“I still can’t believe how crazy today was!” Twilight Sparkle blew a tuft of hair away from her eyes as she surveyed the clean-up effort currently on-going across Canterlot. Though the Changeling army had been driven from that hallowed city, the damage was still intense. All around ponies worked hard to tidy away piles of rubble and put out small fires amongst the wreckage.
Twilight turned to her brother who was silently scanning over a set of building plans whilst watching the repair efforts, doing his best to remain stoic but more importantly, ignoring her. She gave him a friendly smack to the back of the head with her hoof. He still did not reply. “So, strange thing…” Twilight continued. “When I met Cadance – the real Cadance that is, in the caves, she was all set to get married. So you must have been close to your wedding date when she was switched with the Changeling Queen…” She trailed off again, looking up at her brother.
Shining Armor continued staring ahead, giving encouraging nods to the workers. “Well, yes,” he finally replied, turning to the smaller pony, a confused look on his face. “What’s bugging you Twily, you’ve been acting funny even after the whole ‘invasion’ thing was sorted.”
“Well…” Twilight scratched a forehoof against the ground nervously, eyes darting about, looking at everything but her brother. “It’s just that I thought you were late in inviting me to your wedding because the whole thing was an evil trick by Queen Chrysalis who had addled your brain, but if you’d been planning it with the real Cadance for ages, then…” She paused. “Y’know.”
With a swish of a hoof to fold up the plans, Shining Armor rolled his eyes in an exaggerated fashion and displaying a wry smile, finally gave Twilight the attention she had been clamouring for. “Twily…” he said softly, catching her worried eye. “Is that really what’s been worrying you?”
Twilight nodded, her legs twisting in nervousness. “Yeah…” she muttered, looking all around in an attempt to avoid eye contact. “It’s just, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if you really wanted me here at all…”
“Stop that right now!” Shining Armor pulled a hoof around Twilight’s neck and brought her in for a quick hug. “I won’t have my little sister speaking like that!” He grinned at her unsure face, ruffling her mane before letting her go. “It’s like I said, I was just so busy with the wedding and protecting Canterlot, it wasn’t a slight on you at all! You’re my sister Twilight and I love you!”
He smiled. Twilight smiled back, giving a quivering upturn of the lips. “That means a lot!” She beamed as relief washed over her. “I was so worried that it was something I had done! It’s wonderful to know that after all this time, you’re still my big brother best friend!” She tilted her head before softly beginning to sing a melody. “You are my big brother best friend… forever!” she warbled.
Shining Armor flushed red as he turned back to the restoration plans. “Oh Twily!” he laughed. “What are you like!?”
Twilight started to skip around happily as she continued to sing. “Like two peas in a pod we did everything together…”
Shining Armor’s head snapped up from the scrolls he was reading and the expression on his face was no longer one of contentment. “What the hay was that?” he half-screamed, cutting across Twilight’s singing and rounding on her. Twilight gulped, shrinking back before her brother. “Are you mad?” he hissed, pressing his face into hers, eyes wide and twitching. “Have you been singing that all the time? What’s wrong with you, you crazy mare?”
Twilight gave a little squeak in shock, trembling slightly at the sudden shift in behaviour from her sibling. “I… I’m sorry?” she ventured, wild-eyed. “It’s just a song; I didn’t mean anything by it….”
With a huff of disgust Shining Armor turned away. “I swear Twilight,” he half-yelled, startling some nearby construction workers. “I can’t even trust you for a moment, what if somepony realised what you were singing about?” With a swipe of his forehooves he crumpled up his plans and started to storm off. “I knew you’d do something stupid like that, that’s why I never wanted to invite you in the first place!”
Mouth open, Twilight stared in shock after her departing brother, before sinking to her haunches, hugging herself softly. “Like two peas in a pod we did everything together…” she half-whispered, half-sung to herself as the tears started to fall.
Twilight stopped in shock before the huge gilt doors to the throne room, looking at the rather sharp pikes that were held in the magical grasp of the two unicorn guards blocking her way in. She peered between the stoic guards, neither of whom showed even an ounce of familiarity or compassion on their stern faces. “Uh… it’s me, Twilight Sparkle?” She frowned with slight annoyance. “You know, bearer of the Element of Magic, saved Equestria several times, most recognisable face in Canterlot, that Twilight Sparkle?”
The guard on the right looked down his muzzle at Twilight as if considering something, but then shook his head. “I’m sorry Miss Sparkle,” he barked, “but following the recent changeling attack, Princess Celestia has ordered us to be extra careful! You can’t trust anypony nowadays! Do you have any proof of your identity?”
“If you don’t have any papers, tell us something that only the real Twilight Sparkle would know,” the guard on the left offered helpfully. “Something that a changeling couldn’t possibly guess.”
“Oh. I see. That’s fair enough I guess…” Twilight rolled her eyes as she tried to think of a suitable response. “I… wet the bed until I was eleven!” she finally chirped back brightly. “No changeling would know that!”
The guards looked at each other warily, their pikes wavering slightly. “Is that true?” the guard on the right hissed to his comrade.
The guard on the left shrugged. “I have no idea!” he urgently whispered back. “I barely even know this mare!”
After a moment of frantic discussion, the two guards eventually gave up, lifting their pikes to let Twilight pass. “All in order ma’am!” The guard on the right saluted smartly as Twilight trotted into the throne room.
It was not the calm epicentre of order that Twilight was used to. Instead of the great and the good of Canterlot waiting in line patiently to address Princess Celestia on her throne, the room was full of panicked voices, of ponies in wild disarray wandering back and forth, shouting and roughly shaking their fellows.
“What the hay…” Twilight muttered as she took in the confusion that filled the usually serene room. The princess was nowhere in sight, and without her guiding influence it seemed that everypony was getting more and more wound up over something.
“Twilight!” Twilight jumped as from the ground Applejack leapt on her. “Ah’m glad it’s you Twilight!” Applejack went in for a hug, but then recoiled slightly, staring at Twilight with suspicion. “If it is you! How can ah know y’all aren’t a changeling ready to take over Equestria again?”
Twilight frowned at Applejack, shaking her head slowly. “Applejack, it’s me, Twilight, you know that! Besides, the changelings have gone! And the guards at the front let me in!”
“But what if the guards are changelings?” Applejack peered around at all the ponies in the room. “What if we’re the only real ponies and everypony else is ready to leap on us?” She gave a tug on a rope tied around her hind leg. “Only way to be sure is to stick together!”
From the midst of a group of slightly nervous aristocratic ponies burst a shivering pink maned pegasus who landed at Twilight’s hooves with a gasp, attached to the end of Applejack’s rope. “Twilight! I attached a rope to Applejack so I know that she’s the real Applejack,” Fluttershy squeaked helpfully, before turning to Applejack. “Sorry, I got caught up…” she whispered, trailing off. “B-but what if when I couldn’t see you, a changeling took your place and now I’m tied to a changeling and you’re going to eat me!” She collapsed onto the ground, throwing her forehooves over her face for dear life.
Twilight sighed with a huff and looked up at the empty throne. “What’s going on Applejack? I got a message to come and see the princess, and it seems like the whole of Canterlot is here!”
“Ah don’t know…” Applejack threw a shifty eye down at Fluttershy. “But ah bet it’s somethin’ to do with the changeling menace. Hey, do you think Fluttershy’s been actin’ a little too scared lately? Almost like a pony doing a Fluttershy impression…”
Before Twilight could refute Applejack’s wild speculation, a round of trumpeting from all corners of the room silenced the baying crowd, and after the final mutterings had died down all eyes turned towards the empty throne. A soft glow enveloped the royal podium, and then with a flash of light, Princess Celestia teleported into view.
The crowd went wild, cheering with relief at the sight of their beloved princess. All except a voice at the back which screamed: “Run, Chrysalis has come back disguised as Celestia!”
Celestia simply smiled at this, waving a hoof regally at the gathered ponies. “My loyal subjects!” she began, making eye contact with each pony in turn, her soothing expression washing over the gathering. “It has not escaped my notice that there has been somewhat of an unrest in Canterlot of late. I have given the matter much thought, and can assure you that steps are being taken so that nopony will have to live in fear of changeling incursion ever again.”
Twilight leaned over to her companions, a wry grin on her face. “See, nothing to worry about, the princess has got it all sorted!”
“To that end,” the princess continued, “I have perfected a spell that will neutralise all changeling magic across Equestria. When this spell is cast tonight, any and all shape shifting magic will instantly nullify, permanently exposing any changelings and protecting Equestria from any more trickery!”
At Celestia’s announcement, the entire crowd started to cheer, whoops of joy filling the air. Only one pony did not join the celebrations, staring up at the princess as a wave of cold terror clenched at her heart.
“I-I’ve got to talk to somepony…” Twilight croaked out, head reeling as she slunk away from Applejack’s constant hollering. The princess’s words were like a dagger to the chest.
It was over.
“What do you want, Twilight?” Shining Armor looked up from his paperwork in annoyance as his sister frantically burst into his house, her frazzled mane perfectly matching the rather fraught emotional state that she seemed to be in as she stood shaking and gibbering before him.
“It’s over Shining Armor!” she gasped through panicked tears, wiping a hoof across her face. “I-it’s over! It’s all over; we’ve got to get out of here before we’re discovered!”
Shining Armor slowly stood up, looking at Twilight in abject horror, his brow creasing into a snarled frown. “It was that damned singing wasn’t it! Didn’t I tell you Twily?” His eyes boggled and he gulped for deep breaths as the news sunk in. “Didn’t I warn you?”
“No, it’s not that, nopony knows yet!” Twilight rounded on her brother, trying to move closer, her face full of concern. “It’s the princess, she’s got a spell to expose all changelings!”
“Oh that! You had me worried for a moment!” Shining Armor mopped his brow in relief and slumped backwards onto a cushion. “Twily, that spell’s only going to undo changeling magic; we’ve got nothing to worry about!”
“No!” Twilight drew herself to eye level with the older pony, shaking him with her forehooves. “It’s all shape shifting magic, that’s what the princess said! All shape shifting magic will be affected!”
Shining Armor’s face drained, an impressive feat considering he was already pure white. “Y-you mean…”
Twilight nodded grimly. “Yes. They’ll learn that we’re pod-ponies. Frauds. When Celestia casts that spell, the magic holding us in our pony bodies will dissolve, and we’ll turn back into our natural form!”
Shining Armor started to tremble, one hoof resting on Twilight’s, barely able to get the words out. “Peas,” he croaked weakly.
“Yes, peas.” Twilight hung her head, shaking it from side to side in despair. “They’ll learn that we’re just two peas, magically transformed by a wandering wizard into ponies and taken in by a childless couple who raised us as their own!”
“Why now!” Shining Armor gritted his teeth in frustration, throwing his gaze up to the heavens. “I’ve got a life now! A wife! She… she’ll understand, won’t she Twilight? Cadance will understand?”
“I wish I could say yes…” Twilight spoke softly now, stroking her brother’s mane as he leant into her neck and started to sob. “But whoever heard of a princess and a pea? It wouldn’t work. You know what they’ll do; they’ll hunt us down before we can roll to safety. They’ll boil us or put us in a salad.” Twilight shivered. “’Eat your greens’, that’s what Celestia always said. I tried not to you know, I’d put a carrot under my tongue, spit it out when nopony was looking, but sometimes…” She felt hot tears pricking down her cheeks as the painful memories resurfaced. “S-sometimes there was no way out and I’d have to s-sit there and e-eat my salad until my plate was clean. I’m a monster!”
Shining Armour pulled away, sniffling away his own tears as he looked into his sister’s face. “You’re not a monster,” he said softly. “We do what we can do survive. Oh Twily…” His expression became crestfallen. “We should never have left the pod; we should have never listened to that wizard!”
“We would have been somepony’s dinner!” Twilight stamped a hoof, suddenly taking on a more determined air. “No Shining Armor, we have lives now, friends! We’re still the same underneath, whether we are living, breathing ponies or small inanimate peas! When we were two peas in a pod, we did everything together – now do this with me. I realise now that we can’t escape, we have to face this and come clean!”
Shining Armor nodded, looking towards the windows as the sun began to set. “We’ve not much time…” He gulped, looking at Twilight for reassurance.
“Don’t worry!” Twilight straightened up. “Once they hear what I’ve got to say, I’m sure they’ll understand!”
It seemed like every single pony in Canterlot had travelled to the royal palace to see Princess Celestia cast her spell. The princess stood atop a huge flight of stone steps, watching the sun go down as below a multitude of coloured ponies stared intently.
“I can’t do it…” Shining Armor placed a hoof on the steps, pausing to look at Twilight, his eyes quivering. “Not in front of everypony!”
“It’s okay.” Twilight smiled warmly, planting a small kiss on her brother’s head. “Go to your wife, I’ll sort this out. That’s what sisters are for.” With that, she turned and started her lonely march towards Celestia.
Below her the crowd was cheering as one. The royal guards had let Twilight pass without comment this time, and she was soon at the dizzying summit, sparing a glance down to pick out her friends who were gazing up at her. She gave a sheepish smile as she approached Celestia who seemed rather absorbed in watching the sun set.
“P-princess?” Twilight tugged nervously at Celestia’s side, flinching slightly as if she would instantly be struck down for her defiance.
Nothing happened. Celestia simply turned to smile at Twilight. “Twilight, my faithful student!” she exclaimed in the calm, austere tone that accompanied all of her proclamations. “I thought you would be with your friends, but please, if you wish to see this spell cast, by all means stay. It is a particularly difficult spell, you may learn a lot.”
Twilight was silent for a moment before responding. “You may learn a lot too…” she whispered back meekly, turning away from the princess for a moment. She then gulped hard, gathering up all her courage. “Princess, I know this is for the best, and I understand, but please… can I address the crowd before you cast your spell?”
“Oh.” The smile on Celestia’s face fell in an instant, and Twilight could feel a cold pit opening in her stomach as the princess looked upon her with new, colder eyes. “I see, Twilight. I see.” She took a step back to allow Twilight to stand in full view of the crowd, before adding. “But make it good, Twilight Sparkle.”
Twilight nodded, taking a deep breath as she looked down at the throng of ponies below. Several hooves pointed in her direction and a cheer went up. They loved her. They wouldn’t soon.
Fighting back the tears which threatened to pour from her eyes, she nervously began to speak. “F-fillies and g-gentlecolts…” she choked out, but it was lost amongst the baying of the crowd beneath her. She slumped slightly, only to see Celestia’s horn glow with a soft magical burst.
“A loudspeaker spell,” Celestia encouraged. “Try again.”
“F-fillies and gentlecolts!” This time Twilight’s voice boomed out across Canterlot, almost scaring her with the sudden reverberation. All other ponies stopped their clamouring to look at Twilight with rapt attention. The eyes of the nation were upon her, and yet she had never felt so alone. “Y-you all know me as Twilight Sparkle…” Twilight continued. “But there is something else which you do not know. A dark secret I have kept.” She looked across at Celestia, who simply nodded grimly, her face betraying no emotion.
“I… I’m not the mare you all think I am. In fact… I’m not a mare at all!” There was a scattered gasp from below, and from the corner of her eye, Twilight saw Celestia take a step back. She could feel her trembling forehooves start to give way, but with a stubborn burst of resolve, carried on. “I-I have been living a lie all these years, with the help of a magic spell. Y-you see…” The lump in her throat felt bigger now, claws clutching at her heart. “I-I’m really a… I…”
She couldn't bring herself to say it. Pea. The shame flushed at her, swirling around with guilty thoughts as her inner secrets were laid bare. “I am not ashamed,” she carried on with determination. “I am the same Twilight Sparkle you have known and loved, and I am not ashamed of my…” she searched for the right word, “…peaness.”
There. The secret was out. No more lies. The crowd instantly burst into a babble of exclamations, and even Princess Celestia looked shocked. Twilight smiled grimly, sweeping her gaze across the crowd. “I had to speak out and tell you of my peaness!” she cried. “Because when Celestia’s spell was cast and all shape shifting magic was dispersed, my peaness would be revealed to all and you would hate me. Or want to hurt me. Or eat me!” She could finally take the stress no longer, and her legs gave way.
Instead of hitting the ground, she felt one of Celestia’s wings wrapping around her, staring up in wonderment at the gaze of her mentor who simply looked back with a loving gaze. “Oh Twilight!” Celestia exclaimed. “I had thought you were going to reveal you were a changeling. Please, forgive me. This… this is nothing to be ashamed of! It changes nothing; you are still the same Twilight Sparkle!”
“R-really?” Twilight felt tears welling up again, this time ones of happiness as the weight she had carried for so many years finally lifted. “Y-you mean that?”
“Oh darling, I knew all along!” Twilight twisted her head around in surprise to see Rarity ascending the steps, followed by the rest of her friends. “It was obvious from how you looked and spoke and dressed that you had your… little secret.” Rarity winked. “You’re not alone Twilight. Trust me.”
Twilight let Celestia’s grip loosen and she turned to her friends, beaming with joy. “I can’t tell you how happy I am!” she half-cried in relief. “I’ve been trying to hide my peaness for so long! I thought you’d want to boil me alive!”
“That’s crazy!” Rainbow Dash leapt into the air and did an instant somersault, landing beside Twilight in a multi-coloured blur and giving her a big hug. “This is awesome news! I’ve been totally crushing on you for ages and thought that meant I was a lesbian! Now I know your secret, it all makes sense!”
“I… I never knew you liked gardening…” Twilight stuttered back, giving a warm smile. She turned to Celestia. “Thank you princess, thank you for being so understanding!” she simpered. “S-should I tell the crowd about my brother’s peaness too?”
“No Twilight, that wouldn’t be appropriate,” Celestia curtly replied before turning back to the crowd herself, horn starting to glow. “Twilight, I would be honoured if you would stand beside me while I cast my spell.”
Twilight proudly trotted next to Celestia, giving a quick wink to her friends as she did so. Below her, the gathered ponies were cheering, and she could even hear some chanting her name. In the distance she could make out the sight of her brother standing next to Cadance. She waved, and could see him returning the gesture. Chest puffed out with pride, she turned to Celestia. “T-this means so much to me princess, to stand here with you at my side; I now know that my peaness is nothing to be ashamed of, it is a part of who I am!”
“Very wise, my pupil!” Celestia turned her head to the heavens, and as the last rays of the sun dipped under the horizon, her horn blazed with a powerful light and a sudden wash of energy flared out and blazed across Equestria.
In an instant, Twilight vanished with a pop, to be replaced with a single tiny green pea which hung in the air for a moment before falling to the ground.
Celestia stared at the pea in stunned silence for a moment, her brow creased with puzzlement. Then it hit her.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “I get it now. Peaness.”