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DannyJ


I'm just here to write.

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Jul
8th
2023

Borderworld lore snippets 4 - Wild Stallion edition - Part 1: Chrysalis · 9:02pm Jul 8th, 2023


You thought I was done, motherfucker? Guess again.

When I wrote my original lore snippets blog, I was compiling some of the answers I wrote for a series of questions a fan was sending me via PM. Later, I moved onto compiling other snippets I wrote for various different comment sections and chats with numerous other people. This time, in something of a throwback, I am once again posting a series of snippets I wrote during my interactions with one person in particular, but this time it was less of a fan Q&A, and more of a... let's call it a series of intense, in-depth debates about various subjects. So in-depth, in fact, that I'm going to have to split it into multiple parts, divided by subject, which I won't be posting all at once. This first part will be my ramblings about Chrysalis and the changelings.

I'd like to thank my friend Wild Stallion for this one, both for driving me to articulate and write all of this, and for giving me permission to post this portion of our interactions. Also, while I don't think any of my specific ideas in this particular part came directly from him, I know some ideas in later parts I will be posting definitely did. I'll try to credit the specific ideas where possible, but for now I'll just also thank him for broadly inspiring parts of this whole project. At the very least, I know there's things in here I wouldn't have thought of if he hadn't been asking me the right questions at the time.

As with all previous lore snippets post, these are not the exact questions Wild Stallion asked me, nor the exact answers I gave, nor the exact order they were asked in, as all have been edited for better clarity and flow, blah, blah, blah, let's fucking get on with it.


Why did Chrysalis openly invade Canterlot rather than attempt a stealthier strategy?

Canterlot was not the first city Chrysalis ever took by force. Despite being a race of shapeshifters, toppling kingdoms by open conquest has been the changelings' modus operandi for a long time, going all the way back to the fall of Timbucktu in the early Celestial Eras, and it usually works pretty well for them.

There are a few reasons for this, and Chrysalis's own bloodlust and lack of patience for long term subtlety is a part of that, but the primary reason why the changelings operate this way is actually biological.

The problem is that while the changeling disguise ability is very versatile, it also takes a lot of energy to maintain on a long term basis. Unlike most spells, which are cast only once and then last for a set amount of time until optionally being refreshed, changeling illusion magic requires constant, continuous expenditure of magic for as long as the disguise is maintained. This is fine for short bursts, but really adds up over time and when used on a larger scale, meaning it needs to be used sparingly, such as for gathering information, eliminating key targets, or turning the tide of a particular battle.

In addition to this, even assuming that they can maintain a disguise long term, the changeling feeding process is still nowhere near subtle enough. There's no passive, low-level emotion absorption that can be done without anyone noticing (or at least none that will make any appreciable difference most of the time). When changelings feed, the effect is usually visibly obvious, and the target will almost definitely feel it. This is fine if they're consenting (or at least mind controlled) and the changeling doesn't drain them completely dry, but it basically means that feeding in total secrecy is impossible.

As a result, the more obvious-seeming strategy for the changelings (to operate as subtle parasites on the underbelly of society) is just simply not efficient or practical for them. They did start out that way, sending infiltrators out en masse to live among the populace, replace individuals, and farm love to bring back to the rest of the swarm in secret, but it just didn't work. Maintaining their disguises and relying so much on mind control and memory magic to remain concealed was just too big an investment for too little return, and even then the changelings still weren't going unnoticed.

So at some point, Chrysalis made the decision to abandon subtle parasitism and pivot to raiding, starting with small towns and villages, and eventually working her way up to whole kingdoms. Open invasion is much less magically taxing for the changelings than mass infiltration, and taking a whole community's love in one big score is a much more gratifying reward for them than subsisting on stolen scraps (the effect of which cannot be understated when you consider that their entire species suffer constant and insatiable psychological hunger pains).

Has Chrysalis ever killed anybody?

Yes. Chrysalis and the changelings have a very high body count. Even aside from the fact that the changelings have a long history of violently conquering other kingdoms, they also often drain their victims to husks with no regard for if they survive (as they did in Timbucktu), and Chrysalis herself also has no scruples with straight-up murder (usually to remove or replace key individuals for infiltration purposes, but sometimes she'll do it just for revenge).

Even just in the timeframe of the show, she's responsible for the deaths of a few Royal Guards and other government agents prior to the invasion of Canterlot (most of whom withered away in captivity), and she also wiped out the luvcat village prior to the events of Return of Chrysalis.

If the changelings have been open conquerors for a long time, why did nobody ever suspect them at the wedding?

The last time Celestia ever confronted Chrysalis, it was in open battle immediately after the siege of Trot. In that battle, the changelings were defeated by the Equestrian forces, and were sealed away inside the nearby volcano of Mt. Vehoovius, which was magically transformed into an impromptu prison that the changelings would be able to survive in for a short while.

However, unbeknownst to Celestia, the changelings were later found and inadvertently freed by the dragon Sergio, and shortly afterwards, the volcano also coincidentally erupted. The next time Celestia came to check on the volcano prison, intending to move Chrysalis to Tartarus, all evidence of the breakout had been destroyed, and she assumed that the changelings had all been killed, which is what the public eventually came to believe as well.

Now knowing that the changelings were not a match for Equestria militarily, Chrysalis took advantage of this mistake to temporarily return to stealthier tactics while slowly building up her forces and planning to eventually take revenge. This was the period in which she discovered the Darkstone Throne and founded the Changeling Kingdom, and for the next several centuries, the changelings subsisted on a hybrid approach of both their original style of infiltration, and raiding smaller towns and villages as well (though this time in the guise of bandits or random monsters rather than openly conquering as changelings).

So in essence, the reason that nobody suspected a changeling attack at the wedding (or why nobody suspected that Cadance might have been replaced by a changeling), was that as far as everybody knew, the changelings were long gone. They were a phantom from the past, a threat thought destroyed long ago, like the windigoes. Nobody was expecting them to ever come back. And then...


:(

Where is the Changeling Kingdom located?

Not in the Badlands, as popular as that fanon is. The changelings were thrown towards the Badlands after their failure at Canterlot, and in Return of Chrysalis they established a foothold near the Badlands in Castle Black beyond the Forest of Leota, but neither of these are the location of the main changeling hive we see in season six.

The actual citadel of the Changeling Kingdom where the Darkstone Throne is based (and where the events of Where and Back Again took place) is located across the sea from Equestria on the continent of Thoroupe (the same continent Griffonstone is located on). More specifically, it is located south of Trotsylvania, east of Minos, southeast of the Valley of Eden, and northeast of Zebrica and the Dragon Lands. So if we imagine Thoroupe's geography as roughly aligning with real world Europe's (it doesn't exactly, but there are broad similarities) then the Changeling Kingdom would be somewhere on the east side of the Balkans.

What is the purpose of the changelings' pods?

When changelings feed, they can either take their victim's love slowly, a little bit at a time, or they can take it all at once. Taking it all at once is more immediately gratifying, but it's also inefficient and wasteful, for two primary reasons.

Firstly, being drained so quickly and so completely will cause the changeling's victim to shrivel up into a husk, and this is likely to kill them. But ponies are capable of slowly replenishing their stores of love over time, so if kept alive, they will be able to feed the hive much more in the long run. Secondly, the changelings' hunger is primarily psychological, and never completely goes away; it is only temporarily sated by the act of feeding. Therefore, the total quantity of love a changeling consumes is less important for satisfying their hunger than how often they feed.

Changeling pods therefore serve a very important purpose, holding victims alive and in stasis for slower, long term feeding. Inside the pod, changeling mind magic keeps the captives dreaming happy dreams of love (encouraging them to replenish their supplies faster), while the changelings outside siphon off their energy to consume. It's like The Matrix, only with less trenchcoats, and more sugar and rainbows.

How do the changelings take care of the ponies in pods?

The pods put people in a kind of magical stasis, so their physical needs are somewhat reduced. Their bodies don't atrophy quite as fast, and they don't need to eat or drink as much, but they do still have needs (especially if the changelings want them to last a while, and to keep producing more love).

The changelings don't care much about their victims physically deteriorating, so long as they aren't dying and don't become diseased (which a magical health bubble can usually take care of), so they don't let the ponies out for exercise or anything. They do, however, pump food and water in, and pump waste products out (through separate means, thankfully). The food is very basic, though. Just a nutrient slurry composed of whatever meat and plant matter the changelings have on hand, naturally also including the remains of any of their expired victims (so again, like The Matrix).

The average pony can last maybe two or three decades in a state like this, sometimes more, before they die. Obviously, changeling captivity is not the most conducive to good long term health. For what it's worth, they spend most of that time in a pleasant dream, and are largely not aware of how terrible their quality of life really is, but yeah. Don't get put in a pod, kids.

What was Chrysalis's plan for defeating the Royal Sisters, and controlling the sun and moon after the invasion?

Chrysalis was absolutely not intending to fight Celestia one-on-one the way she had to, as she didn't initially realise just how powerful Shining Armor's love had made her, but she did have a plan. Her original intention was to maintain her disguise until the shield went down and her army swarmed the city, and then to overwhelm the Royal Sisters with sheer force of numbers. The alicorns are powerful, but even they can't fight entire armies by themselves. When Chrysalis was exposed early by Cadance during the wedding ceremony, Chrysalis launched into her monologue as a delaying tactic to buy time for the army to arrive, but fortunately for her, it proved unnecessary.

As for handling the sun and moon afterwards, changeling mind magic is not the most subtle, but it is potent, and victims of it do still retain enough presence of mind to competently perform tasks. So Chrysalis's intention was simply to take Celestia and Luna captive, enslave them with mind magic, and have them continue to handle their regular duties in captivity.

Both of these plans, I should note, succeeded perfectly in the Chrysalis timeline.

What was the threat that made Canterlot raise the shield?

The Royal Guard received an anonymous tip a little less than a week before the wedding. A mysterious cloaked stranger contacted a member of the Night Guard, who met with them off-duty one evening on a quiet street in the city. The stranger delivered a warning that Canterlot was in danger from an enemy force. He did not specify who or what they were, only that they were likely to attack on the day of the wedding, and did not give any details as to his own identity.

The Night Guard naturally passed this information up the chain of command. It was Luna's decision to take the threat seriously and to start preparing Canterlot for a state of war, and Celestia's decision to put Shining Armor in charge of defending the city.

Though they didn't know the exact nature of the threat, they were preparing for all possibilities. In case of a military invasion, Luna led Night Guard patrols outside the city to search for signs of the enemy, and Shining Armor set up the shield for a siege defence. And in case of a terrorist attack from inside the city, the Royal Guard were mobilised to patrol the streets and to check all new arrivals at the city entrances. Luna was also conducting investigations in the Dreamscape to discern the identities of both the enemy and the cloaked stranger, though she never discovered either in time for it to matter.

Why does Canterlot's defence strategy rely so heavily on Shining Armor?

It's actually a lot less Shining-centric than it appears. Putting up a giant shield around the entire city during a siege is a strategy that goes back centuries. Canterlot did it long before Shining Armor was ever born. In fact, ancient unicorns did it before Equestria existed. But how exactly it's done varies.

Normally, city-sized shields are initially cast collaboratively by several mages, led by the most skilled and powerful of their number (in the case of Canterlot, that was always Celestia, and for anywhere else, it would be the city's archmage), and then the entire unicorn population are expected to pitch in and add their magic to the shield to reinforce it. Obviously, more magic means a stronger shield.

Shining Armor is actually not the most magically powerful pony in the city. That would still be Celestia. However, he is the best shield caster in Equestria, bar none, so he was chosen both to lead the initial casting and to be the shield's primary reinforcer, because his shields are simply better than Celestia's. But of course, this was still a collaborative effort. Celestia, Luna, and "Cadance" all supported the initial casting.

And while the shield would have been stronger and less likely to fail if everypony in the city (or at least in the Royal Guard) had contributed to it, the advantage of Shining's shield compared to Celestia's is that it's so much stronger and more efficient that it doesn't need the same level of reinforcement (or at least, it wouldn't have needed it if Chrysalis hadn't been undermining it). So if Shining and "Cadance" could shoulder the burden alone and spare the rest of the city the effort, they figured they might as well. And if an attack ever came, the princesses, Royal Guard, and the rest of the city would all be well rested and theoretically able to put up a better defence.

Shame about all that internal sabotage.

Why do Canterlot and other cities not use artefacts to generate their shields instead of relying on unicorns?

Some cities do. The Crystal Empire does, since it has the Crystal Heart, and Daylight in the Valley of Eden has the King Machine, which serves a similar function.

But shielding an entire city is usually a collaborative effort because it requires a lot of raw power, and that power has to come from somewhere. Canterlot gets off easier than most because it has Shining Armor and three alicorns, but for other cities, how do they power their hypothetical artefact? Either someone has to effectively sacrifice their own magic to create it, or the whole city needs to pitch in both to create it and to recharge it whenever it's running low.*

You will notice that this is exactly what's happening with the Crystal Heart. Even though the Crystal Empire has an artefact capable of generating a protective shield around the entire city, it still needs the crystal ponies to power it. So basically, there's not much advantage to having a shield-generating artefact over just having a bunch of powerful unicorns casting a spell. Ultimately, the energy cost is the same either way, and the advantages of it are small enough that it's hard for a city to justify the effort and expense of creating such an artefact.

Ironically, Canterlot is an exception to this, because Canterlot has Celestia, and Celestia's level of power means that creating and maintaining a shield-generating artefact like that would be easier for them than it would be for most other cities. But on the other hand... Canterlot has Celestia. So an artefact would still be redundant. And in fact, if Canterlot ever had created such an artefact in the past with Celestia's magic, Shining Armor's superior shielding abilities would've rendered it obsolete anyway.

*You could theoretically set up the artefact to power itself from ambient magic from the local environment, which would save energy, but then you'd have to suck your city dry and leave a miserable, lifeless wasteland like the Changeling Kingdom to make it strong enough, which isn't exactly better.

How powerful is Shining Armor?

If we're talking about the strength of his shields alone, he's in a whole other league. His smaller scale personal shields are basically impenetrable in practical terms. And even with Chrysalis undermining its strength from the very start, no magical support from anyone else after the initial casting, and Shining Armor himself basically catatonic, his city-sized shield still held out a while against the changelings. Shining Armor's shields are the best in Equestria, absolutely no contest.

However, it's worth remembering that shields are his special talent. Shining Armor is still abnormally powerful, but raw power is less of a factor in the strength of his shields than his personal affinity for shield spells. And shields are a pretty flashy spell to be that good at, but in terms of raw magical strength, his level of power is far from unheard of. He would be considered average in the School for Gifted Unicorns. He's definitely not any more powerful than Sunset or Starlight.

That said, Sunset or Starlight still wouldn't have a hope in hell of cracking his shield.

How long was Chrysalis impersonating Cadance for?

A while. Chrysalis replaced Cadance pretty early on. In fact, it was maybe only a few months after they were engaged. Shining Armor proposed shortly after he became Captain of the Royal Guard (which occurred just prior to Nightmare Moon's return), and that's around the time that Chrysalis began planning for her invasion to coincide with the wedding. Cadance had some time to plan the wedding herself, and then Chrysalis made her move a month or so beforehand to lay the groundwork for the invasion. So she was there way before the shield ever went up. In fact, she helped cast it.

How did Chrysalis fool everybody for so long when her acting was so bad?

Chrysalis is a much better actress than she appears. Around Celestia, most of the Royal Guard, Shining and Twilight's parents, and most others she interacted with who knew the real Cadance reasonably well, Chrysalis stayed in-character as Cadance much better, and was genuinely careful about not drawing suspicion. She even drained enough magic from Cadance to mimic the colour of her magical field when she needed to. Around Shining, however, it didn't matter, since he was under her control anyway. And around Twilight and the mane six, she was playing a deeper game.

Contrary to appearances, Chrysalis knew exactly who Twilight was as soon as she met her. In fact, she even knew that Twilight was the Element of Magic, and that she and her friends had recently defeated Nightmare Moon and Discord. Her behaviour around them was part of a larger strategy to isolate and neutralise Twilight.

She began by intentionally acting rudely and out of character, in a way that anyone who didn't know the real Cadance (such as the mane six) would be willing to write off as wedding stress, but which Twilight would be intensely bothered by and suspicious of. She also placated the mane six after her earlier rudeness by making them her bridesmaids, while continuing to ignore and act coldly towards Twilight, intending to anger her. She then escalated by staging a scene for Twilight's eyes only, showing herself as much more evil.

Knowing that Twilight was in the house and would likely be watching and listening, Chrysalis conspicuously took Shining aside, started an argument on the pretence of a disagreement over what he was wearing, and assaulted him with her magic. The whole incident conveniently looks like garden variety domestic abuse from the outside, rather than a nefarious changeling plot, and on top of that is still just ambiguous enough for Chrysalis to later spin it in a way to make herself look good (to the point that even Twilight briefly doubted herself over what she saw).

This whole series of events was enough to emotionally unbalance Twilight and provoke her into a public outburst, hurling accusations without evidence that made her sound jealous and crazy, especially when Chrysalis then used her acting skills to sell herself as the innocent party. This had the effect of socially isolating Twilight from both the mane six and Celestia, allowing Chrysalis to quietly remove her without anyone immediately noticing (and with the hope that Twilight's friendships would be damaged enough by the incident to negatively impact her use of the Elements of Harmony). It's a basic divide and conquer strategy, and it's one which successfully cut off both Twilight and Celestia from each other's support while Chrysalis was making her final moves.

If Chrysalis is actually good at acting, why are the rest of the changelings still such genuinely bad actors?

Despite the inherent potential of their abilities, changelings are not born actors, and need to be trained in the art just like anybody else would. The existence of the hivemind does make teaching them relatively easy for Chrysalis, but she nonetheless considers it a waste of time and resources to give this training to every changeling, given that the vast majority of them are only ever going to be shock troops anyway. To her, that's time and effort that could be better spent teaching them to fight. So instead, she only trains as many elite infiltrators as she needs, and just sends those guys whenever she needs a mission done quietly.

Prior to her invasion of Canterlot, Chrysalis actually had a lot of decent infiltrators in play, all of them on long term deep cover assignments infiltrating Equestria's military forces and intelligence agencies. Unfortunately for her, the vast majority of her deep cover agents either died or were captured after the Battle of Canterlot, so by the time of Return of Chrysalis, she had basically none left. Instead, she had to make do with shock troops to take over Ponyville, who had no acting ability, and were being led by an inexperienced commander who mismanaged the local hivemind, resulting in their bizarre, unsubtle, zombie-like behaviour during the mass infiltration.

By the time of Where and Back Again, Chrysalis had somewhat gotten her house in order, so this wasn't such a problem anymore. She had trained up some better commanders and infiltrators, and the smaller scale of the operation (replacing key individual targets instead of a whole town) meant that things didn't get quite so out of control this time.

However, most of the new infiltrators still weren't quite up to the standards of the old ones, so the ones replacing the mane six thus weren't super convincing to Starlight and Trixie. The best of Chrysalis's new infiltrators were the ones she assigned to replace the Royal Sisters and Crystal Empire royalty, since they were in important positions of power and authority, and needed to be trusted and believed by their pony subordinates. Twilight and the mane six, in contrast, weren't especially important to Chrysalis after they had been eliminated as threats, so their roles were assigned to a lower calibre of infiltrator, which is what Starlight was dealing with.

Why didn't Chrysalis feed on or control Twilight or the rest of the mane six before the wedding?

As said before, changeling feeding is not a subtle process. It should ideally only be done if the changeling has the ability to reliably erase the memories of all witnesses. And changeling mind magic is itself not very subtle either, easily noticeable by someone who's looking for it, both during and after casting. Chrysalis only got away with it with Shining for as long as she did because she could get him alone any time she wanted, and because Shining's unique situation came with a perfect built-in excuse for why he was weak, tired, and in pain all the time.

So while feeding on or controlling Twilight was a possibility, it was one that carried a lot of unnecessary risk. Taking a second victim would have effectively doubled the chances of something going wrong, especially since a magically talented unicorn like Twilight might have been capable of better resisting Chrysalis's mind magic, and any unnatural behaviour she might have displayed after being alone with "Cadance" might have drawn unwanted suspicion from Twilight's friends.

And this is to say nothing of whatever other hidden powers the Elements of Harmony may have had to protect their bearers. Unlike season eight Chrysalis, Borderworld Chrysalis did not want to fuck around with these things when she knew so little about them, especially considering that these mares somehow beat Discord after he went after them with mind magic.

It's also worth noting that Chrysalis still had the rest of her army to feed after this was all over, and a unicorn as powerful as Twilight could feed several changelings, so there was no sense in Chrysalis being greedy after she'd already had Shining.

Why did Chrysalis mind control Shining Armor and the bridesmaids before the ceremony?

Shining Armor was a tactical decision. Chrysalis had been slowly draining him of his love ever since the shield went up, so he was probably already weakened enough by the time of the ceremony (or at least as weakened as he could be without his body visibly withering), but Chrysalis still didn't want to take any chances with him. There was a small risk that his zombie-like behaviour might have been noticed, but she was willing to take that risk to minimise the chances of him resisting her or attempting to reinforce the shield at the critical hour (though once the shield was actually down, it no longer mattered as much).

As for Lyra, Minuette, and Twinkleshine, while Chrysalis had been staying reasonably in-character as Cadance around them before the mane six arrived, her manipulations afterwards inadvertently exposed a little more of her true personality to them than she intended. And unlike the mane six (who didn't know Cadance well enough to know better) and Twilight (who she had a plan for), Chrysalis was actually worried about making these three suspicious. So yeah, with them, she made a genuine mistake.

So just to be on the safe side, Chrysalis summoned her bridesmaids on the pretence of a wedding matter, ambushed them with the help of a few changelings disguised as guards, and hit them all with mind magic. She was initially just planning to erase their memories of the suspicious events, but then halfway through, she came up with the idea to win over Twilight's friends by making them her new bridesmaids. Obviously she couldn't have done this before, because the old bridesmaids would've known something was up and made trouble, but if she was already using mind magic on them now anyway, then she could just go all the way with it and do whatever she wanted.

Why did Chrysalis send only the bridesmaids after Twilight and Cadance?

Chrysalis wanted to replace her old bridesmaids with Twilight's friends, and by mind controlling them, she could be sure that they wouldn't question why and uncover the truth. However, changeling mind control is extremely obvious, so she couldn't let the bridesmaids loose without drawing suspicion. But at the same time, they were too important to just totally disappear, at least this soon. So instead, Chrysalis had a few changelings replace Lyra, Minuette, and Twinkleshine (thus placing a few more troops in the wedding hall at the critical hour), and sent the originals down to the caves to take their places as guards.

As for why the mind controlled bridesmaids were the only resistance Twilight and Cadance faced, Chrysalis originally had several changelings posted down in the caves to guard Cadance, but that close to the hour of the invasion, it was very low priority. Those changelings were more strategically valuable to her on the surface as soldiers than they were in the caves as guards, and if Cadance did escape at this stage, Chrysalis only needed enough force to slow her down anyway. She didn't necessarily need to stop her. So she used the bridesmaids as a token force, and that was that.

Why did Chrysalis send Twilight directly to Cadance in the first place?

Honestly, the major reason really is just sheer sadistic desire to see Twilight and Cadance suffer. It really would've been more logical to just kill Twilight or put her in a pod once Chrysalis had her isolated, but though I generally characterise Borderworld Chrysalis as being smarter than in canon, she's still not totally above villainous self-sabotage, especially when it comes to those she sees as personal enemies.

More specifically, what Chrysalis wanted when she sent Twilight to the caves was for her to find and attack Cadance. Leading her to break down the walls was intentional. Having her find the real Cadance was intentional. And Twilight attacking her in a rage was intentional. Everything up until this point was following the plan (such as it was).

Where it went wrong was that Chrysalis was hoping for more of a fight. She expected Cadance to fight back against Twilight, or at least for Twilight to be too angry to listen to reason at this point. She was hoping that they would hurt each other a lot more before the fight ended. Chrysalis didn't really want either of them dead, but she did want them to both suffer for her amusement. Ideally, they would've either knocked each other out, or been too exhausted to do anything else by the time they figured out the truth.

Still, Chrysalis knew that the two of them would probably reconcile and escape together at some point, and she also knew that the bridesmaids were not the most effective jailers, so the two of them escaping the caves together was still sort of following her expectations. It's just that, again, Chrysalis didn't expect them to escape so quickly. She thought that by the time the two of them reached the surface, Canterlot would've already been conquered, and they both could've been immediately recaptured and placed in pods, saving her changelings a trip down into the caves to retrieve them.

But since Chrysalis misjudged, and Twilight and Cadance arrived back on the surface early, it wasn't too late for them to affect her plans.

Why wasn't Cadance already in a pod when Twilight found her?

Chrysalis was regularly conversing with Cadance while she had her in captivity, mostly to interrogate her about things she needed to know for her role, and also to gloat when she was in the mood. The pods are good for holding prisoners and farming love, but they do make conversation difficult.

Why did Chrysalis allow Shining and Cadance to get close enough to use their spell?

Simply put, she didn't know that doing what they did was possible, for two reasons.

First, she knew Shining Armor was good with shields, but she had no idea he was capable of coming up with one on the fly that could selectively target only changelings like that, because this was not an ability which he had ever demonstrated before. As far as she knew, once her troops were inside the city, there was nothing Shining Armor could have done to stop them, even at his full power (which he obviously wasn't at).

And second, it wasn't just Shining Armor that Chrysalis had weakened. She had fed on Cadance as well, and had stolen most of her magic to prevent her from escaping the caves. Admittedly, Cadance still had a little magic left, and wasn't nearly as badly affected as Shining (in part due to being an alicorn, and in part due to not being mind controlled), but after what Chrysalis had been doing to her for the past couple months, she should've been in no shape to restore Shining to his full strength, or to help summon another city-sized shield. She shouldn't have had enough magic for that.

And technically, she didn't. Cadance was still magically weakened at that point. But she didn't use her magic for it. She directly converted her and Shining's love into the magic they needed to power the spell. And this is the other thing that Chrysalis didn't know was possible, because until now, as far as she knew, that was an ability that was exclusive to the changelings. It had never been done by a pony before.

So essentially, Chrysalis wasn't worried because defeat theoretically should've been impossible. Shining and Cadance needed to perform two entirely unprecedented feats simultaneously to stop her the way they did. It was really nothing short of a miracle, and I think Chrysalis quite reasonably believed that Equestria was all out of miracles once she cut them off from the Elements of Harmony.

Why can the changelings easily defeat the Royal Guard, but not the mane six?

Partly because the Royal Guard were at a disadvantage, and partly because the mane six themselves are abnormal.

Though none of the mane six are particularly experienced fighters (and Fluttershy doesn't do any fighting at all), it's worth remembering that Twilight is a very powerful and skilled unicorn, Rainbow Dash is a very fast and aggressive pegasus, and Applejack is strong even by earth pony standards. Plus, we should also remember that Pinkie has precognitive abilities, Rarity has a degree of martial arts training, and Fluttershy has the Stare. And even though we don't directly see them using these abilities in their fight in Canterlot Wedding, they were in fact using them at points.

As for why the Royal Guard didn't put up a better fight, that's because they were in chaos at the moment the shield went down. Chrysalis was far from the only changeling in Canterlot. She and a good portion of her army had already infiltrated the city by the time the shield went up, and several of them were placed in key positions in the Royal Guard's ranks to throw them into disarray. She also had Shining Armor issue several counterproductive last minute orders just before her army arrived, including ordering an abrupt shift change, and leaving the wedding hall itself unguarded.

I think it should be said, in a fairer fight, the Royal Guard and the changelings might've been a better match. Individually, changeling drones are a little bit smaller and weaker than the average pony, so even if the mane six weren't special in any way, it's not inconceivable that they could've taken on a few changelings on their own. The main advantages of the changelings are in their numbers and in the versatility of their abilities, but had they not been caught by surprise, the Royal Guard's martial skill might've been enough to overcome that.

Did anyone die in the changeling attack on Canterlot?

Any ponies? No. At least not in the battle itself. Any changelings? Yes, quite a lot.

A few Royal Guards and other government agents did die in captivity during the lead-up to the invasion. While Chrysalis didn't replace Cadance until shortly before the wedding, she had been laying the groundwork for a military invasion of Canterlot for decades, and kidnapped and replaced a lot of ponies in that time. Most of the more recent victims were found eventually (if not after the Battle of Canterlot, then at least after Thorax's coup), but they didn't find everyone.

In the actual battle, though? No, the changelings showed a lot of restraint there. Their orders were to take as many ponies alive as possible for feeding, and that included the Royal Guard as well, so even with active enemy combatants, they were only fighting to disable. Their magical divebomb attacks were quite explosive and potentially deadly, but those were mostly just shock and awe tactics, and the changelings were actually pretty careful and precise about where they landed. Even the bigger explosions we see in the background of battle were controlled strikes, intended to batter down large doors or other magical defences in the city (since lots of homes, businesses, and other institutions in the city were holding out a while after Shining's shield went down).

The reverse, however, is not true. The Royal Guard and other ponies in Canterlot were all fighting for their lives, either mistakenly thinking that the changelings were trying to kill them, or correctly knowing that they would be captured, enslaved, and would eventually wither and die in a pod if the changelings won. So the ponies had almost zero incentive to spare changeling lives, and fought accordingly. Many Royal Guards and even a few more competent civilians killed changelings in the Battle of Canterlot, and of course, Shining and Cadance's shield also killed all of the changelings that weren't flung from the city, mostly by crushing them against various walls. It was a messy affair in several senses of the word.

Did Equestria make any efforts to improve security after any of Chrysalis's attacks?

Yes, several.

Firstly, after the initial invasion of Canterlot, Luna led a Royal Guard expedition into the Badlands to pursue the changelings and defeat them once and for all, but they only found a few stragglers; most of the army (and Chrysalis herself) eluded them, at least until they were finally captured and imprisoned after Secreteriat's passing. She also attempted to find and interrogate them in the Dreamscape, but the changeling hivemind was too well-guarded.

Various entities in Equestria also began work on means of detecting changeling infiltrators, but most either did not work or were impractical to implement on a wide scale. Nonetheless, some of these crude changeling tests did become mandatory for all government employees for a time after the Battle of Canterlot, and then were scaled back and eventually retired after Chrysalis's capture. They were implemented again after her escape in FIENDship is Magic #5, but by then, the changelings had developed means to circumvent them.

Additionally, after her battle with Starlight Glimmer, Twilight contacted Zecora to inquire about the changeling-detecting paste she saw used in the Chrysalis timeline, which Zecora was soon able to reproduce and send the recipe for. However, Equestria was not able to mass produce it quickly enough to supply it to the Crystal Empire when Thorax first appeared, or to prevent Chrysalis's replacement scheme.

The changeling detecting paste was finally rolled out on a wider scale after Chrysalis's third defeat, and was successful in preventing any future infiltrations from then on, even during the later Changeling War.

Why did everybody let Chrysalis go at the end of Where and Back Again?

Ultimately, I chalk it up to a mistaken act of optimism and misplaced faith on everyone's parts. Discord and all the ponies didn't want to move to stop Chrysalis without Celestia's say-so, the changelings didn't want to do anything without Thorax's word, and I think both Celestia and Thorax were waiting on each other to a degree. But what they both seemed to silently decide between themselves was that Chrysalis seemed to be effectively de-fanged without her army, so they could afford to leave her alone and give her some space.

Chrysalis's brief moment of hesitation when Starlight reached out to her likely played a part in this. Although she did resoundingly reject Starlight's offer of redemption, for a moment there, she did seem to be considering it. I think in Celestia and Thorax's minds, they were hoping that Chrysalis was going to do what she did in canon, and go off to live as a hermit in the woods for a while. And maybe they hoped that after she had some time to calm down and reflect, her loneliness and regret might drive her to make a change, go back to her family, and join them in pursuing a better path.

Unfortunately, while it's not impossible that this could've happened if things went differently, Celestia and Thorax misjudged Chrysalis's position and subsequent course of action. Unlike canon Chrysalis, who was truly alone at this point, Chrysalis in the Borderworld did still have loyal followers elsewhere, who she eventually reunited with and continued to lead in the following Changeling Civil War, doubling down on her conviction that she would never, ever change. And in the end, everyone's misplaced faith in Chrysalis is what led to their entire world falling apart.

How loyal are changelings to their leaders in general?

Prior to Thorax's coup, the vast majority of all changelings were genuinely loyal to Chrysalis, or at least as genuinely as a changeling ever could be. Though they are still individuals at heart, changelings heavily depend on the hivemind for social cohesion and to maintain their sanity, and the hivemind needs to be protected and maintained by the changeling monarch, meaning Chrysalis. Changelings as a whole had been loyal to Chrysalis since the dawn of their species, because their quality of life, if not their lives themselves, depended on her.

There are documented cases of rogue changelings who left the swarm and struck out on their own during the era of Chrysalis's dominance. Morning Dew from Van Helsing was one example. Thorax was another. But these rogue changelings didn't typically do well on their own. The life of a rogue changeling is a hard one to live, and it usually took some exceptional circumstances to push a changeling to abandon the hive.

So because they didn't really have any other choice, any changeling who wasn't willing to go it alone stayed with Chrysalis and voluntarily submitted themselves fully to the influence of the hivemind, and Chrysalis in turn used the hivemind to keep control of her children and reinforce their devotion to her. It wasn't true loyalty, but I'm sure it felt like it to Chrysalis (and from an outside perspective, the changelings certainly looked loyal to their leader).

Of course, this illusion was broken as soon as Thorax presented a better option, as many of the changelings abandoned Chrysalis once given the chance. But even then, there were some who stuck by her, the Borderworld's version of Pharynx included. These, I would say, were the ones who were actually loyal to Chrysalis, because they're the ones continued to serve her by choice even when they didn't have to, and even when they were a clear minority compared to Thorax's faction.

How exactly does Thorax's ascension, sharing love, and the changelings' reformation and transformation work?

Okay, so, context.

Among her many talents, Chrysalis is a master biomancer, who frequently experiments with her magic to alter the changelings as a species through the hivemind connection, as well as to create unique variant changelings to serve specific purposes. Thorax and Pharynx were both failed experiments of hers, intended to improve upon her already existing changeling commanders (changelings who can operate independently of Chrysalis, and who share her ability to control and regulate the local hivemind in her absence).

Pharynx was the more successful of the two, and was at least still able to serve in the regular capacity of a commander (even if he still fell short of expectations), which is why he became head of hive security. Thorax, on the other hand, was a complete failure as far as Chrysalis was concerned. His connection to the hivemind was damaged, resulting in him becoming too independent in personality. And while he was still technically able to serve as a commander, he was too aberrant to actually be trusted with that authority.

So after deserting at Canterlot, Thorax was welcomed into the Crystal Empire, where he came under the influence of the Crystal Heart. As we know, the Crystal Heart already temporarily turns ponies into crystal ponies when it's fired up. With long term exposure, this crystal transformation become more and more permanent, though it affects different species and individuals in different ways. One of the key factors affecting it is how open the target is to the concepts and philosophy of harmony. Changelings do have a weird kind of harmony of their own already, and Thorax especially was very receptive to pony ideas of harmony, so he began undergoing the transformation pretty quickly. Had he stayed longer, he might have eventually become a full crystal changeling, but there's no telling for sure.

Thorax's time in the Empire allowed him to absorb and internalise a lot of harmony magic, and because he was basically a failed prototype commander, this repaired and boosted his previously broken connection to the hivemind, and gave him the ability to transmit this sense of harmony he'd found, just like how he was supposed to transmit commands. When he later confronted Chrysalis in the hive, this is basically what he did, hijacking the local hivemind from Chrysalis, and giving all of the changelings present both the understanding of what he had learned, and the desire to act upon it.

In addition to all that, he also achieved a kind of apotheosis from an altered drone into a monarch. His connection to and control over the hivemind had been boosted so much, he was effectively acting as one already, and being so directly connected to Chrysalis at that moment, her knowledge of how to create a changeling monarch body was accessible to him through the hivemind. And gaining control of the hivemind also allowed him the ability to impose mass physical alteration on other nearby changelings as well (not the first time this has happened; this is also the reason why the changelings all have holes in their legs).

As a monarch, Thorax took a form more reflective of his harmonious nature (the fairy form, or skittlebug, if you prefer), and with his control over the hivemind, he tied the ability to transform into this altered state to the act of sharing love (i.e. acting on his instructions). These new forms were also hardwired to respond more readily to Thorax's control than Chrysalis's. So the other changelings saw Thorax transform while sharing love, received mental commands from him to do the same, and when they acted upon it, they were "rewarded" with similar new forms (which also bound them closer to his will, to the exclusion of Chrysalis's control).

Now, simultaneously, but unrelated, Starlight was correct that changelings don't feel as hungry if they freely share love. As I've said before, their hunger pains were primarily psychological. Part of that is because they were consuming stolen love instead of freely given love, and part of that was because Chrysalis was using the hivemind to prevent them from feeling love themselves, so that they didn't lose or waste any energy. And they could survive like that, but this was still fundamentally unnatural behaviour for the changelings.

Their species, back in the very beginning, were born under the influence of love poison, hence their need for love to survive. But even as twisted as love poison is, the effect it creates is still supposed to be mutual and reciprocal. Changeling hunger pains are a very deep, very primal response to the changelings' lack of ability to feel love, and lack of true love directed towards them. Starlight was wrong that sharing love causes the skittlebug transformation; theoretically, the changelings easily could've learned to share love without transforming (which Chrysalis's faction later did), or transformed without learning to share love. But Starlight and Thorax did hit on a real solution to their hunger problems.

Only, one small hitch. Even if the changelings stopped being sociopaths, that didn't mean they stopped being parasites. And even if they don't feel maddeningly hungry all the time anymore, that doesn't mean they don't need to eat. So even though the changelings all eventually made peace with Equestria, integrated into society, and shared their love freely with others in true and mutual friendships... they still couldn't help but slowly bleed Equestria dry. And once everyone realised this, it was only ever a matter of time before things went to shit again. Hence Chrysalis getting her murder on, and hence the Changeling War.

Is controlling the hivemind the only thing that makes a monarch different from a drone?

No, but it's the big one. Obviously, monarchs are also physically larger, and they're inherently better at all of the racial abilities of changelings, including using magic. But yeah, the major difference is that drones are subject to the hivemind, while monarchs control it. And a monarch who's good at controlling the hivemind can pull off some pretty interesting tricks with it. Chrysalis is even capable of jumping bodies if she needs to.

How did the hivemind cause the changelings to get holes in their legs?

FIENDship is Magic #5 explains that the changelings gained the holes in their legs after losing a battle with Celestia after the Siege of Trot. In the Borderworld, the reason for this is that Celestia's magic was so powerful, she inadvertently scarred the hivemind itself, which caused all new changelings afterwards to be born with echoes of the wounds she dealt to their ancestors. Chrysalis could have fixed this, but preferred to keep it as a reminder to her people. It's both an effective warning for how dangerous their enemy is, and good propaganda for motivating spite and desire for revenge.

Obviously, when Thorax created the changeling fairies, he chose to fix this.

If becoming a changeling fairy just means switching from Chrysalis's control to Thorax's, are the changeling fairies actually reformed at all?

Depends how you look at it, I guess. The first generation of changeling fairies voluntarily chose to abandon Chrysalis's way in favour of Thorax's, all chose to share love rather than exclusively steal it, and regained their ability to feel love for others. So they're not sociopaths anymore, and they're by and large better people than they used to be, but no, this doesn't necessarily mean that they're reformed. A changeling fairy could have any number of less than noble motivations for turning on Chrysalis, first and most obvious being that they were promised an end to their hunger.

The changeling fairies may look gentler and kinder, but that's only because Thorax imposed the change on his followers when he became monarch. It's not an actual indication of a changeling's morality. It's not even necessarily an indication of their faction or approach to feeding, because it was a permanent biological change. They don't lose their fairy forms if they betray Thorax or go back to the old ways, and subsequent generations of changeling fairies were born looking like that.

In fact, considering that many of the black changelings from Chrysalis's faction later adopted Thorax's approach to feeding anyway, a changeling's appearance doesn't inherently mean anything at all (especially a few generations on, once the reigns of Thorax and Chrysalis have passed from living memory). So yeah, there are black changelings who are good and noble, and there are changeling fairies who are duplicitous and evil, and both are equally capable of going feral and spreading the Undead Curse. Don't believe stereotypes, kids.


I believe in black changeling supremacy.

What was Equestria's relationship with the changelings like after Thorax's coup?

Equestria supported King Thorax during the Changeling Civil War, but wanted a more permanent solution to the problem of Chrysalis, and even at this point both sides still hadn't given up on eventually reforming her. They made overtures of peace between all the fighting, and the eventual end result was a treaty worked out with Chrysalis, the Hearth's Warming bonfires being repurposed to help feed changelings of both factions, and all changelings being officially pardoned and offered Equestrian citizenship if they wanted it, which some accepted. This peace lasted for over a decade, until it was eventually broken by Chrysalis when she initiated the Changeling War.

How did the Changeling War affect the relationship between ponies and changelings?

Initially, it didn't. Lots of changelings helped Equestria to fight Chrysalis (even a few of the black changelings who'd accepted citizenship under the treaty), and Equestria always treated the changelings fairly, both in war and peacetime. However, towards the end of the war, things started going wrong. Formerly peaceful changelings began going feral and draining ponies from starvation, the Undead Curse began spreading through the changelings' victims, and ponies were justifiably terrified. And after Equestria collapsed at the end of the wars, the changelings lost their biggest advocates. After a few centuries of this new status quo, the surviving nations came to hate the changelings with a fucking passion.

Now, despite this, many kingdoms for a long time still preferred to exile or imprison their changeling populations rather than kill them (as seen with the Changeling Asylum from the beginning of Fire Burning). But after a while, some really did not give a fuck anymore, and began to assemble the firing squads. Trotsylvania in particular went really hard on the genocide. They even invaded and destroyed the Changeling Kingdom itself, which was a politically neutral neighbouring state at the time. This came back to bite them afterwards, though, because the changelings flooded their lands with undead in response, and Trotsylvania collapsed completely within a generation.

By Firelink's era, the changelings are not having a good time, to put it mildly.

Who ruled the Changeling Kingdom after the collapse of Equestria, and what happened to them?

Depends on the timeline.

In the "canonical" timeline (AKA the Fireverse), where the events of Where and Back Again happened, King Thorax was murdered by Chrysalis at the start of the Changeling War, but the changeling fairies were able to raise a new monarch to replace him. They went through a series of them over the following centuries (not because changeling monarchs are mortal, but because these monarchs kept getting murdered or dying in battle), and the monarch at the time the Changeling Kingdom fell would end up being the last. After that, the knowledge of how to create new monarchs would be lost.

In the World on Fire timeline, where the events of To Keep the Fire Burning take place, Thorax never became king, and instead starved to death in his cave before ever meeting Spike. So the events of Where and Back Again didn't happen, and the changeling fairies never existed, but the general events of the peace, Chrysalis's betrayal, and the Changeling War still happened basically the same anyway. In this timeline, the knowledge of how to create new monarchs died with Chrysalis, so the Changeling Kingdom was instead ruled by an elected council of representatives until its fall.

This version of the Changeling Kingdom did still technically have a king, but the kings in this timeline were just mortal changelings filling a ceremonial figurehead position. They weren't true changeling monarchs in the biological sense like Chrysalis and Thorax were, and didn't have a changeling monarch's power to control and regulate the hivemind, so changeling society in this timeline was a lot more unstable and chaotic. Pretty much none of their leaders survived Trotsylvania's purge.

If changelings really are parasites regardless of their morality, is their treatment by ponies then justified?

Ignoring the ethics of the situation, from a purely practical standpoint... maybe? Changelings in this world don't just passively feed (or at least, they don't get nearly enough from that). If they want to survive long term, they need to suck a decent amount of energy out of some available source at some point, and when they do, it does usually make a noticeable dent.

Early on in the peace with the changelings, particularly generous ponies would sometimes volunteer for this, and the changelings would be careful not to harm them or to take too much, and this was seen as an acceptable arrangement for a while. But like when the unicorns raised the sun, it was unsustainable in the long term. Then the bonfires of the Fire of Friendship were introduced as an alternative feeding source that would hopefully cause less damage, and this was also briefly seen as an acceptable arrangement. But then the Fire's magic turned out to be finite too, so this was still only a stopgap solution.

Both ponies and changelings did hope to eventually find a better way (possibly through another species-wide transformation), but the more cynical elements on both sides were certain that Equestria's "donations" would eventually dry up, and that changelings would be soon be forced to start stealing love again. And this kind of became a self-fulfilling prophecy once Chrysalis kicked off the Changeling War.

Having said that, by Firelink's era, it's been a good few centuries since the fall of Equestria, and the Fire of Friendship is still (just barely) clinging on somehow, so peaceful changelings have continued to coexist with ponies in the intervening time. It's just a question of how much longer they can last, and a matter of debate how they were able to make it this far in the first place.

The optimist believes that continued coexistence between ponies and changelings is possible because of the ponies who continue to show friendship to the changelings in spite of the potential threat they pose, and that it's these ponies keeping the Fire alive (while those who seek to destroy the changelings out of fear and intolerance are what's causing it to die, ultimately hastening the end of the world).

On the other hand, the cynic believes that the peaceful changelings have only lasted so long because ponies have been killing changelings by the thousands in the intervening time, making less mouths to feed out of an ultimately finite resource (and that the smart thing to do is to get rid of all the remaining changelings now before the Fire fades completely and the "nice" ones have no choice but to turn on them).

Maybe there's an element of truth to both? We may never know for sure. What do you think?


"I THINK THORAX CAN FUCK OFF."


That's all for now, folks. Stay tuned for part two of the Wild Stallion saga, coming June 2038, and as always, if you want more Borderworld changelings, check out my stories and essays on the Borderworld group.

Comments ( 9 )

As interesting as ever, you never seem to lose your touch for worldbuilding. I still have a lot of catching up to do in regards to the Borderworld, both in essays and narratives, but I'm slowly getting there. Seeing this in-depth look into the changelings was a delight, and I really enjoy this Q&A format, it makes for great light reading. Btw, this is just ignorance on my part, but have you written at any length about Tirek and Scorpan? I've been a fan of their since their introduction and I'd love to know what role they play in the Borderworld. Also, I recall you dismissed S9's inclusion of Grogar as forced, which, yeah, it is fair, but I was wondering if he plays any role in your world too. Thanks a lot, and keep up the amazing work.

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Glad you enjoyed.

have you written at any length about Tirek and Scorpan?

Aside from World of Traitors and the Tirek timeline essay? Not much, yet. I did discuss Tirek and Scorpan some with Wild, so future lore snippets will include some stuff on them, but I don't think they'll get a dedicated post of this length.

But hey, if you ever have questions, feel free to ask, and I can come up with some answers. Maybe I'll even compile them in a lore snippets post of their own one day.

I was wondering if he plays any role in your world too.

The Borderworld has a version of Grogar (set to appear in Ragnarok whenever I continue it), but he's not based on G4 Grogar at all. I can't say much about him without spoilers, but what I will say is that he was a cultist of the Mountain God, a necromancer, and that his character was inspired by a figure from Norse mythology.

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But hey, if you ever have questions, feel free to ask, and I can come up with some answers

Not a whole lot of them, I'd have to really think about them, but I was wondering a few things. I've read the entry on Tauros and learnt that breeding between centaurs and gargoyles is possible, so I take it that Tirek and Scorpan are blood brothers and not just step-brothers product of a political union. However, I was wondering a bit about Tirek's magical abilities. His magic vampirism, and how common it is among his people. I assume we're following the Fiendship is Magic timeline and that he took the teachings of Sendak here as well, but I was wondering how many species can use it, if it's exclusive to centaurs or if Tirek is the last practitioner of that art. I'm also curious as to if Scorpan could absorb magic as well or if he was just following Tirek as an enabler, the same way Discord did in Twilight's Kingdom. If magical absorption is capable of disabling a major cosmic player like Discord I imagine that the rest of the pantheon might be wary of what a single centaur could do. Speaking of which, is Tirek's apparent immortality something exclusive to himself or are all centaurs this long lived? Is Scorpan still alive in present day Equestria?
Lastly, I'm curious about the timeline and how it relates to the Discordian era. At which point in the timeline did Tirek and Scorpan launch their personal invasion of Equestria? It used to be very simple: Discord reigns, gets turned to stone, Tirek and Scorpan enter the picture. That was explained by Tirek's surprise at seeing Discord free. But then, as you yourself mentioned in your S7 review, that's not possible because Star Swirl planted the Tree before Discord but after meeting Scorpan and yeah, it was a clusterfuck by writers who didn't keep up with continuity anymore. So, am I right to assume that in the Borderworld, Tirek and Scorpan came to Equestria after Discord's imprisonment?

a cultist of the Mountain God, a necromancer, and that his character was inspired by a figure from Norse mythology.

Very interesting. Before S9 my go to version of Grogar was the one Alex Warlorn had come up with as an evil overlord who could rival Discord in power but who stood on the side of absolute order instead of chaos. I figured he'd be one of the Acolytes of Order in the Borderworld, but it appears he's a lesser evil than that.

Thank you very much for your patience, I hope these questions spark your imagination even just a little.

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I've read the entry on Tauros and learnt that breeding between centaurs and gargoyles is possible, so I take it that Tirek and Scorpan are blood brothers and not just step-brothers product of a political union.

I assume we're following the Fiendship is Magic timeline and that he took the teachings of Sendak

Correct.

I was wondering a bit about Tirek's magical abilities. His magic vampirism, and how common it is among his people.

I was wondering how many species can use it, if it's exclusive to centaurs or if Tirek is the last practitioner of that art.

Centaurs are not an especially magical race. They all theoretically have the potential for spellcasting, but it doesn't come nearly as easily to them as it does to unicorns. Maybe only a third of all centaurs even have the skill to use magic at all, period, and this is the simple stuff we're talking about here, like telekinesis and light spells. Actual centaur mages are thus pretty uncommon, and most of them tend to only learn a few basic battle spells and end up serving in the military. Book research and experimentation are just not things Taurosian culture particularly values, so centaur wizards like Sendak are even rarer. It's pretty telling that even as a prince of the realm and an obvious prodigy, Tirek had to go to some creepy old guy living in a cave to learn magic, rather than having a decent royal tutor.

Though, that is also partly his family's fault. Magical talent runs in the royal bloodline in Tauros, but the Taurosian kings made the best use of that talent when magical knowledge was passed from father to son in an unbroken line. But the problem was that it wasn't always an unbroken line. Sometimes kings would die unexpectedly, or neglect their duties, or fail to produce heirs and let the throne go to a nephew or cousin or something. Knowledge would get lost over the years, and the monarchy periodically went through these dark ages where the ruling kings neither understood nor cared about magic and let their potential languish. And Tirek had the misfortune to be born a naturally gifted mage in one of these eras of decline.

As for magical vampirism specifically... well, centaur biology is in a way uniquely well-suited for stealing magic. Channelling magic through their muscles to increase their size and strength is a natural racial ability that all centaurs already have (they find it easier than spellcasting, even), but it's normally just a temporary power-up, limited by the centaur's own magic reserves, and they go back to normal size once their magic runs out. But this enhancement can be pushed to absurd limits and made to last indefinitely if the centaur somehow gains deep enough magic reserves to maintain it. So magical vampirism is really, really good for a centaur in a way that it isn't for any other species.

However, no, magical vampirism isn't an ability exclusive to centaurs. A decently skilled mage of just about any species can pull it off. But it's a rare ability pretty much everywhere, since just about every culture on the planet considers magic theft a serious crime (Tauros included), and those who can do it tend to guard their secrets closely. I won't say that Tirek and Sendak were the only centaurs who ever learned the art, but the knowledge definitely isn't widespread.

I'm also curious as to if Scorpan could absorb magic as well or if he was just following Tirek as an enabler, the same way Discord did in Twilight's Kingdom.

Scorpan did not have any notable magical skill of his own. He did wield magical weapons, but he was primarily a warrior during his time following Tirek, acting as his brother's advance scout and bodyguard. Historically, he later came to be known as a great philosopher, orator, and diplomat, but he didn't develop most of these skills until after leaving Tirek.

is Tirek's apparent immortality something exclusive to himself or are all centaurs this long lived? Is Scorpan still alive in present day Equestria?

Neither centaurs nor gargoyles are naturally immortal. Tirek and Scorpan owe their longevity to an anti-ageing spell, which they discovered during their journey to conquer Equestria. The spell doesn't halt or undo ageing, but it does significantly slow it down. Tirek had his pouch permanently enchanted with this spell, while Scorpan did the same with his medallion. Both Tirek and Scorpan are still around now thanks to their respective trinkets (which they exchanged), but they aren't entirely dependent on them anymore. Scorpan, still being the King of Tauros, now has access to much better and more modern age spells, so he's still currently in his physical prime. And Tirek, of course, is able to naturally restore his own youth and vigour through his centaur abilities if he can eat enough magic, so once he escaped from Tartarus and was back on top again, he finally felt free to discard his brother's medallion. Though, I'm sure he really regrets doing that now.

So, am I right to assume that in the Borderworld, Tirek and Scorpan came to Equestria after Discord's imprisonment?

Yes. The Borderworld does not follow season seven continuity except where noted, so you can disregard all the fuckery surrounding the Pillars and the Tree of Harmony. This world follows the timeline and backstory details established in Journal of the Two Sisters and IDW's Reflections arc and FIENDship series. The Tree of Harmony has nothing to do with Star Swirl and was around before him. Discord was the first major villain Equestria faced after the windigoes. Tirek was next after him, coming in around the tail end of the Reunification Wars. Then Star Swirl defeated the Sirens, roughly around the same time he and Celestia were having adventures in alternate universes. Then he disappeared for reasons entirely unrelated to his season seven backstory, Sombra happened, and finally Nightmare Moon and the War of the Night closes out the Classical Era.

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First off, thank you so much for such a detail and in-depth response. As usual, it is quite fascinating. I hope I'm not abusing your generosity by asking a few more questions, it is simply that your answer has left with with a few remaining doubts. Feel free to take as long as you want to respond, I'm patient and I figure you have better things to do at the moment, so don't worry.
Could beings such as Discord and SvaĆ°ilfari learn magic vampirism and apply it on the Eternal War for their advantage against the other? Seeing how Discord was surprisingly vulnerable to Tirek's attack, I wonder if either one has considered using it.
alarajrogers had her own interpretation as to why Discord couldn't resist Tirek's magic grasp before being robbed of his magic. I always suspected that Tirek was able to overcome Discord in that moment not just because of his increase in power, but in particular for stealing the magic of the Element bearers, which would give the centaur the edge he needed to overcome Discord. What is the explanation in the Borderworld for that?
Also, considering how Scorpan remains in power and his alliance with the Royal Sisters, has he kept friendly ties with Celestia and Luna after the fact? Did he have any response to Tirek's escape during S4? I hope I'm not being too much of a pain right now.
Finally, in regards to the timeline, I recall that Discord was present in King Vorak's court during the events of Fiendship is Magic, wearing a cloak and in a surprisingly respectful stance. Do you have any interpretation as to what he was doing there at the time, in which I believe was the Classical Era?
Thank you so much for your attention and effort that has gone into the creation of this universe. I've been reading a little of Ragnarok and I've found it quite intriguing so far.
EDIT: Sorry, one question that I almost forgot. In the Sombra timeline Tirek was being driven insane by Discord's magic. I wonder if that would have happened if he had kept Discord's magic after the S4 finale.

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I hope I'm not abusing your generosity by asking a few more questions,

Not at all. I can't promise fast responses, but I do endeavour to respond to anyone who engages with my writing. I appreciate the enthusiasm.

Could beings such as Discord and SvaĆ°ilfari learn magic vampirism and apply it on the Eternal War for their advantage against the other? Seeing how Discord was surprisingly vulnerable to Tirek's attack, I wonder if either one has considered using it.

Magic vampirism is actually among their core abilities as Eternals, funnily enough, but it only works for their own magic types. Discord is chaos magic itself (as in, he is literally the conscious will of chaos magic as a force in the universe) so he can effortlessly steal chaos magic from anyone or anything at any time he wants, because that chaos magic is just a piece of himself that he's loaning to them. Order can do the same thing with dark magic, and the Tree can do it with harmonic magic. But they all tend to use this trick sparingly, because the Eternals want to propagate their magic, not hoard it.

What is the explanation in the Borderworld for that?

I forget what Alara's explanation was, but in the Borderworld, teleportation works by atomising the user's physical form, transporting them through the air, and then reassembling them at their destination (so Star Trek transporter style, except with unbroken continuity of consciousness, since the teleporter's soul is unaffected). This means that teleportation needs a physical path to follow, and that this path can theoretically be obstructed. This is relevant, because telekinesis in this setting works pretty much the same as a shield spell; the telekinetic field, just like a shield, is a magical construct which acts like a solid object.

This isn't absolute, of course; most shields and TK fields are selectively permeable, because they have to be to let air in and out. But simply put, it's really easy to block teleportation with shields and telekinesis. For Discord to teleport out, he would have needed to physically break Tirek's hold on him first, and Tirek was really strong at that point. Not impossible for him, but not easy either, and Discord really wasn't trying as hard as he could've at the time.

Also, considering how Scorpan remains in power and his alliance with the Royal Sisters, has he kept friendly ties with Celestia and Luna after the fact?

Equestria and Tauros have always kept good relations. Vorak feared and respected Equestria's power before Tirek, and Scorpan maintained good relations with them afterwards. It's really only those brief few years when Tirek was king that their relationship was anything other amicable.

Did he have any response to Tirek's escape during S4?

None of any great note. He was apologetic to Equestria, and tried to visit and send messages to Tartarus only to be ignored and rebuffed by Tirek, but this is really no different than what he'd already been doing for the previous thousand years. Tirek is an immoveable object.

Finally, in regards to the timeline, I recall that Discord was present in King Vorak's court during the events of Fiendship is Magic, wearing a cloak and in a surprisingly respectful stance. Do you have any interpretation as to what he was doing there at the time, in which I believe was the Classical Era?

This was Loki prior to reawakening his memories as Discord, shortly before the events of Ragnarok. He was there on Odin's behalf, representing Asgard in Vorak's court. The Asgardians had maintained diplomatic relations with Tauros ever since previously allying with them against Fenrir.

Thank you so much for your attention and effort that has gone into the creation of this universe. I've been reading a little of Ragnarok and I've found it quite intriguing so far.

Thanks. Wish I could've gotten further with it by now.

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Very interesting responses, as always.

it only works for their own magic types

If they tried to absorb another type, would it simply not work or be harmful for them?

This was Loki prior to reawakening his memories as Discord, shortly before the events of Ragnarok. He was there on Odin's behalf, representing Asgard in Vorak's court.

I see, that's pretty cool. I imagine that despite his tendency for mischief having a trickster as a diplomat would actually be pretty handy considering how iffy political maneuvering can be.

Thanks. Wish I could've gotten further with it by now.

Well, good things take time. I read the prologue and a bit of chapter one before being interrupted, but I was really liking what I was seeing. Right now the story I want to read more of the Borderlord is To Keep the Fire Burning, but I already have my hands full finishing another doorstopper, so it'll be a little while before I can jump in.
Once again, thank you for your time and dedication.

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EDIT: Sorry, one question that I almost forgot. In the Sombra timeline Tirek was being driven insane by Discord's magic. I wonder if that would have happened if he had kept Discord's magic after the S4 finale.

Sorry, missed this one.

Yes, Tirek if he had won at the end of Twilight's Kingdom would've gone through the same thing. In fact, he was already going through the first stage of it in the episode itself. That's why he was randomly smashing up the forest for no reason at the end.

If they tried to absorb another type, would it simply not work or be harmful for them?

If they did it in their usual way, it just wouldn't work. Discord has an inherent ability to draw chaos magic into himself, but dark and harmonic magic just wouldn't respond to him at all. If he tried to mimic Tirek's style of magical vampirism, though (which is just a spell that absorbs magic in general with no regard to its type), then things get a little dicey. It might work, but the Fundament of Chaos really wouldn't like it. Best case scenario, Discord absorbs the magic, forcibly converts it all into chaos magic, and feels like shit for a day. Worst case scenario, Discord loses control of his powers altogether, and things turn apocalyptically violent.

I imagine that despite his tendency for mischief having a trickster as a diplomat would actually be pretty handy considering how iffy political maneuvering can be.

It wasn't his usual job. Loki was just filling in at the time because Odin was indisposed, and he had a good relationship with the Taurosians.

Right now the story I want to read more of the Borderlord is To Keep the Fire Burning,

Another one I'm way behind on.

Once again, thank you for your time and dedication.

You're welcome. Thanks for your interest.

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Sorry, missed this one.

No worries.

That's why he was randomly smashing up the forest for no reason at the end.

That's a really good explanation, actually, I like it.

Another one I'm way behind on.

As long as you don't go hollow it's all good.

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