The guardpony and Chip travelled the barrack corridors in silence. Instead of windows, the changeling saw thin crevices, making only a few rays of light disperse the dark interior. The colt got lead to a small room with four beds, hooflockers and a weapon rack. Before he could open his mouth, his body literally froze. He couldn’t move a muscle, not even look around properly.
Without much warning a gigantic pressure brought the false Night Star to his knees, facing the guardspony. In the darkness, Autumn’s horn glowed a bright blue.
“I didn’t believe this…” he started, staring at Chip. “At first, I thought Night Star was making things up. All this…” He waved his forehooves around, looking for the words. “All these ponies that weren’t ponies, only bloodsucking creatures of the night!”
Chip wished to correct Autumn, but his mouth didn’t want to open. The memories of being held in his body without any control came flooding back. He suffered in silence with a blank face.
“But you have your limitations.” The pony approached the masqueraded changeling. “Night cut her mane when she came back. She now wears a nice, short and stylish hairdo. Your hair is long.” A smirk graced his lips. He felt totally superior to this creature – and was relieved that the love of his life didn’t go crazy. On the other hoof… “Celestia save us!” he yelled. “There’s more of you, isn’t there!?”
Chip involuntarily watched as Autumn panicked and mumbled to himself. The changeling’s eyes were beginning to sting – he couldn’t even so much as blink. What kind of spell was he under? Would it still work if…
Everything happened in a split second. The spell encasing Chip backfired when the changeling dropped his disguise – a blue projectile hit Autumn in the head, knocking him over. Before the stallion fell to the ground, the black colt was already pressing him to the ground with his full weight. A brutal smash to the face knocked the guardspony unconscious.
Chip fought with his now adrenaline flooded body – his muscles ached as he stopped himself from sinking his teeth into the knocked out Autumn. “What now…” he sighted, taking a good look at his surroundings. The small crevice on the wall was too thin to squeeze through – even if he would manage to somehow make it wider, it would be only a matter of time before the guard woke up and sounded the alarm. Then, Chip would be a very sought after creature. A different approach is in order. An idea formed in the Changeling’s mind as he took on the guise of Autumn Leaf.
The guardspony woke up with a splitting headache. He remembered nothing – the whole world was a swirling mess of colours. Slowly, but surely, his vision sharpened – the sun was setting. It would be high time for him to go back home. He tried to turn around, but found his hooves glued to the ground. A green slime was wrapped around them – and something told the pony that it wasn’t snot. Memories were coming back to him, as if he was watching a movie – sipping coffee at the bedrooms, somepony calling him down, him seeing somepony that looked like his wife, him dragging the suspect to the bedroom, immobilising him, then a blur, pain… The changeling! The monster was loose!
Autumn tried to call out, but his lips were sealed. He felt the familiar tingling of magic in his mouth. A zip-it spell.
“You’re quite the bother,” said a shadow before him. Where was he anyway? This place looked unfamiliar – a cave of sorts. The creature’s hideout? “Don’t try to get out. I underestimated you. But I learn fast.” The form stepped into view – the beast was tall, taller than he was. It had pitch black armour, a vile, twisted horn and leathery wings. It’s hooves were dotted with holes through which he could see the ground. And it’s eyes. The eyes of a killer – cold blue orbs with small slits of black. Focused on Autumn.
Chip sighed. The guardspony struggled and tried casting magic, but the changeling thought about everything. Complementing the zip-it spell, he put out an inhibition ward, rendering all spells that weren’t his void. This was a taxing thing to maintain, so the changeling colt had to quickly persuade the guard that he is not a bloodthirsty monster. Because killing him would probably make somepony else sad – did he say he knew Night Star?
“Now listen, and listen carefully. My name is Chip and I am a changeling. You seem to know my friend, Night Star. It is I who set her and the other mares free. I do not wish to hurt you or anypony else. I have been banished from my kind and would like to seek refuge in the kingdom of Equestria.” Chip stopped, remembering some of the better words and lines he read in a political fiction book. “I mean you no harm and guarantee none shall fall upon you or your friends for helping me. I can be a valuable ally – all I require is a little bit of trust. As a goodwill gesture, I will let you speak now. Just no funny business, okay?”
Leaf felt the pressure sealing his lips lift. Instantly his jaw dropped to the very ground. This was the Chip Night Star spoke about? Autumn was dead sure his love meant a pony. A kind and gentle pony that helped her escape whatever she got herself into. The fabled hero and the one who brought his wife back was… Is this creature?
“Chip…” repeated mindlessly the pony. “The Chip. A changeling.”
“Yes, yes, exactly!” said the black colt excitedly. Communication was the key to everything, just like the books said. If it was that simple, why did the guardspony start out so aggressively towards Chip? “Will you help me? Please? I really mean you no harm!”
An awkward silence fell between the two. Autumn’s mind was racing a thousand miles per hour – Chip was content with observing the stallion and comparing him to what the books said.
“So you’re… Chip,” sighted Autumn, a bit of tension leaving his body. “I… I always wanted to thank you. It seems that a simple thank you won’t be enough now, won’t it? Since all this… nonsense about changelings is all true. A real threat…” he said to himself.
“No no, I’m no threat!” interrupted Chip, shuffling in place anxiously. The ward was starting to cause a migraine and the changeling learned to treat it as a warning sign that he was reaching his capacity in magical energy. “I’m good, I don’t want to hurt anypony! Will you help me, please? I promise I won’t be a bother. I just want to learn more about ponies!”
The ward broke, sending small ripples of magical energy through both colts. They knew what that meant. Who would make the first move?
“I guess…” started Autumn, eyeing Chip, “… I guess I can help you. By Celestia, I don’t know why. You’re big, you’re strong and know a lot more about magic than I do. But you didn’t hurt me. And you saved my wife.”
A simultaneous sigh broke the dense tension in the cave and a light breeze cleared the remains. The sun was hiding behind the horizon.
“Chip, I have no grudge against you… But this ‘costume’ of yours makes me… Feel awkward,” said Autumn, staring at a copy of his wife. It was unnerving to know that behind the sweet, rose eyes there lurked two cold, terrifying sapphire spheres.
“I’m sorry,” replied the changeling, putting his ears down. “But it would be awkward if you went with your wife up north for some ‘alone time’ and then returned with somepony else.”
“I did what?” gasped Autumn Leaf as they both reached the gates.
The colt wasn’t happy about the situation, but didn’t flinch at the whistles and snickers thrown his way. His irritation was doubled by Chip acting all cocky and alluring, as if they had the best time of their lives not that long ago. Imagination getting ahead of him, Autumn had to cover his mouth with a forehoof – the vision of mating with the giant changeling was… disturbing.