A change(ling) of heart

by Misty Dolphin

Chapter 1: A New Start

The citizens of Ponyville could be seen going about their day as a young pegasus slowly made her way into town. She had been on the road for quite some time, unsure at this point where she was even going at this point. Her coat was a dark midnight blue, while her mane was a bright yellow.

"Hmm, it seems like a nice town," she says to herself. "What town is this, anyway?" she wonders.

"Why you're in Ponyville of course!" a voice says behind her.

The sound made the poor pegasus jump high into the air in surprise. Turning around, she finds a bright pink pony staring at her with a wide grin on her face. "Geez, you trying to give me a heart attack?!" she asks, trying to catch her breath.

"Yeah, I tend to have that effect on ponies," she says with a shrug.

"Great, 10 minutes in and I run into the village goofball," she mutters. On the bright side, she didn't seem like a bad pony. "Sorry, I guess I'm a little on edge," she says, chuckling nervously. "I'm Bella," she tells her.

"Pinkie Pie, nice to meetcha!" she says happily. "Haven't seen you before. Are you new in town?"

"Uh, kinda. I'm just passing through. I'm looking for a place to stay the night at the moment." Bella explains.

"Oh, that's an easy one. You could try the inn over there." Pinkie tells her, pointing to it. "Ah crap, I forgot I'm needed somewhere else! Seeya around!" she tells her, disappearing in a cloud of dust.

"Uh, what the hay was that about?" Bella wonders aloud scratching her head. "What a strange pony," she says, heading into the inn.

As she walked in, no one seemed to be there. "Uh, hello? anypony home?" she called out.

"I'm coming, I'm coming! Hold yer horses!" comes a voice from the next room. In walks a gruff-looking pony, seeming to want to be anywhere but there at that moment. "Whaddya want?" he asks grumpily.

"Geez, are you always this pleasant? Or did you decide to be in an especially bad mood for today?" Bella thinks to herself. Part of her wanted to give him a serious piece of her mind, but it had already been a long day. Frankly, she just wanted to collapse in bed. "I was hoping to get a room for the night," she tells him.

"Going rate's 5 bits a night."

Bella reaches into her bag, feeling around. Before long, she pulls out 4 bits. "Crud, I'm a little short. Look, it's been a long day, is there any way I can just pay you the last bit later?" she asks.

"Sorry, no exceptions. What guarantee do I have you'll even pay me back?"

As much as she wanted to give him a piece of her mind, he did have a point. "Ok, sorry to bother you." She says with a sigh, taking her bits before starting to leave. As she reached to open the door, it suddenly flung open, knocking her on her back.

"Oh crap, I'm sorry! I was just running late, I didn't see you there!" She could hear a voice saying.

Bella shakes her head in a daze, looking up at the source of the voice. Standing above her was a young grey pegasus with a blonde mane. "Uh, it's fine really. Just doesn't seem to be my day," she says, shakily standing up.

"You're sure? I can be a bit of a klutz." Her new acquaintance asks rubbing the back of her head a bit embarrassedly.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Name's Bella, what's yours?" she asks.

"Well, I'm Derpy. I haven't seen you in town before," she says with a smile.

"I'm just passing through. I'm looking for a place to stay the night. Unfortunately, I'm a little short on bits for the inn." Bella explains.

"Oh, well I can let you stay at my place! We could get to know each other a bit better, and I can make sure you have a safe place to stay." Derpy says happily.

"Really? You'd do that for somepony you only just met? I don't want to impose." Bella says.

"Nah, it's fine. Besides, it's the least I can do." Derpy says.

Bella did have her reservations, but what choice did she have? "OK, I'll take you up on that offer. Thanks," she tells her.

"Great, I'll lead the way," she tells her. She started to leave but then perked up. "Oh, right! Almost forgot!" She says, taking a small package out of her bag and giving it to the owner of the inn.

The two made their way out of the inn, heading towards the other side of town. "So, you're a traveler?" Derpy asks.

"Yeah, something like that. I'm more of a nomad. I don't plan on staying in town long." Bella says.

"Oh, why's that? Not a fan of the townsfolk?"

"No, the ponies here seem nice, most of them anyone. I'm just looking for somepony."

"Hmm, ok. Who is it you're looking for?"

"A friend of mine went missing some time ago. I've been trying to find him ever since." Bella says.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I honestly hope you find him."

Bella looks to Derpy, seeing genuine concern in her eyes. It made her feel better than any other pony she had run into so far.

They eventually reach a small house at the edge of town. "Home sweet home," Derpy says, letting Bella in. "Make yourself comfortable, I'll start up dinner."

As she walked in, she looked around. It was a pretty homey-looking place, with a bunch of different pictures lining the wall. Bella had been so used to either staying at inns or camping out, it was rather nice being in an actual home.

"Here we go," Derpy says, setting down a plate on a nearby table.

"Oh, thanks," Bella says, taking a seat. She takes a bite, the taste making her eyes light up. She had never tasted anything like it! "This is good! Where did you learn to make this?" she asks.

Derpy chuckles nervously, rubbing the back of her head. "Well, it's a bit of a family recipe. My parents always made it for me when I was little."

"Huh, that's neat," Bella says, eating more of the food.

Derpy looks at her, noticing something. "Hmm, you're kind of dirty. How about a quick bath?"

"Oh, that would be nice," Bella tells her, finishing up the rest of her food.

"I'll see if I can get the water going," Derpy says, heading upstairs.

Bella watches her, flinching a bit as she nurses an old wound. "Damn injury's acting up aga-" she starts, a green flame suddenly engulfing her as she reverts to her true form, a young changeling.

"Crap, not again." Bella curses to herself as she disguises herself again. Ever since she'd gotten that injury, her disguise had a bad tendency to drop randomly. Thankfully, Derpy hadn't been in the room to see it. The last thing she wanted was to freak out her new friend.

After a few moments, Derpy returns. "Ok, bath's ready. You can use the bathroom down the hall," she tells Bella.

Bella nods, making her way into the bathroom, and closing the door behind her. She eases herself into the tub, getting comfortable. As she gets in, she lets out a sigh of relief.

"I've been on the road for so long, it feels great to have a warm bath." she thinks to herself, laying back and relaxing. The bath felt so nice, that she can't help but drift off the sleep.

Her sleep was restless as her recurring nightmares came flooding back. She was taken back to the attack on Canterlot, a battle she was forced to fight in. That was the last time she saw her friend before he went missing.

"But your majesty, he must be out there somewhere, if you could just let me search for him..." Bella pleaded with tears streaming down her face. The queen, however, refused to listen.

"Our hive has been severely weakened after that fiasco. We cannot afford to spare any resources to search for one individual," the queen said coldly.

Bella's heart sank as she realized that her pleas fell on deaf ears. "Fine, let me go search for him alone then. I'll find him."

"Give it up, he's likely long gone. What chance would he have to survive out there on his own?" the Queen asked coldly.

"I don't care, Bella replied defiantly, her voice filled with determination. "He's my friend, and I won't abandon him!"

"Fine, but if you set 1 hoof out of this hive, don't bother coming back." The queen's words echoed in Bella's mind as she woke up from her nightmare, her body trembling with a mixture of fear and determination.

"Damn you, Chrysalis. I WILL find him, I swear it." She says to herself.