81w, 1dTwilight's Library
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Twilight shook her head and sighed as she looked down at Spike, who was sound asleep in his bed. Placing her hoof on the sleeping dragon, she tried rocking him awake. “Spike…Spike?”
The young dragon ignored her, shifting away from her hoof while mumbling something in his sleep. Twilight snorted in frustration. She did not have time for this.
Her horn began to glow, and a large orb of water quickly formed above Spike. When it was a sufficient size, she ended the spell and let the water pour down on the sleeping dragon. The ice-cold liquid shocked him awake, evoking a loud cry of surprise.
“Twilight! What was that for?” Spike cried as he stood up and wringed out his tail. “You got my bed all wet! It’ll take forever to dry!”
“Sorry Spike, but you weren’t getting up when I told you to!” Twilight said, “It’s almost noon! You were supposed to be awake much earlier than this.”
“Well maybe I would have been, if you and Ditto hadn’t been keeping me up all night with your gushing over “Goldwing the Magical!” Spike growled.
“It’s “Goldhoof the Magical,” Spike,” Twilight corrected him, “And it’s a very well-written and intriguing adventure-mystery series!”
“Yeah yeah, whatever.” Spike said, ignoring Twilight’s glare. “Just admit it; you’re still upset over Trixie calling you a liar about the Ursa Minor thing, so you’re more irritable than usual.”
“She has no right to come back here and claim that she was the one who got rid of the Ursa Minor!” Twilight said, her words filled with anger. “Her claims were full of logical fallacies! How could anypony have believed her?”
Obviously, Spike’s statement had hit home. Twilight was still fuming over the blue unicorn that had returned to Ponyville two days ago. The pompous showmare had claimed that she was the one that vanquished the Ursa Minor, and that Twilight had struck a deal with her to make it look like she was the one that defeated it. What infuriated Twilight most was that some ponies had believed the lying unicorn, simply because they couldn’t prove that she was wrong.
“Come on Twilight, this is Trixie we’re talking about. Nopony with any sense is going to believe her.” Spike said, trying to reassure her.
“Then what does that say about the ponies that did believe her?” Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow at him.
“Uh…” Spike was at a loss of words to answer.
Twilight sighed and began telekinetically picking up several books lying on the floor. She dumped some into Spike’s claws, who barely managed to keep a grip without falling over, and began putting the rest away in their proper spots on the shelves. “Well, I’m not going to think about it right now. I won’t let it bother me. I already let Ditto leave to go pick up some food at the market an hour ago, so you’re going to have to help me clean up around here.”
Spike huffed in annoyance and grabbed the ladder, leaning it against the library shelves. He climbed up and began to organize the line of books, muttering to himself all the while. “And I thought living with one bookworm was bad enough…”
Apparently, he wasn’t as quiet as he thought, because Twilight heard and turned to glare at the baby dragon. “I’m just kidding, Twilight! Sheesh…”
Twilight shook her head at the dragon’s attitude and turned back towards her work. Inwardly, she hoped Ditto would come back soon so that she’d have someone more willing to help her. Spike was a good assistant and she loved him, but he could be so snarky and belligerent sometimes.
The door to the library suddenly flew open, slamming into the wall. The unexpected noise startled Spike into almost falling off the ladder, only for Twilight’s magic to steady him just in time. Twilight turned to glare at whoever had just come in.
“What are you-” The unicorn broke off as she saw exactly who it was. Applejack was standing in the doorway, unsteady and barely keeping on her feet as she swayed slightly from side to side. Her coat, mane, and tail were dirty and messy, her eyes were dull with exhaustion, and her iconic Stetson hat was nowhere to be found. Twilight’s first thought was that the earth pony had somehow gotten into a wrestling match with a manticore and lost.
“Applejack! What happened to you?!” Twilight cried out, concern filling her voice as she ran over to her friend. The earth pony barely had the energy to speak.
“Twi…please…help…” Applejack breathed, struggling to make any audible sound. Her legs suddenly gave out and she collapsed to the ground.
“Applejack-!” Twilight began, but broke off as a green cocoon of flames suddenly surrounded the earth pony. Her eyes widened in horror as the flames cleared away as quickly as they had come.
Where Applejack had been was a creature that both greatly resembled her and was wholly different at the same time. Her coat and hair were much duller in color, and her mane and tail were stringy and filled with holes, those same small holes filling her legs as well. A dark orange, saddle-like shell covered her back, and two small, perforated insect wings stuck out from it. A short, twisted horn stuck out from her forehead, she had two long, sharp fangs, and her eyes were solid green, compounded, and filled with fear.
Twilight gasped and instinctively leapt away from the terrifying creature. Her horn began glowing with a dangerous light as she glared at it, watching the creature for any sign of hostile movement. “Who are you?! Are you a changeling?! What have you done with Applejack?!”
The changeling-like pony’s eyes lit up with alarm as she tried to back away from the angry unicorn. “Twi, please…listen ta me! It’s me, Applejack!”
“A likely story, changeling!” Twilight growled, not believing her for a second. “What’s your game? Why don’t you change back into your real form?”
“This is mah real form! I mean, it didn’t use ta be, but it is now!” Applejack pleaded, “Please Twilight, Ah’m not lyin’! Ah got trapped in one of those chrysalis things; the same as what Princess Celestia was put in! Ah barely got out lookin’ like this!”
The sheer desperation in the changeling-pony’s voice nearly convinced Twilight that she was telling the truth, but at the same time, she didn’t want to believe that this horrific creature was one of her best friends. She had to be certain.
“Alright then, Applejack,” Twilight began, emphasizing the name with a suspicious tone, “If you’re really her, you should be able to answer any question I ask you about her life, correct?”
“C-Correct…” Applejack stuttered. She looked so vulnerable that Twilight had to fight to keep up her angry, logical facade.
“Alright, listen closely. If you can answer this right, I’ll believe you.” Twilight said, “When my friends and I went on our quest to find the Elements of Harmony and defeat Nightmare Moon, what did Applejack do to prove to me that she was the Element of Honesty?”
Applejack was silent for several moments, then looked up and locked her solid green eyes with Twilight’s own purple ones. Her voice steady, she answered, “When we all went ta the Everfree Forest, we were walkin’ along a cliff side, and the cliff gave out. We all fell down it except Rainbow and Fluttershy. They managed ta help Pinkie and Rarity, and Ah caught a root stickin’ out of the rock, but you were barely hangin’ off the edge by yer hooves. So Ah went down ta help. Ah told ya that if ya let go, you’d be safe. Ah said that was the honest truth, and ya trusted me. Even though you didn’t know that Rainbow and Fluttershy were waitin’ ta catch ya, ya still trusted me ta tell the truth.”
Twilight stood frozen, eyes wide as her mind tried to comprehend what she had just heard. That conversation between them had taken place in the Everfree Forest, with no one around but their friends. Furthermore, the words they exchanged had been between her and Applejack alone, and the creature before her had recalled everything with the precision and emotion that could only come from personal experience. Though she didn’t want to believe it, she couldn’t deny the truth: this half-changeling, half-pony creature was her friend, Applejack.
“A-Applejack! Oh, Applejack, what happened to you?!” Twilight cried, tears coming to her eyes as grabbed onto the mutated pony and helped her to stand. Applejack flinched as the unicorn’s love and concern flooded into her, giving her the energy to stand on her own.
“Ah…Ah don’t really know. After we all got back here, Ah split up from Rarity and went home ta do some apple buckin’. Then, when Ah got ta the orchard, Apple Bloom followed after me and Ah let slip about that old apple cellar out there.” Applejack explained, “She wanted ta see it fer herself, so we went down there, and when as Ah turned mah back, there was a flash of green, pain, and then nothin’!”
Twilight thought Applejack’s words over, then gasped as a revelation hit her. “You don’t think the Apple Bloom that followed you was a changeling, do you?”
“Ah don’t know, maybe. All Ah know is that when Ah woke up, Ah was trapped in this weird cocoon, and Queen Chrysalis was right in front of me!” Applejack said.
“Queen Chrysalis? You mean the Changeling Queen?” Twilight asked.
“Yeah, her! But, how did ya know?” Applejack asked, “Ah only knew because she told me so herself.”
Twilight froze and looked away as she realized her mistake. She couldn’t tell Applejack that she was willingly harboring a changeling in her house, not after what the earth pony had gone through. “…I just used deductive reasoning. We only know of one changeling queen, so this Queen Chrysalis must be her.”
Twilight turned back towards Applejack, fire in her eyes. “Was she the one who did this to you?!” At this point, Twilight wasn’t sure if her hate for the Changeling Queen could grow any further; the tyrant had already hurt her brother, her foalsitter and her mentor, and she had tried to take over Equestria. And now she had come this close to turning one of her best friends into a monster! The unicorn was certain that the next time they met, she would not be merciful.
“Ah don’t know. Ah blacked out again shortly afterwards, but she said something about “provin’ Ah deserve ta keep mah life.” Ah don’t know what that means, though…” Applejack trailed off.
“So, what? Do you think she was testing to see if you could break out on your own?” Twilight asked suspiciously.
“Maybe, Ah-! That’s not important right now!” Applejack suddenly shouted. “Twi, Queen Chrysalis is here! In Ponyville! And there’s more!”
“More? What more could there be than the Queen of Changelings hiding out right here in Ponyville?” Twilight asked.
“She’s not the only one hidin’! On mah way over here, Ah kept out of sight, but Ah saw a lot of ponies who looked really weird. There was some sort of green fire on them, and some part of me is tellin’ me that those ponies are changelings!”
“You can detect changelings? This must be a result of your mutations.” Twilight said. A though suddenly came to her. “So if you can see them, can they see you?”
“Ah don’t know, maybe. Recently, there has been some weird buzzin’ in the back of mah head; like voices, but too faint ta make out.” Applejack said. “But Twi, there were a lot of changeling’s out there, maybe even more than actual ponies! Do ya know how bad this is?!”
“I know! I know this could threaten the safety of everypony in Ponyville if left alone!” Twilight said, looking very stressed.
“Well, what are ya waitin’ for, then? Write ta Princess Celestia, tell her what’s goin’ on!” Applejack yelled.
“I…” Twilight trailed off as she thought about the situation. Queen Chrysalis and her changelings being in Ponyville was something that would need to be reported to the princess right away. But if Princess Celestia did come, what would happen to the changelings that weren’t causing trouble, like Ditto or Mirror? As much as Twilight didn’t want to admit it, she had grown attached to the shy, wingless changeling that she shared so many interests with, and she was scared of what Princess Celestia would do if she found out about her. Maybe if she went and found Ditto now, she could convince Princess Celestia to help without condemning every changeling in Ponyville.
“…Applejack, does anypony else know about this?” Twilight asked the former earth pony.
“No, Ah came straight here as soon as Ah had the energy ta do so. Ah couldn’t bear it if mah family saw me lookin’ like this…” Applejack said miserably. No tears formed in her eyes, though, and Twilight hit upon the sad realization that the changeling-pony wasn’t capable of that anymore.
The earth pony’s condition scared Twilight. Her looking like this meant that changelings were capable of transforming ponies into them by mutating them in chrysalises. She didn’t want to think about how many of the changelings they had fought had could have once been ponies themselves, or how close Princess Celestia and Applejack had come to sharing the same fate.
“…I’m sorry Applejack, there’s something I have to do first.” Twilight said, hurrying towards the door and trying her best to ignore the changeling-pony’s curious stare. “You’re exhausted, so I need you to stay here and recover your strength. If you go out as you are now, you’ll cause a panic. Spike will take care of you while I’m gone.”
“Me?” Spike asked, sparing a nervous glance at the mutated earth pony. She merely glared at him in response, silently daring him to say one word about her appearance.
“Yes, you! I’ll only be gone a little while. I have to find somepony first…” With that, Twilight ran out of the library, slamming the door behind her. Spike and Applejack were left alone in tense silence.
“So…uh…” Spike began, lost for words. He suddenly screamed as a green light surrounded him and pulled him directly in front of Applejack’s face. Her new horn was glowing as she glared at him.
“You heard her. Somethin’ real bad is comin’, and Ah’m goin’ ta need mah strength for when it does come.” Applejack said slowly. “So either start thinkin’ about Rarity or get me an apple, because this whole mess is just gettin’ started.”
“Pinkie, this is a stupid idea.” Mirror said, fidgeting with her black bowler hat. “And I’m just as stupid for going along with it!”
“Aw, come on, Matchie!” Pinkie said, donning her own deerstalker hat. “This’ll be fun! And it’ll totally work, trust me!”
“Alright…” Mirror groaned, “But why do I have to be Trotson?”
“Because I’m leading this investigation, so I have to be Sherclop Holmes!” Pinkie said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Mirror opted not to say anything more on the matter, though she still fumed about it silently. But I don’t want to be the lowly assistant who asks silly questions with obvious answers!
With that, Pinkie pulled out a magnifying glass and shot out into the market, rushing up to different ponies and quickly and invasively looking them over. Mirror groaned as she followed the earth pony. This is not how you go about looking for changelings…
As Mirror walked up to Pinkie Pie, who was currently inspecting a purple earth pony with a messy mane, the changeling stopped and tried to think of something to say. “Uh…hi, Berry Punch! We’re just…uh…”
Berry Punch gave both her and Pinkie odd, lingering looks. “Hi…”
Unfortunately for her, this gave Pinkie all the “evidence” she needed to thrust her magnifying glass into Berry Punch’s face and shout, “Ah ha! See! She looked at you weird! That has to mean she’s a-!”
Before Pinkie could get any further, Mirror blanched and threw herself at Pinkie, knocking them both to the ground and covering up Pinkie’s mouth. She turned back to Berry Punch and quickly said, “I am so sorry! We’re just playing a game; nothing to worry about! Nothing to see here; you can get back to your life now!”
The earth pony raised her eyebrow in confusion, but didn’t press the issue. As she walked away, Mirror turned to reprimand the pink pony she still had locked in her hooves.
“What were you thinking? You don’t just go announcing random ponies as changelings in the middle of a crowded market square! Do you want a repeat of that first day?” Mirror whispered angrily. She let go of Pinkie to let the pony get back on her hooves.
“But Matchie! She was giving you a weird look. If other changelings can tell that you’re a changeling, then any weird looks they give you should be interpreted as a sign!” Pinkie defended herself.
“…Alright, you have a point there.” Mirror admitted, “But that weird look was directed at you, too, and it was probably because we’re wearing these silly hats and doing nonsensical detective work and violating other ponies’ personal space!”
Pinkie thought about it for a moment, blowing bubbles out of a pipe she procured from nowhere. “Huh. You may be on to something, lowly assistant.”
“…I hate you.” Mirror growled, flapping her feathery wings in agitation.
“Ah, lighten up, Matchie! I’m just kidding!” Pinkie said, “You take things way too seriously sometimes!”
“I…that’s not important right now!” Mirror shouted, then went back to whispering. “How is this going to help us find General Carbon? He could be anypony!”
“…Hmm…” Pinkie hummed, deep in thought.
“Well? What’s the plan now?” Mirror asked expectantly when the earth pony didn’t say anything.
“…I got nothing.” Pinkie finally said. Mirror facehoofed and fell over onto her back. “…Matchie?”
“Oh, there you girls are!” Mirror picked her head up at the sound of that familiar, soft-spoken voice. Seeing Fluttershy walk over to them, she got back on her hooves and smiled happily at the pegasus.
“Hi Fluttershy!” Pinkie greeted her.
“Hi Pinkie!” Fluttershy greeted back. She turned to Mirror and asked, “Where were you last night? You didn’t come back to the cottage. Did something happen?”
Mirror shook her head, her smile not leaving her face. “Nah, I just decided to stay over at Pinkie’s for the night. She said you wouldn’t mind.”
“Yeah, and next time, you should come! The three of us can have a slumber party together!” Pinkie added in.
“Well, as long as you’re okay. I was worried when you didn’t come back, but I suppose it’s fine now.” Fluttershy said.
Mirror bowed her head in shame. “Sorry for worrying you.”
“Oh, you don’t need to apologize. I told you, it’s fine now.” Fluttershy insisted. Mirror nodded in acknowledgement.
“Fluttershy, Pinkie, Mirror! It’s good to see you all again!” Rarity’s voice called from behind them. The white unicorn walked up to them, her cousin Sparkler close beside her.
Sparkler smirked as she spoke. “You three are just inseparable, aren’t you?”
“We could say the same about you two!” Pinkie laughed.
Sparkler giggled softly at this. “I suppose we are. But wouldn’t you want to spend as much time as possible with a relative you haven’t seen in years?”
“…Yeah, I suppose so…” Pinkie said. Mirror noticed that the earth pony actually seemed to be seriously thinking the question over.
“But really, the three of you are almost always together!” Sparkler said, “Such a close group of friends…”
Mirror blushed at Sparkler’s words. “We’re not that close…”
Right after speaking, the changeling gave a small shout as she was swept up in Pinkie’s grip. The earth pony wrapped her right foreleg around Mirror’s shoulder. “Don’t be so modest, Matchie! We’re all friends here! It’s nothing to be ashamed of!”
Mirror slipped out from under Pinkie’s foreleg and nodded. “Yeah, I know. It’s just…weird. I’ve never had friends like you guys before.”
“Yes, I imagine a childhood of being seen as a copy of a storybook character would result in that.” Rarity said. Sparkler nodded her agreement, though her expression was unreadable.
Mirror nodded silently, hoping not to discuss the topic of her fake history any further.
“By the way, Pinkie, Fluttershy, did you know that that showmare Trixie is back in town?” Rarity asked.
“No, I didn’t know she was back.” Fluttershy said, looking at Mirror, who shrugged in response. We must have missed her, whoever she is.
“Of course I did! I gave her an invitation to come to Matchie’s Not-So-Surprise Party!” Pinkie said. She suddenly looked unhappy at the memory. “She didn’t come, though…”
“I’m not surprised. No doubt the “Great and Powerful Trixie” considers herself above such festivities.” Rarity said, rolling her eyes. “She actually had the nerve to come back and claim that she vanquished the Ursa Minor and that Twilight was a fraud! Can you believe her?”
“That’s awful...” Fluttershy said.
“This Trixie sounds like quite the attention-seeker.” Sparkler observed. “Aiming to win the crowd’s love and admiration; perhaps she’s a changeling herself?”
The five mares fell silent as they considered the possibility. “…Huh, I never thought of it that way…” Pinkie said, deep in thought.
Not knowing who Trixie was, Mirror found that the conversation held little interest to her. While Pinkie and Fluttershy continued conversing with Rarity and Sparkler, she looked around the market for anyone else she knew well. Turning away from her friends, she could see Applejack running her apple stand and talking with her little sister. The market was too crowded with ponies for her to listen in on what they were saying, though.
I just realized that I might have an eavesdropping problem. Mirror thought absentmindedly. She shrugged and dismissed the thought. Not my fault changeling hearing is so much better than pony hearing, though.
Mirror watched as Applejack ruffled Apple Bloom’s mane, earning what she assumed to be shrieks of protest from the young filly. Applejack gave her a mischievous smile, her eyes closed. When she opened them again, Mirror’s heart skipped a beat as she saw the earth pony’s eyes light up with a bright green glow for a split second. Apple Bloom’s eyes flashed briefly with a similar light, after which she ran off as soon as her sister let her go.
Mirror took a hesitant step forward, as though she couldn’t believe what she had just seen. “It can’t be…”
“Mirror, is something wrong?” Mirror turned to see Fluttershy giving her a concerned look. The pegasus’s words had attracted the attention of the other three ponies as well.
“Um…I just-” Mirror broke off at the sounds of fearful screaming and angry shouting nearby. The changeling whirled around to face the source of the sounds: a black unicorn cornered by two Canterlot unicorn guards.
“It looks like another changeling’s been discovered...” Sparkler sighed, shaking her head.
Mirror barely took notice of the unicorn’s words, however. She focused on the black pony cowering before the guards. Please, don’t let it be her…
One of the guards shouted something at the transformed changeling, who opened her eyes to reveal solid purple underneath. Dismay and horror filled Mirror as her fears came true. Ditto!
“Wait! Don’t hurt her!” Throwing aside all thoughts of rationality and self-preservation, Mirror spread her wings and shot into the growing crowd of ponies coming to witness the event.
“Matchie, wait!” Pinkie cried out to the changeling, a hoof futilely extended towards her.
“Oh dear…” Fluttershy said. The two dashed after their friend into the crowd of ponies, leaving Sparkler and Rarity to exchange confused looks and follow.
Mirror pushed her way through the crowd of ponies, finally bursting out into open space and skidding to a halt between Ditto and the two guards. She stood tall, her wings spread out imposingly and her gaze determined as she stared down the two surprised guards.
“You can’t hurt her! I won’t let you!” Mirror yelled, casting a glance behind her at Ditto who looked at her with similar surprise to the guards, but with a hint of gratitude as well. She quickly averted her gaze to face the guards once more.
“Miss, you may not be aware of this, but this creature you are defending is a changeling. We have received several pictures from an anonymous source showing her transformation and true form. Please, stand aside and allow us to apprehend it before it can do any further harm to Ponyville.” One of the guards said, recovering from his shock and returning her stare.
“But you can’t! She hasn’t done anything wrong!” Mirror insisted. She could hear the muttering of the crowd, confused and suspicious, but she didn’t pay it any mind. Ditto needed her help.
“Ma’am, this creature is a changeling, one of the monsters that threatened to destroy Equestria. She is dangerous and must be-” The guard broke up as his partner motioned for his attention. “What is it, Spell Tome?”
The second guard, Spell Tome, pointed towards Mirror and asked, “Hey Grimoire, Isn’t she the pony that shopkeeper told us about? The pegasus that assaulted him and threatened him with torture?”
Mirror froze as she realized what they were talking about, a wave of fear and embarrassment washing over her. Feathers. Should have realized that was going to come back and bite me in the flank someday.
“Um, is that really important right now-!” Mirror’s words caught in her throat as Grimoire suddenly raised his spear and pointed it at her throat.
“You’re under arrest for assault and threats of torture!” Grimoire told her.
“Hey, that’s not fair! You ponies get into fights all the time and nopony ever-” The spear was now hovering mere centimeters away from her neck. “Woah, now! Let’s not get violent; there are foals here!”
Cautiously raising her hoof, Mirror pushed away the spear and backed away, closer to Ditto. “And anyway, this isn’t about me! This is about her!”
“Ah yes, the changeling.” Grimoire nodded. He pointed his spear at Mirror once more. “I’m telling you one last time, ma’am; step aside and allow us to apprehend this creature before we have to forcefully remove you!”
“Stop pointing that at me!” Mirror growled, leaping backwards away from it. “And you can’t apprehend her; she hasn’t done anything wrong!”
“She is a threat to the citizens of Ponyville and must be-” Grimoire began.
“But she isn’t!” Mirror cut in, “She’s a mutant; she has no wings and her magic is weak. She can’t even shapeshift properly!”
Mirror heard Ditto let out an indignant “Hey…” and glanced back at the changeling, giving her a light glare that said ‘be quiet and let me help you!’. Ditto nodded and didn’t say anything more.
“…You seem to know a lot about this changeling.” Grimoire said slowly, “But how could you know so much unless you’ve known about her and haven’t alerted the guard, in which case you are aiding a criminal, or you yourself are also a changeling?!”
The crowd of ponies let out shocked and horrified gasps, but Mirror, to her credit, kept her face straight. She turned to Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, who had pushed their way to the front. Seeing their dismayed expressions, guilt filled her and she gave them both an apologetic, sorrow-filled glance. I’m sorry…
Closing her eyes, she slowly turned back towards the guards. I wish this didn’t have to happen, but I can’t let another of my siblings suffer in front of me.
Her eyes snapped open, revealing pupil-less eyes that glowed with a dangerous green light. The guards looked visibly shocked, and several ponies took a step back, fear spreading amongst the crowd. Standing tall, she directed her venomous gaze towards the two guards before her. “I am Mirror, a changeling, and I will not let you harm another of my siblings!”
Grimoire was the first to recover from his shock. Eyes narrowing, he shot his spear towards Mirror, intending to run her through. The changeling saw it coming, however, and twisted around so that the weapon shot past her. The spear stuck into the ground, and when Grimoire tried to pull it out, Mirror aimed a light buck at his horn, hitting it and disrupting the flow of magic.
Turning back towards Ditto, she shouted, “Don’t just stand there! Run!”
Startled, Ditto closed her eyes and concentrated. Her horn glowed, and a burst of green magic surrounded her. In a flash of light, the changeling vanished. Was that a teleportation spell? Strange, she shouldn’t have been able to do that so easily…
“After her! Call for backup if you have to, just don’t let that changeling escape!” Grimoire yelled to his partner. Spell Tome nodded, his horn beginning to glow for another teleporting spell, only for Mirror to take to the air and land hard on his back, interrupting his attempt.
“I told you I wouldn’t let you harm her!” Mirror yelled. The stallion thrashed around to free himself, and Mirror struggled to maintain her hold. She quickly lost her grip, however, and was thrown into the air. Spreading her wings, Mirror caught herself and hovered in the air for a split second before a blast of blue magic knocked her out of the sky. The changeling hit the ground with a painful-sounding thud.
Before she could recover, a large, armored hoof slammed onto her chest and pinned her to the ground. The force pushing down on her kept her from moving. “Resisting, huh? You just made this a whole lot worse for yourself…” Grimoire growled down at her, his horn glowing as he raised his spear once more.
Twilight quickly trotted in the direction of the marketplace, where she had instructed Ditto to go when she sent her out over an hour ago. With luck, she’d find the changeling quickly, bring her back to the library, and still have time to alert Princess Celestia to the coming threat.
As she neared the market, though, Twilight quickly became aware of the lack of sound emanating from the square. Coming closer, she saw that many of the stalls were empty, and the area around the market was uncharacteristically devoid of ponies.
Dread slowly filled Twilight as she approached. “It’s so empty. Where is everypony-”
Before she could finish her sentence, a bright bubble of green light suddenly appeared before the unicorn. Holding up a hoof to shield her eyes, she didn’t react in time to avoid the black shape that emerged from the magic burst. The shape crashed into Twilight, knocking them both to the ground.
Opening her eyes, Twilight saw a black unicorn with a black and silver mane and solid purple eyes staring back at her. “…Ditto?”
Fear lit up the changeling’s eyes as she scrambled off of Twilight. “Twilight! Twilight, I’m sorry! I am so sorry!”
“Sorry, for what?” Twilight asked, picking herself up. “Ditto, what happened? Why aren’t you using your illusion spell?”
Ditto looked ready to burst into tears. Even before she started talking, Twilight realized that she already knew the answer. “…They found out! Somepony saw me sneak out two nights ago and they took pictures and gave them to the guards! I am so sorry!”
“Wait, you snuck out?” Twilight repeated. “I told you not to! I told you that you needed to stay hidden!”
“I know, and I’m sorry! I betrayed your trust, and for that I am so sorry!” Ditto cried. “I should have told you everything sooner!”
“Should have told me everything sooner? What haven’t you told me?” Twilight asked.
Ditto froze as she realized what had slipped out. “I promise I’m not a traitor! I owe you my life and I would never to anything to hurt you!” She pleaded, “I only found out yesterday, and I should have told you, but he would have been so angry with me if I did! Please, forgive me!”
“…Ditto, what have you been doing? What’s going to happen?!” Twilight asked, placing her hooves on Ditto’s shoulders and looking the hysterical changeling straight in the eyes.
“…There’s going to be an invasion!” Ditto shouted.
“You’re not actually going to kill me, are you?” Mirror asked, a hint of fear in her voice. “I thought Equestrian guards used nonlethal force to subdue their enemies.”
“Your kind tore apart, ruined, and ended lives in that invasion.” Grimoire growled, “Equestria will be better off with one less changeling in it.” He readied the spear to stab it through her throat.
“Grimoire, Spell Tome, what are you doing?! Stop!” A familiar voice cried out. Mirror and the two guards both turned to see Twilight running towards them. The unicorn stopped a short distance away, panic written across her face.
“Miss Sparkle, this creature is a changeling; she has deceived the citizens of Ponyville and aided in the escape of another changeling.” Grimoire informed her, “She must be disposed of immediately.”
Twilight narrowed her eyes at the guard. Ditto’s warning mattered much more than getting rid of one of the few changelings that were friendly towards ponies. “What I see is two guards hurting a pony who has earned my trust and who has done nothing wrong! We have far more important things to worry about than this!”
“…Spell Tome!” Grimoire yelled to his partner. The stallion looked expectantly at him. “Expose this creature for what it truly is!”
Spell Tome nodded, his horn glowing and firing a light blue beam at the changeling. Mirror closed her eyes as the numbing wave of magic washed over her, stripping away her pegasus shell and revealing the black changeling exoskeleton underneath. The crowd of ponies gasped in horror and exploded into fearful and angry murmuring.
Opening her now solid blue eyes, Mirror looked towards the ponies surrounding them. Without the threat against Ditto to distract her, she was now keenly aware, for the first time, of the hateful glares and the scared looks of the ponies in the crowd. These looks, along with what she knew to be their whispers of betrayal, struck her more deeply than any wound. Her spirit fell and her resolve melted away.
Not wanting to see the looks on her friends’ faces, she turned her gaze back towards Twilight. The unicorn’s expression was hard to read, but she didn’t look surprised at the reveal. Of course not. She already knew, after all.
The look on Twilight’s face quickly shifted to one of frustration at the uproar going on around her. “Stop this right now! We don’t have time for this! There are more important things to worry about than one changeling!”
“…Very well, Miss Sparkle. We’ll hear what you have to say…” A look of relief crossed Twilight’s face at Grimoire’s words. “…after this creature is taken care of for good!”
Mirror didn’t see the look of panic adorn Twilight’s face once more as the spear was raised above her head. Closing her eyes, Mirror waited for the final blow.
It never came. Instead of burning agony and her own cry of pain, all Mirror heard was Grimoire’s surprised shouting and a very familiar laughter. When the hoof was suddenly lifted from her chest, Mirror opened her eyes.
To her shock, the sight that greeted her was Pinkie Pie riding Grimoire around like a bull, laughing happily and having the time of her life. With a shout of “Surprise!”, the pink pony flicked the stallion’s horn, breaking his hold and causing his spear to drop. Mirror buzzed her wings and quickly got to her feet. She caught the spear as it fell and swung it around just in time to block a strike by Spell Tome’s own weapon. With a surge of strength, the changeling pulled it upwards, catching the heads of the spears on each other and wrenching the spear out of Spell Tome’s telekinetic grip. The weapon was sent flying into the air.
Both changeling and stallion were visibly surprised by this action. I don’t remember being strong enough to do that. Could Pinkie and Fluttershy’s love have really powered me up that much?
Hearing the soft flap of wings, Mirror looked up to see Fluttershy land beside her, Spell Tome’s spear held between her front hooves. “Why did you do this, Mirror?” The pegasus whispered, “Why didn’t you just stay hidden?”
Mirror sighed and gave Fluttershy another apologetic look. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t stand by and let another of my siblings be hurt again. She’s my sister; my friend. You understand, don’t you?”
“Of course I do, and I would have done the same for my friends!” Fluttershy said. “But…now we’re all going to be in so much trouble…”
Shortly after Fluttershy finished speaking, Grimoire finally managed to buck Pinkie Pie off his back. The earth pony sailed through the air and landed next to the pegasus.
“That was so much fun!” Pinkie laughed, “Again, again! Let’s go again!”
At this point, Grimoire had had enough of their antics. The Canterlot guard glared at them with upmost hate and frustration. Even Spell Tome looked somewhat disturbed by his partner’s anger.
“Defending a changeling and attacking a member of the Canterlot Guard? You are all traitors to Equestria and by law, you are under arrest!” Grimoire shouted. The crowd broke out into more shocked muttering at this declaration.
Mirror flinched at the guard’s words and turned to her friends. Fluttershy looked upset but determined to protect her, and Pinkie Pie still looked as excited as ever. “You shouldn’t have tried to help me. Now you’re both in just as much trouble.”
Pinkie just grinned and replied, “Matchie, we’re friends! What kind of friends would we be if we didn’t help you when you needed it most?”
Fluttershy just gave a nod of agreement and smiled warmly at Mirror. The changeling returned the smile after a moment, but it soon faded as the reality of the situation sunk in once more.
“…Spell Tome, Maneuver 4! We’ll take them down here and bring them back to Canterlot for trial!” Grimoire commanded.
His partner nodded, and the two guards began charging up magic. Moments later, they fired two identical bursts of blue magic at Mirror, Pinkie, and Fluttershy. They readied themselves to get out of the way, but before they could do so, Twilight leapt in front of them. Her horn glowed, and a purple barrier sprung up in front of the four. The beams hit the barrier and exploded harmlessly against its magic surface.
Mirror stared at Twilight, who was concentrating on the barrier as the two guards continued to fire blast after blast in an effort to penetrate. “What are you-”
“Go! Run!” Twilight shouted at the three, not turning to look at them as she focused on maintaining the barrier. “I’ll hold them off and try to talk some sense into everypony, so just run!”
The crowd of ponies burst into frenzied shouting. Amidst the uproar, Mirror could pick out cries of “Monster!” and “Traitor” aimed at her, along with shouts of “Traitors!” and “Changeling spies!” directed towards Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Twilight. The insults towards her friends hurt more than the ones aimed at her.
Looking through the transparent barrier, Mirror turned her gaze towards Rarity and Sparkler. Rarity was the easier one to read, looking both shocked and upset, while Sparkler kept her face straight and her emotions secured. Despite this, though, Mirror thought she could see a hint of anger cross the unicorn’s face. Inwardly, she was thankful that Rainbow Dash wasn’t present; she didn’t want to think of how the pegasus would have reacted to all of this.
With each hit the barrier took, Mirror felt her heart break further. Of course this was going to happen. How could I ever think a changeling could live amongst ponies after everything that’s happened?
Fluttershy turned to Mirror and shook the changeling by the shoulder. “Mirror, we have to go! Please, Twilight can handle this, but we have to leave now!”
The desperation in the pegasus’s voice snapped Mirror out of her despair. She looked at Fluttershy, who gazed sadly through the barrier, and at Pinkie, who looked more serious than usual. She nodded in resignation. “Right, let’s go.”
Mirror and Fluttershy threw the spears they held aside. Giving one last regretful look back towards the crowd of ponies, the changeling turned and flew off, her two friends following close behind. They soon disappeared from sight, leaving Twilight to hold up her magic shield and continue trying to get through to the furious ponies and warn them about the threat that was closer than any of them could imagine.
In the chaos, no one took notice of the lone earth pony who hadn’t moved from her spot at her apple stand. Applejack smirked and chuckled softly at what was happening, though she felt a hint of annoyance at what it meant.
“I had hoped for a little more time.” She said to herself, “No matter, though. At least we don’t have to deal with those two empathy-stricken foals anymore. Serves them right, those traitors.”
The earth pony’s eyes flashed green as she smiled malevolently. Holding her hoof to her head, she sent out a single telepathic message.
“This is General Carbon, addressing all able-bodied changelings in the Ponyville area. It appears we’ve been found out. Begin the invasion.”
Photo flew through the winding, cavernous tunnels of the hive as fast as her wings could carry her, determined to deliver her message. Taking one final turn into a tunnel on the left side, she entered into a small chamber. Green flames floated along the walls and lit the room, revealing a few essential pieces of decorated furniture, a wide bookcase stuffed with books of all sorts, and a large map of Equestria along the far wall.
Sitting in the middle of the chamber in front of a small stone table was a petite changeling wearing a dark blue chest plate and a matching helmet with a large frill. A chess set and a ragged old doll were placed on the table. The changeling’s bright blue eyes turned towards her visitor, lighting up when she saw who it was. “Photo! How nice of you to visit me! How is dear Golden Harvest doing?”
The cheerful innocence in the changeling’s voice never ceased to confuse Photo. “The same as ever, High-General. She has proven remarkably resistant to our rehabilitation methods.”
“I see.” The High-General said, “No matter. Give it time; I’m sure she’ll come around eventually.”
“Of course, High-General.” Photo nodded.
Double gave a soft giggle and turned back towards her chess game. She never actually played chess against anyone, and the High-General herself said that the game was mostly set up for symbolism. No changeling completely understood what she meant by that.
“So, what did you want to tell me?” Double asked, “I know that’s not what you came all this way for.”
“…Oh, right.” Photo said, blinking and snapping back to attention. “High-General, we’ve received word that the invasion of Ponyville has begun. Should we begin preparation for battle?”
“Let me think on it.” Double said, “Go gather the soldiers and be ready for my decision. We shall move on my call.”
“As you wish, High-General Double.” Photo said, bowing. She turned and flew out of the room, sending out telepathic commands through the changelings’ hive mind to gather in the main chamber.
When Photo had left, Double turned back towards the ragged doll on her table. She picked it up and nuzzled it happily. “It’s all coming together, Mr. Smartypants!”
Setting the doll down, her horn glowed as she took the black king and moved it one space up. She smirked down at it “So, General, it would appear you’ve made your move at last. But I wonder, will this be your game-changing decision, or will our game finally have a rightful winner? I believe I know the answer…”
Grinning with excitement, she took the white queen and moved it diagonally upward three spaces, taking out a black pawn and placing her queen five spaces horizontal from the black king. She sat back to analyze the new position of the pieces.