Chip was pacing around his little room – he couldn’t decide if it was nerves or excitement. These kinds of events are exactly what some of his books were about – dark secrets, meetings at midnights, ponies doing dangerous things tinted with a looming threat or ugly complications.
The moon was barely visible through the heavy curtains, but it was certainly around midnight by now. The changeling walked in circles in total darkness, from time to time illuminating the chamber with a search spell Celestia taught him. She was a way better teacher than the Queen – where Chrysalis administered pain and snickering, the Princess gave applause and words of encouragement. It was obvious the colt had a great affinity for magic; he learned a lot in just a week, including some really difficult spells that Celestia used very rarely. Chip’s most favorite one was a mind melding spell – it was designed mostly for interrogating ponies during their sleep. It was particularly fun due to the fact that you had to actually participate in the dream to question the target.
Chip found Celestia’s dreams to be very abstract – a large room with a ceiling and walls too far away to see, basked in darkness, with all sorts of weird items flying around – a melted clock, some chairs with three or two legs, paintings of ponies and places long past… Either the royal mare was a very strange character or she was prepared for Chip’s arrival, preparing the testing grounds for him. The colt mentally noted to try it out on her while she least suspects it.
The stallion got caught by surprise by a flash of blue light in the center of the room. It lasted but a fraction of a second, so even if it did pierce the heavy curtains at the window, it was unlikely somepony saw it. The silence that fell was broken by a voice:
“Why does the night have shadows?” it asked.
“Some secrets aren’t safe even at night,” replied Chip, sighing with relief.
The passcode was accepted and the changeling approached the middle of the room. He gently bumped into somepony, immediately getting touched by a hoof.
“Chip?” asked Princess Luna, straining to see in the pitch-black room.
“Yes, my Lady,” confirmed the colt, guiding her hoof to his face and recognizable horn. “I am ready when you are, Princess Luna.”
“Good. Maski, you will wait here for my return. Don’t move an inch.”
“Yes, Princess,” replied a voice that Chip did not recognize. But it did somewhat sound like him – an untrained ear would probably not know the difference.
“Good. Let us proceed then. Chip, hold on to me tight… Not that tight,” gasped the Princess, gently pushing the eager changeling away. “And do keep your hooves a bit higher.”
“Sorry,” managed the colt. Before he knew it, the twisting sensation of teleportation invaded his innards. It didn’t last long enough to become discomforting, though – Luna proved to be a very skillful magician.
The faint light of blue magic faded away as fast as it appeared, casting a brief glow over thousands of books in the Ponyville library. It was brighter here and Chip could make out several shelves filled to the brim with tomes, scripts, scrolls… His eyes were never that wide before. All this knowledge… Right in front of him. Who needed a pony? There were thousands of equine souls poured into ink and paper right before his very hooves! He’ll definitely start with that big one there, oh, or maybe that red one! Can he read two at once? It would take some flexing but probably…
A kick in the flank finally snapped Chip out of his dreamy mood. He was totally oblivious to the Princess who was trying to ask him something for some time now.
“Chip! The hay is wrong with you?!” She sounded both irritated and concerned by the sudden unresponsiveness of her friend.
“Oh, sorry Luna… I just… Look at all those booffsss…” The hoof that filled his mouth was followed by a very displeased hushing and nervous looking around.
“Not so loud. We don’t want to wake up Twilight Sparkle or her assistant, Spike.”
“Spike? There was no mention of this Spike. Will he be a problem?” whispered Chip, facing the Princess.
“Oh no, not at all. He’s a very charming young dragon, I’m sure you’ll like him.”
“Dragon?” asked the colt, cocking his head. “What kind of a pony is that?”
“It’s not a pony… A dragon. You know. Wings, fire breathing, gem eating… No? Nothing? Well then, you’ll get to meet him anyway.” The royal mare sighed and put a hoof to Chip’s face, looking him deep in the eyes. A smile lit her face.
“You behave now Chip,” she whispered into his ear. “We hope you and Twilight will find a way to prevent a disaster that might happen… And personally, I sincerely hope that your dream will come true, or at least part of it. Good luck, my friend. I will miss our walks in the midnight.”
Unexpectedly, Chip hugged Luna – it was not the bone shattering embrace from just a few moments ago, but a sincere, warm hug.
“I’ll miss you too, Luna. Maybe… Maybe we’ll get to see each other soon? I’ll miss our walks too. Send my best regards to Princess Celestia as well. I’m sure that together with Twilight Sparkle I’ll find a way to help the Queen see you all as I do – as great friends, with giant hearts and smiles that never cease to amaze me.”
The Princess nuzzled the colt on the cheek and gave him a curt bow.
“Good bye,” she said, covering herself in blue smoke. “Or maybe… Till next we meet.” And with that, she vanished.
Chip was left alone. A clock somewhere in the room ticked and tocked, counting down seconds till sunrise. The whole operation ended at fifteen past midnight. Somepony upstairs gave out a wild snore that made Chip’s ears twitch.
The gravity of the mission, the realization that he alone has to do it all, along with this stranger… It no longer seemed so exciting. Maybe he was just exhausted, or maybe the books that were here, their smell and alluring covers gnawed at his priority list. Whatever was the case, going upstairs, waking the pony up and giving her the letter felt like an impossible task in itself. He didn’t want to start just yet. It was very early, he reasoned, and it was rude to wake somepony up.
Deep down inside he knew that time was very important. Chrysalis could have a whole army of this kind of assassins. They were dangerous, and if one almost killed Chip, who was trained and naturally gifted as a predator, then what chance does a mere pony have? His friends and allies were in danger all the time – thankfully, Celestia assured Chip that Silver Heart along with her family will be relocated to a more secure place. She even gave him some letters that the filly managed to write to Chip – most of them were only a few words, asking him when he would come back and play or tell him that she did something exceptional that was important to her…
Those little parchments were left behind and burned. Nothing could point to the newest location of Night Star’s family. It was a sad thing to do, and the inability to reply hurt, but it was for the better he had only a minimum amount of contact with his friends. Once this is all over, he’ll apologize. He’ll do it in person. And have fun with Silver Heart and Cadance at Gustav’s restaurant. Yes. That was a plan. A great one.
“Work first, pleasure later,” huffed Chip, hesitantly taking the stairs up, towards the demonic growling that came from the bedroom.
Midway through the staircase, Chip put on his pony guise – a silver unicorn mare with white hair, yellow eyes and a Cutie Mark consisting of two masks, one sad, one happy. There was no known pony that looked like him, so it was easy to forge official papers. From what he remembered, his name was now Wub.
Wub was an actress, a fairly unknown little star in some backwater pony village that barely anypony knew. The fictional character travelled across the country and could be identified by several ponies, all of whom were faithful servants of Celestia in disguise.
The amount of work put into his fake identity impressed Chip – he or the Queen couldn’t have done it any better. On the other hoof, there was no need for such things with changelings – even if the mimicked other ponies, their personalities were quite secure with the original victim being taken care of and laid to rest, preferably several feet under the ground.
When he finally reached the bedroom, he was startled by the mess the room was in – the ground was littered with stacks of books, some of them open. Amongst the chaos was a basket in which something moved under a blanket. And the source of the snoring…
The source of the awful growl was a purple unicorn mare, sprawled over a lectern, drooling on a piece of paper that was scribbled with small text. A quill was resting near her mouth, and it seems some ink got into the pony’s violet hair. The cutie mark on her flank left no doubts this was the Twilight Sparkle Celestia spoke of – a large reddish star surrounded by several smaller ones.
This wasn’t how the changeling expected a prized pupil to look like… But upon reflection, did he look any better while under the Queen’s tutelage? At least her body wasn’t injured, and the pose she was in, although awkward with her flank stuck out indecently, was nothing compared to some of the ways Chip fell asleep in back in the day.
Stealthily, Chip maneuvered between the stacks and reached his target, gently tapping her on the plot. There was no reaction first, so he pushed her harder. Nothing. Using more force…
“Yeowch!” yelled the mare, jumping in shock. Her flank bore a red hoofmark and was sore. The dream she just had faded away, replaced by the face of a silver-coated mare with glowing yellow eyes.
“AAA!” screamed Twilight Sparkle, flaring up her horn and lashing out at the intruder. It was action before thoughts, so the unprepared Chip flew to the other side of the room, and then tumbled down the stairs. As soon as the librarian’s brain took over, running all the routines and executables required for logical thoughts, the purple mare gasped.
“Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh,” mumbled Twilight feverishly, running down the stairs. The pony did show up unexpectedly, but it still was wrong of her to use such force. What if the pony broke her neck? What if she was bleeding out down there?! If she died because of Twilight’s stupid reaction, what would happen then?! Pony prison? No, Celestia wouldn’t do that – she would banish her! She would be a disgrace to her teacher who would be put on trial! Celestia would be ridiculed and she would lose her royal status! And then… And then who would raise the sun at dawn?!
“Please, pleasepleaseplease be okay, for Celestia’s sake!” Twilight’s heart skipped a beat when she saw the intruder in a grotesque position under a pile of books that fell on her.
The lights snapped to life with a flicker of magic from the panicked mare.
“It’s alright, it’s alright, just calm down Twi. Check if she’s alive. You know CPR, right? Right?” As she said so, she put a hoof to the silver-coated throat. “Pulse! You have a pulse! I’m saved, Celestia, I’m saved!”
From beneath the tomes came some groaning. Chip was trying to push away the pile of paper on his soft body. He really felt tempted to just burst out in his original form and execute some payback on the psycho mare. Seriously, who punches you in the face on a first meeting? Was this some kind of unknown custom? Was this some joke? She was a prized student?
“Ohmygosh, I’m so,so sorry. I didn’t mean to… You startled me! It’s the middle of the night! Who in their right mind sneaks up on sleeping ponies in their homes, huh?!”
The mare continued with her tirade, in the end concluding it was totally Chip’s fault for waking her up and putting her preciously arranged tomes into a state of utter messiness. At least she helped the disguised colt crawl from under the books, which she then begun to rearrange on the shelves.
“Ugh… Yeah… Whatever…” said Chip in a high and cocky voice. Presumably, this character he was pretending is quite adventurous. The voice chords the changeling developed for her worked perfectly. “Listen… Hey, can you put those books down for a second? Ugh… I have something for you.”
Twilight spared a glance at a sealed scroll and was just about to say something snappy when her eyes bolted back to the seal on the paper. It was a royal Canterlot wax staple. Sealed by powerful magic. It bore the signature of Celestia herself, and it was meant for Twilight…
Immediately the books were discarded and the parchment snatched from the telekinetic grasp of Chip. With a dry snap the seal was broken and the purple mare sunk into the short note that the Princess wrote to her. The colt wasn’t sure what it said, but as Twilight’s eyes moved from left to right, they became larger and larger.
The silence that fell was regularly disturbed by the tick and tock of a clock nearby. The scroll was floating gently in front of the mare’s muzzle – her mouth was open so wide, Chip was sure she was going to consume it quite soon.
“My…” started Twilight, slowly turning to face Wub. “Celestia… Wh… Ag… Aha…”
“Hey, Twi, what’s all the commotion about?” sounded a male voice from above.
Chip looked away for just a second to find the owner of the voice – doing so made him miss the moment that Twilight fainted, falling to the floor with a loud thump. From upstairs a most interesting creature was approaching the scene – it moved on two legs, had scales and large, green eyes… It was short. And looked very surprised to see Chip.
“What in the hay?... Twi, who’s this? Twi? Twilight! What did you do to her?”
Chip stepped away from Twilight, taking on a confused expression and shrugging.
“Nothing. I just gave her this note from Celestia. Are you Spike by any chance?”
“Yeah,” snickered Spike, shaking Twilight forcefully. “What’s it to you? Who are you anyway? What’s this… note?”
The small creature, which apparently was the dragon Luna spoke of, showed the same symptoms as Twilight after reading the note – he turned towards the changeling, mumbled something incoherently and fainted.
“Yes.Prized student. Fantastic researcher. Gah… Well, at least there are books here. This one looks interesting…”
And with that, Chip sat on his haunches and totally sunk into a book called “Supernaturals”. The two would eventually come to, and the changeling would not risk being thrown across the room a second time this night.