A Novel Tale

by Blissey1

Chapter 4: The Interrogation

As Nurex slowly came to, the first things he noticed were that he was lying on his side on a cold wooden floor and that there was a light shining in through his eyelids. He instinctively tried to move his hoof to block the light, and that was when he realized that his legs were tied up. He wondered why that would be, when the memories of what had happened just that morning rushed back to him. He quickly did a mental check of the rest of his body, and found that there was also some kind of ring on his horn and that his wings were strapped down against his sides. That last one was most worrying part of all of this, as it meant he wasn’t in his unicorn form anymore. There was no doubt about it; they definitely knew that he was a changeling now. A quick attempt at using his magic to remove his bonds resulted in nothing happening, and he realized that the ring on his horn must be some kind of magic suppressor. His hopes sank even further, if such a thing were possible. He reluctantly opened his eyes to see Twilight silhouetted against the bright light that was shining in his face, giving him a glare that could melt a hole through stone.

“So, you’re finally awake,” she said coldly.

He didn’t need his emotion senses to detect the anger in her voice, though when he did focus on her, something about the anger felt a bit off. He also noticed that she was using her magic to hold a lamp in the air, the source of light that was shining on him. He didn’t have time to dwell on any of that, however. “H-hi, Twilight...” he said feebly.

“Don’t play nice with me!” Twilight shot back. She leaned in close so that they were nearly nose to nose. “The only reason you aren’t on your way back to Canterlot in chains is because I want some answers!” she rasped out under her breath. She backed up again and stood at her full height, trying to look as imposing as possible with the lamp as a backlight. “Now what have you done with the real Novel Tale?!”

His mind raced. The real Novel Tale? Were the changelings that attacked Canterlot from a hive that replaced ponies instead of making their own identities? She must have thought that Novel Tale was an actual pony that he had replaced! “I am the real Novel Tale!” he blurted out in a panic. “I-I always have been! It was an identity I created for myself!”

Twilight stomped her hoof on the ground in anger, just inches from Novel’s face. “Don’t lie to me! We learned from Chrysalis all about how you changelings replace ponies in order to steal the love of those that care about them!”

“No, I'm telling the truth, I swear!” he shouted while struggling to back away from the furious unicorn. “Different changeling hives all work differently! We’re not like the hive that attacked Canterlot, my hive would never replace other ponies! We don’t even feed on love! You have to believe me!”

Twilight simply gave him a questioning, suspicious look. This was never going to work. In the ensuing silence, his mind started wandering dark paths. She was going to send him back to Canterlot, and they were going to throw him in a dungeon, or banish him to a far-off land, or execute him, or banish him to a dungeon in a far-off land where he would await his execu—

His train of thought was derailed by a change in the emotions he was sensing from Twilight. Was that curiosity and excitement mixing into the anger?

The gears in Twilight’s head were spinning at full speed. She had been pretending not to believe him in order to keep up the intimidation factor, but she knew he was telling the truth. The lie detecting spell she had going under the glow from levitating the lamp hadn't gone off even once. She had brought up the possibility that this changeling was different from the ones that had attacked Canterlot with her friends, but she hadn’t considered what the implications of that would be if it turned out that really was the case.

Her inner scholar was becoming very excited. There was next to no real scientific information on changelings, which made sense since they had been thought to be merely a myth until the attack just a few days ago. This changeling could prove to be a treasure trove of knowledge on the subject of his kind. She could write a book on the topic and get it published. Her name would live on in academia forever!

She tried her hardest to not squee like a school filly and maintain her scowl.

“Alright then, Novel Tale... if that even is your real name.”

“Umm... M-my changeling name is actually Nurex...”

“Nurex it is then. Here's what's going to happen.” She began pacing back and forth as she spoke. “There’s more than a little evidence to suggest that you might actually be telling the truth, so we're not going to immediately turn you over to the Royal Guard.” She stopped her pacing and turned to look him in the eyes. “But we're not going to just let you go either. There's no telling what you might do now that you’ve been found out.” She resumed her pacing. “You’re going to stay right here where we can keep an eye on you while you help me learn all I can about changelings.”

“No!” Nurex objected, “I can’t stay here! I need to report back to my hive! I was telling the truth yesterday when I said I had some friends living nearby! It’s a relatively small hive and they may not have learned what happened yet! They need to be told!”

The scholar in Twilight jumped at the opportunity before her rational side could stop to consider what she was about to get herself into. “OK then, Nurex. It’s obviously important that your hive know what happened, but I still don’t trust you enough to let you out of my sight. I’m just going to have to go to your hive with you.”

Nurex gave her a shocked look while Twilight mentally patted herself on the back. The academic community wasn't going to know what hit them!

When the door to the basement opened some time later and Twilight came out by herself, only Rarity and Rainbow Dash were still waiting for her. Pinkie Pie had had to return to help the Cakes with the shop, Fluttershy had had to go check up on her animals, and Applejack had had to return to work on the farm, but Rainbow Dash didn’t have much to do today and Rarity was free since she wasn’t getting much in the way of work orders since the attack on Canterlot.

“So what’s the deal, Twi?” Dash asked the second Twilight stepped out the door. “Did you find out where the real Novel Tale is?”

“Well, sort of,” she responded as she closed the door behind her. She then turned to look at Dash. “He says that he is the real Novel Tale, and always has been.”

Dash gave her incredulous look. “And you seriously believed that!?”

“I had a lie detector spell going, Dash. I know it sounds weird, but he wasn't lying. Apparently, some changelings create their own identities instead of replacing ponies like Chrysalis did.”

“Well, I guess that settles it then,” Rarity said with a wave of her hoof. “Who would have thought that such a nice book was written by a changeling?”

Twilight looked to Rarity, surprise clear on her face. “Wait, you’ve read Novel’s books before?”

“Only one of them, the one with that love triangle between the two mares and the stallion. It wasn’t my usual fare, but I still found it to be a fairly enjoyable read.”

Twilight smiled. “Oh, you mean book number five, The Mare Tha—”

“Hello, girls!” Dash interrupted while waving her hooves about, not amused at the tangent the conversation had taken. “We have bigger problems right now than some books! What are we going to do with the changeling?”

“Oh, right.” Twilight blushed slightly at having been so easily distracted. “Well, his real name is Nurex, he has nothing to do with Chrysalis, and he’s going to help me learn more about changelings.” Twilight looked away from her two friends and grimaced. She knew they weren’t going to like this next part. “And... I’m going to be visiting his hive.”

Dash's jaw nearly hit the floor from where she was flying in the air “What!? Are you crazy?” That was about the reaction Twilight had been expecting from her. “You’re going to follow a changeling back to his hive all by yourself!?”

“Nurex assured me that I’d be okay. And remember, lie detecting spell,” she said as she tapped her horn. “So I know that he really does believe that I’ll be safe.”

“That’s still completely insane!” Dash protested. “You should at least take me with you to help keep you safe!”

Twilight shook her head. “Sorry, Dash, but I was hardly able to convince him to agree to take just me. There's no way I could get him to agree to take both of us.”

Dash put her hooves on her hips and glared at Twilight. “There's no way I'm going to let you go into enemy territory all by yourself!”

Twilight put a hoof to her face and sighed in mild frustration. “I already told you, this isn't enemy territory I'm going into.” She looked Rainbow Dash in the face. “And besides, it's not like I can't take care of myself.”

“She has a point there, dear.” Rarity said. “Our Twilight is one of the most magically adept unicorns in Equestria. You remember how she was able to subdue that Ursa Minor all by herself, don't you?”

Twilight's cheeks reddened slightly at the praise from her friend, but Dash still wasn't convinced. She simply floated in the air with her hooves crossed over her chest and a defiant look on her face.

Twilight sighed. “Look, Dash, worse comes to worse, I can just teleport to safety, right?”

Rainbow Dash held her defiant look a few more moments before relenting. “Fine...” she reluctantly said, clearly not pleased about the entire situation.

Twilight smiled. “Thanks, Dash. Now, Nurex told me that his hive is in the White Tail Woods. The day is already halfway over, so there’s a good chance I might end up spending the night there.” Her smile took over the rest of her face and she started prancing about in place. “This is so exciting! I’m going to be the first pony ever to see a changeling hive!”

Dash forced a smirk. “Twi, you are the most eggheaded of eggheads,” she said, then quickly changed to a more serious expression. “Seriously though, Twilight, if you don’t show up by the end of tomorrow, I’m gonna come looking for you. I'll turn the entire White Tail Woods upside down if I have to.”

Twilight gladly nodded in acceptance. “I’d expect nothing less from the Element of Loyalty, Dash.”

Rarity had one more concern, however. “Twilight, darling, I’m glad we’ve come to a conclusion, and I’m sure that you can handle yourself, but don’t you think you should at least send a letter to Princess Celestia before you go?”

Twilight shook her head. “No, she and Luna are still completely swamped with work because of the attack on Canterlot. I know Princess Celestia probably wouldn’t approve of this, but I don’t want to bother her until I have some solid information about changelings to report on,” she explained.

It was clear from Rarity’s expression that she didn’t like that answer, but she chose not to press the issue. “Well, if you’re certain that’s for the best.”

“I am, Rarity,” Twilight said as she nodded. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime! Learning more about changelings could change Equestria!”

After some more discussion over exactly what would happen, and Rainbow Dash extracting a promise from Twilight that she wouldn’t let her guard down, her two friends said their goodbyes and headed out. Twilight went back to the basement and opened the door. “Novel, you can come out now.”

Novel, now back in his pony form, ascended the staircase and entered the main room. “Sorry about keeping you down there,” Twilight said, “but I don’t think I would have been able to convince Rainbow Dash to let me go with you if you were here. I think she would have been too busy trying to grill you herself!”

“Uh-huh,” Novel said half-heartedly, looking towards the ground with his ears folded back against his head.

Twilight winced at how down he seemed. He may have capitulated to her plan to visit his hive, but he wasn’t very happy about it. “Come on, Novel, it’s not all that bad,” she said, trying to cheer him up. “This is an important first step to a proper, and hopefully peaceful, understanding between changelings and ponies!”

Novel looked up at her glumly, clearly not sharing her optimism. “Easy for you to say.” He looked back down to the ground. “You're not the one who has to explain to his queen why a pony found him out and followed him home...”

Twilight frowned at that. If Novel’s queen was anything like Chrysalis, then she could see why he might be so unhappy about this. “She won’t banish you from the hive or anything, will she?”

“What?” Novel looked up at her with a shocked expression on his face. “No! Of course not! She would never do anything like that to one of her changelings! It’s just...” He looked off to the side as she continued. “She can be really intimidating when she wants to be and... well...” He looked down to the ground and sighed dejectedly. “She's my queen and I’ve failed her...”

Twilight could understand where he was coming from. Just the thought of failing a task for Princess Celestia had driven her to do some pretty crazy things in the past. That whole Want-It Need-It spell incident came to mind. Rationally, she knew Celestia would never do anything to hurt her, but when she got into one of her stressed out states, she didn't think very rationally. “Don’t worry, I’m sure everything will work out alright in the end,” she said with a smile. “Just try not to dwell on it too much, it can be bad for you. Trust me on this one."

Novel sighed. “I’ll try.” He looked back up at her. “So when are we going to head out?”

Twilight thought for a moment. “You don't have to pack anything for yourself, do you?”

He shook his head. “We're going to my home, they'll have everything I need there.”

“Well in that case, I just have to pack my saddlebags, and then we wait for Spike to get back.” Twilight had sent Spike off on some errands earlier that morning because she hadn’t wanted him involved in this whole changeling business.

“Why do we have to wait for Spike?” Novel asked warily. “He isn’t coming with us, is he?”

“Of course not,” she said as she shook her head. “We just need somepony to watch the library while we’re gone is all, and Spike knows this place like the back of his claw!” She looked up at the clock on the wall. “He should be back anytime now. Novel, could you watch the door while I pack my saddlebags?”

He nodded and Twilight trotted upstairs. She began packing all she would need to take her observations of the changeling hive, which mostly consisted of copious amounts of writing materials. Just as she was going over a checklist of what she had packed for a second time, she heard the front door open.

“Twilight, I'm back! Oh, hey, Novel. Have you seen Twilight anywhere?” said a familiar, childish voice from downstairs.

“I’m up here, Spike!” Twilight shouted. She heard the clicking of Spike’s claws on the wooden floor followed by the sounds of hoofsteps, and soon Spike appeared at the top of the stairs, with Novel following close behind.

“Heya, Twilight!” Spike said, face barely visible behind the bags he carried. He put down all the stuff he had collected on his errands in the corner of the room and then noticed that Twilight had her saddlebags on. “What’s up? You planning on heading out somewhere?”

Twilight nodded enthusiastically. “Yep! Novel and I are going to visit some friends of his, so we’re going to be gone for the rest of today and probably part of tomorrow.” She trotted up to Spike. “So that’s why you are going to have the big job of watching the library while I’m gone! Do you think you can handle that, number one assistant?”

Spike gave a salute. “You can count on me, Twilight!”

“Thanks, Spike.” Twilight wrapped her hooves around him in a hug. “You’re the best assistant anypony could ask for.” She drew back and looked to Novel. “Come on Novel, it’s time to get going!”

They both headed downstairs and out the front door, taking their first steps on their short but no less important journey.