Chapter II - Persona Non Grata
Shell couldn't lift his head as he was paraded through the streets of Canterlot like hunted game or a trophy. His temples throbbed as his prison rattled, and he felt aches descend his body with irregular flashes of pain. Ponies gawked and gasped, and the ringing in his ears allowed him to only make out a few comments through the inaudible murmur.
"Daddy, what is it?"
"Ha! Serves it right!"
"What a monster!"
That was all he was to them.
Scorn and hate battered him, and he gritted his teeth. What did he care? For a second their fate was in the hooves of his Queen. Yet... his thoughts kept drifting back to her. That pegasus pony who showed kindness when he had none to return. She looked so familiar, but from where he couldn't say. His thoughts were interrupted by a shake of his cage as the wheel ascended a staircase to the castle's courtyard.
He shook as he tried to retain consciousness, wanting nothing more to sleep away the aches that flared with pain at his every move. His entire body ached and throbbed with every heartbeat, and the only thing that kept him conscious was the spear handle clacking against the black shell of his side whenever he closed his eyes. He looked up and saw two tall doors slowly open to a long hall glittering with a plethora of colors as sunlight shown through the glass mosaics that displayed a number of battles or epics. He saw one that depicted six mares defeating the deity Discord, and another of the same six destroying NightMare Moon. He looked quizzically at the ponies in the mosaics. Surely it couldn't be... He was thrown off when the cage tilted and he toppled out onto the floor of the great hall.
He fought back the aching pain and shook his head, looking up with wide eyes to see... her. The sun goddess Princess Celestia. Her white fur almost seemed to glow in the sunlight. Her face wore an expressionless look as she looked down on the injured changeling. He averted his eyes, and she noticed his bandaged wing. "Did Fluttershy do that?" She asked. He didn't look up to her, slightly swaying, and merely emitted a low growl. A guard went to jostle him from his thoughts, when the Princess stayed him with a raised hoof.
"Your wing, it's bandaged up. Did Fluttershy help you?"
He hated himself for doing it, but he couldn't bring himself to betray the pegasus, even if all she said were lies. That pony made him feel something. "I... did this... myself. Your..." He growled and spat out the following word with disgust. "...Highness." He stared at the floor, cursing his awful lie.
"At any rate, do tell why are you were in Ponyville. I would expect you to rendezvous with your queen."
Shell shifted his good wing and sat up. "After the spell... cast by Princes Mi Amore Cadenza and captain Shining armor... many of my brethren were thrown from Canterlot and beyond civilized areas." He waved his hoof, and cringed, his back twitching with pain. "I... suffered a crippling injury upon crashing into a roof top and landing on the outskirts of Ponyville. I was to weak to move, and was later apprehended by your most... 'generous' guards. Without the means to... return to my swarm, I am now just an outcast behind... enemy lines." Celestia stared into his loathing eyes with curiosity.
"Behind enemy lines? You say it like you have a plan for escape."
Shell smiled wearily, his voice wheezy as he spoke. "Escape...? No... If I could move more than a few inches... without my legs giving out under me, then perhaps I would attempt an escape. But in my... present situation, I suppose i'm at your... mercy."
As Celestia closed her eyes to ponder his words, Shell inspected his cracks, wincing when he ran his holed hoof over them. Celestia opened her eyes, and pointed her horn at Shell, a pink glow enveloping it. Shell recoiled slightly, his pains, keeping him still, and he hissed and glared at the princess. She let a pink light shine from her horn, and Shell watched as the worst of his injuries began to close up and cease bleeding. "Take him to a guest room, and DON'T use the cage." Shell's ears perked as he looked up. He saw not eyes of hate, but eyes of sympathy. Pity. "Guest... room?" A guard led him through the castle halls, and he watched as ponies yelped or ran once they saw him. He noticed the guard walked with a limp, as if his back left leg was stiff as a board.
Shell was led to a small room with a soft bed and a patio with a perfect view of Ponyville beyond Canterlot. He sat down on the bed, and the guard spoke up. "We are ordered to get you anything you need, but you may not leave this room." With that, the door shut, and Shell sighed and sat down on the bed. He coughed, regurgitating a green slime and spitting it onto his damaged shell, sealing and mending the remaining cracks and scrapes. He watched as the slime hardened, and ran a hoof over it. He couldn't stay here. He looked over to the patio, and growled.
With his wing in it's current state, he knew the princess meant for the patio to torture him. "So close, and yet so far." He could imagine her mocking him. He sighed and let his mind wander, his thoughts returning to the mosaics, and the ponies he'd met earlier. "I never would have suspected common villagers to control the elements..." He shook his head and sighed. He had to find something to distract himself, else he might suffer more of these 'feelings'. He stood shakily, and knocked on the door. He saw a sliding eye-hole open, and the guard looked in on him. "Could you get me a few books?" The guard nodded, a look of confusion in his eyes.
"Twilight, I think i'm alright..."
Fluttershy insisted as Twilight cast spells over her to detect any injuries. "That... thing... tried to attack you! Now you should rest. You've had quite a day." Twilight replied. There was a knock at the door downstairs, and Twilight stood. "Just a minute! Stay here and rest, Fluttershy." Fluttershy was about to speak, when the door shut behind Twilight as she left the room. She got up and went to the door, only to find it locked. She opened the window, and flew out to see who was at the door. She was shocked to see one of the royal guards questioning Twilight. To her confusion, he stood slightly slanted, as if one of his legs was injured, despite the guard bearing no injuries. She listened in:
"... Elements of Harmony referance guide? Well yes, but why?"
"... Prisoner requested..."
Fluttershy gasped. "The changeling! He's okay! I... I have to see him!" She waited until the guard left, and followed after the limping stallion. When she reached the castle, she was stopped by two large guard's raised wings. "Um... E-excuse me?" The guards held a stone cold look.
"I'm sorry, but no civilians may enter the castle. Consulting hours with the princess are over. You can try again tonight with Princess Luna, or wait until tomorrow."
Fluttershy shrunk back, allowing her hair to slip over her face. "Oh, i'm sorry... I'll just be leaving now..."
She turned to walk away, and the guards looked down to her cutie mark. "...Are you...? The element of kindness!" The guards folded their wings. "We apologize, ma'am. Please head in." Fluttershy slipped passed them, and sighed. That was new. She trotted through the great hall, and stopped to observe the glass mosaics. She was pulled out of her memories by Celestia approaching her.
"Fluttershy, what a surprise! It's good to see you." The princess said with a smile. Fluttershy bowed.
"Thank you, Princess Celestia. I wanted to ask- if that's okay- about somepony who came in here earlier..."
"Oh... how did you know?"
"From the wrapped up wing I knew it couldn't have been anyone else who fixed him up. He wouldn't admit to your helping him though."
"Um, a-am I in trouble for helping him?"
"Heavens no. You did what you thought was right. And the changeling certainly needed the help, as stubborn as he was."
"Princess, may I see him? I mean, if that's okay... I wouldn't want to bother your royal-"
"Of course you can, Fluttershy. Bless your kind heart. He's in the guest quarters."
Fluttershy raised an eyebrow. "Guest quarters? So he's not a prisoner?"
Celestia smiled slightly as Fluttershy's timid demeanor subsided slightly. "Lets just say he's... an important visitor for now." Fluttershy bowed, and stepped back down the hall, eager to see the changeling again.