-The changelings stand as the ultimate warning to the avarice of the spirit.
As a species, their entire well-being depends on the love of others. Their methods though, are insidious. Instead of garnering love through regular means, a changeling seeks to use subterfuge and trickery to attain its love.
But many do not know the history of the changelings, do not know of a time when the changelings were not just accepted, but adored in the same fashion as the Alicorns themselves.
Once upon a time, the changelings stood as rulers of Equestria alongside the alicorn Princesses Celestia and Luna. They were beautiful and radiant, a splendorous sight in any setting. They were an offshoot of the alicorn race, with a very special trait; they were shapeshifters.
While they gained sustenance through normal food like any other pony, their magical prowess was gathered from the adoration of their subjects.
The changelings, however, were not perfect. No one is sure why the first changeling turned on the princesses. Some say it was the influence of Discord, while others say it was a stallion. But either way, the beautiful changeling and the princesses fought bitterly.
Defeated by the the combined power of the two princesses, the changeling faded from history. It is said that she used her shapeshifting powers to survive, and that the bitter evil in her spirit warped her. Rumours spread throughout the ages of that changeling’s twisted children: evil creatures who used their magic to steal love from unsuspecting ponies.-
“My ancestors beat yours, hooves down,” Chrysalis stated, as she looked up from the old tome. The book had been pilfered from the Canterlot library, after a very scary infiltration requiring Chrysalis and Evergreen to masquerade as guards.
“Nothing in there about fixing yerself?” Evergreen asked, voicing a low sigh, rubbing his hooves against his temples quite firmly.
It was getting harder and harder for Evergreen to concentrate, Chrysalis had seen it getting worse over the previous days. He could barely even concentrate on reading his own book.
Open books littered the floor of the cottage, discarded when one of the pair deemed them to not contain any relevant information.
Chrysalis sighed and shook her head. “Just some rubbish about how my ancestors were adored once upon a time, and apparently helped rule the land beside Celestia and Luna. And then Discord came and corrupted us or something.”
“Fascinating,” Evergreen stated, giving a low sigh and then just laying his chin on the open book. “Ah need ter rest.”
Chrysalis gave a faint whimper, climbing to her hooves and ignoring the tome, picking her way through the maze of discarded books to pull her stallion into a soothing hug. “I’m sorry Evergreen... I’ll just... I’ll go away. You can come visit when you’re better. It’ll be like... Like a holiday.”
Evergreen shook his head, scowling. “That won’t work, and yer know it. It’s either all or nothing, Cee.”
Nodding gently, she rubbed her cheek against his own, a teardrop spilling down her cheek. “I just... I don’t want to watch you die, Evergreen. I can’t watch that. Don’t make me watch that.”
“We still got some time left,” Evergreen stated fiercely, lifting a hoof to hug her in return. “Ah’m not dead yet.”
“But you’re getting worse...” Chrysalis pointed out helplessly, nuzzling against her stallion firmly, her ears flattening.
“Then hurry up and find a blooming cure!” Evergreen snapped, pushing at her shoulder hard enough to send her dancing a few steps away, unbalanced.
The stallion glowered at her for several long moments, before his expression softened, and his own ears splayed back. “Ah’m sorry Cee... Ah don’t know what came ov-”
Chrysalis shook her head, easing back over close to him again, and wrapping her hooves around him tightly. “No, no... It’s fine. It’s me. I’m the problem.”
Evergreen shook his head determinedly, wrapping his hooves around her once more, squeezing firmly. “Yer not a problem Cee. Yer are my life... Ah love yer. No matter what ah say. No matter what happens when this gets worse, ah love yer. And don’t yer ever let yerself be convinced otherwise.”
Nodding, Chrysalis nuzzled against her love slowly, tears forming silent trails down her cheeks. “I won’t forget, I promise.”
“No matter what happens, Cee,” Evergreen reiterated, pausing to grind a hoof against his temple, wincing, his expression pained.
“Lie down, Evergreen. Rest.” Chrysalis’ tone was strained. She didn’t like to see Evergreen in pain. She just couldn’t bear to know that she was putting him in so much pain.
“Ah will,” Evergreen said distractedly, grinding his hoof against his temples again. “Mah head hurts.”
“I know, I know,” Chrysalis soothed, pulling Evergreen down to lay flat on the bed, trying to force him to rest. She gently kissed his forehead, her tears wetting the pillows.
A silence stretched out between them, and Evergreen slowly looking up at her, his expression turning sad. Quietly, he said, “...Yer gonna leave, aren’t yer?”
Chrysalis bit her bottom lip, fighting back fresh tears, and she nodded mutely.
A low sigh left the stallion. “Ah can’t afford to lose yer Cee. Not now. Yer can’t come and take my heart and run.”
“I wouldn’t be running,” Chrysalis whispered brokenly, pushing, and then pulling at his chest with her hooves uncertainly. “I need you Evergreen. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me... But I can’t watch you die. I can’t watch you die and know that I’m the one doing it. I can’t lose you like that.”
Evergreen looked up at her for a long moment, and then pulled her into a deep kiss. “Ah can’t change yer mind... But ah told yer. Ah’m fine with dying. Ah don’t care when I die, ah just care what I live for, and yer’re worth living for, Cee.”
Chrysalis felt tears streaming from her eyes again, and she fought down the sobs trying to bubble up out of her throat. “T-this is the only way, Evergreen. W-we can’t be together.”
The stallion lowered his eyes, closing them and then nodding sadly. “Ah... Ah’m glad I met yer, Chrysalis. yer the best thing that ever happened to me... Ah wish it were different.”
“I’m a monster,” Chrysalis whispered softly, lifting a shaking hoof to stroke through Evergreen’s mane. “I don’t deserve happiness.”
“Yer not a monster,” Evergreen said tenderly, lifting a hoof to gently lay on Chrysalis’ cheek. “Yer my Cee.”
“Cee is a unicorn. Unicorn’s do not slowly kill their lovers,” Chrysalis stated, sadly shaking her head.
Evergreen gave a wan smile at that, and then pulled Chrysalis close again, leaning down to kiss her muzzle. “Yer trust me, right?”
“Stupid oaf... Of course I tust you,” Chrysalis whispered in response.
“Change for me, Chrysalis. Let me show you my love for you one last time...”
Chrysalis fought back her tears as she strode up pathway towards the palace. It was perhaps fortuitous that their was a party going on. All of the bearers of the Elements of Harmony would be there, ready to go.
She had left the cottage that morning, leaving a note for Evergreen not to follow her. She was certain that he ignored it though, and would be, even now, chasing her trail across the Everfree Forest, all the way to Canterlot.
But Chrysalis had a plan. A desperate plan. A stupid, foolish plan.
She wanted the Elements of Harmony used on her. They were the ultimate tools of ‘good’. They were not tools of destruction. If there was anything that could heal her, it was the Elements of Harmony.
Of course, it was a foolish plan with a slim chance of success. But Chrysalis had to try. She couldn’t stand to watch Evergreen slowly die, and she couldn’t stand to be apart from him. Even if the Elements destroyed her, then that would be preferable to the current options. At least then Evergreen would be free. A final unselfish act she could perform in her demise. Giving her love a chance at life.
Celestia was unconcerned as the young earth pony stalked towards the table she was seated at. There was nothing to fear, really. Chrysalis had already subdued a serving pony outside, and assumed her form. So as far as Celestia was concerned, it was her serving pony walking towards her, not the Queen of the Changelings.
But as Chrysalis allowed her changes to drop, Celestia’s eyes widened, and she abruptly pushed back from the table.
Chrysalis grinned, and hit the table with a blast of magic, sending food splattering across the room like so much soggy shrapnel. Her second blast hit the large stained-glass windows, shattering them. With a few quick bounds, Chrysalis was through them, and outside, even as the first screams of stunned, confused, and scared ponies rose in a chorus throughout the palace.
Behind her, Chrysalis heard Celestia call ‘Get her, girls!’. She grinned, and began to run at full speed towards the edge of the Canterlot Cliffs.
A single large leap sent her out over open air, and her membranous wings extended, catching her weight as she glided towards the edge of the Everfree Forest before the guard even know what had happened.
The Changeling Queen’s chest was heaving, and the unconscious forms of Royal guards littered the ground around her. Blood trickled down her chest, and one of her wings lay crumpled at her side, unwilling to fold back into place. The burnt remains of the tree where she had destroyed her children stood nearby, blackened and smouldering.
It was a fitting place to bring to a close the glory of the changeling empire.
In front of Chrysalis, two ranks of Royal Guards stood, guarding the ponies behind them.
A colourful assortment of ponies stood there, led first and foremost by Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, standing side by side, ready to enter battle together in a way that they hadn’t needed to since the days of Discord.
Six mares stood in front of the Princesses, five of them wearing special necklaces, while the sixth wore a tiara. The six ponies who carried the Elements of Harmony.
But Chrysalis had eyes only for one pony there.
He stood uncertainly off to the side, behind the guards, but away from the Princess’ and the wielders of the Elements of Harmony, watching with wide, scared eyes.
“It’s over, Chrysalis.” Celestia called from behind her guards. “You’re defeated, and alone. Give in, and we promise mercy.”
A low laugh rumbled from the Changeling Queen’s throat, before she called back to the princess; “You think I am scared of your precious Elements of Harmony?! I will never surrender!”
A Royal Guard twisted on the ground at her feet and attempted to roll over and attack the changeling, but Chrysalis just smacked him quite sharply in the face with a hoof, returning him to unconsciousness.
“Twilight. Do it.” Celestia stated, eyes narrowed on the Changeling Queen.
Chrysalis’ eyes narrowed as the six mares began to levitate, magical energies rolling off them in sweeping coronas of power, their eyes glowing an unearthly white.
As the Elements of Harmony that the six ponies bore began glow, Chrysalis squared her stance, readying herself for the coming blast.
Words from the tome echoed in her mind. The history of her people. The history that she had turned her back on.
Chrysalis’ scowled as the Elements of Harmony glowed even brighter, before a cascading wave of rainbow-like energy shot towards her.
This was it. This was the end.
The Changeling Queen lowered her head, her horn glowing intensely bright, right up until the point when the magical energies impacted her.
There was a flash of light, and a powerful magical explosion. Unconscious Royal Guards were sent spinning and tumbling away from the epicentre of the maelstrom. The ponies lined up to confront the changeling were all blasted off their hooves by the energetic expulsion of magical energies.
The magical energies faded slowly, and in the centre, nothing remained.
The changeling known as Chrysalis had ceased to exist.
She was gone.
Cee. Chrysalis. Was gone.
And he had watched it happen.
Evergreen barely remembered anything from after the confrontation. He just remembered Chrysalis, standing there as magical energies assaulted her form, rending her existence from the world, taking her away from him.
The guards had tried to ask him questions, but he was numb, unfeeling and unresponsive. He didn’t even answer a single question.
They had released him, and his hooves had carried him home. But it wasn’t his home. It was empty without Cee. It amazed him and stunned him how large of an effect she had in such a short time.
Evergreen listlessly laid down in front of his cold, empty fireplace. Cold and empty like his life now was. He felt tears brimming in his eyes, and tried to swallow them down. He was a stallion, strong, and not given to brazen shows of emotion.
But there was only so long he could hold back the floor of tears. He tried not to think about it. Tried not to feel. But every time he remembered the sound of Cee’s voice, or one of her jobing remarks, or just remember her face, the stabbing realisation that he would never have any of that again just hit him like a runaway train. It hurt.
She was gone.
Evergreen stared into the cold empty fireplace, a trail of tears falling down his cheeks. he slowly curled up on the floor and covered his face with his hooves, blocking out the world. And for the first time since he was a foal, Evergreen wept.
Two days after the confrontation, Evergreen was lying in bed, in mourning. She was gone. She had come in, stolen his heart, and now she had been destroyed. He didn’t cry any more. He didn’t sob. It wasn’t his way. He just lay there, eyes closed, as though sleeping.
Even when the door to Evergreen’s cottage creaked open, he didn’t move. It was probably a guard come to check on him, perhaps even a shopkeeper concerned by the stallion’s long absence from the town. The woodspony didn’t stir.
But then a familiar voice made him sit bolt-upright and spin around.
“Stupid oaf. Don’t even get a hello,” Cee grumbled as she limped through the door.
The woodspony stared for a long moment. He blinked slowly, stupedifed, and then launched himself at her.
Cee and Evergreen went down in a tumble of manes and tails. The woodspony proceeded to smother her face in rapid, exuberant kisses.
“Ah thought Ah had lost yer!” he exclaimed, with the most profound sense of relief in his tone.
Cee pushed at him with her hooves a moment, twisted to get out of his grip. She stared up at him for a long moment, before leaning up to kiss him gently. “You did... but only for a little while.”
Evergreen wrapped his hooves around Cee, holding her close against him. She was dirty and bedraggled with twigs and clumps of dried mud hanging from her mane and tail. She looked like she’d been through hell.
“What happened?!” Evergreen demanded, drawing back to stare into her eyes. “Ah saw you get hit... And....”
“I... don’t know. I think it blasted me away like the spell in Canterlot did,” Chrysalis admitted, burying her face against him. “I woke up in the forest. I was lost. Took me an entire day just to find my way back to Ponyville.”
Evergreen winced, his ears splaying backwards as he whispered, “Ah’m sorry, Cee.”
The unicorn peered up at him for a long moment, brow raising. “Sorry for what?”
“...Fer giving up on yer so quickly,” he responded, hanging his head. “Ah didn’t think yer go looking fer yer... Ah just thought yer were gone.”
“Wistful thinking, I’m afraid,” she said, tenderly touching his cheek with a hoof. “It’ll take a lot more than the Elements of Harmony to keep me from you. And there was no way for you to know it wouldn’t destroy me... No way for me to know, either.”
“What were yer thinking, taking on the Elements like that?” Evergreen asked, confused, clinging to her tightly to make sure she was real.
“I... I just got it in my head that the Elements of Harmony are a force of good. They’re not a weapon... They’re an equalising force. I was hoping, maybe... Maybe they could make me normal,” Chrysalis admitted, looking down at her forehooves.
Evergreen nodded, wrapping his hooves around her and holding her close. “How do yer feel?”
“...I feel weak,” Chrysalis murmured, looking up at him for a long moment, before she admitted with a soft sigh, “I can’t feel our bond any more. And I have a strange sensation in my centre that I cannot describe. I think something went wrong.”
The woodspony stared at her for a long moment, swallowing around the lump in his throat. “H-how long?”
“I... Can’t tell. I think it just... Took away my ability to feed on love. Not the worst outcome... But not the best, either,” Chrysalis said with a strained smile. “Well... At least I won’t kill you.”
“Ah guess so... but ah don’t want to lose yer...” Evergreen said, a pained note creeping into his voice. “Yer can’t just come steal my heart and then run off with it.”
Cee shook her head slowly. “I’m not going anywhere, Sir Evergreen. Not until the end. And that could be, hopefully, at least another week from now.”
A faint sigh left the stallion and he pulled her back into the hug, resting his head on her chest. “Ah love yer, Cee. Or Chrysalis, if that’s what yer want me to call yer.”
“Chrysalis is dead. I’m Cee now. Cee the unicorn. I can’t ever risk changing back into my ‘true’ form, and if I tried, I’d just lose energy and time. Chrysalis doesn’t exist any more,” Cee said, nuzzling the top of his head gently.
“So it all worked out then?” Evergreen queried, turning his head to look up at her.
“My impending death through lack of energy notwithstanding,” Cee corrected. “Which... I think is a better way.”
“Better than what?” Evergreen asked, blinking once.
“Better than watching you waste away, stupid oaf,” Cee responded. Her tone softened. “I just... I wouldn’t be able to watch that... I’d rather it be me.”
The stallion stared up at her mournfully for a moment, and hugged her a little bit tighter, closing his eyes. “And now ah have to be the one to watch yer waste away.”
“I’ve lived a very long time, Evergreen. No one lives forever. I’m just... sad that it had to be so soon after I found you.” Her voice broke and she swallowed hard, trying to fight back the tears as she stroked gently through his mane. “But I’m glad I met you, Evergreen... You showed me what love is. And that’s worth more alone than all the days I’ve lived so far.”
“It’s not fair,” Evergreen stated.
“Life isn’t fair,” Cee replied with a shake of her head. “But we’ll make the most of our time together, yes?”
The woodspony looked up at her for a long moment and he nodded slowly. “Ah promise. These’ll be the happiest days of yer life.”
Wrapping her hooves around the stallion and gently stroking down his neck with a hoof, Cee didn’t respond.
Several long minutes later Evergreen lifted his head and blinked at her. An expression of surprise appeared on his face as he stated, “Yer stomach grumbled.”
Cee stared at him for a long moment, bewildered.
“Yer stomach, it grumbled!” Evergreen repeated, rising to his hooves excitedly.
The unicorn just stared up at Evergreen for a long moment. “I fail to see the significance.”
Evergreen bounced in place for a moment, before bolting off into the other room with a quick, “Wait here!”
Cee shook her head slowly. She rolled over to lay her head on her hooves.
The stallion returned a few minutes later, holding aloft a steaming bowl, which he placed down in front of her. “Try that!”
The unicorn stared up at him for a long moment, wrinkling her nose, “I don’t think your herbs are going to help me with this.”
Evergreen stamped his hoof once, and narrowed his eyes at her with such a pointed glower that she went silent and pulled the bowl towards her. A wooden spoon was stuck in one side of the bowl, and she tentatively pulled it out, watching the thick stew drip back into the bowl. She sighed faintly, and then popped it in her mouth, drawing the pulpy mass of stewed vegetables off of it.
The taste was strong and potent, with a hint of spice in the aftertaste. But it wasn’t until Cee swallowed that she felt her stomach seeming to flip-flop inside her. She shuddered faintly at the odd sensation and in an instant, she fell ravenously on the bowl of food. Spoonful after spoonful of food was shoveled into her maw, the unicorn disregarding the burning of the hot meal sliding down her throat.
It was like feeding from love; the same kind of warmth filled her, soothing her hunger. But it was strange; whenever she had eaten food previously, she garnered no enjoyment from it. The taste had been the only redeeming factor but now, a heavy weight settled in her stomach, pleasantly warm and soothing.
A happy sigh left the unicorn, and she pushed the bowl aside before splaying out on her stomach with a low grown.
Evergreen’s grinning face appeared above her, upside-down, as he said joyously, “Ah knew it!”
“Knew what?” Cee asked, staring up at him.
“Yer a changeling,” Evergreen stated.
“...I thought we got past that revelation a few days ago,” Cee said bluntly.
“No, Ah mean, yer an old changeling! Like before yer all got twisted and evil and monster-ish,” Evergreen corrected with a grin.
“How very eloquent,” the unicorn responded with a roll of her eyes. “So... you think I’ll be sustained with regular food now?”
“It looks like it, don’t it!” Evergreen responded with a smile, leaning down to kiss her forehead. “Try ter change!”
Cee looked up at him uncertainly for a moment, her ears splaying backwards. After a few seconds she peered up at him, her expression uncertain, “Did it work?”
Evergreen peeked down at her, raising a brow. “What did yer change?”
“I tried to change my eyes...They’re still normal?” she asked, starting to sound worried.
“They’re still unicorn eyes, if that’s what yer mean.”
The unicorn lifted herself to her hooves suddenly, pulling out from underneath the woodspony and galloping over to the mirror. She stared at herself in it, eyes wide. Her face contorted as she tried to change her form, getting more and more desperate with each failed attempt.
Evergreen ambled up besides her, gently placing a hoof on her shoulder. “Cee, stop it. It’s not gonna work.”
Cee stared at him in the mirror for a moment before deflating, “I... suppose so.”
The woodspony wrapped his hooves around her in a firm hug, holding her close. He murmured soothingly, “It’s better than the alternatives.”
“I know... It’s just...”
“Would yer be wanting ter change at all again?” Evergreen asked bluntly.
Cee leaned against him slightly with a soft sigh. “I... guess not. No. but... it was the only thing I had left. It was the only thing left that made me, me.”
Evergreen shook his head slowly a moment, and kissed her cheek gently. “Yer not Chrysalis any more. Yer Cee. My Cee.”
The unicorn nodded, leaning up to kiss him in return, wrapping her hooves around him.
Everything that made her a changeling was gone. She couldn’t change. She couldn’t feed on love. She didn’t even have her changeling army more, thanks to her own actions.
Cee looked back on everything she had done for this simple woodspony, everything she had sacrificed just to be with him. She had given up who she was, as a changeling, for him.
“No regrets.” Cee whispered, as she wrapped her hooves around him in a warm hug, resting her cheek against his own with a smile. “I love you, Evergreen.”
The woodspony smiled and nosed against her. “Ah love yer too, Cee.”
Cee looked about the cottage, and the simple life that was now her future. And she smiled. She was content. She would have no regrets. All that mattered now was her future with Evergreen; everything in the past was in the past.
And looking up into Evergreen’s eyes, Cee realised something.
After all was said and done; it wasn’t perfect.There were things she had done. Horrible, terrible things, to arrive at this point. And all her days would be tainted by that. But this imperfect situation was the end of her story. The end of her reign as Queen.
But most of all,
This was her happily ever after.