• Published 22nd Aug 2016
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A Changeling in Friendship - Dreams of Ponies



A short, but wild ride with Null the changeling, as he delves into the magic that is Twilight and friends.

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Corrupted Self and Corroded Virtue

The void of consciousness surrounded me once again, the lights of distant memories sparkling down at me like a perfect night sky. I felt a warm breeze rush past me, the smell of fruit pies and hay caressing my dream senses.

From behind me came a voice, steady, but with a touch of concern, "Ya know, sugarcube, this ain't gonna end well for anypony." I turned around to face the blonde earth pony with a stetson hat, who stood before me like an iron anvil amidst a world of abstract thought.

"I'm not sure what you specifically mean by that statement," I said to her. Perhaps she means the possible conflict afterwards, or is there some other meaning to which she was referring?

"Ah mean," Applejack frowned at me before elaborating, "this whole ordeal is affecting her in a bad way," she finished off with a wave of a hoof to the air around us.

"Negative emotions aren't pleasant to experience, in dreams or reality, for ponies or changelings," I stated factually.

"You'll just have to see it for yerself then, Ah suppose," Applejack said while scratching her chin with a hoof. "Well, I reckon I better ask my question so we can be done with this here mess a bit sooner." I stood ready for her interrogation, curious of what she would ask considering what the others had inquired. I nodded to her, after which Applejack closed her eyes in thought.

"Well, here's what Ah want to know: If everyone around you believed in somethin’, somethin’ that ya knew was a lie, would ya be honest with 'em, even if they might hate ya for it?"

I considered the question, and after a moment gave my answer, "If it caused no harm to the hive, I think that trying to explain such a large scale lie would be an excessive use of time and energy," I finished, getting a calculating look from her in return.

"And what if there was a really good chance of some changeling gettin’ hurt, real serious like, if ya didn't come forward?"

I cocked my head at the adjusted question, taking more than a moment to think it over. These ponies ask very interesting questions, but the hive sets a different standard of principles than which ponies are accustomed.

"I wouldn't have a choice but to dispel the illusion of truth for the good of the hive, even if it meant exile or worse," I said, a slight touch of sadness worming its way into my voice.

Applejack gave me a small nod of approval, before slowly stepping closer. The dream fabric vibrated as I got an up close and personal look at her freckled face.

"There might be hope for ya still, Null," said Applejack, who then moved the tip of her hat over her face. Then she turned around and bucked me in the stomach.

My insides erupted in pain as the world of stars sped away from me like I had flown into the sky during a luminous rainfall. Moments later I smashed into something hard, and then face-planted into the ground. I spat out a clump of dirt and looked up to see a daytime Ponyville.

Before me was a mass of pastel colors in the form of a crowd of ponies, who were gathered around a large tower. The tall structure had a wooden plank protruding from top end, and as I moved between the ponies to get a better view, saw that it was placed directly over a small pan of water.

"With Flim Flam's Magical Curative Tonic, my Granny can do anything! Just ask Applejack!" called a small voice. I turned to see a earth pony filly, with her ribbons in her mane, holding a dark green bottle in the air. A group of ponies were taking pictures of her while she spoke, meanwhile I could see a strangely similar pair of unicorn stallions in striped uniforms exchanging bits for the bottles.

Then I heard a familiar voice filled with concern say, "No! This has gotta stop! If ponies keep believin’ that tonic can do things it can't, who knows what'll happen?" I look over to see Applejack standing by the base of the tall structure talking to a gray stallion wearing the same striped outfit.

The stallion looked around, before pointing above him and saying, "Maybe something like that?" Applejack and I followed his hoof to where an elderly green tinted earth pony with white hair was climbing up a ladder which was behind the tower.

Applejack gasped, before jumping over to yell at the filly who had spoken a moment ago, "Granny! What in blazes does she think she's doin’?"

"Granny's gonna break the Equestria high divin' record!" the filly replied as she looked up in awe.

"Land sakes!" Applejack cursed as she bolted for the ladder.

I watched as the elderly pony drank something from a bottle, before moving to the end of the plank that stuck out from the tower. Applejack reached the top just as the old pony was springing up in the air. Running forward while taking a deep breath, I saw her toss a rope down, which moved like a lighting fast whip to snag the falling equine moments before she touched down into the small pan.

The lassoed lass turned to look up at Applejack, before hollering, "Now what in tarnation did you do that for?"

Applejack slid back down the ladder in a few seconds, and then trotted back up to the group before saying, "That was the most fool-pony thing Ah've ever seen anypony do in all my life! Ya can't do a dive like that!"

The old mare waved Applejack off with a hoof, and then said, "Oh, quit your fussin'! I had enough tonic to do a dive ten times as high!"

The two sales ponies stepped in at that moment to say, "Twenty times, by my count."

Afterwards his look-a-like chipped in with, "Thirty, with a favorable breeze."

Applejack's eyebrows furrowed as she spoke loudly, "Ah hate to disappoint everypony, but there's no way Granny could have made that dive, because this tonic is a fake!"

The crowd gasps, before a pair of ponies stepped forward to question Applejack. As Applejack explained to them how she lied because everypony seemed happier with the lie, I could feel a strong sense of humility, which was mixed with a good bit of relief.

She finished off by saying, "Ah reckon sometimes ya'll can forget what yer capable of, and it just takes a bit extra confidence to remember that it was inside ya all along. But tellin’ ponies y'all's tonic can do things it can't is just wrong," she said stomping a hoof.

After this, the pair of uniformed ponies took off, slipping silently into the crowd. I watched Applejack talking with the grey stallion from earlier, during which he projected a wave of remorse, but could also see the kindling spark of hope inside him. He handed Applejack a coin, which shone brightly as she looked down at it.

Alright, I think I know where to start. As I touched the fabric of memory, I felt an odd sensation in my stomach, but ignored it as I focused. I reset the memory, back to where Applejack had just noticed Granny climbing the ladder. Applejack sprung up, moving to scramble up after the old pony.

This should be pretty easy to cause a problem here. The massive amount of emotion coming off of Applejack would be a good place to start. I angled myself at her and began focusing my magic as she neared the top of the structure. My perception of time seemed to slow as I siphoned large amounts of love from Applejack. She didn't stop climbing, for the hive's sake, I'm not sure she even slowed down.

My head throbbed, after I had unwittingly stretched my capacity for emotional intake. There didn't seem to be an end to Applejack's feelings for her family, which might have been the real case, or just something exemplified here in the dream. I started to feel like my horn was going to snap off in the process of draining all her love. But, even as I slowed my magical siphon to a trickle, I still couldn't sense an end to of her love for her family.

Applejack grabbed the rope and began to swing it around. I staggered forward, my vision blurring the world around me as I tried to get closer. I shook my head to bring my perspective back into focus. I had to find another way to do corrupt the memory, and draining Applejack's love wouldn't do it, but maybe there was something else. I watched as Granny plummet towards the ground, all the while my brain worked furiously towards a solution. Fortunately I now had a large amount of magic at my disposal, so I was confident that I would be able to do whatever it is that was needed.

Applejack threw the rope down, whipping it through the air toward the falling pony. I focused my magic on the rope itself, pulling it back just slightly, which caused it to miss its intended target by only a few inches. After that it was as simple as letting gravity finish its work. But as I stood there watching the events unfold in slow motion, something within of me lurched like I'd been bucked from the inside. I acted without directed thought, my horn glowing and focusing on the water.

The water rose slowly out of the small tin, stretching towards the falling pony just as she came down upon it. I poured magic into the spell, which then shifted into thickening the water's consistency. The pony named Granny was caught by the water, which receded back into the small pan. My head spun around with a combination of exhaustion and nausea as Applejack slide down the ladder.

She ran to the now drenched high diving pony, gripping her in a tight hug and then said, "Ya'll nearly gave meh a heart attack, why would yah go and do somethin' like that?"

"Ah horse apples, I knew I could handle it—as long as I got my bottle of cider!" Granny said, before the two uniformed unicorns trotted over, a strong odor of greed wafting off of them.

"That's right everypony! You've seen it tested and proven here, now who wants to be next pony to witness the spectacularly amazing effects of our miracle tonic?" the pair of ponies proclaimed.

Applejack looked flustered as a line began to form in front of the pair, every pony's excited chattering increasing along with the sound of steam coming from Applejack's ears.

A green colored unicorn walked up to her floating a book and quill, and then spoke, "Applejack, I'm Note Worthy with the Ponyville Press—would you care to make an official statement about the Flim Flam brother's new cure-all tonic?"

I could almost hear the cogwheels in Applejack's brain turning, as well as feel the churning of different emotions. A deep pit of disgust, alongside a wave of anger, at herself mostly. Inside her, the dominant forces of pride in her own integrity was battling the shame of revealing her lie to every pony. This was now made twice as difficult after Granny's stunt, which had effectively convinced the whole crowd of its abilities.

I have to break the memory here if I'm to have any chance at all. I drew heavily from her sense of pride and honor, pulling it out of her until I finally heard her speak.

"Its seems to work pretty well from Ah saw, Ah mean that dive and all," Applejack muttered to the reporter. She tucked her hat over her head before turning to walk away. The amount of shame and self-disgust that emanated from her was toxic, and as she walked away, I felt I had succeeded.

As if in sync with my thoughts, I fell through the world as I took a step, sinking abruptly into darkness.

---

My body was thrown outwards against a wall, striking my back with severe force. I fell onto my front and groaned from the impact, before looking up to see my progress in Twilight's mind. I struggled to my feet as I watched Applejack's representation of memory fade to grey, and the line of magic disappear into the central magic circle. I tried to steady myself, taking a shaky step forward, and almost lost consciousness. I swayed back and forth, my heart hammering in my throat as I fought to regain control of myself.

I blinked rapidly, shaking my head gently before stopping to a take a few long breaths. When my heart sufficiently steadied, I started towards the next pedestal. Atop this one was a gem-adorned tome, which seemed to stare back at me as I approached. I stood studying it for a moment while I gathered my wits, then I reached out with my magic and was blinded by sapphire light.

---

"Darling, you really don't look well. I think you need to sit down and rest," called a warm sultry voice. I opened my eyes to see Rarity before me stretched out upon red lounging seat, which was floating atop a sea of stars and darkness. "Ah, I see that you've come back to us dear. Now, please, sit down before you pass out again," she insisted. Rarity's horn glowed and then something knocked against my back legs, causing me to fall backwards onto a small cushion.

"Uh, thanks, I guess," I said, confused by her concern.

"It's no matter darling, now I'm sure you know why I'm here?" Rarity said, raising her leg up to examine one of her hooves.

"Ah, well, you're probably going to ask me a question, and then we'll move on to a memory," I stated in a flat tone.

"You're absolutely right. Now, before we go on to further traumatize Twilight, I'm hoping to gain a little more insight into who you are,' she said, pointing her perfectly manicured hoof at me. I nodded my head, to which she gave a small smile and flick of her mane. "Alright, Null the Changeling, do you know what love is?"

I blinked for a moment, before scoffing lightly, "Of course I do. Love is an emotional force that stems from extreme desires."

"Correct again. Now ponies share love freely with each other, but changelings only take for others, so now let me ask you my question. Have you ever shared yourself with someone, simply because of what they meant to you?"

I shook my head after a few moments of contemplation, "We gather our love into the pools of the hive, as our kind needs it to survive. Changelings do not love each other, or grow attached to any-ling, except the queen. We have a sole duty to the hive and to Her Majesty, and nothing else matters." Rarity looked at me with her bottom lip curled slightly, a small tear threatening to flow down across her face.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Null, I really am," Rarity gave a small sniff. "I hope that one day, you'll understand what it is to freely give your heart to another." I tilted my head at her, my expression one of perplexity as I watched Rarity move off the lounge chair and start towards me. "Now, it's best we hurry this along, the sooner you're done, the sooner Twilight can recover from this drama."

Rarity stepped past me, her purple mane hitting me in the face along the way. I turned around, startled by the abruptness of the contact, as well as the smell of lilacs. A different world greeted me as I turned around, where I found myself standing among a large crowd of ponies. Ahead of us a large stage dominated the room, a group of ponies wearing elaborate gowns moving up and down a walkway.

A grey mare with short pink hair stepped up and called out to the audience, "Let's have another round of applause for Suri Polomare's amazing collection!" The ponies around me cheered and hoofed stomped as the last of the dressed up ponies exited the runway. "That fabric! So original!" she called as the pony turned towards the curtains.

I could see Rarity peek out from the curtains, nervously biting her lower lip when a pink mare with a purple curly mane stepped up to her. They exchanged a few words, and I could feel Rarity's anxiousness and cracked sense of pride vibrating from her.

The announcer mare turned back to the audience, cleared her throat and then said, "And now, Rarity from Ponyville with her brand new line—and I mean brand new—Hotel Chic.

A new set of ponies stepped out dressed with an odd variety of garments, ranging from what looked like curtains to even a piece of soap strung up as a necklace. The ponies around me loved it though, as they cheered and clicked their cameras. I stepped around them, moving up near the stage as Rarity's emotions bubbled with excitement.

"Oh! They're liking it! I think I may have just won this thing!" she said, her eyes widening with exuberance. She turned to look out into the audience as she said, "Oh, I can't wait to celebrate with... my friends. They didn't come. What have I done?"

I looked out to see an empty section in the middle of the crowd, roped off and reserved. The cameras continued to click as I felt the turmoil of emotions next to me dip and dive. Guilt, sorrow, remorse and love all battled for dominance in her heart.

The grey mare stepped up to Rarity, a smile spread across her face as she spoke, "Rarity, they all adore you! Aren't you going to tell them about your fabulous pieces?"

Rarity stopped her emotional gymnastics like she'd tripped over the mares words. She bolted off the stage shouting, "I have to go!" She jumped down and ran through the crowd of ponies, and out the main exit door on the other side of the large room.

"Come back at once!" she said, the audience watching as Rarity made her grand exit, "This is unheard of!" She emphasized her disapproval with the stomp of a hoof.

I followed after Rarity, the building shifting as the memory moved to another place in time. As I stepped into the building I found her speaking with a pony moving a luggage cart through the hall.

"Oh, no! Back to Ponyville, I imagine. Oh, they worked so hard on my behalf! And I repaid them with unkindness. What have I done?!" She started to step away, but then turned and then floated a small gem into the pocket of the luggage pony, "Oh... here you are."

"But miss, I–I didn't do anything!" he called at her as she ran from the building. I followed her out into the rain, buzzing my wings as I floated above her, the drizzle soaking us both from head to hoof. Remorse and guilt radiated from her very being as she sang into the gloomy air. She stopped by a small shop, looking into her reflection as her tears fell to join the cascade of water. She moved along in the rain before entering a grand building. I entered behind her, just as she stepped up to the front counter.

"I need a moment with Prim Hemline. I have to rush back to Ponyville, but I just wanted to thank her first for—" she said, just before the mare with pink and curly purple hair interrupted her.

" Uh-uh-uh, you'd best steer clear of Prim for a while. She's pretty furious. Isn't that right?" She nodded to a vanilla colored mare with a blue striped mane next to her.

"Um... yes," she said nervously, her eyes moving to the ground.

Behind me I heard the door swing open, and then a high pitched squee, before seeing Pinkie Pie rush over to give Rarity a hug. Her friends followed behind her, a large mix of emotions wafting off of them.

Rarity smiled with relief, looking her friends over before saying, "There you all are! I can't believe it, I thought you went back home!"

Twilight Sparkle shook her head softly, and then said, "We missed the show because we overslept. Suri told us you lost. I'm really sorry."

"I lost?" Rarity looked momentarily surprised, but then brushed it off with a hoof, "You know what? I don't even care. I'm just happy you're all still here after how I treated you. Taking advantage of your friendship the way I did. How could you ever see past it?"

Applejack cocked an eyebrow, and then deadpanned, "Yeah, you were pretty rotten."

Rainbow Dash turned to look down at Applejack as she hovered, "Wow, Applejack. I know your thing is honesty, but come on!"

Twilight smiled at Rarity, stepped up to look her in the eye, "Last night we may not have seen you at your best, but we know you. And we would never let one thing like that change how we feel about you." The group came together in a hug, a wave of love and compassion almost knocking me backwards.

The memory skipped forwards a bit, returning to a normal flow in time to catch the end of what looked like a stage play. Twilight and her friends were gathered front row seat in an otherwise empty theater. They whistled and cheered while stomping their hooves with enthusiasm. The ponies on stage bowed, and then the curtain closed over them.

The group chatted about Rarity staying in town to make costumes, just before a door opened behind me. I turned to see the quiet vanilla-coat mare walking down towards them.

"Mind if I join you?" she asked.

"Sure. Come on down," Rarity said, moving from her seat to stand at the head of walkway. The mare stopped in front of Rarity, before pulling a small golden cup from her saddlebags, and then handing it Rarity.

"This is the first place trophy for Fashion Week," then, after taking a closer look, Rarity gasped in exclamation, "with my name on it! But I thought I lost!"

The shy mare looked down for a moment, and then smiled softly as she explained. "You didn't. You won. Suri was hoping that if you didn't claim your prize, the judges would consider it a forfeit and first place would go to her. So she lied to make you and your friends go away, and, well, I lied too. I've worked for Suri for so long, I started to believe that it really is everypony for herself in this town. Until I saw how generous you were with your friends and how generous they were with you. It made me start believing there was something better for me out there. So, I-I quit. I brought you something to say thank you."

Rarity brimmed with sympathy, and a bit of pride in this young pony as she smiled at her, "Hm. I suppose you'll need a job now that you're no longer with Suri. How would you like to work for my friend making all the costumes for his next show?" she said. I thought the vanilla mare was going to explode from the sheer happiness and relief that swept over her.

That, right there, was the brightest part of this memory, not the award, but the strength of Rarity's character, and how it affects others. Well, at least I understand the effects that giving to others can have, even if it's still pointless in the long run. The dream shifted in tune with my brightening horn, warping until I could once again see Rarity on the stage.

Once again the dress ponies walked back towards the center stage, the announcer mare signaling the start of Rarity's run. The strangely dressed ponies moved out onto the runway, the crowd oohing and awing as the ponies struck poses.

Rarity looked out at the crowd, saying to herself, "Oh! They're liking it! I think I may have just won this thing!" Her view then panned over to where her friends were supposed to be seated.

Once again, I could feel the struggle of internal emotions begin to well up inside her. I tuned in to pinpoint her feelings, where I felt her pride in how every pony's work turned out, the love of her friends, and guilt for how she had treated them. As her brain attempted to parse out her emotional state, I pushed at her feelings with my own magic, draining her guilt like I was drinking a milkshake—a milkshake made out of overly sour lemons.

"Rarity, they all adore you! Aren't you going to tell them about your fabulous pieces?" asked Prim Hemline.

She looked out at the crowd once again, and smiled as she spoke, "Of course! It was with the help of my closest friends that I was able to pull this off so quickly!"

The rest of the performance went off without issue. Rarity was presented with her award, and afterwards when she exited the grand hall, I followed her in time to see all of her friends enter the building.

"Rarity, I'm sorry we missed the performance," Twilight said, just after Pinkie Pie ran up to give Rarity a hug. "We accidentally slept in after last night."

"Ah, yes, about last night, I'm terribly sorry for the way I treated all of you. You're my friends, and I took advantage of your kindness. I hope you'll forgive me." Rarity said, small tears beginning to form under her eyes.

"We understand Rarity," Fluttershy said, speaking softly to Rarity, "Stress can bring out the worst in anypony, especially in the fashion business, trust me, I know."

"Well, I want you all to know that your hard work took first place!" Rarity said, holding the trophy out in her magic. "And to celebrate, we're going to an exclusive viewing of the Hinny and the Hills.

The group of ponies jumped together for a hug, all of them giggling and smiling as a sour looking Suri watched them from a distance.

She turned to the vanilla mare that shadowed her, and almost shouted into her face, "This is all your fault, Coco! I'm not supposed to lose, and I blame you for all of it! You're fired!"

Coco had begun backing away as she was beaten verbally, and, at Suri's last statement, had broken into tears. Turning away from Suri, Coco ran out past Twilight and her friends, towards the exit. I felt a twinge of sympathy from Rarity, before it was covered up by anger and a sense of righteousness.

"Come on girls," Rarity said, ignoring Coco's sudden departure, "this place brings out the worst in ponies, let's go grab a bite to eat before the play!"

That should do it, it might not be a bad memory, but it's not the shining gem of which it was once. A blinding light shone from the ceiling before I was once again getting drenched outside. I was standing in an alleyway with tall buildings on either side of me. In front of me I saw a large wet box on the ground, and inside it was a very battered and cold pony. It had probably been a good length of time, but it appeared to be the mare, Coco, that had run away from Suri that day.

Then, with a sudden lurch, I was thrown backwards in blur of color.

---

Tumbling back onto the white tile that was Twilight's inner sanctum, I could feel that I was starting to tire mentally from all the changes in orientation. I carefully stood up to watch Rarity's jeweled memory fade to gray. Then, as the line of magic disconnected from the pedestal, I experienced a sudden and severe case of dizziness. The room shook violently in front of me, and I fell to the floor, my vision going black.

---

Where am I? What had just happened to me? I slowly opened my eyes to see the floating blackness of subconsciousness beneath me. I looked around to hopefully understand what had happened. The void filled my vision, and not even the stars of memories made themselves known. Then I heard a sound. It was soft, and short, but I knew I hadn't imagined it. I moved towards what I hoped was the right direction, and then I heard it again. It sounded like an instrument of some kind, probably with strings attached.

“Hello? Is anyone there?" I called out into the darkness. The sounds stopped, and from the distance I could feel some type of emotional presence.

"You must leave this place. Leave, or become lost in obscurity." a female voice called back to me. I didn't recognize it, but when I tried to speak to the invisible voice again, I felt something hit me hard against my face.

---

I bolted upright, gasping for breath. I was back in the chamber of pedestals, which was the same as it had appeared before now. Except something did seem different. The tiles seemed less bright, and there was a strange feeling of gloom that had descended upon the room.

One more, and then I can finish my mission. I stepped up to the final tome, which was decorated with pink balloons and confetti. I opened it with my magic, and a pink hoof reached out and grabbed my horn, yanking me inside.

Author's Note:

This chapter, oh this chapter, sure did a number on me. I had any different numbers of ways I had thought about how to go about it, but I think I'm satisfied with the end result. I'm probably going to keep working on this, instead of swapping to my other fiction. I've gotten into the mindset for this type of story, and even though it still sort of hurt me inside to write it down, I'll be glad when it's finished.

As always, I appreciate all feedback, and hope to see some interesting comments on this chapter.

With love and dedication, Dreams of Ponies