• Published 11th Feb 2020
  • 1,373 Views, 37 Comments

Trixie's Beau - Scyphi

Trixie has been dating a stallion, but Starlight isn't convinced he is all that he seems to be...

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“Already regretting it, in case anybody’s wondering,” Starlight grumbled in warning from where the four of them hid behind some bushes some minutes later.

Apparently nobody was, because her grumbling was ignored. “The ticket pony’s totally got that entrance covered,” Gallus observed as he peered at the gated fairgrounds entrance through a telescoping spyglass. It wasn’t strictly necessary, as they all could see this for themselves without it, but the griffon had insisted on having it anyway. Starlight suspected it was for show. “He could totally see us try and sneak past, no matter how we do it. Not enough cover.”

“And entirely too much cover at the other side of this place,” Smolder added, who had already scouted ahead to check. “The fairgrounds border super dense forest from that side—it’d be a real pain to try and sneak through and even harder to try and flee through should things go south.”

“That’s not going to be a problem,” Starlight attempted, not for the first time, to explain. “Because you see…”

“Why is the ticket taker even on duty anyway?” Gallus kept grumbling, cutting off Starlight. “They finished with shows for now, and there won’t be any more taking place until tonight! All who’s going to be in there are all the showponies and their staff. And they’re obviously not charging them to be in there.”

“If you will all just stop and listen to me…” Starlight again attempted to interject.

“It’s probably a security thing,” Smolder reasoned, again ignoring the unicorn. “Y’know, so to keep creatures from sneaking in and trying to mess with stuff, or maybe even try and steal something.”

“Makes sense, but it’s going to make it harder for us,” Gallus reasoned, putting the spyglass away decisively. “We just might have to resort to extreme measures.”

“Now before you all go and do that…” Starlight protested once more on deaf ears.

It was then that Silverstream looked to the others. “So you all realize what this means, right?” Her face turned into a determined scowl. “We’re gonna have to break in.”

“…ah, taking a few of the students for a little tour of the performance festival, huh, Starlight?” the ticket taker happily asked, glancing only briefly at the backstage pass Trixie had arranged for Starlight to have at the start of the festival, before nodding them each through the gates without problem. “Enjoy yourselves now, you hear?”

They then proceeded unhindered on past the gate. “We’re in,” Silverstream growled after they had gotten a couple feet, putting on her determined scowl again.

“Enough with the forced drama, already!” Gallus griped.

“Oh, just c’mon,” Starlight groaned, motioning for the three to follow her as she put her pass away. “We need to make sure Theodore’s actually away from his wagon currently, or this will all be over too quickly.”

“And I suppose you know where to check,” Smolder deduced as they weaved their way through the many touring wagons and show equipment filling the field.

“A pretty good guess, at least,” Starlight replied, taking the lead.

She directed them towards Trixie’s wagon, closer to the performance area set up for the festival, only for all four of them to duck behind a series of bushes again to avoid being seen as, sure enough, Trixie was standing outside the wagon, happily conversing with the very target they were looking for.

“Whelp, there they are,” Starlight remarked, pointing at the two ponies while taking in the scene. Trixie and Theodore were completely oblivious to their watchers, and it did look like they would be preoccupied for a bit, working in their favor, but she wanted to be absolutely sure first.

“That’s him?” Silverstream whispered to Starlight meanwhile, pointing a talon at the distant stallion. “That’s the guy?”

“Yes,” Starlight replied firmly, locking her eyes on him as if doing so would suddenly make the mysterious pony reveal all of his secrets.

Smolder, however, was looking him over in an entirely different light. “Huh,” she hummed in approval. “I can see why Trixie’s into him. He’s not that bad looking. For a pony.”

“Eh, he’s okay, I guess,” Gallus remarked, who was less impressed. “I’ve seen handsomer ponies.”

“You know, I didn’t bring you all here just so to assess his looks,” Starlight reminded the three students sternly.

“Actually, you kinda did,” Smolder argued. “The whole point of this is to figure out how and why he and Trixie are a thing, right? Well, obviously, his looks are gonna factor into that.” She made a self-satisfied expression. “So I commented accordingly.”

Gallus, meanwhile, was eyeing the two ponies intently, as if trying to puzzle something out. Both ears were pointing in their direction, upright and attentive. “Wonder what they’re saying…” he mumbled aloud as they were too far away to hear the conversation.

“Something about how to do a particular illusion spell,” Silverstream abruptly answered, almost like it was an afterthought.

The others all turned and stared at her in mild surprise. “How do you know that?” Gallus asked.

“From reading their lips,” the hippogriff innocently replied, like this should’ve been obvious.

Starlight’s eyebrow went up. “You know how to lip read?” she asked, interested.

“Kinda,” Silverstream replied, waving one set of talons back and forth to emphasize the diceyness of this skill. “I found a book about it in the library a while back and I’d never heard of it, so I read it.” She then made a disappointed grimace. “…wasn’t really what I thought it was, honestly.”

“I’m not sure I want to know what you did think it was,” Smolder mumbled.

“Anyway, I guess I picked up the basics in the process,” Silverstream continued. She shrugged. “I certainly didn’t master it, but I can still remember some of it, so…”

“…sooooo, what are they saying?” Starlight finished, jerking her head in the direction of their targets. “Are they going to be busy for a bit?”

“I think so. I’m only getting every other word, but…” Silverstream squinted her eyes at the pair of ponies. “…Trixie’s talking about showing him a spell…something about needing something backstage…I think they’re going to review Trixie’s act or something.”

“Makes sense,” Starlight remarked, glancing at the two ponies too. “Theodore is helping Trixie improve her act.”

“What else are they saying?” Gallus asked next, genuinely impressed.

“Well, I think they’re agreeing to move over to the stage now…yeah, see?” Silverstream pointed. “They’re moving off now…still chatting about it…” she winced when she saw Theodore stumble suddenly, mouth clearly seen uttering something. “…ooh. I…I’m not sure what that was…but, uh, I think that was a, uh, naughty word he just said there.”

Gallus smirked at this. “Guy’s not so perfect after all.”

“Never said he was perfect,” Smolder responded, folding her arms, “Just that I could see why Trixie’s interested.” She then elbowed Silverstream. “Because, c’mon…you gotta agree that for a pony, he’s still got a pretty good butt.”

Silverstream was more sheepish about it, though. “I’ll…just take your word for it. I’m not really a good judge of…that sort of thing.”

“Oh really?” Gallus said with an amused snort. “Why not?”

“Well, you gotta keep in mind,” Silverstream reminded, “because I spent most of my growing up as a seapony, me and anyone around me didn’t really have…butts.”

Gallus opened his beak to reply, but upon thinking it through, he closed it again. “Huh,” he finally remarked, brow furrowed thoughtfully. “I hadn’t thought about it like that.”

“Yeah, it’s a fair point,” Smolder agreed, also intrigued. “I guess when all of your lower body is nothing but tail, there’s not much room left for a conventional butt, is there?”

“If you three are quite finished,” Starlight interrupted with a glare, pointing them towards the west side of the field. “Hopefully they’ll be busy with that for some time, so now is our chance.” She herded them out of their hiding spot so to start crossing back across the field to look for Theodore’s wagon.

“So just how are you planning to do this, anyway?” Gallus asked the unicorn as they went.

“Well…” Starlight said, somewhat uncertainly, “…we go in, we look around for any clues, and we leave when Theodore comes back.”

“So who’ll be on lookout?”

Starlight blanked out, having not thought about that. “Uh…”

“Oh c’mon, Teach, I’m ashamed of you!” Gallus declared, disappointed. “What if they come back early? What if you get caught by someone else? Seriously, this is, like, Mischief 101!”

I’ve been basically making this up as I go, okay?” Starlight hissed back, not in the mood to argue the point.

“Making up what as you go?”

All four of them yelped in shock at the sound of the new voice, afraid they were caught, and turned to see a familiar grey pegasus mare, well-known to everyone in Ponyville, having trotted up as they passed by. Speaking at once, the younger three of the group all declared the mare’s name.

“Derpy!” Smolder cried.

“Ditzy!” Gallus exclaimed.

“Muffins!” Silverstream declared.

…Or at least a name for her. Starlight turned to rebuke the three students in her company on the correct name, only to stop short, realizing she’d heard all three of those names used for the town’s trademark mailmare interchangeably. “Sorry, is there a particular name you prefer?” she quickly asked.

“Oh, I’ll respond to any of those, so whichever you like,” the eternally cheery but wall-eyed mare replied with a grin. She then continued on, nodding at Starlight. “So what brings you all here, anyway? Some kind of school activity involving the stage performance festival?”

“Uh, yes!” Starlight quickly confirmed, seeing this as a good cover story as any. “Because you know those stage performance festivals, they’re just…brimming with friendship!” She then winced to herself at how unconvincing that sounded.

But Derpy bought it hook, line, and sinker. “Cool!” she declared in approval. “Hope you all have fun with that, then. And if you need anything, I’ll be happy to try and help. I’m going to be here all day today because I volunteered to help move some equipment around.” She glanced over at a nearby stack of such equipment which she had been heading towards when she crossed paths with the four instead. “There’s a fair bit it, so I’ll be at it for a while.”

“Aww,” Silverstream cooed, sympathizing.

Starlight, however, was focusing on other details. “Derpy, how familiar are you with everyone that’s here in the festival?” she asked aloud, quickly surveying the fairgrounds.

“Oh, fairly well, I think,” Derpy replied.

“Do you know a stallion named Theodore Startup?”

“Oh yeah, I’ve crossed paths with him a couple times! Nice guy. I think he’s helping to sponsor some of the acts.”

The others perked up a little at this. “How much do you know about him?” Starlight asked, a little hopeful.

“Well, not an awful lot, really,” Derpy conceded apologetically, to the disappointment of the others. “I just see him every now and then, usually when he’s coming or going from that teal wagon he’s staying in.” She pointed her hoof in the direction of the wagon. They others twisted around to see too, brightening again. “I’m actually moving some of this in that same direction, so maybe I’ll see him again, but like I said, I’ll be pretty busy with moving equipment around, so…”

“Hey, I’ll bet you could use some help moving all of that stuff,” Gallus suddenly interjected, hurrying forward and turning the pegasus back for the stack of equipment. “How about you let a couple of us pitch in and assist?”

“Yeah!” Smolder agreed, quickly following Gallus’s lead and taking up Derpy’s other side as they led her away. “After all, part of friendship is helping out your friends, right?”

“Oh, why thank you!” Derpy gushed, delighted as she let herself be pulled away.

“And that way, we can both lighten the load and help keep an eye out for ol’ Theodore, should we cross paths with him on his way back to his wagon,” Gallus added, speaking deliberately as he turned his head and winked back at Starlight and Silverstream.

But Starlight caught on to what they were doing—Gallus and Smolder would not only keep Derpy preoccupied and out of the way, it’d also give them an excuse to discreetly keep watch. Silently nodding her head back so Gallus knew she understood, she then slipped away to hurry off in direction of Theodore’s wagon. Then doubled back to grab Silverstream, who had failed to follow, happily watching Gallus and Smolder walk off with Derpy and remaining oblivious.

She quickly caught on though as they came into view of Theodore’s wagon. It was indeed a dark blue-green teal like Derpy had described, with a greenish roof and overall roughly similar in shape to Trixie’s wagon. It stood to one corner of the fairgrounds, away from where most of the activity would be and thus few others were around to see them approach. Despite this low chance of detection, Silverstream got caught up in the sneaking around and started to zip from object to object so to keep herself hidden. Without fail, she’d always go to the next hiding spot by tucking herself into a ball and rolling towards it.

However Starlight, casually walking along behind her, watched the hippogriff doing the rolls and was unimpressed. “Must we do the rolling?”

“Yes,” Silverstream replied seriously, planning her next roll. “It helps.”

How does the rolling help, though?”

It helps.”

So she kept rolling. The only rolling Starlight did though was that of her eyes, and kept walking casually straight to the wagon. No matter how they did it though, they arrived at it unnoticed and without event. Starlight stepped right up to the door and placed an ear to it, listening to see if anyone was inside. All seemed silent and empty within. However, she quickly noticed that the door appeared locked.

“Okay, Silverstream, cover for me for a second,” Starlight instructed the hippogriff. “I’m going to see if I can get the door open. Since Theodore seems to be a bit magic-savvy, this might take a moment.”

Silverstream nodded and turned so to look out at the fairgrounds and bodily block what Starlight was doing from view. However, Starlight quickly found that while the door was indeed locked, it wasn’t with a complex magic-based lock like she expected but rather a simple and common pin tumbler lock, which she easily unlocked with the most basic of lockpicking spells, allowing the door to easily pop open. Surprised at the lack of security, but not deciding not to question their luck, Starlight motioned to Silverstream and they quickly slipped inside. Closing the door behind them, they stopped to glance around.

“So…what are we looking for?” Silverstream asked finally.

“Anything suspicious, or that might explain the things that don’t add up about this guy,” Starlight replied. “Just…look over anything that seems amiss and point it out to me. If we can use it as proof, then you snap a picture of it with your camera.”

Silverstream hefted her camera up and saluted. “Will do!”

Starlight hurriedly motioned for her to stay quiet. “And keep it down!” she hissed. “Remember, we’re not supposed to be in here.”

They surveyed the wagon for a place to start. As wagons went though, this one was fairly straightforward. A kitchenette stood to one side, a desk and several cabinets for storage stood on the other. In the corner next to the door were a hat rack and a cheval glass mirror. At the back was a standard bed. Moving towards it, Silverstream noticed the bedsheets were all ruffled and disordered to the point that she’d call it more a bedsheet “nest” than a bed.

“Not a very tidy sleeper, is he?” she mumbled out loud.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t really help us,” Starlight pointed out, turning to the desk and ruffling through the papers left on it. “Keep searching. There must be something that’ll tell us more about who he really is…”

Meanwhile, Gallus and Smolder had been keeping busy helping Derpy move boxes of equipment. As intended, this kept them within sight of Theodore’s wagon, keeping watch for any trouble. But in the meantime, they kept up a friendly and hopefully normal sounding conversation with Derpy while they did this.

“How are you always so…upbeat all the time, anyway?” Smolder asked Derpy as they stacked boxes. “I mean, you never seem to be bothered about anything.”

“Oh, I can be bothered about a lot of things,” Derpy assured with a dismissive wave of a hoof. “I just have a method for dealing with it that seems to work pretty well.”

“What is it?” Smolder pressed, curious. “Because if it works for you, maybe it’ll work for me. Or for Gallus, I dare say he sometimes could use a better way to vent.”

Hey,” Gallus objected, but was ignored.

Derpy turned to face them. “Okay, so…there’s this karaoke place in town.”

“Oh yeah, we know the place you’re talking about,” Gallus remarked, setting down his box. “Yona insisted on dragging us all down there awhile back.”

“Well, whenever I feel particularly…frustrated…about something, I go down there, put on a particular song I really like and sing along.” Derpy grinned, proud of herself. “It helps me get out those pesky frustrations without any harm done!”

“Huh,” Smolder hummed, picturing Derpy singing some sort of sweet, laid-back and chill song. “What kind of music are we talking about here? Pop rock or something?”

“No, death metal,” Derpy replied, like it was no big deal.

It was to the two students though, who both did a double-take. “Wait, what?” Gallus declared with a surprised chuckle, unable to picture the sweet pegasus singing death metal. “Really? You sing death metal?”

“A little,” Derpy replied with an indifferent shrug.

Smolder laughed. “Okay, this I gotta see.”

But before they could get much further on the topic, Gallus abruptly spied a familiar top hate-wearing stallion walking across the fairgrounds, heading towards his wagon. “Oh, wait, hold that thought,” he quickly interrupted, motioning to the others to wait for a moment. Looking around, he quickly flapped his wings and clambered up to the top of their stack of boxes, turned towards to the wagon some feet ahead and did the first thing he could think of to alert Starlight and Silverstream within without also immediately raising suspicion: “Ka-kaw!” he crowed loudly in a poor imitation of a bird call. “Ka-kaw, ka-kaw!”

Derpy, staring up at him while he did this, furrowed her brow. “Is…he okay?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah, don’t mind him,” Smolder assured with a wave of her claws, seeing what Gallus was doing and worked to cover for him. “He does this.”

“Ka-kaw! Ka-kaw, ka-kaw, ka-kaw!”

Derpy looked from the dragoness up to the griffon, then back down at Smolder. “Really?”

“Yup. It’s just a thing griffons do.”

“Huh.” Derpy was learning so much about griffons that she didn’t previously know today.


Back in the wagon, Starlight and Silversteam had learned a few things about Theodore while they searched. They learned that his scant food supplies consisted of mostly just hot cocoa mix and a peculiar mint-green cheese neither of them could quite identify, he appeared to be a fan of the book series Sky Trek (which made sense as Starlight knew Trixie was a closet fan herself), he possessed a number of what appeared to be homemade doll-like figurines, he liked disco music and sci-fi radio dramas as he had records of both along with a record player, and possibly held an interest in airships as he had a couple scale models of them lovingly placed on a shelf above the bed.

Ver-gee-lee-us,” Silverstream sounded out the name printed on one of these models. She frowned. “Vergilius? What sort of name is that?”

“Foreign, maybe?” Starlight reasoned, uncertain as she sorted through things on Theodore’s desk.

She was growing rather frustrated, as little of what they had uncovered helped them much. In fact, if anything, she had only added to her questions. Like how the only food Theodore had in here was the cocoa mix and cheese. Was that really all he had to eat, or had he been bumming meals off the likes of Trixie? Starlight had also noticed that Theodore seemed to have no spare clothes to speak of except for those on his back, which also surprised her. Clothing was optional to ponies, of course, but Theodore seemed to have a favored outfit and clothes still got dirty and needed cleaning from time to time. So…did he just plan to keep wearing the one outfit the whole time he was in Ponyville?

The only evidence she found that really supported anything she’d previously learned was an atlas that had a travel route marked out leading down far south and on past the official southern boundary of Equestria. The map wasn’t big enough to show where that route ultimately led, but clearly Theodore had been traveling somewhere out of country prior to now. It made Starlight think about how the money he’d apparently been giving Trixie was of foreign origin, and seemingly to back this up, all of the formal documents they’d found were all written not in Ponish but in the notched, circular characters of some other language they couldn’t read. Clearly Theodore was bilingual and it seemed to support that he at least had foreign contacts, but because she couldn’t read the text, it did little else for her.

Altogether this didn’t really help prove or disprove anything. But what especially nagged her about it was Starlight felt like she had seen this written language somewhere before but couldn’t quite place where. “Silverstream, are you sure you don’t know what language this is?” she asked again, showing the hippogriff some of the documents.

Silverstream accepted them to sort through. “Pretty sure,” she mumbled. “I can’t read it at least…though I suppose it does seem like I’ve seen it before…”

“I know the feeling,” Starlight mumbled before turning her attention towards the kitchenette window. She could hear what sounded like some bird with a cold trying to caw at the top of its lungs and peered around outside to determine the source.

She instead spied Gallus perched atop of a stack of boxes, cawing in alarm at the top of his lungs and jerking his head towards the front of the wagon. Starlight was just figuring out what he was trying to signal when she heard somebody step up to the wagon door outside and start unlocking it.

“Hey, wait, I think I do recognize this hoofwriting!” Silverstream remarked in the same moment, unaware as she held up one of the documents she was sorting through. “This looks like the sort of hoofwriting Ocell—”

She got cut short as Starlight quickly grabbed her and shoved her into the nearby closet, swinging the door shut behind them. She lit her horn in preparation to teleport them to safety, but before she could, the door to the wagon swung open and Theodore Startup strolled in, humming happily to himself. Starlight immediately doused her horn—there was no way she could teleport them out now without Theodore noticing the flash.

Luckily, Theodore didn’t seem to realize they were hiding in his closet, watching him through the slats in the door as he settled in and levitated some papers over to his desk. Silverstream had gone completely still and silent in light of this development, but nevertheless, Starlight gently wrapped a hoof around her easily excitable beak as a precaution. As they watched, Theodore then turned his attention to the cheval mirror, taking off his top hat and hooking it onto the hat stand beside it.

Then, completely without warning, the stallion disguise vanished in a blast of magical cyan flames, abruptly turning into a reformed changeling right before their eyes. He was tall, much taller than the average changeling, and bore mostly lime green colored chitin, purple faceted eyes, and most telling of all, two tall and curved orange horns protruding from the top of his head, almost like antlers. He could only be one changeling, one they both already knew well.

Starlight’s jaw unhinged in shock. King Thorax?

Then it suddenly struck her why something about Theodore Startup had been nagging at her from the beginning: for someone she had supposedly never met, how he talked and carried himself had still seemed familiar.

And now she knew why.

And from there, all the rest started falling into place—the foreign money, the odd writing, the lack of solid food that an emotion-eating changeling wouldn’t exclusively need…in retrospect, it seemed almost obvious that Theodore wasn’t really a pony. Yet, in testament to a changeling’s skill, those details had flown past the eyes of everyone…until now. But she couldn’t do anything about it right now, trapped in the closest as they were, except gape. As Thorax proceeded to touch up his true face, oblivious, Starlight glanced to Silverstream and saw her jaw had dropped in shock too. But, silently remembering her instruction to photograph anything suspicious, the hippogriff numbly raised her camera and, placing the lens in the open crack of the door, snapped a picture.

Unfortunately, she had forgotten she still had the flash on as well. Startled, Thorax immediately whipped around. “What the—?!”

Starlight hurriedly wrapped her hooves around Silverstream in preparation to teleport, blowing caution to the wind, but Thorax acted first, throwing open the closet door and causing both creatures to tumble onto the floor at his hooves. They gaped at each other for a moment.

“Hi, King Thorax!” Silverstream finally broke the silence, giving the changeling a happy wave.

Thorax sputtered for a moment, trying to find his voice. “What are you two doing here?!” he finally exclaimed, panicked.

“What are we doing here?!” Starlight suddenly snapped, jumping to her hooves as she grabbed with her magic the top hat Thorax had set aside and waved it in front of his snout. “What are you doing here, Mister Theodore Startup?!

Thorax let out a very forced and unconvincing chuckle as he took the top hat from Starlight, nervously avoiding her gaze as he realized he’d been caught. “It’s…it’s not what it looks like…”

“Oh really?” Starlight asked sarcastically. “Because it sure as hay looks to me like you’re playing with my best friend’s romantic feelings while pretending to be a fake stallion!

Thorax winced and sheepishly withdrew in upon himself. “Okay…when you say it like that…maybe it is what it looks like…” he relented.

“Then…why?” Silverstream asked confused, as she sat up and joined the conversation. “Why are you doing this?”

“Well…you see…it’s just…” Thorax stuttered uncertainly before his resolve finally collapsed and he stuffed his face into the top hat in his hooves. “…I just didn’t think she’d want to date a changeling!

Starlight and Silverstream pulled back in brief surprise, not expecting the outburst. It was short-lived though as Silverstream gasped, suddenly comprehending. “King Thorax!” she squealed. “You have a crush on Trixie, don’t you?!”

Though it was mostly hidden by the top hat covering his face, Thorax blushed profusely. But he reluctantly nodded all the same, confirming it.

Starlight gaped at him. “But when did this happen?” she demanded.

“I don’t know…it just sort of snuck up on me,” Thorax admitted, embarrassed and ashamed. “But…after meeting her, I took interest in how she knows all this illusion magic that I could appreciate as a changeling, and…it sort of took off from there.” If it was possible, he blushed even harder as he made a wistful smile and sheepishly twisted his hooves together. “…and I suppose she is pretty…cute.” He shrank even more upon himself, utterly mortified to be confessing it aloud like this.

“Aww!” Silverstream gushed.

“But…but if that’s true, then why the disguise?” Starlight asked, still not sure she followed.

Thorax sighed sadly, studying the top hat in his hooves. “Well…a changeling and a pony? I just…didn’t think it could happen…figured she’d prefer a nice stallion instead…so…”

“So you made yourself one, to hide that you’re really a changeling,” Starlight concluded.

“…I didn’t mean to do it for this long,” Thorax admitted. “You know, just…just to have maybe one date, see what it’d be like, if it’d really go like I thought, and then leave it at that. But instead we kept going on dates, and when things kept going well and not wanting to mess that up, I kept putting it off and putting it off, until…well…”

“…you got in so deep that now there’s no good way out of it?” Silverstream finished.

When Thorax nodded dejectedly, Starlight sighed, annoyed. “Thorax, I sympathize, but you do realize how Trixie’s going to react when she finds out about this, right?”

Thorax’s head jerked upright, eyes bulging in alarm. “You’re not going to actually tell her about this are you?!” he exclaimed.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t!” Starlight snapped back, turning angry again. “Whatever your intentions are, you’re still lying to her face, you do realize that, right?”

“Besides, isn’t there a whole hive of changelings you’re supposed to be ruling anyway?” Silverstream asked, tilting her head at the changeling.

“Oh, well, things have been pretty calm at the hive this season, so I’ve just been having them forward everything to me so I can work on it here and then send it back to them.” Thorax nodded his head towards the paper strewn desk.

“Ooo, so that’s why you have one of Ocellus’s progress report-letter-thingies over there,” Silverstream remarked, understanding.

“And how you’ve been helping fund Trixie,” Starlight added, giving Thorax a leveled look. “The money’s been coming right from the hive’s own funds, isn’t it? I already know it’s been coming from a foreign source, Thorax.”

Thorax chuckled sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head. “Well, to be honest, now that we’re not using it to sneak around and steal love anymore, we’ve sort of got a surplus of funds building up, and…it seemed like a more worthwhile use than just letting it…sit there. Besides, what I’ve spent thus far is just a drop in a bucket in comparison to how much is still left, and we’re still spending it on other things too…we’ve done this sort of thing before. Some of it gets donated to the princesses, as sort of our way of compensating Equestria for all the trouble changelings have put it through in the past, and I know most of that goes to good causes like helping to fund infrastructure repairs, key events, and the such.”

“So in a way you were telling the truth about all that,” Starlight conceded with a sigh. “Just…not where it was truly coming from.” She rubbed at her temples with her hooves for a moment. “None of this still changes the fact that you’re not being honest to Trixie. No matter what your reasons why are, she still deserves to know the truth, Thorax.”

Thorax fidgeted uncomfortably for a moment. “It’s just…do we have to tell her just yet?” he asked. “Maybe hold off so I can…prepare?”

Starlight raised a skeptical brow at him. “And just how long do you plan to put it off, Thorax?” she asked. “Another day? Week? Moon? Year? Just where will you end it?”

Thorax kept fidgeting. “Well…maybe eventually I won’t…have to?” he suggested hesitantly but hopefully.

Starlight rolled her eyes, but decided to play along for the moment. “All right, so let’s assume you do that and manage to keep your true identity secret for however long you want,” she challenged. “Just how are you planning to make this relationship work in the long term? I mean, considering all you’d have to do to maintain the charade, how would you and Trixie even, you know, do it?

Thorax, however, just looked at her blankly. “Do what?”

“Oh, you know,” Silverstream offered politely. “When a guy and a gal love each other very much…”

Oh,” Thorax gasped, blushing profusely again as he suddenly caught on. “You mean that. Ahh…” he rubbed the back of his head, “…honestly, we, uh, we haven’t done that yet. We’re…sort of still working our way up to it, I…I suppose. So, uh…”

“That doesn’t change the problem, though,” Starlight persisted, undeterred. “What are you going to do when you do work your way up to it? Can it even be done while still disguised?”

“Ah, no, not…not properly…” Thorax admitted, his blush still profuse.

“Then I regret to inform you that I’ve found a pretty big flaw in your plans,” Starlight concluded flatly.

“She’s right,” Silverstream agreed, siding with Starlight, and looked to Thorax. “Either you’re going to have to stop and call it off before it gets that far—and in a relationship, I would think it always will get that far eventually—or you have to come clean to Trixie anyway.”

“You already know which one I favor,” Starlight added, giving the changeling a pointed look. “And look at it this way, Thorax. One way or another she’s going to find out eventually. The longer you put it off, the harder she’s going to take it. So if you truly want to have a real chance with her…you’ll go tell her the truth yourself, sooner rather than later.”

Thorax bit her lip. “But…when she finds out the truth…that’s going to end it, isn’t it?” he asked. “I mean…I like her company, associating with her, all the activities we do…I don’t want that to end…but it will anyway once she finds out, won’t it?”

Starlight and Silverstream exchanged looks. “Well…only maybe?” Silverstream replied, trying to find a positive. “Maybe…maybe you two can still make it work…you know, one of those things you both look back on and laugh and laugh…”

Thorax snorted divisively, not convinced.

Starlight let her anger fade. “I’m sorry, Thorax,” she apologized. “But…you realize you’ve brought this on yourself by not being upfront with her in the first place, right? Either way, no matter what happens afterwards, if you really have feelings for her…then you know you still owe her the truth. So what’s it going to be? Come clean? Or continue this silly charade?”

Thorax opened his mouth to retort, but knowing he had nothing he could counter with, he closed it again and lowered his gaze, sulking. It was obvious to all of them that he knew they had a point. But he also made no motion to act upon it, or verbally answer Starlight’s question. After a moment though, he instead silently reapplied his disguise as Theodore, gazing apologetically up at them.

That was answer enough for Starlight. “Fine,” she decided and turned to go. “If you won’t do it, I will.” She motioned for Silverstream to follow. “C’mon, Silverstream.”

Silverstream obediently followed her out of the wagon. Thorax didn’t stop either of them, but Silverstream still couldn’t help but look back and see how dejected he looked. “Um, Headmare Starlight?” she asked hesitantly as they walked away from the wagon. “Are you really sure it’s a good idea for you to intervene like this?”

“If I don’t, do you really think Thorax will do it himself?” Starlight asked back. “Silverstream, the longer this charade is allowed to go on, the worse it’s only going to get for them both.” She sighed. “I fully expect it won’t go over well for either of them, and I know that’s why Thorax doesn’t want to do it himself…but ultimately it’ll be better to just do this and be done with it. In a way, we’re doing them a favor by stopping it now rather than letting it continue.”

Silverstream mulled that over. She didn’t quite like it, but she couldn’t dispute Starlight’s argument either. “I suppose,” she relented finally. “But how are we going to prove this to Trixie anyway?”

Starlight took Silverstream’s camera from her and grinned. “You still got photographic evidence, remember? There’ll be no denying it once we show Trixie.”

However, when they found Trixie, working on some show props in her wagon, she was already less than interested in hearing them out, even as they only just started broaching the subject.

“You really can’t leave this alone, can you, Starlight?” Trixie groused to the unicorn. She nodded her head towards Silverstream. “And now you’re dragging students into this too? Seriously. What have you got so much against Theo anyway?”

“No, Trixie, listen!” Starlight persisted. “I’m trying to tell you that Theodore isn’t who or what he seems!”

“Oh sure,” Trixie said, rolling her eyes. “I supposed you’re about to tell me he’s a vampire or something now, right?”

“Guess again, friend,” Starlight said and looked to Silverstream.

Silverstream pulled out a photo from her collection and triumphantly held it out for Trixie to see. “SHA-BAM!”

Trixie squinted her eyes at the photo. “…is that supposed to be your thumb, Silverstream?”

“Huh?” Silverstream turned the photo around and saw she had grabbed the wrong one. “Oh, wait!” She started to hurriedly sort through her collection in search of the right one. “I’m…I’m sorry, just a sec—SHA-BAM!” She thrusted the correct photo out this time.

Trixie peered at it. “King Thorax?” she repeated skeptically, glaring at the others. “That’s not funny, you two.”

“But it’s true!” Silverstream argued, dejected at Trixie’s skepticism. “We saw it for ourselves, promise!”

“Besides, it all adds up!” Starlight argued. “The inconsistent backstory, the secrecy, the foreign money…he hardly eats at mealtimes! Haven’t you noticed that?”

“So Theo’s a picky eater!” Trixie retorted. “That doesn’t prove anything!”

Or he hardly eats any solid food because he’s really a changeling who actually eats emotion!” Starlight argued. “Trixie, I don’t like having to say it, but I swear to you, he’s not a pony, he’s—”

But Trixie interrupted, advancing upon them and pushing them back towards the wagon door. “No, you both listen to me and listen good,” she stated seriously. “Theo and I are going to the Café Hay for a fancy dinner date at seven o’clock…”

“But—but…” Silverstream started to object as they were pushed out the door of the wagon.

Trixie kept going. “…and I’m going to be adorable, and he’s going to be dreamy…”

“Trixie, if you’ll just listen…” Starlight also tried to object as they were forced to stand just outside.

“…and I am not going to let you ruin it with one of your crazy CONSPIRACIES!” Trixie then slammed the door in their faces.

Starlight wasn’t willing to give up that easily though and pounded her hoof on the door. “Trixie, we’re telling the truth!” she called. “And we want to help! Now, open up so we can work this out!

“Go away!” Trixie merely called back.

Starlight kept rapping on the door. “Please, Trixie!” she pleaded. “You need to listen to us!”


“Do you really think I’d tell you all of this if it wasn’t true?”

Trixie’s answer was immediate. “Yes!” That made Starlight pause, giving Trixie the chance to throw the door open again and continue. “Starlight, you were against me and Theo from the start. Oh sure, you tried to hide it, keep it to yourself so I wouldn’t notice, but I could still tell. The way you reacted when you found out, the way you tried to pry information out of him…I didn’t bring it up because I hoped you’d adjust and get over it like you said you would, but you clearly aren’t. Why must you be so bent on sabotaging this for me? I mean, I could understand you being jealous…”

“I am not jealous!” Starlight interrupted, incredulous. “Why does everybody keep saying that I am?”

“Well, whatever the reason, you need to stop!” Trixie snapped. “Look, even if I did buy this whole story you’re trying to sell—which I don’t—it’s still not any of your business to even get involved with!” Trixie shot them a dark glare. “So butt out, before I make you butt out.”

She again slammed the door shut, ending the matter.

Silverstream and Starlight stood there blankly for a moment. “Well, that could’ve gone better,” Starlight finally remarked with a sorry sigh, rubbing wearily at her temples.

“So, what are we going to do?” Silverstream asked, concerned. “If Counselor Trixie won’t listen to us, and King Thorax won’t tell the truth himself…”

“Then we’re just going to have to come up with a different plan,” Starlight concluded, turning to go. “C’mon, we better go regroup with the others. Where’d Gallus and Smolder get off to, anyway?”

As it happened, they were currently applauding Derpy, who was sheepishly bowing under their praise.

“Well, I’ll be a slingtail’s aunt, you really can sing death metal!” Smolder declared, impressed by the pegasus’s little demonstration.

“That was awesome!” Gallus praised. “You sounded like some kind of demon!”

“Yeah, how do you do that, anyway? Is it all just sort of…” Smolder attempted to mimic the harsh singing, but ended up sounding more like she was being strangled.

“No, no, you’ll hurt your throat trying to sing it that way,” Derpy gently coached. “Just…put some tension in your vocal cords and…” she gave another demonstration, the harsh but on-key screech-like singing a sharp contrast to her usual bubbly demeanor.

“See?” Gallus said, motioning to her. “Like a demon!”

“Is that what you’ve been doing this whole time?” Starlight asked flatly, butting into the conversation as she and Silverstream strolled up.

Smolder either missed Starlight’s tone or, more likely, chose to ignore it anyway. “Hey, Teach!” she greeted with a wave. “Derpy here was just showing us her crazy singing skills.”

“Oh, it was nothing really,” Derpy said bashfully.

“Uh-huh,” Starlight said, not particularly interested. “Well, thank you for keeping these two preoccupied anyway, Derpy, but it’s time we all got going.” She shot a look at Smolder and Gallus who got the hint and quickly rose to leave.

“It’s no problem!” Derpy assured as they turned to leave. “And thanks again for the help moving the equipment! Buh-bye!”

They waved back at they left, Starlight a little more half-hearted, until they were out of the pegasus’s earshot. “So you actually did help her move all that equipment then,” she remarked flatly to Gallus and Smolder.

“Well yeah,” Gallus replied. “What, you really thought we wouldn’t? Us, the premier students at the School of Friendship?”

“Premier? Not with your grades currently,” Starlight fired back with an arched brow.

Gallus winced and averted his gaze.

“Either way, we finished moving all that equipment a while back,” Smolder said, continuing the original point. “So we were just chilling, waiting for you two to come back.”

“I thought you two were keeping watch,” Silverstream piped in.

“We were,” Gallus said. “Tried to alert you when we saw the Startup guy heading for his wagon, but we never saw whether you left in time or not. After he went in though, we figured you’d either got out and we just didn’t see, or had gotten caught. Either way, there wasn’t really anything more we could do about it, so…”

“…so you just left us and went to listen to Derpy Hooves sing death metal,” Starlight concluded dryly.

“Well, in our defense, she is seriously good at it,” Smolder said with a shrug. “I mean, who knew, right?” Catching Starlight’s withering gaze, she cleared her throat and quickly changed the subject. “So, uh, how did it go, anyway? Did Startup catch you two or not?”

“He actually did catch us,” Silverstream replied excitedly, digging out their incriminating photo, “But in so doing, we learned he’s not who he seems!”

She held out the photo, which Smolder snatched from her to examine, Gallus leaning in so to see too. She laughed. “Oh, you gotta be pulling my tail! He’s actually King Thorax? Really?

“I know, right?” Silverstream giddily answered. “Turns out he’s got a huge crush on Trixie!”

Now Gallus laughed too, taking the photo from Smolder. “Ha! I gotta give the dork props then, I never figured he’d have the balls to pull something like this!” he said. “Does Trixie know?”

“And that’s the problem, she doesn’t,” Starlight said with a sigh, getting back down to business. “Or at least, she refuses to believe us. We already tried telling her the truth, even showed her that same photo, but she refuses to accept it.”

“Well, coming from you, it probably would seem a little suspect,” Smolder admitted, rubbing her chin. “I mean, you’ve already tried telling her something was up before, so I suppose coming to her with this now does seem like you desperately grabbing at straws…at least from her point of view…”

“Still, I can kinda see the problem,” Gallus admitted, handing the photo back to Silverstream. “This little relationship they have going on might be going good for right now, but…the second Trixie figures out that Thorax has basically been lying to her…”

“You see why I’m a bit miffed about this then,” Starlight said. She sighed again. “But Trixie doesn’t want to hear it from us, and we can’t convince Thorax to step up and do it himself either.”

“Of course he wouldn’t, he stands to lose out,” Gallus reasoned. “And I kinda sympathize with the guy, he’s gotta be seriously interested in Trixie in order to have gone to all this effort and get this far…”

“…plus, we have met the guy a couple times before thanks to knowing Ocellus, and I have a hard time believing he really meant any harm with all of this…” Smolder added.

“…but he’s not exactly helping himself by not coming clean either,” Gallus continued. “Just like Professor Applejack taught—the best policy is always the honest one.” He then nudged Starlight slyly with his elbow. “See, I am too learning in my classes.”

“Now if only your grades reflected that,” Starlight replied, unswayed and giving him a pointed look before getting back on topic. “Whatever Thorax’s reasons are for all of this, we’re going to have to think of something else to get them both to face the truth and end this mess once and for all.”

“I don’t know, Teach,” Smolder said, hesitant. “Should we really be getting that involved? This feels like something they ought to work out themselves…”

“That’s what I said!” Silverstream chimed.

“But I can’t possibly just stand to one side and do nothing!” Starlight objected, suddenly scaling up a small pile of hay bales sat on one side of the fairgrounds and striking a determined pose. “Not when I could be doing something about it, keep it from getting worse! They may both act like dumb idiots at the moment, but Thorax and Trixie are my friends, and what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t at least try to resolve this?” She spun round and pointed a hoof down at the three students watching her. “So I ask you, what more can we do? For there must be something we can do to fix this! If not for them, or for ourselves, then for friendship!

Silverstream happily applauded at the end of her little speech while Gallus and Smolder mulled the problem over for a moment.

“Well, what if we made Thorax reveal himself in front of Trixie?” Gallus suddenly suggested. “I mean, we know a changeling, and we know she can’t hold a disguise forever, so I can only assume it’d be the same for the king of the changelings too.”

“So if we were to force Thorax into a situation where he has to drop the disguise and made sure Trixie was there to see it…” Starlight began, climbing down from the hay bale stack.

“But how do we not only make him drop his disguise, but also time it so that Trixie is there to see it too?” Smolder asked.

“Well, what about that one weekend where we were all playing charades?” Silverstream interjected, looking to her friends. “And while we were playing, Ocellus ate some of those nachos Gallus brought, and then she suddenly felt queasy and couldn’t hold a disguise together anymore?”

Smolder snapped her claws and pointed at Gallus, excited. “Yes! I remember that! She said there was something in the chili you had in those nachos that had caused it…some kind of seasoning…?”

“Yeah, it was cayenne powder, so to give it a bit of a kick,” Gallus responded, nodding his head.

“Cayenne powder?” Starlight repeated, moving closer. “In magician circles, depending on how it’s used or applied, that’s known to disrupt or even flat-out break a self-sustaining spell that’s been cast on an object. Trixie’s probably even familiar with that, because I’ve heard of stage performers like her using it in some of their tricks.”

“Well, apparently changelings also don’t react well to it when they eat it,” Gallus said and made a wince. “It eventually made poor Ocellus sick to her stomach. I had to stop putting the cayenne powder in nachos after that, or forewarn her when I did so she’d know not to eat any.”

“She also said it made her unable to concentrate enough to do her disguises,” Silverstream added excitedly. “I remember, because she had been using her disguises as part of the charades game we were playing and I noticed when she suddenly couldn’t do it anymore.”

Smolder perked up catching on. “So if we were to slip Thorax some cayenne powder, just enough to make him loose control of his disguise…”

“But when would we have the chance to do that?” Gallus asked.

Now Starlight perked up. “Trixie said she and Theodore are going out for dinner at the Café Hay at seven tonight!” she declared, starting to see a plan come together. “If we can get in there and discreetly slip some cayenne powder into Thorax’s meal, put it in something we can be sure he’ll eat…”

“And how the heck are we going to do that without being noticed?” Smolder asked, raising a brow. “Because I think the restaurant staff will take issue if they see someone messing with somebody’s order like that.”

Silverstream suddenly gasped, her eyes sparkling. “Not unless we had someone on the inside!” she declared, and motioned for them all to come closer. “Listen, I’ve got an idea…”

Author's Note:

Well then, now that we've got all the circumstances established and the scene set...time for the real fun to begin... :trixieshiftleft: