• Published 7th Nov 2015
  • 5,721 Views, 653 Comments

Changeling Escapades: Skyrim - Erised the ink-moth



A Changeling is teleported to the frigid land of Skyrim. Lost in a frigid and hostile land, he must find a new source of love to sustain him. Worse still, Alduin the World Eater has returned to bring about the end of days. What our changeling do?

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Prologue: A morning in Ponyville

Equestria... we all know it. The land of magic ponies, kindly ruled over by the royal sisters Celestia and Luna, Princesses of the sun and moon. Because of them, peace and harmony was maintained for hundreds of years.

For the three tribes of Pegasi, Unicorns and Earth Ponies, harmony was the most important thing in the world. Harmony and friendship had united them in their darkest hour long ago, saved them from their own hatred and distrust of one other. To this day, friendship, love, and acceptance kept their world from falling apart.

Unfortunately, there were those who would take that love and trust, and abuse it to their own ends.

Changelings were sneaky and smart, always hidden, always taking the utmost care to not be found out. They were barely more than a distant, forgotten memory of a race. But sightings were inevitable, legends cropped up, and stories were told.

They were considered monsters, and for good reason. Insectile in form and ravenous in intent, their unique brand of magic made them a cut above your normal predator. They fed not on flesh, but one's very life energy. And their tactics were custom tailored to exploit ponies.

By disguising themselves with illusions, changeling took the place of those you loved most; they could look like your parents, a sibling, your husband or wife, or even just a very close friend. When you mistakenly opened your heart to them, and left yourself vulnerable, that was when they'd feed upon you, draining everything away until you were nothing but a hollow shell of the pony you once were.

After they took what they needed, they'd leave your cold lifeless husk to perish as they swooped off into the night in search of their next victim.

Equestria wasn't the only place that built dark legends around the elusive shapeshifters either. In the Zebralands there were tales of shadows that stole your soul. The Minotaur tribes built their homes in complex mazes of stone to confound anyone falsely posing as family or friend. The Griffon kingdoms developed innate mistrust of anyone, always fearing betrayal, yet never questioning why.

As for dragons... well, changelings were crunchy snacks just like everything else.

Make no mistake though. Despite what the stories say, changelings weren't misunderstood cuddlebugs that survived on happy thoughts and hugs. They didn't feed on love, they fed through it.

It was deadly thing to let a changeling feed on you. It would leave you forever weakened if they took more than the smallest sip. And all to often, 'the smallest sip' wasn't good enough for a starving predator, and the results were fatally obvious.

By and large, changelings were unsympathetic leeches.

There were some good ones out there… ones content with enduring their hunger... ones that weren't so cruel. But a few good apples doesn't redeem a rotten bushel.

...

Stross was a Changeling. He wandered alone, having been without his familial hive for a very long stretch of years. He was unable to join a new hive. Every one he'd stumbled across either disgusted him or rejected him.

Instead he spent most days under a magical disguise his kind were (un)known for, hanging out and socializing with the many ponies in Equestria and feeding off them when he needed... and only when he needed.

Stross tried hard to be a ‘good’ parasite. Too hard sometimes. He was good at not hurting those he fed on, and it often left him starving.

With his life in constant flux, he would drift from place to place due to problems that inevitably arose. He was friendly and likable, but any long-term solutions for sating his unnatural hunger never really stuck.

Still, it was life.

But then Chrysalis happened. She happened hard!

Stross could barely believe it when he'd heard about the invasion. He was glad they failed! If Chrysalis had actually succeeded in taking the city, her hive would have gorged themselves silly on all those innocent ponies, killing thousands and growing unrivaled in strength because of it. Equestria would have been doomed.

Stross was glad they failed.

But if there were ever a bad first impression to give, Chrysalis and her hive gave the biggest face-slap, crotch-kick, I-slept-with-your-wife-and-your-mother, and-I-shot-your-dog first impression that there ever was!

Ever since the Chrysalis Hive’s attack on the city of Canterlot, things got harder on every Changeling alive.

For the first time in centuries, his race was brought into the cold light of day. Changelings weren't just scary stories anymore, they were silent boogymares hiding in every shadow. They could go anywhere, be anyone.

The ponies of Equestria, once oblivious, were now searching high and low for any changeling still skulking around in their lands. Every guard in every city was looking for him and his foolish brethren, angry and scared like never before.

...

Oh...
And Stross wants me to point out that he, in fact, did not take part in the invasion. He says invading is a fancy term for brute force, blunt and ruthless and mean. He says he prefers a gentler, more subtle take on things. Less 'Rawr! I'm gonna eat your soul!', and more 'Hey, I'm really hungry. Can I give you a hug and eat your soul?'

That doesn't sound very...

Y'kow what. Never mind! Exposition over!

Story time!


At the time we join him, Stross had been aimlessly wandering for the past few days, searching for a new place to find nourishment after his last colossal failure had sent him running.

Being a doctor takes years of study. It's not like being a baker or a florist; putting on a lab coat and 'making it up as you go' just isn't going to cut it. Also, asking ‘What’s the red squishy thing?’ during an open-heart surgery is a pretty quick way to blow your cover.

So he was exposed and sent running yet again, and as a bonus, it was now common knowledge that Changelings ate hearts!

Bang-up job there Stross.

As things were, our little changeling was practically starving at that point, having burned through much of his energy reserves during his escape, the rest having slowly dwindled while he put some distance between him and the city. Luckily for him, he just happened across a little town by the name of Ponyville.

Checking the state of his chitin, Stross discerned that he had enough energy in him to safely create one disguise... maybe. Lighting his horn, Stross did what Changelings normally do.

Or at least, what Stross normally did.

Concentrating, Stross engulfed himself in red embers, creating a pony disguise by mashing together random body types and fur colors. When his magic faded away, a skinny, grey earth pony stallion with a messy white mane stood in his place. The name Stark Shade seemed appropriate and generic enough to use. Thus he wasted no more time, and headed into town in search of somepony to feed off of.


Now… for all that's been said about Equestrians being hyper alert and paranoid due to scary bug-horses ransacking their capital city, it should also never be understated how open and accepting they are.

When no danger is perceived in their midst, ponies are super nice, because they don't think they're in any danger. Nearly the very second Stross arrived in the town proper, nearly everypony he passed gave a friendly wave and a warm smile. They gave no shortage of polite greetings when they passed by the nice, normal, totally-not-a-changeling pony.

Stross smiled back at them as he went, allowing a familiar calm to wash over him as he went through his usual motions. He breathed deeply, feeling the life and emotion in the air around him; it was a like a warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy that bubbled up to your chest. It wasn't nearly enough to feed on, but it just felt great.

However, just as he finished taking in a deep breath, he felt a disturbance in the force. His senses couldn’t even pinpoint the direction it was coming from, as though it were very far off, yet coming from everywhere at once.

Then it suddenly condensed into a solid mass just out of view, and a millisecond later a pink pony with a wild curly mane sprang out in front of him. “HI! I’m Pinkie Pie. Are you new in town?” she asked in a rapid string of words.

Stross stared nervously at the bouncing pink bundle of pure energy. He could practically see her vibrating in front of him. "Uh, yeah. Yeah I am." he answered. "How’d you know?”

“Well I know everypony in Ponyville, and I’ve never seen anypony quite like you.” Pinkie told him, her mouth working faster than most auctioneers Stross had seen. “You’re really grey. Do like the color grey? Because you’re really grey, and I think grey is kind of a sad color to be honest. What’s your name?”

“I’m… Stark Shade.” Stross told her, “Would you like to be friends?” he asked.

Pinkie gasped, and then her face snapped into a giant grin. “I’d LOVE to be friends! I’m friends with everypony in Ponyville, and you’re in Ponyville right now, so it’s like we’re friends already! Gimme a hug, friend!”

Heh, this was easy.” Stross thought to himself as Pinkie wrapped her front limbs around him like they were made of taffy.

While Pinkie was distracted, Stross reached out with his magic to suck up some of the life energy that had been practically gushing off her through the whole exchange. She was wide open to him, and she tasted sugary sweet, like eating frosting straight out of the container.

Suddenly, Stross felt as though a huge block of ice had been shattered on his head, and he grit his teeth as the dull pain set in through his skull.

Pinkie had apparently felt something too, and she broke away and checked herself over, humming thoughtfully. “Shivery back… tingly lips and… chills?” she listed off.

“Pinkie?” Stross asked as he rubbed his head.

“Oh it’s nothing, it’s just my Pinkie sense. It lets me know when things are gonna happen.” She explained briefly, leaving Stross with a lot more questions. “I’ve never gotten that combo before though. Shivery back/itchy ear means that the oven is still on, and tingly lips/neck wiggle means Rainbow Dash misplaced her can-opener, but Shivery back/tingly lips/chills is a totally new one. I wonder what it means...”

Pinkie sat with her face scrunched up in a hard contemplating stare, rubbing her chin and humming thoughtfully as she looked between the open air and the disguised stallion before her.

"Ah, never mind!” Pinkie perked up, "You know what we should do, pal o' mine? We should go to Sugarcube Corner and get some lunch, my treat!”

Stross was in little position to decline as Pinkie grabbed him by the shoulders and dragged him along as she bounced down the road.


Along the way Pinkie told the story of how she first met the Cakes, the owners of the bakery. It was an uplifting tale of a young rock farmer who lived a dull, boring life, until one glorious day, she discovered what it was like to be happy, and wished to share that joy with the entire world. It was a story of bravery as she made the fateful choice to leave her family and their humble rock farm behind to spread her parties far and wide. There was a touching moment before she departed, when her parents told her that no matter what she chose to do with her life, whether it involved rocks or balloons, they’d always love her.

“... and after that, I got off the train in Ponyville, where I met mister and missus Cake. They let me live with them back when Sugarcube Corner was just getting started, and taught me all the yummy recipes that we still make today.” Pinkie finished, beaming as they arrived at the gingerbread styled bakery.

“That was a great story Pinkie.” Stross complemented her as they walked up the steps of the gingerbread-styled building.

“Yup, everypony loves to hear about how Princess Celestia made peace with the dragons.” Pinkie giggled, “Sometime I’ll have to tell you about how I came to Ponyville. That’s a heartwarmer.”

“I- wait. What?” Stross blubbered for a second before dismissing the oddness. Pinkie seemed a little… off, but he sensed no traces of mal-intent. And she was friendly enough.

The interior of the bakery was a pretty welcoming setup. It was painted in bright pastel yellows and pinks, tables were set up along the side walls, and pictures of parties were hung as decorations on nearly every available space. On the far side was the register where ponies would place their orders, and a glass display case filled with assorted cookies and cupcakes stood to either side of the counter.

Yet there was something distinctly off about the mood in the bakery. A yellow mare with a bright orange mane sat off to the side with her chin resting on the table as she slumped over. In contrast to the few others occupying the rest of the tables, enjoying their coffee and scones on this lovely morning, the yellow mare and her somber position stuck out like a sore hoof.

“Hey Pinkie.” Stross got the pink pony’s attention. “You know everypony in Ponyville right? What about her?” he gave a slight gesture towards the sulking yellow pony.

Pinkie’s expression turned to a mix of sadness and sympathy. “Oh that's Sunny Delight, but her friends all call her Sunny D. She’s been really super sad because her coltfriend who lives all the way over in Manehatten was a big jerkface and cheated on her for this other mare he met.”

“Ouch. That’s terrible.”

“I know, right?! Just look what that meanie mean-pants did!” Pinkie yelled and thrust a hoof at Sunny, who looked over for a second, but just as quickly rested her chin back on the table. “I’ve tried everything I can think of to help her get over it, her friends too. But she’s just broken up into little bitty pieces over him.” Pinkie pouted, “Poor Sunny’s been like this for weeks, and I just don’t know what to do anymore.”

Stross couldn’t help licking his lips, knowing an opportunity when he saw one. As bad as it was for Sunny, this was also a perfect opportunity for a Changeling. “That’s so sad. Do you think I could try and talk to her about it?”

Pinkie met the look in his eye with a smirk of comprehension as a plan of her own wove itself together. “Stark good buddy, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” she asked.

First I move her with my sympathy and cheer her up like nopony else could, then we become friends and I help heal her broken heart. She falls for me, and I have all the love I could ever need. Then she’s happy, and I don’t have to starve. Everyone wins!” Stross squealed internally as the perfect plan came together. “Uh, I dunno. What are you thinking Pinkie?” he asked, trying to appear oblivious.

Pinkie grinned and had dragged him over to Sunny’s table in the blink of an eye, barely able to contain herself. “Hey Sunny!”

The yellow mare buried her face even further into her hooves with an annoyed groan.

“I know my ideas to cheer you up haven’t worked out too well the last couple dozen times. But that’s why I brought somepony new to help! Sunny D, this is Stark Shade, he’s new in town! And since your other friends are running out of ways to make you happy, maybe you can be friends with him and he can make you happy! Do you two wanna be friends with Starky? Huh huh huh? It’ll make you feel better about you-know-whooo-ooo.”

If Sunny could deflate any further she’d have melted into the table. “Pinkie… please, I really don’t want to think about-“ She tried to say before she way cut off by Pinkie’s much quicker speech.

“Ooh, you know what goes great with new friends? New friend milkshakes! I’ll go get you some!” she then zipped off to the kitchen despite Sunny’s protests.

Stross gave an awkward smile, and sat down across from her. He did his best to look gentle and approachable before taking a quick inhale to deliver the greatest pick-me-up speech in the history of ever. “So-”

“Go away.” Sunny mumbled and returned her face to the table.

And the plan starts off swimmingly!

“Are you alright?” Stross asked as he leaned in a little.

The glare Stross received told him that was a stupid question, and he was stupid for asking it.

“Pinkie told you about my ex-coltfirend, yes? And she’s come up with another half-baked scheme to cheer me up that somehow involves you.” Stross nodded slightly to both questions, and Sunny let out a displeased groan. “Pinkie Pie… she means well, I know she does. But she just doesn’t understand what it feels like to have your heart ripped out and stomped on! Fun can’t fix that kind of thing.”

“I’m sorry, I… I know what that feels like too, like there's a giant gap that's been ripped in your soul. And I know it hurts.” Stross said softly, pleased to note that Sunny bothered to look up at him. “I’d really like to help if you’ll let me.”

Sunny snorted softly, but shook her head. “At least you gave me a choice. Pinkie has been pestering me about it constantly ever since I made the mistake of telling her.” Sunny crossed her hooves on the tabletop once again, “Somehow the girls were even worse, setting me up with blind dates to ‘get me out on the market again’. They just don’t understand. Hail Slick was perfect. I can’t just replace him, even after… after…” Sunny choked out a sob as the words got caught in her throat.

Stross reached over and placed a hoof on her shoulder as she tried to not break down in public. “Shh… it’s okay.” He whispered until she was breathing normally again. “What was he like anyway?” he asked as cautiously as stepping through a minefield.

Sunny slowly opened her eyes, and spoke in a croaking voice. “We met at Neighagra Falls. I wan’t even there with anypony, just on vacation when I found out there was a mixup with my hotel reservation. I wouldn’t have anywhere to stay for a whole week and was going to have to cancel my whole trip. Then Hail Slick swooped in and saved me, saying that his friends never showed up, and he had two extra beds in his room.

“I didn’t want to impose, but he insisted it was no trouble.” Sunny let out a dreamy sigh. “That week was amazing. We went to see the falls together, went on tours of the town’s monuments... then on the last night we went out to dinner together like we had been all week, and he asked if I would be his marefriend. And of course, I said yes!” Sunny squeed adorably at the memory.

Then she frowned. “Of course it was too good to be true. We were together for almost half a year. He got a job that payed a lot of money, but required him to move to Manehatten. ‘It’s so I can treat you right’ and ‘have a good life together’ he says. Hail told me in his letters that I’ll be the only one he’ll ever love. So why would I worry?” Sunny huffed, “It was only when I came for a surprise visit that I found out that ‘the only one’ didn’t include ploughing this runway model that happens to live next door to him!” Sunny screamed in outrage. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And when I asked him why… he wasn’t even sorry! Said some stupid line about keeping all his options open, and that it wasn’t a big deal! It was a big deal to me!”

It was at this point that Sunny Delight noticed the stares from the other customers, who had forgotten their tea and muffins around the time Stross sat down, and were eagerly listening to the whole conversation, despite trying to appear like they weren’t.

“I’m sorry mister Shade. I didn’t mean to dump all my problems on you.” Sunny said to Stross, bringing her voice back down. “It just sort of… all spilled out at once.”

Stross just smiled back reassuringly. “It’s okay, I don’t mind, really. Keeping things bottled up is hard.”

Sunny nodded, "I thought Hail and I had something special. I just can’t believe he’d just use me and then leave for somepony else who’s richer, more successful… prettier. And he lied right to my face the whole time. I don’t even know what I did wrong.”

“But shouldn’t that make it easier to get over him then?” Stross asked her, “He sounds like such a scumbag. Charming… but a scumbag.” But am I any better with what I do?

“That’s what everypony keeps saying. But it feels like a big chunk of me isn’t there with him gone, like it was ripped right out.” Sunny shut her eyes. “It just... it hurts so much to think he's not there anymore. Maybe he wasn't great to me... but he was mine.”

As a Changeling, Stross could relate on a far more literal level. Without a constant source to feed on, his kind would slowly wither away as the hunger set in. Losing your ‘special somepony’ was like having your stomach ripped out.

Stross raised Sunny’s chin with a gentle hoof. “You want to know what I do after a bad breakup?”

Sunny pondered it for a second, about to tell him no, but then just rolled her eyes. “As long as it has nothing to do with parties.” She said sullenly.

“Well actually, and I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I think Pinkie Pie had the right idea, at least to start out with. And your friends too, but they were just jumping way ahead. You see, treating the pain of a breakup is a lot like treating any other kind of physical wound, at least in theory.” Stross told her, to which she gave him a skeptical look.

“What I mean is, if something hurts really bad you’d use some kind of painkillers in order to make it bearable, right? And for break-ups, your painkiller of choice is anything that gets your mind off it; salty or sugary food, being with friends, buying something you’ve always wanted, whatever makes you feel good. That’s what Pinkie was trying to do, it’s just that she never moved on to the second step.”

Sunny nodded and continued to listen.

“You see the thing about any painkiller, physical or psychological, is that it doesn’t actually heal you, and if you keep using it, you’ll still be hurt on the inside.” Stross continued “So sooner or later you have to confront the source of the problem and deal with it for good. And I don’t mean find the guy who hurt you and punch his lights out, as satisfying as it would be to watch...” Stross added, glad that Sunny actually giggled a little at his comment.

“But anyway, I find that the best way to work out any pain is to just talk about how you feel. Psychiatrists are great for this, and it’s probably why they get paid so much. Being able to just vent your frustration and pain will leave you feeling like a weight’s been lifted off your back. Also, being able to think about what your ex actually meant to you, or what you saw in him, and then put those things into perspective will help you to move past him.”

“Perspective?” Sunny asked.

“Yeah, like…” Stross thought for a second, “Name something nice he did for you, just off the top of your head.”

Sunny Delight looked at the ceiling for a while in thought. “Well, when he took me out to dinner to ask me to be his marefriend, he stopped me before I left for home, and gave me this keychain in the shape of a teddybear with a heart on it. He pulled out a charm necklace that had one just like it, next to a photo of his parents and one of his baby teeth.” She smiled and started tearing up at the memory “I thought it was so sweet of him and I just- I just-“

Stross quickly put a hoof over hers, snapping her out of her memories of the good times before she could start sobbing.

“And now, try to remember a time when he wasn’t so nice. Some time when he let you down.”

The way Sunny’s expression changed and her eyes became cold let Stross know she could think of plenty.

“Everything changed when I met him again, after Neighagra. I can’t count how many times he said he’d meet me and never showed up, made plans and then dropped them over nothing. It was like he was a totally different stallion.” She said with a small frown “All those times when hanging out with his friends at this sleezy bar was more important than spending time with me, sometimes I don't think he even knew them. Or how about when-“

“Okay, I um… I think I get the idea.” Stross stopped her, and she grinned sheepishly when she realized how loud she was talking again. “But you see what I mean, right? Whenever you think back on how happy he made you, try to put it in perspective, and ask yourself if it was worth the pain he caused later on. You might even realize how awesome you are for getting through it. I know some ponies who would have stayed and taken the abuse. You’re really brave Sunny Delight.”

Sunny smiled at that. “Thank you.” she whispered, her eyes shying off to the side.

Stross smiled back. “I know you’re going to be okay, just give it some time. And when you’re feeling confident, you can move on to step three, and find someone new. You might run into ponies like Hail again, no denying the possibility, but as long as you don’t give up on yourself, you can always get back up, and keep trying.”

“That’s all there is to it, just believe in yourself and keep trying?” Sunny asked doubtfully.

“Well okay… maybe not all there is to it. I think I’m oversimplifying. But I believe in you. I mean, I’m still wondering why this Hail Slick would give up someone so...”

“Boring? Whiny?” Sunny offered.

“Wonderful.” Stross said, causing her to blush. “And cute.” Stross added with a little laugh.

“You know what Stark, you’re right. No more kicking myself over this.” She said sitting up straighter with little popping noises coming from her back. It made Stross wonder how long she’d been slumped over like that... likely too long.

It was at that point that Pinkie Pie came back to them with a tray of milkshakes impossibly balanced on top of her poofy mane. When she saw that Sunny Delight was no longer a lump of miserableness, she gasped in excitement. “Sunny! Are you feeling better?” she asked eagerly before gasping again as a second realization hit her. “Did Starky help you like he said he would?”

“You know what Pinkie, I really am feeling better.” Sunny told her, which only made Pinkie’s smile grow. “Thank you Stark. And thank you for not giving up on me Pinkie.”

“Woo-hoo!” Pinkie jumped for joy while somehow keeping the shakes balanced on her head, “I knew it would work, new friend making prevails over being down in the dumps once again!” she declared victoriously “Oh and that reminds me, your milkshakes! Ooh, and don’t go anywhere, I need to get my camera to commemorate this moment!”

With that she set the drinks on the table and zipped up the stairs.

“So… are we really friends now, or am I more of a traveling psychiatrist.” Stross asked.

Sunny chuckled. “Just a few minutes ago I would have said no. But you’ve really pulled me out of my gloom. I’d love to get to know you more. To new friends?” she asked and raised her shake.

“To new friends.” Stross agreed and did the same. And to becoming much more.

With a small clink, the glasses of vanilla-chocolateyness came together, the little paper flags reading ‘Best-est Friend-shakes’ in agreement. Sunny happily started sipping away at hers, while Stross on the other hoof was more focused on the sweet emotional juice flowing off his new friend. He discretely sucked it in, feeling fuller with each passing second.

"I'm getting seriously good at this." he thought to himself. If he stuck around a while, inching closer to her and doing everything right, he'd have her as a genuine lover, and thus... a permanent supply of nourishment. "if only we were all like this, then there wouldn't have to be any reason for ponies to hate us."

“GAAHHH!” Sunny suddenly yelled out in pain, grabbing her head and clenching her teeth.

"OH NO!"Stross immediately assumed the worst, but still couldn’t believe it. He’d been so careful with his feeding! She shouldn’t have been hurt by so little, and he could still see the ambient energy around her! What was going on?! “Sunny?! Are you okay?” he said and reached across the table to her.

“I drank it too fast.” she groaned and let out a shiver.

Stross blinked, snorting a laugh as he put two and two together. He hadn’t hurt her. Not even close. She’d just gotten a bad case of brainfreeze from the milkshake. He couldn’t help himself he just started laughing.

She glared at him at first, but pretty soon Sunny couldn’t help but laugh too.

“You’re silly Sunny Delight.” Stross said between giggles.

There was a flash next to them, and they turned to see Pinkie with an old accordion camera. “Great! That’s a keeper.”

“So mister Shade,” Sunny Delight got Stross’s attention again, “my friends were planning to take me out on a sort of triple-dinner-date tonight, another attempt to set me up with some stallions they know from work. Would you like to join us, and maybe be my ‘step three’ for the evening to show them I'm better now?”

“I’d be happy to.” Stross told her with a smile, “Just let me know where and when.” She was going to keep him fed for a really long time. And he’d pay her back with happy memories of course, anything to be more than a mere parasite. Things were going well for him again.

And then the front door got kicked in.

“Sunny, I know you’re here!” a deep blue Pegasus stormed in, quickly drawing everyone’s attention. He looked around until he spotted Sunny Delight, rudely shoving Pinkie aside as he marched up to her. “Sunny, I’ve changed my mind. I want you back.”

Sunny scowled at him. Less than an hour ago she would have practically leapt back into his hooves. But this was a very different Sunny Delight he was dealing with now. “I don’t think so. I’m my own mare now. I don’t need you anymore, so go back to that slut in Manehattan.”

“Are you still mad about that? Come on babe, I’ve heard what everypony’s been sayin’, you’re a wreck without me, you need me. Now I came all the way here, offering to take you back and you’re saying no? What gives?” Hail Slick said, and yet the word ‘sorry’ never so much as graced his lips.

“What gives-“ Sunny scowled and punched his chest for emphasis “-is that we are done! You’re not the same stallion I met in Neighagra Falls. I am done with the grief you’ve given me all this time, and I’m done with you! Now get out of my town.”

Hail Slick frowned back at her, but as they continued to argue, Stross noticed something distinctly off about Hail Slick. Where Sunny and Pinkie Pie were bursting with palpable life energy, as were the bystanders watching from the sidelines, Hail Slick seemed dead. No… not dead… worse, a pool of darkness that sucked in the light around him.

Stross frowned and stepped up next to Sunny. “You need to leave Hail Slick.” Stross said his name tensely.

The two regarded each other with cold glares, and for the two of them, all deception was peeled away. Where onlookers saw two stallions fighting for the affections of a mare, Stross and Hail knew they were two Changelings fighting over food.

“And who are you supposed to be?” Hail asked with a light snarl. “Punk.”

“His name is Stark Shade.” Sunny told him, “My new coltfriend.”

Rather than snapping at Sunny, or telling either to butt out, Hail just sneered at Stross. “So, trying to take what’s mine, are you?”

Sunny scoffed, “I am not yours-“ But Stross cut her off, quickly holding her back with a gentle hoof, his eyes never leaving Hail Slick.

“I’ve got this.” He told her before speaking to Hail, “Shall we take this outside?”

The small crowd of onlookers gasped.

Hail gave a quick sideways glance at the assembled ponies, including Pinkie, who had already finished nervously biting her own hooves and moved on to the hooves of the pony next to her.

“After you.”

The tension in the room was nearly crushing as the two trudged their way back out the front door.


Once in the alley behind Sugarcube Corner, neither of the disguised Changelings had any questions as to whether they were being watched. As much as each would have liked to drop their disguises on the spot and tear into each other, the winner claiming Sunny Delight as their own, it simply wouldn’t do to expose themselves, and survival took priority over savage instinct. But there was still a way to get a solid discussion across.

The two looked around, and Stross brought a hoof up over where his heart would be before sliding it to his mouth. To ponies it would look like a gesture of contemplation. To any Changeling with a brain, it literally meant ‘I eat love. I am a Changeling’ initiating the discussion.

Hail Slick twitched his mouth and stomped his hoof twice, the response of ‘I know, me too.’ Thus began their ‘conversation’.

Hail Slick began, “So where’d a punk like you come from?” What faction are you allied with?

“My family’s on a long vacation, so I’m here to relax a little and maybe make some friends. I could ask you the same.” My faction disbanded a long time ago, I’m on my own and trying to find a source of food. Which are you from?

“Well I got friends you don’t want to mess with, so let’s cut to the chase. Ain’t anyone taught you not to take what’s not yours?” All you need to know is my faction is powerful, and we don’t share. That pony is mine to feed off of.

“Oh, so that model back in Manehattan wasn’t enough for you, huh? Sunny Delight doesn’t need someone like you making her miserable, and I can do better for her.” You already have one pony to feed off of, you can afford to let me have this one. She deserves to be happy.

Hail slick raised a skeptical brow. “You really care about her huh? Why? She's nopony to you.” You think her feelings matter? She’s a meal on legs! Or do you like to play with your food?

“I care about her more than you apparently. And why not? She’s not just some… thing to be taken advantage of! And FYI, relationships tend to last longer when you meet them half way.” I think of her as more than just food, unlike you. You'd just make her suffer! She's a living thing with feelings- feeling we use to feed. Why not feed a little less if it means keeping our ponies alive longer?

“Oh, so you’re the relationship police? Who are you to tell me how to live my life?! I’ll do what I want! She’s mine.” You’ve got no moral high-ground here. If you want to let attachment cloud your judgement and get you killed, fine. But I’m sticking with what keeps me alive and well. So you can go off and have fun starving. “I put a lot of effort into her at Neighagra.”

This made Stross pause, thinking over the little details of Sunny’s story about her and Hail. This would tip it for him. He had to ask. “Do you still have that bear necklace?”

“The what?” Hail asked, unable to find any hidden meaning.

“The charm necklace with your family's picture, and your baby tooth, and the bear with the little heart on it. Sunny has the matching bear charm you gave to her. Did you at least keep yours, you know… for sentimental value?”

“What are you talking abou-“ then Hail paused, and the meaning became clear.

Were you always Hail Slick, or did you replace him?

“You’re worrying about that right now?! I could cream you, and you’re asking about that?!”

“I am. What happened to you at Neighagra Falls? Sunny said you were the practically the perfect gentlecolt before. Why’d you change like that?” Stross said and took a step forward. What happened to the real Hail Slick, it could have been an act, but your acting isn’t that good. I’ll bet you just let some stallion do all the work and then took his place.

“I really liked Sunny Delight, so I did what I had to get her to like me. Lots of guys do that.” She was easy food! Changelings do this kind of thing all the time. Don’t act like you never have!

“Where were you before you left Neighagra?” Stross asked pointedly. And what happened to the pony you replaced?

“I was just packing up my things, double checkin’ the rooms and the like. Left a bit of a mess behind, but the maids would take care of it. Not my problem now, anyway. What’s it to you?” I took the real Hail Slick and stuffed him in a closet for one of the others to pick up later. Dunno what happened after that, maybe he’s dead, maybe he’s still in stasis. But what do you care?

“I think Sunny would like to see you again.” Stross told him, “And you’ve got some serious explaining to do. And in case you don’t get my meaning... I'm going to get real Hail Slick back.”

Changeling Hail’s eyes shot open and he immediately stomped on the ground twice, trying to reaffirm their discretion. “I don’t like your tone ‘Stark Shade’. Nopony tells me what to do, and you really don’t want my friends to hear about this.”

Stross got inches from Hail’s face and said through his teeth. “You listen to me. Sunny met the love of her life in Neighagra, and she’s going to get him back. So you can either do as I say, or I can get the guards involved and let them sort this out.”

Hail’s anger was replaced almost tenfold with fear. He found it almost ridiculous. There was no way. “You wouldn’t. Even someone like you ain’t dumb enough. They’d screw us both. My friends would have to… my whole faction would be forced to go into hiding.”

“I son't care about what happens to monster like you and me. Some things are more important. Last chance… where is he?” Stross whispered evenly.

Hail’s punch came so quickly that Stross barely managed to move out of the way in time. But while the first was avoided, second swing hit him squarely in the chest. Stross doubled over in pain, allowing Hail to grab him by the throat and pin him to the nearest wall.

You crazy freak! You’re not tellin’ anyone anything. You're not even getting out of here alive!” Hail hissed as a curved black horn pushed through his disguise and glowed with a deadly green light. “None of us are gonna miss a boat-rockin’ traitor like you.”

Stross was faster though, and hit him in the face with a blinding flash of light from his own horn. He quickly wrestled Hail’s hooves off his neck and watching as he blindly flailed around trying to find him again.

Flashbangs: simple cantrips that Changelings were taught to use if they were ever exposed and needed an escape. Stross had seldom thought to use them against his own kind, but couldn’t doubt their effectiveness.

Even with the slight ringing in his ears, Stross could still hear the muffled shouts of panic coming from beyond the alley entrance. An idea popped into his head, but he’d have to make it look good. He threw a stunning blast at Hail to keep him down while he worked. He wouldn't let this fake Hail and his faction get away with what they'd done. He'd expose them all if it meant getting the stallion Sunny loved back.

But he'd need a little help with that.

“Changeling! Hail’s a Changeling!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Somepony get help!”

Now that Stark Shade’s voice had been heard, he quickly dispelled his disguise and threw several more flashbang orbs at the walls, each one draining his freshly harvested energy a little bit more. They stuck where they hit and began to pulse, slowly at first, then faster and faster.
They detonated in a deafening roar like someone had set off a series of cannons, and Stross threw himself dramatically out of the alleyway and landed on his back, doing his best to appear injured. As he looked up, just as he had suspected, there was a large crowd of onlookers gathered, including two guards in golden armor.

“Get back!” Stross shouted as he jumped up, reforming his disguise to look like Hail Slick, his curved horn still sticking out through his forehead. “You ponies won’t foil my nefarious plans!” he yelled. And to finish his overly hammy performance, Stross charged up his horn in a menacing red glow that cast a shadow over his face.

Many of the normal ponies in the crowd backed up, but two guards in gold armor stepped forward to protect them. Stross lobbed another flashbang between the two, but knowing what it was, they immediately clenched their eyes shut and covered their ears.

Stross still had more than enough time to duck back in the ally, and sprint for all he could muster past the recovering Hail Slick. As a final insult before he fled for good, Stross switched back to his Stark Shade persona, gave a mock salute and vanished out the other end.

Behind him he heard the guards pony-piling on top of the other Changeling. Stross smiled smugly to himself as he trotted away, already working on the next phases of his plan to get Sunny's lover back to her.

Then his ears twitched as he heard a buzzing voice like his call out, “He’s one too. He’s my accomplice, so you should get him too.”

Stross froze for a moment and looked back. There’s no way they’re going to listen to him now. Was there?

“Halt!” one of the guards shouted as he barreled out of the alleyway and spun into a buck that sent Stross flying and tumbling across the ground. “Stop right there changeling scum!”

Stross tasted blood in his mouth and felt his disguise disintegrate in a pulse of red embers.

“What the buck man?! What if I hadn’t been a changeling?!” he shouted at the guard who stood over him by at least a head. He should have kept running, yet he felt a dire need to address this first. “That other changeling back there could have been lying for all you knew!”

“Yes, but he wasn’t. Now prepare to be detain-“ the guard began but was swiftly interrupted.

“That’s not the point!” Stross screamed in outrage. “That kick really hurt! And I’ve got an armored shell! Imagine if you'd hit me and I was just a normal squishy pony. A hit like that might have crippled me, or worse.” he told him gravely.

“But… I didn’t think…” the guard actually started to stammer when he noticed the glares from passing ponies weren’t solely on the dirty changeling anymore.

“No… clearly you didn’t think. Any guard worth their training wouldn’t fly off the handle like that and possibly endanger the citizens they get paid to protect.” Stross scolded him like a disappointed parent, and amazingly, the guard just sat there and took it with his eyes to the ground. “Uh… dismissed soldier. Report back to your commanding officer to receive a proper punishment for reckless behavior while on duty!”

“Yes sir! Right away sir!” The guard hastily saluted the order, turned, and began to trot away.

Stross blinked. Surely that didn’t just happen. He decided not to press his luck and started making his getaway, but looked back a few times despite himself.

Thank you silver tongue.


Unfortunately for Stross, the rest of his escape didn't go so smoothly. For some reason, there were far, far more guards patrolling town than normal. With a Changeling confirmed loose in Ponyville, houses and shops were being methodically barged into and strip-searched. Any ponies acting strange were pulled aside and questioned. Twice already Stross had been found, and twice he’d had to lose almost a dozen guards by fleeing and hiding once he'd broken line of sight with his pursuers.

He'd gone through three new disguises already.

“Shit shit shit shit, shit!” Stross cursed to himself as he tore around a corner after being exposed yet again.

He dashed into a crowded street, with half the towns’ guards on his tail and more joining their ranks with every block he passed. He spotted a storefront and shoved the door open, and to his luck, there was nopony behind the counter to see him. A whirl of embers engulfed him, and he took a spare second to catch his breath before stepping out with his newest illusory disguise in place. If only he could get to the edge of town... but there were pegesi guards patrolling all the exits from the air, preventing anypony from leaving while a threat like him was loose.

“I’ve really screwed myself this time.” he muttered to himself. “Where did all these guards come from anyway- grk!”

When Stross looked up to see who he had bumped into, he was shocked to see a stallion that looked exactly like the form he had just taken, right when the platoon of armed guards in gleaming gold armor rounded the corner and surrounded them both.

“Stop right there criminal scum!”

Stross was getting sick of this. He was thinking he'd never get them to stop looking. But if he could somehow trick the guards into believing this other pony was the changeling and not him, he could slip away.

"It's him!" Stross shouted and jabbed a hoof at the poor stallion. He only hoped they would find out he was a real pony before they hurt him.

“Alright I confess!” the brown-haired stallion cried.

“Wait- what?” Stross asked.

"Wait… what?" a couple of guards echoed his words, equally confused.

“Here’s the money I took!” the stallion dumped out his saddlebags, many golden coins falling to the ground, “I only took it because he owed me money and hadn’t paid me back. I didn’t think he would mind! I thought we were friends! Please don’t arrest me, I have a family!” he yelled out between sobs.

The guards and even several bystanders gave a questioning look at each other.

“Umm… sir?” one of the guards reached over.

“Y- yes?” the stallion chocked out as he wiped his eyes.

“Are you not aware of the lockdown? We’re actually trying to apprehend the changeling over there.” the guard pointed to empty air where Stross used to be.

He immediately did a double-take and spotted Stross on the run again, already two blocks away.

The guard stamped a frustrated hoof. “Foal of a yay!“


Stross had slipped away several moments ago, and had quickly assumed a new disguise, running as fast as his legs could carry him in any other direction than where the guards had clustered.

“That was way too close!” He thought to himself, “I need to get out of here! If only I had a better way out of-“ he stopped mid-thought as a new revelation came to him. “I have magic.” He deadpanned to himself. “I have bucking MAGIC!

Stross dropped his disguise to focus all his energy into as he continued to run, and began charging power into his horn, weaving it into a spell. “I just need to teleport to somewhere far away. Somewhere really really far away and-“

Before he could finish, a lavender unicorn bumped into him, unable to see where she was going due to her book.

As the two collided, their horns touched. A huge surge of magic shot through the unicorn librarian, her eyes glowing white with raw power that was transferred in the blink of an eye to Stross. There was a huge flash of purple and red as Stross lost his focus, and his spell overcharged. In less than a millisecond, his body's matter collapsed in on itself until it was simply gone.

The unicorn blinked a few times and rubbed her head from the slight ache now present. Shrugging to herself, she picked up her book again and continued on her way.

Author's Note:

Well if you're reading this, it means that you've shown interest in my story. :yay:{Yay!)

Or maybe you're here because the old version of this story was taken down (by me) so that this new version could be safely posted.

Now I know that there's quite a few people out there that either favorited A Changeling's visit to Skyrim, or just threw it on their "read it later" shelf. And if you're one of those people... THANKS! It means a lot to me, it really does.

Either way, I'm just hoping that you'll enjoy it. Thanks for giving this a chance!
-Erised

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