• Published 25th Feb 2013
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Winds of Change - Masterweaver


Rainbow Dash is a changeling. Who knew?

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Chapter Five: Unnamed and Unknown

"...what if she really is Rainbow?"

Twilight looked up from her thick tome, giving Fluttershy a flat look. "I beg your pardon?"

The pegasus tilted her eyes behind her mane, but didn't break her gaze. "I mean... what if Rainbow Dash was... always a changeling? And, um, some changeling mother didn't want her to, um, have the same life as all the other changelings and... somehow managed to convince a pony couple to adopt her?"

It was a valid theory, Twilight realized. It would explain a lot... but then again, there wasn't any evidence for it. Or against it. And theories without any positive or negative possibility simply could not be reasonably explored. Evidence, then theory.

"There's no way to tell," she replied eventually. "And given that the queen changeling replaced Cadance, it's probably easier to assume Dash was replaced."

"...what about the Element of Loyalty? Um, wouldn't it recognize its bearer?"

The unicorn sighed. "I don't know. It didn't react badly to being put on Spike... it didn't react at all, actually. And there's no actual proof that there's ever only one bearer for each element. The fact that the changeling doesn't believe her--him..."

She trailed off, staring into the distance for a moment.

"...itself?"

"Herself." Fluttershy lidded her eyes and frowned at Twilight. "If she thinks she's female, then we should respect that."

"Herself. She doesn't believe herself to be Rainbow Dash. So even if she was Loyalty's bearer... we couldn't convince her to activate it." The unicorn sighed. "I just wish this were that easy...."

"...when... when we do find Dash... what are we going to do with, um, her?"

Silence filled the atrium at Fluttershy's question. Normally, Twilight would simply say the changeling would be banished but... from the way that she acted, she was as much a victim in this as anypony else. On the other hoof, she had replaced Dash, and justice would have to be served on somepony; the invasion was too recent to alleviate anti-changeling sentiments. Leniency would just cause ponies to think Celestia had been conquered by Chrysalis...

"I don't know."

"Oh."

The two sat in silence for a while, Twilight compiling Fluttershy's observations.

"...what will Rainbow think of her?"

"She'll probably be a bit upset that she was replaced... and captured..." Twilight shivered. "If she can get past that, maybe... maybe she'll be able to make friends with her."

"She's always been very accepting," Fluttershy mused. "Well, more she's always treated everybody she met equally. The species didn't matter to her, so long as you were a nice... person."

"I don't know, though... After everything that happened..." The unicorn pressed a hoof to her brow. "Our priority right now is finding out what happened to Rainbow Dash. We can worry about what to do with the changeling after that."

"I know, I know... but..." Fluttershy sighed. "Even if she isn't Dash, she feels... like a friend. Do you know what I mean? Like she needs us..."

"Of course she needs us." Twilight snorted. "She feeds on love, right?"

"No, not like that! Not like... more like, like if she didn't have us... she wouldn't do anything." The pegasus shivered. "Like she's in the snow, and we're... torches? And she'll let herself be buried by the wind if we go out."

"...That's... unexpectedly grim of you, Fluttershy."

"But it's true."

The unicorn stared at her friend, considering her words carefully. That the changeling was so... dependent on them, in ways more than sheer survival... that a single slip could cost the life of somepony, someone she knew only casually...

She shivered. "That's... I don't... I just want Rainbow back."

"Even if she has to die?"

"I DON'T WANT ANYPONY TO DIE!" Twilight yelled, slamming a hoof on the table. "I don't even want her to die, I just want Rainbow back! After, after we get her back then we can deal with this, alright?"

Fluttershy sighed. "Twilight.... it might be too late by then."

The unicorn glared at her, but the pegasus held her ground. A tense, terrible quiet clustered and coiled into the room, denial thickening under the constant assailment of worry and compassion. Two forces so great and powerful strove in those humble locked eyes, wrestling around the ponies, battle locked in stalemate.

A third force then walked in and chopped them down at the root. "Hey girls! Who wants cupcakes?" Pinkie placed the tray of pastries down with a toothy grin.

Instantly, Twilight and Fluttershy looked away from each other in shame. Their argument dropped, unresolved, as they both gave their friend thankful smiles.

"I guess... I guess we have been in here a while, and I am feeling a bit peckish." The unicorn levitated a sweet to her mouth.

"Um, yes... Thank you, Pinkie."

"No problemo! Anything for my friends is anything I can do!" The earth pony paused, reflecting over her words. "Wait, that doesn't work. Things I can do are anything for... no. If my friends need anything, I'll... no, that's cliche..."

"We get it Pinkie." Twilight snorted, putting a hoof on the baker's shoulder. "Thanks."

"You're welcome! So have you decided what to do about Wob Niar yet?"

"Who?"

"The changeling, silly filly!"

Fluttershy gasped. "All this time talking about her and we haven't even given her a name! Oh my goodness how could we be so mean?!"

"Well, she didn't give us a name," Twilight pointed out.

"Because she doesn't know her own name! Oh my goodness oh my goodness oh my goodness..."

The unicorn sighed. "You... have a point. I guess we'll run Wob Niar by her for approval..."

***

670903 reporting in. Current location: Rambling Rock Ridge. Status: Rear legs broken, gash in chest. Internal magic at 400 thaums.

Maintain position and await further orders... 923302, go to 670903 and initiate healing spell.

784501 reporting... I found another bonfire. No survivors. Moving on to next region of Fillydelphia.

Hold. Attempt to gather remnant thaums. Hive knows we need every scrap we can get now...

They found me! They found me! Someling, get me out of Appleoo--

Chrysalis cursed to herself as another voice went silent. There was a time when the mourning song would have keeled out through the hive, but after the first few thousand dead there was just no point.

Damn those ponies! They deserved to be SHREDDED OPEN, every foal, mare, and stallion, and the only reason she was restraining herself from doing so was because she didn't have the power to do so. Why couldn't they have submitted to her glory? Why didn't they realize what she was offering?! Eternal bliss, and all they needed to do was be cocooned up so a changeling could sip some love off of them on occasion.

Honestly, it was as though they wanted to descend into independent chaos... They claimed to adore harmony, but rejected the true unity of the hive. Hypocrites!

The queen stilled herself, letting her mind wander through the network of connections. Her drones... those that survived were scattered and disconnected. She'd had to have them all construct personas, and even then they had to be careful; too many orphan sob stories would illicit suspicion. The filter was small and inconsistent. And a single misstep could cost the hive not only a life but... food.

Damn the ponies....

Damn them all.

Chrysalis was already constructing another plan. One that didn't rely on unknown factors. She'd show those equines true harmony. She'd show them.

After all, one of her own was a wielder of their ancient magics...

***

The changeling's ears perked as the door opened. She turned around, keeping her gaze on the ground. "Hey."

"Howdy."

Silence.

Applejack took the time to examine the creature with her eyes. There were similarities, she had to admit to herself. Uncanny ones. its barrel was thick and round, just like Dash's. The way she nervously folded and unfolded her wings...

But...

In the end, the creature had replaced her friend and expected to get away with it. Even if it didn't know... well. It had some part in this whole scheme.

"...what do ya want?"

The changeling sighed. "I... I want you to have Rainbow Dash back."

"And after that?"

"I don't care." It slumped, curling up on the floor. "Kill me, dissect me, forgive me, I don't give a flying feather. Get it? I don't have feathers. So I can't give them." The voice was listless, simply tired.

"So that's it? After ya failed in yer little charade yer jus' gonna give up?"

The changeling chuckled, raising her eyes to Applejack. "Are you trying to rile me up? That would have... that would have worked, if... If I was her." She sighed. "But I'm not. Time we all accepted that."

Applejack snorted, pawing at the ground. "Fahn. Ah don't have time fer yer games anyway. Where is she?"

"I don't know. I really don't."

Somehow, the farmer could see she was telling the truth... or at least thought she was telling the truth. She nodded, walking around the changeling carefully.

"...Why Dash?"

The prisoner snorted. "Why her? I dunno. I think maybe it was meant to be some sort of joke. Or maybe she was just in the right place at the right time. You know when Cadance... when the bug queen came up and asked her to escort her home? That's probably when it happened." She pressed her ears flat. "Weird thing is, I... I still remember being Dash all through the day. Probably some constructed memories. Except for the part where the bug was the hottest mare on earth."

Applejack blushed. "What?"

"I think it comes with being a changeling. For some reason... for some reason the only time I can remember being aroused is when she was in the room...." The changeling rolled her eyes. "I absolutely hate her but she had one sexy... something. Something about her was sexy. I can't even remember what. I'm trying to, but.... I don't even remember." She sighed. "Rainbow probably flirted with everypony, though...."

"Actually...." The earth pony rubbed her neck. "Ah had a talk with her bout that once. She... she said she could understand what made a pony attractive, but.... she had tah force herself on. She never even went inta heat."

The changeling blinked. "I... I remember that..."

Instantly Applejack was on alert. "Do ya now?"

"I..." She shook her head in confusion. "These aren't constructed memories... these are... stolen. Stolen... Of course!" The changeling jumped up with a grin. "If Twilight just probes my mind she can find the, the, the break or whatever! And then maybe she can use that to egghead out where Rainbow is and..."

She paused, staring at the wall.

"...and I'll... just stay in this cell. Forever."

Applejack could only watch as the changeling curled back up, laying down on the floor again.

Well, ya'll deserve it.

She couldn't bring herself to say that. Even if it was true... she couldn't.

"...why do ya have a mane?"

"Huh?"

"All tha changelings out there, cept the queen, they all had fins. Why do ya'll have a mane?"

The changeling looked up at her, rubbing the back of her neck. "There's a fin under there, actually... kinda small, but it's there..." She waved a holey hoof vaguely. "I don't know why I have a mane."

"Maybe yer a princess changeling."

"Ha. I hope not... Celestia has loads of paperwork to do every day. I can barely stand..."

Applejack raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"...I was going to say I can barely stand the weather paperwork. But..."

The farmer nodded. "Ah see."

Silence descended once again on the pair, each trying to find a way to move the conversation forward. Neither of them could find any hook to latch onto, any information worth giving or requesting. They couldn't console each other in their respective situations; any assurance by the changeling that Dash would be found felt, in her mind, like an insult, and for her part Applejack didn't know whether she wanted to promise the changeling freedom or even a purpose in life.

The earth pony examined the prisoner with confusion; she had entered assuming that the changeling would, inevitably, be the enemy, but she had found nothing worth being angry at in the creature's words or acts, nothing that aggravated her. Even the sadness she exhibited was too mellow to earn her ire.

Eventually, she simply tipped her hat and walked out.

Author's Note:

You know I read somewhere that rewarding someone infrequently keeps them coming back more consistently then giving them rewards on a regular schedule. Hmmm.

Anyway another chapter!