Winds of Change

by ClanCrusher

Chapter 6: Consequences

Aura Sight, as I'd started calling it, was useful, but it was not a foolproof changeling detection spell. Keeping the Sight up for even a short amount of time was draining and had practically necessitated a nap right after I'd returned from the spa. The average unicorn guard might be able to cast it once and sustain it for a minute or two at most before tiring. It was also a delicate and tricky piece of magic, at that. It could certainly be taught, but the guards under the employ of Celestia tended to wield their magic with the finesse of a hammer. Lastly, while the spell could detect emotions to a certain extent, there was nothing to prevent changelings from projecting false emotions and foiling the Sight.

Still, despite its shortcomings, it was a step in the right direction. For the time being, I'd written up more things to try and more theories to test.

I'd gone back and forth in my mind about whether or not I was taking too many risks, or if Chrysalis was lulling me into a false sense of security and waiting for an opening. With her hive held hostage and guards on constant lookout around my library every night, it seemed incredibly unlikely that she'd try anything direct, which really only left me as a vulnerability.

Both nights, I'd had unicorns purge me of the residual changeling magic that Chrysalis had left in her wake, along with purifying my body of her poisons, but those were only defenses against the things we already knew about. It was anypony's guess as to what she might still be hiding.

Checking the time, I began to tidy up the library, reshelving books and organizing notes while preparing my hidden note-taking materials.

“Hey, Twilight?” came a voice from behind me. Turning, I saw Spike with his bag packed for an overnight stay at Rarity's. “Are you going to be alright?”

Taken aback by his sudden concern, I asked for clarification. “I think so...what do you mean, Spike?”

“I've been looking tired lately. Like, 'studying for a big test from Celestia' tired.”

I was about to respond dismissively but stopped before speaking up. Concentrating, I cast my Aura Sight, keeping the glow of my horn to a minimum. I saw Spike’s anxiety and felt his concern wash over me, lifting my spirits.

“I know you're worried, Spike, but this will be the last night for a while. After tonight I'll have a nice, long, stress-free break away from her. Promise.”

“Good, I can't stand the smell of her,” he grumbled.

“Smell?” I asked, somewhat confused. Curious, I sniffed the air. “I don't smell anything.”

“Really? The whole library reeks of her.”

“Maybe you’re just more sensitive to…” I paused, a memory suddenly pushing its way to the front of my thoughts. “Spike, could you get me that book on sense enhancement?” Even from that vague description, he knew exactly what I was looking for. Some ponies had joked that if Spike were a pony, he'd have a purple unicorn cutie mark, but I always thought he'd make an excellent librarian.

“Here it is,” came the reply seconds later. Gently lifting it from his claws, I flipped to the section on olfactory enhancement and looked over the theory once more just to be sure I had it right. Drawing energy for the spell, I expanded it to my surroundings, and the scents in the air coalesced into softly-colored mists.

I wasn't quite sure what I was expecting, but 'pink' hadn't even been on my list. Like Spike said, the 'scent' was everywhere, though the color was weak and faint. It was probably only due to Spike's keen senses that he'd picked up on it at all. “Now what did pink mean, again?” I wondered aloud, sliding a hoof down the color index.

My hoof stopped and my eyes narrowed. “Oh, you've got to be kidding me...”



“Fero-what?” Chrysalis' tilted her head slightly, a puzzled look on her face.

“Pheromones,” I accused. “You've been spreading them around my library since your first visit, haven't you? Was it to get me to let my guard down and go along with these crazy experiments?”

Chrysalis took a sip of her tea, staying silent for several seconds. “Twilight Sparkle, I have no idea what you're talking about.”

I opened my mouth to deliver a scathing reply, but stopped short. “You're serious? You don't even realize what you've been doing?”

The changeling queen frowned as she looked at me with narrowed eyes and furrowed brow. “Perhaps you can enlighten me, Twilight. What are pheromones?”

This had to be a joke. Maybe she was just playing innocent. Then again, she hadn't actually lied to me yet, had she? Another question began to form in my mind right behind that one. Just how much did Chrysalis know about her own abilities?

“It's a chemical substance released that serves to alter the physiology or behavior of another creature, although its effects are usually limited to members of the same species. Since you're a changeling, that likely means you can alter it, or perhaps it just affects every species to some degree.” The puzzle pieces were starting to fall into place. It wasn't magical in nature, it was biological. Chrysalis had spent at least a week around Canterlot before her wedding, saturating the palace with it, and my friends...well, maybe Rainbow Dash had been on to something after all.

“Do forgive me, Twilight, but are you implying that I smell?” She seemed almost amused by my rambling.

“Yes...kind of...” I muttered, slightly distracted. “Can you actually change the scent you emit?”

The changeling queen blinked. “I suppose I could. I don't think I've ever tried.”

“Not consciously, anyways,” I corrected automatically. “Could you lift this book for me?” I asked, a theory rapidly forming as I watched the changeling intently.

My intense stare seemed to put her off somewhat, but she did as I requested, wrapping the tome in her green magical aura and lifting it up off the table a few feet. “Is there a point to this, Twilight?” Chrysalis asked patiently.

“Yes, you can put that down now,” I said, furiously scribbling notes on a piece of parchment. “One last question. Who taught you magic?”

“That would be my mother, Chrysalide.”

“Incredible...absolutely incredible...I wouldn't have even guessed...”

“Twilight...” The queen's voice was heavy with annoyance now.

“Sorry,” I said quickly. “It's just...I never would have imagined you were so terrible at magic.”

The temperature in the room seemed to drop precipitously as Chrysalis glared at me. “Excuse me?”

“Um...sorry, I didn't mean it like that,” I said quickly. “It's hard to explain, but...well, for instance, you used almost three times the amount of power necessary to lift that book. You've got power to spare, so you likely never had a need for efficiency.”

Mollified, the queen relaxed, a thoughtful look on her face now. “Can you show me how to do it properly?”

I ran a few calculations in my head as I looked at the ring sealing her magic. A burst of violet light left my horn, striking the ring and sealing her power even further. “That should be enough. Try to levitate it again.”

It was surreal, watching and teaching the changeling queen the most basic theories of magic. She struggled with the book, but also learned quickly, never making the same mistake twice and remaining patient despite those mistakes. After a quarter-hour, she was levitating the book with relative ease, even flipping through the pages.

“This is useful to know,” admitted Chrysalis, as she let the book hover around her head, “Although perhaps a bit too simplistic to apply towards more advanced magic.”

I shook my head, slipping into 'lecture' mode. “Yes, levitation is one of the most basic magics, but if you're flawed in your understanding of the basics, you develop bad habits going forward with more advanced magic.”

“Perhaps that is true with unicorn magic, but the magic I use is changeling in nature,” she replied.

“The type of magic is irrelevant,” I said confidently. “Different species can be more adept at certain varieties of magic and individuals can be more talented in certain areas, but there are fundamental rules for all magic no matter regardless of type. It isn't something unique or exclusive to ponies.”

“Oh? So what's stopping you from using changeling magic, then?” she challenged.

My eyes narrowed and my horn glowed again. This time I made the seal weaker, giving her access to more of her power. “Change shape,” I ordered.

“Any requests?” came her amused reply.

“Just do it.” She complied, and now Applejack was standing in front of me, perfectly mirroring her confused look. With no poison and no pheromones to affect me this time, my mind stayed sharp, observing every fluctuation of the magic in the air and calculating exactly how much power she used.

“Again.” I watched as Chrysalis took on Rarity's form. Changelings had a body type naturally suited for this and an aptitude for the magic as well, but magic was my specialty. There had to be ways to improve upon it; to make it more manageable for me.

“One more time,” I said, my concentration faltering only slightly as I was suddenly looking at Rainbow Dash. Chrysalis had these powers but didn't understand them. I, on the other hoof, had all the information I needed.

“If this goes wrong, grab the royal guards,” I said, not waiting for her response before my horn began to glow. I closed my eyes and braced myself against the ground, trying not to get too excited as a ring of green fire began to form around me.

It wasn't until much later that I learned the significance of what I accomplished. In the thrill of the moment, I simply enjoyed the shocked look on Chrysalis' face as the magic flowed through me and my form began to change. Seconds later, the stunned queen was looking at a perfect copy of a changeling.

“Still think I can't teach you anything?”


The situation wasn’t yet desperate, but there was a definite unease in the air. Scouts had reported back and informed her that all of her late mother's backup hives had indeed been compromised and were constantly being watched. The Red Queen was hunting her, and it was only a matter of time until she was found.

That was merely an inevitable event looming on the horizon, though. At the moment, food was was her biggest concern. Everything else was just a series of overlapping disasters. As expected, Ponyville was almost completely closed off to her. Not only had the Red Queen absorbed the Silver Queen's hive, she'd taken over her network as well.

The signs were all pointing towards migration being the best option and her generals were advising her as such. Deep down Chrysalis agreed, but running meant giving up any hope of striking back against the Red Queen. It was this sense of desperation that had led her to Canterlot.

The Red Queen – well, all of the queens, really – had left this place untouched, and for good reason. Even setting aside the looming threat of Celestia and Luna, the sheer amount of self-interest and arrogance exuded by the local population was almost nauseating. There were small cracks here and there that a changeling agent could slip into, sure, but Canterlot lacked the warmth of Ponyville. Today was the third day of her observations and likely to be her last. She was already going over plans for the migration when something gave her pause.

To a pony, it might have been akin to a sweet scent that slowly drifted in on the wind. To Chrysalis, it was something much more. It was a drop of water on the tongue of the parched. Fighting the urge to run, Chrysalis followed the feeling of warmth, noticing the crowds getting denser as she approached the source. Finally, the disguised queen was forced to stop. For a moment, all she could see was a procession of royal guards, but soon the stallions parted, revealing the beacon of love that was overpowering her senses.

A pink alicorn, walking among her guards, smiling at several of the ponies who had lined up to watch her pass. From the crowd, she heard the name 'Cadenza' and she fixed it in her mind. Simply being in her presence felt like a breath of fresh air in this stifling city, and the constant edge of hunger she'd had for the past several days was fading quickly as she tasted her emotions. Better yet, she didn't even seem to notice the slight drain as she continued smiling and waving at the crowds, having plenty of energy to spare.

Cadenza was a gold mine.

If she could tap even a fraction of that energy, her hive could survive. Dangerous? Most definitely. Putting her hive close to a princess was practically inviting disaster, but if it worked, her hive could be pulled back from the brink of starvation. It wasn’t a perfect solution and there were plenty of details to work out, but setting up in Canterlot might not be so impossible after all.

For the first time since her mother's death, she had hope.

Within days of that first meeting, pieces began to fall into place. Researching Cadance was surprisingly easy. Getting someone into the castle was impossible, but several ponies were happy to sing her praises at length, and the princess often left the castle to do things around the city. Chrysalis made sure that changelings were shadowing her every move, blending in with the crowds she drew wherever she went.

As a princess with royal duties, she also kept to a rather strict schedule even when it came to visiting her favorite shops and restaurants, and after a week of observation, Chrysalis made her move and half a dozen ponies disappeared. If there had been time, she would have moved more slowly, replacing one pony at a time. However, investing a week was already quite risky, and the Red Queen was getting closer to her hive by the day.

And then the biggest break of all had come through.

Dusk, under the guise of a scholar, had found a map of Canterlot in a history text covered in dust and tucked away in a corner of the public library. Through it, he had learned that the castle city had once been a mining town. On a hunch, he had taken some of his scouts to the outskirts, and while the tunnels had long since collapsed, there was indeed a way into them.

Before the day was through, Chrysalis had assigned several dozen changelings to clear the rocks and dig out the collapsed tunnels. By the time the Red Queen discovered their old cave, there wasn’t a hoofprint to be found.

The situation wasn't ideal, and Cadance was barely keeping them sustained, but now they had a hiding place right beneath Celestia's nose. They had breathing room.

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?”

Chrysalis' head jerked up and her body stiffened as she looked into the eyes of none other than Cadance herself, flanked by a pair of royal guards. Fighting back her initial surge of panic, the changeling queen flipped through several different emotional states before settling on nervous admiration. “Princess! No, of course not, please have a seat.”

Carefully, the changeling checked over her disguise once more. Soft, cream-colored fur, striking blue eyes, and a red-and-gold styled mane with an ice cream cone cutie mark. A subtle disguise it was not, but it worked quite well for starting conversations with bored stallions on guard duty.

Cadance nodded to her guards who backed away as she daintily took a seat opposite the disguised Chrysalis. “You have a very eye-catching mane. Who is your stylist?”

“One of my friends, actually. She's looking to make a name for herself, and I’m her test pony,” she replied smoothly.

“Well if she can make everypony as lovely as you, I think her work will pay off.” Within a minute of her sitting down, one of the shop’s employees had rushed outside with a pad and pencil, ready to take an order. Normally, ponies had to order over the counter and could use the tables outside to eat, but royalty wasn’t subject to the same rules.

Chrysalis took the chance to appraise her emotions. Was she suspicious? Curious? Could she sense something because of her abilities? Was she feeling the subtle drain? All Chrysalis could sense was the aura of affection being radiated constantly, mixed in with appreciation for the store owner going to the trouble of serving her personally.

“So what is your name?”

“Sweet Cream,” said Chrysalis, extending a hoof. Cadance took it, and the disguised queen had to fight back a shiver as the contact sent a tingle through her body.

“And what brings you to Canterlot, Cream? You look the part of a tourist, but I must have seen you outside this shop several times now.”

The arrival of the food gave Chrysalis time to mull over her answer. This felt like an interrogation, but there was nothing in the alicorn’s demeanor or emotions that suggested as such. “It's sort of an extended vacation. The place where I work is being remodeled, so I have some free time to travel around.”

“Well, I certainly hope you take the chance to visit more restaurants than this one,” said the princess with a small laugh. “There must be almost two dozen near the castle grounds alone.”

“Most of them would charge me a hoof and a horn just to see the greens menu, and I do have to keep a roof over my head.” The sarcastic comment drew another laugh from the princess.

“Well, if you ever feel like indulging, I know a place you might like. Have you visited The Blue Rose?”

Chrysalis knew the place. One of her agents was already working there, in fact, but she asked for the show of it. The conversation was so banal and uninteresting that Chrysalis couldn't help but be paranoid, often casting glances towards the two stallions standing just out of earshot.

She was almost disappointed when Cadance finished off her meal and excused herself. “It has been a pleasure speaking with you, Sweet Cream. How much longer will you be staying?”

Another innocent and perfectly reasonable question with disastrous consequences if answered carelessly. “A few weeks, perhaps a month. Plenty to see and do here, after all.”

With a nod and a smile, Cadance paid for their meals and left with her guards, leaving a thoughtful Chrysalis behind. The conversation had been inane, boring, and full of lies on her part, but something still seemed off. It wasn't until much later that the answer finally came to her. Cadance actually cared. She hadn't been suspicious, she wasn't trying to interrogate her, and she was genuinely interested about Sweet Cream and her ‘eye-catching’ mane. The fact that royalty was acting in such a manner seemed preposterous, but it went a long way towards explaining why Cadance was so well-liked.

Plans were already forming in her mind. Maybe there was some way to use 'Sweet Cream' to her advantage. Beyond that was an even grander thought...what if she could take Cadance’s place? A mere fraction of the adoration she received from the ponies here could sustain her hive, and maybe even give them enough power to start fighting back.

Such machinations could wait, though. She had the time and the resources to play things safely, and the Red Queen wasn't going anywhere.


It was creepy, hearing this tale from the other side, especially when I knew how it was going to end. For the fifth time since her story began, I stretched and shifted a bit, trying to get used to the feeling of the delicate insect wings.

“It's wearing off,” I said finally, noting the time. An hour wasn’t too bad for my first try. Slowly, the green fire washed over me once more and my body shifted back into the shape of a unicorn.

“And?” asked Chrysalis once the fire had faded.

“And I was right. Your base form and natural affinity makes you sloppy when it comes to employing your own magic because they give you a shortcut,” I lectured. “You picture an end result and throw power at it until you get what you want instead of guiding the magic properly.” I knew I sounded a bit smug, but magic was my element and something I had a lot of personal pride in.

Chrysalis was giving me a carefully blank look. It was one I had recognized from Celestia on occasion. A 'blank' expression that they wore when thinking about or contemplating something.

“I can't say for certain without more experimentation, but you'd probably have better results if you focused on one aspect of shapeshifting at a time, and only spent the magic needed for each stage.”

I stopped before I said anything more, finally realizing that I was just a couple steps away from going into a full-fledged magic lesson. Was I really going to teach an enemy how to better use and control her powers? Wasn't that the exact opposite of what I was supposed to be doing? Falling silent, I tried to change the subject.

“What I don't understand was that if you were shadowing Cadance all that time, why did you give such a terrible impression of her personality?”

Chrysalis sighed. “It hadn't been a good week, and imitating Cadance wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. She had quite a few responsibilities and many...admirers, despite being engaged to Shining Armor.”

“Too many emotions?” I asked curiously.

“Too much attention. It tends to make one paranoid when you live as I do. And then, two days before the wedding was to take place, the shield came up and I was forced to evacuate my people and deal with the increased security. It was…frustrating, being so close to my goals and having all these last-minute obstacles thrown in the way. Including you and your friends.”

Interesting. I'd always thought Chrysalis had sent that warning herself to keep Celestia's attention focused on potential external threats rather than internal ones.

“Everyone around me simply assumed that my foul mood was because of the a security threat arriving right in the middle of my wedding.”

And the constant exposure to her magic and pheromones likely filled in the rest of the gaps. “I guess in the end, you did almost win,” I conceded. “Of course, your real mistake was invading in the first place.”

The changeling queen looked at me curiously. “Oh?”

“I mean...why invade at all? Food, right? Did you even think of negotiating or opening a dialogue with Celestia?”

“Celestia is a shrewd ruler. She may have great love for her subjects, but she is a nightmare to her enemies. Perhaps you see a wise and benevolent princess, but I see a powerful alicorn who banished her own sister to the moon, imprisons her enemies in stone, and is solely responsible for half of the prisoners locked up in Tartarus.”

The last part came out as a snap; there was genuine anger in her voice. Normally I might have recoiled, but this verbal condemnation of Celestia felt personal. “And you used those rumors as justification for an invasion? What happened to all that careful planning and reconnaissance that you claim to value so much?”

“What if I'd been refused, Twilight? I would have revealed us for nothing and dashed any hope of keeping my hive fed! She might have even started hunting us down! Between throwing myself at Celestia's mercy and using the advantage I had, there was only one choice!”

“And where did that get you, exactly?” I was standing now, and I raised my voice to match hers. “You attacked Canterlot, you've attacked Ponyville, you attacked Celestia herself, and she still gave you a chance when she had every reason not to!”

“Only because of the information I can provide for her!”

“How would that have been any different if you simply offered her this the first time? Maybe you could have spared your people those losses! You were wrong about Celestia and you paid for it! All of your people paid for it!”

The ring on Chrysalis' horn began to glow brightly. My own horn was glowing too, and at this point I might have even welcomed a fight. Then, just as suddenly, her magic winked out.

“You're right,” she said, slumping down.

Her sudden admission made my own magic falter. “...What?”

“Maybe if I'd taken the chance, things could have been different. Maybe more than half of my changelings would be alive right now. Maybe if my mother had just given up her territory, she'd still be alive right now, and everypony could have continued to live in blissful ignorance of our existence.”

I sucked in a breath and checked over my reserve of magic. The transformation had taken a lot out of me but I had enough to cast Aura Sight one more time. I'd almost been expecting a void of emotion, but when I looked at her, the only thing my Sight could pick up was tight control over the feelings she was projecting...control that was faltering before my eyes. I could pick out small traces of fatigue and bitterness, and above all else, a sense of defeat.

I quickly let go of the spell, feeling my legs go weak from the magical strain I'd been putting myself through today. Blinking away the colors, I looked at Chrysalis again. Right now she looked like Celestia on one of her bad days, and I'd seen more than a few of those as her student.

“Well, maybe you can take this chance to get to know Celestia properly, then,” I finished with a sigh, the anger draining out of me. “Celestia believes everypony deserves a second chance.”

“And what about you, Twilight? Do you think I deserve this chance?”

I only hesitated for a moment. “No...but I think you can earn a second chance.”

An uncomfortable silence settled over the library. Something intangible had changed between us, something that not even my Aura Sight could pick up. “Next week...may I visit your new home?” I asked finally. “I'd like to see firsthoof how you live.”

The changeling queen seemed mildly surprised at my request. “Even if you trust me enough to set hoof in my home-”

“-which would be foolish of me, I know,” I added before she could.

“-do you believe that Celestia would?”

“I believe that you care a lot for your people and wouldn't do anything to jeopardize them,” I said carefully.

My horn flared with magic and the front door opened, giving her the signal that the meeting was over. The guards were already waiting at the door, but the Silence spell blanketing the tree-house made it impossible for them to hear anything.

“Just one more did you know it was Rainbow Dash?”

Chrysalis smirked. “An educated guess. Introverted types like yourself tend to be drawn towards those overflowing with confidence. Did you try asking her out?”

“Not yet,” I replied, looking at the ground with sudden embarrassment. “It's not the best time right now.”

“You'll be waiting forever if you wait for the best time.”


Chrysalis left and the guards followed. After one of the unicorns had checked me over and departed, the library was finally at peace. I wasn't sure what I was hoping to accomplish by visiting her home beneath Canterlot, but if this alliance had any chance of working, then one side needed to show at least a little trust, and Chrysalis' very nature made that almost impossible for her to do.

If nothing else, being within her own territory might make her more relaxed, and I would have plenty to study there, too. Slowly, I began to catalogue my progress this evening. I'd made a breakthrough in changeling magic, but it was silly to think I could start deconstructing it after performing a single spell. The pheromones were another facet that could potentially be exploited, but there was no reason to assume that a changeling couldn't change that aspect of themselves either. Ultimately, the key was going to be in the magic itself.

I was just about to head inside when I saw a familiar shape heading towards me, flying lazily through the air and holding an unladen mailbag. “Derpy?” I called out, slightly perplexed.

“Heya, Twilight!” came her enthusiastic greeting. “Got a letter for you here, but the guards wouldn't let me near your place for some reason.”

“Sorry about that, they're a bit on edge right now. You could have just waited until tomorrow.”

“Nope! Couldn't do that! The customer paid the super-fast before-overnight delivery fee!” she said proudly, taking the bag and rummaging around inside of it. After a minute of fruitless searching, she turned it upside down and a single letter drifted out towards the ground.

The mailmare made a clumsy grab for it, but my magic had already plucked it from the air before it could touch the ground. “Thanks, Derpy,” I said, levitating a few bits from inside the library towards her. “Make sure you're getting overtime for this.”

She smiled and gratefully accepted the tip before flying off. My smile faded along with the pegasus as I looked over the envelope. No return address, very plain handwriting, and I was willing to bet a thousand bits that if I were to ask Derpy who had sent it, I'd get the description of some average-looking pony with no remarkable features.

Opening the letter, my expression turned into a frown as my suspicions were confirmed. Letting my horn glow, I sent up a bright violet flare into the air, catching the attention of the guards who had been flying away towards Canterlot.

The contents of the letter were basically what I had expected. The only truly important part was the signature and seal at the bottom, confirming its authenticity.

The changeling elders were making their move.