Augury slowly lowered himself into the clearing that Chrysalis had made her domain, carefully making sure that Twilight Sparkle stayed balanced on his back. Though his face did not show any emotion beyond disgust of the six cocoons next to him, Augury felt a happiness like no other boiling within him. Twilight Sparkle finally captured and brought to the clearing, Augury’s current missions had come to a close. Equestria’s most powerful weapon stripped from it’s hold, the land of ponies would have to put up a fight to protect itself from the approaching onslaught. As new changelings began to form in their home on the far outskirts of Equestria, Chrysalis finally had a feeling of power again, her army only just in its first stages. Changelings would rise from the defeat they had so foolishly brought upon themselves, and their power would be unknown to the target Chrysalis had in her mind. Despite Augury’s knowledge of the rise of changelings, nothing would distract him from releasing Tranquility from her cocoon and turning himself back into a pony.
Augury slowly lifted Twilight Sparkle off of his back and levitated her over to the sixth and final cocoon on the line of trees, a guilty smirk on his face. Twilight slept quietly under the spell Augury had cast on her shortly after his escape from the library, Augury picking away at the sticky binds around her mouth and hooves with his magic. The dark blue goo gone from Twilight’s hooves, Augury placed the lavender unicorn in her awaiting cocoon, securing her back hooves in the green goo at the top of the cocoon. The open area of the cocoon’s surface sealed together, Augury left outside in the clearing staring at the completion of his missions. Augury scanned his eyes across all six of the green caskets hanging from the trees lining the clearing.
“...I truly am sorry.” Augury spoke softly. “If it weren’t for Tranquility, I would have set this all aside. You six would be in your homes where you belong. But I have a mare to keep safe, and I’m not going to let anything happen to her as long as I’m alive. You have every reason to hate me, and I don’t hold anything against you. I’ll do my best to not let anything happen to you or your families. Again, I’m sorry.”
Augury knelt forward and poked his horn into the cocoon in front of him, releasing the assimilation gas that he assumed would be his last time to use it. For a sixth time, the breathing inside of the cocoon in front of Augury grew coarse, but gradually came to a calm and eased breathing pattern.
“Well, Augury, here we are.” Chrysalis spoke from off to Augury’s right, the changeling queen slowly emerging from the shadows of the clearing’s edge into the moonlight. “All six of the mares that you were told to bring back right here. I had my doubts with you, but you seemed to pull through and exceed my expectations. You’ve come far from being just a normal changeling.”
Augury kept his eyes ahead of him into Twilight’s cocoon. “I did what I was told to do. I captured your targets and I brought them back.”
“And a job well done, I must say. You have certainly proved yourself to be a perfect fit for the job.”
“Remind you that I didn’t apply for it. You took me and Tranquility away from Equestria, and I’m expecting you to put us back.” Augury turned to face Chrysalis. “I got all of your targets, now let Tranquility go, as well as me.”
Chrysalis stood still for a second, staring at Augury with surprise, but suddenly felt the large urge to burst into laughter. “You’re kidding, right? Do you think with just six mares I’m going to let you and Tranquility go?”
Augury stamped his hoof on the ground. “You said you would! When I got all of your targets, you said you would free Tranquility!”
“If you remember back, I never said such a thing. I told you that you had two groups of targets, one group in Ponyville and on the other in Canterlot. You are far from being let go, Augury, you can bet on that.”
“Who else do I have left!? You got the possessors of the Elements of Harmony, what more could you want!?”
“I will tell you later, just know now that you are not done with your work here. Tranquility will remain in her cocoon until I say she is to be let out. You have another group of targets to restrain and take back here, if I must refresh your memory.”
Augury opened his mouth to make a rebuttal, but found himself at a loss for words. Now that he dug back into his memory, Augury realized that Chrysalis had never said anything about letting Tranquility or him go, but only that Tranquility would stay in her pony form. With the sudden recollection of his thoughts, Augury bit his lip.
“What more do I have to do? More assimilation targets or what?” Augury asked, staring at Chrysalis angrily.
“Well, I’m going to have to do some planning first. I’ll tell you your targets later, but for now, take a little break for your work so far.” Chrysalis said, walking off towards the middle of the clearing.
Augury shook his head and slowly lowered himself to the ground, digging at the dirt beneath him. Something seemed off about the floor of the clearing, however, as Augury lifted his head from the spot that he laid upon. Small patches of grass in the clearing were completely gone, only leaving small circles of dry and brittle dirt that would take a jackhammer to make a chip in them. The barren circles of dirt seemed to have a green glow deep into the small cracks in them, Augury leaning to his right to examine a dead patch of the clearing next to him. Upon further inspection of the clearing around him, Augury noticed that some of the trees that he had not destroyed were missing their leaves, some of them even leaning limply off to the side with their roots showing. Even a feral timberwolf would notice that this was not natural, and more than that, the definite work of a changeling.
Augury focused his sight on Chrysalis, who carefully balanced a stick on her outstretched hoof. “Chrysalis? Do you want to explain to me why parts of the clearing are beginning to look like my attempts to make brownies?”
Chrysalis sighed frustratingly as the stick on her hoof lost balance and fell to the ground. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“What do you think?”
Chrysalis leaned her head to her side and peered at the ground, grimacing at the sight of the dead circle of dirt next to her. “What did you do to your brownies, put concrete in them? That’s disgusting if that’s what they look like.”
“Just tell me why the clearing looks like it’s dying.”
The changeling queen laughed quietly. “I decided this would be a good time to start making more natural changelings. They need nutrients to grow in their little bubbles and I’m not going to be able to give them any, so they take it from the landscape around them.”
“Did this happen with your last army?”
“Yes, it’s not abnormal in a changeling’s birth cycle. Soon enough, this entire forest will be as barren as these little spots on the ground.”
Chrysalis quickly turned her head toward Augury as the sound of a large release of air came from behind him, followed by a series of cracking and tired moans. Augury stood up and faced the origin of the noise as well, a concerned feeling washing over him at the sight of what had happened. The cocoon on the other end of the line of the six Augury stood in front of had been shattered open, a tired and dazed newly born, rather, assimilated changeling laying on the ground. The process complete, her white coat and blue eyes had gone from existence, only to gain insect-like wings and a new silky mane and coat, along with bright cyan eyes. The shade of her coat closely resembled Augury’s, though her mane retained the same color as before, only in a more lustrous and smooth fashion. Rarity had the basic look of a changeling, it would be up to Augury, however, if she would act like one.
Chrysalis shifted her eyes to Augury. “So it would seem that the first of your targets has completed the process already.”
“Five days. That’s significantly less than your assumptions of a month to a year period before they were fully changelings.” Augury’s voice remained calm, despite the thought that stayed in his head about the decision he would have to make.
“I said that your changeling magic was developing, it would have taken less time anyways. I... just didn’t anticipate them to complete the process of assimilation so quickly.”
“...I guess I should probably get to her before she fully comes to then. How exactly do I do this if I choose to?”
“It’ll come naturally, don’t worry. Just concentrate on your magic and be in physical contact of her. Simple as that.”
“Okay. Chrysalis, I think it’s best if you go hide somewhere. She might panic more if she sees a you and me more than if it’s just me.”
Chrysalis nodded abruptly and slowly waltzed her way into the shadows of the forest’s canopy. Augury stood silent in the clearing for a moment, gathering his thoughts as he stared at the dead patch of grass Chrysalis had been sitting next to. His mind made up about his decision, Augury slowly turned around to face Rarity, the newly ‘born’ changeling gaining her composure as she attempted to stand onto her hooves.
“Oh my... what happened? Where am I?” Rarity asked herself, rubbing her head as she stood upright and peered into the forest beyond the clearing. Seeing the ominous green glow not far from the clearing, the once white unicorn instantly knew that something wasn’t right about her current situation. Feeling a bit of paranoia come over her the long she stared into the forest, Rarity turned her head back to the clearing. The sight of the dead patches of grass and trees only made her mind race faster. However, nothing amounted to the sudden sight of the cocoons lined along the clearing to her left. Curious yet scared, Rarity weakly trotted herself over to the cocoon she had come out of, lifting her hoof up to the clear side of the cocoon and letting out a small whimper.
“Pink... ie Pie?” Rarity managed to mutter, letting her mouth drop partially at the sight of the familiar looking pony within the cocoon. A recognition of familiar, though, was a little far from the slowly assimilating pony that hung upside down in the green casket. The pony known as Pinkie only showed minor signs of her once pony form, her process nearly completed. Unknown to Rarity, she couldn’t be saved.
“What has happened here?” Rarity asked herself, quickly running down the line of cocoons. “Fluttershy, Applejack, Rainbow Dash... Twilight? I...”
Rarity suddenly found herself at a loss for words, but soon after, another voice took over.
“They’re fine. You don’t have to worry about them.” Augury spoke from the center of the clearing.
Rarity jolted strongly and whipped around to face the clearing’s center, freezing with fear at what stood in the middle of the decaying circle of changelings.
“Wha... you are...” Rarity mumbled.
“A changeling, yes. Is something the matter?”
“You... you’re a monster! It was you that took my friends, wasn’t it!? What are you doing to them!? I thought changelings were gone!”
“If you thought the queen was defeated with just a single spell, you’re wrong. While her subjects are gone, she still has power, and unfortunately, I was caught in its web. You’re not very different from me, Rarity.”
Rarity gasped and took on a shocked pose, lifting a hoof limply and turning sideways partially. “How do you know my name? Who are you?”
“My name is Augury, well, now it is. I would rather you not know my pony name.”
“Like I said, we’re similar, me and you. I was a pony once, you were a pony once. I got myself into this mess, and I couldn’t help but drag you and your friends into it. As I said the night you were taken, I’m sorry. I really did have a nice time with you and your friends.”
Rarity stood still, staring at Augury with surprise sparking wildly in her eyes. Her memory was hazy, but Rarity could vaguely remember the words that had come out of Serenity’s mouth before everything went black.
“...Serenity? But she was a mare! How do you know about her?” Rarity shouted.
“If you didn’t get the hint from what I look like, I’m a changeling. I can take any form of anything and anyone, even the ponies that you think were your friends. Take a look at yourself, you’ll find that you can do the same.”
Rarity begun to open her mouth to speak as she pointed her hoof out in front of her, but found the words stuck in her throat as her eyes met with her hoof. It wasn’t the same pure white shade that had been there the last time she looked at her hooves, but only a darker shade that did not belong on her. Upon looking at the rest of herself in the reflection of Twilight’s cocoon, Rarity was almost unable to recognize herself at all.
The newly made changeling slowly backed further into the clearing away from her reflection. “Oh, I look horrid! How did this happen!? Am I... am I a-!?”
“Changeling?” Augury spoke as Rarity came within a few feet of him.
Rarity quickly turned herself around, making a small growl at Augury. “This is just a dream, right? I’m going to wake up! This is all just one silly dream! This can’t be happening, can it?”
Augury slowly stepped forward at Rarity, the changeling in front of him backing away at the same pace. “This isn’t a dream as much as I or you want it to be. Things are changing now and there’s nothing I can do to stop it unless I sacrifice more than I want to.”
Rarity came to a stop as she felt Twilight’s cocoon rub against her flank, watching as Augury stopped less than a foot in front of her. As much as she despised the brutality of fighting, Rarity couldn’t think of anything else that would get her out of the situation she was stuck in. As elegantly as she could, Rarity lifted a hoof into the air and brought it forward as fast as she could, turning her head away. Feeling her hoof stop hard on something, a smile formed on Rarity’s face and she turned her head back to Augury, only to have the smile shattered. Rarity’s hoof stayed in the air where it was, Augury’s own hoof holding onto hers.
“Why must you do this? What have I ever done to you?” Rarity asked.
“You haven’t done anything. I’m doing this because I have to, that’s all you need to know. I promised your sister that I would keep you out of harm’s way, and I intend to do so.”
Augury closed his eyes and held tighter onto Rarity’s hoof. Though she tried to pull away from the changeling holding onto her, Rarity was stuck where she was, staring at Augury with wide and pleading eyes. A dark blue aura slowly traveled down from Augury’s horn throughout his body, coming to a single pulse that coasted down his leg and into the hoof holding onto Rarity. Without a moment of hesitation, the ring of magic separated from Augury and quickly coursed into Rarity’s hoof, spreading out through her body and slowly dissipating into a mist in the air. Augury opened his eyes again and took his hoof off of Rarity, staring blankly at what he had done. Rarity stood still against Twilight Sparkle’s cocoon, staring off into the forest behind the changeling in front of her. A dark blue tint had taken over her cyan eyes, Augury’s cast to control the changeling a success.
Augury turned his head into the forest beyond the clearing. “It’s done, Chrysalis... you can come out.”
Hoofsteps slowly came forth from the shadows on the outline of the darkness, Chrysalis coming back into the moonlight with a smirk on the other side of the clearing. “It’s done? Did you take control of her, or what?” The changeling queen asked.
“She’s under my control. Now, what exactly do I do with her now?”
“Well, quite frankly, whatever you want. You could use her as a partner on your missions, a playmate for when you start to get bored around here, maybe even a substitute for Tranquility.”
Augury snapped Chrysalis an aggravated look.
Chrysalis laughed as she came to a stop next to Augury. “You get my point. All you have to do is give her a verbal command and she’ll be on her way. I really wish I would’ve taken control of you. So many possibilit-!”
“Rarity, stick by your cocoon. Don’t move a muscle unless I say so.”
Chrysalis lifted and eyebrow and faced Augury as Rarity trotted over to her cocoon, the small changeling looking up at her. “What? You’re just going to make her sit there?” Chrysalis asked.
“I promised Rarity’s sister that I would keep her safe. She isn’t going to be moving anywhere until I say she can.” Augury retorted.
The changeling queen sighed frustratedly and began to walk into the middle of the clearing. “She is going to have to get some sort of energy, you realize that. She may be in your control, but she doesn’t get energy from you. She’s going to have to have some sort of love to feed on.”
“I have that covered.” Augury said as he began to follow Chrysalis.
“Oh really? What genius plan do you have now?”
“Nothing that would matter to you. Can I know my next targets now, or are you just going to keep running your mouth?”
Chrysalis and Augury stood in the middle of the clearing, staring at each other intently.
“Now now, Augury, just because you’ve captured your targets doesn’t mean your good work is going to keep me from turning Tranquility, so I suggest you watch your tone.” Chrysalis hissed.
“My targets?” Augury persisted.
The changeling queen giggled to herself and patted Augury on the head, Augury pushing her hoof away from himself. “First off, I’m going to need to give you a rank.”
“Need I remind you this is an army we are building. Now that there are other changelings in the mix, I’m going to need to give you a rank to separate my star changeling from the rest of the fodder.”
“There’s only one other changeling than me.”
“Not for long, General Augury.”
“Yes. You have out-done my expectations tremendously, I figured that I could reward you somehow.”
“What am I going to be doing as a general of the changeling army once the other changelings are born? You said I have more targets, I can’t just sit around here and command the other changelings around, if a general in your army is the same in the Equestrian army.”
“Ah, you’ll be doing much more than that. As one of the generals, you’ll lead changelings into battle first hoof.”
“Into battle. As in all-out war battle?”
“This is only the beginning of the changeling rise, Augury, there is so much more to be done. With the capture of your next targets, Equestria will be screaming for mercy, and that’s when we will strike them.”
“Who exactly will I be taking that will make Equestria scream for mercy?”
Chrysalis giggled to herself, almost manically. The changeling queen leaned in closer to the changeling general in front of her, smiling with a wide grin.
“Why, the princesses themselves, of course.”