• Published 30th Nov 2012
  • 987 Views, 23 Comments

Through Alien Lives - Woorali



With Queen Chrysalis far away, Woorali the changeling must rebuild his life.

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The Fool: Changeling Info

Dear Kerta,
How are you? Has there been much progress on your steam cannon? You asked me about my changeling friend, Ssk, and he recommended I send you a report about changelings I wrote for the Council back in 6100. I edited a few parts of course, since I doubt you wanted to hear how large their military is.

Hope your curiosity is satisfied!


Changeling Biology

Origins

The problem in finding the true origin of changelings as a species lies in their incredible potential for mutation. A single rogue spell, a badly phrased incantation, or even a leaking power crystal can force a unique adaptation in their blood. Indeed, the only thing constant about a changeling throughout their life is change.

However, examining their physiology and comparing it to existing life forms suggests that all changelings developed from a creature not unlike the modern parasprite. No one is certain when the parasprites and the changelings diverged, but it is believed that it was a recent development. The earliest evidence of changeling shells dating around the time paleoponies started building the first cities.

Physiology and Medical Information

Contrary to popular belief, changelings possess a skeleton that supports their musculature and shell. It is much weaker than even that of the pegasi, but it exists, and proves the idea that all intelligent life requires a backbone true. Changeling teeth appear to be developed for biting and scraping at rocks, rather than eating meat, and are a part of that skeletal structure, rather than some extension of their shells. Their shells periodically molt, and are considered distinct from their skeletons, even if made of the same material.

Like many lithovorous species, changeling stomachs are many-chambered and magically acidic. Unlike the dragons and diamond dogs, however, changelings do not possess intestines, liver or any means of cleaning their system beyond producing a thick, gelatinous substance from their hoof-holes. Digestion of minerals does not bring any energy to changelings, but is instead only a means of rebuilding their bodies.

It should also be noted that there does not seem to be much difference between changeling blood and the mineral-rich green water their caverns contain. Because of this, a changeling can survive for weeks without any water, and can hold their breath for up to an hour. However, with no blood cells, they depend heavily upon their magic to maintain good health.

Changeling “emotion-eating” is actually a form of thaumavorous behavior. As such, their horns and hearts have specialized cells that absorb a variety of energies given off by magical beings experiencing emotion. Other cells within their bodies then use the absorbed energy to animate and maintain the body.

Changeling reproduction is surprisingly similar to those of other mammal and mammal-like species, with one major difference. Changeling mothers produce eggs that hatch into grubs, which then develop slowly into young, rather than giving birth to foals as ponies do.

Changeling elemental make-up differs depending on litho-diet, and their average temperature can fluctuate depending on thauma-diet and the needs of assuming a particular shape. Starvation can be identified by sluggish movements, decreased intelligence, and aggression, while mineral deficiency’s symptoms include unusual growths on the shell and brittleness. No known viral or bacterial illnesses can infect a changeling, though a changeling can carry them. Magical illness is not common due to high rate of mutation and thauma-diet, but a few cases each year come in with the same symptoms as anypony else.

Psychology

Basics

To put it bluntly, changelings are a swarming species. Every member of the Hive increases his fellows’ individual intelligence, and the Hive’s wellbeing itself depends upon a large population of thinking, feeling changelings, as well as a hub to hold it together. This need for a large community to survive and thrive makes changelings tolerant, if somewhat distant in their interactions with each other.

Mental Landscape and Illness

Unusual personality traits among changelings are neither celebrated nor hated. So long as a changeling works with the Hive and does not threaten the safety of any other changeling, they are seen as sane. Behaviors ponies would interpret as paranoid or obsessive are routinely observed among changelings, and a few changeling even display what to most other species in Equestria would be insanity. The only mental illnesses recognized by the changelings themselves have to deal with one’s inability to link with the Hive and acting against other changelings. The first is treated, while the second tends to earn one expulsion from the Hive.

Changeling minds are capable of expansion. That is, a changeling can use the Hive to become more intelligent. Memory, reflexes, focus, and sometimes creative thinking can thus be augmented. Because of this, changelings do not have an average intelligence quotient. As with dragons, there is no telling if one is an idiot or a genius through standardized testing.

Changeling Interaction

Changeling society revolves around the Hive, but their individual lives revolve around the Queen or King, themselves, and perhaps a small circle of friends. Their devotion to the hub of their Hive rivals even the pony devotion to the Princesses or the dragon’s love for their hoard. To want to harm the Queen or King is unthinkable even to the worst monster among them because of this hardwired care.

When it comes to personal interests, changelings have hobbies and will often set aside the largest portion of their homes to a project. A happy changeling is one that has something to do after they’re done supporting the Hive. Changelings that have similar interests will often form small clubs.

Friendship among changelings is not as celebrated as among ponies, and is in fact closer to the dragon concept of the word. Changelings value each other as members of the Hive, much as dragons see each other as lords of separate domains. Thus, for feelings of friendship to develop, two changelings must first understand where each of them stands. If they see each other as equals, they may become friends. If one is greater than the other in some way, they may become rivals (though, by the standards of changeling society, there is no difference between a rival and a friend—rivals are just friends that push you to succeed). Far more often, two changelings will simply ignore each other after a brief interaction, however, recognizing that they are alien to each other.

Two changeling friends rarely abandon each other. Just as one belongs to the Hive unless one proves dangerous, so do friends often care for each even after a falling out. However, if a changeling does lose a friend, they often mourn the event in the same way they would mourn being removed from the Hive. Indeed, all social units are, within the changeling mind, similar to the Hive. Not being in one is alright. Being in one is good. Being cast out is terrible.

Romance and Reproduction

Changelings are a long-lived species, with a few Queens and Kings surviving well into their eight hundreds. Changelings also rarely reproduce. Biology and society have thus molded the population into something strange by pony standards. Among the changelings, females are outnumbered by males such that a single female often has three males as her neighbors.

To a changeling, romance is entirely separate from reproduction. While they do care for their grubs, few of the changeling species consider them to be products of love. Grubs are the next generation of changelings, separate from their parents, but connected to the Hive. To care for them as extensions of oneself would be foolish, according to changelings.

Love amongst changelings is perhaps the purest, because they do not recognize as many rules as ponies, dragons, or even griffons. To a pony, two females together would be shocking, though perhaps ignorable. Changelings can assume any shape to please their loved one. To a dragon, a high lord and his immediate inferior together would be strange, but acceptable. Changelings do not blink at the hub of their Hive, the royalty among them, being with a common excavation drone. Griffons see a triad as being a possible combination of romantic partners. Changelings have no problem sharing love between entire harems (the closest word ponies would have for such a thing).

Of course, there are some rules. Interspecies romances are frowned upon. Leaving the changeling territories and giving up on the Hive because of a non-changeling is a crime. Inter-Hive relationships, when those happen, are also seen as strange.

Culture

Language

Spoken Changeling is a series of hisses, clicks, grunts, screeches, and melodies. Very similar in structure to paelopony languages or possibly the dragon art of roaring, it is meant to convey basic ideas and help organize the Hive properly. New words are made from combinations of old ones, and the grammar is loose at best.

Written Changeling started as a means of marking tunnels that were too dangerous so changeling society never forgot them. Despite shared intelligence and easy-to-use telepathy, written Changeling gained popularity as part of the arts. Interactions with other species also led to innovation, and modern written Changeling borrowed a few shapes from griffon and pony letters.

Telepathy is perhaps the most important to the changeling language. A changeling that cannot connect to the Hive and communicate mind-to-mind is crippled socially and academically. A few ponies are skilled in the spells necessary, but so far, no means exists to copy the ‘accent’ changelings possess in that versatile medium of communication.

Names

The subject of changeling names is a difficult one due to how the changeling intelligence works. To a changeling, remembering fifty different names within the span of an hour is easy. Changelings pick up languages in weeks, rather than months. Because of this, changelings often have several names that they identify as their own.

The first name any changeling learns is the one they are born into and alter as they age to suit their purposes. Due to the simplicity of Changeling as a language, a few short hisses and clicks, such as Krshkl or Hsh, are enough to identify a changeling from another, thus leading to the pony myth that changelings do not have family names.

As a changeling ages and alters the name they were given, morphing it into an expression of themselves, they may begin to organize lists of concepts and ideas they can use as names for disguises. Changelings tend to prefer older languages for their possible disguise names to avoid problems with naming themselves something silly (Door Opener the changeling had a very short spy career among pony-kind).

Technology and Magic

Changelings are masters at copying other species’ inventions. Despite this advantage, though, changelings are only barely more advanced than dragons, preferring to use magic.

Magicians among changelings are common and operate much the same way as unicorns, weaving spells using their horns. Changelings seem to have trouble experimenting with magic, however, as a lot of their thaumaturgical research is done by examining other species, rather than trying anything for themselves. Still, a few spells are uniquely changeling, in particular the various mind magics dealing with information and control.

The Arts

Changelings value the arts as a hobby and as a means of preserving information even after the original owners of it are dead. Poetry, song, carving, painting, and mosaic are considered Memory Arts, and valued highly. A changeling may well work for the Hive as an artist with such skills.

Second most valuable are the Clothing Arts. Things such as dresses, jewelry, decorations, and mirrors are matters of great importance to changelings. Appearances can be altered, but a good piece of jewelry will survive for a long time. A changeling that has this as a hobby will tend to be popular, and there is a chance that their skill will be recognized as a means of interacting with other species, and thus, something the Hive needs.

Architects and Chefs are valued the least, so much so that some changelings consider such things to be no more artistic than raising a grub or carrying water. Still, buildings that look pleasing to the eye, and mineral supplements that taste better than others are not entirely worthless, and individual changelings trade for them.

The Economy

Changelings care about the Hive. As such, changeling jobs always revolve around creating the best environment possible for the Hive. Every changeling works for at least a few hours of their day in order to form a better connection between the various Hive members, from creating new tunnels and discovering caverns to writing epics and teaching grubs. The social pressure to participate is simply too great, and combined with the fact that a healthy Hive gives one greater intelligence, and a ration of energy required to stay alive, no changeling is without some chore they must perform. Usually, such things are rewarded not based on time spent, but on the result, so relatively few changelings are overworked or underpaid for their services.

The other side of the coin is the world of competitive merchants. Because every changeling has a hobby, very few are without something to trade. Some changelings end up becoming more influential, and gain the ear of the Queen or King, while others lose much due to the whims of their fellows. Still, total failure is extremely rare, and even the poorest changeling owns far more than a homeless diamond dog or a hoard-less dragon. Griffons and ponies are richer on average, but this is mostly because bits are a currency supported by the Princesses (with apologies to the Princesses, I see such practices as unfair).

Changelings have no currency of their own, and their barter system seems primitive when compared even to the diamond dogs’, but when one can potentially remember a deal they made six months ago or calculate as well as any griffon-built machine, there are few swindlers.

When dealing with other species, changelings tend to apply the same standards they do to their own kind. As such, insider trading is not recognized as a crime, and many of the safety practices that griffons and ponies accept as part of a job may be ignored.

Politics

Changelings select their royalty based on their ability to handle the Hive connection, their ability to be noticed, and their ideas for serving the Hive. Voting among changelings is a matter of telepathy, and as such, vote counters are unnecessary. Once the King or Queen is selected, they are considered the closest a single changeling can come to being the Hive itself. Their role as the hub of all changeling intelligence is considered important enough to also give them near-absolute power.

Fortunately for changelings and other species, a Queen or King that makes too many mistakes or harms the Hive itself will lose their title. Unfortunately, even changelings that did not vote for the monarch in question will give them many chances, and the position is for life.

Changeling nobility comes from the merchants, those whose barter produced the most personal wealth. Because the idea of inheritance is alien to changelings, who view anything a dead changeling left as being up for grabs (one of a few times full-scale riots are likely to break out is when a rich changeling dies before they gift their property to another), the nobility changes fairly often by the standards of ponies. Dragons would view such a practice with distaste, however, because so few changeling nobles know how to lead. They are merely the richest, and thus the most likely to catch the Queen or King’s attention.

Death and Spirituality

Death terrifies changelings, as does becoming a non-changeling. Thus, one of the few spiritual beliefs the changelings share with ponies is a concept of the afterlife where their society remains unchanged. Of course, in the changeling version of the afterlife, other species exist as well, and accept their status as food for the changelings.

A dead changeling is often treated no better than trash or a resource. While myths that changelings eat their own dead are greatly exaggerated (changelings are nothing if not pragmatic when it comes to mineral resources), a few use them as decoration or as part of a building. Because changelings also use old molts, it can be difficult to determine whether a painted shell belonged to an honored ancestor or was merely shed last month, so ponies and griffons are warned not to make assumptions.

Unlike ponies, changelings do not view Princesses’ abilities as anything unusual, as some of their oldest remember a time when the Sun and Moon were moved by entirely mortal wills. No changeling has converted to any griffon religion, either. However, the changelings do believe the earth itself, and its various treasures have spirits that must be recognized. Especially beloved is the spirit associated with the green underground rivers.
No changeling has ever named any spirits, or worshipped them directly through sacrifice, but it is common to hear one thanking a certain piece of ground. The Hive is sometimes also seen as a spirit, but then, it is only to state that changelings are superior to other species.

Closing

Whatever I write about them, changelings are more ponies than insects or monsters, and as such, deserve respect. The integration between species progresses slowly, and as a griffon among ponies, I question the wisdom of accepting beings so different from myself. Still, my friends among the changeling-kind are many, and my love for their poetry great enough. If someday I am called on to be an ambassador to their Queen, I will go with no fear.

Sincerely,
Sir Bardrick of the Equestrian Embassy
PS:

Ssk wrote this for you, after hearing how much you enjoyed a painting of the Badlands at night.

I hold in me the silver plains,
The cupful of my loves and pains,
The gift of stars so wild and free,
Where my steps leave no trace,
But memory.

Author's Note:

Hey, a bit of information about changelings and a tiny little poem to tide you over while I work on Much Action That Is Bound To Happen Eventually.
Oh, and of course, everypony is welcome to use info contained up there, if you wanna.