"What do ya think yer doin'?!" yelled Big Macintosh, as he galloped up to Twilight.
Rainbow Dash appeared infront of him with her arms held out. He simply pushed her to the side and press his face up against Twilight's, glaring into her eyes. She took a step back and looked up at him. There was no fear in her expression.
"Rarity told me what happened. She also told me about how Isabella confessed that this changeling -" she jerked her head towards the confined changeling, "- is her half sister. If that's true, Isabella is not all she seems."
Big Macintosh's eyes flashed to Isabella for but a moment, before he glared back down at Twilight. "I don't care if she's Discord's great grand baby! Put her down or Ah'll...!" He raised a hoof as if to hit Twilight.
"Stop! Macintosh!" yelled Isabella as Twilight flinched.
He looked over at her, his hoof still high in the air.
"If you hit her, they'll tie you up too. Don't do it. Please." she said, shaking her head slightly.
Big Macintosh lowered his hoof slowly before turning again to Twilight and snarling "She protects ya and you still hold her prisoner."
"Big Macintosh! Do you even know what changelings can do? Twilight obviously knows more about these creatures than we do. Listen to her!" reprimanded Applejack.
"Dears! Lets talk this over civilly, in the house. Come now." said Rarity, striding towards her shop.
Twilight glanced at Big Macintosh, who gestured for her to move to the house. She narrowed her eyes and began walking to the house, Isabella floating behind her. Big Macintosh followed, walking next to Isabella. Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie dragged the unconscious stallion into the house as Applejack pulled the changeling in last, shutting the door behind her.
Once they were all assembled in the room that Rarity and Isabella had shared a pot of tea in, Twilight turned to Isabella and began.
"Were do you come from, really?" asked Twilight, pacing back and forth infront of her. Isabella was no longer hanging in the air, but she was heavily shackled and chained to one of the couches, her front legs stuck together by the cuffs.
"I told you already. I came from Canterlot." she said, rolling her eyes slightly.
"I'd believe that, but you are part changeling. How would the other ponies not notice you?" asked Twilight, stopping infront of her and looking her in the face.
"I kept my head down." said Isabella simply.
"You're lucky the Princess has been gone for the last twenty years. You would have been sniffed out immediately." said Twilight.
There was a mutual gasp from every pony in the room, except Isabella and Twilight.
"Wait! The Princess has been gone for twenty years?! I just thought she was ignoring us all this time! What's she been doing?" yelled Rainbow Dash.
"She's been working with powerful magic, in lands far away. She would not risk it going wrong here. I can't say anymore, or I'd tell you all the story. I don't know who she left in charge though, but they sure did a lousy job" said Twilight dismissively, before she turned back to Isabella, who snorted and added "You can say that again."
Twilight was not amused. "How did you get to Canterlot? You certainly weren't born there." Twilight said, jabbing Isabella in the chest. Big Macintosh took a step forward, but was stopped by Applejack's hoof on his shoulder.
Isabella glanced at him before looking back into Twilight's eyes. She would have to come out with the truth sooner or later. She took a deep breath and started.
"I arrived in Canterlot at the age of six. If you must know how I got there, I walked. And you're right. I wasn't born there. I was born in a far distant land, in the hive of the changelings. I am an outcast among them and do not wish to be part of them." she said, narrowing her eyes slightly.
The room went quiet as all the other ponies looked at Isabella, fear and curiosity abundant in their eyes. Twilight simply glared at her.
"That's just your word against your nature. We can't trust you Isabella." said Twilight, beginning to pace again. After another minute of silence, Twilight asked "What did you do for the thirteen years you were there?"
Isabella glanced at Big Macintosh, then closed her eyes. If she was going to confess, it would be for him, not for Twilight.
"Why do you want to know?" she asked.
"Because I need to know what you're capable of. You seem incapable of changing form, lest you would have vanished shortly after arriving here, but if you could remain undetected for so long, you must have some set of skills we don't know about." said Twilight, turning her back on Isabella.
"I was a thief. A better one then you'll ever meet. I ran half of Canterlot through the underworld." She turned her head to Big Macintosh. "I fled the city, not to flee a marriage of shame, but to flee the guards. I was caught during a heist and could no longer stay there."
She locked her eyes with his, and he stared back into hers. For several minutes they stared at each other, before Big Macintosh blinked, shook his head and looked away.
Isabella's heart broke. Her lies had been enough to drive the stallion she loved away, and the cord of light that had seemed so strong almost faded from existence. A single tear rolled down her cheek as she looked back at Twilight with a glare in her eyes. Twilight's eyes were hard.
"Fluttershy!" called Twilight without looking away from Isabella.
"Um... yes?" came the murmured response.
"Are those old caves beneath your house still functional?" asked Twilight.
"They're still fine. What do you need them for?" asked the timid mare.
"Isabella, the changeling, and the stallion will be placed there. I will make..."
"No!" interrupted Rarity.
Twilight looked at her, confusion evident on her face, her eyebrows raised.
"Put the other two ruffians there if you wish, but you will leave Isabella here, in my custody." she said, her words more of a commandment rather than a request.
Twilight looked at her for a long moment, but when Rarity's conviction did not falter, Twilight sighed.
"Very well, but she will remain locked here. I will keep the key to her restraints. We can't risk her... escaping." said Twilight, looking into Rarity's eyes before turning to the others and asking, "Any one have something else to add?"
None of the others said anything. Big Macintosh shuffled his hooves.
"Good." said Twilight as she turned to Isabella. "You are now officially under house arrest. You won't leave here until we deem it fit, or until the Princess returns and decides what to do with you. We're finished here. Rarity. Good evening." said Twilight as she trotted out of the room.
The others looked at Isabella, then at each other, and finally began to file out of the room slowly. Big Macintosh was one of the last ones to leave.
Before he left, he took one last look at Isabella, and she looked down at her hooves. She could feel his eyes on her, but she would not look at him. She knew he resented her for telling him a lie. She let out a sigh as she heard his heavy hoof steps leave the room. It was only her and Rarity left in the room now.
Isabella lowered her head and let the new tears that welled in her eyes roll down her face and off her nose. She heard Rarity walk up to her and put a hoof on her shoulder. She shrugged the hoof off and took a deep breath before saying "Please. Leave me."
She heard Rarity walk to the door, turn, and say "I'm so sorry dear." before she left the room.
Isabella buried her face into the couch, but she did not sob. She simply did not want to think. Her heart shattered, her freedom forfeit, and she knew, now that Chrysalis was involved, she would be dead soon.
Two days passed. Rarity brought food and drink up to the room every now and then. Several times she tried to start a conversation, but Isabella would not say anything. She hardly ate, and wouldn't drink anything. All Isabella did was sit on the couch she had been chained to and look down at her hooves. She had cried, but only for a short time before she fell into suppressed silence.Twilight would make occasion appearances but would never say anything to Isabella. She was merely checking to see she was still there.
On the third day, a small knock came on the door. Isabella knew it was Rarity, but she didn't respond. Rarity didn't wait for a response anyways. She pushed the door open with a small trolly that was laden down with sandwiches, two cups of an orange drink, and a pitcher of the same kind of drink. Isabella did not look up as Rarity pushed the trolly up next to her.
"I thought you may want something to eat." said Rarity. She had said that every time she had brought something up for Isabella. The result was always the same. Complete silence.
Rarity sat down across from Isabella on one of the other lush couches and said "It really is bleak in here. Maybe I should get a tapestry or two to hang about the walls. What do you think darling?" as she pushed one of the glasses toward Isabella. She didn't look at it.
Rarity looked her over. She was still beautiful, but it all seemed for not when she was so crest fallen. The light that Rarity had seen in her eyes the day previously was gone. They were dark and flat and there was no peace there. Her mane and tail seemed to have deflated and it almost looked like her coat had faded to gray.
Rarity pushed the trolly to the side, leaned forward, and placed a hoof on Isabella's shoulder. Isabella looked up at Rarity, her eyes seeming to stare through her.
"Dear? Please say something. You're scaring me." said Rarity, her eyes filled with concern.
Isabella blinked and looked back down. She had nothing to say, and even if she did, she would not be able to find her voice to say it. Her heart still beat, but its beating seemed pointless to her. Why should it keep going when she had lost the only connection of such magnitude she had ever had with a stallion? It was meaningless.
Isabella felt Rarity's hoof slip off her shoulder and heard her leave the room. A few minutes later, she heard the front door open and close. Rarity had obviously left somewhere. Isabella didn't care. She didn't even think about it. She lay her head down and let herself fall asleep.
Several hours later, after night had fallen, Isabella was still sleeping. She had been emotionally exhausted and didn't have anything better to do, but she woke when there was a knock on the door.
Isabella lifted her head and sighed without even looking at the door. She knew Rarity would let herself in. She was correct.
Rarity opened the door and stepped in quickly before shutting the door behind her. She had a small pouch in her mouth, which she dropped infront of Isabella.
Isabella looked up at Rarity. What was this? Rarity shook her head at Isabella's confused expression.
"No time to explain. Open it."
Isabella opened the pouch with her nose and looked into it. She was shocked. It was her lock picking tools. She knew where Rarity had gone now. How had she managed to get these from Big Macintosh?
She opened her mouth to say something, but Rarity said "No time! Get yourself out of those cuffs while I pack you something to take on the road. Quickly now!" she hissed as she rushed back out of the room.
Isabella stared after her in for a moment, completely flabbergasted, before she grabbed a lock pick with her mouth and began to break open the clasps around her wrists. The lock didn't last long and soon she was free. She stood and wrapped the pouch around her waist, then she trotted out of the door and down the stairs. Rarity was just finishing packing a large satchel as Isabella entered the kitchen.
"Oh good. You're ready. I've just finished packing your gear. It's not safe here for you dear." said Rarity as she brought the pack over and set it on Isabella's back.
"I don't understand. Why are you doing this?" asked Isabella as Rarity tied the satchel onto her.
"My dear. You're not a bad mare. You may have made some crumby choices in the past, but that doesn't matter. You're a good pony now. I don't care what the others say." said Rarity, patting her back as she finished tying the satchel. "Now come, He's waiting for you."
"He?" Isabella asked.
Rarity said nothing, but opened the door for her and smiled. Isabella stepped out and felt her heart stop.
Big Macintosh stood before her with a smile on his face.
The connection that had nearly dwindled between them swelled and pulsated as their eyes met. Isabella ran forward and threw her arms around Big Macintosh's neck. She felt him raise a hoof and pat her back. She pulled back and looked up at him.
"I thought you..." she started. Big Macintosh but a hoof to her lips.
"Ah knew you were more than a noble pony when Ah found you. Covered in that armor and all those knives, and Ah could understand ya lyin about that. Ah thought Ah hated you when you told us what ye were though. The way Twilight described it, you were a monster, and you had lied to me, but ah couldn't just leave you like this. Yer the closest friend ah ever had."
Isabella heard Rarity slap her face with her hoof. She knew why. Big Macintosh still had not admitted to himself that he loved Isabella back, but Isabella did not care. He did not hate her. That was all that matter to her.
"You two must leave, quickly. Twilight said she would visit to check on Isabella at midnight. Go, now!" said Rarity.
"You're coming with me?" asked Isabella, turning back to Big Macintosh, her eyes wide and her eyebrows raised. She had figured he had just come to see her off and forgive her. She never thought he would be coming with her.
Big Macintosh merely smiled and nodded.
"We gotta go." he said.
He turned and began to stride into night. Isabella waved to Rarity over her shoulder as she trotted along side Big Macintosh. Soon, they were lost to night.
Crank lifted his head off of the ground and shook it. He felt like some one had taken a large mallet to the back of his skull. He blinked several times and looked around. He seemed to be in a dimly lit cave.
"Good. You're finally awake. Now, we need to find a way out of here."
Crank turned himself over to see the changeling that had survived with him after the fight. She seemed to be in a great deal of pain, but was still capable of movement. It lifted Itself up as Crank pushed himself into a siting position.
"Where are we?" asked Crank, rubbing the sore part on the back of his head.
"Some caves under some pony's house. All I really know is that we need to get out of here." said the changeling.
Crank stood up and walked around. Soon he found the door out. He placed a hoof on it. It didn't budge, but it did vibrate slightly. He leaned against it and pushed. He felt the hinges flex. One good pound should do the trick.
"Hang on a second." said the changeling.
Crank looked over at her.
"What?" he asked impatiently.
"You really wanna barge out into another fight? We'd be out numbered for sure. And besides. From what I can tell, that door has a spell on it. What the spell does, I don't know, but I'm sure it isn't something good" said the changeling, taking a step away from the door.
"I don't care. I'm getting out of here. I have to tell Sir Roderick that we found her. We'll be rewarded for sure." he said, getting ready to charge. He didn't care if the changeling came with him. He wanted that reward. He threw himself at the door.
"Wait!" screamed the changeling.
Too late. Crank slammed into the door, sending it flying open. Moments later, he was consumed in fire. He screamed and pelted out of the caves, burning. His pleas for help and wails of pain mingled with the snap and crackle of burning flesh and fur.
The changeling stared at where the stallion had disappeared from sight for a moment, then dashed out after him. This was her only chance to escape. She could not save the stallion but he had been right. She needed to tell the queen.
It was midday after Big Macintosh and Isabella had left and they were almost to the mountains now. They had been walking all night and Isabella's feet were killing her. Isabella glanced at Big Macintosh every now and then. He had forgiven her but they hadn't spoken since leaving Rarity's, so Isabella decided to be the first to break the silence.
"Where exactly are we heading?" asked Isabella as she stumbled slightly over a larger rock.
Big Macintosh smiled as he spoke. "We need to get you to a place far from Ponyville and hidden from the eyes of this 'Sir Roderick' bloke. Ah have a private dwelling place here high up in the mountains. Ah figgered we could go there and stay fer a while. Ah think only myself and Granny Smith know about it."
Isabella looked up at the mountain and gave a small sound of discomfort. The walk would be hell, and when she thought about the prospect of literally living completely and entirely alone with a stallion she liked and she knew liked her back, even if he wouldn't admit it, made her squirm a little on the inside.
They began the climb, Isabella stumbling every now and then on a larger rock. It wasn't incredibly difficult, but after having been walking all night, Isabella was having trouble keeping up with Big Macintosh. He was taking huge strides and hardly ever stumbled. His large hooves giving him more support than Isabella's smaller ones did for her.
"So, you were a thief huh?" asked Big Macintosh. He sounded like he was just trying to start a conversation but Isabella knew he just wanted her to confirm it. To tell him it was really true.
She sighed. "Yes. I was a thief." she said, putting as much emphasis on the 'was' as possible. "I am not longer and have no interest in going back to that life."
Big Macintosh was quiet for a while. Finally, he spoke again. "What do changelings do, exactly?"
Isabella thought for a moment. She knew a lot about herself, but she was only half changeling. She hadn't spent much time learning about the pure blood changelings. She hadn't cared enough to find out.
"To tell the truth, I don't know very much about my kin. All I know is that my kind feeds off the love of other ponies. I used to be able to collect love from other pony's relationships, but now, I have to be the recipient of a pony's affection to feed off of it." she explained, trying to make if more understandable for Big Macintosh. She did not consider him a complete idiot anymore, but he still wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer.
"So, Ah'm nothing but food to you?" he asked her. He did not turn around to look at her, or even stop, but she could hear his voice grow hard.
"No." said Isabella, her tone harsh as well.
"What am Ah to ya then?" he asked, stopping this time and looking back at her.
Isabella stopped for a moment and looked up at him. She thought of telling him, just for a moment, how she really felt, but they she pushed the thought away and walked up to, and then past him, responding with her own question.
"Why do you wanna know? Interested?" ,She flicked her tail, tickling his nose slightly, and continued to walk.
Big Macintosh frowned after her for a second before following. "...Yer my friend. Maybe my best friend, but that's where it stops." he said.
Isabella smiled to herself. Rarity was right. He was pining after her and she knew it. She could hear it in his voice.
They had managed to get about a quarter of the way up the mountain and Big Macintosh was back in the lead. He was trying to maneuver over some loose rocks when Isabella saw it happen.
Big Macintosh's hoof landed on an un-sturdy rock and it slid out from under him. His ankle twisted, a howl of pain escaped his lips, and he fell to the ground with a heavy 'thump'. Isabella ran up to him as quickly as she could. He kept trying to push himself up, but would fall back down each time. Isabella ducked under his bad leg and lifted, acting as his fourth leg as she looked around for some place to for him to rest.
She spotted a small caver not far away and began to drag him towards it. When he realized what she was doing, he walked with her. With her supporting him, they limped into the cave.
After Isabella set Big Macintosh down, she pulled her satchel off and began digging through it. Big Macintosh winced every time he moved, but he did not cry out anymore. He held his hoof close to his body and made sure it didn't touch the ground.
Isabella finally found the bandages and brought them over to Big Macintosh. She had not idea what to do, but she had a general idea. She reached out to take his hoof, but he recoiled slightly as she touched him. She frowned and reached out again, this time taking hold of his hoof as she said "Don't be such a baby. I can't help you if you start acting up." a mild tone of irritation in her voice.
Big Macintosh winced as she took his hoof, but did not pull away as she began to wrap his wrist. They were both silent as she worked on his wrist. Isabella moved slowly and wrapped carefully. She would glance up at him every now and then, and each time he was looking at her.
Rarity had definitely been right.
He seemed to lean toward her, and his eyes held nothing but a strange warmth, just like that of which she got from the link of light that connected them. That too had grown stronger. It was almost as big as her torso now, and she could feel, not only was she draining love from him, but she was feeding him her own. He did not feed off of it as she did, but she could still feel her own light streaming to him.
She finished wrapping his wrist and set it down gingerly before she looked him in the eyes. Their eyes connected and she felt her face flush slightly.
"There's something you want to tell me, isn't there?" she asked, smiling at him.
"Huh?" His face crossed with confusion.
She bumped his nose with her own slightly before she said, "You know full well what I mean."
He blushed too and pursed his lips slightly, now avoiding eye contact with her.
Isabella rolled her eyes impatiently and said "If you don't say it voluntarily, I'll force it out of you."
He turned his face back towards her and arched an eyebrow. "Oh really? Gonna twist my wrist and make me squeal, are ya?" he asked sceptically.
"I have another way to make you tell me what I want to know." she said.
And without another word, Isabella lifted his face and kissed him.