Heavy winds assaulted the blue pegasus as she wended her way through the stormclouds, rolling peals of thunder and the flashing brilliance of lightning assaulting her senses.
Her name was Raindrop, and she was a junior member of the Cloudsdale Weather Patrol.
A little small for a pegasus, Raindrop was a solid blue from hoof to nose, with a two-tone cyan mane and tail styled up in an imitation of a background Wonderbolt she had seen in a very old magazine. Small stature was anything but a hindrance in her line of work though. As a storm chaser, it was her job to ensure that any clouds from the Everfree Forest or beyond didn’t get into Equestria and cause problems with the scheduled weather.
Being of smaller stature, Raindrop was an excellent flier. Not as far as most of the other pegasus, she made up for it in pure maneuverability. She could fly circles around other pegasus with ease.
At that moment, the diminutive pegasus was racing through her duties as a storm chaser, cleaning up a rather large storm that had been slowly creeping towards Equestrian lands.
The reason Raindrop was hurrying, was that her coltfriend of nearly a year had an appointment to see a well-respected unicorn doctor. A young unicorn known as Shine, he was a lightmaker, specialising in coloured lamps. He had invented a lamp that shifted colours randomly, and was already raking in the profits of his invention as every dance club in Equestria wanted one.
Raindrop and Shine had been dating for almost a year, after meeting up by chance at a party that neither of them wanted to attend. It had been a whirlwind romance, and Raindrop had moved in with the unicorn the first chance she got. But that’s when the unicorn had started to get sick. It was an odd illness, characterised by nausea, distractedness, and fatigue. It was taking a massive toll on his health, and his mental well-being. At the first signs of depression setting in, she had booked him an appointment with the most knowledgeable (and expensive) doctor she could find.
And so, Raindrop was rushing through her duties, beating back stormclouds from the Everfree forest as fast as she could so she could get to Canterlot before Shine arrived there for his appointment.
A very winded Raindrop appeared in front of the doctors office a half-hour late, the pegasus panting and walking back and forth for a moment with wobbly legs to steady her breathing, before she pushed open the door to the doctors office and stepped inside.
Greeting her immediately was a short hallway terminating in a large waiting room, with plush purple furnishings and a receptionists desk, where a young, pretty unicorn sat, sorting sheets of paper into folders with deft magical work.
The young pegasus stepped up to the counter, and asked in a sweet tone; “Hi there, my coltfriend was due for an appointment, goes by the name of Shine?”
Looking down at a sheet for a moment, the receptionist smiled, raising a hoof to point down the hallway, offering, “He’s in there right now, I can ring you in if you’d like?”
Raindrop nodded eagerly. “Yes please. I’m a little bit late, sorry.”
“It’s fine.” the unicorn said, her horn glowing as a bell inside the room tingled for a moment. A second bell on the outside of the door glowed and then jingled merrily. The receptionist turnedback to Raindrop. “Go in whenever you’re ready.”
Nodding and thanking the receptionist, Raindrop walked down the hall, and then opened the indicated door, slipping in and closing it quietly behind her.
“Very interesting.” the doctor was saying. He was an older unicorn with a frizzy grey mane and a stethescope around his neck. He was peering into Shine’s open maw and inspecting his teeth and tonsils with narrowed eyes, speaking in a heavy foreign accent, “Ze sickness haz hallmarks of magical maladies, yes. But ze symptoms are all wrong for zis. One vould expect magical maladies to have magical residue on zem, yes?”
Shine made a non-commital sound in response, giving Raindrop a ‘please help me’ expression over the top of the doctors head. He couldn’t speak with his mouth propped open, and he wasn’t allowed to move his head, so nodding was out of the question, too.
“So...you haven’t figured it out yet?” Raindrop asked, disheartened. Moving to stand beside the doctor, she peered past him into her coltfriends mouth, trying to determine what he was looking for.
“Vell, I cannot say vat is wrong vith your coltfriend. It vould seem that he iz suffering from a magical ailment. But hiz magic is perfectly fine. Zis is baffling!” the doctor said, drawing back and sitting on his haunches, observing Shine with a thoughtful hum, rubbing a hoof against his chin.
Shine closed his mouth immediately, and lifted a hoof to rub at his jaw, working it back and forth once or twice with a harrumph. He was a unicorn of comparable age to Raindrop, though he was just a little bit older by a year or so. He was a steely grey from top to bottom, with a flowing deep blue mane and tail. His cutie mark was a lit lightbulb, a rather fitting mark for his profession.
Blue unicorn eyes met pink pegasus ones, Raindrops holding Shine’s gaze hopefully. The unicorn gave a subtle shake of his head, his eyes sad. The pegasus nodded slightly in response, her expression glum.
“Ve vill need a return visit. I vill run bloodwerk, and ve shall get to the bottom of zis.” the doctor stated with a wave of a hoof. “Make appointment with receptionist, and try to lay off ze magics at home, yes?”
Shine sighed faintly, before raising a hoof in acknowledgement, and then stepped down off the examination stand.
Raindrop moved over to him, nuzzling up against the side of his snout slowly for a moment, breathing a sigh. “Sorry I’m late, hun. There were some sneaky clouds about this morning.”
The unicorn nodded in understanding, nuzzling her gently in return, before saying with a sigh, “I was just hoping for a magical fix, I guess.”
“Oh well, maybe the bloodwork will reveal something that the other doctors missed?” Raindrop offered placatingly.
“We can only wait and see,” was the only response from Shine.
“Vat are you vaiting for? Shoo!” the unicorn doctor said, pushing a hoof at them.
The couple ambled out into the hall, and then to the receptionist to book another appointment for Shine.
Pausing a moment, the receptionist turned to the doctors room and magically opened a small slot in the wall, from which a sheet of paper floated over to the desk, laying itself out so that the female unicorn could peer at it, reading the words written there.
“You account will not be charged this appointment,” the receptionist said with a sympathetic smile, before she inquired, “He couldn’t figure out the problem?”
Shine blinked slightly and then dipped his head in affirmation. “How did you know?”
“He never charges if he can’t figure out the problem. The doctor believes that you should only pay a health worker when you’re healthy, as it’s his job to ensure that you remain at that level of health,” she shrugged helplessly. “He’s foreign, what can I say?”
Nodding once in understanding, Shine signed the piece of paper offered to him, and then waved a hoof in farewell.
Raindrop walked besides Shine, with her wing half-extended so that the soft feather tips brushed and pressed against his side in a reassuring fashion. It was something that pegasus sometimes did, interlacing the feathers of their wings intimitely with their partners’. Sure, Shine didn’t have wings for her to lace her feathers with, but she forgave him for that transgression.
Shine stumbled faintly as they crossed the threshold of the outer doorway, and Raindrop deftly leaned in under his chest to catch him, frowning deeply.
“...They’re getting worse, aren’t they?” she asked gently, her expression one of unhappiness.
The unicorn didn’t answer for a moment, and Raindrop was surprised and dismayed at the look of fatigue on her stallions face. Shine just looked tired. Deep fatigue lines wound across his face, and there were barely visible bags hidden underneath his eyes; eyes that were slightly unfocused and glassed over.
“Geeze...are you okay, Shine?” she asked, concerned, as she pushed the unicorn up with her shoulders and then gently drew back so he could take his own weight.
Shine nodded in response, rubbing at his forehead with a hoof for a moment, and then grinding it against the centre of his forehead firmly. He put his hoof down and began to walk again, his tone clipped as he answered, “I’m fine.”
“No...No you’re not,” Raindrop said with a deep frown, her ears pinning back slightly. She could see through the veneer he was placing around himself to ward off her questions.
“You’re right,” the unicorn admitted, seeming to deflate right in front of her, his steps becoming plodding and fatigued, dropping his act under the face of her accusations. “It’s just...it’s getting worse. I’m finding it hard to concentrate on anything and I’m just...so...tired..”
Raindrop shook her head, and moved in quickly to support her mate as he staggered and weaved unsteadily for a moment, walking with a wobbly gait to a bench and just splaying across it, closing his eyes and throwing his hooves over his face.
The pegasus frowned deeply, leaning in to nudge gently at his cheek with her nose.
Shine lifted a hoof to stare at her for a long moment, his expression glum. A single teardrop spilled from one eye, tracing down his cheek as he brokenly admitted, “I’m just...so sick of this. I can’t remember the last time I felt happy...or the last time I laughed. everything is just bleak and gray and I’m sick of it.”
Raindrop frowned deeply at that, leaning forwards to grip her coltfriend with her hooves and pull him into a reassuring hug, nosing against his cheek slowly. “Cheer up, Shine. It’s just the sickness making you sad. We’ll figure it out, promise.”
The unicorn just sighed faintly, leaning against her limply. “I want to care, I really do...but...”
Frowning, Raindrop nosed against him soothingly again, just holding him close. She didn’t say anything, because she couldn’t find the words to frame anything she might tell her depressed coltfriend.
The two ponies were barely home more than a few minutes when there was a knock on the door.
Raindrop set down the kettle on a porcelain mat, pushing aside the medicinal herbs she had bought to help try and treat some of Shine’s symptoms. The pegasus moved towards the door, pulling it open, and then blinking up at the person standing at her door.
After picking her jaw up off the ground, Raindrop tried to compose herself, stuttering a greeting, “U-uhm hi!”
“Good day, Raindrop. May I come in?” Celestia asked without preamble.
The pegasus stared, before asking dumbly, “...You know my name?”
The princess nodded once in response. “Indeed.”
Raindrop continued to stare, before she interpreted the look that Celestia was giving her; impatient.
“O-oh. Come in,” she stammered, opening the door wider for the alicorn to walk inside.
Celestia looked around the entry hall as she stepped through the doorway, giving a thoughtful hum. “I like what you’ve done with the place.”
“T-thanks.” Raindrop said, still stunned.
The princess was here. In her house.
“U-uhm why a-are you here?” the pegasus asked, staring at Celestia.
The alicorn gave her a long look, pursing her lips and then tilting her head towards the kitchen. “You want to sit down. We need to talk. It would be better if Shine wasn’t here to hear it, either.”
Raindrop blinked once, accepting the offer to sit down in her own kitchen, pulling herself onto the bench and laying on her stomach, peering up at the princess. “Shine is resting upstairs. Though why you need to speak to me privately...”
Celestia sat down on her haunches, watching the pegasus for a long moment, before shifting closer to lay a hoof on Raindrop’s own in a reassuring fashion.
Feeling tears welling up in her eyes, Raindrop whispered, “I-it’s my mother, isn’t it?”
The princess blinked once, recoiling slightly in surprise. Her tone was confused as she said, “Your mother? No. Actually, it’s your grandmother.”
Raindrop swallowed hard for a moment, taking a deep breath. “O-oh my...I thought you were going to say...just...you’re so serious. But Cee passed on years ago...”
“Indeed,” Celestia stated, looking into Raindrop’s eyes for a long moment. “Shine is sick, isn’t he? He’s getting worse, and no one can figure out why, can they? He’s distracted, fatigued...?”
The pegasus stared at her for a long moment, before asking quietly, “How do you know...?”
“Don’t move,” Celestia stated, as she turned her head downwards, her horn beginning to glow.
A golden light washed of Raindrop, and she shivered slightly at the sensation of magic washing over her form. The light shimmered, before beginning to change hues, turning a deep, vibrant green.
Raindrop blinked slightly, while Celestia gave a knowing nod.
“What?” The pegasus asked, raising a brow in confusion, giving a slight harrumph. “What was that?”
“If you paid attention during history class, you would know that Princess Cadance and Shining Armour thwarted an incursion attempt by Queen Chrysalis, leader of the changelings.” Celestia stated.
Raindrop nodded, before saying dismissively, “That was years and years before I was born though.”
“Indeed. But there is something that was...omitted from the history books. Something that only myself, Cee, and Evergreen ever knew,” she added in a gentle tone.
“So...a really big secret?” Raindrop asked probingly.
“An epic secret.” Celestia stated bluntly. “Cee is Chrysalis.”
The pegasus stared at Celestia for a long moment, the words just not registering.
“Cee was Chrysalis? As in...my grandmother? Hah,” a faint laugh rolled from Raindrop’s throat, “That’s good. Now why are you really here?”
Celestia gave Raindrop a long, hard look. “I’m not joking, Raindrop. You want to know why I know your name? I’ve followed your family. For the past two generations. I’ve been watching and waiting in case something like this happened.”
“Something like what?” the pegasus asked, mystified.
“For the changeling traits to resurface. I almost didn’t believe it when I heard that Cee and Evergreen had a child...I didn’t think it would be possible, given that she was a changeling...” Celestia explained, making a motion with a hoof. “But it happened.”
“This doesn’t make sense,” Raindrop stated flatly. “You turn up on my doorstep and tell me that my grandmother was a changeling. What does that have to do with my Shine, anyhow?”
The princess paused for a moment to collect her thoughts. “I knew that Chrysalis had survived the magical blast from Shining Armour, and I suspected that she was leeching love from someone in Ponyville. By the time I figured it out, though...Chrysalis-Cee-and Evergreen, were already in love. I could see it in her eyes. Even when faced with the Elements of Harmony, she only had eyes for Evergreen. I think she was scared of losing him. And I’m quite certain that she destroyed the last of her changelings for him.”
Raindrop raised a brow at that. “But...that still doesn’t make any sense.”
“I believe that Chrysalis was sucking Evergreen dry. When he came to me to tell me that he knew of Chrysalis’ location, I could see that he was...drained. He was tired, and distracted. He couldn’t focus properly, and looked like he hadn’t slept for days.” Celestia explained, giving Raindrop a sympathetic look. “I think Chrysalis deliberately set out to make me cause the Elements of Harmony to be used on her. And they must have done something to her. Changed her somehow. Because I never saw any sickness in Evergreen after that.”
The pegasus stared at the princess for a long moment, trying to absorb all of this information, before asking, “Why are you telling me all this now?”
“Shine is sick, Raindrop. And it’s not a disease. The changeling inside you is coming out,” Celestia explained gently. “You’re killing him.”
Raindrop swallowed hard a moment at those words, before drawing herself up with a low growl. She raised a hoof, pointing it towards the door, ”Get out of my house.”
Celestia rose to her hooves, and shook her head sadly at the pegasus. “I’m sorry, Raindrops, But it’s the truth. You’re making Shine sick. Why do you think the doctors can’t discover the cause of the sickness?”
The pegasus didn’t respond, just pointing mutely with a hoof until the princess bowed respectfully and began to show herself out.
“It still doesn’t make sense. If you knew Cee was the queen of the changelings, you would have done something about it.” Raindrop hissed.
Celestia paused in the doorway. “Indeed...I contemplated throwing Cee in a cell. But when I found them, they were lying in the grass together stargazing. They were content. They were in love. I had no right to take that from them. And even on the day that she died, Cee’s thoughts were of Evergreen. She wasn’t a threat to anyone in Equestria any more.”
“But you expect me to believe that Cee’s changeling blood is somehow coming up in me and making Shine sick?” Raindrop spat.
“I...don’t know how to put it any more eloquently than that,” Celestia said sympathetically. “The spell...I developed it after the insurgence. I needed to make sure there were no more changelings hiding among us. Gold is normal, green is changeling.”
Raindrop paused at that, staring down at her hooves a moment, her wings shuffling uncomfortably. After a few moments, she protested, “But...I’m....I’m not a changeling. I’d know it!”
Celestia shook her head. “I’m sorry, Raindrop. I don’t know how these things work. I won’t pretend to. But you deserve to know why Shine is getting sick. And...the only way for him to get better is for you to distance yourself from him.”
The pegasus splayed her ears backwards, shaking her head in denial. “No. This doesn’t make any sense. It’s not true!”
The princess could only watch the blank denial of the pegasus, sympathising.
Raindrop shook her head again, turning away to the fireplace and staring into it for a few long moments, not speaking.
“Raindrop...I’m sorry,” Celestia offered.
“You come in here, tell me that I’m a...a...thing, and that’s all you have to say?” the pegasus snapped in response.
A mute nod was the only answer from the princess.
“What about Cee? If what you said is true, then the Elements of Harmony can just...do whatever it is they did for her, and fix me.”
“It...is possible,” Celestia admitted after a moment. “But the elements have not had bearers for nearly a decade now. After Rarity passed away...”
Raindrop bit back her tears, shaking her head. “No. I’ll get fixed. If what you said is true, I’ll get fixed. I’m not letting some stupid changeling stuff take Shine away from me.”
The princess looked on helplessly for a moment, before moving over to the pegasus and wrapping her up in a soothing hug. “Come, child. This is a lot for you to absorb at once. But you need to understand what’s happening. Denial will help nopony.”
The pegasus fought against the hug for a moment, before just falling limp against the princess, staring at the floorboards. “I...I know.”
Celestia nodded gently, drawing back and giving the pegasus a long look. “Are you going to be okay?”
Raindrop nodded once. “I...I think so. But...I need to talk to Shine. He...he has to know I’m making him sick.”
The princess nodded, and then drew back, turning towards the door again. “If you need me...you know where to find me.”
Nodding mutely, the pegasus turned away, staring into the mirror above the fireplace for a moment, appraising her own reflection.
Staring into her own eyes, Raindrop couldn’t help but imagine the demonic eyes of a changeling staring back.
The accusation hung heavy in the air as Raindrop stared at her coltfriend.
Shine was sitting up in bed, forehooves on the mattress and eyes narrowed at her. He looked tired, but determined, and was scowling at her.
“You’re a monster,” he repeated, shaking his head at her. “A demon.”
Raindrop recoiled slightly at the tone of his voice, protesting; “Y-you don’t mean that...”
“No. No Raindrop. I really do mean that!” he hissed, his eyes narrowing further. “For weeks now, I’ve been getting more and more sick. And it’s been you all along! You and your...demon blood!”
The pegasus recoiled even further, her ears splaying backwards, feeling tears welling up in her eyes.
“Get away from me!” Shine continued, trying to crawl out of bed, struggling with the sheets for a moment and stumbling, almost ending up tripping. “Get away before you kill me, monster!”
If Shine had anything else to say, Raindrop didn’t hear it. She was already bolting out of the house and up into the sky.
A few moments later found the pegasus curled up on a small cloud, crying quietly with her head in her hooves. Her entire life was falling apart all around her. Everything she had worked so hard for, taking away by something she had no control over. And there was nothing she could do about it. It wasn’t as though she could just make the blood coursing through her veins magically fixed.
Or maybe there was?
Sitting there on the cloud, Raindrop sniffled once and then wiped her eyes and nose with a hoof, composing herself. She had a new plan.
She was going to use the Elements of Harmony to fix herself as her grandmother had done so many years previously.
Even if she had to find new bearers herself.