It has been about a month now since the replacing of Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle with two of my sisters, who are just half a year younger than me. The thing had gone without so much a hitch or snag—a simple blow to the back of both their heads during one of our many Cutie Mark Crusading planning sessions in the treehouse, then a signal to where the tagarsharuti and garafxassharuti were hidden, waiting. The tagarsharuti took on the two fillies’ forms, and the garafxassharuti took the fillies away to the outpost in the Everfree Forest.
Since then, thanks to my teaching, the two aren’t suspected even by the fillies’ families… and I have wondered on occasion whether I would really be all that upset if they were found out. How disappointed would I actually be if I failed in my mission of helping them integrate into their roles?
How horrible of me to think of such a thing! For just as surely as my name is not Scootaloo, they—my sisters! Matabara!—would be killed! Executed! –and… likely more. Torture, in an attempt to get them to tell where the real Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle are being kept, but of course they would never tell. Not even kapasha are so foolish as to give ponies so much as a hint of a hint as to where Changelings live.
Kapasha have certainly been on my mind recently, and I’m sure they are on the other two’s as well, given the quickly arriving Equestrian holiday of Hearts’ and Hooves’ Day. A day for ponies to spend, in the day’s entirety, simply exuding love—in other words, a day for Changelings to feast and forget any animosities between ourselves for a little while. After all, when love is in such abundance, I know I, and most others, even Sagama, would prefer to feed rather than worry about traitors and deserters.
So, in an effort to distract ourselves from the incoming flux of love energies (and keep our mouths from watering), we jump onto the first project that comes to mind: a Hearts’ and Hooves’ Day present to the one who provides all three of us with love five days out of seven. I think, however, we might have overdone it; not that any Changeling would blame us—I can only imagine what shenanigans the more antsy are getting up to in ever more desperate attempts to distract themselves. To put it in so few words: Hearts’ and Hooves’ Day is big for Changelings.
However, even if no Changeling would blame us, I think both the door out of the treehouse and the door into the schoolhouse will have something to say about the size of our present. Of course the giant heart, while composed mostly of paper, ribbon, and glitter, is still somewhat welded into shape by the copious glue holding the monstrosity together. All three of us silently agree that we’re thankful none of us have to imponyate some “arts-and-craft-y” type (though usually when scouting out potential targets, any talent remotely related to the arts is an instant mark against a pony—even the most art-talented Changeling can’t copy a specific pony’s particular style perfectly). I suppose, though, that even if Apple Bloom has showed some proclivity to the visual arts, the participation in this project by the other two Cutie Mark Crusaders—or rather, Sweetie Belle and myself—would render that skill unnoticeable.
It takes a little bit of work—namely in the “bend it, but not so much as to totally ruin it” direction—but we get it into the classroom just fine without having to resort to even the tiniest, most subtle Changeling magic to help; something I think rightfully earns us the moment of self-congratulation we take. Celebration. Camaraderie. Family. I’m sorry, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, but as much as I value your friendship, I have higher priorities… I just wish I could have done this without hurting you.
Inside, I grimace at the useless apologies—No, they’re worse than useless, but exactly what they are, I don’t think there is a word for. What I’d done, and what I feel about it, I don’t think any Changeling has felt or even dreamed of before. To worry about one’s prey, or to even… maybe… love them back… It’s unimaginable!
I need to abandon these thoughts, as I have abandoned them.
I hope that Hearts’ and Hooves’ Day should prove to be the distraction—the reintegration into normal Changeling thought!—that I need, but in the back of my head, I already know it will fail to reach that expectation. I ignore that part of me, though, as I, a Changeling, should; I have to expect it to succeed in order to give it a chance. A self-fulfilling prophecy… I could really use one of those right now.
Right now, I need to focus. The three of us have purposefully placed ourselves at the front of the class, prime to watch our “peers” and take note of the… possible services they may render to us, Changelings, in the future. Our job is not only to gather the love that ponies seem to naturally have for their young, but to look for budding, extrafamilial relationships—our future food—as a farmer might look after fruit trees too young to yet give fruit. How freely ponies love and express their love, even when so young!
-except towards Changelings.
It’s almost like they want to be our prey.
-and I should be happy to help; I should want for these hypocrites and hoarders of love to be visited by my family and drained of that which they don’t need in order to survive like we do, but which they value as much as a Changeling does anyway! How can ponies and Changelings think so similarly, yet be so at odds? Of course: ponies believe we don’t think like they do, but still, I can’t… hate them, or wish harm upon them; I can barely justify helping my brothers and sisters turn them into food, and even I don’t know myself how I could… love them! -and if I don’t understand it, how can I hope to change it?
Maybe-… I hope I don’t need to understand it. Maybe all I need to do is understand and accept something else. Maybe having these two sisters here will help me relearn what I should have understood before coming here. Maybe that’s what Gimarazrasu Amaariz plan has been all along?—she knew I needed help before I knew it, and started preparing before I started having trouble with these thoughts. Even thought I don’t really know if that’s true, it reminds me of a most important fact I almost forgot: Gimarzrasu Maraza loves me. Everything she’s done and plans to do is all centered on helping me and Matabira.
All of her children. Everyone.
I calm down, and the worry I’ve been feeling coming from my sisters turns to relief, both just in time to receive a new shock: Cheerilee has no, as ponies put it, “special somepony.” All of that potential love, especially on Hearts’ and Hooves’ Day, being wasted?! It seems my wish for a distraction is granted only after I don’t need it any more. I think I’m starting to feel sick… but I need to push on.
Of course all three of us think the same thing at more-or-less the same time: Changeling matchmakers—it would make gathering love foal’s play! -and what better way to initiate our newest plan than with just what Gimarzrasu Maraza teaches and loves: singing. Singing is, after all, pretty much the only artistic thing most Changelings are good at consistently, but the one currently taking the place of Sweetie Belle is the best of our generation, if not the best currently living—after Gimarzrasu Miriza, of course!
However… a funeral? On Hearts’ and Hooves’ Day? Yet more waste, with all of that comforting going around the mourners—not quite as good as the love that blooms on the holiday, but more than the usual everyday. If only the “survivors,” as ponies call them, had rescheduled to a couple days away in either direction, the harvest could have been maximized. All the same, I spot a couple kapasha among the mourners—whether they themselves are actually mourning the loss of a pony’s life or not, I don’t know, and I don’t care. I’m not kapasha. I don’t think like them. Our needs outweigh the needs of our prey. What we do to ponies is necessary to our survival—the akaapish-way would never work on a scale large enough to feed us all!… I think…
Tubs of jelly? Love towards an inanimate object? Yet more waste. How could ponies waste love so frivolously?
Thankfully, I don’t have to think about it too long and lose my pazara in the middle of the street, for we spot what should have been obvious from the start: Big McIntosh. Apple Bloom’s—as “she” points out—big brother, and the stallion that should have come to my sister’s mind before I almost got sick thinking about that jelly-loving pony. -whom I’m determined to never think of again.
How could all of our work turn out for naught? How could two ponies without “special someponies” not want to love each other?! Is there something wrong—defective—with these two? No, that can’t be right, given how much love we, and particularly I, have gathered from Cheerilee for so long. Big McIntosh, however… has always been a bit on the odd side, preferring the company of trees even more than the apple-philiac Applejack. -but turning into an apple or apple tree is about as bad an idea as turning into a tub of jelly. I gag again as we slump away from our defeat; so much for our Changeling matchmakers idea…
-and on to becoming Changeling love potion brewers! If only Twilight Sparkle knew she had hoofed over a recipe for a love potion to a trio of Changelings! What would she think of herself? What would she think once Ponyville becomes the one place in Equestria where everypony, including herself, is in love no one or thing but a Changeling? Nothing, of course! She’d be too devoted to her Changeling to think about anything else, if the book is right about the power of this potion!
No more worries about being found out… No more needs to replace anypony…
The paradise Gimarzrasu Maraza promised before that unicorn set in motion the ruination of her perfect plan! I only hope Gimarzrasu Maraza will allow us to make Twilight Sparkle fall in love with her. Yes… Twilight Sparkle, forced to love the one who once imponyated her brother’s fiancé. Could a more fitting punishment for ruining years of work towards a future where Changelings lived without fear of starvation and helping her brother kill countless Matabura possibly exist?!
I still feel like I’m going to throw up, but I don’t think it’s because of jelly-baths any more…
The feeling only gets stronger when we discover just how strong the potion is, or rather, the poison. Again, in spite of the fact that there is no “hivemind” as ponies believe we have, I know exactly what the other two are thinking: if it’s a love poison, does that mean the love it produces can poison a Changeling, perhaps to the point of killing them? No need to find out—we know we need to solve this before we accidentally kill someone imponyating one or the other, even a kapish!
It may have been difficult, but my two sisters congratulate ourselves on solving the problem we had created. Now, after finishing our punishment and sitting in the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ clubhouse, I still haven’t completely rid myself of my constant nausea. I groan, walking away and ignoring the other two’s scheming, as I think about what led to it: the use of the love poison.
I-… I am a poison. All Changelings are a poison on love, even the self-righteous kapish, with what we do to ponies. What I’ve done…
… What I can fix.
Before I realize it, I’m standing over the still—but breathing—bodies of my two sisters, knocked out cold… and knocked out of their disguises. I don’t remember what I’d done, or even remember deciding to do it. My breathing is… heavy, and I’m soon made aware of a dull pain along my stomach, where I must have been hit.
I cough and hack and heave, but my nausea has left me, as I realize only when I stand up straight and swallow loudly. I shake off the horrible implications and, knowing I can’t carry both of my sisters, drag them and hide them in a hidden compartment that Apple Bloom—the real Apple Bloom (clever nymph- that is, filly)—built, and that even Applejack doesn’t know about.
Then, I race for the Everfree Forest.
I’m not going to be responsible for ponies finding, torturing, and killing Matabara.