• Published 25th Feb 2013
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Winds of Change - Masterweaver


Rainbow Dash is a changeling. Who knew?

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Chapter Seven: Shame and Subterfuge

"...she... what?"

Fluttershy nodded slowly. "She's... very distraught over it, um, Captain Armor. She... well... I think you should see her."

"You can call me Shining, you know." The captain of the guard gave her a brief smile, trying to get her to relax around him. "I mean... with the way you and Twily get along, we're practically sister-in-laws."

The pegasus blushed, hiding her face behind her wing. "I, uh, Idon'tthinkofherlikethat--"

"What? No!" Shining Armor shook a hoof rapidly, trying to clear up the confusion. "Nonono, that's not what I meant. I mean... the way you, all six of you get along... you're practically family."

A shy smile formed on Fluttershy's face as she pulled her wing back. "Thanks..."

The unicorn sighed. "I... I just don't get it. She didn't actually kill anyone. Why would she be so torn up about it?"

"Exactly because she didn't kill anyone."

Fluttershy gave a small squeak as Luna strode into the room, jumping behind a potted plant. Shining Armor straightened up and saluted. "Princess! It is an honor to--"

"Stay your pleasantries. This is not a royal visit. This is..." The princess sighed, sitting. "...This is a visit from one of Twilight Sparkle's concerned friends to her dear brother. I feel that perhaps you would be the best.... mediator?" She considered the word for a moment. "...mutual companion during Twilight's reconciliation with Cadance."

Shining Armor sighed. "I... suppose that's fair."

"Um.... Princess..." Fluttershy emerged from behind the potted plant. "You... you said that Twilight felt as bad as she did... because she didn't kill anyone. What do you mean?"

Luna turned to look at her, a grave and ancient sorrow on her features as she considered her next words.

"...Tell her about the Teddy Bear Test, captain."

Shining Armor blinked. "Um.... I don't think--"

"You did go through it, did you not?"

"...yes, your highness." He sighed. "For me though it was... well, a purple unicorn plush. For obvious reasons."

Fluttershy turned to him in confusion. "Obvious reasons? What... what's the Teddy Bear Test?"

"...every officer has to go through some training outside the scope of normal conscripts. And it's tough. So... you're given a sort of... stuffed animal, a companion. Something to talk to, to take care of, what it is doesn't matter so long as you can actually connect with the thing." He chuckled. "You're graded weekly on how well you take care of the little darling. It seems silly, but... over the course of your training, you feel for dumb thing... and then, near the end of your course..."

The unicorn sighed.

"They tape it to a target."

Fluttershy drew in a sharp breath. "But... but that's horrible! Why would they make you--?"

"An officer must be ready to take a life," Luna said. "An officer must be ready to put down a psychopath, to protect ponies from wild beasts.... Every pony has a part of them that says they are not killers." Her magic snaked around a branch and snapped it off. "We cannot afford that weakness in our soldiers. We must break it."

The pegasus wilted.

Shining Armor looked at the twig in her magical grasp. "But... I don't understand. What does the Teddy Bear Test have to do with Twilight?"

Luna sighed. "You know how it felt, Captain. The switch from not being a killer... to knowing, in some part of your soul, that you could never retrieve that again." She gave the stick a sad look before tossing it in the garbage. Her magic snaked out again, twisting another branch slowly. "Twilight Sparkle does not have that luxury. She was not broken. She did not kill, but she knows she could have." The wood splintered slightly, revealing pulsing green veins beneath. "She hasn't fallen. But she has stood on the edge. That terrifies her. Perhaps she can be mended, one day, but the guilt rips at her soul and heart and mind and she still thinks she could be better than that."

She turned away from the plant. "Her very sense of identity has been unbalanced. She is hurt because she can hurt." Her eyes fell to the ground. "And I know... I know from experience that pain is far more intense than that of one who has actually become a killer... even if the killer's wound runs much deeper."

"I... still don't understand."

Luna smiled wryly. "Be glad that you never can, Captain. But... at the very least, you must support her in this trying time."

"Of course!" Shining Armor nodded vigorously. "I'm her brother, why in the world WOULDN'T I support her?" He stood up, walking out from behind his desk. "Where is she?"

"Um..." Fluttershy raised a hoof awkwardly, not meeting the guard's eyes. "She's.... sleeping."

"At this hour?" Luna turned to the pegasus. "That is... certainly odd, even for a scholar of her caliber."

"I.... may have given her a massage," Fluttershy reluctantly admitted. "And, um... possibly pushed a couple of pressure points to knock her out for a while... um..."

She looked up, her gaze turning from the shock on Shining Armor's face to the bemusement upon that of the Princess of the Night.

"....Rarity told me to do it! She was worried Twilight was overworking herself and, and, and she said it would be the best thing for her!"

Shining Armor sighed. "I wish I could say it wouldn't.... Twily is a bit overstudious. I'll have a word with Rarity when she finishes talking with the prisoner..."

****

"...I was wondering when you'd come."

Rarity sighed. "Well... all of the other girls have, and..."

"And you figured you could complete the set."

"And I thought it would only be fair." The unicorn looked at the changeling in shame. "I... suppose I should have been here earlier, what with me being Generosity's bearer and all..."

The changeling shrugged. "I dunno. I never really figured out the difference between Generosity and Kindness. Shy was here right after Twilight, though. So there's that..."

"I thin..." Rarity pursed her lips as she considered. "I think that perhaps, Generosity is the willingness to give to any...body, no matter what, where Kindness is the willingness to help a specific pony. It's difficult to put into words."

"Yeah..."

There was silence in the cell as, once again, a pony and a changeling found themselves at a loss at what to say to each other. The unicorn took the time to examine the changeling's features, noting to herself the similarities between her and the bearer of loyalty. In fact, to her trained eyes, this changeling could have worn any of Dash's dresses without alteration...

It was as though somepony made an outline of the pegasus and hadn't finished coloring it in.

"...Your mane is quite lovely, dear."

"Heh." The changeling rolled her eyes. "Probably the only pretty thing about me, am I right?"

"Not at all!" Rarity insisted. "As a connoisseur of the arts myself I know for a fact that beauty can come in many different forms. Why, you're one of the sleekest, most graceful figures I've ever had the honor of meeting."

"...wait, really?"

"But of course. The irony in having you chained like this--why, it is simply appalling. Don't misunderstand, I am quite aware of the reasoning behind the bars, and I must acknowledge its legitimacy... and yet I can't help but feel that letting yourself be hidden away from all the inspired artists of Canterlot is a grave error."

That got a laugh out of the changeling. "Ha, right. Like anypony would want my portrait. In case you've forgotten a bunch of changelings just ransacked Canterlot and knocked out the princess." She shook her head. "Maybe I should wear one of Pinkie's trick arrows, put some ketchup--no, relish around the... parts where it... touches me."

Rolling her eyes, Rarity stepped forward. "Perhaps the current times are somewhat... hostile to your status, but somehow I doubt that will remain in effect for all times." She lifted the changeling's chin up, gazing into her eyes. "You don't need to disguise yourself. You are beautiful just the way you are."

The prisoner considered her words, her eyes flicking away as she blushed green.

"But.... what about Rainbow Dash?"

Rarity sighed. "Rainbow is beautiful too, but... well, she refuses to see it. A lot like you, actually. Though I suppose in her case she feels that beauty must equate to frills and petticoats and high collars and honestly, the point of fashion is to accentuate beauty, not to create it." She sat down, rolling her eyes. "So many designers these days seem to forget that... do you know how garish some of the most famous outfits are? Bold gold with reformed pink and the STITCHWORK, oh dear Celestia how ever do they stay in business?"

A chuckle and a shake of her head was the changeling's reply. "Yeah, I... I saw some of that. Heck, even with my pathetic fashion sense I knew those were no-goes."

Rarity smiled. "Glad to know I have some support against the tyranny of overemphasis."

"There's something I never expected a drama queen like you to say!"

"Well, I never!" The unicorn put a hoof to her chest in mock offense. "A drama queen? Moi? How could you ever make such an assumption?"

"Basic observation."

"Touche." Rarity giggled, before her eyes grew weary. "In all seriousness though.... part of the job is having the emotional investment in one's work. I have to cultivate the Drama Queen personality, otherwise the fashion industry simply will not take me seriously. Ironic, isn't it? In order to be treated like an adult, I must sometimes act like a child."

The changeling tilted her head. "...you have to be... something you're not."

"But the most insidious thing is that if you're not careful... you find yourself actually becoming that person. You..."

"...you become the mask..."

The two of them sat in the cold, stone cell, letting their thoughts reverberate against the walls in silent contemplation. Neither of them could deny the sudden connection they felt. Neither of them could deny the way that the changeling moved, the way she spoke, the similarity between her and the pony she had impersonated.

Finally, she cleared her throat. "Rarity... if... when this all gets cleared up... I would be very honored to, um, model your clothes. If you like." A buzzing chuckle escaped her lips. "I can shapeshift into all your customers, you know, make things so much easier for you. If I can ever figure out how to shapeshift, anyway--"

A white hoof silenced her. "I would never force you to."

****

"Hey there fillyfriend!" Lyra kicked down the door, her saddlebags loaded with loaves of bread, slices of cheese, deep fried spinach, juicy tomatoes, and pre-prepared snackbars of questionable healthiness. "What's shaking in the house?"

Bonbon rolled her eyes. "You only left ten minutes ago. You really expect something to be different?"

"Weeeeeeeeeeeell, I know one thing that's different." The unicorn slung her saddlebags off onto the table, which groaned slightly at the weight, and tackled her lover in a tight hug. "I didn't miss you this much!"

"LYRA! Stop--heehee--stop doing that with my mane!" Cream hooves lightly swatted at the mare enthusiastically nuzzling into Bonbon's bicolored coiffure. "Do you know how long it takes to get it like this?"

"I dunno, ten seconds?"

Bonbon sighed. "Lyra..."

The unicorn reluctantly released her, backing off with a sheepish smile. "I know, I know... laying low, no magic. Alright, I'm sorry."

"It's... ugh, it's fine." Bonbon turned around with a small smile. "I can't say I don't like it."

Lyra smirked, lidding her eyes as she stepped forward. "I know a few other things you'd like, Bons."

"Ah-ah-ah!" The confectioner put a hoof to the other pony's chest. "Work, then play. We still need to put away the groceries!"

"But Boooooooony, I carried all that heavy stuff all the way down the street and my back huuuuuuuuurts!"

"Awwww, well then I guess we can't have playtime if you're too hurt to help me." Bonbon smirked, beginning to organize all the foodstuffs on the table. "I mean, if your back is that seriously hurt then us getting it on could only hurt it worse!"

Lyra stared at her. Then she threw up her hooves. "Fine, you caught me, I was being lazy." walking over, she plucked a large amount of groceries from the table with her magic, sending them to the small fridge that the Canterlot apartment had nestled just inside the kitchen doorway. "I can't wait to get back home, you know. This place is just too... STIFF."

"I warned you," Bonbon singsonged.

"Guess that's why the Crusaders skipped town."

That got the confectioner's attention. "The Crusaders?"

"Haha, yeah, I bumped into them while I was shopping." Lyra shut the door. "Apparently they got it into their heads that Rainbow Dash was on a super secret mission and they needed to help her. Crazy, right?"

Bonbon stared at Lyra.

"...what?"

"You didn't tell anypony about this?"

"Well, I mean it happened like three minutes ago. And I'm telling you, so--"

"And you're sure they said Rainbow Dash. Her, specifically?"

"Yeah, pretty sure. Bonbon, what's up?" Lyra tilted her head. "You're kinda freaking out here."

Bonbon's gaze drifted downward. "...I... I need to see, Lyra. I need to know exactly what they said."

"Why?"

"Because... if I'm right... somepony I met long ago might need my help."

Author's Note:

So, you know when you know what you want to say but you can't figure out which characters should say it? Yeeeeeeeah.

Well.

Anywho, SURPRISE EVERYPONY!