“I don’t mean to be ungrateful for your sister’s hospitality, Princess, but… Why am I being kept here? Why can’t I go out?”
“We still know very little about you, Chip,” replied the Princess, looking around. She spotted a chair and levitated it to herself. “Celestia is still looking for the other mares that you rescued. If all their stories of you and your deeds match, you will no longer be confined to these quarters.”
“Does that mean I’ll be able to go and continue my research of ponies? And visit Silver Heart? ” asked the changeling with a note of hope in his voice.
“I’m afraid… I don’t think so…” sighed Luna. She shifted uneasily on her chair and continued: “Even if you turn out to be a good colt, which I don’t doubt of course, you are still a changeling. You will have your own quirks and things that may be normal to you, but scary or harmful to others. Such as your… Eating habits.”
“I already told Celestia I would not hurt anypony, that I can eat normal food just like the rest!” Chip angrily stomped his hoof.
“I know, I know… But please, do understand – as the ponies in charge of everypony else, we simply cannot take words, even the most true of them, as be all end all. It pains us that your dream of learning about us is ruined in such a way…” Luna went silent and stared at her hooves.
“Heh… I guess… It’s alright.” Chip sat down and took on a miserable expression. “This is better than living with changelings anyway. It’s clean, soft, I get what I want, mostly… A beautiful golden cage…”
“You’re not a prisoner, Chip. More like, a guest.” Luna smiled feebly, trying to believe in her own words.
“A guest? This is how your kind treats guests?” the changeling furrowed a brow. “No, I am not a guest. I am being kept here, not allowed to take even the simplest of strolls. Have you any idea how it is? To spend most of your life trapped far away from a land you dreamed about, and when you finally reach it, you are being treated like this? Feared, suspected of doing the most vile of things? Untrustworthy?”
The Princess hung her head, remembering something. An uneasy silence fell between the two – Chip felt bad for his outburst; he didn’t really think that way, at least not in such harsh words. He did meet some nice ponies who liked him, and the ones here didn’t exactly hate him…
“I’m sorry, Princess,” apologized Chip with a bow. “I am an ungrateful guest. It must be this late hour that causes me to speak nonsense. Please, forgive me-”
“E-Excuse me?” the changeling felt ice climb his back. The blue mare’s stare was determined, her eyes focused on the colt.
“I know what you speak of, Chip. I know it better than anypony else, I believe…” She paused, still fighting with some thoughts, leaving Chip sweating for a moment. She then continued, nodding her head slightly: “You are our guest. At this moment, since I am in charge of the night, you are under my care. I feel that this room needs some windows opened, its stuffy in here. But we can’t have opened windows in here, you could possibly escape…”
The colt was confused at the Princesses’ monologue. Where was she heading with all this? Indeed, she reached out with her magic and opened some windows to the night air, which was cool and refreshing.
“Since the windows are open, I guess we can’t leave you alone here, right? And I have royal duties to attend to. Guess I’ll have to keep my eye on you personally. Come along now, Chip.”
The doors were open and the Princess was looking at Chip expectantly. The changeling hadn’t a clue what was going on – the guards outside were probably more than willing to keep a close eye on Chip while Luna is away. He was about to say that, when the mare grunted and beckoned him towards her.
“I haven’t got all night now. Come.”
Puzzles finally fell into place and Chip’s face nearly broke in half with a wild smile – he was being shown out of the room! Outside! The Princess would take him for a walk!
The guards were looking suspiciously at the leaving pair, but said nothing – they knew better than to question the actions of a Princess. The guardsponies simply closed the doors behind them and resumed staring into nothingness.
The royal mare was walking slowly, eyeing Chip curiously – the changeling’s head was twisting and turning, which would probably lead to it unscrewing from his body. His eyes were everywhere, and his mouth was wide open – he reminded her of a foal, first time out in the big city, trying to see everything at the same time.
Personally, Luna didn’t think of the scenery to be that interesting – the gardens they were in now and the castle itself was beautiful, but she saw those things every day.
“Wow…” silently sighed Chip, looking at the night sky. Stars above them were twinkling in the pitch black sky, with the moon shining brightly in its full glory.
“It is something, isn’t it?” said Luna in a dreamy voice. “I love the night sky. It took me forever to make it look like this.”
“You made this?” Chip’s eyes were wide in awe.
“Of course – I am the Mistress of the Night, after all. This is my domain.” The Princess could not mask the pride in her voice; out of the not so many things she could brag about, the night sky was definitely the most well done creation of hers.
“Wow…” repeated Chip, now staring at Luna. The mare blushed a bit and looked away. “I think it’s beautiful. Why isn’t it like this during the day?”
“Well… Uhm, good question, actually.” Luna looked up. “Why does Celly make the day sky look so boring? A few sparkles here and there would make it much more interesting… But I guess that the day is beauty enough for ponies. My subjects usually sleep at this time of the night, and all this hard work is only for me to witness…”
“Not true!” said Chip eagerly. “I loved to look at the stars above, back at home. It was so peaceful and quiet, and the sky was sparkling so beautifully. But I guess I wasn’t your subject at the time, so it didn’t quite count. Am I your subject now?” asked the changeling.
Luna stopped for a second and gave Chip a strange look. These questions of his were so random…
“Umm, I guess so,” she shrugged. ”I didn’t really think about it.”
Chip simply nodded and returned his gaze to the sky above. He and the Princess spent some time in silence, together taking in the atmosphere of the night.
“Tell me, Chip… Do you miss the Mare in the Moon?”
“Who’s that?” The changeling cocked his head.
“It’s what we called the silhouette of a unicorn that was on the surface of the moon… Do you miss it?”
“I… Don’t remember seeing such a thing. When was it?”
“She was visible for a thousand years…She disappeared maybe a few months back…”
“Hehe, I wasn’t even born a few months back!” chuckled Chip. “Then I guess the answer will be – I can’t miss something I didn’t see. Why you ask? Was she pretty?”
“Eh… I’m not one to judge that…” the Princess sighed and pecked some dirt under her forehoof. “You don’t know who she was?”
“No, there was nothing about her in my books. Tell me please?”
His eyes, resembling that of an adorable puppy, were too much for Luna to handle. She cleared her throat and begun the story.
“Long ago, there was a mare who strayed from the path of good and kindness, becoming evil. At least, everypony thought it was evil – in truth, it was just frustration and sadness. And loneliness. Nopony appreciated the filly, she didn’t have any friends besides her sister. The mare had power over the night and refused to let it end, making all the ponies witness what she thought was beauty.”
“So, she was like you?” asked Chip.
“Yes, she was… Very much like me.” Luna looked away and continued: “That mare didn’t listen to reason nor to her sister, who was the ruler of day. The sorrow that the filly’s heart was wrapped up in formed a cocoon, an impeccable armor that did not yield to any amount of pleading and tears. It didn’t take long for good and order to triumph, though – the mare was stripped of her powers and sent to the moon, where for a thousand years her image would be etched into the moon she cherished so much…”
Luna stopped and looked up again, drowning herself in memories.
“So, what happened to that mare? The Mare in the Moon?”
“Well, she came back. And she was defeated again… But she learned. She asked for forgiveness and was accepted as a friend by others. She was, and still is, happy.” Luna looked at Chip and smiled. “And now she is boring the most interesting creature her eyes have ever seen with a sad tale of old mistakes.”
The last bit confused the changeling. It took some brainpower and time to figure out what was obvious – Luna was speaking about herself. She was the Mare in the Moon.
“Wait, so you were evil? I can’t believe that. You are one of the nicer ponies I’ve met so far…”
“Hihi, thank you,” giggled the Princess, “but is it really that hard to imagine? What about you? Isn’t your story somewhat similar? A creature that is considered evil, but in reality just misunderstood and lonely?”
Chip proceeded to analyze his past and compare it to the tale he just heard. It was true, some elements were similar – but all things said and done, Chip was still a monster to the ponies, while Luna was an equine that just strayed away from society. He appreciated that the royal mare sympathized with him though, for whatever reason she thought suitable.
“From your perspective, yes, it may seem like it. But from the changeling’s point of view, there is little in the way of redemption to be had. I’m banished, even though my Queen didn’t use those exact words, and I’ll never be able to come back and make friends. Not that one can be friends with somepony who thinks and feels just like the rest of the species. ”
“Oh, right. I tend to forget about you being… Well, not a pony. I’ve never seen a changeling before. Would you mind showing me how you really look like?”
The request startled Chip. He was vigilant however and with a smirk replied: “I’m sorry Princess, but I am not allowed to use magic or drop my disguise. Those were the rules your sister set for me and I do not wish to trouble anypony.”
“We’re here alone and it’s dark. And I’m a Princess too you know,” smiled Luna. “I decree that for this occasion only you are allowed to change your appearance so you can show me how you really look like.”
“Umm, are you sure, my Princess?”
“Of course I am!” exclaimed the mare, sitting on her haunches.
“But, uhm, your royal duties?” Chip was fidgeting under her curious gaze – for whatever reason, changing in front of her felt wrong. Indecent perhaps…
“Oh, I just made that up so we could have an excuse to take you outside,” said Luna, waving a hoof dismissively. “Now, c’mon, show me!”
The colt gulped and tried to wiggle his way out of the situation, but the more he resisted, the more the alicorn pressed for Chip to change. She was literally just a hoof away now, towering over his disguised form, eyes wide with excitement, repeating the word “Pleaaaaase!” over and over again.
With a grunt, the changeling finally gave in, focusing his magic in the horn sitting comfortably under his fake skin. As he changed, heatless flames of green swept over his body, chewing away fur and leaving only black chitin in their wake. The colt grew, developing wings and a curvy horn – all under the awestruck gaze of the Princess, who backed away just a little bit.
The transformation finished; Chip stood in all his changeling glory, staring Luna straight in the face without having to look up. The mare gasped and slowly begun to circle the motionless stallion. Very carefully, she peeked over his wings and body, stretching her neck to see the tip of his horn or bowing low to look through the holes in his hooves.
“Well?” asked Chip, the reverb in his voice a sound he hasn’t heard in quite a while.
The mare just nodded, still taking in the view of Chip’s body from different angles.
“I thought you’d be shorter,” she finally said, smiling at the changeling.