“Bawk! Bawk, bawk!” crowed a rather raspy rooster.
An orange mare with a disheveled blond mane stuck her head out of her bedroom window to glare up at the offending fowl. “Ah’m up, okay!” Applejack yelled.
She stuck her head back into her room and trotted over to her dresser to grab her hat. “Land’s sake, Ah know he’s meant to get me up, but that rooster sounds worse than a cat taking a bath,” she mumbled to herself as she trotted downstairs to the kitchen. Hmm, maybe Ah should take him into Fluttershy.
“Mornin sis,” said Big Macintosh. Applejack chuckled a little at her brother’s appearance. She always got a laugh out of seeing him standing over the stove cooking in a apron. He ignored the laughs and went back to making breakfast.
“Mornin Big Mac.” She took a whiff of the pancakes her brother was making and smacked her lips. “Those smell mighty good.”
“Well, Applebuck season is coming up soon and we’re all gonna need our strength for that.” He flipped a pancake and put it onto a plate. “This year, Ah think Applebloom might what t—”
“Pancakes!” screamed youngest Apple sibling. She ran up and hugged Big Macintosh’s leg. “Thanks so much brother!”
“Well ain’t that something,” Applejack mused. “Applebloom, this is the earliest Ah think Ah’ve ever seen ya up.”
“Well, Ah was having this dream about ma cutie mark, but then everything turned into pancakes,” Applebloom explained. “Ah woke up and knew Big Macintosh was makin his super special apple pancakes and Ah had to try some!” She pranced happily around her brother, who was attempting to stay focussed on the pancakes.
“That’s all fine and fair,” said Applejack. “But remember, if ya wanna get the cakes, ya have to help out too.”
“Of course Ah wanna help out!” Applebloom ecstatically replied.
Applejack reached out and tousled her little little sister’s mane. “That’s the Apple family spirit!” She turned her attention to the kitchen table and the elderly mare asleep at the head of it. “Granny Smith.” The older pony kept sleeping. “Granny Smith,” Applejack repeated with a raised voice and still got no response. She let out a sigh. “Somepony called ya a chicken.”
Granny Smith instantly awoke and grabbed her cane and waved it around as if it were a sword. “Who’s callin an Apple a chicken? It was those Flab Fin Brothers again, wasn’t it?”
“It’s okay Granny Smith,” Applejack clamly stated. She walked over to her grandmother and sat her back down in the chair. “Ah just needed to get ya up.”
“Oh,” Granny Smith hummed,”why didn’t ya say so?”
Applejack resisted the temptation to facehoof. “Anyway, Ah just need ya to keep an eye on Applebloom while Big Macintosh is making breakfast. Ah’m gonna go check the trees to make sure they’re ready for harvesting.”
“No problem at all dearie,” Granny Smith replied.
With Applebloom in relatively competent hooves, Applejack made her way outside. She took a deep breath of the early morning air and looked to the horizon to see the sun just starting to peek into the sky. Ah bet it’s gonna be a great day. For now, Ah got work to do.
Applejack trotted away from the farmhouse and made her way over to some of the closer apple trees. She stopped at one that looked particularly full of fruit. A coy smile was stretched across her face. Ah’ll just loosen up a few trees for Applebloom, wouldn’t want her to hurt her legs.
Applejack turned around and planted her forehooves into the ground while keeping most of her weight off her hindlegs. She double checked her position to make sure her hooves would hit the tree and then then let her hindlegs kick out. However, she made sure to only use a fraction of her strength. Her hooves connected with the tree... and then the ground shuddered.
“What in tarnation?!” Applejack lost her footing and fell to the ground which shook a little more but then suddenly stopped. “What the hay was th—” An apple conked Applejack on the head, followed by three more.
“Ow!” Applejack slowly got back to her hooves while nursing her head. When she stopped seeing spots, she looked around to assess the damage. All around her lied apples on the ground and a few leaves as well. “Shoot, whatever that was knocked all the fruit from the trees. Ugh, how are we gonna get these all into baskets before they go bad?” She turned to rush back to the farmhouse, but something green flickered in the corner of her eye.
Applejack’s ears perked up in attention. “What the hay was that?” Curiosity pushed Applejack over to the where she’d seen the green. She trotted past the trees and fallen fruit to the flicker’s source. As she got closer, she noticed some of the trees were bent at odd angles, as if something had pushed them back.
She was so distracted by the trees that she didn’t notice the large hole right in front of her. With a slight misstep, she tumbled down into it and landed with a loud thud. “Ugh, forget what Ah said about this being a good day.” She dusted herself off and looked around the hole she was in. It wasn’t very deep, but it had a uniform precision to it that told Applejack that something was up. “Now who would go and dig a hole on ma farm?”
She climbed out to get a better survey of the the hole she’d fallen into her. Her heartbeat quickened when she saw it wasn’t a hole, but rather a large paw print. “This ain’t good. Ah gotta go warn everypony in town that there’s a monster on the loose!”
Applejack sped back to farmhouse as fast as her legs could carry her. She didn’t notice the pair of eyes that had been watching her from the bushes. “Hmm, is it possible that equines are the dominant species on this island?” the eyes’ source asked itself. “That still doesn’t explain my entire appearance though. It did mention a town though. Perhaps there will be answers there.”
There was rustling in the bushes and then a small thud. Hopefully I’ll figure out how to walk by then.
Rarity awoke with a smile. “Ah what a lovely dream,” she mused to herself as she stretched her legs. She magicked open her windows and let the sun shine in. Opal gave a hiss and pulled herself deeper into her cat-home.
“Oh come now Opal,” Rarity cued over the entrance to Opal’s home. “It’s a glorious day and we can’t enjoy it by staying inside.” Her eyes lit up with delight. “Oh! Ideaaaa! I’m going to freshen up and then it’ll be your turn! We’ll both look magnificent together and be the talk of the town!” Opal gave a small moan, knowing she was in for trip to the beauty room.
“You stay here while I take a shower and get ready,” Rarity said. She trotted over to her bathroom and opened the door. “As soon as I’m done, it’ll be your turn! Oh, this is going to be fabulous!” She closed the door and left Opal alone in the room. Opal, in turn, darted out of her home and desperately tried to open the window and escape.
“Hm hm hmm hm hmmm,” Rarity sung to herself while the shower water cascaded down on her. Now what look should I go for today? Artist? Fancy? She levitated her shampoo and lathered her mane with it. Hmm, the wet mane look has been catching in popularity lately. Ooh, or maybe I’ll go with th—
“Ahhhhhh?” Rarity tilted her head and washed off the rest of the soap in her mane. Why would I think that “Ahhhh” is a type of fashion? For that matter, it sounded more like somepony was...
Rarity jumped out of the shower at the sound of the second scream. “Oh my word, somepony is in peril! I’ve got to go help!” She rushed for the door, but stopped before opening it. She lit up her horn and wrapped towels around her body and her mane. “Don’t want to be immodest.”
Rarity galloped outside her store and saw a bunch of ponies running around in a panic and flailing their hooves everywhere. “What in Equestria?”
Rarity noticed that a pink mare with a green mane was cowering behind her flower cart muttering, “The horror, the horror.”
“Daisy,” Rarity asked the shaking mare, “what exactly is going on?”
“Oh Rarity,” Daisy shook, “it was terrible! We... we should have listened to Applejack.”
“Applejack?” Rarity’s brow creased a little. “What happened? Is she alright?”
“I-I think so, but she warned us that a monster was near town, but we didn’t listen. T-then it... it showed up.”
“What showed up?” Rarity asked, agitation lacing her voice.
“We didn’t know what it was at first. From a distance it looked like a pony, but then we saw that it was pure black with holes running through its mane and its legs.” Daisy shook more. “It had this horrible crooked horn and wings like a giant insect.” Rarity’s began to shake as well now. “It tried to get closer to us, but Sunny Days managed to throw one of his oranges at her but...”
“But what?” Rarity nervously asked.
“It... It..” Daisy ran forward and collapsed onto Rarity’s shoulder. “It made another leg pop out of its side and crushed the fruit!” Rarity felt hot tears on her shoulder. “T-then Sunny kept throwing oranges at it, but it made legs appear out of nowhere and held Sunny down. W-while it was d-dealing with him, C-carrot Top managed t-to hit it with one of her carrots. Then it just ran off into one of the allies!”
“I see.” A cold sweat now ran down Rarity’s neck. A changeling in Ponyville! Not those things again! She gave Daisy and pat on the back and raised her head. “You were very helpful Daisy. Now, I need you to get some ponies together and warn the rest of the town. That creature was a changeling and it’s very dangerous. The leg thing is new, but we have to keep everypony safe from it.”
“W-what about you?” Daisy stuttered.
“I’m going to go get Twilight.”
Rarity stopped and looked back at Daisy. “What?”
“Why are you wearing a towel?”
“Oh for Celestia’s sake!” Rarity ran into her store before dashing back out again, this time sans towels.
Nopony noticed the sharp black ear that rested on the side of Daisy’s cart and vanished as Rarity galloped away.
She gasped for breath from behind a barrel and tried to make herself as small as possible. She looked down at her black legs and thought back to how the town’s residents had reacted to her. This isn’t good. Whatever form I’ve taken must belong to an enemy of this town.
She brought her breathing down to a slower pace and reflected on what she’d gleaned from overhearing the white unicorn’s discussion with the flower seller. Most of the town residents just assumed I was a monster, but that white one called me a “changeling.” That must be the name of this species.
She looked down at her hoof again and focused. Another hoof instantaneously popped out of the hoof in front of her. At least my powers seem to be in working order. She closed her eyes and summoned more ears to listen to the situation around town.
“We have to warn the mayor!”
“How do we contact the Royal Guard?”
“The horror! The horror!”
“What have you done with her? You’re a changeling aren’t you!?”
She focussed on the last two voices she’d heard. “Ojos Fleur,” she muttered. She was now looking at a beige equine with a purple and blue mane confronting another equine with a seafoam green coat and a mint colored mane with a stripe of white running through it.
“Prove it!” shouted the beige one. “You told me you got bewitched at the wedding, so how do I know it’s really you?”
“Your favorite recipe are bonbons filled with cider. You once had a catfight with Berry Punch over the last cup of cider because you like them so much!” the green one replied.
The beige one turned bright red and her form slumped. “Okay Lyra, that’s you. We need to be careful though. Didn’t you say changelings can look like anypony?”
She opened her eyes again as her additional ears and eyes disappeared. I have shapeshifting abilities? Hmm, I do need a disguise to avoid capture. Maybe I can get back to my normal body then.
She closed her eyes again and focussed on her original appearance. Green flames consumed her body for a second and then dissipated. She gazed down at her new form and sighed at the sight of a hoof. The holes on her legs were now replaced with fur. “Hopefully this is better than nothing.”
She got up from her hiding spot and peeked her head out of the alley to look at the street. All the residents that had been there before had cleared out. She pulled her head back into the alley. It would be suspicious for anyone to be wandering the streets now.
She turned to walk deeper into the alley, but paused when she felt her stomach tighten. Her legs became wobbly and she nearly lost her balance. She braced herself against a wall to keep from falling down. I must have been flying for days. I need to get some food. She focussed and summoned eyes around the town to locate a restaurant. She stopped her search when she spotted a bizarre structure that seemed to be composed entirely of sweets.
“Don’t worry Mr. and Mrs. Cake!” Pinkie Pie assumed a defensive pose at the front of Sugarcube Corner. The Cakes were upstairs standing guard by their foals’ room. “There’s no way some nasty changeling is gonna get the drop on me! My tail would twitch if it tried to do that!” Pinkie triumphantly smirked at nopony in particular and continued to guard the door.
A shadow appeared outside Sugarcube Corner and Pinkie sunk down and got ready to pounce. Alright Pinkie, this is it! Time to become the hero of Ponyville... wait, I’ve saved Equestria twice now, so technically I’m already a hero of Ponyville. Oh! I got it! If I save the town then I’ll be a super ultra mega hero! Then everypony can have a super ultra mega hero pa—
A knock at the door interrupted Pinkie’s fantasy. Her eyes narrowed at the shadow on the other side of the door. “Hmm, usually meanies just blast doors down. Well, if they’re willing to knock, they can’t be all that bad.”
Pinkie happily bounced to the door and grabbed the knob with her mouth.
“Pinkie!” Mrs. Cake shouted out. “Don’t open the do—” Too late. Pinkie flung the door open and was greeted by a pony.
“Hello,” the mare calmly said. She was a bit taller than Pinkie with a deep black mane that was divided by a horn. Her coat was of a dark purple hue even heavier than Twilight’s. On her flank was a picture of a book and magnifying glass. Her nose seemed a bit sharp for a mare. However, her most drawing trait was her wide pupils, which were large even by pony standards. She also looked a bit weathered and her knees shook a little. “Is this a restaurant by chance?”
“It sure is!” Pinkie happily replied. “There’s kind of a strange monster on the loose threatening the town right now so you should probably get inside. Then we can have snacks! Oh! I’ve never had a safety shelter party before! This’ll be fun!”
“Um...” The mare paused for a moment before taking a step into the Corner. “Thank you.” However, a pink hoof blocked her from going further into the Corner.
“Sorry, I don’t usually do this, but can you Pinkie promise that you’re not an evil monster that wants to hurt ponies?”
Pinkie frowned a little. “No, you have to Pinkie promise. Are you new or someth—” Pinkie’s eyes turned to pin pricks as she deeply gasped. “Oh my gosh! You’re a new pony! That means we’ll have to celebrate!” She started happily bouncing up and down. “We’ll have a party, eat cake, play games, but we’ll have to wait until after the monster...” She stopped bouncing and narrowed her eyes at the mare. “Hmm, you’re a new pony that showed up just as a monster shows up too. Well, I definitely need to make you Pinkie promise now.”
“How exactly do you make this promise?”
“Oh it’s easy.” Pinkie coughed and sucked in her breath. “Cross my heart and hope to fly stick a cupcake in my eye.” Pinkie played out the crossing part and substituted sticking a cupcake in her eye with a hoof. “See? Easy,” Pinkie said with a hoof still in her eye.
The mare nodded and then copied Pinkie’s actions while saying, “I ‘Pinkie’ promise.”
Pinkie playfully wiped some sweat off her brow. “Whew, that’s a relief. I’d’ve hated using my party cannon on you.” Pinkie turned around and bucked the door closed. “Wouldn’t want the actual monster to get in.”
“Yes... that would be a problem. Anyway would it be possible to get some...” Pinkie was now mere inches away from the mare’s face. “Food.”
“Of course you can! You’re new in town! That means you have to try some awesome food!” Pinkie was bouncing around again. “Oh wait!” She got right back into the mare’s face. “I have to learn your name first, otherwise I’d just have to call you ‘mysterious mare that showed up when a monster was here too’ and that’s a mouthful!”
“Robin,” the mare replied, unperturbed by Pinkie’s energetic attitude.
“Ooh! That’s a really neat name! Anyway, what do ya want to eat? We’ve got cakes, cupcakes, pastries, muffins... did I mention cupcakes?”
“I’ll have a blueberry muffin if you have one.”
“Oki-doki-loki!” Pinkie zoomed over to display case of all the Corner’s food and quickly came back with the muffin balanced on her head. “Here ya go!”
Robin initially reached out with her hoof, but put it down and paused for a moment.
Pinkie gave Robin a confused look. “Is something wrong?”
“No, I’ll just...” Robin extended her head forward and bit into the wrapping on the muffin. Meal procured, she trotted over to a nearby table and sat down to enjoy it. Pinkie also took a seat at the table.
Robin was about to take a bite of the muffin when she noticed two ponies staring at her from the upper level of the Corner. “Hello, is something wrong?”
“No,” Mr. Cake nervously muttered. He looked back at Mrs. Cake and whispered something to her. She trotted out of Robin’s sight while Mr. Cake descended the stair. “Pinkie, is everything alright?”
“Everything’s great!” Pinkie enthusiastically replied. “I met Robin and now we’re having a safety shelter party!”
“I see, well if you trust her, things should be okay. Just be careful. I’m going to go help the missus with the foals, okay?”
“Roger!” Pinkie playfully saluted Mr. Cake. He softly sighed and then went back upstairs.
Robin bent her head down again to eat the muffin, but stopped when she noticed a pair of bright blue eyes inches away from her own. “Yes?”
“Well you’re a new pony in town and aside from having bad luck on coming when a monster was here you’re super lucky to be here!”
“Yep, because now we can celebrate and have fun!”
Robin chuckled a little at Pinkie’s enthusiasm. “You remind me of a few of my own friends.”
“Ooh! Are they in town too?”
Robin stopped chuckling and her face returned to its neutral expression. “I’m afraid my friends may be very far away. Would you happen to know the location of this island?”
PInkie corked an eyebrow but then stuck her tongue out. “Silly, Ponyville isn’t an island, it’s a town.”
“I meant the island this town is on.”
“Um, Equestria’s not an island either.”
“I see.” This could be a problem. Then again, she seems to have her head in the clouds, so she might not be that knowledgeable. I need to find someone with information. “Do you know where I could possibly look at some maps?”
“Sure, at the library. We’ll have to wait until the monster disappears to go there though.”
Might as well find out more about my form while I’m here. “Can you possibly tell me more about this monster?”
“Oh, well I didn’t see it, but I know what a changeling looks like. They’re black and have bug wings. Buuttt, this one also had a mane and a crooked horn, so it might have been a changeling queen, which is odd because I thought we sent them all flying a few months ago. Hmm, if changelings have queens do they have princesses? Wait, why is Princess Celestia a princess if we don’t have a queen? This is gonna be a tough one.”
“Anyway, what makes these changelings so dangerous?”
“Well, they’re really mean and steal other ponies love and feed off it. The worst part is that they look like somepony you love and then feed off you. Buuuut, the real worst part is I’ve totally seen better transformations.”
“Fascinating.” I hope the need to depend on love for sustenance doesn’t apply to me. That will only compound things.
“Wait a minute!” Pinkie slammed a hoof onto the table. She stretched her head forward. “Did you...” A miniscule twinge of fear ran through Robin. “Get attacked by the changeling on the way here?”
“I recall getting hit by something and then awakening a few moments later,” Robin lied.
Pinkie rubbed a hoof against her chin. “No wonder you were hungry, that mean old changeling must have stolen some of your love!” She dashed back over to where the food was and grabbed a biscuit as well. “Here, you probably need this as well.”
“You’re sure? I think that thing also took my money so I’m a little destitute at the moment.”
“No problem!” Pinkie flashed Robin a smile. “I always give new ponies a treat when they come to town anyway!”
Robin gave Pinkie a small smile. “That’s quite generous of you.”
“Silly, Rarity’s the generous one, I’m the funny one.”
“What’s a rarity?”
“Not ‘what’, ‘who’. She’s one of bestest friends ever! Ooh! We should see her once things call down! We should also see Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy, and Applejack, and Twilight, and...” Something tapped Pinkie on the shoulder. “Huh?” She turned around and saw nopony there. “That’s weird, I could have sworn somepony tapped my shoulder. What a strange day. Anyway...” She turned back around to look at Robin and noticed that the mare was whipping a few crumbs off her face. The rest of the muffin and the biscuit were nowhere to be seen. “Wow! You ate those fast!”
“I was a bit hungry.” She brought a hoof down to her stomach and noticed that it still felt a little empty. I’ll need to move fast off this island. She focused her attention back on Pinkie. “So this library is the main information hub in town?”
“Uh-huh! It’s where one of my friends...” Before Pinkie could finish, Robin was already marching over to the door. “Lives.” She rushed over and blocked the exit.
“Could you please move?” Robin nonchalantly asked. “I’m sure I can find this library on my own.”
“Sorry, but I can’t let somepony, even if I just met then, go out while a changeling is on the loose. You understand, right?” Pinkie looked at Robin with concerned eyes.
“I can fend for myself.”
Something pushed against Pinkie’s back and began tickling it. “Ah ha ha ha! St-stop it!” Pinkie giggled. She collapsed on the floor, unaware of the two black hooves that were assaulting her. “P-please! This—Hee!— is my greatest weakness!” The tickling continued. “Okay! I p-promise! You can go!” The hooves stopped their attack and disappeared before Pinkie could get a look at them.
“Good.” Robin started to trot out the door, but noticed that Pinkie was right by her side. Next to Pinkie also appeared a cannon of some sort. “I thought you said I could go?”
“I did, but there’s no way I’m letting anypony go out alone right now.” Pinkie tapped on the rather colorful cannon. “I’ve even got my party cannon as backup. Plus, you totally have to show me how you did that trick without using your horn. It’ll make a great prank,” she giggled.
Robin lightly sighed. “Well, if you’ll be tagging along, at least it’ll be easier to find this library.”
“Okay, I’ll tell you where it is, but first tell me how you did that trick.”
“Just of simple sleight of...” Robin looked down at her limbs, “...hoof.”
“Well, I guess the best tricks are the ones you keep secret. I’ll probably figure it out eventually,” Pinkie said with a giddy smile. “Anyway, the library is right...”
Inside the giant tree, Twilight ran back and forth, levitating books and scrolls all around her while she ran. Spike stood, watching his partner dash around the library. In his claws were a piece of parchment and a writing quill.
“Spike, is the letter almost done?” Twilight nervously asked.
“Almost... got... it,” Spike replied as he furiously brought the quill up and down against the parchment.
“Good, the Princess needs to know of this threat immediately. A changeling would be bad enough, but a changeling in the same rank as Chrysalis could be a disaster! What about the rest of the town?”
“For the fifth time, you sent Rarity and Applejack to warn the rest of the town after they came here and to get the other Elements pronto.” Spike finished the letter and sent it off in a blaze of green fire. “I don’t see what the big deal is. You told me you took down dozens of changelings at the wedding. Why is this such a big deal?”
“Because Spike, a horde of changelings is bad, but a single one could be even worse!”
Spike tilted his head at Twilight. “I don’t get it.”
Twilight sighed and facehoofed. “A single changeling is worse because it can assume somepony’s form and turn everypony else against each other.” Twilight’s lips curled downwards a little. “Just like the wedding.”
Spike walked over and patted Twilight’s shoulder. “Oh, I didn’t mean to bring it up that way. I just meant that you and your friends could handle this.”
Twilight gave Spike and small smile and rubbed the spines on his head. “Thanks Spike. Well, now that the letter is sent, we just have to wait for everypony else to...” A knock at the door interrupted Twilight. “That was fast.” She trotted closer to the door and lit up the knob with her magic.
“Hiya Twilight!” Pinkie enthusiastically screamed and bounced into the library.
“Pinkie, good, you’re here.” Twilight looked down and noticed the cannon at her friend’s side. “Even better, you brought the cannon. Hopefully we won’t...” Twilight now noticed the additional set of hooves by the cannon. However, these ones were dark purple. “... need it.”
Twilight’s eyes traced the hooves upward to the pony they belonged to and met with the deep pupils of said pony. “Um, Pinkie, who is this?” Twilight cautiously asked.
“Oh!” Pinkie zoomed over to Robin and put a leg around her shoulders. “This is Robin! She’s a new pony in town. Aside from the whole ‘arriving when a monster is on the loose’ thing, she’s really nice!”
“I see,” Twilight replied. She turned to her assistant. “Spike, could you entertain our guest for a second?”
“Sure thing Twilight,” Spike saluted and walked over to Robin. “Hi, I’m Spike.”
However, Robin’s eyes were focussed on the shelves of books that lined the inside of the tree. She brought a hoof to her mouth as well. So much like Ohara.
“Um, you okay?” Spike tapped Robin’s knee a little, seeing as his words weren’t getting to her.
“Hmm?” Robin looked down at the small dragon. “Oh, sorry, this place just reminds me a bit of my home.”
“Another bookworm? Cool!” Spike grinned. “Maybe you can help Twilight with her books or something while I go help...” His eyes glazed over and his cheeks reddened a little. “...Rarity.”
Robin chuckled a little.
Meanwhile, Twilight dragged Pinkie into her kitchen and put a hoof on her mouth. “Be very quiet about this. We can’t let it hear what we’re about to say, okay?”
“Opha,” Pinkie muffled under Twilight’s hoof.
“Good.” Twilight removed the hoof and took a deep breath. “Pinkie, have you considered that this new pony might be the changeling that’s threatening the town?”
“Duh!” Pinkie smiled. “Geez Twilight, it’s like you think I’m loopy or something. Don’t worry, I made Robin Pinkie promise that she wasn’t an evil monster that wanted to hurt ponies.”
The sound of Twilight facehoofing was heard all throughout Ponyville. “Pinkie,” she said through gritted teeth. “A monster would lie about something like that to get it to trust you! That’s how changelings work!”
Pinkie pouted out her lips. “She was also nice enough to knock on the door at the Corner. What sort of monster knocks on a door?”
Twilight facehoofed again. “It might have been trying seem nice as part of its plan! Ugh!” Twilight took another deep breath. “Okay, we’re going to focus on the positives here. You found a strange pony, i.e. our main suspect in this attack. We’ll just keep ‘her’ here while we continue the search.”
“Oki-doki-loki!” Pinkie bounced out of the kitchen leaving Twilight to sigh a little more before following her.
The two made their way back to the main room of the library to find Spike sitting down next to Robin.
“Twilight, you gotta hear some of Robin’s stories! They’re crazy,” Spike exclaimed.
“I’m sure they are,” Twilight replied. Hmm, nothing nefarious yet, she thought as she approached Robin. “Sorry about not giving a proper introduction. My name is Twilight Sparkle.” She held out a hoof.
Robin held out her own hoof and shook Twilight’s. “Robin, nice to meet you. I assume you’re the owner of this quaint library?”
Trying to distract me with flattery, eh? “I suppose you could say that. I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm. I’m guessing by your cutie mark you must also have an interest in reading.” Twilight’s lips curled up into a sly grin. Gotcha! Like a changeling would know what a cutie mark means.
“Actually I’m an archaeologist,” Robin explained. “I find out about history and record it. The magnifying glass symbolizes research and the book represents chronology.”
“Oh.” Twilight’s ears drooped a little. Okay, wasn’t expecting that. “Anyway, what would bring an archaeologist to Ponyville?” Ponyville’s less than two centuries old, this’ll trip her up!
“I’m actually passing through on my way to Los Pegasus. That’s not to say your town lacks history. Its founding by Earth Ponies, its location lying directly in the path of the dragon migration, and its close proximity to the Everfree all make it an interesting town.”
“I... see.” Twilight’s form slumped. This doesn’t make sense. She clearly knows her history... then again, Chrysalis knew about the Canterlot mines. Twilight. She’s also acting like she’s not interested in the town, why? Twilight. She’s the prime suspect, but I don’t have any hard evidence. Twilight. Er, if I could just piece everything tog— Twi—
“What?!” Twilight blurted out, sending Pinkie onto her back. “Oh, sorry Pinkie.”
“It’s okay.” Pinkie got up and dusted herself off. “You were just kind of spacing out. Also, somepony is at the door.”
“Right.” Twilight slowly turned her eyes away from Pinkie and over to the door. On the other side were four familiar shadows. She lit up her horn and opened the door to her friends. “Girls, glad you made it.”
“Hay yeah we made it!” Dash loudly exclaimed. “Nothing is gonna mess with Ponyville under my watch!”
“That why ya were sleepin when Ah found ya?” Applejack asked.
“Hey! It’s still kinda early! Sue me for enjoying my sleep!” Dash retorted.
“It’s nearly eleven!” Applejack replied.
“Girls! Really?” Rarity pushed the two arguing ponies away from each other with her magic. “This is no time to be fighting.”
“I... I agree with Rarity,” Fluttershy murmured.
Dash pouted and shrugged. “Fine.” She turned her attention to Twilight. “Okay, what’s the plan?”
“Step one was warning everypony else,” Twilight explained, “since you’re all here, I’m guessing that part is done.” Her friends nodded. “Step two is finding evidence. That includes the paw at Sweet Apple Acres and interviewing witnesses, while keeping our eyes out for suspicious activity. Finally, step three, finding suspects.”
“Speaking of which...” Rarity raised a hoof and pointed it behind Twilight. “Who exactly is that? Her mane is fabulous!”
Twilight resisted the urge to facehoof again. “That is Robin. She’s supposedly a traveling archaeologist on her way to Los Pegasus.”
“She’s an archaeologist?” A wide grin grew on Dash’s face. “Like Daring Do?”
“Well I suppose you could put it tha—” A rainbow blur zoomed past Twilight over to Robin.
“Oh my gosh!” Dash proceeded to do loops around Robin. “Okay, I know you’re not Daring Do, but you’re like the closest thing I’ve got! Please tell me you’ve gone on awesome adventures!”
Robin blinked and then responded, “Well, to a pegasi like yourself, it’s probably not that interesting, but I did once go visit the clouds.”
“Did you at least explore an ancient temple?” Dash despondently asked.
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
Dash started to grin again. “Did you find treasure?”
Dash let out a girlish squeal. “So awesome!” Robin took note that there was now a slight warmth in her stomach.
“Rainbow Dash!” Twilight summoned her magic around Dash’s tail and pulled her away. “Now is not the time to be gawking over something! We have a crisis on our hooves!”
“Oh... right.” Dash turned and flashed Robin a sympathetic look. “Sorry about that, just got a little excited.”
“Anyway, Robin’s a new pony that just came to town today,” Twilight explained. Her friends gave her blank stares. “Right when the monster showed up.” Still blank stares. “The monster that can take on other ponies’ forms.”
“She thinks I’m the monster,” Robin said with a small smile. “I don’t blame her though, it was probably a part of its plan to attack me, cause chaos, and then shift the blame on me when I arrived while it worked in secret.”
“I... I hadn’t thought of that,” Twilight stuttered. “I’m... I’m sorry. I’ve just had some bad experiences with changelings. If one of them hurt somepony under my watch I’d never be able to forgive myself.”
“It’s quite alright,” Robin replied.” The other ponies, minus Twilight, breathed a sigh of relief. “As I said before, you had every reason to mistrust me, at least you had valid reasons.” The last half of the sentence let a little spite break through Robin’s normal monotone.
“I still feel bad about it though... and I feel worse for what I’m about to say.” Twilight closed her eyes and composed herself for a moment before turning back to her friends. “Okay, if what Robin says is true, than this changeling may have already succeeded in making Robin a scapegoat for whatever it’s planning. Therefore, I’ll keep Robin here while the rest of you go out and search for the changeling.” She gave Robin a brief glance. “Sorry.”
“All right!” Dash screamed. “Let’s do this! The faster we take care of this changeling, the faster I get to hear some awesome adventure stories.” She bolted off, leaving a rainbow contrail behind.
“Please,” Rarity commented, “the faster we get this done, the faster I can look proper.”
Applejack eyed her fancy friend for a second. “Ya look fine to me.”
Rarity gasped and looked like she was about to faint. “I barely brushed my mane, I only have foundation on, I haven’t polished my hooves, my coat is uneven...” Applejack sighed and started pushing Rarity out the door while the fancy pony continued to prattle on about minor beauty issues.
Fluttershy lifted a hoof over towards the door,but then retracted it. “Oh, maybe I should stay here too and keep you two compa—”
Pinkie popped up right in front of Fluttershy and nearly scared the pegasus to death. “C’mon Fluttershy! It’ll be like hide and go seek!” She grabbed Fluttershy’s hoof and dragged her out the door. Fluttershy continued mumbling objections all the way out.
Twilight closed the door with her magic and then looked at Robin with downcast eyes. “Sorry.”
“For a librarian, I would have thought you vocabulary would be a little more extensive,” Robin replied.
“I’m just a little on edge is all. However, while we’re solving this issue, you’re free to look at any books you want.”
“Thank you,” Robin replied as she walked over to a shelf and pulled out a book. She struggled a bit to get it with her hooves though.
“Um, why aren’t you using your magic?” Twilight asked.
“That changeling creature sapped a lot of my energy, incapacitating my magic temporarily.” Robin put the book on the table so Twilight could get a look at it. The cover read, Your Horn and You: A Guide to Basic Unicorn Magic. “Going over some basic techniques might help me recover a little.”
“Good point, I’m not too familiar with how changeling feeding works, but I know it does sap magic.”
“I assume that unfamiliarity means there aren’t any books here on those creatures.”
“No.” Twilight lit up her horn and levitated a book off its shelf and over to the table Robin was near. Robin glanced at the title, Myths and Monsters of Equestrian Lore. “This is one of the few books on them. However, as you can guess by the title, the information is there is shaky.”
I can also fact check with myself, Robin thought. “Thank you.” She looked up and around the library for a second. “I already told your assistant this, but you do have quite a nice library. It reminds me of my old home.”
“Oh, were your parents librarians?”
“No, but a very close friend of mine was.”
“I see, where are you from anyway?” Twilight’s eyes began to sparkle with curiosity. “Can’t be Canterlot otherwise I’d know about it. Is it Trottingham? I know they have quite a collection of Libraries. What about Baltimare?”
Robin shook her head back and forth, ignoring the warm feeling that continued growing inside her. “I’m afraid my hometown is very far away,” Robin partially lied. She also involuntarily shook a little. For a second, she imagined the library on fire.
Twilight’s ears drooped again. “Oh, well, could you at least tell me its name? Maybe a general location, or...”
“No!” Robin shouted out and then brought a hoof to her mouth. She broke eye contact with Twilight and looked down at the ground. “I shouldn’t have brought that up. Could I have some privacy to read?” She turned away and dove into book on magic.
“Yes, I’ve got some reorganizing to do upstairs anyway,” Twilight gingerly backed away. Great Twilight, stumble upon the trauma why don’t you? She gave Spike a brief glance. “C’mon Spike, we’ve got some organizing to do.”
“Ohh,” Spike complained, “but I wanted to hear some more st—”
“Now,” Twilight commanded. She made her way to stairs, but on her way up she noticed some books laying on the ground. “Spike! You told me you got the bottom floor reshelved.”
“I did!” Spike replied.
“Nevermind.” Twilight lit up her horn and pushed the books back into the shelves. “Let’s hope you’re less sloppy with the upstairs shelves.
As soon as Spike and Twilight disappeared upstairs Robin breathed a small sigh of relief. Good, they didn’t notice. She trotted over to where Twilight had re-shelved the books and looked up at said books: Equestrian History and Basic Pony Biology.
“Hmm.” Robin glance up and saw the tip of her horn. “The book warned about accidental incineration, but I need practice.” She closed her eyes and rather than focusing on her devil fruit powers, focussed on her horn. It lit up with a sickly green glow as did the two books. She opened her eyes and saw the books floating in front of her. “Well, that book was meant for children. Magic must become tempered with a—” The biology book began to blacken on its edges. Robin dropped the spell and let the books fall to the ground with a thud.
“Everything okay down there?” Twilight asked.
“Yes, I’m just not used to reading without my magic,” Robin replied.
“Okay.” The library then became quiet again.
Robin closed her eyes again and summoned multiple black hooves to move the books to their proper locations. This will take some getting used to. She brought a hoof down and felt her full stomach. She really does love books, hopefully, I’ll won’t be dependant on her for long. The Thousand Sunny briefly flashed before her eyes. I hope everyone else is okay. Robin proceeded to go back to her books.
On the edge of the Everfree forest, a pair of compound eyes appeared in the shadows and looked over Ponyville. A black hoof pulled out a small snail-like creature and its owner spoke, “An unknown has entered Ponville. Orders?”
“Observe for now,” came a voice out of the snail. “Find out if they are native or seafaring. If the latter, prepare to bring the unknown to us.”