles-less anything happen.  The odd way she tilted her head whenever Changelings walked by.  The solemn look on her face as she looked here and fro.  The way she walked-keeping herself in a straight line-and not bothering to see if Agile's group was still following her.  Her ears kept flickering back and forth...in a very strange way.  It wasn't like she was agitated, or even upset.  It was like...she was trying to hear the Hive.  





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Diamond nodded. "Eyes forward, keep quiet." He whispered.


The group was coming up to the health center. It was a larger structure than the others, taking up space on both sides of the cave. The lights changed from green to red in this area, signifying the place which the center took place. Changelings with five white stripes on their sides, thin and evenly placed. Unlike the strange designs before, these seemed to have a purpose. Some Changelings had a thin transparent barrier around them, emanating from thin silver headbands with a small white jewel at the front.


"This must be it." Helping Hooves said. "I think those might be nurses."

"Medical drones." Diamond said. "Low level ones, so 'nurses' might be a decent analogy."

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Candles led them towards the local Healing Control Centre, where Changelings worked inside the translucent cave-hurrying hither and fro.  The lights changed colours, pointing the group towards the center of the, well, centre.  The Changelings that surrounded them had an ebony jewel drooping from their headbands.  Agile peered into the Cave, and saw other Changelings with different colored jewels.  Different ranks?  He heard the Minster speak behind him, and he nodded in response.  

Agile stepped close to the cave, before he was met in the face by some...invisible wall.


Candles stepped forwards and gently shoved his face from the wall.  She turned to the group and gave a nod and a serious look.  Then, she stuck her face into the invisible wall.  The wall seemed to bend around her like an invisible film, and she walked through into the cave.  She gestured them forwards.

Agile shuddered.


"Should we follow her?  It looks...suspicious,"

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"We went this far." Helping Hooves said. One of the 'nurses', wearing the curious headband, walked by, giving him an odd look.


"Oh, I see. Those headbands are pony tech." Helping said. "They create a sort of force field around them for sanitation reasons. Neat."

Diamond, Radiant, and Helping looked at one another. Diamond tilted his head towards Candles, and walked through the barrier without issue. Helping followed, having a bit of difficulty, then Radiant.

"Ugh, this feels so weird..." Radiant said as he went through it.

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Agile went last, watching over the group.  He pressed his face into it, and grimaced at the strange sensation.  it wrapped around him, and he could almost feel it stretch into his nostrils.  He shivered at the thought of that, but the film disappeared as quickly as it had came.  


Candles waited for the group, and smiled apologetically at their faces.  She led the group down the cave down the cave into a hallway, before pausing there.


Agile gave a gasp.  

Candles smiled.


The hallway was lined entirely by soliders...and they didn't look happy at all.  These Changelings were larger and bulkier than the nurses they had seen before.  Their black chitin was all but unseen beneath layers of translucent Green 'metal' -forged and held together by opaque, glowing yellow streaks.  Each one had a strange spell that surrounded them-like a mist around their faces to obscure their identity.  They were fully armed, with knives in their weapon belts and each one was holding a strange, spear-like stick that glowed as yellow as the streaks in the armour.  


Agile stepped backwards and motioned for the rest of them to protect the Minister.  He flicked out a knife and held it protectively in front of him.  What was going on?     

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Radiant's eye twitched. "I knew it..." He muttered under his breath. He spread his wings, ready to attack. He was going to get the Minister out of here at any cost.


"Woah, ease up!" Helping said.


Diamond Edge looked at all the Changelings, then at the ponies by his side. He gave a small sigh. Just my luck. I just hope I built up enough trust.


Diamond stepped forward. He closed his eyes a moment. "Stand down." He said calmly to Agile and Radiant. "They mean you no harm. They are just security."


"And how, exactly, do you know that?" Radiant questioned. "Unless you're the one who set this up. You're working with them, aren't you?"


"I said stand down." Diamond stressed.

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A flicker of concern showed over Candles' face when two of the group members began acting aggressively.  This is bad.  They don't understand our culture or customs, it seems...  She gestured them over in wide hooves-trying to tell them that this was merely the official entrance to the deeper parts of the cave.  The parts where you'll need to go to get surgery for your wounds. 


Agile seemed conflicted at what to do.  His posture relaxed the slightest bit, but his knife remained intact.  Without glancing away from the Changelings, he whispered behind him, "What do we do?" 

He tried to keep his face stoic and strong, but inside-he was as scared as a mouse.  He bit his lip and tried to look calm.  It's gonna be okay~

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Radiant's left eye twitched. "I'll tell you what we'll do, fight our wa-"


Diamond's stun spell blindsided him, leaving him unconscious on the cave floor. Diamond shook his head. "I am going to have a long discussion with him once he's up. Lead, take him back to the Zep, make sure he doesn't go anywhere."


Lead Zeppelin, who had remained quiet up to this point, nodded. "Can do." He picked up the guard and threw him across his back before beginning to make his leave.


Diamond frowned. "Why he is on this mission, I just don't understand." He turned and faced Candles. <<I would like to make this quick. Our mission is important and it is imperative that we get back to it as soon as possible.>>

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Agile began to nod at Radiant's words, but froze when Diamond knocked him out.  He retracted his weapons, suddenly understanding of the situation.




Lead slung Radiant over him back, while Diamond began to write something for Candles.  Agile slowly backtracked, standing just behind the Minister.  He kept his blade hidden away, but he was on full alert.  This place might be better than it looked-but looks could be deceiving~


Candles smiled when they finally-finally-understood what had happened.  The Crystal Pony Guard handed her the glass, and she read it in acknowledgement.

<<Our surgeons and medical facilities are top-notch and use state-of-the-art technology.  It shouldn't take too long-considering how their injuries have already begun to heal.>>

She paused, then peered over at the Pegasus Guard.  <<Is he alright?  He seems agitated.>>

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<<Worry not about him. He's recovering from the ambush in the previous town we were at. His nerves are a little frayed. I'd recommend against separating us for now.>> Diamond said. He then turned to Agile. "Alright, Agile. We'll get some medical help, rest for a bit, then will go back on our way."


He flagged down one of the passing nurses, a younger male who was sipping on some sort of green smoothie: Artificial Love. The Changeling looked at him, stopping dead in his tracks with his eyes wide.


<<H->> Diamond started.


"I sorry, no talk pony good." The Changeling said. He seemed nervous, yet curious.


<<I can speak your language, sir.>> Diamond said.


<<Oh thank the Queen!>> The Changeling said, relieved. <<Are you seeking medical aid?>>


<<Me and my friend, yes. We are mostly healed, we just need a check up.>> Diamond said.

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Candles nodded in reply to the Crystal Pony, before walking up towards one of the Changeling guards.  Then-she caught it.  It came all of a sudden, and left as quickly as it had come.  Shame.  Anxiety.  The look in a passing Ling's eyes as he saw her and the group.  She blinked hard and long, trying to will her mind as not to think of what this Ling might be...thinking. 


Is that...?  Oh, it's her.  I have no idea why she's even still here in the Hive, but...okay?  Eww...and she brought ponies.  What kind of Ling is this?!  Bringing in ponies unannounced.


The Crystal Pony began talking to the nurse, and Candles shied her eyes away-and back to the guard.


Agile stood silent.  He did nothing-but was doing everything.  Watching...

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The changeling nurse motioned for the ponies to follow as he walked into the hospital. Diamond did so, giving a small nod to the guards as he passed.


The health center was... A little quieter than Helping Hooves expected. Not much talking, and he didn't even see more than two changelings that really looked injured. He figured it was a fairly slow day, though in the case of a hospital that's a good thing.


It reminded Helping a lot of hospitals back home, the sterile smell, very white decor, just replace the changelings with ponies, white lines on the nurses with scrubs and add in a fish tank, and the scene wouldn't look out of place back in Ponyville. Though make it somewhat more hectic, it is known as the disaster magnet of the world. At least some of that blame lies squarely on the Everfree.

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