A Stranger Among the Voices

by Tystarr

First published

The arrival of a strange creature sends ripples through the lives of several inhabitants within Equestria.

A changeling who finds responsibility thrust upon her after the failed Canterlot invasion.

A unicorn who finds herself part of first contact with a strange new creature.

A princess who finds hints of one she long since lost in another's mind.

With the arrival of a strange bipedal creature into Equestria, all three will find themselves intertwined with the fate of the girl. When language cannot be understood how will communication with the new arrival be achieved, and what secrets may the creature be bringing with her? What does the girl possess that may alter how the changeling in particular sees the world.

What could the girl possibly have that would allow one word – hope – to resonate so strongly, not only for herself but also the changeling.

This is a retelling of A Voice Among the Strangers from three viewpoints in particular. You don't have to read AVAtS to read this one, as I will be attempting to make each a full story on their own.

Also, this seems to share a Tv Tropes page with A Voice Among the Strangers!

(Thanks again to Tulip for the Cover image!)

Chapter one: Chrysalis

View Online


Pain filled every fibre of the changeling’s body as it lay crumpled upon the forest floor. An attempt to move was met with a grimace before surrendering to its body’s demand to just… relax for a little while. Slowly opening one eye, the equine took in the surroundings only to notice that its muzzle was half pushed into the loose soil.


The changeling felt the slight wounds upon its body heal as the stored nectar within did its work. Of course, the negative side of this was that the hunger would return soon. Slowly, it - or more precisely - she got her hooves under herself and lifted up her head to take further stock of the situation. Priorities had to be addressed though and a few globs of dirt, now turned partially to mud, were unceremoniously ejected from her mouth.

Yes, this is exactly how I wished my day would go.

Using a hole-filled hoof to try and scrape the remainder off her tongue, not for the first time bemused as to why she had taste buds in her natural form if food couldn’t be ingested; the changeling ran a tongue over her fangs as she gazed about. The forest was eerily calm, but then again her arrival into the ecosystem probably had much to do with the absence of any animals around her current location. Slowly her body finished its recovery, which surprisingly turned out to be amazingly minor. A few scrapes and aching muscles were the extent of her injuries.

That… makes no sense.

Raising her head she gazed through the tree line with luminescent eyes, noticing far in the distance the unmistakeable sight of Cloudsdale. This information only confused her further, when the alicorn and unicorn had cast that spell, she and her brethren had been forcefully ejected from Canterlot. Given how far they had travelled, it was well within reason to expect significant injuries upon landing, if surviving at all.

And yet…

Princess of Love indeed, she couldn’t even bring herself to hurt us for all we did. That’s pony stupidity for you.

Stretching her limbs she found she had retained more than enough nectar, keeping the aches in lieu of depleting her reserves further. Spitting out some mud she had missed, the changeling looked around once more. She had, admittedly, no idea where she was except for the obvious fact she was still in Equestria. On top of that issue, she was even more aware that after the failed invasion they would certainly be hunted down from this point on. Dwelling on the issue made her angry, the events that had led up to the failure fresh in her mind.

More importantly however was the betrayal.

Wishing not to mull on the issue further as she remembered the sight of a scared female looking at her, terror, along with helplessness etched on the…

Yeah… no. Not thinking about that at the moment. Clear head…

<Is anyone out there?>

Her call was put out as she slowly trotted along, ears perked to sense for any threat. Granted, given her species, she was more likely the highest threat in the area, but it never hurt to be careful. She could probably take down one, maybe two ponies if they found her but any more than that would be touch and go; especially with a near empty belly.

<Chrysalis? You’re okay!>

Chrysalis paused her trotting as she heard a reply, seating herself down as she found another pocket of soil that had lodged behind a fang. Using a hoof with her mouth wide open, she tried to fish it out not willing to use her tongue and risk tasting it yet again.

<Well, other than being thrown half way across Equestria and eating a mouthful of dirt, no I’m peachy.>

Chrysalis’s hive communication was met with silence on the other end, eventually a reply was given back along with several other voices.

<I was worried, we didn’t know what to do.>


<She will know what to do!>

<Are there any others?>

<Why is she eating dirt?>

Ignoring the context of several thought bursts pushing into her head, Chrysalis found herself mildly worried. She now knew more or less where she was from the voices, the fact she had been thrown so far as to be in the same forest as the ‘vanguard’ was in some ways a welcome discovery. Yet, now she felt dread slide its skeletal wings around her form. The others sounded lost, unsure and were looking to her for guidance.


Finding that particular word was quickly summing up her day so far, Chrysalis made her way towards a stream to rid herself of the irritating mud she couldn’t reach. After a mouthful of water and making sure her fangs were clean - along with her mouth and for good measure her chitin - the changeling looked into the reflective surface as the ripples ceased. Staring back at her was just another worker. Well, not just any worker it was after all her, but nothing distinct to separate herself from hundreds of others.

Nothing other than that name at least.

Once proud of the title bestowed she now found it feeling like a curse, a noose about her neck. The fact she shared it with another only made it worse. Even hearing the use of it again to try and get her attention was starting to grate on her nerves. It also reminded her she had yet to respond, so caught up in memories like the peach mare gazing at her…

<Chrysalis, are you okay? It’s… getting hard to sense you for some reason.>

The voice thankfully interrupted the mental imagery with another strange fact. If it was getting difficult to sense her they must be in worse shape than she thought, or perhaps it was she who was weaker than she realised. Regardless she had to respond, following the faint tug towards the owner of the voice as she replied in kind. <I’m fine, just… distracted. I’m coming to you. How many are there?>

A pause was given as Chrysalis trotted along; her body was feeling… strange for some reason as if the aching was not due to the injuries at all. It was hard to put the term into words, but she felt like her body was draining itself to heal wounds that simply didn’t exist. Bottom line, it was a strange sensation and she didn’t care much for it.

<Thirteen… wait, fourteen of us not including you.> Silence hung in Chrysalis’s head while she could sense the others talking amongst themselves. Almost like being two rooms down from a conversation, she could pick up mumbled words as they conversed before the changeling continued, <plus the two eggs.>

Relief flooded into Chrysalis’s body at the last comment but she refused to show it. They were the point of contention with her after all, the reason for… what happened to some extent. Not to mention the one speaking to her right now, not that she could blame her. As small plants were crunched under hooves, she found herself travelling deeper into the forest while surveying the area. Despite only briefly staying at her current destination she could make out small landmarks. Finding her bearings once she passed ‘queen rock’ due to the formation looking somewhat like a changeling queen’s crown, she started to hear the confused communications being thrown back and forth. Several were even coming from other changelings finding themselves coming too or moving into range.

<Good, I’m coming but I don’t know what I can do personally.> Chrysalis made sure to direct that one privately to only one recipient and she could almost feel the turmoil echoing around the other’s mind. <But we’ll think of something. Alright?>

<You’re right, I’m just… scared Chrysie. We lost contact with everyone after the big flash and then…> The voice was filled with a tremor which ate into Chrysalis’s chest. She hated her hatch-mate being upset as she was, especially knowing it was the reason she had been left in the so called ‘vanguard’. She had always had a special tie to the other changeling since they hatched around the same time, hence the term ‘hatch-mate.’ It was a common thing for young nymphs to bond with other hatchlings, but for Chrysalis and the other it had persisted through the years to form a stronger bond. That is why hearing her upset made what Chrysalis knew even harder to stomach.

Anger built within at that thought before she quelled it, nothing could be done about it now. Despite herself she used the now hated name to her advantage; even with her personal feelings on it the others saw it as something else… at least for now.

<Hey… we’ll be fine. You have Chrysalis with you and have I ever let you down?> Chrysalis tried to ignore how her anger flared just mentally mouthing the name; thankfully it had the desired effect on the recipient.

<Well there was that time you tricked me into eating an apple when we were younger.> The tone given was at least less saturated in fear, Chrysalis finding herself giving a fanged smile even as other ‘thoughts’ pushed for her attention. Noticing she was close to the cave she sent one more private thought to hopefully calm her hatch-mate further.

<You make one mistake as a pupa… > A soft laugh was given as she entered the cavern’s entrance. Bioluminescence allowed her to see easier as she progressed further, the light being provided by the glowing blue hive orbs that the others must have constructed and randomly positioned along the walls and ceiling. That observation did little to reassure her, to her it was a waste of nectar to make such things and she knew the ‘vanguard’ was most likely low and very unlikely to have fed at all.

Chrysalis… how could you?

Gritting her teeth she exhaled, letting the anger bleed away as she reached the rear of the makeshift hive. The sound of buzzing wings gave away the others as she approached only to feel all eyes fall upon her form, the overwhelming push of responsibility hanging now over her head. The reason was simple, not one other in the room was named, and she knew this. Even if they all looked similar, even if there was currently little to differentiate herself from those looking back at her - the hope and fear warring within their eyes, she knew she was different on a fundamental level.

It all fell back to her name.

Exhaling she took in the sight of the hungry changelings before her. Some were faring better than others, those most likely from the Canterlot invasion like herself. It was the ones she knew were left behind that she worried the most about, without a queen they were unable to get sustenance, well a large portion weren’t. Some she knew were able to feed, but she knew most had been picked for a very particular reason. They were Feedless.

The term itself was used as an insult, at least within their hive. She had heard rumours other hives treated them as martyrs, or killed them outright. There were also tales of some hives being primarily Feedless except the queen, selective choosing to make them such. Even despite her hatch-mate being one, Chrysalis suppressed a shudder. Feedless were termed such due to their inability to actively feed, whether it was due to genetics, or even some kind of mental blockade, they couldn’t feed without the queen providing food for them, much like a newly hatched nymph.

In the hive, those who fell into that group were ostracized. Being unable to go and retrieve nectar for the queen to redistribute they were instead regulated to watching over the nymphs, or… more derogatorily known as ‘pupas’, the same as any other nameless changeling. They were seen as a blight on the hive, and at best a nuisance and freeloaders.

I can’t believe she did that…

Again the anger built within, now at herself. She should have seen what was going on, but seeing how hungry they were only increased her ire. Chrysalis exhaled, still seeing everyone looking at her for answers as she saw her hatch-mate near the two eggs. The changeling had been appointed to watch over them, and to be fair she was one of the best nymph-sitters around. Even Chrysalis was hesitant to get on her bad side, even if it was near to impossible with the Feedless changeling’s passive attitude. Still, the pupa could fight when backed into a corner, not that it would help them now.

A few others looked at her knowingly, hanging their heads as she recognised them from the invasion. She wasn’t sure but she had a strong suspicion they knew what had happened. What had been said.

This… won’t be easy to say.

Clearing her throat she sat herself down, ignoring the thoughts directed her way. She never asked to be relied upon, to be in this position but she was not about to let her sisters suffer. She was a changeling first and foremost, and a named second. Chrysalis did not desire responsibility, and that is why the crushing pressure of it was not helping her mood.

Just what I wanted, to be a leader. Woo.

Retreating back to her usual defence of sarcasm and cynicism, Chrysalis decided she could not put it off any longer. A gaze at her hatch-mate who was protectively positioned near the two unhatched eggs solidified her resolve. Licking her fangs she decided on using her voice, communing with so many other changelings at once was too taxing after what she had just endured.

“Look, I know you’re all looking at me for some kind of divine guidance.” A few thoughts or ‘communes’ were sent her way as she held up a hoof tiredly to stop the chatter, Chrysalis continuing as she exhaled once more. “But I am not, yes… I am named, and yes it’s a rather special name. But…”

She faltered and it made her frustrated, how could she tell these changelings the rest? To tell them what the plan truly was, what the one they had looked up to was willing to do. Anger once more surged within as she mulled on the thought for a while longer, debating on how to word it. From the time they were hatched they were raised and taught to obey their queen, that her will was that of the hive. How did you cope learning everything the one you looked up to had done had been part of a plan that spanned several generations? To know that the queen, while immortal could spend hundreds, perhaps thousands of years working towards one goal, your own life just a small cog into the plan.

How did you cope knowing that you were expendable, no… not just expendable but to be sacrificed without ever knowing why?

Yes, and I am coping so well with it myself.

“Tell them.” One of the other changelings broke the ice, one near the back who had been part of the invasion from what Chrysalis could tell. The fact she looked somewhat fed added credence to this suspicion, probably still ‘riding the drain’ from what she could tell. The several others within the cave who also showed signs of recently feeding at Canterlot were the ones that worried her most of all. It was widely known those that fed for their own gain grew a little stronger - at least temporarily, but there were also several side effects. While it was merely a part of life for being a changeling, in this situation it would be a very clear danger. Primarily, depending on the emotion fed upon, some of it would bleed into the feeder and amplify.

And it looks like a few fed on fear and anger… ugh, this will be fun.

This is why stealing love and compassion were the focus for the hive. For one, it was one of the best feelings in the world. Chrysalis herself had enjoyed it on multiple occasions; it was merely what it meant to be a changeling. You got love or compassion, then returned to the hive and gave most to the queen for her to redistribute among the numbers. One changeling with a full belly of love when upon giving it to the queen could provide for a hundred due to how the ruler amplified the emotions given to her. One of the best ways Chrysalis had ever gotten a huge source of love quickly was replacing a terminally ill patient after the pony had passed away, but before anyone had noticed. She had milked that one for a few days before returning to the hive. In fact, she was so good at getting love it was how she had been bestowed her name.

Idiots, they know not to feed on the negative emotions.

She saw how a few were jittery, the fear rolling off several of them almost overwhelming. One in particular, the outspoken changeling was looking fit to snap with the rage roiling beneath the surface. While love and compassion were amplified, so were other emotions which made forceful feeding dangerous. One changeling was sobbing in a corner. Chrysalis definitely did not wish to learn how that one had fed on so much sadness.

It doesn’t matter. We were all used.

It horrified Chrysalis how their queen had done this to them, out of the hundreds who had invaded only a small fraction had entered the feeding frenzy instead of moving to stop the Bearers. Looking around she sighed prior to issuing a soft tsk. Somewhat amusingly, she at that moment longed to have her head nuzzled or stroked with a wing. It was a small thing she had picked up when imitating a filly for a very loving family. Whenever she was nervous, upset or needing comfort they had run a wing over her head, or nuzzled into her hair. Annoyingly the habit had stuck, but it was highly unlikely she would receive such comfort here. That was for ponies after all, not for changelings.

Yes, I can see it now. Hey can someone just nuzzle my head for a second to calm me down? Thanks. Okay, now back to the issue…

The thought did relieve some of her tension as she hid a small smirk at the mental imagery. Back to the matter at hand, Chrysalis exhaled and cleared her throat as she felt several communes pushed in her direction, all seeking answers.

“We were all used.”

The words hung in the air as several expressions were directed her way, mainly confusion and disbelief. Before the questions could be nudged into her mind once more, Chrysalis continued.

“Yes, it’s hard to believe. But the vanguard here, the ‘Feedless’ of the hive were left here as a decoy.” Several murmurs started and Chrysalis saw the look from her hatch-mate showing she was having trouble believing such words.

<Queen Chrysalis would not abandon us!>

<We have served loyally!>

<A decoy… for what?>

The last commune cut through the rest as the others turned silent, looking first at the one protectively near the eggs before the one the question was directed at. Chrysalis sighed and thought hard on how to word her reply. Her go-to move of lacing the words with sarcasm to soften the blow would not benefit here, and she privately loathed the fact she was the one having to explain. Simply because she voiced her concerns just before the wedding did she find out the truth, their queen so smug and arrogant she saw nothing wrong with explaining her plan.

We’re nothing but pupa in her eyes, merely to be used to her own benefit. Born to be a tool.

“You… were never meant to be a fall back point, or a place to hold over the eggs to celebrate the first two hatched in our new home.” The words felt bitter in Chrysalis’s mouth but she continued, swallowing back the vitriol that threatened to surge with them. She didn’t need to feed on anger like some of the others had to feel the rage build within.

“After the wedding, you all were to be a decoy. She would have gotten the guards sent to… deal with those planning to launch an attack on Canterlot.” Chrysalis looked aside as she reigned in her anger, continuing after a few calming breaths as she ignored the gasps and denial pushed her way. “After the guards were sent to mop up this ‘vanguard’ everyone else would attack and take over Canterlot when the ponies’ guard was down.”

Silence fell within the cavern, the very idea the queen would do such a thing was anathema to the changelings. Chrysalis would not have believed it herself were it not for the fact she had heard it from the queen’s mouth, and thankfully a few others had also heard it too with one in the room sneering slightly. Unfortunately, she knew that other changelings would see it as an acceptable loss, Feedless were not well loved in the hive as she well knew.

But they are part of the hive, we’re changelings! Not turncoat ponies!

Slowly as the information was digested a timid voice spoke up, mentioning that they had no reason to disbelieve Chrysalis. Her name, that bestowed on her by the queen itself held weight far above her station. It was not only that however, Chrysalis had no reason to lie. She let her thoughts be nudged open by those in the cave, being eaters of emotions they were very accustomed to picking up the barest trace of such within words, or thoughts ‘spoken’. It is why changelings didn’t lie to each other, it was almost impossible to do so in the best case scenario.

With the others satisfied there was no falsehood in her words a sullen mood fell over the cavern, more so than previously. Without a queen the Feedless would die, as would the nymphs when they hatched.

“What… what do we do?” The voice came from her hatch-mate, glowing blue eyes looking imploringly towards Chrysalis for answers, for hope. To find out that not only were you to be used for the good of the hive, but now you were to slowly starve to death would have been a bitter pill to swallow. Unable to meet the gazes directed her way, Chrysalis sighed.

“I don’t know.”

Her answer hung in the air until an angry voice exploded from the side of the cave.

“You don’t know? You’re Chrysalis! You’re named after the queen herself… how could you not know what to do?!”

Chrysalis knew it was the ‘ride’ talking and not the changeling itself but the words still stuck deep into her chitin. Before she knew it she was growling, one hoof slamming down to disrupt the dirt below.

<I am just another worker like you! You think I want this name after what she did? Yes, this is exactly how I wanted my day to turn out, bravo.> The fury bubbled within before Chrysalis exhaled slowly, pushing a hoof away from herself in a gesture she had picked up while disguised. Regretting her outburst she gave another tsk and flattened her ears. <Look, I don’t know. I am just as lost as you all. But we’re changelings, we stick together.>

Her commune was met with small nods, a few small fanged smiles given as she raised her head up high.

<Look, I can’t sense the queen and I know none of you can so for all we know she’s dead or gone back to the Badlands to lick her wounds. After what you heard, you know she won’t be welcoming the Feedless back with open wings, so we need a new plan.>

The others mulled on Chrysalis’s words as she herself tried to think. Thoughts were bounced around the room, flying fast and without pause.

<What if we went to another hive?>

<What other hives? Do you even know where another is?>

<I thought other hives and queens were just legends?>

<Well… can’t we go back anyway?>

<I don’t… I don’t want to be discarded.>

<What if we started a new hive?>

The last thought caused a cessation of chatter as they all looked towards the one who had spoken. One of the other changelings who had participated in the invasion looked about noticing all eyes on her. Meekly she lowered her head, the mere idea to leave a hive, let alone to start a new one was unthinkable to a worker. Queen Chrysalis is all they had ever known, all they thought existed outside of the odd legend or anecdotal evidence. Sure, it stood to reason other queens and hives existed due to the amount of rumours, but none of those present had a single clue where to start the search.

The other idea to start a new hive was even worse; without a queen it would be doomed to failure. Who could feed the nymphs? Sure a worker could in theory lay an egg, not that it had ever been allowed due a simple fact, it simply could not feed the nymph upon it hatching. That much was unfortunately known. That wasn’t even taking into consideration the Feedless, or feeding all the changelings without the queen able to redistribute and amplify the given emotions. A changeling on its own could survive indefinitely if not detected. Simply by retaining all the nectar they collected, going rogue… and not returning to the hive. It was an unfortunate truth, but it happened on occasion.

But that would doom the Feedless to a slow starvation…

Queens, from what they had been told by their mother, were born once every thousand years to the existing queen. Whether that was true or not was another matter entirely, and even if the queen was telling the truth it wouldn’t help with their current situation. For a hive to exist it required a queen, there were no two ways about it. Without that key role filled to help guide the other changelings with a unified direction, to feed the nymphs and amplify the retrieved nectar to the entire hive, any attempt would be doomed to failure.

<I have an idea.>

Chrysalis, along with everyone else looked in the direction of the speaker. Surprisingly it was one of the changelings who, at that moment was riding the drain on fear, her body language twitching a little as she tried to keep the emotion under check. Seeing she was the center of attention she licked her fangs nervously and spoke up.

<Why… don’t we all pitch in and that way we could look for a new hive at the same time?>

The others mulled on the thought before Chrysalis shrugged. It was ultimately their best option as she buzzed her wings, more to stretch the muscles than anything else.

<It seems to be our best option. Those of us who can feed will go and get emotions from the nearby towns and farms before bringing the nectar back. It won’t be much, but at least we will hopefully be able to keep the others alive.> Looking around the room a few sullen nods were given her way as she communed, Chrysalis sighing as she knew it would be like trying to steal compassion from a lawyer pony. <In the meantime, one of us could go looking for any information on another hive. They have to exist, but we need to know where one is if we are to try and join it.>

A few more nods were given, it was a plan regardless of how awful it was. Ultimately between all of them they managed to get some order and discussion going. Having some give sustenance for the Feedless would tax the others, but now it was a race against the clock. If the eggs hatched the amount of emotions a growing nymph needed would stress the fragile balance completely, and changelings would start to die or alternatively the young ones would need to be sacrificed.

Even the option of going back to the queen won’t work, we don’t know if she is even alive given she was in the epicentre and if she is, if they spared her too… this would just repeat itself. Well isn’t this day just going swimmingly?

Despite changelings having individual personalities and individual will, they as a species desired to follow a queen. No-one knew, or really cared whether this was for guidance, for security or even just some instinctual command long since programmed into their genes. All that mattered was without so much as an obvious leader figure the small group would not survive two days let alone the time needed. As luck would have it, Chrysalis knew, even before it was mentioned what was going to happen.

Please don’t pick me, please don’t pick me, please don’t pick me.

<Chrysalis… will… will you be our leader?>

Oh chitin-rust.

Exhaling Chrysalis gazed at her hatch-mate, hopeful eyes looking back at her, before rolling her eyes. Granted, without irises in their natural forms it was a pointless gesture, but it made her feel better and that’s all that mattered. Looking around the room hoping for some sort of dissent she was disappointed to see the others had also latched onto this idea. Annoyingly, Chrysalis wished to just follow orders herself; she never wished to be a leader. She was just a worker and that’s all she ever expected or desired to be. She had passed up the opportunity to be a soldier several times for this very reason.

Yet as she looked around the cave she saw eyes all directed back at her. Several looked nervous to be requesting such a monumental task upon her back, while others had hope etched on their faces. Chrysalis could almost taste the apprehension in the air, the fear she would decline with no-one else that could presently fill the role. Despite her misgivings she couldn’t bring herself to crush what little hope they all still held.


The deadpan expression matched the tone of Chrysalis’s commune as the others sheepishly smiled and awaited her command. It was strange, but she could tell they really were depending on her as she made to stand up. The feeling was odd, the overall responsibility hanging over her as she felt the mind link grow stronger. It was a subtle thing, but the now twenty or so changelings within the cave were looking at her like a queen. Such a thing had never been done before, for a worker to lead a group. Sure they sometimes teamed up to hunt for food, but to actually lead a group, to lead a makeshift hive?


Chrysalis really wished she had not gotten up that morning, or at least had remained in her little ditch within the outskirts of the forest longer. With the responsibility weighing down upon her she started to direct the others and made plans. Ultimately they were just going to be treading water, but she would make sure they stayed afloat as long as possible.


So far over the last few days their plan had worked out well, which actually surprised Chrysalis more than anyone else. By sneaking into the farms and towns to replace ponies for brief periods they were able to accumulate just enough nectar to feed the ‘hive’. With a few others having joined, the burden was eased somewhat, but still…

If those eggs hatch, would I be able to make the call to let them die so we all can live?

It was a rhetorical question and Chrysalis knew it. At the moment she was out to hunt for more food or even information on another hive. So far she had gotten precious little of the former, and nothing of the latter. Not dissuaded, she was now increasing the distances travelled. Food was getting scarce, paranoia starting to settle within the ponies as their loved ones were acting ‘strange’ for up to an hour at a time. Questions were being raised and given the full alert put into place after the invasion, it was getting riskier to get food.

One changeling in particular had almost gotten caught when a suspicious earth stallion had noticed his wife acting odd on one outing. Thankfully with a little acting the situation had been defused, but questions were starting to be asked. There was an undercurrent of distrust starting to permeate through the town which in no way assisted their attempts to feed. Chrysalis herself had witnessed one pony being accused of being a changeling in disguise, thankfully however it had just been a slightly inebriated pegasus being targeted by a paranoid unicorn. But even with nothing negative developing from the resolution, the idea itself was now planted within every pony who had heard about it.

And now we all have to be doubly as careful if we are to collect and store any nectar.

So far the small hive had stored a few nectar crystals, but they would not hold out for long if push came to shove given it were mere workers making them instead of the queen. That is why Chrysalis was sneaking through another town at the moment, scouting to see what kind of food she could obtain from here. It was almost a full day from the hive’s location, but if she were successful…

Filly-Delphia? Ugh, ponies and their stupid names for places.

Sticking to the shadows Chrysalis was largely reluctant to use her magic, disguising oneself took precious nectar to use and she couldn’t afford to waste any. Granted, she could forcefully take emotions from some pony, but the idea never sat well with her for two reasons. First and most important was that it would draw attention. The last thing they needed were guards to show up and slaughter them all in retribution for the attack, not to mention the forceful feeding that caused detection. Secondly, the method damaged the pony being fed from. Some changelings saw no problem in this, food was food… but Chrysalis was a bit more pragmatic with it and saw both sides. While you were indeed getting emotions in a very easy manner, you were effectively killing your meal ticket at the same time. The more a changeling ‘rode the drain’ so to speak, the harder it was for the pony fed upon to feel emotion.

Not that she had ever experienced it herself, but it was also possible to even kill if one went overboard. Granted, if it was only a little they could recover, but too much and the effects were irreversible. A few ponies sometimes found themselves dragged to the hive and used in such a way, drained until they were almost mindless zombies. Thankfully it happened very rarely, but it never sat well with her. It seemed… wasteful, and needless.

Why drain them, when you can get an infinite amount of love from a nice family?

While she trotted through the alleys she thought back to the family she had fed from as a pegasus filly. For years she had used the disguise, becoming what they called a ‘timer’ within the hive. ‘Timers’ were well respected as they gave a reliable and steady source of nectar from the emotions given their way. This was due to the single reason that they used one disguise constantly, allowing them to remain in a family with a steady amount of love given their way. They were also very rare as the changeling would have to adopt the mannerisms and keep up the act or arouse suspicion. An inquisitive unicorn might be able to peer through the disguise if he or she knew what to look for, or at the very least find trace amounts of magic and delve deeper.

The rarity was also for the significant detail that ‘timers’ could only exist where a position in the family was vacant, such as a death occurring. It was however rumoured that sometimes a changeling was known to ‘create’ such absences. Chrysalis meanwhile had simply been in the right place at the right time.

Heh, and I managed to pull it off for six years.

Not that she would ever admit it, especially not someone as cynical as Chrysalis… but, she actually enjoyed the time there. Sure it was akin to playing with one’s food but she sometimes… well, not that she would say it out loud, but… but were she to actually admit it…

She sometimes missed the family members she had been with.

No changeling that she was aware of had ever been a ‘timer’ in a single position for as long as her, hence how she had gained the attention to earn her name. The queen herself had bestowed the moniker upon the changeling out of admiration for her skill. Sure Chrysalis had felt proud over it, showing off to her hatch-mate initially, but…

Her thoughts always seemed to find their way back to the stallion and mare that had been her meal source for the last few years. She had even warned them in advance of the invasion, not because she actually cared for them of course… that would be silly. It was more… protecting her food supply.


I wonder what they’re up too now?

Pushing the thought aside she focused on her task, she needed to feed on emotions to create nectar and in turn share with the hive. Despite how she might complain and act like it was a burden she was nonetheless invested in this endeavour. If nothing else she needed to help create a buffer until they could get in contact with another hive, even just to unload the eggs to another queen before they hatched . The Feedless could be kept alive by the method that was working thus far, even if it was monumentally taxing for the others.

A grimace passed over the changeling’s muzzle as she slipped into another alley, blending in with the shadows as she used a small amount of magic to mask the glow from her eyes. Watching a stallion wander by she released the breath she had been holding, almost having been caught while musing over their predicament. Resuming prowling for the perfect target she found herself spoiled for choice. The town was robust with happy ponies, each having more than enough love to go around. She would need to be careful, but she couldn’t help herself feeling just a little smug.

She had come looking for a place to gather vast amounts of nectar, and she just hit pay dirt. Watching a young couple trot by she licked over her fangs. Despite how often she did it, the anticipation of a hunt was always the best part for her. Some changelings preferred simply to go after patients that had recently passed away and replace them. Chrysalis had to admit, it was effective but not a long term solution. She never felt guilty for her actions in doing so herself, to her it was a two way street. They got some more time with their ‘loved one’, and she got to feed on their love for who she was disguised as.

But that was not the way she preferred to hunt.

Others liked to take the more… ‘adult’ way of collecting love, even if it was somewhat diluted. Some towns actually had established points which were run exclusively by changelings who would satisfy their customers and get a full belly in the process. Chrysalis had no doubt those areas were coping well with the absence of the Queen.

But that was also not the way she hunted.

Chrysalis preferred the more risky active-replace technique. Most, if not all changelings did it at some stage, or used it their whole lives to obtain nectar. Chrysalis however put more effort in than most. This was due to most of her sisters being unwilling to spend some nectar to gain more. She on the other hand, being the pragmatic sort saw the value in this. By burning some energy to partially hypnotize the other once disguising herself, she could spend the evening with the partner and gain vast amounts of emotion in the process.

The trick was to use only enough magic to keep the pony from remembering the encounter, but still enjoy the evening. There was no point in making just a thrall for the night, that would both require too much magic usage, and would make the pony unable to feel anything at all completely undermining the whole undertaking. No, it required a gentle touch and good acting, but she enjoyed it. Playing with one’s food was juvenile yet she had never really outgrown that phase, especially since it worked. Plus the pony got a fantastic night out with his or her loved one - even if he or she never remembered it, and Chrysalis got a full belly to take back to the hive. To her, that was beneficial to both sides.

Thus, upon spying the mare excuse herself and trot off home, much to the disappointment on the young stallion's face, Chrysalis saw her chance. With a burst of green flame she applied her disguise, ignoring the aching feeling within. Feeling the magic roll over her, she felt the always strange sensation of her wings vanishing and her horn altering. The weight of a mane upon her head was always something odd, yet not entirely unpleasant as she felt the magic ebb away leaving her in a new unicorn form.

Got to be careful, can’t spend too much.

Chrysalis was still feeling the almost constant sensation of being drained, and it wasn’t just from the large amount she was sacrificing to give to the hive. Her body constantly felt like it was feeding off her nectar stores, constantly nibbling away with an insatiable hunger. She had talked to the others in the hive about this, fearing some form of ailment affecting them with the loss of the queen yet she seemed to be the only one affected. Part of her wondered if she was simply coming down with some as-of-yet unknown sickness; however that didn’t make much sense. Other than the odd patch of chitin-rust, a changeling never got sick.

Mind on the game Chrysalis.

Shaking her head she felt her new blonde mane fall over one of her purple eyes and focused on what was needed of her. This town could indeed work as a feeding ground if she could make it worth the long distance to travel. With that in mind she trotted out of the alleyway while casting a small spell of forgetfulness upon her target. A small glazed look followed by a green glow passed over the pegasus’s eyes before he noticed her. With a wide smile he greeted her with enthusiasm, Chrysalis already feeling the delightful feeling of his love for the form she had cloaked around herself.


Chrysalis realised too late she had not heard them use their names for each other, an amateur mistake. Then again, given the ponies and their delight for naming close to their beloved cutie marks, she had a fair idea he was referring to the form she wore. The tea leaves kind of gave it away.

“Oh, I couldn’t leave you dear.” Flirting as best she could, she knew with the spell he would see nothing overly wrong with how she acted or spoke instead rationalising every action his ‘love’ did.

“Awww… cream puff, you spoil me.”

Chrysalis had to withhold the gag reflex as she followed him towards a nearby grassy hill.

Cream puff? Oh for the All-Mother… can I get through this without vomiting?

“So my supple flower, is this view not the most breathtaking you have ever seen?”

Chrysalis forced a wide smile onto her face while she felt herself die a little inside at his words. A war was raging within, was the love she receiving at that moment validation for how her inner self was fighting to strangle him.

Annnnd… at this rate, vomiting will be the least of my problems.

Releasing a long drawn out sigh, the disguised-changeling endured for the hive, even if she did accidentally push him down the hill during the evening.



Against all odds, the small hive had managed to sustain itself over the last month. While it was for the most part a tentative affair, Chrysalis was proud of what they were accomplishing. Thankfully a few more named had joined them which diverted a small portion of the dependence off her, but she still felt obligated, driven even to provide for the group.

It was with these thoughts in mind she found herself wary of the concern given her way. The others were seeing her worn down nature, worry beginning to gnaw into them. Due to this she was going more often to Fillydelphia, trying to obtain more nectar if only to escape their worried glances. At that present moment she was in the midst of making one such journey.

<Chrysie, are you sure you don’t want another to come with you?>

Chrysalis exhaled at her hatch-mate’s concern. She couldn’t fault the other changeling, yet it went without saying that the more feeding occurred in one town the greater the risk. Already the townsponies were beginning to get suspicious, not that she had helped in some regards. Especially on her first foray into gathering nectar that despite it all had produced a copious amount.

I still can’t believe he bounced at the bottom.

Restraining a chuckle at the memory, Chrysalis responded as she reached the limits to commune back with the makeshift hive. Most surprising was over the last few weeks she had discovered that the range she could communicate had grown in leaps and bounds. Again she put this down to the ailment affecting her, but it seemed odd that her effective distance had more than doubled, not to mention becoming able to ‘sense’ where the others were.

<I will be fine.>

She could almost taste the unease on the other side as she replied. They all knew that the eggs could hatch any day now, it was an unavoidable fact. That moment could be in a week, maybe two or perhaps even tomorrow and they had no way to know exactly when. It was putting everyone on edge and she knew this but there was little they could do about it. Trotting along in a disguise she exhaled softly as the threshold was approaching, like a little niggle in the back of her head she instinctively knew when she was about to lose contact.

<Okay… we will see you tomorrow.>

With that Chrysalis was once again alone in her head. She knew the concern was founded given her body was consuming nectar almost as fast as she could put it in. That was also before taking into account she was sparing more than she should be towards the hive. In the end this left her constantly tired and unfocused, which any changeling would know was a dangerous combination.

Just what is going on with me?

Entering the town she slipped into the alleyways again, cloaked in darkness while dropping her disguise. With her limited amount of energy she needed to conserve all she could while looking around for her next victim. The town itself was becoming paranoid, rightfully so, but it did make things far harder to get a good meal. There was also talk about them hiring some ‘monster hunters’ but Chrysalis paid no such attention to these details. As long as she was in and out quickly there would be little to no risk in getting multiple quick snacks. All she needed to do was make sure the net gain was more than what she spent; a simple life equation.

Formulating a plan she continued to remain within the shadows, working over the numbers in her head of how many ponies she would require tricking in order to obtain the amount needed. Turning a corner she looked about before gazing at the ground, lost in the calculations needed. Numbers had never been her strong point even with a less fog-filled mind.

Perhaps it was because she was distracted, or perhaps it was due to the hunger gnawing in her belly but Chrysalis only realised she had wandered out of the alley when it was too late. The changeling abruptly found herself staring into the eyes of two male unicorns looking just as stunned as she was, both wearing striped tops with a bow-tie and, if she were to admit it, a hideous looking straw hat.

By the All Mother! Stupid Chrysalis, stupid!

Taking a cautious step back she made to run only for the one with a red moustache to react quicker. A green glow enveloped one of her hind legs causing her to fall upon her face, an undignified sound escaping her muzzle. Thankful to not have broken a fang she moved instead to struggle against the magical bonds. Finding that useless she instead started to charge magic into her horn, feeling it build up as she tapped into her precious reserves of energy.

“Flam, look out brother of mine!”

Chrysalis never felt it coming. Yet again she had performed another grave error in her weakened state. Her horn spluttered out magic but missed its target due to who was presumably the one named Flam’s brother adding his own magic into the mix. Her head was jerked to the side, a building taking the brunt of her magical discharge and spraying bricks along the street.

“Great job Flim, why the townsponies were right! With this here changeling we’ll take our show from here to Vanhoover!”

Oh, like Tartarus that is going to happen.

Against her better judgement she drew more magic into her horn, this time trying a different tactic. Expecting another blast of magic, the stallions were caught off guard when a bright flare emitted instead of a beam, disrupting their concentration and releasing their binds. Taking the opportunity presented to her, Chrysalis got to her hooves and ran.

Well, that was the plan anyhow.

Ow. Well… that was intelligent.

All the changeling had managed to do was stumble a few steps and smash her muzzle into the wall, her energy almost all tapped out. Overestimating her abilities had now cost her everything as she berated herself for being distracted, for getting into this situation. Worse still was to be captured by the two idiots, the point reinforced when she felt a jab against her chitin-covered side by a stick, currently procured by the one without muzzle-hair.

“Flam, I do believe it’s exhausted.” Another jab punctuated his statement, Chrysalis too tired to even care at this point. She had failed, too far away to contact the hive she closed her eyes as the consequences for burning too much of her reserves kicked in. The last thing she thought before she felt the cruel grip of unconsciousness claim her was if that pony poked her with the stick one more time, she swore she would shove it right up his backside.

Thankfully for Flim, she passed out before getting the opportunity.


Infuriatingly the day had gone from bad to worse.

All attempts to contact other changelings were met with little to no success. One or two she managed to get hold of had no way of assisting her without blowing their own cover. Ultimately it turned out everyone was in the same boat on simply trying to survive. Although unlike them, she was now stuck within a metal cage. Of course, Chrysalis could think of at least one hundred and fifty seven things she would rather be doing right at the moment.

She had also only started the list two minutes ago.

Well, congratulations Chrysalis. You managed to get captured by the two stupidest ponies in Equestria.

In the process of listening to their inane conversation she absently tested the bar’s durability with a hoof. Realising there would be no way to escape the cage she now found herself in she conserved her energy by lying down and getting comfortable. Amusingly the two buffoons thought her barely sentient, simply due to the fact she refused to speak. Some kind of emotional vampony is what she had been called, and while slightly insulting she still refrained from speaking. Truth be told, she didn’t much care for ponies in the first place. Yet, just because she needed to partake in some of their emotions they made her out to be a monster?

Well that’s hardly fair. Do we call them monsters for feeding fish to their pets, or eating the vegetables they grow? Hypocrites.

Not that being called a monster offended her, it was merely the fact they looked down on changelings. Granted, they may have invaded their capital and tried to overthrow their monarch, but she still felt they might be overreacting a little. Or maybe that was the all-consuming hunger speaking for her, raging within her innards. It was getting hard to tell what a coherent thought was, and what were delusions derived from her slow starvation in progress.

I shouldn’t have used my reserves, again… great idea there Chrysalis. Top marks.

For the past two hours the two ponies had tugged the wagon along, her cage situated on the top along with three others. One was empty, but the other two occupants did not interest her in the slightest. The manticore kept eyeing her up, while the cockatrice thankfully could not due to its headband. She did try to taunt it a few times by running a hoof along the bars, but that got old pretty quickly as well.

Great company.

Ultimately… deep down Chrysalis knew she was going to die in a cage. That thought was indeed a sobering one, even if she didn’t wish to admit it. She knew she couldn’t escape, and her only hope for rescue was that another changeling, or two, or several would spring her out of the cage. The only problem was, she was just another worker and ultimately unimportant. One worker didn’t make much a difference, even if she was trying to save the Feedless, two eggs and several other changelings.

Actually, for most that would be more incentive to leave me in the cage.

The absence of a queen, not to mention the finality of their hive possibly being destroyed was almost a sense of freedom for a portion of the changelings. Freedom to feed however and whenever they wanted. If they were doomed they might as well eat up with little regard for anything else. Chrysalis mused on this as the wagon rolled along, purposely tuning out Flim & Flam as the two stallions sung back and forth, apparently trying to get some form of tune for their grand unveiling.

Thinking back, she knew that changelings could in theory survive for months on a single feed of emotions if they held it all to themselves. Minimal use of magic, conserving energy and consuming food while disguised could, in theory keep them going for maybe a year, two tops. She also realised the hive would be lucky to survive a couple of weeks, what with the changelings having to give a large portion of their nectar to the Feedless to keep them alive. It was selfless, but Chrysalis was proud of what they had attempted.

And when the eggs hatch, I give the place a day… maybe two tops until they all run out.

The thought was again, rather depressing but she could do little about it. Due to her own error she was stuck in a cage, and she had burnt through most of her own reserves already. Looking at the two stallions she realised that unless they gave her emotions freely in her true form, she had a very limited lifespan. A snigger threatened to pass her fangs as she contemplated the odds of them giving her love of their own accord, the thought was a nymph’s tale, something that only the most deluded of changelings considered. There was always the rumour of a rogue changeling running off with a pony and living happily ever after, the pony loving the changeling for whom, or what she was.

Sure, and I am Princess Celestia’s wayward second cousin. Right.

Chrysalis had never believed it; the whole thing stunk of wishful thinking. Sure, there was even a legend that a whole hive had once done such a thing… hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago. Etchings down within the lower levels of their hive in the Badlands hinted at tales of such, that a hive had co-existed with the ponies peacefully. Emotions freely given and in exchange they spread joy and happiness throughout Equestria.

Frankly, Chrysalis felt it made a nice story, but reality wasn’t quite as nice. They were even called ‘Flutter-lings’ or something of the sort, she had only once looked at the thing but her hatch-mate was always fascinated by it.

Regardless, I doubt these fine, oh so intelligent ponies will give me a cup of free love to… oh by the All-Mother, are you two actually still singing?

Her eyes narrowed as she confirmed that yes, they were still singing their jaunty tune.

“I’m Flim.”

“He’s Flam.”

“And don’t you know.”

“That you ponies are in for a wonderful show!”

“Because this right here is the Flim Flam brothers’ one-of-a-kind…”


Okay, starving to death is bad enough… this is outright torture.

Much to her disgust, they didn’t let up and continued right up until they set up camp. With a bowl of slop given to each cage, Chrysalis regarded hers with as much distaste as she could manage.

“Flim, I do believe our changeling doesn’t wish to eat.” Flam toyed with his moustache with one hoof, watching Chrysalis regard him with narrowed eyes.

“Well brother of mine, if it doesn’t wish to eat now, it will starve until morning now won’t it?” Flim gave a chuckle before the bowl of food encountered the side of his head, hat in turn being knocked to the trail. Turning to glare at Chrysalis with a soggy, and food-laced mane, the stallion pulled his hat back on with magic, unfurling a whip from the side of the wagon. “Well, I see we have a discipline problem.”

Flam looked thoughtful on this before shrugging, leaving his brother to do his thing to train the ‘wild beast’ while he got their dinner ready.

“Now, anypony, I say anypony can see that you little changeling have to gain a change of attitude.” With the whip unfurling Chrysalis furrowed her brow, surely he wouldn’t-

Ow, son-of-a…

A hiss of displeasure escaped her muzzle as she glared at him, a small groove knocked into her chitin along the left side. A waggle of the whip caused her to relent and back into the cage, this turning out to be the response he was looking for.

“Hah! See Flam… I told you it would be easy to train the thing.” With a smug air to the stallion, Flim trotted over to his brother, the two clanking large wooden mugs together with the scent of cider permeating throughout the air.

“I do give it to you Flim, you sure proved me wrong.” A look at the mug of cider he held caused the stallion to give a wistful sigh. “A shame about that business in Ponyville, we could have made it big.”

“Indeed brother of mine, but how were we to expect the… unsatisfied customers from that result.” The two sat in silence for a while before the mugs were clinked together. “To our future successes as monster hunters!”

“To Flim & Flam, Monster Hunters!” With the two verbally patting themselves on the back, Chrysalis found herself directing a frown in their direction. Idiots they might be, but they were undeniably dangerous idiots.

Put in a cage to starve to death, having to listen to these two morons… and then whipped. Really, what else could go wr-

Almost pre-empting the changeling’s comment the heavens answered. Clouds spiralled, moving to crash and tear into one other while lightning split the sky. Seconds later thick droplets of rain spat down, the two stallions retreating into a hastily lifted tent leaving the ‘animals’ alone on the wagon with only the roofs of their cages providing cover. Soon a rather soaked Chrysalis lowered herself to muse on her failings, regret slipping into her mind on being unable to help her hatch-mate, the others and all those who had looked up to her. Whether she wanted the responsibility or not, it didn’t change the fact she had failed them. The rain only helped punctuate the end to a miserable day.

Ah, touché Equestria. Touché.

With little else to do the changeling moved to a resting position with the realisation her days were now numbered and there was no hope of rescue outside a miracle. All she could do was bide her time and hope she got an opportunity to escape while they underestimated her in thinking she was merely an instinct-driven beast. Mulling over those thoughts and trying to ignore the crippling hunger she closed her luminescent eyes to try and get some sleep.

Ultimately though she found herself thankful that in her natural form she lacked the tear ducts required to cry.

Very thankful indeed.

Chapter two: Empathy

View Online


Chrysalis found herself rudely brought back into the world of the conscious by the jostling of the cage she resided in. Quickly deducing they were being moved once more, the changeling exhaled and made the effort to open her eyes. Sleep had not been kind to her, nor had the cold rain and wind but it wasn’t the first time she had slept in such circumstances.

No, it was the constant draining that was going to be her undoing. Normally, even with her nectar almost as miniscule as it was, were she in a situation where movement was minimal… such as, say being stuck in a cage… she would be able to survive for a couple of weeks easily on what remained.

Yet at this rate, I doubt I will last a week.

The thought was not a pleasant one. While Chrysalis wasn’t by any means keen to die, she was pragmatic enough to know there was little she could do about it. Were she to speak up and explain to the two stallions pulling the wagon what she required to survive she harboured no delusions that it would bear any fruit. In reality she had two options to feed, the first choice was with a disguise and take emotions not meant for her in the typical changeling fashion. Then there was the alternative of forcefully extracting from the pony that could – and very likely would – result in an emotionless thrall. Strangely enough she doubted either option would appeal to the unicorns.

And then, even if they did agree to it… it’s not like the two idiots would then play along with the ruse just to feed me. They’re stupid but I doubt they’re that-

The sound of the two singing again made a deadpan expression fall over her features.

Well… okay, they are that stupid. But even a nymph would be able to tell it wouldn’t work. No it’s best to keep waiting for an opening, let them get sloppy.

It also didn’t help that trying to forcefully feed would only result in the other stepping in, and that wasn’t even getting into the fact she was not very adept at such methods in the first place. Chrysalis sighed softly as she rested her muzzle onto forelegs, only to absently rub her nose against a hole out of habit. In the end her only option was to wait but with every hour in doing so her energy was sapped further. In essence she knew she was probably just trying to put a positive spin on the predicament she was now in, that is in entertaining the idea of escape. Logically the changeling knew she was probably doomed to a slow and rather painful starvation. The fact that she out of the entire hive was trying to be optimistic in the current situation was not lost on her.

Okay, slow starvation is one thing, but that singing is just torture.

Her eyes narrowed as even the manticore was starting to find the sound irritating. Well, she presumed that was what was causing the beast to bang its head against its cage. For all she knew it might just be lacking in the intelligence department, even amongst its kind. That would go a long way to explain how the brothers managed to capture it.

Of course, they got me as well. What does that say about me?

Pushing the obvious implications aside she sighed and watched the landscape slowly roll by. Any attempts to contact other changelings was met with silence, either none were responding or there were no others within range. Frankly, Chrysalis was unsure what option disturbed her more. She could feel every moment the diminishing of her remaining energy, a constant and unwelcome sensation if ever there was one.

She had long since given up being overly perturbed by the draining itself; to worry about the issue would be a waste of time. Such a thing as far as she was aware had never happened to a changeling before, and the very idea that one of her kind could ‘leak’ stored nectar spontaneously was simply too frightening to dwell on. Instead Chrysalis moved her attention to the two stallions dragging the wagon along, all the while trying hard not to glare holes into the back of their heads.

The storm that had ravaged the countryside in the night was a thing of the past although it did leave a few curious questions with its departure. Chief among them was what exactly had the pegasi been thinking when they had created such a thing. Granted, Chrysalis was no expert on ponies and how they managed the weather but to her it seemed a rather tad… extravagant and wasteful to create such a monstrosity. The two brothers seemed to agree, talking amongst themselves over the matter before one broke into song again.

Oh for the love of…

Ears flattened to her skull while releasing a guttural sigh. Starvation was one thing, but could they at least let her die in peace?

“Flim… what, is that?”

Realising the singing had abruptly ceased, Chrysalis found her curiosity piqued when the hesitant tone in the unicorn’s mouth hinted at something clearly amiss. She noted that both the brothers were looking at a small hill where upon the top stood a tree that had fought with lightning and clearly lost, now remaining in a broken and dejected manner of its former glory. That was not what had seemed to seize their attention though, with the real focus of their curiosity being the strange creature located further downhill leaning against a far more intact plant specimen.


Chrysalis had seen many things in her life but the bipedal creature was not one of them. Standing vaguely in a similar sense to a diamond dog or minotaur, the creature looked very much the worse for wear. With tattered clothing and obvious injuries, the, what Chrysalis presumed was a female, uttered strange and nonsensical noises before trying to take a step. Under different circumstances she may have been more inquisitive about the whole affair; however being stuck in a cage and slowly starving to death was a good distraction from curiosity. With a sharp cry, possibly one of pain, the biped fell to a heap down on the grass as Flam moved forward.

Well… that’s… uh, different? Wonder what is wrong with her?

“Flim, you don’t suppose this is…?” Flam spoke as he turned his head to regard the other unicorn that approached, both now looking down at the comatose form lying upon the wet grass. A small hoof nudge was given by one but garnered little in the way of a response. “I mean, it is around where the townponies mentioned it had been seen.”

“Hmm, you may be right brother of mine.” A contemplative rub under his muzzle accompanied Flim’s words as he looked down, critically accessing the prone form at his hooves. “Has fingers, injured shoulder, walks on two legs… I would say that this is without a doubt the ‘Foal-Hunter’ they spoke of.”

A slow blink came from the caged changeling at what the two had said along with the object of their conversation. That creature was one that hunted foals? Well, she couldn’t exactly fault the feeding habits of others but it didn’t make much sense from Chrysalis’s perspective. Even from a distance the bipedal-thing didn’t look like much of a predator but then again that could be part of what makes it successful in its hunts. Regardless it was of little concern as the brothers continued to congratulate themselves and levitate the limp form into the remaining empty cage.

Oh joy, more company.

Finding herself unable to pass up the opportunity to make life more difficult for her captors – all while retaining the guise of being a ‘simple beast’ – Chrysalis waited until Flim was almost done locking up the cages’ new occupant before following the manticore’s earlier example and banged her head against her own cage. The ensuing result was more than she could have hoped for. With a loud clang as her chitin came into contact with the metal bars she had the wonderful reaction of Flim trying to turn his head to see the supposed threat. Of course, he had also failed to completely close the cage’s door by this point and his muzzle met the unyielding material much to his displeasure.

After several loud and increasingly explicit words were uttered, the unicorn rubbed his snout with a hoof much to Chrysalis’s continued amusement.

“Flam, if I didn’t know better I would say this changeling has a vendetta against me.” Flim eyed Chrysalis accusingly while she maintained the best imitation of a mindless beast that she could manage. Which in truth only required her to tilt her head in a curious manner as he talked prior to hissing in his general direction and bashing her head against the cage with gusto; which… amusingly received another satisfactory flinch from the show-pony. “That does it; if you could so kindly finish up with this cage I will continue to ‘train’ our little changeling.”

“Well I hardly see how a feral beast such as it could have a vendetta brother, but if you say so. Just be sure to not be too thorough, we are after all only a couple of days out from Baltimare and we wouldn’t want our star attraction to be looking the worse for wear.” Flam cautioned his brother who at that point was unfurling the whip from the side of the carriage. Chrysalis winced slightly at knowing what would follow, suddenly forced to rethink if her little prank was worth what was about to happen.

“Now changeling… even though you are just mindless drones under the control of your queen, it doesn’t mean you can’t be taught how to behave.”

Chrysalis had to restrain herself from breaking her act at that particular comment spouted from the unicorn. Everything he said in that sentence was almost as completely absurd as it was outright wrong.

Mindless drones under the control of Queen Chrysalis? That… is that what all the ponies believe or just these two idiots? Wait… drones? Oh that is just insulting.

Choosing to instead remain quiet after much internal conflict, Chrysalis soon felt the bite of the whip along her chitin. While it did not cause much in the way of pain due to her protective covering it still remained an unpleasant experience to endure. Several times Flim gave an instruction in an attempt to ‘train’ her with the whip soon following but the changeling could tell it was simply to vent his frustration.

Eventually he either spent his anger or thought his training had borne fruit since he put the whip away and joined his brother in securing their new addition to the cart. This left Chrysalis to silently seethe while actively resisting her body’s attempts to heal itself with the pittance of nectar remaining. Glaring at the two brothers as they finished their task and resumed pulling their load did nothing to sate the anger bubbling within. Only with reminding herself to wait for an opportunity did she calm down enough not to hurl insults in their direction.

And the ponies have the gall to say we are evil? Hypocrites, all of them.

Sullenly Chrysalis eyed the new passenger while entertaining thoughts of what she would do to the brothers once she escaped. Despite the plotting she listened in on the two unicorn’s conversation as the cart rolled along.

“I’m telling you Flam, that creature is definitely the Foal-Hunter we were told about.” Flim jerked his head back in the direction of the cart while his brother looked thoughtful.

“Now Flim, I am not denying the providence that put this unique specimen into our hooves but… it is wearing, well… clothing.” Chrysalis blinked at Flam’s words, her head turning to look at the new occupant before resisting the urge to slam her face into a hoof. It was evident the creature had dressed herself, a conclusion on the gender easily reached by the skirt worn. The changeling herself was not much for wearing them, even when disguised but she still knew a skirt and feminine clothing when she saw it.

“Ah, but you forget brother of mine that one of the descriptions was of a diamond dog stealing foals away in the night.” A pause was given as Flim puffed out his chest as he continued, “and… anypony can see that it is indeed wearing clothing.”

A pause was given before Flam wriggled his moustache and cast a wary look backwards.

“Ah… Flim, I do hate to be the bearer of bad news but I am certain that is not a diamond dog.” Flam’s comment caused both of the unicorns to exchange glances before trotting in silence. Not for the first time Chrysalis questioned how she had been caught by the two. Part of her considered the fact they might be craftier than they look and it was an idea her ego eagerly accepted. Then there was the more likely concept that the two were just well accustomed to dumb luck.

Personally she didn’t care what the female creature was, or if she really was the Foal-Hunter. She had heard the rumours pass around Fillydelphia but paid them no heed; it was really no different to the unsubstantiated rumours a dragon had ravaged through a pony village for a period of time. Whether the creature stole and ate foals, or didn’t the outcome was the same. Chrysalis was still in a cage and as such it was none of her concern.

“Flim… an idea occurs to me.” Flam’s comment broke the monotony of the cart moving as both brothers paused. “What exactly do we know about the beast?”

Flim was quiet several seconds, his muzzle rubbed thoughtfully all the while before the two continued moving forwards. Chrysalis felt herself being knocked into the bars with the sudden movement, sharing the manticore’s and cockatrice’s displeased sounds at the care being given towards them.

“Other than the obvious we already discussed, there were several rumours we heard.” Flim hummed as if recounting all the conversations he had on the matter. “Its shoulder was injured when fleeing from the authorities, it stands between ten hooves or thirty seven hooves, it has scales, it has fur, and it has feathers. Then there are the ponies who said it had fangs, or a tail, or wings, or…”

Flim trailed off as his eyes went wide with realisation and gazed at his brother, Flam nodding sagely as if waiting for his sibling to come to a particular conclusion.

“You see Flim, no-pony could agree on what it looked like.” Flam spoke with a wide grin as he indicated with his head back towards the cart. “Who is to say what we have back there is not the Foal-Hunter?”

“Brother of mine, you always did have the brains of the family.” Flim regarded the other unicorn before continuing, “So by the process of elimination, this must be the Foal-Hunter… I am not quite sure why it looks that way or why it wears clothing, but that’s how monsters work.”


Chrysalis exhaled at the logic or complete lack thereof being showcased before her. If that was how to make a deduction then there was really nothing to stop them grabbing a random turtle and proclaiming it a dragon slayer. Tuning the two brothers out lest her sanity suffer along with her patience, she instead took the time to look at the so called ‘Foal-Hunter’ still passed out in the cage beside her.

The female creature had brown toned skin, lacking in fur, scales or hair aside from a dark mane with a light streak and a thin collection upon each brow. The fingers were much lither than those found on a diamond dog or minotaur, and she lacked visible hooves or paws, instead wearing strangely shaped hoof-wear. Also from what she could see the ears were small and rounded and she lacked any visible tail.


Upon closer inspection Chrysalis noticed that the creature’s more obvious injuries had been healed, possibly when the brothers had put her into the cage. The fact the two unicorns knew some healing magic raised her opinion of their intelligence to some degree, but she still doubted the fact the creature was a hunter of young ponies let alone a mindless beast.

It’s wearing clothing, so it must be intelligent to some degree.

Chrysalis’s eyes wandered over to the sight of the two unicorn brothers pulling the wagon causing her expression to darken.

Okay… maybe wearing clothing doesn’t prove intelligence. But that creature is clearly sentient to some degree.

A soft groan tugged the changeling’s attention back over at the new addition to their merry band of captives as the ‘Foal-Hunter’ started to come around. The bizarre creature opened her eyes before wincing and brushing the mane from her eyes with a hand. Unsurprisingly the Foal-Hunter seemed confused to its current status of being in a cage as it made strange noises in a feminine toned voice. It didn’t take long for the two brothers to become aware of her awakening.

“Ah, I see the Foal-Hunter has woken.” Flam peered behind him before posing a question towards Flim. “I suppose we should check to see if it is sentient brother of mine, cover our flanks and all that.”

“I suppose you are correct as usual Flam, we wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of the law.” Flim offered a shrug as he too regarded the Foal-Hunter with an inquisitive gaze. “Afterall we can’t be seen to wrongfully cage an innocent party.”

Chrysalis was a little intrigued by their conversation but knew it would do her no particular good. She herself was unlikely to be freed to go on her merry way if she stated she was sapient with the more likely outcome being put before an execution squad.

So it’s against the law to imprison sentient creatures or just innocent ones? Intriguing but does little to help my situation.

Instead she observed the two brothers remove their harnesses and make their way over to the cage, Flam raising a hoof to tap the bars curiously as the other unicorn spoke.

“Ahem… now are you the Foal-Hunter we have heard about?”

Chrysalis yet again resisted the urge to slap her face with a fore hoof at the direct and stupid question asked.

Yes, of course. And now she will freely admit that yes, she is in fact the Foal-Hunter and thank you very much for capturing her.

The Foal-Hunter instead gripped the cage with her right hand before replying with anger present in her voice, although whatever she was ‘saying’ could not be understood. The sudden display of emotion caught Flim off guard which amused Chrysalis before he used his magic to give a slap against the creature’s cheek abruptly silencing her. Nodding, Flim seemed content that he had showed the Foal-Hunter who was boss before Chrysalis felt the sharp sting against her own face next.

Ow! Hey what the?!

Hissing in displeasure she saw Flim give a satisfied grin before the commotion riled up the other two caged animals. Knowing he now had a vendetta against her, which she admitted she might have helped along, Chrysalis watched as he acquired the much hated whip. With two loud cracks the manticore and cockatrice ceased their noises before the changeling felt the bite of the tool against her own chitin. Ceasing her own hissing she retreated to the corner of the cage, partially continuing the charade of being a beast and partially to just get out of the damn whip’s range.

Surprisingly the Foal-Hunter was whipped next, which even Chrysalis found a little odd considering she was merely sitting with a fearful expression. The creature gave a cry of pain before sniffling as the two unicorns resumed the pulling of the wagon. It was at that point Chrysalis came to a new and disturbing conclusion.

They aren’t idiots.

Her eyes narrowed as she found a strange and unsettling emotion bubble within; anger. What she had taken for idiotic behaviour seemed to be masking something sinister beneath the surface.

“So how do we explain the clothing then?”

“We dressed her up for the show obviously.”

“Ah, always with the quick thinking, Flam!”

“I can’t take all the credit; you are the one who gave me the idea.”

Chrysalis frowned as she moved to get comfortable while her ire continued to rise even if there was little she could do about it. The Foal-Hunter, be she truly what they said or not was clearly not as unintelligent as they proclaimed given her actions and how the noises she issued held inflections and tone, a language of sorts perhaps. Maybe it was simply how the creature spoke with her own kind, but the fact they were trying to pass off her clothing as their own doing just cemented her distaste for the two outside of her own predicament.

They know, and they don’t care.

In a way it disgusted Chrysalis. While she fed upon their kind she at least did so for no other reason than survival of herself and her species. There was also the fact she always tried to leave the victim unharmed afterwards, not purely for utilitarian reasons but she still could at least say she wasn’t ‘evil’. It was after all just the food chain but she never brought misery unnecessarily upon those she got sustenance from; that was just wasteful and ruined potential further meals for the same source. While she looked down upon ponies for their hypocritical behaviour as these two were in the midst of displaying, she, unlike some of her sisters would not stoop to their level.

Plus even if she hated to admit it, she knew several ponies that she could tolerate such as the family she had lived with for those few years. But these two…

And I am the monster? The cockatrice has a better moral compass than those two, and- Ugh… drop it; it’s not your concern. Focus on your own problems.

Chrysalis’s anger was snuffed out as she watched what the cockatrice in particular was in the process of doing, her eyebrows lowering as she scrunched up her nose.

… Okay, someone had best clean that up soon… Gross.

Exhaling she simply dropped the matter; her body was already beginning to ache from the lack of sustenance as she eyed the crying Foal-Hunter curiously. As she kept repeating to herself, it was none of her concern and yet… she still couldn’t buy into the whole idea of the lithe and fragile looking creature being something that could steal away ponies, and for what? Gazing between the manticore who was still sulking over the whip strike and the sobbing female, Chrysalis could clearly see who a potential threat was and who wasn’t.

There was also the obvious fact that the changeling could almost taste the fear and confusion permeating the air around the female creature.

Eh… it’s not my concern anyhow.

Tuning out the unicorns and the soft sniffles, Chrysalis tried to get some rest if only to escape the hunger that was by this point quite literally consuming her. It only was when the sun began to slip below the horizon that the brothers stopped to set up camp. Unlike the previous night they actually offered food this time around, Chrysalis opened one eye to peer at the unappealing slop that sloshed around in the bowl now nearby.

Mmm… fish slops, potatoes, water and I think that might be hay, or perhaps maybe old lettuce. Yeah, no.

Looking to the side she saw the manticore lap into its own with gusto while the cockatrice pecked blindly around the floor of the cage until flipping its bowl accidentally. Disgustingly this did little to impede the creature from feeding as it ate the spilled contents off the floor, Chrysalis in turn screwing up her nose before looking away.

Still didn’t clean that cage…

Lacking the nectar to even disguise herself – an almost unheard of situation for any changeling to be in – Chrysalis couldn’t even eat the food if she wanted to, and by the smell of it and with the look of disgust on the Foal-Hunter’s face it was clear she wouldn’t. Her ear flicked as she heard the female creature sigh before the unmistakable sound of a grumbling stomach filled the air and surprisingly it wasn’t Chrysalis’s. Raising her head she saw the Foal-Hunter had retreated to a corner of her cage and was attempting sleep, a curious expression falling over the changeling’s face as she watched.

The creature for some reason intrigued her and it baffled her why. Perhaps it was the hunger distracting her thoughts or perhaps it was just morbid curiosity but Chrysalis found herself wondering if the creature was indeed as intelligent as she presumed. If for no other reason than she wouldn’t have to suffer alone; misery did love company after all. Shaking her head she scoffed at her musings, it would do no good to become distracted by such pointless thoughts.

Looking instead at the brothers she saw in stark contrast to the caged occupants the two unicorns were warm and cosy around a well stoked fire. The scent of cider filled her nose as they filled their mouths with pie and talked animatedly about how many bits they would make once they arrived in Baltimare.

Soon. I will have to make my move soon.

Moving to get as comfortable as her accommodation would allow Chrysalis closed her eyes and willed herself to sleep, if ultimately for no other reason than to block out the quiet sobs from the cage nearby.


So far the next day had been much the same as the last. That is as far as still being in her cage was concerned. Other than at one point the brothers healing the Foal-Hunter enough that she stopped crying out in pain every few moments it was otherwise uneventful.

About time too, that sobbing was getting irritating.

So far any and all attempts on the journey to contact another changeling were met with no success, but by this point Chrysalis was resigned to the fact she was on her own. If the situations were reversed she would be hesitant to come to another changeling’s aid, even if that truth was difficult to swallow. To her, changelings no matter what stuck together but her current predicament being so volatile made a rescue difficult. Especially with her kind being public enemy number one made any open action tantamount to suicide. Not to mention she was a known supporter of the Feedless which would not earn her any favours with a substantial amount of the hive.

Refusing to dwell on it anymore she was caught off guard as the Foal-Hunter started making aggressive sounds towards the two brothers. The two unicorns looked puzzled, before shrugging and instead ignoring the commotion.

Oh sure, I make a scene I get whipped, she makes a scene and you ignore her. That’s fair.

Much to Chrysalis’s surprise she noticed that the female creature looked dejected afterwards, green eyes wide in horror as if suddenly realising her predicament. With a flick of her ears the changeling noticed something else that poked holes several hoof-widths wide in the theory she was an unintelligent beast.

Wait, how could I miss the fact she has a sling?

Putting it down to a lack of focus she exhaled loudly while the Foal-Hunter hunted around in her top and removed a flat smooth item. Fiddling with it for several seconds she held it before her face before giving a long exhale and pocketing whatever the black object was. Chrysalis blinked and raised a brow, the action confusing but seeming to have some profound reason behind it. It was now evident that the Foal-Hunter was far more intelligent than the brothers seemed to let on in their conversation. Why they were ignoring the blatant signs or worse such as with the clothing lying over the fact eluded the changeling.

Musing on the issue was cut short as the wagon struck something in the road throwing the cage occupants against their enclosures. Chrysalis grunted, hissing her displeasure at the forces of momentum and their cruel, cruel ways. Accompanying her were both the manticore and cockatrice only for a louder and anguished scream to echo through the air. Immediately the two unicorns stopped while Chrysalis looked to the source seeing the Foal-Hunter grasping her injured shoulder.

I guess she is in worse shape than I thought.

Much to the changeling’s utmost shock the brothers actually shared a look of concern between themselves.

“Now I thought you said you had healed it?” Flam’s comment got his brother to frown, gazing back at the cages before offering a tsk.

“I did!” Flim seemed offended by the comment as he snorted. “I’ve never seen a Foal-Hunter before, how am I meant to know how well the healing spell is working?”

Flam seemed to realise he might have set his brother off and offered a small bow of his head.

“You raise a valid point brother of mine and I apologise, but if you would be so kind as to try again?” Flam’s comment had Flim nod, the anger quickly vanishing. “We of course need our new star attraction to be in the best shape possible.”

Oh, so I’m no longer the star attraction?

Chrysalis deadpanned as she snorted from her nostrils amidst the anguished groaning of the Foal-Hunter.

Wait… why the hell am I caring about that? By the All Mother this hunger is messing with my head.

“No, no you speak the truth Flam. I’ll go see what I can do.” Flim made his way over to the cages, Chrysalis actively resisting the urge to do something to startle him. Not just because the repercussions were undesired, but also due to the fact for some reason she wanted the Foal-Hunter to be healed. Ultimately if only to silence some of the annoying sobbing that the female creature was so fond of, along with the pained screams.

And maybe I can sleep in peace.

With the job done Flim moved back to the front joining his brother. With harness reattached they resumed pulling the cart and much to Chrysalis’s annoyance she had to listen to the two reassure each other there was no hard feelings. Closely following the display of brotherly bonding was reciting their song for whatever show the changeling was unwillingly going to be a part of.

Tuning them out Chrysalis instead turned her attention to the Foal-Hunter. Something was deeply bothering the changeling, the emotions coming off the creature were those of an individual unsure of what was going on. Fear, anguish, confusion, anger, they almost reeked off the girl which Chrysalis was more than a little surprised that she could notice such things. Putting it down to the hunger making her more than slightly delusional she found herself staring into the other cage.

The occupant in response, much to Chrysalis’s surprise made noises in a flat and emotionally drained voice in her direction.

After several seconds of looking at the creature Chrysalis came to a conclusion. A nod was given, partially of reassurance but also a minor attempt at communication. The confusion crossing over the Foal-Hunter’s face seemed to show the message was partially conveyed and so Chrysalis curled up in a corner. She had no appetite for nor ability to eat the food provided so instead chose sleep instead.

We’re stuck, both of us knowing what situation we’re in but unable to do anything about it. Fantastic, but it doesn’t help me any.

Whether it was due to her body lacking energy or the realisation that she was not suffering alone, Chrysalis managed to find sleep reached her easily.


Exhaustion: absolute, draining and complete. That was what possibly had been the cause of Chrysalis sleeping in.

Then again perhaps it was the snide voice in her head that she could barely concentrate on. It really was difficult to discern which the culprit was, but ultimately she felt awareness return to her as she shakily got to her hooves. The changeling noticed immediately that they were now in a town, presumably the Baltimare the brothers were going on about but she also noticed the more alarming factor that she felt drained, far more than before she slept. Whatever was causing the leeching of her energy had gone into overdrive when she had slipped into unconsciousness and now she realised her nectar was completely depleted.

Now it seemed her body was now feeding ravenously upon itself to try and sustain her very existence which was definitely not ideal; not to mention also completely self-defeating.

Wait… a voice?

Thinking back to what possibly woke her Chrysalis looked around only to see that the cart she was on had been set up down the main road, just near the railway station. Several ponies were looking on curious as the brothers were setting up making her curious as to why they were being so… blasé about the cages’ occupants. It was then she noticed a faint glow surrounding the cages, the realisation why caused her eyes to go wide. She was able to see the illusion spell in its raw state!

H-How am I even seeing that?

It was no mystery that changelings were extremely adept at illusion magic, but that didn’t mean they could tell when something was an illusion or not. Yet Chrysalis could see the barest traces of a cloaking spell falling over each cage masking the occupant of each from prying eyes. It took no hard guesses as to who had cast the spell, but why she could suddenly see such a thing was beyond her.

Something strange is happening, first I could commune longer distances and now I can see magic in its raw state? This hunger is messing with me worse than I thought…

Torn from the new discovery she remembered exactly what she was trying to focus on in the first place as the ‘voice’ was picked up on once again.

<- to believe that there really was a changeling stupid enough to be caught. Oh well.>

Chrysalis blinked as she caught the end of the voice filtering into her mind. Shaking the fog from her mind to clear her addled mind she picked up the commune once she could focus.

<What?> While not the most intelligent question to put forth Chrysalis really could not think of anything better. Evidentially the one asking was not expecting an answer as Chrysalis caught sight of a blue mare trotting curiously nearby, one ear askew as her face betrayed surprise.

<So those two were telling the truth, I would never have believed it.> The earth pony looked bemused as she gazed at all four cages, apparently trying to pin point which contained Chrysalis beneath the illusion. Slowly the mare narrowed her eyes, trotting a little closer to one corner prior to flicking her ears. <That voice… I can barely sense who it is but… no it can’t be! Chrysalis?!>

Chrysalis winced as the laughter ripped through her mind even if the mare physically was clearly trying to suppress a wide grin.

Yeah… this is just great.

<Chrysalis! You got captured? Oh this is just too much…> The mare gained a malicious expression as she looked between the cages. <I was wishing to see which of my sisters was careless enough to be captured, but I never expected it to be you, Feedless lover.>

Hidden behind the illusion Chrysalis narrowed her eyes. This was precisely what she feared would occur when finally encountering another changeling. She had berated herself for hours about being careless enough to be captured; the draining itself was merely an excuse. She knew she had gotten sloppy and that was all there was to it.

<Are you just staying to gloat, or are you going to help me?> Normally Chrysalis wouldn’t be so snappy but pain was starting to bubble up from within. Her mane-frill was aching and she could barely focus due to hunger. The disguised-changeling was cut off however as Flim and Flam came to inspect what she was up to.

“Miss, I know you are excited to see the show but you’ll have to come back in an hour after we finish setting up.” Flam grinned after speaking, patting the cart with a fore hoof. “I guarantee you it will be well worth the wait!”

The mare blinked and immediately looked sheepish as if she had been caught trying to get a sneak peek at the ‘animals’ held within.

“Oh… sorry I guess I just got really excited hearing you had a changeling… and I am really curious as to what the mystery creature is!” Chrysalis lowered herself down as her legs were beginning to feel numb while all the while listening to the disguised-changeling cover her tracks. Unsurprisingly the two brothers bought it hook, line, and sinker but given their belief that changelings were feral beasts it made sense they never would expect the mare.

“You shall not have to wait much longer my dear, Flim Flam brothers’ one-of-a-kind circus shall be having its grand reveal shortly.” Flim puffed his chest out while the mare pretended to eat their words up.

“Oh! I look forward to it!” With a wave she started to trot away before sparing one look back, the venom in her commune completely at odds with her wide smile to the two brothers.

<Help you? Why would I a lowly un-named be needed to help the great Chrysalis, blessed with the name of the queen herself? Surely she can get herself out.> The blue pony slowly trotted down the road as Chrysalis frowned having expected as such but having hoped otherwise. <And… don’t be expecting any other of our sisters to come to your aid, I am the only one still around here and even I’ll be leaving after seeing your show. Someone has stirred up their paranoia rather significantly after all.>

Fantastic, one of the Feedless haters... Just perfect.

With the laughter filling her mind Chrysalis exhaled and rested her head upon front legs. Already her opinion of her own race was barely enduring a severe pummelling as she dispassionately watched the mare trot away. Her thoughts drifted back to the makeshift hive hoping that her hatch-mate and the others were somehow surviving. By now her absence would be noticed and she felt something gnaw within her, a strange and uncomfortable feeling; guilt. She knew by getting captured she had left the hive leaderless and even if she despised the responsibility she knew her name had provided a central figure to look to.

With a long exhale Chrysalis gazed at the brothers as they started to set up their show. Tuning them out was becoming surprisingly easy as she instead found her mind wandering towards the caustic attitude that had just been directed towards her.

Ugh, jealousy and hatred within my own kind. I never expected such vitriol from a sister though, even with our differences.

Despite herself she felt anger bubbling beneath the surface. Sarcasm was pushed aside as she realised on a rational level that in reality her sister could have done little to save her anyhow. Regardless of this fact the words had managed to get under her chitin all but piercing through the calm façade she had been maintaining. In this moment of weakness the truth was allowed to wriggle past her denial and strike true.

She was dying.

Her body was running on empty, the strange affliction was going to be her undoing as it ravenously consumed, regardless of whether it was nectar or her own body. She felt strange, areas tingling and numb while others were aching. Ultimately though she was weak, far too weak to even contemplate an escape even if an opportunity presented itself given she could barely stand. A bitter chuckle escaped her muzzle before she moved to lie down.

The All Mother seems to have it in for me for some reason.

A long sigh escaped her muzzle as she watched the brothers prepare, thankful that whatever illusion they had crafted stopped them from seeing or hearing what was inside each cage as much as anyone else. It at least gave her some relief to pull faces at them along with screaming obscenities now and again. Wallowing in self-pity was not something Chrysalis was well accustomed to, instead narrowing her eyes as she took in the scene around her once her frustration was spent.

Sating her curiosity she sighted the brothers now fiddling with the cart before she felt everything move. Splitting down the middle, the cart was separated into two halves with the cages equally spread between the two. Although she couldn’t be one hundred percent certain, she was positive that the cage next to her was that of the Foal-Hunter.

Well… could be worse, could be the manticore or likes to eat its own… you know what, not going to think about that one.

With the set up complete, a large chest placed on the ground before the exhibit Chrysalis noted the gathering of a crowd starting to form. Her brows lowered in disgust as she heard the unicorns sing.

“He’s Flim.”

“He’s Flam.”

“And don’t you know…”

“That you good ponies are in for a one of a kind show!”

“Because this right here is the Flim Flam brothers’ fantastical ciiiiiircus!”

Oh, that’s the version they went with… I felt the first captured the spirit of it- For the love of the All Mother, someone shut those idiots up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut…up!

With an eye beginning to twitch having to endure more of their singing, Chrysalis blinked as the illusions were dispelled from the cages. Choruses of surprise, anger, wonder and fright rippled throughout the crowd upon having the occupants now revealed. A look to the side saw the Foal-Hunter rubbing her cheek, seeming to have been magically slapped awake during the musical number.

“Now now everypony, five bits is all we’re asking to enjoy such a marvellous and unique show.” Flam flicked his hat with a hoof while addressing the crowd, his brother flipping the chest’s lid open with a follow up flourishing gesture over the empty container. Immediately bits were thrown in, some missing to clatter onto the ground but these were quickly lifted within a green glow to join their peers.

Colts and fillies were wide eyed with wonder while protective parents nearby. Pegasi flew higher for a better vantage point as several ponies jeered at the ‘evil changeling’. Chrysalis merely snorted, not willing to even put effort into thinking of insults.

“Mommy, what is that?”

The curious question from a colt seemed to voice what the crowd was thinking, a fore hoof directed towards the cage where the female creature was currently cowering.

“Ah! Why you ponies of Baltimare are in for a treat!” Flim trotted over to direct a hoof up at the Foal-Hunter making the creature retreat further against the rear bars with terror evident on her face. “This right here is the scourge of Fillydelphia.”

A pause filled the air before Flam opened his eyes wide, leaning close to the colt with an ominous tone in his voice.

“The Fooooal-Hunter.”

Flim laughed at his brother’s antics before the two nudged each other.

“Why Flam, I dare say you are scaring the crowd.” Flam looked admonished at the other unicorn’s words although after watching them rehearse this for over two days Chrysalis was not fooled for one second by their sincerity.

“Oh my apologies Flim, and to you good ponies but as you can see it is safely contained within the cage.” The moustached show-pony cleared his throat before seeming to notice the dubious looks on several observers. “Oh my, oh my Flim I do believe these ponies are unaware of the Foal-Hunter!”

“Why brother of mine, we should correct this immediately!” The two shared a look before becoming animated, Chrysalis giving a deadpan expression – certainly not for the first time – as the brothers began singing.

“Little ponies should beware!”

“For the Foal-Hunter is near!”

Is it morbid for me to wish to hurry up and die so I can stop hearing this?

Chrysalis resorted to banging her head against the cage which thankfully drowned out the singing as the crowd ate up every word. Mention of stealing foals in the night, eating them, immunity to magic, able to fly, the song really did have it all. Yet it was not Chrysalis who disrupted the singing, but the Foal-Hunter herself as she gripped the bars with one hand and made furious sounding noises.

Okay… I think I might be warming up to her a little.

Flim and Flam ceased immediately as the crowd reacted with fear and amazement.

“Is it contained?”

“Are we safe?”

“What if it breathes acid like they said?!”

“I-Is it trying to talk?”

“Why is it wearing clothing?”

Questions burst forth from the crowd, some Chrysalis found some faith in pony intelligence returning especially with the last two concerns voiced. Flim however reacted far faster than she would have given him credit for.

“Never fear, it’s all part of the show.” As he placated the crowd a whip was levitated within his magical aura, unfurling before cracking along the Foal-Hunter’s back. The scream of anguish and pain made Chrysalis fold her ears down, wincing slightly at what had just occurred. To the creature’s credit she did bite down on her lower lip to restrain herself from screaming further but by then Flim had moved onto his next target. The manticore felt the bite of the whip next; a loud roar was given causing the crowd to gasp in amazement. Next the cockatrice received the same treatment while Chrysalis was a little slow on the uptake. Due to her body’s current crisis her muddled mind didn’t put two and two together fast enough to brace herself for the blindingly obvious until the whip had already struck her along the back.

“Up Changeling!” Flim’s command followed the whip causing Chrysalis to grit her teeth and try and obey if only to avoid more of the same.


Realising she was far worse off than she had suspected she struggled to get all four hooves under her, barely remaining upright as she staggered but ultimately succeeded. Part of her admitted her will had been partially broken but she had not the energy to even attempt being disobedient. Even the desire to hiss barely passed her throat.

Her following of instructions spared her another whip blow as the manticore received a second allowing Chrysalis a reprieve. Flam meanwhile, seeing some in the crowd harbouring misgivings about what was going on stepped forward.

“Now as you can see we have trained this simple minded changeling. And you may have noticed the Foal-Hunter is a master at earning sympathy. It will pretend to be wounded or injured, anything to get a foal to let down its guard.” A look of seriousness fell over Flam’s face as he continued to address the crowd. “But do not be fooled, the ponies of Fillydelphia will vouch that the creature is not to be trusted. Look, even now it is sobbing to try and lure a kind hearted colt or filly nearby to be eaten!”

Chrysalis looked with the rest to see the Foal-Hunter sniffling, which while not quite sobbing was enough to convince several ponies in the crowd. A few shouted insults at the Foal-Hunter while Chrysalis copped more than her fair share.

<Well, it’s been fun Chrysalis.> The thought popped into her head while she was listening to the brothers explain the clothing on the Foal-Hunter as merely them dressing her up for presentation. By the looks on several ponies, they seemed to believe it to, much to her chagrin.

<Oh, I assure you the pleasure was all mine. Going so soon?> Chrysalis decided if she couldn’t do much else she could at least resort to her sarcasm given it was all that was left to her. Besides, she wouldn’t allow her sister the satisfaction of seeing her beg or plead.

<Well given that a certain Feedless lover got herself captured I really should be going.> The commune was full of smugness, so much so that for a brief second Chrysalis considered shouting out there was another changeling in the crowd. Immediately after it had formed the thought was dropped, she would not fall to her sister’s level. She still believed changelings were better than ponies, even if her sister was not demonstrating such qualities at that moment.

<Oh please, don’t let me stop you.> Chrysalis followed her commune with a soft chuckle. <Oh… and since you’re acting so much like a turncoat pony, you might as well go worship their princesses while you’re at it.>

The snarky remark seemed to strike true as she could see the blue mare in the audience narrow her eyes.

<You are what made the previous hive weak Chrysalis, changelings like you that sympathised with the Feedless. The Queen’s invasion would have been won if not for all of you foolish pupas.> The venom thrown in Chrysalis’s direction surprised her somewhat. The disguised-changeling then having vented turned to leave, but not before one last commune was given her way.

<You’re draining aren’t you? You’ll get caught you idiot and bring the guards down on all the rest!> Chrysalis’s anger caught the other changeling off guard, the mare pausing before resuming to trot away vanishing into the crowd.

<Some of us know to do anything to survive, but a Feedless lover like you wouldn’t understand that… and that’s why you’re going to be in that cage for weeks.> With that the other changeling went silent leaving Chrysalis alone with her thoughts, give or take a crowd or so.

Hah. Joke is on her, I won’t even survive until the end of the week.

Chrysalis found it hard to believe any of her sisters could act in such a way yet when she thought about it she knew she was just being foolish. Without a queen to hold them all together and give direction the changelings would work for survival, some even at the expense of others. The fact that she along with the Feedless and other sisters had worked in unison for so long and so selflessly made her chest flare with more pride.

If only they had picked a better leader…

Exhaling slowly she watched the crowd and dispassionately continued to ignore the jibes in her directions along with accusations. Strangely enough the manticore and cockatrice were being largely ignored while the Foal-Hunter was receiving just as much vitriol as Chrysalis was previously. With a sigh the changeling saw how quickly the ponies believed the lies Flim & Flam had said about the Foal-Hunter, not to mention herself.

“It looks so sad…”

“You heard the two, it’s how it lures you in.”

“I would never fall for that!”

“Ooooh that changeling looks so scary…”

Chrysalis exhaled again while gazing at the foals that in their attempt to be brave were standing closer to the cages. Apparently her visage was enough to make them run screaming back to their parents which amused her to some small degree. Distracting herself from scaring young ponies she instead felt the presence of the other changeling fade away from the immediate vicinity and outside of commune range. Now officially the last changeling in Baltimare – and still confused how she knew this – Chrysalis endured the day until finally the sun begun to set and the crowds dispersed.

After feeding – this time the Foal-Hunter joining the two other creatures in eating the meal – the changeling moved to get some sleep if her body would allow it. Yet again the bowl of… whatever it was, remained untouched while the two brothers stuffed themselves. As she closed her eyes she tried to block out the sound of quiet sobbing from a nearby cage.

It didn’t work.


The rest of the week passed with two more venues visited. After the last show in whatever town it was – Chrysalis not picking up the name nor caring – she discovered she was no longerable to stand under her own power. Her mind felt foggy, weak and she could barely focus on anything. Breathing was becoming laboured and with that she knew she would be lucky to survive the night. The only small consolation is that even the audience was noticing and had pointed out how ‘sick’ she looked.

Much to her non-surprise Flim & Flam merely passed it off as her ‘suffering from withdrawal from the queen’ while secretly discussing how to ‘fix’ her.

Yeah… Like I miss her. That’s obviously what is wrong with me.

The creatures were constantly healed after each event to remove the whip marks; of course much to the brother’s confusion her condition was not improving at all.

If only the world would stop spinning…

Closing her eyes she tried to ignore the pain roiling around in her innards as whatever her affliction was desperately tried to consume something, anything. Her neck was aching and she wasn’t exactly sure without a mirror but she was certain something was happening to her body. That or the talking bowl was lying to her, which was entirely likely as so far it had not been the best conversationalist. It could be that it was just a hallucination but she felt it might be rude to suggest that to the bowl.

“We will need to rethink our approach I feel Flim.” Chrysalis weakly turned her head to allow ears to swivel and pick up the brother’s conversation. She didn’t really care per se but it at least took the attention off her imminent death.

“I agree, too many questions asked in that last town.” Flim gave a soft tsk before continuing, “I ask you Flam, what happened to the days where ponies used to trust an honest face?”

“A tragedy is what it is brother, why some even doubted that the changeling was nothing but a feral beast!” Flam’s voice sounded incredulous as if the very idea was preposterous. “That’s not even getting into those thinking that the Foal-Hunter is actually intelligent and upset at being caged.”

Oh yeah… complete and utter tragedy that one.

If Chrysalis had the energy she would have slammed her head against the bars due to what she was hearing, even if that might have only validated their claims to her intelligence. While the two discussed exactly how they would qualm the concerns of the next town they showed their ‘circus’ at the changeling was distracted by something else. Turning her head she observed the Foal-Hunter regarding her with green sorrowful eyes.

Over the past few days the creature had cried, slept or sat in silence outside being whipped to make noises in the show.


We’re both trapped, and that’s all there is to it…

Chrysalis met the Foal-Hunter’s gaze, the two almost coming to silent agreement as they both understood the situation they were in. Part of her seeing the dirty, ragged, and worn looking creature looking far different from the one she met a week ago felt a little sympathy for its plight. Sure the crying, the sobbing and all of the screaming had irritated her but she could understand; it’s how she felt herself to some extent.

About to close her eyes and let sleep claim her again Chrysalis was surprised to see the Foal-Hunter looking indecisive. Odder was the fact the creature was now leaning in her cage, reaching towards Chrysalis’s own.

What? What is she doing?

Curiosity, not to mention a complete lack of any energy kept Chrysalis from shying away as the hand tentatively moved through the bars of the cages. The two brothers remained oblivious within their conversation as to what was happening behind them as the fingers wriggled and got closer. Keeping one eye on the hand, wary of what might follow the changeling was once again astounded when with surprising gentleness she felt the skin of the creature push gently to her head. Even if the hand was disgustingly filthy Chrysalis had to suppress a laugh at what was happening. Like when she was a disguised-filly and ‘upset’ her head was being stroked, the action soothing and very much appreciated.

Feeling slightly dumb-founded at the gesture she moved her head in reflex which caused the Foal-Hunter to become startled and pull her hand back. Realising her movement had scared the creature Chrysalis quickly moved her snout to push to the fingers, feeling them slide over her head again. Now settled the Foal-Hunter slowly stroked over the changeling’s chitin while Chrysalis relaxed, enjoying one last comfort while she could.


The hand felt warm as it passed over her chitin but there was something else, something unheard of. Warmth and compassion began pouring into her body from the Foal-Hunter and like a desert getting the first rain in years her body sucked it up greedily. Chrysalis had never encountered so much emotion being supplied to her in such a short time and yet it kept flowing, pouring in and converted to nectar at an astounding rate.

W-What is going on?!

Her eyes gazed up to see the Foal-Hunter smiling warmly in her direction yet nothing about this made sense to Chrysalis. How was she being fed in her natural form? It felt pleasant, like a warm blanket was being pulled around her providing comfort, inside and out as it poured through her body. She could sense the creature’s emotions… the compassion felt towards her along with the fears, concerns and sadness lurking just beneath the surface.


The Foal-Hunter was gifting her with life. Sweet ambrosia filled her with strength, pulling her from the verge of death with renewed vigour.

S-She’s feeding me? How? I’m not draining her… she’s giving me emotions… willingly?

Chrysalis could almost see the emotions pouring from the female creature as she began to greedily consume. The nectar began to build within and from that her strength returned. Wings were stretched and tested while her legs grew steady and strong. She could taste the emotion now as her body healed at an astounding rate with the resources being provided. The grooves in her chitin started to close, her muscles ceased aching and a sense of purpose invigorated the changeling.

It… it tastes amazing. Like vanilla mixed with chocolate… but that’s not even doing it justice.

Pushing to the hand Chrysalis felt the compassion flow further in while mentally taking note of their current position. A large dark forest stood nearby and with it her avenue of escape. Buzzing her wings she turned her head to gaze at the Foal-Hunter unsure on what to think. The creature had just saved her, had just done the impossible and provided nectar willingly. Suddenly fear tainted the changeling’s meal as the Foal-Hunter pulled her hand back, the taste of earth filling Chrysalis’s mouth before the contact was broken.

Thank you…

A nod was given accompanying the thought, having giving thought to her gratitude as talking would give away what she had planned. Her body felt like it was too small a container for the energy now bubbling beneath the surface. Never before had Chrysalis had so much stored nectar even as she felt the nibbling of the affliction already sampling the new stockpile with relish.

Okay Chrysalis… now time to do something incredibly stupid.

It was an absolute fact that only Queen Chrysalis could contain enough nectar to fuel a disguise that Chrysalis was about to attempt. It wasn’t that it killed the changeling, or injured the individual… it simply didn’t work. Yet deep within Chrysalis she felt the roaring furnace screaming to be released.

So she did.

Dimly aware of a terrified scream the changeling grit her teeth as the magic flared into life around her. For so long she had been surviving off the bare minimum and it felt amazingly liberating to finally cut loose, but now she needed to go beyond anything she had ever tried. Already the sensation of her only recently obtained nectar pool emptying was felt, but she needed more. The magic raging out of control and wildly unstable started to emit dangerous levels of heat as Chrysalis struggled to contain the spell.

I’m going to kick your pansy cream-unicorn asses!

Her eyes snapped open as the thought of the brothers filled her mind, how they had abused her and the singing she had been forced to put up with. As if a switch had been toggled her body seemed to accommodate to the increased magical output and the disguise magic flared around her. She felt strange as her body changed, growing in mass as her form shifted within the fire. Finally she could make out the belated brothers’ reactions to what was going on, something that brought a smile to her now leonine face.

Now you’ll see what a non-half-dead changeling can do you bastards.

A loud roar ripped from her manticore throat, having disguised herself as the largest creature that was nearby. Anger raged within and Chrysalis used it to her advantage, throwing herself against the cage that imprisoned her in an attempt to knock it off. To the unicorn’s credit they reacted far faster than she would have thought possible, their magic quickly working to steady the cage against her rage. It was working.

It was a pity for them it was only half of Chrysalis’s gambit.

With her mind clear for the first time in weeks she had quickly formulated a plan born of desperation. She was gambling on the fact that a manticore, a very territorial beast would not take kindly to another appearing nearby. It turned out she was right.

With a roar the original manticore threw itself against the bars of its cage attempting to attack the new threat to its domain, even if said domain was simply a small prison. Matching its movements Chrysalis threw herself to the bars at the same time adding their energy together resulting in the wagon rocking dangerously.

“Flim! What is going on?!”

“How should I know brother?! Hold the cage before it-“

Before the sentence could be finished another lunge was given and the tenuous balance was shattered. The wagon dutifully obeying the laws of physics toppled over scattering cages over the road in a clatter of noise and pained cries. Not wasting any time Chrysalis used her new tail to viciously attack the lock until it and the stinger at the end broke. Even as the agonised roar escaped her muzzle she pulled herself out, bellowing at the brothers all the while.

Now to get out of here and into the-

Pausing for the briefest second she saw the cowering form of the Foal-Hunter within a cage nearby, fresh bruises starting to appear upon her form.


Another angered roar was given towards the two unicorns as they wisely cowered behind the upturned wagon, clearly making sure they kept their distance. Satisfied she had a second or two window of opportunity, Chrysalis pulled back a large paw and swung it with all her might at the cage of the one who had provided the means for escape. Metal succumbed along with a majority of the limb used to perform the task leading to another sound of pain to escape the disguised-changeling’s throat. The sacrifice was not in vain however as the cage was now broken open, allowing for the occupant’s escape.


Dropping the disguise she felt her forelimb return to an uninjured state as the brothers finally started to gain the initiative to the situation. Not wasting any time she turned and galloped for the forest, pushing past the branches and leaves to vanish out of their sight hearing their angry cries from behind. A voice however brought her to a standstill.

“I’ve got the Foal-Hunter! Keep the manticore in its cage Flim!”

“I’ve got it Flam!”

I’m going to do something stupid again, aren’t I?

Why she went back Chrysalis couldn’t say. Perhaps she felt an obligation to the Foal-Hunter even after breaking the cage or perhaps she was curious as to how she had been fed. Regardless of the reason she turned and ran to the edge only to see the female creature being restrained by Flam, his magic ensnaring one of her wrists and slowly tugging her back towards the wagon.

Oh… I am going to enjoy this.

Focusing on the unicorn’s horn Chrysalis felt magic build up at the tip of her own. Finesse was not an option as she instead chose to let the blast surge in a straight line to impact against Flam’s horn to disrupt his concentration and magic. Thankfully for the show-pony she lacked the time to put any real power behind it yet it still accomplished the goal of releasing his grasp. Knowing her work was done Chrysalis turned and ran into the forest while listening to the Foal-Hunter push past foliage in her own escape.

Moving on all four hooves she felt fantastic, better than she ever had. Her body was alive with energy despite all she had used in the escape, which truthfully was still continuing to baffle her. She had never had so much emotion given to her at one time, nor had she contained such a large quantity. Truthfully it felt euphoric, like she could do anything, go anywhere or take on anyone at all.

My body feels so alive for the first time since the invasion… no, better even!

She felt almost weightless as she hopped over roots and rocks. She almost felt like a hatchling as she bounded over a stream before pausing to look behind her with luminescent eyes. She could hear far in the distance what she presumed was the Foal-Hunter making her way through the forest along with the faintest sound of one other voice.

Not my problem… I already saved her once.

Chrysalis stood there for several seconds before gritting her teeth, her body almost moving on its own accord to turn her around.

“Argh! Why am I constantly doing stupid things today?” The forest didn’t really have an answer for the frustrated changeling as Chrysalis pushed herself to return whence she came, albeit on a slight angle. Her horn glowed as she applied a spell to mask her presence and for good measure one to detect any life nearby, one she used in a prudent fashion normally while hunting for an appropriate victim due to the cost it incurred on the caster.

Which, given how much energy I have right now that’s of little concern.

Not surprisingly it didn’t take her much to find the fleeing Foal-Hunter, the amount of noise she was making while brute forcing through the branches leaving the detect spell somewhat redundant. Making sure she was hidden from view she watched the female creature continue her laboured sprint before an ear flicked, Chrysalis’s prey approaching. Once observing which of the brothers it was she waited for him to pass by before applying her disguise and moving out into the open.

“Flim, wait a second!”

Flim paused at the mention of his name, turning to observe the disguised Chrysalis with a look of disbelief upon his face.

“Flam? What are you doing out here? Are the other two secured?” The show-pony looked quickly between his ‘brother’ and where his prey had fled from him. “Quick we have to hurry and catch the Foal-Hunter and that vindictive changeling before they get away.”

“Oh don’t worry about that brother of mine, there’s something far more important we need to discuss.” ‘Flam’ moved closer to ‘his’ brother, tone of voice strangely ominous.

“What could be more important than catching our two star attractions? Quick Flam, this is no time for games… this forest is giving me the creeps.” Flim looked about nervously as one ear went askew while the sounds of the Foal-Hunter grew fainter and further into the distance. Chrysalis meanwhile had been waiting for the opportunity as she approached under the guise of Flam, eyes narrowing.

“Oh… this isn’t a game, you see there is one thing more important than catching them; revenge.” Making her eyes glow blue she dropped the disguise as Flim’s own eyes went wide. She quickly sidestepped a snare spell before bounding forward as the last of the green flames flickered off her dark chitin covering. “Oh… and you’ll see I am not the same half dead changeling I was when you first captured me.”

“Y-You can talk?” Flim stammered as he took a few hoof steps back, Chrysalis giving a wide fanged grin in response. Despite the size difference she glowered upwards intimidatingly. With the emotions given to her by the Foal-Hunter she knew she was more than a match for the unicorn.

“Yes I can talk.” Her anger bubbled to the surface as she spoke, a loud snarl forcing Flim to give a yelp and push back against the tree behind him. “And so can the Foal-Hunter, but you knew that didn’t you?”

Chrysalis felt the build-up of magic a split second before the ground where she stood was on the receiving end of Flim’s desperate attack; the only problem for him was she had already moved. Upon seeing he was outclassed the unicorn tried a different tactic, begging.

“Ah, well you see this has all been just a big misunderstanding!” His eyes glanced about while pupils shrunk creating the very look of abject terror. “My dear brother and I simply had no idea you were both intelligent and very… very merciful beings.”

Chrysalis frowned as she stepped closer again making sure her fangs were prominently displayed. The earthy taste of fear permeated the air around the unicorn to the point it was almost overwhelming.

“You lied to the crowds about the Foal-Hunter, now call me crazy but a creature that sobs day after day doesn’t seem horribly threatening to me.” Flim looked about to interrupt before Chrysalis snarled earning a meek whimper from the unicorn along with the more distinctive and unappealing smell of ammonia to creep into the air. “Yeah, you must think I’m a fresh hatchling to believe that load of garbage. Oh… and gross.”

“N-No… I just… uh… you see… Flam! Flam! Come here quick!” Flim screamed loudly to which Chrysalis gave a low chuckle, eyes glowing with malicious intent. “P-Please don’t hurt me! I’ll give you anything you want, bits, food you name it! W-Why do you even care about the Foal-Hunter anyhow?”

Chrysalis only stepped closer making Flim back up further as her horn started to burn with green fire.

“That’s a good question… but it’s none of your business.” Pent up frustration oozed into Chrysalis’s words as she cast an illusion to darken the woods around the two of them, Flim’s eyes going wider as his legs began to shake. “Now… you will give me what I want. I’m going to show you what a true changeling is capable of.”

As the darkness pulled in the changeling hissed between her teeth, green fire erupting around her form although in this case it was purely for theatrics.

“Feel free to scream all you want Flim… no-one can hear you.”

It was a suggestion he took to heart even if the sound never escaped the magical barrier; but Chrysalis heard them.

And they were delicious.


Chrysalis had left Flim several minutes ago, the stallion cowering in a small ball sobbing to himself while his brother’s voice sounded out nearby. It had felt so satisfying to give him a sliver of the punishment she felt he deserved, even if she could only resort to fuelling his nightmares for weeks to come.

It feels so good to feel myself again, better even!

Now she found herself galloping through the forest to hunt down the Foal-Hunter. Moving with speed she relished stretching her limbs while using her wings for that little extra bit of acceleration. Despite it all she found herself still conflicted as to why she was hunting down the female biped. Was it due to a sense of concern for her wellbeing, or was it merely her pragmatic side trying to figure out how exactly she had been fed so much? Or… was it due to the warm feeling still gently burning within her chest from when she was touched, fed willingly?

Ugh… stop thinking about that. Stop thinking about how nice it felt, and how warm you feel and… hey, brain don’t make me come up there.

Focusing the magic back to her horn she started to feel the presence of the fleeing female nearby, easily catching up to the Foal-Hunter but choosing to stay back out of sight. Realising that at that point was the perfect opportunity to actually see what the female really was like out of captivity she remained in the shadows. It seemed that the creature was out of breath, struggling to get oxygen back into her lungs before starting to observe her surroundings.

Over the next hour or so Chrysalis continued to follow, the Foal-Hunter wandering seemingly randomly around the forest showing she was undoubtedly lost. Deciding her observation had gone on long enough Chrysalis exhaled softly prior to raising a front hoof and pushing it purposely down upon a twig to gain the attention of the creature in her direction. Moving through the foliage she did the same in another direction, the analytical side of Chrysalis curious to see how the Foal-Hunter would react. Would she react in hostility, would her true colours emerge or would she-

Ah… no, she looks about ready to wet herself. Well that settles that.

Moving slowly out of the vegetation she walked behind the biped and stood down on another twig instantly having the female turn and regard her with shock.

She’s… scared of me?

Normally that idea would make Chrysalis get a small amount of amusement but… at that moment she felt something inside, an empty feeling that was not in any way pleasant. Now curious as to what was causing this she looked upwards with a slight tilt of her head, studying the Foal-Hunter. To her surprise a hand was once more directed, if slightly shaking in her direction which she hesitated momentarily before pushing her muzzle against the skin.

Chrysalis yet again enjoyed the warm sensation flowing into her from the creature, her wings buzzing almost subconsciously at how wonderful it felt. Smacking her lips a little she savoured the taste which oddly enough made the Foal-Hunter relax. The hand pet more confidently now, stroking down past her frill and over her head. Eventually Chrysalis was more than full, taking a step back to break the contact while the Foal-Hunter looked as surprised as she was, looking at her hand curiously.

She… is feeding me willingly. This feeling… it’s…

Chrysalis had never felt this sensation before; well… she had but never directly towards her true self instead of a disguise, and never this intense. Compassion, kindness… it was unheard of for it to be given freely to a changeling. Yet, this creature, this bipedal female genuinely felt these towards Chrysalis.

This… this could be just what we need… what the hive needs!

A smile came to Chrysalis’s muzzle at that epiphany while the Foal-Hunter smiled in return before saying something in its strange language. Unable to understand Chrysalis gestured as such with a tilt of her head. When the word was once more repeated she shook her head unable to understand but on the plus side the creature appeared happy. Now with some form of plan in mind she could only hope that the hive was still intact, it had been a week without her. All she could do was continue to hold faith in their ability to continue without her reluctant leadership.

Well, now we need to find a way out of the forest and take the Foal-Hunter back to the hive without getting caught… no problem.

Withholding cynicism at the nigh impossible task set before her Chrysalis started off in a direction where she felt the presence of multiple ponies far in the distance, if only as a guideline of where civilization lay. When the Foal-Hunter failed to follow her she gave a motion of her head which was thankfully understood.

And to top it off we can’t understand each other. Nothing is ever easy is it?

Summoning magic to her horn Chrysalis cast the detection spell again, this time holding it for the benefit of finding if any hostile creatures were nearby which there appeared to be no small number of. While it would normally be difficult if not outright impossible for a changeling to do so she found it was remarkably easy.

What’s going on with me?

Firstly her commune distance was remarkably large, and then her body was stronger, faster than ever. That wasn’t even getting into her current magic ability with the disguise she pulled off to escape and unbelievably still retaining nectar afterwards. Even at that moment she was effortlessly picking up on hostile threats and veering off course while moving at a slower pace for her companion to keep up.

It’s almost as if… no… that’s impossible. It’s never happened before, but- Oh Chitin rust!

Noticing just in time that the latest direction change went unnoticed by the Foal-Hunter she quickly moved and bit into the clothing to hold the female back, all the while trying to ignore the intriguing blend of flavours in the soiled top. With gentleness she guided the biped backwards who at that moment seemed transfixed on the slumbering hydra they had almost disturbed.

Whew… that was far too close.

After that point she moved far slower and remained more attentive to her companion until the sun began to set reducing the already dark forest into an almost pitch black. Surprisingly the other female didn’t make any sign of complaint and simply dutifully followed as if terrified to make the same mistake twice. While this fact was welcome by Chrysalis she did notice that the biped was almost dead on her feet. Sighing softly Chrysalis looked about until she spotted a small cave nearby that looked suitable.


Peering inside she made sure there would be no unwanted surprises within before trotting over to a large leafed bush and procured a few into her mouth. Moving back towards the cave she paused and indicated with her head for the Foal-Hunter to follow prior to spreading the leaves to create makeshift cushioning. Lying down it only just occurred to Chrysalis how tired she was after the day’s events, yawning while watching the other female enter cautiously before seating herself to the rear of the cave. Noticing how nervous her companion looked Chrysalis moved a little to gaze at the entrance then nodded reassuringly towards the Foal-Hunter to signal it was safe. A small smile was given that surprised the changeling as she felt a blush burn along her muzzle, thankfully missed by the only one who could have seen with her eyes already closed.

She is kind of cute when she smiles and isn’t crying, or sobbing or-

Exhaling Chrysalis lowered her head onto fore hooves after casting a barrier spell on the entrance to protect them as they slumbered.

Yeah, the strange possibly foal snatching creature is cute. You’re tired Chrysalis, go to sleep.

Yet… it was a few hours before Chrysalis fell asleep, quietly observing the filthy and fragile looking female at the rear of the cave wince occasionally within her slumber. Eventually however sleep claimed the changeling as the two slumbered peacefully for the first time in over a week, freedom rightfully earned.


<What do you mean the Feedless are a tool? How could you do this to them?!>

Chrysalis stood defiantly before her queen, the tall changeling royalty not even deeming her daughter the dignity of being looked upon as she responded.

<Exactly as I said Chrysalis… honestly, I would have thought a changeling gifted with my name would be more… quick on the uptake?> The tone was neutral, almost bored as Chrysalis frowned.

<But… you can’t use them that way! They believe in you! They’re your daughters!> Her words were tinged with desperation, there was no way she could go against her mother but she couldn’t just stand by as her sisters were used in such a way.

Queen Chrysalis, her mother turned with a raised brow as she trotted around the room under the guise of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. Yet not even the pink alicorn’s appearance could remove the almost tangible aura of malice that oozed off her form.

<And who are you daughter to think you can tell me what I can and cannot do with my own children?> Queen Chrysalis’s tone held no malice or anger within, the tone instead was curious as if she was honestly surprised any of her daughters would have the gall to question her.

<You… you would sacrifice your own daughters just to get your own wish? That sounds like such a great mother figure…> Chrysalis almost snarled the words out in her typical sarcastic fashion, her mother however deemed not to even pretend to hear the tone lacing the reply as she looked at herself in a mirror.

<Why of course I would, why wouldn’t I?> The way the queen mentioned it was so blasé that it left Chrysalis somewhat dumbfounded on how to reply. With her daughter still remaining lost for words the disguised changeling monarch continued to get ready for her wedding, donning the veil as she admired herself in the mirror. <Now you all have your parts to play and I will hear nothing more of it. Off you go Chrysalis and continue to live up to my name.>

Chrysalis grit her teeth, there was little she could do but she vowed to find some way to save her hatch-mate and the others before they were sacrificed. To hear not only she but all her sisters were just mere pawns to be used cut into her deeply.

<Yes… your highness.> Donning her own disguise as a royal servant, Chrysalis trotted out of the bedroom while her mother had seemed to forgotten she was even talking to someone. While she trotted away she could even have sworn she heard her queen start singing to herself, a long sigh escaping the changeling’s mouth.

Unsure on how to proceed she wandered aimlessly for several minutes, trying to think of a way to warn those about to be sacrificed for their queen’s plans. Yet as she left the castle she found herself bumping into the last pony she ever wished to encounter. One she thought had left Canterlot upon being anonymously warned. The mother she had pretended to be the daughter of up until that point.

The peach furred mare gazed at her with wide eyes before taking a cautious step forward.


Chrysalis had grimaced, now regretting the choice to keep the daughter’s form due to it having access to certain areas. Given her ‘father’ was one of the palace guards and her ‘mother’ was one of the gardeners it had granted her some leeway in assisting her queen in setting up the whole invasion. That is up until just hearing what was going to happen to make it a reality.

“U-Uh…” Chrysalis stumbled over what to say as her disguise’s mother slowly approached.

<My royal subjects, there has been a change of plan. The dome is down, attack!>

Chrysalis found her eyes going wide as the order to attack went out, a drastic change from the plan she had just heard. The mare before her screamed in horror as the sky started to fill with descending changelings, all homing in on victims to drain for their nectar. One in particular spotted the peach earthpony and flew down with saliva glistening on her fangs only to be intercepted by Chrysalis, her body moving before she could even formulate a single thought.

<Ow! Hey! What’s the big idea?> The changeling shook her head from where she had been knocked aside, Chrysalis having dropped her disguise to frown at her sister. Realising who it was the dazed changeling gave a long sound of understanding before taking to the air again. <Ooooh, hey Chrysalis… this was your timer mother wasn’t it? Hey I won’t get in the way of that meal, enjoy it!>

Chrysalis watched her sister fly off in search of another pony to feast upon leaving Chrysalis alone with the mare, Ivy Touch.

“R-Rosebloom… you’re not Rosebloom! Who are you?!” Ivy Touch stepped back, tears building within her eyes as Chrysalis frowned. She was a changeling and she had never been this mare’s real daughter despite the several years they had spent together in such roles. She was one of the best nectar gatherers of the hive and had used ponies numerous times before for her own gains. “Where is my Rosebloom?! What have you done with her?!”

So… why did it hurt so much to hear Ivy Touch say such things to her?

“Your daughter died and I replaced her, the Rosebloom you’ve known for the past few years has been me… a changeling. I’m… sorry.” Chrysalis wasn’t sure why but she felt she had to say the truth, her own emotions in flux after what had happened with the Queen and now with her surrogate mother.

“You’re lying! There is no way such a filthy beast is my daughter! There is no way! Give my Rosebloom back to me you monster!” Chrysalis blinked, stunned as Ivy Touch beat on her with her fore hooves but with no real force behind them. Tears rolled down the mare’s cheeks as she sobbed. Soon her flailing ceased to instead fall down into a foetal position, Ivy Touch’s eyes wide yet unseeing through the tears and terror gripping her. “M-My baby girl… this can’t be happening… this can’t be happening.”

Chrysalis moved one step forward before pausing. She knew she should drain the mare and move on, follow her queen’s commands but something within was telling her different. With a loud tsk she instead buzzed her wings and flew up into the sky to leave the sobbing mare on the ground. Even the addition of a barrier around Ivy Touch to prohibit any other changelings from attacking her failed to ease the changeling’s guilt.

<Quick my daughters, stop the Bearers from reaching the Elements and the day is ours! Their sun princess has fallen and the lunar princess is nowhere to be seen!>

This news from the queen was rather shocking, Princess Celestia had fallen? Something about that felt wrong to Chrysalis, she had seen the Princess many a time under the guise of Rosebloom and it was almost inconceivable a pony holding that much power could be overcome, even by their own queen. Thankful for the distraction however she flew off with most of her other sisters to stop the Bearers.

It was about that point that a giant Queen Chrysalis tore out of the ground, mouth opened wide with guttural laughter filling the air.

<Chrysalis! You disappoint me with your betrayal but no matter. You and your sisters are nothing but worthless pawns… mine to use as I see fit. Know your place!>

Soon two more heads tore out of the ground, the landscape tearing apart as Chrysalis fought to stay aloft in the air on her tiring wings. Both newly formed cream-coloured unicorn’s laughed, one with a moustache and one without as a cage was dropped upon Chrysalis, pinning her as all three gazed down to laugh at her degraded position.

“Ah Flim, such a stupid and worthless changeling we have captured.”

“Yes Flam, she thought herself so smart but look at her now… pathetic.”

Looking about frantically Chrysalis found the cage slowly compressing. With her fate sealed she closed her eyes until opening them at the sound of the metal slowly being bent and reshaped. What she saw surprised her more than anything else so far, the sight of two brown hands gripping the bars and forcing them apart effortlessly. Blinking her eyes she watched as the three heads vanished along with the landscape to be replaced with the Foal-Hunter, the female smiling softly as she reached into the gap to slide her arms around Chrysalis’s neck in a soft embrace.

“I am here for you.”

And with that simple sentence, Chrysalis knew she wasn’t alone anymore. Although she was now clad in an intricate dress and about to have tea with Senior Food-Bowlinton but he was late, which was entirely inappropriate.

That was until the sound of rain finally tugged Chrysalis out of her dream.


Ugh… okay, that was by far one of the strangest dreams I have ever had.

Shaking her head Chrysalis found herself still within the cave along with the added background noise of rain impacting on the ground outside.

Ah… thank you rain. And a dress dream? Really?

Dismissing the events of the dream – which wasn’t even entirely accurate – as it slunk back into the nether Chrysalis yawned widely and observed their surroundings. Thankfully the shape of the cave provided enough cover to stop any rain from seeping in but given the very odd nature of the forest she didn’t feel up to moving around while it was going on.

Gazing out the entrance she observed the water impacting against the leaves and forest floor while small creatures ran for shelter. It was almost peaceful, that is until a loud scream reverberated through the cave making Chrysalis whip her head around for the source. What she saw was the Foal-Hunter breathing quickly as whatever turmoil had affected her within her sleep was slowly forgotten.

Raising a brow Chrysalis was met with another startled reaction from the other female which resulted in a bumped head and sheepish smile given to the confused changeling.

And… yeah, that was cute. I admit it. Oh wait, that rain gives me an idea.

Stretching her limbs she got onto all fours to trot outside. Immediately the cool touch of the rain started to roll over her chitin and with it removing the dirt and filth that had accumulated over the last week in captivity. Noticing she was merely being observed by the Foal-Hunter she decided some persuasion was needed. Moving her head she indicated the other female should join her, the gesture accompanied with a wrinkle of her nose implying the reason why.

By the unamused expression given the Foal-Hunter had picked up on the meaning, a small grumble emitting from her mouth sealing Chrysalis’s suspicions.


Chrysalis watched as the bipedal female also exited to stand in the rain and it wasn’t long until she was smiling. It seemed the rain was invigorating the Foal-Hunter as she moved to wring out her clothing before a short, sharp sneeze was issued. Realising what was needed Chrysalis nosed around under some bushes and trees to obtain wood that had avoided most of the downpour so far. Returning to the cave she set up a fire, her horn providing the spark required.

The Foal-Hunter spoke something, her tone full of gratitude which at least allowed the changeling to get the gist of what was said. A small nod was given before lying down fully to enjoy the warmth playing over her chitin and drying her off. Closing her eyes she enjoyed the moment before falling once more to sleep.


When she woke from her dreamless sleep a new day had dawned and with it an opportunity to continue trying to get back to the others, weather now permitting. Stretching out she felt cricks go along her spine before spying her companion still fast asleep in the rear of the cave. For several moments she quietly watched, eyes roaming over the female’s form and noticing the injured shoulder amongst other things. Questions remained in her head of where had this strange creature come from, it was evident that the ponies had never seen anything like her either.

And she hasn’t eaten in a couple of days now has she?

Concern for the female trickled into her mind as she trotted out of the cave. Reapplying the barrier to make sure it held in her absence she told herself it was purely out of necessity. Without the Foal-Hunter to continue feeding her and perhaps save the hive, she would be in a far worse situation than she currently was. It wasn’t because she cared about the female’s wellbeing or anything.

It wasn’t as if she watched her sleep or anything.

…Oh… Chitin-rust.

Grumbling under her breath Chrysalis made her way into the forest, looking around for anything edible while keeping ears perked. She was certain that they were no longer being pursued but it never hurt to be too careful, especially after her lapse in concentration had got her into this mess in the first place. Eventually she spied a small collection of apple trees, her magic easily snagging two before making her way back.

Along the way it gave her time to think as she mused over her new companion and everything she knew about her. For one the Foal-Hunter cried a lot that was a given, but she also seemed to hold compassion for Chrysalis. A small smile crossed over her muzzle as she remembered the warmth that had flowed into her, how it had felt and tasted. Shaking herself out of the reverie she knew she couldn’t refer to the creature as the Foal-Hunter, everything about that title was wrong.

She’s skittish, easily frightened, cries a lot and is physically weak. It would be more apt to call her Foal-Prey than Foal-Hunter.

Frowning as she trotted along she found a conundrum now facing her. Changelings as a whole did not do well with names; they were up to the Queen to give them out and it was a great honour to receive such a gift. Now she was being forced to think of something to term the Foal-Hunter, purely as the name was given by the brothers and she couldn’t stomach referring to the creature as anything those two sadistic idiots came up with.

Uh… Let’s see. How do those ponies do it, a distinguishing trait? Er… she has legs? Leggy?

A deadpan expression fell over Chrysalis’s face as she exhaled.

Yes… Leggy, creative work there Chrysalis.

Thinking hard she entered the cave going over everything she had seen and knew about the other female. Moving past the now extinguished fire she gently placed the two apples upon the skirted lap of her companion before moving back to sit, still contemplating over a name. It wasn’t long for the Foal-Hunter to waken, a loud growl rumbling from the lithe belly hidden under the clothing she wore. The creature’s eyes went wide as she spied the two apples, her gaze looking from the fruit to Chrysalis who gave a small nod indicating they were hers to eat.

Immediately the female biped started crying, yet she was smiling.

Did… I do something wrong?

Chrysalis felt alarm fill her before she noted that an apple was picked up and bitten into, alleviating her fears as sounds of enjoyment were emitted from her companion.

Ah… she cries when happy too. Fantastic.

Even so, Chrysalis found herself smiling. It was, in some strange way actually cute watching her consume the apple with gusto before realising how she had been eating. A blush came to her cheeks, possibly of embarrassment to which Chrysalis couldn’t help herself but laugh at the scene. A polite offering of the second apple was declined twice by the changeling as she nosed it back towards the Foal-Hunter.

But she’s kind. I’ve never had anyone outside of my hatch-mate treat me this way.

Watching briefly she turned and made her way out of the cave, hearing the other female follow as she was struck hard by inspiration.

She cries, she is kind, she is easily scared, timid but she is able to feed me outside of a disguise. Like the legends, the myths…

She recalled her hatch-mate and how she always wistfully went on about the legends of changelings not having to steal emotions but having them given freely. About a whole race of ancient changelings who lived amongst the pony race thousands of years ago only to vanish mysteriously; The Flutterponies.

Personally Chrysalis had never given the legends much thought, always discarding them as simply some form of wishful thinking. Yet…

“Legend…” Chrysalis mumbled softly under her breath before realising that she had spoken out loud. Thankfully the Foal-Hunter or as she was now named, Legend was too preoccupied in her own world and apple to overhear Chrysalis’s gaff.

Legend… it’s perfect.

Feeling rather proud of herself having named another creature, if only for her own benefit, Chrysalis trotted ahead with her detection spell active, leading them both through the forest. They travelled in silence outside the odd giggle or sigh from Legend, the inability to communicate verbally becoming somewhat of an issue in that endeavour. Eventually however Chrysalis found a trail, one that was obviously used by the ponies due to the tracks within.

Well that’s something, but we can’t linger on a trail and be seen.

Deciding to instead cross and follow from the other side she made to step out only to flick her ears at a most unusual sound. A high pitched wailing cut through the forest while small hooves impacted upon the earth. Chrysalis however was not interested in the definite sounds of a foal running; she was far more pre-occupied with whatever was following it. It was impossible to place, so many conflicting noises but whatever it was it was large… larger than even a manticore.

The answer was soon brought to light as the sight of a small light purple filly came running down the trail from deeper in the forest and right behind was something Chrysalis had heard of, but never had the displeasure of meeting.

A chimera. The beast was clearly obsessed with eating the small morsel keeping just outside of its three jaws, the lion head and ram head being pushed aside by that of the dragon as it made attempt after attempt to snap up the young pony. The creature was massive and bulging with muscle under its fur and scales and it was Chrysalis’s assessment that only a complete idiot would interfere with the meal.

“Please! S-Someone help!”

Chrysalis flicked an ear at the filly’s call for help but knew there was little she could do. It was sad, but ultimately it was the food chain and such a thing had to be respected to some degree. Turning to enter back into the forest she felt the cold sensation of doubt gnaw into her as she heard the desperate screams push into her ears.

“M-My baby girl… this can’t be happening… this can’t be happening.”

A frown knitted over the changeling’s brow as the memory was pulled from the depths of her mind. That filly would be some pony’s daughter…

Why did I have to remember that of all things?

With reluctance she paused, about to turn and do something to assist when she discovered she had not been followed. Legend had remained out on the path, whether frozen by fear or possibly actually the Foal-Hunter and was sizing up a potential meal. Before Chrysalis could react however Legend moved. Her companion moved with purpose she had not seen since encountering her initially, Legend pushing her legs to scoop up the filly and leapt with all her might to throw herself onto the other side of the path. Incredibly it worked and the dragon head which would have eaten the filly instead dined on the hoof-trodden dirt instead.

Yes… this was well thought out.

She saw Legend had not escaped unscathed; her injured shoulder had impacted against a tree and caused a rather nasty injury if the blood was anything to go by. Chrysalis found herself gritting her teeth as she saw Legend was in no state to get away, either dazed by impact or immobilized by pain.

Well I did say one would have to be a complete idiot to fight this thing…

Just as the chimera had located where its snack had gone and was preparing to pounce Chrysalis focused magic into her horn and directed it into the goat head. Staggering under the assault the beast snarled only to receive two hind legs kicking directly into the lion head.

Okay… I have its attention. Be nice if I had some form of a plan after this.

She turned while the chimera was distracted to gesture with her head for Legend to run away with the filly. It was clearly evident that if they both remained they would just get in the way of Chrysalis or worse, eaten. To her great surprise Legend shook her head firmly, clearly reluctant to leave Chrysalis’s side. The changeling felt touched by that but knew there was no place for such sentiments at that moment. Glaring she pointed with a fore hoof as the beast started to stir before lashing with a hind leg to dissuade the dragon head from its attempt to eat her rump.

Thankfully the message was finally received and Legend took off with the filly, running towards the distance where Chrysalis detected multiple ponies, possibly the filly’s village. If she remembered correctly there was a small town nearby but for now that wasn’t her concern. This was due to the giant three headed and rather miffed monster was on the top of her ‘to-do’ list. Buzzing her wings she turned and ran in the opposite direction at a gallop, thankful to hear the beast giving chase.

Oh good choice Chrysalis, send Legend off into village full of ponies and run around this freaky forest with your new playmate.

Moving with speed she ducked and weaved between trees only to hear them get torn asunder as the much larger chimera didn’t bother with finesse. She knew she had to at least lead the beast as far away from Legend in case it decided they were an easier meal so flying away was out of the question. Frowning she looked about while leaping over a fallen log before swerving to the side to avoid another lunge attempt. There was simply no way she could fight the chimera and come out on top even with her regained, if not improved state of being. For one she simply didn’t have as many heads.

Wait… that’s it. An incredibly stupid and ill thought out plan!

Channelling magic to her horn she flared up her detection spell hoping that there was more than one of what she sought in the forest. Using her wings she avoided two more bites before bouncing off the lion head to gain precious altitude, finally catching a glimpse of what she desired over the tree line. A feral grin spread along her muzzle as she pushed her body faster, heading towards a large swampy clearing wherein a hydra slumbered that dwarfed the chimera in size tenfold.

Okay, this plan is simply too insane not to work.

Running towards the hydra she let the no longer needed detection spell collapse and twisted the residual magic into something a little more volatile. With a swing of her head as she ran past she blasted the ruptured spell against the hydra’s left-most head causing a disgruntled snarl to escape all its mouths. With a buzz of her wings she took flight, running up the long neck before pushing off. All would have been perfect with the manoeuvre had the hydra not raised one head to see what was going on. Chrysalis felt the side horn scrap against her hind leg cutting a groove into the chitin as she hissed in pain.

Pushing past the injury she flew high into the sky just as the chimera realised just exactly what had occurred. Skidding to a halt it gave a sheepish grin with three heads as the hydra snorted and lowered all four of its own. A bellowing roar filled the clearing as Chrysalis flew down into the forest to hide from sight, wincing as she felt pain lance up her injured hind quarters.

Well… honestly that should not have worked at all.

Catching her breath she slowly limped through the trees taking a small amount of satisfaction listening to the hydra attack the chimera obviously unaware that the beast was an innocent party in its awakening. Taking to the air she flew instead of further aggravating her injury as it slowly healed; now a little more prudent with her nectar after all she had been through. The path back was easy to follow with the destruction the chimera had left allowing her to fly with haste back to where Legend and the filly had been.

Where did they go?

Worry gnawed within as she flew low over the path only to hear a commotion outside the tree line ahead. Slipping into the forest’s canopy she peered out only to see Legend passed out on the ground while the filly was nuzzling under a grey coloured pegasus mare’s wing. Every fibre of her being almost demanded she leap out and save Legend from the ponies but something made her pause. Eyes narrowing she saw a doctor being guided towards the unconscious biped, urgency in all the ponies’ voices.

Her nectar reserves were low which in truth was no surprise after all the magic and energy she had been burning in the last day. Then there was the draining sensation which having been presented with fresh nectar had become even more ravenous, consuming her stores at a rate that was alarming. That left her with a choice, she could go in and rescue Legend right now but she would not be able to heal her injury and thus would be unable to get away. Or alternatively she could heal her injury but that would not leave her with the capacity to fight off so many ponies and also take Legend with her.

Damned if I do, damned if I don’t…

Closing her eyes Chrysalis took several deep calming breaths considering what she should do. The result was that with great reluctance she decided Legend would most likely be receiving medical attention if nothing else. It went against everything she desired, everything she believed but she found herself unable to think of any other option. Taking a deep breath she waited as they restrained Legend when she woke. The biped was clearly terrified of being captured again before they sedated her, the action making Chrysalis look aside out of guilt mixed with anger.

Mostly directed at her own failings.

I’m sorry Legend, but they should help you.

Green fire erupted around her form as a disguise was applied using a small amount of nectar, one she knew well with alterations. She couldn’t use Rosebloom again in case she was spotted but she could use one similar. Her mane was now longer, black much like Legend’s and her fur was similar to her companion’s skin colour. It was overall small changes but for now it would have to do. Steeling herself she slowly limped out of the forest once the ponies left, wincing with each step taken.

Having spotted at least one of the Bearers nearby when Legend was taken she required extra caution in how she approached this. Yet one thought surprised her as she hobbled along, especially with the amount of anger it ignited with the mere idea of it happening.

Because if they harm you, not even their princesses will be able to save them from me.

Chapter three: Innocence

View Online

Dinky Doo was a big enough girl to admit she just may have made a poor decision to enter the Everfree Forest.

In fairness, it had seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea at the time. Now? Now she was struggling to stay ahead of a nightmarish creature, yet, despite this she steadfastly refused to drop the flower clasped firmly within her mouth. Even in spite of her hooves thundering on the dirt track as she struggled to breathe around her prize, she continue to hold firm. The temptation to drop it and fill her lungs with oxygen was like a siren’s call to her, but she couldn’t. She wouldn’t.

It was, after all, the very reason she was in this spooky forest in the first place.


It had all started when her mother had accidentally caused a mishap while assisting some pegasi with the weather. Dinky knew it wasn’t her mom’s fault, everyone knew she was just a little clumsy sometimes, but Derpy always meant well. Her mother had then tried to hide from Dinky how she was feeling after the event but it was clear to both Dinky and her big sister that Derpy was upset. Thus the filly made up her mind that she would do something to cheer her mother up; all in all it was a simple desire and conclusion to come to.

Now, however, there was a significant roadblock towards progress and the desired goal. Such as, just what exactly could Dinky get to make her mom smile?

It was this that had spawned the query being voiced towards her big sister while she stayed at Amethyst Star’s house, an everyday occurrence until Derpy finished her shift.

“Sis, what flowers does mom like?” The question posed towards the pink unicorn had caught her off guard. With a tilt of her head, Amethyst in turn offered her little sister a warm smile while in the midst of folding the laundry.

“Oh, mom loves lots of flowers Dinky… why do you ask?” Amethyst moved the folded towels onto the couch with her pink magical aura before turning to give Dinky her undivided attention. “Are you thinking of cheering her up?”

An enthusiastic nod caused an amused giggle to emit from the grown mare while she moved to sit beside her younger sister.

“Mom was really sad yesterday so I want to get something to make her smile.” Dinky gazed up with yellow eyes while her big sister hummed thoughtfully. Amethyst had moved out of home a few years ago and into her own place, but she still looked after Dinky every day after school while their mother finished up work. It was something the young filly enjoyed immensely, the simply pleasure of being able to spend quality time with her sister.

“That’s sweet of you and I am sure mom will appreciate it.” After a little more thought Amethyst gave a small sound of realisation, “Ah! I just remembered the name of her favourite flower.”

Dinky was beside herself with excitement as she almost bounced upon her hooves. Seeing the unanswered question her big sister smiled, and at the same time, ceased any sense of suspense that would be obtained by hiding the information from the overly-excited filly. Even Dinky could see that it had been a close decision.

“Gold-tipped Sapphire Roses.” Amethyst recounted from memory, a small nod following as the name sounded accurate. Dinky gasped and made to run outside only to find her limbs not making contact with the floor, quite possibly due to the fact she was being levitated within her sister’s aura. “Easy little sis, do you even know where you’re going to get them?”

Being settled back onto her hooves resulted in a small pout playing over Dinky’s face at the realisation she had absolutely no idea. With a giggle behind a fore hoof Amethyst lifted a small cream bag from off the dining room table to bring over to her sister. With the strings loosened, two bits were removed from the purse and gently levitated before the filly’s face.

“If you head down to the market, I believe that Daisy got a fresh supply in.” Amethyst’s words were almost not heard by the exuberant Dinky, yet a nod of understanding was given as the filly gently took the bits into her own golden aura.

“Thank you big sis!” Dinky wasted no time in galloping for the door before pausing, a look of guilt flashing over her face, “but I haven’t finished helping you with your chores yet…”

“I’ll be fine Dinky! Off you go, but come straight back okay?”

Dinky gave a firm nod to her sister before she turned and once more darted outside, Amethyst’s amused laughter following her out all the way.


Trotting slowly away from the market Dinky’s mood was struggling with the substantial blow brought against it mere moments ago. It turned out that Daisy’s supply wasn’t due until tomorrow as there had been a delay, all due to the train bringing them all the way from Vanhoover hitting a snag, or so the mare had said.

It’s not fair… now what will I get mom?

Moving slowly through the village she mulled, she pondered, and she thought on every possible solution to her problem. The option was still available of another gift, but Dinky had her young heart set upon that particular flower; after all Amethyst had said it was her mother’s favourite and that was all she needed to know. Then there was also the problem that she had decided the gift simply must be given today; tomorrow was far too long to wait when her family was concerned.

But… whe-

Dinky’s thoughts were cut off immediately upon noticing just exactly where she had almost passed by. The large tree stood slightly out of place when compared to the other buildings of Ponyville but it was exactly what Dinky needed; and that thing was the town library, or more precisely the librarian within: Twilight Sparkle.

Twilight will know! She must do, she has all those books and she’s really, really smart!

Moving with renewed vigour Dinky trotted over to the door with hope flaring within her chest. About to use her magic to knock she realised her meagre skills were all tied up on holding onto the two coins, as such, she opted to instead use a hoof. Twice knocking, but no more; her mother had taught her proper manners after all.

“Just a second!”

Dinky sat herself upon recognising the voice of Twilight’s assistant, Spike. Seconds later the door was opened revealing the purple and green scaled young dragon who gave a rather surprised reaction to seeing Dinky seated before him. Recovering quickly he looked about almost as if expecting the filly’s mother or big sister to be accompanying her. Upon realising she was on her lonesome he addressed the young unicorn. “Oh, hi Dinky. What can I do for you?”

“Hi Spike!” A pause was given before Dinky tried to peek past him to see inside before returning her attention to the dragon before her. “Is Twilight in? I need to ask her a question, if… if that’s okay?”

Spike seemed to consider Dinky before rubbing the spines upon the back of his head, an apologetic expression passing over his features.

“Eeeh… sorry Dinky, but Twilight is out with the girls. Something to do with Fluttershy’s place and a chimera or some such.” A dismissive hand gesture accompanied his words before noticing the little filly’s sudden downcast look. “Hey, but maybe I can help?”

“Oh! You work in the library too Spike!” Dinky’s mood instantly rose as she perked both ears. “Can you help me find a flower?”

Spike blinked at the request before rubbing under his small snout. His eyes glanced to the side of the path beside Dinky, the filly following his gaze to see a few daffodils sprouting. Almost as if considering something the dragon seemed to change his mind and instead shrugged. “I… uh, well I guess I can. I mean, how hard can it be? Come inside and let’s see what we can do.”

“Yay! Thank you Spike!” Dinky voiced her gratitude before trotting inside with the door gently being closed behind her. “It’s… It’s a… Gold-tipped… Diamond Rose?”

Spike looked back at her before humming and padding over to a particular shelf.

“Do you mean Gold-tipped Sapphire Rose?” He waited for clarification while gazing back, one claw resting on the spine of a thick book. Dinky thought about it for a moment before giving a firm nod of her head.

“Yes! Do you know something about it?” Dinky trotted over while Spike huffed in the midst of tugging the large item down off the shelf. Staggering slightly he balanced the book over his head before gently placing it down, then – with only a momentary pause – started flicking through the pages before settling on one.

“Funnily enough, yeah. I remember seeing it in this book while Twilight was studying different plants for Zecora the other day. Rarity came in and I kind of lost track of-… ah-hah here it is!” With a claw tap he pointed to a picture displaying a particular flower. “It says here it can only be grown in certain areas such as near Vanhoover in the Galloping Gorge, although it does also seem to naturally grow in the Everfree. I wonder who the poor sap is who had to find that out?”

A pause was given before Spike emitted an impressed sounding whistle.

“Wow, would you look at that. Seems to attract-.” Whatever Spike was saying became lost within Dinky’s ears as she found herself now fixated upon one issue.

The Everfree. But mom said to never go there…

Dinky became aware abruptly of the dragon looking at her curiously, almost as if listening in on her inner thoughts.

“Soooo… why are you after this flower anyhow?” Spike’s asked innocently enough, arms folded over his chest. Dinky in response found herself wilting slightly under the dragon’s gaze despite being roughly the same size, nonetheless she still scuffed a hoof shyly while being scrutinised.

“O-Oh… um, well it’s mom’s favourite flower and I wanted to buy one for her to cheer her up… but Daisy is out of them.” Her voice took on a sombre tone which caused Spike’s expression to soften. Walking up to the filly he gave her a reassuring pat on the back before returning the book onto the shelf, albeit with some difficulty.

“Hey, I’m sure Daisy will have more soon.” Spike paused before he looked back at Dinky curiously, his eyes glancing back into the kitchen for a moment. “So, uh is there anything else I can help you with?”

A headshake met his question before Dinky turned for the exit.

“N-No thank you Spike, but thank you for the help you gave.” Dinky made sure to remember her manners before trotting to the door just as Spike walked past to open it for her.

“Hey don’t worry about it Dinky. I hope those flowers come in soon for you.” A smile was added to Spike’s words while Dinky trotted outside. With a wave of her forehoof she turned to continue her journey back to her sister’s place once more lost within her own thoughts.

Well… that didn’t give me the answer, all I know is that they’re hard to grow or they’re in-

Biting her lower lip Dinky found herself mulling over the other location, an absurd but tempting idea beginning to take shape. She had always been told it was both dangerous and that under no uncertain circumstances were she to ever set hoof in there. But… But she would be in and out quick and from what the book said the flower was common so it should be easy to find, in theory. With those thoughts in mind Dinky was soon trotting in the direction of the Everfree, purpose filling her young chest. She would get the flower for her mom and surprise her when she finished work; and, if she timed it right, would be back before her sister suspected anything was amiss.

Besides, Sweetie Belle and her friends have gone in there a few times and they’re okay.

With a broad smile now upon her muzzle at the well-thought-out plan, Dinky cantered past the last few houses on the way to Fluttershy’s home. Taking a detour lest she be discovered, as supposedly that was where Twilight and the others were, she instead slipped down a small side trail before coming to the edge of the dark and foreboding vegetation marking the beginning of the Everfree Forest.

Okay Dinky, this is for mom so gotta be brave!

Taking a deep breath the filly took one tentative hoof step into the shadows provided by the ominous and bleakly oppressive forest. Exhaling at the realisation she wasn’t going to be randomly gobbled up the second she entered Dinky slowly inched her way in, casting one last look back to see if she had been spotted. She was well aware she was breaking the rules with each additional step further in, but the desire to provide something for her mother outweighed the possible repercussions that could follow.

All the same, the forest canopy filled the sky and if not for the light provided by the two bits levitated before her horn, she would have difficulties seeing the muzzle before her face. Unfortunately, the very light that helped her see also had the unfortunate side effect of providing shadows, shadows and silhouettes that preyed upon her young mind. Tendrils seemed to creep over the path trying to snare her in their grasp while glimpses of demonic wings teased the corners of her eyes.

Just shadows… Just shadows...

Twice she had cowered in the bushes thinking she had seen a dragon, or even the bogeymare waiting to eat her; only steadfast determination moved her young legs forward both times, steeling her resolve. That didn’t mean Dinky was not having second thoughts about the whole affair, she would have liked nothing more than to run out of the forest and back to her sister but…

But, she had already come so far!

I can’t even see the entrance anymore!

The thought both thrilled and terrified the filly as she chewed upon her lower lip. Thrilled of course that she had been so brave and gotten so far, terrified for the obvious implication that she could no longer see the way out. Despite all this she pressed on, she had invested too much of her courage by this point that giving up now would feel wasteful, defeatist.

Plus, she was no scaredy-pony!

“I will find those flowers for mom.” Her voice was meant to sound wilful, brave, and confident like the heroes she read about in her books. The forest in reply – or at the very least its inhabitants – didn’t sound remarkably impressed by the bravado, as her declaration was met with a cacophony of various bird sounds, hisses, growls and something far more guttural and primal far in the distance.

Okay… I’m a scaredy-pony!

Swallowing loudly she crept nervously along the path, eyes darting left and right for any threat that may appear, or… or any of the very real monsters that possibly desired to eat her. Eventually however she came across something else entirely, a dim glow emitting through a gap in the trees. Curiosity got the best of the filly as she slinked off the path to peek through the foliage. What she saw caused her eyes to go wide and her heart to skip a beat.

The flowers!

In a clearing where the sun was allowed to pierce the oppressive tree line, sat an impressively large, and remarkably flat-topped rock. Yet the true objects of interest were the scatterings of a particular flower that ringed around the edges, each emitting a golden aura from their sapphire-petal-ringed flower heads. Cautiously Dinky crept out of her hiding place, inching forward along the tall grass as she made her way towards the desired prize.

Now, were she more observant she might have noted the claw marks along the edge of the rock. Then, if she was even more aware of her surroundings she would have noticed that the ambient sounds had ceased to be several seconds ago. However, focused solely upon her objective as she was, Dinky remained unaware of all these facts as she got close enough to inspect a flower. Much to her delight they were even more beautiful than the page images had dared to portray. Almost reverently she used her magic to pluck one from the ground, then, with a small smile of admiration, she moved it to join the two bits that remained in her magical grasp.

“Yay! Mom is going to be so happy!” Dinky eagerly anticipated seeing her mother’s reaction as she turned to leave came instead to a dead halt hearing something approach. That something was undeniably large, possibly monstrous, and sounding positively nightmarish to the filly which led to her immediately hiding within the grass. Three heads soon pulled through the thick vegetation lining the small clearing, all linking back to a shared bestial body that looked to be a conglomeration of three different species. With gigantic lion paws working in tandem with goat hind legs the equally scaled and furred beast made its way towards the lump of granite.

One of the three heads – the dragon to be precise – seemed agitated about something whereas the lion and the goat were yawning as if anticipating rest. Dinky for her part was petrified, wriggling and pushing her small body down against the rock to try and hide within the flowers. Heart pounding, breath stuck in her throat, all Dinky could do was suppress a whimper while severe trembling took hold of her form.

Please don’t eat me, please don’t eat me!

Quivering Dinky hid her head under forelegs while listening to the chimera approach. With a few growls there was the sound of fur and scales scraping against something behind her, most likely signifying a large mass sliding onto the rock to act as a makeshift bed. Silence passed while Dinky was too terrified to even move a muscle, her chest aching while she resisted even the need to breathe in case it brought attention to her hiding location.

I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I promise to never do something like this again! Mommy, big sis, help me!

Tears started to build within the filly’s eyes as nightmare scenarios of her being gobbled up or worse played through her young mind. It wasn’t until a warm breeze played over her ears that she hazarded peeking upwards, a muted squeal becoming caught in her throat immediately after. For as she looked up staring back at her and looking not in the least bit amused was the draconic head of the chimera. Immediately upon noticing the plucked flower a low growl begun as its eyes narrowed, Dinky in response curling tighter into herself.

“S-Sorry…” Eyes darting left and right Dinky timidly took the two bits she had carried all the way and sat them gently down on the grass before her. “I-I can pay for them?”

The response of a loud roar that woke up the two other heads was not the one Dinky was hoping for.


Deciding on a course of action she bit down on the stem of the flower and turned, transitioning to running as fast as her little legs could take her. Thankfully this proved to be just in time, the dragon’s maw snapping on thin air where once she had stood. With tears starting to impair her vision, the filly ran faster than she ever had in her entire life. Nimbly ducking through the treeline of the clearing, Dinky found herself back on the dirt path yet this posed a new problem. Momentarily disoriented on which way led to the exit and which did not, the answer soon became decided for her when the chimera ripped through the trees emitting a horrific sound of two outraged noises becoming one.

Just run!

Thankfully her body had begun moving her legs while her brain caught up, already galloping down the path as if her life depended on it… which, at that point it very well did. The beast snarled and chased, either angry for the flower being plucked, or simply because it wished to eat her Dinky didn’t know, and she didn’t at that point really care. All she knew was that she had to get away from the scary monster and that was precisely what she was trying to do.

This, ultimately, all led back to where the filly was wholeheartedly regretting the decision that had led her into the Everfree in the first place.

Please don’t eat meeeeeee!

She dared not risk looking behind her as she kept running, young heart thumping madly within her chest as she felt the impact of each hoof on the dirt. Swivelling her ears slightly she gave a whimper of fear at hearing the beast remaining far closer than she preferred. Without thinking she dropped the flower from her mouth, only partially mindful of her hind hoof stomping it into the dirt as she sought help; hoping beyond hope that Zecora or even the princesses would hear her and come to the rescue.


The desperate plea echoed through the trees but failed to bring salvation from above, preferably in the form of her mother but at this point she would have taken Discord and been just as grateful.

“Please! S-Someone help!”

She could now hear the beast’s heads snapping behind her as the distance was closed, each head trying to devour her in one big filly-consuming gulp. She knew she couldn’t run much faster as exhaustion nipped at her hooves, sapping her strength with each hoof-fall. That didn’t stop her; she pushed her body as hard as she could until she caught sight of something, or someone ahead. For a brief second her heart flared with hope she would be saved only to suddenly falter at what she saw.

A creature unlike any she had ever seen before stood on two legs before her on the edge of the path. The creature, presumably female – by the nature of the skirt Dinky’s mind dimly considered – wore filthy and torn-looking clothing along with one arm in a sling or sorts. And while those were all interesting features in and of themselves, and at any other time the filly might have given in to curiosity, being chased by a giant chimera desiring to consume her alleviated a majority of her inquisitive foal-like nature. Unfortunately what the new creature had managed to achieve was cause Dinky to slow down when she slightly misstepped upon having initially sighted it.

It wasn’t much; in fact it might have only cost her half a second all things considered. But, already barely ahead of the beast as it was this disruption that allowed the gap to close just enough the next strike would be within range. And… and, there was precious little she could do about it.

Mommy! Please save me!

The desperate plea from the equally desperate filly was the last thing she managed to think coherently before approaching near the strange biped. Dinky had no way of knowing what would happen, but even her young terrified mind knew the new creature was on first glance a substantially lesser threat than the one currently trying to eat her. Fear tore through her, stuck between one creature and another Dinky didn’t know what to do, so she simply ran as tears flowed from her cheeks. All she could do was beg for her mother or big sister to save her while feeling the bitter unfairness of it all ebb into her thoughts.

She had just wanted to make her mom smile.

That’s all.

Then, as she approached the other monster her world was abruptly and unexpectedly jerked to the side and began tumbling, shaking, and rolling before a loud scream tore through the air; and, most bizarrely, it was not Dinky’s own. Just like that, as soon as the chase had started it now ceased, Dinky finding herself breathing rapidly at what she now bore witness to. Before her stood the chimera, presently munching on and enjoying its meal which led to the conclusion she was presently being consumed.

But… then how am I…?

Her brain was struggling to understand just what had happened before she became aware of something against her back. Two mounds, warm and soft were pushing and retreating against her fur while she watched her own death play out before her. But… that didn’t really make much sense when she thought about it. Her vision blurred with tears, partially from the crippling fear but primarily from the relief as she came to the realisation she wasn’t dead. There was also the fact someone was holding her tight and she could hear muted groans of pain from what, or whoever her rescuer was. She had been saved, but the problem was she had no idea by whom.

I… I…

Dinky’s brain was continuing to have difficulty trying to comprehend just what was going on after her near death experience. That was not even taking into account the terror that had gripped her for the entirety of her ordeal still messing with her perceptions.

Of course, just as she was beginning to relax Dinky realised she wasn’t quite as saved as she first believed.

This isn’t fair!

She could make out the sight of the chimera, now finally aware of where its lunch had gone was beginning to snarl in anger. Yet, at the same time, she felt herself being moved, getting lifted further away from the ground as another soft feminine grunt came from above her. Tilting her head upwards Dinky saw the face of the strange biped wincing in clear pain, struggling to stand steady with one eye half closed. Dinky didn’t even need to see a wound to know the creature was hurt, she could smell the obvious, yet nasty scent of blood mixed in with the other… aromas coming from her saviour.

S-She saved me?

With three pairs of malicious eyes all attached to one beast now staring in Dinky’s direction, she felt the raw screaming terror clasp tighter at her chest. With breathing rate increased she also felt herself start to fall again into panic, the chimera’s bloodcurdling roar only intensifying the young filly’s fear.

Yet… just as the beast was about to pounce a green conflagration erupted against the side of the goat’s head, a bleat of pain issuing before the chimera turned its attention to the assailant. Dinky however found herself unable to see who had diverted the beast’s attention as the biped which held her turned to look down the path. Despite this, she could still hear the chimera’s roars of pain through her stupor, mind still struggling and reeling with what she had just gone through. Nothing was making any sense. Between the tears blurring her vision to the pounding of her heart dominating her hearing, the small filly was completely lost to what was occurring.

A-Am I safe?

The question slowly filtered into Dinky’s mind as she became acutely aware the creature holding her was running, that, and the distinct lack of heavy impacts that would imply they were being chased. As her senses slowly returned, Dinky felt the fear lessen its reign over her once more allowing rationality to catch up and take stock of her situation. Facts included that the sounds of the chimera were retreating further into the distance, she was being carried by the strange bipedal dirty-looking creature, and last but most importantly, she was hopefully being taken back to her family.

Yet… the creature was obviously slowing and it was evident that she had been injured, quite possibly badly, when helping Dinky escape. Gazing down the filly saw that the creature’s pace was faltering, clearly due to the pain of its injuries and yet it continued to carry her. The prickling of fear into her psyche was fuelled by the cruel idea that maybe she was being taken away as prey, but this was dispelled as light was seen down the path and getting closer with each step.

S-She’s hurt and she saved me and I’m thinking she could be mean and that’s not fair to her and…

Stirring within the arm Dinky moved enough to look upwards and caught the gaze of the female – or what she thought was such – carrying her. There was little Dinky could do, she found her voice had failed her so instead she smiled to show her gratitude. The biped blinked with a look of shock on her tired face before looking ahead with determination.

She really is saving me.

With that epiphany the floodgates opened. Dinky felt tears roll down her cheeks as she sniffled, the need to cry too overwhelming. She was safe, she would see her mom and sister and friends again and…


She’s… she’s really really hurt!

Concern pushed her tears aside as they exited the forest, the creature in the process having stumbled and almost fallen. Dinky felt herself being held tighter and in some way she knew it was to protect her lest the biped actually fall. How she knew this she had no idea, but at that moment she was certain that the creature was helping her, would protect her. It felt almost like being around her sister… but the reason why eluded the filly.

“A-Are you okay?” Dinky timidly put the question upwards only to have the biped bite her lower lip and wince, a muffled sound escaping from the tall creature. She could see that her saviour was struggling, she could feel the chest to her back struggle for breath and the smell of blood was strong, too strong for the filly’s nose. Yet the creature uttered something that Dinky couldn’t understand just as the filly caught sight of a house in the distance.

Fluttershy’s cottage!

Dinky’s relief and jubilation was immediately smothered by a cry of horror as the creature staggered again. This time however there was no recovering. She felt herself being held tighter to the biped as they both fell, her eyes closing to avoid seeing the ground which looked like it undoubtedly hurt at the rate it approached. Instead, she felt herself be moved followed by a loud piercing scream painfully filling her ears. Opening her eyes Dinky was released upon her hooves, turning to see the creature who had saved her, who had carried her through the forest with a terrible injury upon its side where it had fallen to protect her; again.

“Are… are you okay? Please be okay!” Dinky said while nervously shifting her weight upon hooves. She saw the blood starting to form around the grass; she saw the creature had fallen upon her injured side to protect her… she saw the creature start to close its eyes. “N-No no no!”

“Help! Somepony please help!” Dinky cried out desperately while taking several steps forward, looking for anyone who may help her. She was undoubtedly still scared but, at that moment, her own problems paled in comparison to that of her rescuer’s. Indecision was causing a conflict, unsure whether to run and get assistance or remain nearby in case something happened.

Be brave!

Taking a deep breath Dinky looked back at the biped before biting her lower lip, her mind soon made up on a course of action. Running as fast as she could, the filly threw caution to the wind to get to Fluttershy’s home as fast as she possibly could. Dashing up the path she beat her hooves on the door, manners forgotten in her time of need.

Fluttershy is good with animals, please be home. Please be home!

“Miss Fluttershy! I need your help!” Several seconds passed and only silence was her answer. Considering whether to knock again, Dinky was caught off guard by a familiar voice accompanied by several sets of hooves.

“Dinky! There you are!” Amethyst paused to catch her breath while Dinky turned and galloped to her big sister. With a rub of her muzzle affectionately under the older unicorn’s chin, she was rewarded with a similar gesture in return before Amethyst took on a stern tone. “Where have you been? I was worried sick!”

Dinky wilted at her sister’s words, ears flattening before she noticed Amethyst wasn’t alone. Two other ponies were looking relieved, one in particular giving a long exhale before reaching up with a hoof to adjust the Stetson hat she wore.

“Well ain’t that a relief.” Applejack shared a grin with the tall red stallion beside her. The large pony in turn moved a stalk of grass slowly from one side of his mouth to the other before giving his heartfelt thoughts on the issue.


“Spike said you were asking about the flower. He also mentioned you heard it grew in the Everfree and was a little concerned.” Amethyst paused before exhaling loudly, nuzzling her little sister again for good measure. “But you know better than to go in there, thankfully.”

Several seconds passed as Dinky fidgeted slightly, her lack of response causing a wary expression to filter upon the older unicorn’s face. Looking up sheepishly, Dinky was met with a disapproving gaze from Amethyst that made the small filly wilt even further.

“I-I’m sorry! I wanted to get mom the flowers so bad so I snuck in and I went into the forest and it was really scary but I found them in the end and then a chimera found me and I got chased an-“ Dinky’s attempt to explain everything within two seconds and one breath were cut short as a realisation caught up with her. “She’s hurt and needs help!”

A look of bafflement slowly came across the other three ponies before a loud scream interrupted any questions that might have been put forward.

“Help! It’s the Foal-Hunter!”

The female scream continued until a pink mare with blonde mane went past in a blur of motion, the sound trailing after into the distance. Dinky could only feel terror fill her at the noise. Not for herself, but for the wounded saviour that had assisted her.

“Now what in tarnation has Lily so spooked this time?” Applejack said with a perplexed look upon her face. Dinky however knew the direction that the mare had run from, she knew what was currently helpless in that direction.

“P-Please she needs help and she’s hurt bad!” Dinky repeated herself while leading the way, Amethyst trailing behind. All the while her big sister’s questions were ignored as nightmare scenarios played out within the filly’s head.

I shouldn’t have left her alone! What if the Foal-Hunter gets her?!

Ignoring her own exhaustion, Dinky led the others back to where the biped had collapsed. Much to her shock however the creature was no longer alone, several ponies now gathered about looking anxious around its prone body. Most were trembling, two in particular were holding each other while one – for reasons Dinky couldn’t fathom – looked about ready to poke the biped with a stick.

It was this group of ponies, upon sighting Applejack and Big Mac approach, turned to them for guidance. Then, much to Dinky’s confusion, they all started speaking at once.

“Applejack, you’ve got to do something!”

“Big Mac, save me from this beast!”

“It’s the Foal-Hunter! What’s it doing in Ponyville?!”

“It’s come to eat our foals!”

“I hear it breathes fire!”

“I hear it can fly!”

“I hear it has a poisonous bite!”

“We’re doomed! DOOOOOOMED!”

Dinky, upon hearing all this couldn’t help but feel anxiety continue to surge within. If the monster could do all those things then the one who rescued her was in even more danger than she thought. However, for some perplexing reason, when she tried to approach the unconscious creature she found herself restrained by her big sister’s magic.

“Dinky! What do you think you’re doing?” Amethyst’s words only served to confuse Dinky further. To the filly it was obvious what she was trying to do. She had to help get the creature to safety before the Foal-Hunter came and hurt her more. Ignoring the conversations going on behind her she gazed up at her sister, her expression matching the confusion warring within.

“She saved me!” A small hoof stomp was given before she tried to wriggle free from the magic keeping her in place. “A-And if the Foal-Hunter is here I need to get her to safety! She’s hurt! Please big sis!”

It was then that Dinky became very aware silence had fallen over the gathering, eyes now looking at her curiously. One of the mares, Starlight, who had been panicking just previous took a cautious step away from the biped to bend down, meeting Dinky’s gaze with her own.

“S-Sweetie… That IS the Foal-Hunter.”

The words refused to make sense in Dinky’s mind. No matter how she looked at it nothing about them seemed to add up. Why were they saying that the creature that saved her was a monster, a monster which breathed fire and ate foals?

B-But… she saved me… and she hurt herself to do so.

Dinky didn’t even realise the magic restraining her had been released as she struggled with the new information. It had been up until that point a simple equation in her head. The creature saved her from the chimera, the creature got hurt, the creature needed to be made better and then thanked. Now with the added implication that the very creature that saved her was something that spooked all the adults, well, that muddied the waters immensely.


The loud cry from above barely gave the owner of the name time to glance up before she was swept into two grey-furred forelegs. Having found herself held protectively and warmly, Dinky gazed up to see tear filled eyes gazing down at her. Well, one was gazing at her, the other was looking slightly elsewhere, but regardless it filled the filly with relief as she snuggled closer.

“Mom!” In her mother’s embrace Dinky was utterly safe and nothing could harm her. That, that was the one truth she always knew and could take solace in.

“Well, shoot. We can’t just let the critter lie there and bleed.” Applejack’s voice brought Dinky back to the present as she blinked, wriggling within Derpy’s embrace to try and see what was going on. Her mother was reluctant to let her go while Applejack attempted to initiate some form of order.

“But it’s the Foal-Hunter; we can’t let it loose in Ponyville!” The owner of the voice was impossible for Dinky to place, but she could see several nods assenting as if the simple sentence proved everything. Everyone seemed to give the body distance, wary at any moment the biped may leap up and attack them.

“Well I sure as sure ain’t gonna let it just lay here in that state and y’all should be ashamed of yourselves for think’n it. Don’t y’all remember about Zecora an’ the fuss that caused?” Applejack frowned before turning her attention at Derpy as the only pegasus nearby. To Dinky it looked like the farm pony was going to ask her mother something before thinking better of it and instead gazing at Amethyst instead.

“Amethyst, I need ya to go get a doctor from town pronto.” Applejack snorted softly from her nostrils as Dinky noted the other gathered ponies barely holding themselves together. “I can’t ask any of the others to do it, and Big Mac and I need to stay here in case anythin’ happens.”

Amethyst looked uneasy as she gazed at Dinky and her mother before looking back at the downed creature.

“But… if it is the Foal-Hunter, what sh-“ Her question was cut off by as Applejack stomped a hoof softly onto the ground.

“Look, I promise me an’ Big Mac here will keep everypony safe. But yer the only one hold’n it together that I can ask.” The mare’s words finally pushed Amethyst into action as the unicorn nodded to her family and then took off at a gallop, vaguely following Lily’s fading scream in the distance.

“I was so worried when I heard you might have gone into the Everfree.” Dinky blinked upwards as her mother spoke, pulled away from the other conversation. Her ears flicked once in a vain attempt to listen in before flattening as guilt slammed into her again. “You know it’s dangerous!”

“I-I was trying to… I was going to-“ Before the filly could formulate an answer – not that anything was forthcoming to alleviate how bad she felt for disobeying her mother and sister – Derpy moved to slide Dinky upon her back prior to spreading her wings.

“Shh, it’s okay. I didn’t mean to yell I was just so worried.” A tilt of Derpy’s neck allowed her muzzle to gently rub against Dinky’s own before the pegasus continued, “let’s go home and you can tell me all about it.”

The idea was tempting. To be safe, happy and warm back with her family. But…

“M-Mom, I really think th-…” Dinky begun only to be cut off as her mother gave a warm reassuring smile.

“It’s okay… Mommy is here now and I won’t let anything happen to you.” Derpy’s words which would normally soothe Dinky only worked towards annoying the filly further. Casting a glance at the assembled adults around the body, Dinky could feel the frustration blossom within. The feeling was only amplified when Big Mac gave a nod and gently nudged the creature onto its side with a hoof, Applejack wrinkling her nose at the sight of the injury as she examined it.

They’re not listening… they’re going to hurt her!

“Moooom! I really thi-…”

Once again Dinky was cut off as Derpy started to trot away, taking her further from the injured and unconscious biped.

“You’ve been so brave sweetie, but Applejack and the others can handle it no-…” As Dinky saw her mother about to flap her wings she felt something inside her snap. What came next surprised everyone, no-one more so than her own mother.


Blinking the tears from her eyes, Dinky slipped off her stunned mother’s back to slam her front hooves onto the ground. The action was meant to symbolise her anger but all it managed to do was look cute. Regardless, her earlier shout had gotten the undivided attention of the others and that’s all she wanted.

“You’re hurting her! She helped me and no-one believes me!” Dinky shrugged off Derpy’s attempt to tug her in with a wing, instead galloping over to the downed biped. Sounds of alarm filled her ears before Dinky rested small hooves onto the uninjured shoulder, a loud sniffle following the action. “Leave her alone! She’s not mean! She… she helped me… she saved me.”

Tears rolled down Dinky’s cheeks as she slipped off to rest all four hooves on the grass, feeling the enormity of the words she was about to speak, of having to admit the guilt she felt.

“S-She saved me… and she’s hurt bad… a-and it’s… It’s all my fault!”

Slowly soft feathers slipped around her, but this time Dinky allowed herself to be embraced. Resting close to her mother’s side she sobbed gently, the events of the day catching up to her in a landslide of emotion. Burying her face into her mother’s fur she heard the soft soothing voice slip into her ears while she wailed.

I caused this!

Several long seconds passed before a voice cut through the din, the sound causing Dinky to sniff twice before looking past the feathers at the source of the voice.

“Now Dinky, we all ain’t disbelieving what you said.” A soft smile was given by Applejack as Dinky rubbed at her eyes to clear the tears.

“R-Really? You believe me?” Dinky’s voice was hesitant as she caught sight of Applejack scrunch her nose up for the barest of seconds before a larger smile crossed over the mare’s muzzle.

“Well shucks, you seem to be pretty darn earnest about the whole thing.” Adjusting her hat the earth pony gazed over at the downed Foal-Hunter before exhaling. “But we can’t do much until the doctor arrives. I aint never seen anythin’ like this here critter before.”

“Dooomed! Dooooooomed I tells ya!”

Applejack pushed a hoof to her muzzle before turning, “and can y’all jus’ keep it ta’gether at least until the doctor arrives?”

“Dinky… we really should get home.” Derpy’s voice pulled the filly’s attention away from the pandemonium growing before her to instead look up. Gazing back down the concerned visage of her mother filled her vision. “It isn’t safe here.”

Dinky however, was having none of it. Her head shook in a determined manner before standing steadfast.

“No! I am not leaving until I get to thank her for what she did!” Despite the outward bravado Dinky was quivering on the inside. She had never so firmly gone against her mother’s wishes before.

But… at the same time I’m not! I’m so confused…

“Heh, well can’t fault yer determination there Dinky but you an’ your mom best keep your distance anyhow.” Applejack gazed at Big Mac who gave a small chuckle, a nod showing his agreement with his sister’s comment. “Now where’d you learn such manners from anyhow?”

Dinky blinked before she felt her cheeks burn. Shyly pushing against her mother’s wing, the filly scuffed a front hoof bashfully.

“I… I learnt them from my mom; she always said to thank ponies when they did something nice.” Gazing over at the biped, Dinky chewed upon her lower lip. “W-Will she be okay?”

Unbeknownst to her, Derpy was blinking as tears built in her eyes. The wing embracing her slipped in closer while the mare digested what she had just heard from her daughter. Applejack meanwhile clucked her tongue before gazing back at the unconscious form lying on the grass. Thankfully by this point the others had calmed down enough. Now, the question of was it due to what had been said or the fact one stallion was currently wriggling on the ground hogtied and a rope about his muzzle, Dinky couldn’t say.

“Well, I ain’t a doctor and Fluttershy is out with the others or I’d get her to help…” Applejack sighed while Big Mac returned to gently rest a hoof upon the Foal-Hunter’s chest, pinning her to the ground. Dinky pulled forward, her mouth open to about protesting when the mare continued. “Big Mac is jus’ holding her down for her an’ our safety.”

A pause was given as Dinky reluctantly nodded, but she didn’t like it one bit. Seeing this was the clearly the displayed on the filly’s face, Applejack sighed and gazed at her brother who cleared his throat.

“Don’t want her harming no-pony.” A pause was given as Big Mac shared a small nod with his sister. “An’ don’t want her harming herself more none either.”

I-I guess that makes sense.

Dinky gave another reluctant nod as her mother gently nuzzled against her cheek. Blinking in surprise she gazed up and returned the gesture before a soft sigh left Derpy’s mouth.

“When did you get so grown up?” The words confused Dinky before she gave a small smile in response to the wary one directed down from her mother. “But… But at the first sign of trouble, we are leaving, okay?”

Dinky could only nod yet again. She continued to feel bad for disobeying her mom and sister and then yelling of all things, but… But she couldn’t just leave; she had to make sure the Foal-Hunter, if that was indeed what it was, was okay. It still confused her why something that everyone said ate foals would help her, would take her back towards Ponyville. That small fact alone was all Dinky needed to steel her resolve that the creature was nice, plus she had been protected by it twice no less; that last part was also somewhat important.

However any further conversation and discussion was cut short as a voice called out.

“There it is!”

Dinky looked over to see her big sister leading Doctor Carehoof and Nurse Redheart over towards them, the latter carrying a large white box via handle in her mouth. The filly also noted both Applejack and Big Mac deferred to the two new arrivals instantly, the doctor trotting closer as his horn lit up.

“Big Mac, can you please step aside?” Big Mac gazed at his sister before the two shared a silent nod, his hoof lifting off the Foal-Hunter’s chest prior to him moving back. Both he and Applejack remained close by while Nurse Redheart put down her container, flipping it open with her nose to show various odds and ends. The syringe in particular made Dinky nervously lean further into her mother.

By Celestia, she hated needles.

“I see multiple bruises, lacerations but what concerns me most of all is that shoulder injury.” A soft tsk escaped Carehoof as he levitated the Foal-Hunter up slightly before becoming satisfied and lowering her down. “However, I see no bite or claw wounds. Why was I told about a chimera?”

Amethyst, who had returned to stand beside Derpy and Dinky looked about ready to explain herself, well, when she was done regaining her breath.

“It… It was chasing me.” Dinky admitted, her ears folding down as she felt the guilt build again that it was her fault everything had happened. Doctor Carehoof however looked slightly perplexed before frowning at the biped with new suspicion.

“This creature did?”

“No!” Dinky shook her head before swallowing, tears threatening to spill from her eyes at everyone thinking the worst of the biped. “She saved me from it!”

The doctor looked ready to ask another question before Dinky clenched her eyes shut. She had to say everything; she had to get it all off her chest and into the open!

“I-I took a flower for mom in the Everfree Forest and the chimera didn’t like that. So… So it chased me and I was really scared and it wanted to eat me.” The wing tugged Dinky closer as she continued, the Doctor looking ready to interrupt but she wasn’t finished. “T-Then all of a sudden I saw her and she saved me from the chimera and used fire or something to distract it then… then she got really hurt and carried me to safety.”

A pause was given as Dinky sniffled.

“T-Then she collapsed here and I went to get help. Please help her, she didn’t do anything bad!”

Now everyone knows I did something really horrible…

Amazingly she felt herself be nuzzled softly by both her sister and mother, confused why they weren’t angry she instead raised herself up to return the love shown to her.

“Intriguing, it outran a chimera? Exhaustion would possibly have led to the collapse then along with the injury taking its toll.” Doctor Carehoof seemed to be mumbling under his breath before he gazed at the nurse. “First, we need to address that wound.”

Dinky watched as a roll of bandages was offered and gripped within the doctor’s bronze aura, quickly used to bind the nasty shoulder injury.

“Doc, do ya really think this ‘ere critter could actually be the Foal-Hunter?” Applejack’s voice was trying to be quiet but Dinky heard anyhow, her ears perking as she watched the Doctor spare a glance at the mare.

“Truth be told Miss Applejack, I have no idea what I am doing here. I have never seen a creature like this in my life, but I will do the best I can.” Brows furrowed as the stallion tightened the linen prior to emitting a long sigh. “And, quite frankly asking me based off what I have seen in the past several seconds, I in no way can give you an accurate answer. Once we get back to the hospital we’ll be able to take an in-depth look but for now? In its current state? Unless it is hiding some incredible magic potential from us I have no doubt a foal would clearly be the victor were it to try anything.”

Dinky could almost feel her mother and sister relax at his words, but she herself felt no relief while watching the doctor examine and fuss over the bandage he had applied. Whatever he did however seemed to cause a reaction from the Foal-Hunter as she winced and mumbled something incoherently. Instantly the assembled ponies went onto edge, a few mares quivered while the previously outspoken stallion tried to wriggle away on the ground. Failing that he opted to instead roll rather awkwardly away from the group and towards the village.

“Big Macintosh, if you could, please?”

“Eeyup.” Big Mac obliged, moving a forehoof back onto the creature’s chest as the doctor talked to the nurse. Procuring a syringe – which Dinky kept a cautious eye on in case it came anywhere near her – Doctor Carehoof slowly approached the biped.

“I need to administer an anaesthetic for when we transport it back to the hospital.” A furrow played over the unicorn’s face as he checked the dosage. “Given her size I am approximating the level given to be around that of a Diamond Dog, but…”

A gaze was given to those assembled before he observed over the Foal-Hunter once more.

“But, I have no real idea if it is a suitable amount or not. So I need it to be restrained in case it wakes or causes a negative reaction. Starlight, Applejack, Amethyst Star, could you all please help Big Macintosh in restraining her. Starlight, I need you to hold down the right shoulder. Applejack and Amethyst, can you take care of the legs?”

“Gotcha Doc.” Applejack immediately pressed down on one leg, Amethyst reluctantly trotting forward slightly to use her magic and restrain the other. Starlight moved far more hesitantly and pressed on the right shoulder, her eyes quivering with barely withheld terror.

“Now, I don’t see any horns, sharp claws, or stinger on her.” A nod to the ponies was given as Doctor Carehoof approached, lowering the syringe near the left arm. “I would recommend staying away from her muzzle though, in case she bites.”

“What?!” Starlight pulled off the shoulder immediately, eyes gazing down at the Foal-Hunter’s face as if it were the visage of Nightmare Moon herself.

“Starlight, please, it is merely a precaution tha-…” The doctor never got to finish what he said as all of a sudden the creature uttered something. Whatever it was caused the collected ponies – Dinky included – to gasp in shock. Starlight immediately pushed her hooves gently upon the right shoulder, but not before making her views known.

“I don’t want to die!”

“Miss Starlight, please! You’re perfectly fine, she can’t move!” Indeed, even as the doctor spoke Dinky could see his aura moving over the Foal-Hunter’s wrists and ankles holding them to the grass.

I-I hope she’s okay…

Then, without warning, the biped’s eyes opened and she tried to sit up. Another word was uttered, Dinky unable to understand the context, and from that point things escalated rapidly.

“Everypony don’t panic! She can’t move!” Doctor Carehoof attempted to calm down the ponies; Amethyst and Starlight in particular, as the others gathered around were too far gone by that point for words alone to assist. Dinky, strangely enough, was impressed that one of the mares had managed to climb a tree in the scant few seconds she hadn’t been paying attention.

By this point the Foal-Hunter was struggling openly, gritting her teeth and grunting as she fought against those holding her down. Dinky felt her insides turn to ice as she saw how frightened her saviour looked, how she fought against being restrained.

“You’re scaring her!” Dinky couldn’t hold back as she shouted but a wing quickly held her back from interfering, Derpy not wishing to allow her daughter to be in any danger. “Stop hurting her!”

Ignoring Dinky, or simply unable to hear her over the commotion as at that point the Foal-Hunter was screaming, Doctor Carehoof pushed the needle into the creature’s skin. Immediately the biped thrashed harder, blood starting to well up under the freshly applied bandage on her left shoulder.

“Please stop struggling! You’re only making your injuries worse!”

The doctor’s attempts were for naught as the Foal-Hunter moved her head to spy the syringe entering her skin, crying out in a fearful tone of voice even if the words themselves were gibberish. Undeterred, the unicorn continued to empty the contents and was finally rewarded with the creature slowing and finally ceasing its movements.

All the while Dinky shifted nervously on her hooves, desperate to go out and stop what they were doing. She knew they said they were holding her down to stop her injuring herself further, but it was so hard! It was even worse when the Foal-Hunter rolled her head to the side and gazed right at her before renewing her struggling.

S-She looks so scared!

“That’s it, just a little longer.” True to Carehoof’s word, soon the thrashing stopped as the anaesthetic did its job. Much to Dinky’s surprise though, everyone assembled had a look of bitterness on their faces as silence fell over the plains. “Looks like it worked.”

No… they look… guilty?

Dinky struggled to understand what she was seeing as Applejack tugged her hat over her eyes, refusing to look down at the biped as she trotted back. Amethyst, removing her own magical binds moved back over to Derpy shortly after, rubbing her muzzle against the pegasus’s own.

Is… Is sis… crying?

“Sis?” Dinky trotted slightly forward only to meet her sister’s muzzle as Amethyst gave a small smile, shaking her head.

“I’m okay Dinky… don’t worry.” Despite her sister’s words, Dinky frowned a little unconvinced. It was when the doctor asked Big Mac to carry the Foal-Hunter while applying fresh bandages to the shoulder that she saw why.

Tears glistened down the biped’s cheeks, catching the light as she was carefully levitated up onto the large stallion’s back.

S-She was crying?

Dinky felt horrible at that realisation but she didn’t have long to dwell on it as she noticed that Big Mac, Applejack, Doctor Carehoof and Nurse Redheart were all trotting towards Ponyville. Taking a step forward she felt her mother’s wing tug her back, but this time she would not be dissuaded. Much to her mother and sister’s surprise she trotted forward after only to feel herself be suddenly pulled back.

“No!” Derpy and Amethyst both blinked at Dinky’s outburst as the filly slammed both hooves on the ground, straining to pull herself forward. “She was sad and scared and that’s not right!”

“Sweetie… I…” Derpy struggled over the words before Dinky felt herself being released from the grip and instead slipped onto her mother’s back.


“Mom… I don’t think you’re going to convince sis otherwise.” Amethyst’s tired voice caused Dinky to stare at her sister, the unicorn smiling slightly as she nuzzled affectionately. “She’s made up her mind and I think she’ll be okay.”

“But… I…” Derpy paused before looking over her shoulder. With a small uncertain smile given by Dinky, the mare exhaled and closed her eyes. “Okay…”

Okay? Okay!

“Thank you mom!” With an exuberant cry from the filly they were soon following behind on the way to the hospital.


Dinky felt her jaw almost crack at the yawn that fought to be released. So far all the excitement of the day had passed and now the waiting begun. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but now all she could do was wait, and wait and then wait some more. She had to admit though, the rhythmic beeping from the device on the small table was beginning to grow very irritating.

Stupid beepy thing.

After arriving at the hospital there had been a lot of talking between the adults and the doctor, most of which Dinky didn’t really pay much attention to. Whatever the outcome of the conversation was, it then led to Applejack excusing herself to go see Twilight Sparkle for some reason while Big Mac headed back to the farm. Not long afterwards her own big sis had headed off which left Dinky and her mom.

Doctor Carehoof initially had tried to convince Dinky to go home and while her mother was all for it she herself steadfastly refused. Derpy had tried to apologize but it had been dismissed with good grace, Dinky getting permission to remain. The Foal-Hunter – which she still found hard to believe was its name – had been taken into a room and cleaned, then treated. Eventually the doctor and a few nurses had left allowing Dinky access while her mom stood outside the door, vigilant and peeking inside periodically.

And now… waiting.

Dinky rested on the floor while fighting back another yawn. So far she had been waiting for at least two hours, possibly three before she stopped asking her mom how long it had been. Twice Nurse Redheart had checked in, and she had even seen Twilight visit briefly before wandering off with the biped’s clothing for… Well, she didn’t really know exactly why Twilight had done that but there had to be a good reason.

Dinky had even been asked a few questions from the mare, primarily about the initial appearance of the Foal-Hunter, the fire that distracted the chimera and how the biped had then carried her to safety. The last part had been met with Twilight looking thoughtful, which, come to think of it had led to when the clothing had been taken.

I wonder why?

Dinky yawned again finding it hard to stay focused on a particular train of thought. Looking up at the bed she saw that the creature had yet to awaken, just like the last ninety two times she had checked.

Not that she was counting.

I hope she is okay…

Resting her chin upon folded forelegs, Dinky felt her eyes close after taking another brief glimpse upwards bringing the total to ninety three. Under the sheets she knew that the Foal-Hunter’s hands were restrained while her ‘feet’ as the doctor had called them, were similarly tied down. Slowly but surely the filly felt her eyelids droop until she wriggled to get a little more comfortable. The temptation to nap was strong, especially after the day she had. But just as she was surrendering to the option a sound came from the bed.


The quietly spoken voice – despite not understanding a single thing said – sounded nervous, scared, and desperate even to Dinky’s ears. Sitting upright the filly rubbed her eyes with a foreleg to banish the tiredness away pondering on just what exactly she had heard. It was then, as she looked up, that she saw two green eyes gazing down over the edge of the bed and the bit dropped.

She’s awake!

“A-Are you okay?” Dinky felt a mix of nervousness and excitement, the two emotions battling within her stomach. Suddenly recalling that she was to alert the nurse when the Foal-Hunter awoke she gave a little startled cry. Cantering quickly to the doorway she found her mother with a surprised expression awaiting her. Nurse Redheart sat nearby, the two probably talking until Dinky had interrupted them.

“She’s awake! She’s awake!” Barely able to contain herself, Dinky bounced upon her hooves while the two adults shared a look. Anxiousness passed over Derpy’s face as she peered into the room with Dinky before looking at the nurse.

“I guess that’s my cue to go in.” Nurse Redheart took a deep breath before releasing the oxygen. Shifting onto all fours the mare gave a warm smile at both Dinky and her mother before trotting inside. Dinky, watching from the doorway observed the nurse make a few steps inside before the Foal-Hunter screamed something out, the mare momentarily pausing. Struggling accompanied the bizarre language while Redheart gathered her courage.

“P-Please calm down miss. I… I just want to check to see if the healing magic is holding.” At the nurse’s words Dinky observed the Foal-Hunter struggle with renewed vigour against her binds. Thankfully this only lasted a few seconds before she relaxed and lay still, staring at the ceiling shortly after. Taking the opportunity presented, Nurse Redheart cautiously approached the side of the bed. Alarmingly a soft sniffle caught Dinky’s ears as the biped rolled her head to meet the nurse’s gaze. The filly couldn’t be sure from where she stood, but she could see and hear the nurse’s reaction.

“Shhh, it’s okay. I won’t harm you I promise.” Raising a foreleg the nurse was met with the Foal-Hunter flinching. Seeming to rethink her approach Redheart instead moved her head forward and bit the sheet, tugging it slowly back to reveal the body underneath. Checking the bandages the nurse seemed satisfied, tugging the blanket back up to cover.

“See? You’re okay… your wounds are healing but we will need to look at the shoulder some.” A pause was given by the mare before the biped looked at the ceiling again, seemingly ignoring her. “And… And… You can’t understand me can you?”

Watching this Dinky came to a decision. The creature looked so sad, so miserable in the bed that there was only one thing she could do. As Redheart and her mother talked, presumably about the revelation that the Foal-Hunter couldn’t understand them, Dinky put her plan into motion. Creeping carefully across the floor the filly made her way to the left side of the bed while listening in what was being discussed.

“So… How… How is the, you know?”

“The healing seems to have worked better than expected, although the shoulder still worries me.”

“Um… Do… Do you think what the others were saying is true? That… That she eats foals?”

“I… had my doubts initially but… But seeing her like this, I can’t really imagine her doing something like that. That’s not even getting into the fact I can’t see how she would, biologically wise.”

“Well… Dinky seems adamant that she saved her and-… Wait, where is…?”

Gazing upwards Dinky noted that the bed was higher than she was used to, but, but she was determined and nothing would stop her now! Of course it was at that point her mother finally noticed she was missing, which to be honest was far longer than Dinky suspected it would have been.

“Dinky?! Dinky where are y-…” A pause was given as Derpy finally noticed where her daughter had strayed to. “Dinky! Get away from there!”

Hunkering down Dinky pushed off with her hind legs and managed to scramble up onto the bed with a little difficulty. The Foal-Hunter seemed to also note her presence, rolling her head to look directly at the filly, the green eyes shimmering with nervousness which steeled Dinky’s resolve.

You can do this!

Creeping forward she tried to ignore the sounds of her mother reacting, although the Foal-Hunter seemed to be distracted by this turning her attention skywards before eyes went wide with fright. Biting her lower lip Dinky closed the distance, leaning forward hesitantly all the while. She had to thank the creature for saving her, but also she saw that the Foal-Hunter was sad and there was one thing that always made herself feel better when she was down.

It was with that thought in mind that Dinky brushed her small muzzle against the creature’s cheek, nuzzling her softly. Soon the head rolled back to look at her directly, Dinky feeling suddenly very foolish and nervous she may not had done the right thing. Nonetheless she offered a small smile, hoping beyond hope that it at least had helped cheer up the biped.

Seconds ticked over, no-body moved until in an unexpected move – but not unwelcome – a soft giggle escaped the creature’s mouth. Soon the giggles turned into a hiccup before continuing as the laughter grew. Emboldened by this, Dinky leaned forward and nuzzled more, enjoying the sound and happy that she was able to cheer up her saviour and in doing so, also thank her.

Yay it worked!

Bouncing upon her hooves at the smile given towards her, Dinky returned one of her own. With more words that the filly failed to understand – displaying such with an ear flick and tilt of her head – she watched as the Foal-Hunter smiled warmly. The filly couldn’t understand what was said, but the tone was soft, kind and as such it was all she needed to know.

“Thank you very much for saving me. I’m… I’m sorry you got hurt doing so.” Dinky beamed afterwards, happy to have finally gotten to say thank you to the one who had saved her in her time of need.

“I believe you have the answer to your question earlier Derpy.” Dinky blinked as she looked over at Nurse Redheart speaking to her mother, Derpy having landed and gazing in their direction. Dinky could see the relieved smile slide over her mom’s muzzle just prior to a clearing throat catching their attention.

Doctor Carehoof stood in the doorway and looked about ready to say something, but whatever that was he never got the chance. Almost immediately upon noticing him the Foal-Hunter froze, her eyes going wide as she released a tiny whimper, one fully saturated in fear. Dinky blinked in shock as she saw the creature who, seconds ago, had been smiling now looking terrified as she tried to free herself.

“Everypony get back, I’ll need to sedate the patient again.” The doctor had already procured another syringe from his coat pocket when he was interrupted from proceeding, amazingly from none other than Nurse Redheart herself.

“Doctor! You need to leave, now!”

The Doctor hesitated right up until the Foal-Hunter gave a fear-filled shout and resumed struggling against her restraints. Dinky became lost, confused and scared at what was going on. Readying the syringe, Doctor Carehoof gave a loud tsk.

“Nurse, we’ll discuss your conduct later but for now I need Miss Derpy and her daughter out of the room immediately.”

Why is she… is she scared of him? No! I-I can’t leave her to be scared! Not after she smiled!

“It’s okay; I won’t let him hurt you. You’re safe…” Dinky blinked as she noticed the nurse’s words calmed down the Foal-Hunter. Well, calmed her down so she wasn’t thrashing about at least, it did nothing to cease the terrified look given in the unicorn’s direction. Seeing that the doctor was about to take a step forward, the filly was most surprised when Nurse Redheart glared in the stallion’s direction.

“Drop that syringe right this instant! Can’t you see you’re the reason she is acting this way?! She’s terrified of you!”

The words almost seemed to physically strike the doctor as the syringe fell onto the floor. Evidently though, that was not enough for him to escape more of the nurse’s wrath.

“She was perfectly calm before you entered! Do you really think stabbing her with another needle will help still that fear?!” Now looking aghast at what his actions might have wrought, Doctor Carehoof looked at the creature before taking a cautious step backwards. Yet again the nurse spoke soothingly to the biped, settling her further.

What is?

Confusion warred over Dinky’s face as she watched the nurse lift the blankets back, her head lowering to tug at the straps.

“Wait… Nurse what are you do-“

The doctor was cut off with a withering glare as Redheart raised her head from where she was currently loosening one of the straps. All the while the Foal-Hunter sat silent, confused as if moving might disrupt whatever was about to occur.

“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m freeing a scared and confused patient from restraints that are detrimental to the healing process.”

With those words the strap was removed shortly after, then, moving around the bed, the nurse removed the other three while Dinky watched. Finally when the last was removed the Foal-Hunter moved, but not in a way anyone seemed to suspect except the nurse herself. Tugging her knees against her chest, the creature held them there with her good arm, shivering all the while.

S-She is scared. I was right; she’s not bad at all.

Leaning upwards Dinky rubbed her muzzle against the creature’s fingers then bumped her head reassuringly against the soft skinned lower arm. The texture felt odd, but not unpleasant with the absence of any fur or noticeable amounts of hair.

“There, is that better? You’re a patient, not an animal to be restrained.” Nurse Redheart smiled with her words before leaning up to follow Dinky’s example and gently brushed her own muzzle to the creature’s side. The Foal-Hunter in reply sniffled once, twice, and then gave a sorrowful wail as tears rolled down her cheeks. Feeling powerless, Dinky just stayed close unsure and unable to help stop the biped from crying. All she could do was rest closer to her side and peek upwards, listening to Nurse Redheart speak soothingly and try to calm her down.

W-Why is she so sad?

After a brief pause the nurse stepped back before rearing up on her hind legs, moving her fore hooves gently around the Foal-Hunter’s neck. The creature looked surprised before moving her right arm around to return the embrace, the sobbing ceasing as Dinky found herself smiling once again.

“All you need is a little kindness, don’t you? A little filly reminded me of this.” The Foal-Hunter spoke something in reply but again the language barrier prohibited understanding. What was able to be understood was the gratitude within the words. When the biped looked down, Dinky gazed back upwards and felt her heart soar seeing the warm smile given in her direction, one returned in kind.


Dinky felt her attention be tugged aside as she saw her mother slowly approach. Derpy looked slightly nervous before leaning over the sheets to gently nuzzle at Dinky, the filly smiling and returning the gesture. Soon after her mother sighed, a tired smile directed at her daughter.

“See mom, I told you she was nice and saved me.” Dinky didn’t want to gloat and regretted the words as soon as she spoke them. Thankfully her mom didn’t find fault with it and instead gave a minute nod. Bouncing upon the sheets, Dinky couldn’t contain her excitement as she stood on hind legs to raise her front two high in the air. “And… And she is getting healed and is going to be okay!”

“Derpy, if I may be so bold…” Nurse Redheart interjected from the other side of the bed, all the while the Foal-Hunter watched with curiosity as the three conversed. “You wished to know if this creature, no, this female patient was a threat?”

A pause was given before Redheart spared a glance upwards with a smile before redirecting her attention to the pegasus.

“Do you have the answer now?”

A long sigh escaped Dinky’s mom’s mouth after giving another nod, conceding to Nurse Redheart’s views. Then, much to Dinky’s delight, her mother offered a smile up towards the Foal-Hunter too.


Before Dinky could revel in the fact they were all friends now, a soft cough reminded her that the doctor was still in the room. Despite the fact he had scared her saviour Dinky couldn’t help but feel bad at how chagrined the stallion looked.

“I… I apologize for my actions earlier.” Doctor Carehoof rubbed at his mane with a hoof before settling on all fours again. “This has been a trying day and… No, no… I cannot give into excuses. I handled the situation poorly and caused a patient undue stress due to my actions.”

“I… I think we all did wrong.” Derpy gently spoke while looking ashamed earning another nuzzle from Dinky to make her mother smile again. “At least… to begin with.”

“Doctor, I think we still need to replace her sling, if you would do the honours?” Nurse Redheart offered a smile, any animosity between the medical ponies seemingly forgotten as Doctor Carehoof gave a small grin.

“Yes… and thank you Nurse Redheart, thank you for talking some sense into me.” With the apologies out of the way the unicorn had his pocket glow with his magical aura, in the process removing a folded piece of linen. Immediately the magic faulted causing the cloth to flutter onto the floor when the female creature reacted with fear again, all the ponies sharing their concern. Dinky, thinking quickly moved to nuzzle her hand which thankfully alleviated some of the terror, another incomprehensible word or two spoken with gratitude.

“It’s… not you she’s scared of I think Doctor.” Nurse Redheart looked upwards at the Foal-Hunter, one ear going askew. “Well, not you directly. I think she’s terrified of your magic or maybe even unicorns in general. She didn’t even react this way earlier when Derpy panicked. But… then why not the same reaction with Dinky there?”

S-She’s scared of unicorns? But why isn’t she scared of me?

Unsure on how to proceed, it seemed they had reached an impasse until the Foal-Hunter raised an eyebrow, an inquisitive expression if ever there was one. Redheart, upon seeing this, tilted her head back at the doctor and gave a reassuring smile. Slowly, carefully, the stallion once more lifted the cloth all the while watching for any negative reaction. When the Foal-Hunter started to panic, it was Dinky’s mother who calmed her down much to the filly’s delight.

“It’s okay, we’re here for you.” Leaning upwards Derpy accompanied her words with a soft nuzzle to the creature’s arm, Dinky and Redheart also giving smiles upwards. Seemingly reassured the biped relaxed enough for her arm to be gently encompassed within the doctor’s bronze magic, lifting it up as the cloth was manoeuvred into place. With a small knot tied above the right shoulder the sling was put into place, secure and keeping her left arm supported.

With a nod the doctor turned, slowly trotting out before pausing in the doorway.

“I’ll go finish up my notes, but Nurse Redheart, I would appreciate it if you remained as her personal nurse. I’ll take over your other patients for the time being, but she trusts you and frankly, I can see why. But for now I suggest we let her get some rest.”

With that Doctor Carehoof left, Redheart’s smile following him out before she shared a glance with Derpy. An unspoken agreement was reached before Dinky felt herself being gently nudged with a wing, tilting her head to see her mother smiling.

“Come on Sweetie, I think we should let her get some rest as the doctor said. Besides, you’ve had a busy day and it’s past your bedtime.”

I guess mom is right.

Reluctantly Dinky slipped off the sheets finding herself suppressing another yawn now that all the excitement had died down. As Nurse Redheart trotted over to the curtains, Dinky and her mother smiled back at the confused looking Foal-Hunter. With that the filly followed her mother out with warmth flowing within her heart. Even with all the twists, terror, and excitement the day had taken, Dinky had managed to make a new friend from it all.

And that was something that was always wonderful to have happen.


Cuddled up on the bed, Dinky couldn’t help but feel a yawn escape her mouth as she wriggled closer under her mother’s wing. Upon getting home they had eaten a quick meal and gone straight to bed. Everything was once again normal except for the fact that Dinky was sleeping in her mom’s bed, currently curled under a wing. It was almost an unspoken arrangement but the filly didn’t mind, she loved being under her mom’s wing where it was warm, but most importantly, safe.

“Can we visit tomorrow mom?” The innocent question was put forward as she wriggled to get closer. The cross eyed gaze given down past feathers along with the smile was the expression Dinky adored, a nod quickly following.

“Of course dear. She did save my daughter after all.” A pause followed before Derpy laid her head down, peering at her daughter lovingly. “I am proud of you; did you learn how to act that way in school?”

Dinky yawned widely before pawing at the sheets, rubbing her head tiredly against her mother’s side.


The answer seemed to confuse the pegasus as she gently nuzzled at Dinky’s mane affectionately, the filly further explaining as sleep started to claim her.

“I just did what you always told me to do. To thank everypony who is nice to me and…” Another long yawn escaped the filly before she snuggled in closer. “And… to show everypony a little… a little… kindness.”

Dinky would never see the smile given towards her, or how proud her mother looked at that very moment for the filly was already asleep. With the moon high in the sky, Derpy remembered what her daughter had said earlier about wishing to make her smile. With the thought fresh in her mind, the pegasus nuzzled gently at Dinky’s mane and watched over her slumbering filly.

“Silly filly… you and your sister are the ones who make me smile.” Curling up around her daughter, protective and keeping her secure, Derpy closed her own eyes. “You both always did, and you both always will.”


Earlier within the day, in Canterlot, high within one of the castle spires something that would alter Equestria was unfolding. Within a certain room, one that very few had the privilege to look within outside certain palace staff currently resided two of the most powerful ponies in Equestria. Princess Celestia, the Solar Monarch, Keeper of the Dawn, The Sun’s Keeper – and several other titles she had long since forgotten – stood with a dilemma she had no idea how to face.

Unknown, or unwilling to be believed by many, Celestia was not omnipotent, she was not all powerful. There were in fact several things that even managed to perplex her. She may be immortal, and she might have the capacity for more magical aptitude than even a hundred unicorns, but she was not a god; at least not in her eyes. To the alicorn, a god was someone such as Discord; which, even the mere thought of the embodiment of chaos caused a nearly imperceptible shiver to run down her spine.

If that was what being a god meant, she was glad to be nothing of the sort.

No, Celestia was ‘merely’ an alicorn, a pony consisting of the three tribes and had lived for thousands of years and would, seemingly, live into the unforeseeable future. And that fact alone gave her experience spanning over many millennia. She had seen empires rise and fall, wars rage across continents, and dragon migrations the likes of which would possibly never be seen again in their splendour.

No, she was not omnipotent, but that did not mean she was not wise, sagely and intuitive. In fact, the only one closest to understanding her was her own sister, Princess Luna. Aside from just over a thousand year gap, the two had always relied upon each other for information, comfort and support. Luna was the more impulsive of the two, prone to more creative thinking and the more artistic of the sisters. Between the two of them they complemented each other, supporting their strengths and covering their weaknesses.

Yet Celestia was the more logical thinking of the two. She would solve problems by breaking them apart, working piece by piece towards a solution and, in the process, usually come to a conclusion that benefited everyone.

Which found itself a rare occasion indeed that Celestia was herself completely baffled on how to proceed on a matter. Such as now.

It had all started when she had been called up into her sister’s chamber with the utmost urgency. While that on its own was not completely unheard of – a certain issue pertaining to Luna, Celestia’s pet phoenix Philomena, and several pairs of newly charred socks coming to mind – this was a new matter entirely. When she had made her way onto the balcony she had come face to face with absolute carnage.

At first she thought her sister had been kidnapped, although any perpetrators foolish enough to do such an act would be equally too foolish to actually succeed in the first place. Then she believed some form of natural disaster had struck, or a spell miscast had wrought her dear sister’s room into something Discord, curse his name, would possibly be at home in. The truth, as it normally is, was far stranger than Celestia could have imagined.

“Luna?” Celestia tried to locate her sister amongst the books, scrolls, trinkets and other various artefacts she had preserved within the room over the thousand year absence. Although, if she didn’t know any better she might suspect someone was moving a library into her sister’s room and forgot to tell anyone.


Celestia knew she heard Luna’s voice, but where the dark alicorn actually resided in the room was another matter entirely. Just as she was about to query just where her sister was she spied the ethereal star-studded mane flowing from behind an impressively tall pile of tomes. Making her way over she peered over to see Luna perusing several different books, all sprawled with no discernible order to their layout.

“Should you not be sleeping Luna?” Celestia meant to pose the question gently but something about how her sister looked created unease within the Solar Monarch. Luna looked restless, her horn glowing as pages turned and scrolls were moved. It was a feat of study that even her most beloved pupil, Twilight Sparkle, would be envious to witness. Ignoring the question, Luna put forth one of her own catching the other alicorn off guard.

“Dost thou know whatever became of Starswirl’s tome?” A pause was given before Luna turned her head to regard Celestia, the setting sun providing enough light within to accentuate the bags beginning to form under each eye.

“No, it was never located.” A pause was given, Celestia knew that Starswirl’s disappearance was always something that affected them all deeply, none more so than Luna herself. A stallion not only gifted in magical abilities rarely seen even in Celestia’s long life, he also held a love of the night, one which caught the attention of Luna herself. In time she took him under her wing as a student, one which Celestia was proud to accept as one of the greatest unicorns in Equestrian history.

Then… One day he, along with most of his tower, had simply vanished. Luna had been devastated at the news. For weeks, months even, she had spent searching for any trace of him but coming up with naught. Even Celestia could find nothing to give even a small clue as to his whereabouts, or even to his fate. It was as if he had simply ceased to exist on Equestria altogether.

“We… I, have a theory as to why.” Luna pushed herself to stand allowing her sister to see what she could not before. While the mare looked tired, almost broken, her eyes were alive with drive, with purpose. “While I was dreaming, I encountered a dream unlike any I have ever seen before.”

Celestia could only restrain a small smile at her sister trying to accustom herself onto modern Equestrian. While it was by no means perfect, Luna had at least become somewhat more fluent into its use. The dropping of the traditional Canterlot voice around the castle was also a big plus, especially for the castle staff that had to endure it.

“Please, continue Luna.” Seating herself Celestia couldn’t help but find her interest piqued. It was a closely guarded secret that she always was slightly envious of her sister’s ability to traverse dreams and aid their ponies from the nightmares that plagued them. Celestia would, and could protect them to the death from any threat she was able to face, but only Luna could guide them in their sleep. It was simply another example on how the two sisters complemented each other.

“It was… how do I describe it?” Taking on a thoughtful air, Luna instead trotted forward and looked at her sister for permission. When a tender nod was given their horns touched and a spark of magic passed between the two. Both fell asleep where they resided, only for a moment or two but from it Celestia got a glimpse into the memory and with it, knew why Luna struggled to try and find words.

She saw a presumably female bipedal-creature clad in clothing, furless except for a dark mane and a thin collection on each brow. She sat at a desk, drawing images of bunnies – which was perplexing if cute in and of itself – all while beside her sat a changeling. Both spoke in a completely alien language, and, surprisingly were acting in a cordial, if not friendly manner to one another.

Around them were shelves of books implying that it may be a library of sorts and Celestia could see several other similar biped creatures reading books or walking around. As the alicorn found herself trying to decipher what this all meant – as surely no such creature existed on Equestria as far as she was aware, and certainly not a race of them – she found the presence of Luna standing beside her.

Just as she was about to question her sister on just how she encountered this dream, she found herself noticing the book that the female creature was studying. With her breath catching in her throat, Celestia trotted closer and peeked inside noting the ancient Equestrian written upon the pages along with diagrams of plants, buildings, spells, and creatures she had never seen before.

“Luna… this is…” Celestia looked to see Luna simply nodding, trotting close as music began to fill the air. One of the small buds that was placed in the creature’s ears had been removed providing musical ambience as the two alicorns gazed down at the pages.

“Starswirl the Bearded’s style of writing.” Luna gazed around the library seeing where oblivion remained outside of the dreamer’s realm of creation. Celestia meanwhile furrowed her brow before looking at the changeling noticing that it bore a passing similarity to Queen Chrysalis. The neck frill was further up the head and beginning to resemble a mane of sorts, and that wasn’t even noting that compared to the other changelings this one was ever so slightly taller. Celestia made sure to retain an eye for detail after recent events, she would not allow such dire circumstances to come to pass again.

“So… this changeling is dreaming ab-“ The Solar Monarch was cut off by her sister smiling, Luna shaking her head as she trotted to stand behind the female biped.

“Nay Tia, the dreamer is not the changeling but this creature herself.” Luna’s words made Celestia look stunned, a feat that very few could ever boast they bore witness too. “This creature is in Equestria, somewhere, and within her mind holds perhaps a key as to Starswirl’s missing tome and with it, answers to what happened to him.”

Celestia mulled on the issue with the implications now presented to her. If what Luna said was true – not that she had any reason to doubt her sister’s words as absolute truth – then that meant an alien creature was in Equestria and possibly conspiring with the changelings. Finding herself watching the female and changeling converse she felt… conflicted on her previous assumption. They almost seemed too at ease, too harmonious to be a threat and this was after all, merely a dream.

“Something is driving her to work on the book in her dreams, I felt the faint tug of it but could not identify the source.” Luna noticed her sister’s expression and smiled. “Tia, I am… unsure if this is the changeling in her dream causing this, or something else. All I am aware of is that she trusteth that changeling implicitly, and that she is not native to this world.”

Celestia frowned slightly, there were too many unknowns for her to be comfortable with as she watched the dream play out. Abruptly the window behind the female cracked before the biped vanished out the window, screaming all the while. Then, with a flash Celestia found herself back in Luna’s room as she blinked to clear her head.

“Do you think she means harm?”

Luna blinked and then smiled at the question. She, after all, knew her sister more than any other pony and as such knew what Celestia was really asking.

“Nay Tia. I have not been completely honest with thee.” Noting Celestia’s raised brow, Luna quickly pushed on with a small bashful smile. “What I mean to say is that I have encountered some of the dreams beforehoof, but never in such clarity. Before they were disjointed, pieces floating within the ether.”

Celestia merely nodded as she felt a distracting sensation in her horn, the tingling that always signalled a scroll was about to arrive via dragon fire.

“Then dear sister, please, tell me what you know.”

Luna thought for a second before tilting her head, sighing softly prior to doing just that.

“She is… scared, terrified. Those are the emotions I have felt when glancing into her dreams previously. To begin with I could not get a clear view of the dreamer, her subconscious blocked to me through lack of familiarity. It was only today I managed to pierce through and glimpse within with clarity.” The Lunar Monarch bit her lower lip before gazing at her sister. “Tia… she is not from our world and we would say she is lost and confused, and something horrendous hath occurred to cause thus.”

Any further debate on the issue was promptly interrupted by a scroll appearing in a puff of smoke and green dragon fire. With a raised hoof to delay any question from Luna, Celestia unfurled the paper to look over the writing within.

“It seems Luna, that she is no longer lost.” The paper was turned so her sister might read of it, teal eyes moving to scan the page, greedily reading the words written by Twilight Sparkle. With a pause Luna looked up at her sister, a nod given in return.


Chapter four: Choices

View Online

Twilight Sparkle was not having the best day thus far. Oh, it had started innocently enough as such days do, devious in their subtle way of luring one into a false sense of security. The only saving grace about the whole thing was that there was no conceivable way she could have known what would unfold on that day. Seven words, seven innocuous words that when separated are as common as night and day. Many of the brightest minds had spent years researching the mystical power inherent when the words go together in the exact right order, and yet, none had ever come to a conclusion.

It was even rumoured Clover the Clever had spent some of her years delving deep into their mystery but all to no avail. Twilight Sparkle, with all her past experiences really should have known better; at the end of the day she had no-one to blame but herself. Perhaps it was due to the stress of helping Fluttershy with the chimera issue she had, having aided in sending it back into the Everfree with several of her closest friends. In fairness to her mood at the time, she had earlier almost had her tail bitten off before she teleported, leading to the dragon-head instead dining on a rather moss-covered rock.

Then, after that, she and the others had gone to go see Applejack only to be waylaid by Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo attempting to get their cutie marks looking after Opalescence, Angel, Tank and Gummy. After a chase, several teleports and Rainbow Dash getting an ill-tempered cat stuck in her mane, they had instead decided to call it quits and head home.

With mud beginning to dry into her mane and coat, tired, frustrated, and simply wishing to have a bath and curl up with a good book, Twilight was not expecting to encounter an explosion from the kitchen as soon as she entered her home. Spike then staggered out from the explosion’s origin, waving a hand before his face to ward off the smoke, various bits of frosting and gems clinging to his scales before he noticed the mare standing before him. His expression shifted instantly to amusement as a large wad of frosting had found a new home upon Twilight’s muzzle, her eyelids half closing as she exhaled loudly in frustration.

It was there, at that particular moment that Twilight spoke that which could not be taken back.

“How can this day get any worse?”

Having gotten the chuckles out of his system, Spike offered a paper towel that was gratefully accepted within the mare’s magical grasp, promptly used to wipe the offending frosting from her face.

“Sorry Twilight, I was trying to make a cake for Rarity, but… uh… Well, you see…” Wriggling under the unicorn’s scrutiny, the young dragon struggled to get the words out. Twilight upon sighing looked into the kitchen, easily putting two and two together.

“Let me guess, you used the ‘flour’ that Rainbow Dash and Pinkie left here yesterday, didn’t you?” A long sigh followed her words as she made a mental note to kindly ask the two to stop their pranks. Or, at the very least, keep them out of her house. “It’s fine, here, I’ll help you clean up then I’m going to go upstairs, have a bath, write my friendship report to the princess, and curl up with a good book.”

All seemed normal on an initial glance, well, as normal as a room covered in remnants of baking could be. Yet, Twilight noticed that Spike was looking somewhat nervous, more so than one would expect after she already said that she wasn’t mad about the mess. Avoiding her gaze, fiddling with his claws, and swishing his tail slowly all reinforced her suspicion. Of course, there was also the small observation that the dragon was trying, ever so slowly, to creep out of her sight and back into the kitchen.

Well, that’s not suspicious at all.

“Spike… did something happen?” Another pause followed before Twilight thought to clarify with a raised brow, “other than the exploding cake.”

Halting in mid step Spike turned and rubbed the back of his head, grinning widely all the while.

“Uh… nope, nothing I can think of.” As Twilight continued to gaze at him with an ever raising brow, she could have sworn sweat started to glisten upon his forehead, which, given he was covered in scales was rather impressive. Under the scrutiny Spike fidgeted, he squirmed, and finally threw his arms into the air to confess all. “Okay! I maaay have had Dinky visit. And I maaay have, through no fault of my own just to be clear, given her information that led her to maaaybe heading into the Everfree Forest.”

“What?!” Twilight’s voice caused Spike to quickly flail his limbs in an attempt to stop the unicorn from barging straight out the door.

“No, no, no! It’s okay, she’s safe! I told her big sister and she, Applejack and Big Mac found her and they got back into town a few moments ago. So… She mustn’t have actually gone in.” Another pause was given as Spike grinned somewhat nervously seeing Twilight’s expression demanding further explanation. “It’s true! I saw them all head back, although it kinda looked like Big Mac was carrying something but they all looked fine. I’m surprised you didn’t hear Lily.”

Twilight furrowed her brow; she and the others had indeed heard the mare screaming something while they were making their way back into Ponyville, but then, Lily being Lily they had thought little of it.

“I think we did hear her. What was it this time?” The situation diffused, Twilight had relaxed somewhat, enough at least that she was already working on her mental checklist on how to relax further for the evening. Spike seemed to think on this question before shrugging, grabbing a mop to start cleaning up the mess.

“Heck if I know. Something about a foal hummer or something, you know Lily.” Twilight nodded at her ‘number one’ assistant’s comment while absently scooping frosting and cake matter into a dustpan.

“Well, I’m glad everyone is okay.” Although the unicorn’s words were calm, internally she was conflicted.

I’m glad that Dinky was found, I hate to think what would have happened if she hadn’t. Still… Lily screaming about something usually has some truth to it.

Excusing herself she left Spike to finish the last few spots, her weary body insistent on the promised bath.

Ugh, far too tired right now. I’ll investigate later, if it was important I would have heard about it by now.

Reaching the top of the stairs she sighed softly and trotted into the bathroom, a hind hoof used to close the door behind her, far too tired to even bother using her magic.

What… A… Day. And it’s only the afternoon!

Thoroughly annoyed at the day thus far, Twilight made her way over to the bath already feeling her muscles relax in anticipation. Although, as she passed the window she found that her attention was being pulled to a most peculiar sight, even by Ponyville’s absurd standards. For whatever reason, Cosmic was rolling slowly past the Library and, perplexingly, the stallion had his limbs and muzzle tied with rope.

“Ooookay.” Twilight blinked as she watched the stallion awkwardly move along all the while trying to formulate words around the muzzle restraint – garbled as they were. Her momentary hesitation on whether she should assist or not was thankfully solved when Time Turner trotted over and freed the stallion’s muzzle.


Okay, something is up. But, it can wait until after I have had my bath.

Twilight sighed as she watched the rope be retied around Cosmic’s muzzle before Time Turner shook his head and dragged the stallion off. Content that the situation was… well, somewhat resolved, Twilight decided her bath was well overdue; plus, she was starting to stink. With a touch of magic the faucet ran, the towel was readied, and she very gratefully slipped into the tub for a long, relaxing soak.

Or, that was the plan. Barely after getting clean she heard a knock at the door, her ears flattening while trying in vain to hide her head under the waterline. Sadly the desire for oxygen put a stop to her ingenious plan as the knocking grew more urgent.


Her call was met with grumbling from the floor below, the sound of the door opening shortly after. Confident that Spike would dissuade whoever it was or – at the very least – have them come back later, Twilight exhaled and tried to relax once more. Fate, however, was not going to be kind to her on this day.

“Uh… Twilight, you really need to come down here.”

Pulling herself reluctantly out of the bath, Twilight removed the plug. As her attempts at relaxation slipped away much like the water down the drain, a towel was snatched and wrapped about her body. Normally she would take the time to dry herself off, but by this point in the day she simply wanted the one who interrupted her to know that he or she had done so. Maybe it was petty, but her carefully planned afternoon was already a miserable failure.

Working on getting her best exasperated expression right, Twilight opened the door to head downstairs. Whoever it was that had interrupted her bath would feel guilty after seeing her in a towel, that’s for certain!

However, as she made her way down the stairs she immediately dropped her guilt-trip plan as her features shifted towards worry. For none other than Applejack stood with Spike nearby looking worried, the mare having her hat pushed down to hide her eyes from view.


The question held concern, for the usually smiling and steadfast mare looked… defeated, upset over something. Immediately Twilight put forth a list of possible scenarios in her head that could have caused the issue.

Appleblight? No, that’s been dealt with this year. Perhaps something to do with Granny Smith… No, I would have heard about that already.

Deciding there was only one way she could possibly get to the bottom of the matter, Twilight pushed her inquisitive desires aside. Instead she offered the one thing that Applejack looked to desire more than anything else, the shoulder of a friend to listen. So, she did.

Several times Twilight had to stop herself from interjecting with a question but eventually the other mare had unloaded the entire tale of what had occurred, well as far as Applejack was aware of at least. Some things, such as Dinky’s perspective were purely second hand knowledge and speculation. Nevertheless Spike sat beside Twilight, an awed whistle escaping him as he digested the meeting with the ‘Foal-Hunter’ and what had followed afterwards. Twilight however was struggling to comprehend the whole thing.

Oh, in essence it was all easy enough. Dinky, after talking with Spike had gone into the forest looking for a flower to give to her mother. She then encountered the chimera that Twilight and the other girls sans Applejack had ‘persuaded’ to return to the Everfree. While running away Dinky then encountered the ‘Foal-Hunter’ who, according to the filly had then saved her, driven off the chimera, and then collapsed due to her injuries near Fluttershy’s cottage.

Following this Applejack, Big Macintosh, and Amethyst Star all found Dinky and went to help with the Foal-Hunter before realising what it was. Doctors came, treated the creature and then carted it off to the hospital due to its injuries. Finally, it appeared that the creature was restrained on the bed in case something did happen.

In all honesty, Twilight believed every word of it. If it were anyone else she might be slightly dubious, but with Applejack it was hard to doubt the mare. She was the Bearer of Honesty, and while this didn’t make her friend the paragon of the element, it did add weight to her arguments. Plus, Twilight reasoned, Applejack was an abysmal liar at the best of times.

She hasn’t scrunched her nose, or averted her gaze, or even bit her lower lip this entire time. But… a strange bipedal creature, one who can fight off a chimera? Who supposedly eats foals but saved Dinky? There’s too much not making sense in this...

“Oh!” Spike’s sudden outburst caused the two mares to look surprised down at him, the dragon slamming one fist into an open palm oblivious to their reaction. “Lily must have been screaming foal hunter, not foal hummer.”

Several seconds passed before Spike realised both Applejack and Twilight were looking at him with expressions akin to bafflement.

“What? It makes sense!”

Sighing at her assistant, Twilight instead smiled and turned her attention to Applejack. Thankfully her friend had eased into a sense of calm after going over the events of the day. With an adjustment of her hat, Applejack looked out the window wistfully while her tail flicked behind her, betraying the mare’s mood.

“Twi… I don’t rightly know what to do.” Taking a deep breath Applejack turned to regard Twilight with her full attention. “I mean, Dinky is pretty darn sure that the creature saved her an’ all. And… An’ I’d like to believe her; I really would! But… I’d hate to be wrong about somethin’ like this.”

So Dinky believes that the so called ‘Foal-Hunter’ saved her, but… Ugh, this doesn’t make any sense!

“I know Applejack, I could understand if the creature took her into the forest or away from Ponyville, but to bring her straight to Fluttershy’s cottage before passing out?” Twilight furrowed her brow; there was something she must have been overlooking. Somewhere there was a vital clue to all this to help see the reasoning.

“Maybe it wanted to get more foals?” Spike offered his views only to have Applejack hum thoughtfully before shaking her head.

“I thought of that too Spike, but the critter’s left arm was in pretty bad shape. There’s no way it could’ve snatched another young’n let alone gotten away.” Applejack’s reply made Spike shrug before rubbing at his head with both sets of claws.

“Ugh, this is frustrating. Why would a creature that hunted foals bring one back to Ponyville?!” Spike’s words echoed Twilight’s own inner struggle before something clicked. The whole situation didn’t make sense, that was the problem and in such was also a possible solution. Turning she regarded Applejack with a smile, her eyes wide as she was on the cusp of an epiphany.

Unless… Unless it doesn’t actually hunt foals at all!

“Applejack, you said that it was the others who mentioned the Foal-Hunter right?” A nod was her answer but before the farm pony could raise a question Twilight steamed ahead. “Right… and you also said it was making noises that you couldn’t understand at all?”

Another nod and word of agreement was given, Spike now looking intrigued as Twilight began pacing, her thoughts flowing as if a faucet had been turned all the way on.

“I think that it was attempting to communicate, of course this is just a theory as I was not there to listen, but… You said it looked frightened, upset about what was happening when it was sedated? Add into the fact that Dinky’s account from what you’ve told me, and that it took Dinky out of the forest while injured.”

Applejack blinked as Twilight continued to pace before turning her attention back to the other mare.

“Applejack, what do you think?” The question caught the earth pony off guard before she adjusted her hat, one fore hoof scuffing upon the library floor. A few seconds passed before Applejack exhaled, her eyes looking to meet Twilight’s before gazing aside in shame.

“Twi, honestly? That critter didn’t look like no creature who would eat a foal. It looked… well it looked downright terrified, of us. I know what the others were say’n and all, but when I looked down at its face, I felt like I was the one who was doing wrong.” Applejack’s shoulders sagged as she spoke her mind, Twilight trotting over to pat her friend reassuringly on the back.

“I believe you.” Three simple words, but they also held weight. Weight enough that a relieved smile came to Applejack’s face, one met by Twilight. Following comforting her friend, she then levitated a leaf of paper along with a quill before her assistant.

“Spike, can you take a message for Princess Celestia please?”

Spike eagerly snatched the items out of the air before seating himself, quill held at the ready. Several more seconds passed as he waited expectantly before lowering one brow, the quill used to scratch at the scales on the side of his head.

“Sooooo… What do you want me to write?” The dragon’s question hung in the air before Twilight begun to pace slowly, Applejack watching on curiously as the unicorn went back and forth. Clearing her throat Twilight found herself back within her zone of comfort. She would send the letter and then go and see this creature for herself while waiting for the princess to reply.

“The only thing we can say Spike.” With a nod of her head, Twilight took a deep breath, fixing her assistant with a gaze. “We tell her everything we know.”


Twilight felt… well she wasn’t exactly sure what she felt. Nervousness, excitement, maybe even fear? They all were topping the list but definitely not even the tip of the iceberg. She could hear her heart hammering in her chest while butterflies played havoc in her stomach. Part of her was exhilarated, the other half terrified of the responsibility now laid upon her.


Normally when a letter was sent it took at least a few minutes for Princess Celestia to reply, sometimes longer if she was busy. Yet, several times at least, the princess had replied promptly, especially when the matter was urgent. That could have been why it was deemed not too unusual when a reply was given shortly after theirs was sent, at least initially. Any preconceived notion of normality was, at least to Twilight, quickly abolished once the letter from the princesses materialised.

How did I not notice it initially?

As normal, Spike belched up a scroll, yet this one caused more than a little trepidation within Twilight upon sighting it. The reason for her unease was due to the seal. Confusingly, it had not been one of Princess Celestia’s scrolls; instead, the mark of Princess Luna held the paper tight. With a glance at Applejack and a silent nod shared between the two mares, Twilight had gently plucked the scroll and eagerly unfurled it to read aloud for the benefit of all.

Even now as she ran through the town towards her destination, her mind mulled over what she had read before leaving the library.


Dear Twilight Sparkle,

Thou art wise to seek the guidance of my sister, yet in this regard I am the one that hath encountered this ‘Foal-Hunter’ already within the realm of dreams. Thine information on the creature’s abilities seemeth… inconsistent as I am sure thou hast picked up on. We, that is to say, my sister and I are both heartened to hear that Dinky is safe. I recall meeting her at the festivities upon Nightmare Night.

However, be that as it may, we have allocated this task upon thee, Twilight Sparkle, to find out more about this creature. Your friend Applejack would appear to be correct in her reservations, as what I have glimpsed within the creature’s dreams hath provided me with concerning information. The creature is lost, afraid, and hath possibly made the most unusual of companions. But, perhaps most important of all, I have discovered she is not from our world.

We do not feel the creature is hostile, but utmost care must still be undertaken. Due to the situation in Canterlot my sister and I are unable to come directly. However, we can think of no other pony more suited to the task but thee, Twilight Sparkle. We wish for thee to keep us informed, and be assured, any information I glean from her dreams I will verily pass unto thyself.

~Princess Luna



The voice cut into her inner musings causing Twilight to slow to a less demanding canter. She became aware of her mane being tightly gripped leading to a small wince to cross her features.

“Ow! Hey, careful Spike!” The accusing glance back at her passenger was met with the dragon folding his arms, an unamused look given back. With her ears pushing into her mane she gave a small bashful smile to the dragon. “Too fast?”

“That… and the fact I’ve been trying to get your attention!” A scroll was clasped within Spike’s fist as he waggled it before Twilight’s nose, her attention immediately pulling towards the broken seal.

Princess Celestia!

“Hey!” Spike huffed as the scroll was forcefully removed from his grip, an apologetic smile given before Twilight ceased her running to read.


My most faithful student,

Spike, if I know my student, she will be racing towards the hospital now, please make sure she gets this message. Twilight, the task bestowed upon you by both Luna and myself is because we believe in you. Be yourself. That, more than anything else, is all we can ask of you in our stead.


Twilight paused to flick an ear. A glance at Spike was met with an innocent grin, forcing her to concede that perhaps she just might have been a little overwhelmed by the responsibility. Nonetheless, it was more than a little flattering that the princesses thought so highly of her.


I wish I could be there to do this personally instead of inconveniencing you my dear Twilight. But, as you well know, previous events have kept us tied to Canterlot. Have faith in yourself, and please report back anything you come across in your findings in regards to this ‘new arrival’.

- Princess Celestia


Twilight exhaled softly as she rolled up the scroll to place it within one of her saddlebags. It was true that she had left the library in a hurry after the initial letter had arrived. Applejack had politely declined coming back to the hospital with her, instead wishing to go check up on Big Mac back at Sweet Apple Acres. Once the mare had left, Twilight had been like a tornado, pulling on her saddlebags, getting paper, quills, and anything else she might need stuffed into each. Part of her was somewhat nervous on what the state of the library would be when she returned.

The whole event was somewhat of a blur if she were to be completely honest.

Okay Twilight, calm down. Sure the princesses are relying on you… Sure this could be a dangerous monster you’re going to go try and get information on. Okay… that really isn’t helping. Calm thoughts, calm thoughts.

Resuming walking – this time at a far more leisurely trot – Twilight passed through the city centre. Several ponies gave her a smile and wave as she proceeded towards the hospital, the greetings returned each in kind.

“Hey Twilight?” Spike’s voice filtered into her ears as she perked both, peeking back while making the last turn needed. Her brow rose seeing the dragon looking thoughtful, a claw rubbing under his short snout. “Doesn’t that pony look familiar to you?”

Unwilling to stop to get a better glance, Twilight tilted her head while trotting. She saw ponies fretting, several stuck in intense conversation, or, in Pinkie Pie’s case, running through Ponyville haphazardly with her pet alligator rested atop her pink mane. One mare in particular however did catch her eye, primarily due to doing none of the above. The pony, a brown pegasus, limped past the fountain behind them, seeming to be actively avoiding all the others nearby. While the mare did spark a certain amount of familiarity, along with some suspicion, Twilight had bigger things on her mind. Still…

I can see why Spike noticed her, but… weird, I feel I know her from somewhere too.

“You’re right Spike; I wonder where I’ve seen her before?” Pushing the mystery aside for now, Twilight resumed her pace as she approached the doors to the hospital. The pegasus had already turned down a side street and out of sight anyhow, so there was no point to keep dawdling.

“Yeah… I know I have seen her somewhere before.” Spike mused as he folded arms over his chest, staring intently before giving a frustrated groan. “Was it was at the Running of the Leaves, or maybe from Canterlot?”

Suppressing a small laugh at her assistant’s frustration and musings, Twilight instead opened the doors with a gentle tug of her magic. Instantly the scent of disinfectant hit her nose, and… well, she wasn’t sure if sterility had a smell, but if it did that was what she would use to describe the hospital. Immediately however she noticed something else, something very prevalent within the atmosphere.

They all look so… scared.

Looking to the waiting rooms saw them almost deserted; all in all, only three individuals seemed to be waiting, two ponies and a donkey. The ponies were nervously glancing at a stairwell leading to the second floor while the donkey was trying to bury her face into a newspaper. The key word Twilight noted, was, trying. If the trembling of the paper wasn’t enough to make reading difficult, then the newspaper being held upside down certainly would have.

Is this all because of the Foal-Hunter, can it really be that scary? Just what have I gotten myself into?

Taking a deep breath, Twilight trotted towards the receptionist desk. Oddly, she spotted the mare behind the counter constantly glancing towards the stairwell, almost as if it were a ravenous demon that would eat her should her vision stray too long. Deciding the direct approach would be the best, Twilight cleared her throat before trying to get the receptionist’s attention.


What she most definitely was not expecting was an explosion of papers to fly into the air, the receptionist, Ink Sketch, also flailing her forelegs before a loud thump signalled the other mare’s introduction to the floor. A wince passed over Twilight’s features as Spike suppressed a snigger with both claws, a glance back at the dragon enough to warn him to behave.

“Are… Are you okay there?” Twilight trotted closer, rearing up to rest hooves on the counter to peek over. The sight of a dishevelled mare met her gaze, orange mane falling over the receptionist’s face as she struggled to get her breathing under control.

“Twilight Sparkle?” A small laugh of relief passed from Ink Sketch as she got back to her hooves, exhaling loudly before offering a smile. “I thought you were… Never mind, how can I help you today?”

“Well…” A quick glance around the room seemed to push in the idea that tact might be somewhat required. “I’m… I’m here to see the new patient?”

Understanding dawned upon the Ink Sketch’s face, mane blown from the mare’s eyes as she leaned over the counter, her voice lowered to barely a whisper.

“The Foal-Hunter… right?” A pause followed before the receptionist flicked through some papers, her horn glowing a soft azure as she hummed quietly. “Upstairs, room 14b.”

“Thank you.” Making her way towards the stairs, Twilight instead paused to look back at Ink Sketch as a question popped into her mind. “Has there been any trouble so far?”

A look of surprise slipped over the receptionist’s face before she lowered both ears, almost as if that was the first time she had actually considered what was asked.

“I… well, no actually.” Ink Sketch’s demeanour became more relaxed as the truth slowly seemed to settle into her mind. “Come to think of it, so far it has been relatively quiet.”


Thanking the other mare, Twilight trotted upstairs, lost in her own thoughts as she half paid attention to the numbers on the doors while she passed them by. She was… excited. Oh, undoubtedly nervous as well, that went without saying. But this was something so new, and the prospect of the creature being dangerous was beginning to become less and less of a possibility.

Okay Twilight, this isn’t a big deal. Sure, it’s just that the princesses have tasked you with finding more out about this strange alien creature, who may, or may not eat foals. It’s not like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn more about another culture, no, an entire new life or anything.

Her ears flattened as she exhaled. So far the day had been rather… intriguing if one were to classify it. She had driven a chimera back with the aid of her friends, been involved in a maelstrom of animals and fillies, and now… now? Now, she was perhaps on the verge of one of the biggest discoveries of her generation. If – and it was still a big if – the creature did turn out to be from another world and was friendly…

I could get to learn about a whole new culture, no! A whole new world!

Well, she could barely contain the excitement that was bubbling within. Of course, on the other hoof, if it was really a creature that simply feasted upon foals…

“Miss Sparkle?”

The male voice caught her off guard causing her to backpedal to an open door she had just passed. Within the room stood Nurse Redheart and Doctor Carehoof, both looking over two large x-rays pinned onto the wall before them. On a quick glance Twilight could make out it was a skeletal structure, perhaps of a diamond dog, although the skull was lacking a muzzle and… Well, on second thought, it looked nothing like a diamond dog.

“Please, come in.” The doctor moved aside to allow room for Twilight to join them, Spike instead slipping off her back to stretch his legs. Once she had entered, the stallion turned to regard the picture again before raising a brow questioningly towards her. “I presume Applejack contacted you, and the princesses have sent a message on how to deal with this situation?”

Oooh... uh, not exactly but how do I say that?

Clearing her throat Twilight shifted on her front hooves trying to decide just how to state they had put her in charge instead. Normally she would be proud of the fact, but the way they were looking at her made her confidence stutter somewhat.

“Aaaactually, they asked Twilight here to deal with it.”

Twilight lowered her brow at Spike’s more blunt way of putting things across, a bashful grin coming to her face as she noted the twin looks of discontent given her way from the medical professionals. A look was shared between the two before they gazed in Twilight’s direction again, her attention pulled away from giving a half-hearted scowl in Spike’s direction; much to the dragon’s bafflement it seemed.

“What Spike meant to say is that due to how busy the princesses are because of... Well, because of what happened at the wedding...” Memories of changelings raining from the sky and almost having her brother marry the queen herself – later identified as ‘Queen Chrysalis’ by Cadence – pushed to the forefront of Twilight’s mind. Moving that all aside for now, she continued. “They have asked me to investigate and learn about the creature on their behalf.”

Moving past the pride those words built within her, Twilight watched the stallion and mare share another look before Nurse Redheart smiled. Doctor Carehoof instead exhaled shortly after before rubbing at a temple with one of his forehooves.

“Well to be truthful, we know very little.” The stallion directed Twilight’s attention to the x-ray pictures as he cleared his throat. “And, admittedly I have never seen a creature like this before. Her teeth alone create an argument against the foal eating theory. Aside from the canines they appear to be more used for crushing than tearing. Honestly, just from what I have looked at so far, they resemble our own teeth much closer than those of say a wolf or other predator species.”

Does that mean she really isn’t…?

Twilight’s interest must have drifted onto her features as the doctor gave a small nod then continued.

“But… upon saying that, while healing her body I discovered her bone structure appears far less resilient than that of a pony’s. Alarmingly, even her skin appears to be softer and less durable, and I would presume easily damaged. In essence what I am trying to say is, while she could conceivably hunt foals she would be like the dog that chases the metaphorical carriage. A kick, even from a young pony, would very likely cause a nasty injury.” A tap to the x-ray brought Twilight’s attention to the left shoulder area. “Now, upon arrival she had a deep laceration on her left shoulder which we healed with magic; that was the easy part. Her body is completely alien to us and while she does have the same organs to a certain extent, how her body reacts to healing magic long term is unknown.”

Doctor Carehoof exhaled again, rubbing between his eyes with a hoof before a look of frustration fell over his features.

“Miss Sparkle, to be blunt, I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. Her biology is similar enough to our own while still being different enough to vex me. We have done all we can so far, her major wounds are dressed, and her body is responding positively to the healing magic cast. That shoulder however seems to have sustained severe tissue damage, which even on an earth pony would take several days to heal. But the creature herself? Well… that is impossible to say.”

Twilight listened, her ears flicking as she looked over several other images on the board. Two were of the injuries sustained before healing, yet another was a full body picture after presumably being cleaned and undressed. The reason she suspected the undressing was the last image that showed the Foal-Hunter wearing clothing, which, at best, could be called soiled and torn.

“She was dressed like that when we found her.” Nurse Redheart must have noticed where Twilight’s attention was and sought to explain. “It’s odd though; given the state of the clothing any pony would have discarded it. She was risking infecting her wounds by continuing to wear it.”

Strange… Why would she continue to wear clothing that badly damaged and as filthy as it was? Unless… perhaps it holds meaning to her? Sentimental or perhaps she, if she truly is as Princess Luna said, wears clothing constantly where she comes from.

Twilight debated quietly over the matter in her head. All of the earlier nervousness was now being pushed aside as she could finally get a look at the strange creature. There were so many unanswered questions, which, in turn, led to the feeling of excitement bubbling within her chest again.

“I can see she lacks noticeable amounts of fur, scales or anything else on her skin.” Twilight said, talking out loud as she looked up at a picture, eyes narrowing to study. “I would guess from this that she wears the clothing as protection as opposed to decoration? But… that doesn’t explain why she would keep them on when they were so damaged, and… filthy.”

Maybe it is to keep her warm?

“That was a possibility, but they are no different from anything we would wear.” Doctor Carehoof sighed as he moved to tug a container from under one of the benches. With a bronze glow the top flipped off releasing a truly pungent smell.

“Ack! That stinks!” Spike pinched his nose while waving a claw before his face. “And here I thought nothing could smell worse than that time Twilight tried to- mmph!”

Her assistant was cut off by a dark-pink glow pinching his mouth shut, a nervous laugh escaping Twilight’s mouth as she waved off his comment. Clearly no-one wished to hear about the time she tried to combine spells; all in an attempt to make something to get her instantly clean after an all-nighter. The results were… less than satisfactory, instead removing the odours off her and into the surroundings.

It took over a week to finally get rid of the smell… ugh.

“Hahaha, oh Spike… you’re such a kidder.” Quickly changing the subject, Twilight instead looked at the contents of the box, wrinkling her nose as the stench invaded her nostrils. Breathing through her mouth she levitated up some items of clothing, noting that they seemed rather basic in design. The skirt itself was self-explanatory as was the top, holes where forelegs would go easily being identifiable. Of course they were stretchy enough that even a pony, say the size of Big Mac could possibly fit them. That particular mental image had to be squashed quickly lest she burst into a fit of giggles.

Getting her mind back on task she levitated out the next two items, one consisted of two larger pieces of fabric. Attached to this were elastic like bands with a clip upon the back and two other straps. A look at the other ponies was met with equal bafflement, although Spike helpfully suggested it might be a hat of sorts.

“She wore them over what we presume are her…” Nurse Redheart started to explain before pausing and sparing a glance towards Spike. Immediately her cheeks tinged slightly crimson before clearing her throat. “What I meant to say is that she wore them over the… mounds on her chest.”

Spike raised a brow, a claw scratching at the side of his head as he tried to figure out just what the nurse was going to say before correcting herself. Thankfully, especially for Twilight, the dragon shrugged and deemed it unimportant as he instead gazed at the box, lost in thought. Her own attention returning to the article of clothing levitating before her, Twilight slowly turned it around to analyse from every angle.

The elastic hints at support, but that just makes me wonder about the purpose of the extra tissue on her chest. They could be like udders perhaps or maybe for water or fat storage?

The mysteries of the item were put aside as she looked at another object in the box, seeming to be made of the same material as the previous yet lacking any clips. There were three holes, one large and two small, the purpose of which eluded the unicorn as she frowned in thought. Although, she could have guessed at some point it might have originally been closer to the white of the other item. It was incredibly stretchy too she noticed, at least around what she presumed to be the waist band.

“And those were worn around her hips.” Again, Nurse Redheart offered some form of explanation validating Twilight’s suspicion. Taking the time to scribble down a few notes as she levitated the items, the unicorn looked on thoughtful at the article of clothing.

Ah, that explains the holes then! Maybe… Maybe they are used to hide her genitals, or to act as a nappy of sorts? But it’s so small, what use would it be as such?

Twilight’s nose scrunched as her second idea had some element of truth to it, but again it conflicted with what Nurse Redheart had said. If it was to act as a nappy, then she would have discarded it and not continued wearing it.

Then that means it must be worn either for warmth or… more likely, to provide modesty. That’s the only reason I can think of for not removing once… Ew. Ew ew ew!

Scrunching her nose at that thought, she removed the last two items. Thankfully these, like the skirt and top were the easiest to identify. They looked to be coverings for her feet, the configuration of toes and heel not unlike that of Spike’s, if longer and weird looking. The shape did intrigue Twilight somewhat, noting that they covered the top as well as the bottom of the ‘foot.’

Placing all the items back in the box – and sealing it to hopefully contain the stench – Twilight looked up at the images again. By this point she also noted that the doctor and nurse were conversing while Spike remained looking thoughtful, his gaze at the once again sealed box.

“So…” The beginning of a comment from her assistant certainly got Twilight’s attention, her head tilting as Spike folded arms over his chest. An annoyed glance at Twilight showed he hadn’t gotten over her cutting him off earlier, or perhaps the method used. “That’s kinda horrible.”

“What is Spike?” Twilight queried as Spike realised he had all eyes upon him. Turning somewhat bashful he rubbed at the back of his head before gesturing up at the picture of the sedated creature.

“Well… you know. I mean if what Princess Luna says is true, and she isn’t actually after foals...” Spike gestured absently with a claw before frowning. “Well, let’s just say if I saved somepony, and then got tied up and stuff, well I wouldn’t be happy.”


“You’re absolutely right.” Twilight nodded as Spike blinked, looking slightly caught off guard before pointing to himself curiously.

“I am? I mean, of course I am!” A nod of the dragon’s head met with amusement from Twilight as he puffed up his chest only to look baffled shortly after. “But… uh, what exactly am I right about? Just… you know, so we’re on the same page and all.”

“Everything you said.” Twilight favoured Spike with a smile as he rubbed under his chin, Doctor Carehoof and Nurse Redheart watching curiously.

“Even about the hat thing? Because, y’know, I’ve been thinking, and it does sound like a silly id-“

“Okay, everything you said after that point.” Twilight chose to ignore the confused look on Spike’s face as he turned to the two medical ponies; a gesture asking for them to explain met with their two equally baffled expressions. “Do you mind if I take the clothing with me?

Her request was met with further confusion before Doctor Carehoof rubbed the side of his head.

“Well… I suppose there’s no issue. We’ve already made sure it held no magic or pathogens harmful to ponies when we cleaned her. But I must ask whatever for?” His question was met with Twilight smiling, a plan already formulating within her mind.

“I have a hunch, but I need to speak with Dinky first. Do you know where she is?” Twilight’s question looked about to be answered by Doctor Carehoof only for an interruption to occur; the interruption in particular being the sound of rapidly approaching hoof steps. The owner of the noise, a blue mare with her green hair styled much like Nurse Redheart’s, appeared somewhat anxious before noticing the doctor.

“Doctor Carehoof, you’re needed downstairs.” The mare, Nurse Tenderheart, finally noticed there were more than medical ponies in the room, a small nod given in greeting before continuing. “It’s nothing serious, and I tried to say you were busy, but she insisted that it simply must be you to look at her sister.”

Twilight watched as the doctor exhaled, following up by rubbing at his muzzle with a hoof. She noted that at least he seemed aware on who this ‘she’ was.

“Well, I guess there are worse things than being wanted.” With a nod towards those in the room, Doctor Carehoof slowly trotted out, adjusting his coat as he did so. Almost as an afterthought he paused outside, looking back in to nod again at Twilight. “Nurse Redheart here will show you to where Miss Derpy and her daughter currently are. I wish you luck Miss Sparkle, please do keep us informed.”

With that both Tenderheart and Carehoof could be heard trotting downstairs until, with an apologetic smile, Nurse Redheart tilted her head.

“They’re still here?” Twilight was a little surprised, she knew that Applejack had mentioned that Dinky and Derpy hadn’t left before her, but for them to remain still?

“Yes, Dinky refuses to leave until the-“ Redheart paused before giving a small smile, “…patient awakens. You’ll find them down the hallway, just before room 14b.”

That’s the room the receptionist told me was where the ‘Foal-Hunter’ is kept.

Musing on this, Twilight nodded her thanks before Nurse Redheart smiled again, excusing herself to go check on her other patients on the floor. Left alone with Spike, Twilight adjusted her saddlebags prior to trotting towards the doorway. It was only when she was about to cross the threshold that she noticed the dragon hadn’t followed, her head tilting to look back at her assistant shifting hesitantly on his claws.

“Spike?” Her question lingered as Twilight watched Spike grin nervously only to pat the box containing the creature’s garments within.

“I was thinking, I should stay here and make sure these don’t go anywhere. Wouldn’t want them to go missing, right?” Twilight favoured Spike with both a smile and quick nod. She could tell quite easily he was hesitant of going near the Foal-Hunter. He would never admit it of course, but she could play along to save his perceived dignity. He was her special little helper after all.

“Okay, I won’t be long.” Turning to trot away she felt a soft tug on her tail causing her again to stop and look back, noting Spike twiddling his claws absently before looking up to meet her gaze.

“Hey… uh, you’ll be careful, right Twilight?” His concern touched her as Twilight found a smile once more on her face, a reassuring nod given in his direction.

“Of course Spike. Besides, she’s restrained, so even if she is as dangerous as everyone says I’ll be fine.” Her words seemed to relieve the little dragon as he nodded reluctantly and sat down, poking the box absently. With the situation resolved, Twilight trotted down the hallway, one ear flicking as she heard Spike give a grunt of displeasure.

Oh Spike, you couldn’t help peeking in the box could you?

Amusement crept over her features until she turned a corner, the smile instantly faltering upon seeing a pegasus seated before room 14b. The pegasus, Derpy, was currently peeking into the doorway of the room, seeming to intently watch the inhabitant within. Curious, Twilight approached before noting that her hoof falls alone were not enough to get the mare’s attention.


The innocent questioning tone caused the pegasus to almost jump, wings spreading wide while her tail appeared frazzled. Looking back at Twilight with her distinctive cross-eyed gaze, Derpy exhaled in relief upon seeing the speaker.

“Oh, Twilight it’s you.”

Twilight looked thoughtful seeing Derpy’s reaction but pushed it down, instead smiling warmly as she approached before sparing a glance at the room behind the pegasus.

“Hello Derpy, I was actually hoping to find Dinky and ask her a few questions concerning the... events of today. If that’s alright with you of course?” Twilight watched as the mare seemed to digest the words before peeking back into the room, her wings fluttering and tail flicking with clear nervousness. Confused that the mare, usually so bubbly and helpful, was snubbing her, Twilight’s bafflement grew as Derpy begun talking to someone out of sight. It was only when a young voice replied that she realised what was going on, perking both ears to listen in on the conversation.

“Sweetie, Twilight is here and wishes to talk to you.”

“O-Okay.” The voice was timid but undeniably that of Derpy’s daughter. Then, before Twilight could react, the pegasus moved to look at Twilight again, her voice lowering in volume as she leaned closer.

“Twilight, is… is Dinky going to be safe in there with it?”

The question itself posed a problem, and it was clear that Derpy was looking for reassurance. With one yellow eye staring at her filled with worry, while the other was gazing more at the ceiling, Twilight could only bite her lower lip before sighing, finding herself unable to lie towards the pegasus; even, even if she desperately wished to allay the mother’s concerns.

“I…I honestly don’t know Derpy, but I can promise you I will find out.” A small smile was added as Twilight thought back to what Spike had said just previously, about how he would feel in the same situation as the creature. “But… I have a feeling Dinky will be fine in there, if the creature meant to hurt her, it had plenty of opportunity to do so yet it instead brought her back to Ponyville. Now, now I want to find out why.”

With a hesitant nod from the filly’s mother, Twilight slowly trotted in, and to be truthful, she was not entirely sure what to expect. However, just as Applejack had said, within the warm glow of the hospital lighting she saw the slumbering form of the ‘Foal-Hunter’ upon one of the beds, wrists along with feet restrained while the blanket hid most of the body from view.

To see pictures of it were one thing, to see it in the flesh was quite another. It seemed, tall, far taller than she expected. Although, gauging off the length of the creature, Twilight surmised that were she to stand on her hind hooves she would possibly be able to look it in the eye. She found her gaze lingering on the creature for a few seconds more before she tried to find just where Dinky was located.

Thankfully she didn’t have to look long. Yet, Twilight could not have expected to find the filly curled on the floor near the ‘Foal-Hunter’s bed, seemingly making herself as small as possible. With blonde tail draped over her muzzle, Dinky’s golden eyes could barely be seen peeking past the strands of hair to look at Twilight.


“I’m sorry!”

The outburst from Dinky caught Twilight completely off guard, one of her forelegs partially raised as she regarded the filly. The young unicorn in response whimpered softly and buried her face further into her tail.

“Please don’t be mad!”

Blinking, Twilight settled upon all four hooves again as her mind slowly caught up. She saw how Dinky was quivering slightly and, heartbreakingly, the whimpers were growing in volume.

I was so obsessed with the creature and the task from the princesses I completely forgot about earlier.

A small smile crept over Twilight’s muzzle as she regarded the filly while approaching tentatively.

She must think I’m angry. Oh Twilight, you really can be single-minded sometimes.

“Dinky, while I am disappointed at you running off into the forest and worrying not only Spike, but your mom and sister too….” Now standing before the filly, Twilight lowered her head only to be met with two golden eyes again peering timidly up at her. “Spike and I are just glad you’re safe. You’ll never do it again, right?”

After a small head shake followed, Twilight gave a small giggle and rubbed a fore hoof gently into Dinky’s mane. Thankfully, the filly raised her head into it, smiling ever so slightly.

“I promise, Twilight…” A look of guilt fell over Dinky’s features before she peeked up at Twilight, slowly moving into a seated position all the while. “Please tell Spike I’m sorry too.”

Oh Dinky…

Stealing a glance back at the doorway to see Derpy watching on all the while, Twilight then smiled at the mother before looking back at the filly.

“I will, and he won’t be mad at you. Spike was just worried about you like all of us, that’s all.” A little nod was given by Dinky in response while Twilight continued, all the while fishing out a notebook and pencil with her magic from one of her saddlebags. “But, I came here hoping to ask you some questions about what happened, mostly to do with the creature there. Would that be okay?”

Twilight could only blink as Dinky’s demeanour changed instantly, the little unicorn peeking up at the sleeping figure before her ears drooped. Despite this, the filly looked determined as she snorted from her nostrils.

“She saved me, and she hurt herself doing so but no-one but Applejack believes me!”

Momentarily caught off guard, Twilight could only be surprised by the earnest tone to the filly’s voice. Again, like Applejack had mentioned, Dinky remained steadfast in her version of events.

She truly believes it, with all her heart.

Part of Twilight felt, well, she felt relieved that was the case as she scribbled her thoughts down onto the paper before smiling at Dinky.

“I want to believe you too Dinky, I really do, but for that I need to know everything about what happened.” Keeping her tone soft, Twilight made sure to keep the inner conflict off her face. She wasn’t lying; she truly did wish to believe Dinky’s version of events. Yet at the same time, Twilight herself needed facts, tangible evidence to support the theory building in her mind. Even if it was purely so she herself could believe without any doubt.

I can’t risk being wrong, no matter how much the evidence is stacked towards the creature being innocent.

Dinky seemed to mull over this before giving a nod of her head and begun recounting everything that had happened to her. To be fair, Twilight listened patiently for the first part, although she felt a little bit of personal guilt when the chimera was mentioned. If she and the girls had not driven it back at that point in time, Dinky might never have encountered the beast. Regardless, her interest was instantly piqued when the tale got to the part of the initial encounter.

Twilight found herself interrupting several times, queries asked primarily of what the creature was doing at the time and her subsequent reactions. Sadly, Dinky couldn’t remember much of the initial meeting, her young mind quite possibly overwhelmed by that particular point. What she could however recall with clarity was that the creature saved her and injured itself in the process, or as Dinky kept correcting much to Twilight’s shame, herself, the creature was not an ‘it’. The filly’s mention of the green fire distracting the chimera did cause concern within Twilight, yet she refused to let it show.

Green fire? Only creature I can think of that could do that is a dragon, could there have been one helping her? Spike said he didn’t follow and I believe him, so another? No… No that would have been noticed, surely. So if it wasn’t a dragon, then what else has green fi-

Twilight’s eyes went wide upon remembering back to her brother and Cadence’s wedding. Back to certain creatures, the colour of their magic, and the flames that enveloped them when changing shape, when they cast magic. Changelings.

Could… Could the ‘Foal-Hunter’ actually be a changeling? No… If that was the case the disguise should have been detected when they healed her. Think Twilight, Think! Okay, given from where Dinky said the creature was in relation to the chimera, the explosion must have happened from the brush side of the path. Then… That means there must have been somepony, or something else which caused the fire…

Twilight blinked twice as something in Princess Luna’s letter suddenly gained a far more ominous air with this new information.

Is that what she meant when she mentioned ‘she had made the most unusual of companions?’ A changeling!? No… No, don’t be ridiculous Twilight, why would a changeling be friendly with anything let alone a creature such as her? All they do is consume emotions. Still… This does bear further investigation later.

Thankfully Dinky had not noticed Twilight’s lapse of concentration, continuing instead to recount events. The part where the creature was clearly struggling only to pass out upon getting Dinky to safety was another curious event, another point towards the sleeping female acting completely against how a hunter of foals should. The cynical side of Twilight suspected that it might be a ruse to get access to more foals, but that was quickly discarded as soon as the thought presented itself. For one, it simply defied rationality for the creature to act in such a way.

Everything I have heard and seen so far makes it hard to believe she would, or even could, hunt foals. To get so badly injured, not to mention risking her own safety to get Dinky back to the village is… Well, it doesn’t make any sense. If she truly wished to eat a foal, she had the perfect opportunity but chose instead to save her prey. What I have heard, and what I have seen seem to point to only one logical conclusion.

After hearing the rest of the tale, primarily just to reinforce what Twilight already suspected, she thanked Dinky for her time and excused herself. Passing by Derpy on the way out she once more tried to reassure the pegasus prior to heading back towards Spike. Trotting slowly she mused over her thoughts, glancing at the notes she had written before seeing Nurse Redheart had returned, conversing with Spike within the office.

“Twilight! Did you talk to Dinky?” Spike queried while munching on some candy, possibly having been coerced out of the nurse while Twilight was away. Giving him a nod, the unicorn then turned to regard Nurse Redheart, the mare looking curious as Twilight smiled.

“I did, and I have a strong feeling that she isn’t a Foal-Hunter, although I would like to come back later tonight, hopefully when the creature has woken to validate my theory if that’s okay?” The nurse blinked at Twilight’s words before looking thoughtful for a moment.

“Well, being quite honest, even with that amount of sedative, a pony would have woken up by now.” A small frown creased Nurse Redheart’s features before she exhaled. “Thankfully her vitals seem to be fine and the doctor checks to see if the healing is holding every half an hour.”

So either the sedative reacts more potently with her chemistry or…

A glance at the nurse’s expression seemed to confirm her other theory, which was that the creature had been given simply far too much initially.

“But, you’re welcome to come back Twilight.” The nurse followed up with a reassuring smile before glancing back down in the rough direction of where the creature slept. “I just hope that Dinky is right, I would hate to think we’ve put ponies in danger by having her here.”

Noticing the concern clear on Nurse Redheart’s face, Twilight levitated up the box of the creature’s clothing. With some effort she managed to get it into one of her saddlebags, although over half was conspicuously protruding from the top, but at least it wouldn’t fall out. Spike, seeing she was getting ready to leave wandered over and clambered onto her back, staying silent the whole exchange. Yet, his young eyes constantly strayed up to the pictures on the wall and looked to be deep in thought.

“Don’t worry Nurse Redheart. As the doctor said, she appears to be little threat, and, honestly, I could barely detect any magic within her.” Twilight restrained the urge to frown at what she had just said. While talking to Dinky she had remained receptive to any magic around the area, hoping to pick up a trace of something. True, the creature had magic about her, but they had all been spells cast upon her, not from her herself. Most concerning was the fact the faint magic she could sense within the creature was more akin to that of a unicorn’s. What that meant was a complete paradox to Twilight, but given she knew so little about this so called ‘Foal-Hunter’ to begin with it remained just another mystery to be solved.

Nurse Redheart, unaware of the inner musings of Twilight, simply nodded her thanks and gave a fond farewell as the unicorn left the room, trotting slowly towards the stairs leading down.

“Hey… Twilight?”

Perking her ears at Spike’s voice, the mare in question turned her head to look at the contemplative dragon upon her back, one claw stroking under his muzzle before he continued.

“I’ve been thinking, if the Foal-Hunter’s body is weaker than a pony, and it doesn’t seem to have much, if any, magic and stuff...” His voice trailed off before he folded arms over his chest, his brows furrowing as he blew a little smoke in frustration. “Then how the heck would it even get a foal in the first place?”

You know just the right question to ask sometimes Spike.

As a smile found its way to Twilight’s face she leaned back to nuzzle the dragon earning a small sound of surprise as he tried to fend her off, his cheeks burning as she giggled softly.

“That Spike, is the underlying question on why I doubt she is as dangerous as everypony other than Dinky originally seemed to think.” Shifting her weight to get the saddlebags comfortable to her sides, Twilight resumed trotting, continuing to speak as Spike listened. “And remember, the only one who has actually had any time with the creature is Dinky herself, the others all seem to have only second hoof knowledge to go off.”

Her words seemed to cause Spike to give a thoughtful hum, digesting what she said as he spared a glance back the way they had come. Smiling to herself, Twilight made her way down the stairs only to blink at the voices drifting up from the waiting room.

“It was only a scratch!”

“Only a scratch? Sweetie Belle, a scratch is what one does when she brushes her coat too hard.”

“Well, you didn’t need to make such a big deal over it.”

“A big deal? A big deal?! My little sister comes home looking like she rolled around in my scissors, and I, being the responsible big sister that I am, rush you to get them tended to and I am the one accused of making a, big, deal?!”

“Well… when you put it that way… But you still embarrassed me in front of everypony!”

Realising who the voices belonged to, Twilight still wasn’t prepared for the sight that greeted her when she reached the bottom of the stairs. Standing in the waiting room - now otherwise empty save for the receptionist - stood two female unicorns. Both were white furred and female, one with a long loose-curled purple mane and tail, while the younger of the two had a much tighter-curled mane and tail of pink and purple. The little sister, Sweetie Belle was swathed in bandages with sticky plasters also positioned somewhat haphazardly over her face and side.

This fact did not go unnoticed by Spike who Twilight could hear trying to restrain a snigger upon her back.

“Sweetie Belle, I certainly wouldn’t have had to make a ‘scene’ as you so call it, if you had not decided to give poor Opal a bath after harassing her all day. You know my little baby gets upset if I am not the one who cleans her.”

I… Most certainly would not call Opal a little baby…

“Uh… girls?” Twilight attempted to interrupt only for Sweetie Belle to stomp both front hooves as she huffed up at her big sister. Any rebuttal however was cut off as Spike finally lost the fight to restrain his laughter.

“Hahahaha, it’s Mummy Belle!”

Blinking, Twilight exhaled in response to the guffawing dragon upon her back. A look of apology was given, although Sweetie Belle was looking more thankful for the interruption than the name-calling directed her way.

“Hi Twilight, Spike!” Blinking as her name was spoken so enthusiastically, Twilight then had to deal with an energetic white filly bouncing before her. Opting to instead stand still while Ink Sketch and Rarity watched, lest she accidentally step on the filly, she smiled and gave a nod towards her friend while Spike slipped off her back to converse with Sweetie Belle. Or, more apt it seemed as she perked an ear, to try and come up with a better name having quickly abandoned his first attempt.

“Twilight, darling, what brings you here?” Rarity trotted forward, her annoyance with her sister long forgotten as she flipped the mane from her face. “I thought you had intended to go and rest at home?”

Yes… That was the plan…

Unable to retain the sigh that escaped her mouth, Twilight gave her friend a tired smile. Levitating the letters from a saddlebag, she moved them over to Rarity, allowing the other unicorn to envelop them within her own aura. A questioning look was given as Twilight nodded, indicating for the letters to be read in lieu of a spoken explanation. Ink Sketch watched on curiously as Rarity’s eyes scrolled back and forth, a long gasp escaping the mare as she looked first at one letter, then the other, before gazing directly at Twilight.

“Is this all true? Oh it must be true what am I saying? Just look at that seal!” Rarity offered the letters back as Twilight stowed them away shortly after. Sweetie Belle, now evidently curious, trotted around to peek up at Twilight, and then back at Rarity before one of her ears flattened to the side.

“What are you both talking about? What must be true?” Sweetie Belle blinked after her question as Spike cleared his throat, one claw resting against Twilight’s left foreleg.

“Oh, nothing special… Just that me and Twilight have been given a task by not only Princess Celestia, but also Princess Luna.” Rolling her eyes at Spike’s clear attempt to impress Rarity, Twilight instead cleared her throat before levitating out the clothing box.

“Well, not quite as Spike put it, but yes, I have been tasked by the princesses to find out more about the creature upstairs. I was hoping to take this home and study it and then-…” A glance was given at Ink Sketch who was practically leaning over the counter in her eagerness to overhear. Seeing she had been spotted, the mare sat back down and tried to look busy with paper work, pausing to peek over every few seconds. Exhaling again, Twilight smiled at Rarity as she nudged the pink-aura-encased box with a hoof.

“Anyhow… So far everything points to the fact she is as Princess Luna said, or at the very least, not what others think she is. From an anatomical analysis alone she wouldn’t be able to restrain a resisting-“

“Yes Twilight dear, I am sure that is very fascinating.” Cut off by Rarity, Twilight could only frown before noticing where the other unicorn’s gaze was fixated. Moving the box she noticed the mare’s blue eyes follow it with almost ravenous curiosity. “But, do tell, what is in that box?”

Blinking in surprise, Twilight noticed all three other females were looking intently at the container as she herself winced slightly. Sharing a glance at Spike, the two of them knew very well the horrors laid within the otherwise innocent-looking object. Deciding that explaining would be the quickest path on the way to getting back home, Twilight nudged the box again.

“Well… They’re the creature’s clothing which I-“ Once more she found herself interrupted, an excited gasp passing from Rarity’s mouth as the mare shifted on her hooves. The distance between the two of them was quickly removed as the white unicorn leaned closer, her eyes sparkling as Rarity lifted a hoof slowly towards the object of her desire.

“Clothing? Of a creature not from our world?” Regaining her composure, Rarity bounced her mane with one hoof before exhaling in a wistful fashion. “I simply must see them! Imagine it, clothing tailored from another world. Oh! I bet they’re simply breathtaking!”

“Yeeeeah, that’s one way of putting it.” Spike offered, not so helpfully, as he scratched the back of his head. A gesture of his claw was given as Twilight felt her hold on the box be contested by an azure aura slowly encroaching over her own. While it wasn’t forceful, she could see the pleading look upon Rarity’s face, and, unable to resist, released the container as an excited squeal escaped the other mare upon getting her prize.

“Rarity… I really wouldn’t open that-“ Alas, too late the warning was given as Twilight watched the lid being lifted off. Not long after, the look of joy upon her friend’s face instantly became one of disgust as the mare levitated the box a full pony length away from herself. Sweetie Belle, having been just as curious as her big sister, scrunched up her nose as she shied away, a hoof waving before her face to try and ward off the stench.

“Yuck! That smells worse than Scootaloo’s cooking!”

Now, while Twilight thought that might have been a little unfair towards the filly in question’s cooking – not to mention that Sweetie Belle really shouldn’t be judging others on their culinary arts - she couldn’t argue that it stunk. Rarity however, upon getting over her initial shock, wrinkled her nose and peered at the items, removing the skirt before wincing at what she saw.

“Truthfully, while the state of the garments are… questionable.” Rarity started speaking while Spike offered a few other words that could be used to describe the article of clothing. Twilight had to admit, she was slightly impressed that he used the word pungent showing he had at least looked at the dictionary she got him last year. Nonetheless, Rarity moved the skirt closer as she scrunched her nose, all while looking over the item with a critical eye.

“The stitch work is, I must confess, somewhat intriguing. They are however skilfully done, although personally I would have gone with a blind stitch along this edge in the interests of presentation.” Turning the skirt over in her magical grip, Rarity slowly had her disgust give way to excitement. “Oh, this thread used, I have never seen it before, nor this fabric! It is a travesty that it is so soiled and filthy… and… Well, torn.”

Twilight found herself slightly caught off guard as Rarity abruptly returned the clothing into the container before sealing the lid. Spike meanwhile was trying to flatter the unicorn while Sweetie Belle asked multiple questions only for Rarity to gently urge her to shush for a moment.

“Twilight, dear… I must ask just what you intended to do with these items?” Twilight blinked as her friend put forth the query. A bashful smile found its way upon her face as she looked aside, a hoof rubbing absently into her mane.

“Well, I was going to – as I said – analyse it and then clean and try to repair them…” Seeing the confusion upon the faces directed her way, Twilight sought to explain further as she took the container back into her own aura. “What Spike said earlier gave me an idea. The creature, I am now certain, saved Dinky and then collapsed from her wounds. I have turned everything I know so far over and over in my head and it all leads back to the same conclusion.”

A pointed hoof towards the container was given by Twilight before she gave a small smile. “I hope by giving her back something of hers it will make things easier. Besides, from Princess Luna’s letter she seems to think the creature is lost and scared. This should hopefully help with that.”

I hope…

“I still don’t get what I said… are you sure it wasn’t the hat thing?” Spike looked baffled, Sweetie Belle increasingly so as she tilted her head. A shrug was given the filly’s way by Spike as the two conversed, Rarity instead trotting forward to gently envelop the container with her own magic.

“Twilight, I do hate to be the bearer of bad news, but not even I could repair these. That’s especially true given their... current state.” Seeing what she said had caused Twilight to look slightly downcast, Rarity continued as she smiled, blue eyes twinkling once more. “So, I insist that you allow me to take these off your hooves.”

Confused, Twilight tilted her head, barely paying attention as Spike and Sweetie Belle were now discussing how one could wear one of the items of clothing as a hat. She knew her friend enough to know that Rarity was heading somewhere with what she was saying, but…

Wait, is she actually going to…?

Almost as if reading Twilight’s thoughts, Rarity gave a smug look as she posed, fore hooves pushed together while tossing her mane.

“It would be a chance of a lifetime to match my skills against something from another world.” Rarity spoke with conviction, her gaze resolute as Twilight could almost feel the desire burning within her friend for the task. But… But, she could also tell Rarity wished to help out anyway she could.

Oh… she has that look in her eyes so there’s no dissuading her. Rarity, thank you.

With a clearly false sigh of defeat, Twilight relinquished her magic off the container, a delighted ‘squee’ escaping from Rarity as she claimed her prize. Hugging the box to her chest, the unicorn danced about on her hind hooves before pausing, aware suddenly that everyone was staring at her. Clearing her throat, Rarity settled upon all four hooves before tilting her nose into the air.

“Off we go Sweetie Belle, we have things to do.” Turning her head, Rarity gazed at Twilight while a gracious smile teased her lips. “Thank you Twilight, I shall not disappoint.”

“Oh Rarity, you could never disappoint anyone.” Spike’s infatuation caused Twilight to roll her eyes while Sweetie Belle giggled. Rarity for her part gave a warm smile as she trotted over, bending down to push her front hooves against Spike’s cheeks.

“Oh, thank you my wittle Spikey Wikey.” Smiling at the scene before her, Twilight watched with amusement the dragon burn red along his cheeks. Rarity’s little sister also seemed to find amusement in the act as she trotted for the door, Rarity turning to follow her out with the container floating behind.

“Thank you Rarity, I mean it. I’m sure whatever you make will be wonderful.” Twilight’s words caused Rarity to pause, a warm smile given back before a small nod followed.

“I will have it to you first thing in the morning, come Sweetie Belle, I have planning to do!” With that the sisters departed, leaving Spike swooning as he watched Rarity go. Twilight however was looking somewhat incredulous at the departing unicorns. She turned the information over in her head, tore apart the comment and still it didn’t make sense. No, the problem was it did make sense and that is what worried her.

“Did… Did she just say she would make an entire outfit for a creature she hasn’t even seen, all by tomorrow morning?” Twilight mouthed her thoughts out loud, blinking as she heard a wistful voice beside her.

“Yeah… Isn’t she wonderful?”

Sighing down at the dragon, Twilight plucked him up in her magic to place him upon her back. Giving a nod towards Ink Sketch she trotted for the exit. “Come on Casanova; let’s go home so we can write a letter to the princesses about my plan.”

Saying goodbye to the receptionist, Twilight left the hospital and begun her journey home, already starting to imagine what she would say to the creature when it woke. Anxiety gnawed at her gut as she thought of all the possibilities. But, all she could do for now was hope.

Hope she was right, and, hope that she wasn’t putting Ponyville in danger by believing the so called ‘Foal-Hunter’ was anything but.


Lurking behind the buildings of Ponyville, a pegasus limped; her destination seemingly random to those who looked on. That wasn’t to say she was being ignored, no. Much to the mare’s annoyance she was having concerned ponies constantly coming up to her offering aid. Thankfully most were dissuaded with a firm glare and stern refusal, others required more robust denial before leaving her alone.

Then there was the pink mare.

No matter how much Chrysalis tried she could not deter the pony from following her. She had even managed to lose the pony once or twice with some subtly casted illusion spells only to have the mare find her shortly after. What made it worse was that the pony was another Bearer and as such, one that she very much desired to not be anywhere near. Truthfully she wasn’t really sure on just what the six mares could do, but Ivy Touch would speak fondly of them, as would Steel Point, her, or more accurately, Rosebloom’s parents. She had also learnt that the elements when worn could stop a deity of chaos, and frankly, that was more than enough reason for her to avoid going anywhere near them.

Yet, try as she might, she could not shake the poufy pink-maned mare that continued to harass her. Honestly, it had been her own carelessness that had landed her in this mess in the first place. She had, regrettably, been lost in thought, distracted – much like how she had been captured initially by the brothers – only to be spotted by the one known as ‘Twilight Sparkle’. Out of all of the Bearers, that was the one she wished to avoid the most given that ‘Rosebloom’ was known to the mare, even if just in passing. Sure she had altered Rosebloom’s appearance slightly, but it had been quick, haphazard even, and as such would not hold up under scrutiny. With a little time alone she could alter her appearance further but that led back to her current predicament.

What are the chances of bumping into a pony down the back alleys? Apparently far too high for my liking.

“You should really get that leg looked at you know, but how did you get injured? I injured my leg once and it was no fun, I had to stay in bed and I couldn’t dance, or bounce, or play with Gummy and-…”

Oh… for the love of the All-Mother, please, shut. Up.

Chrysalis had long since given up trying to discourage the mare from following her, now relying instead on the silent treatment. Much to her frustration that strategy proved to be going as effectively as any other she had attempted. Exhaling loudly, she instead turned her head to regard the mare once more, noticing blue eyes shining with delight back at her.

“Look, just how long are you going to follow me for?” The question was met with a tilt of the pink mare’s head as she looked, amazingly enough, thoughtful. Of course the entire expression was ruined by the fact she still had a toothless small alligator upon her mane, one eye of the creature blinking independently of the other.

“Weeeeeell, I was going to keep you company until you got to the hospital.” A caring smile passed over the pony’s face as Chrysalis groaned inwardly. “I mean, what would happen if you fell or something bad happened to you? Nopety-dope, I am going to make sure you get there safely!”

Fantastic… Wait, was that even a word?

With her frown increasing, Chrysalis continued limping all the while resisting her body’s attempts to heal the wound. She had long decided she required that nectar if the need arose, then given her current state of luck, there was also the fact the leeching effect upon her body was going into overdrive. If she thought it bad while in the cage, now, while disguised, it was gorging itself on her reserves.

It seems when I’m not in my natural form it gets worse.

Chrysalis mused on this while toning out the pony bouncing beside her recounting something about how she knew everyone in Ponyville. The drain on her nectar reserves continued to trouble the changeling, but now there was another reason. She could tell her body was changing, but for what reason eluded her. For one her spell casting had increased exponentially, as had her natural abilities. At first she had suspected it was due to Legend feeding her, but upon reflection that wasn’t the core reason. Sure, the emotion was wonderful, and made her feel warm throughout but all it had done was fill the gaping hole of hunger.

No… the sensation, whatever it was, seemed to be altering her. At first she thought it a malady, but now when she wasn’t starving to death she realised that she was changing. Stronger, faster, able to contain more nectar or, alternatively, use it more effectively.

But, why? Why am I changing and what into?

There was one possibility but Chrysalis firmly dismissed it. There were tales, ancient even in changeling terms, of a queen rising from a broken hive. But those were stories, nothing more. Queen Chrysalis, curse her name, had always led their hive, and until recently, was presumed continuing doing so forever.

There is no way that is happening. Me? A queen? Of what? A broken remnant hive who I already failed? Yeah, I can see that working out well. Go me.

“Heeeeeey, are you okay?”

Suddenly aware of a pink hoof being waved before her face, Chrysalis ceased walking to regard her unwanted companion curiously. Well, technically companions if one were to include the alligator, even if Chrysalis would have preferred its company over the mare it resided on.

“Yes?” Keeping her tone just the right amount of annoyed, Chrysalis flattened her ears only to see the mare smile as her ears perked through the cotton candy-like mane. Rolling her eyes, Chrysalis found the mare smiling in a genuine fashion, one that actually disarmed the disguised-changeling.

“Do you need help walking with that leg, is it hurting that badly? Oh! I forgot to introduce myself because I saw you and I didn’t know you, and that made me all excited because that means you’re new, and that’s supertendulous because that means I get to meet a new pony! But then I saw you were hurt, so I was worried, and that’s when I bumped into you! I’m Pinkie Pie and this here is Gummy, he’s extra glad to meet you!”

Suddenly finding herself on the receiving end of an impromptu introduction, not to mention an alligator being shoved in her face, Chrysalis took a step back before exhaling in a long drawn out manner. Plus, she was absolutely certain that ‘supertendulous’ wasn’t a word, well as far as she knew at least.

“Wonderful.” Moving to try and limp past the two, Chrysalis could see the hospital in sight as Pinkie Pie trotted beside her. Continuing to try and ignore the mare proved to be unsuccessful as whenever she glanced to the side, the changeling would see Pinkie smiling at her. “What?”

“You look like you have something important on your mind.” Chrysalis resisted the urge to roll her eyes at Pinkie’s words, instead just giving a small shrug. Undeterred, Pinkie smiled and bounced a little, moving to walk backwards before Chrysalis as they approached the path leading up to the hospital. “You can talk to me about it! I find when I have something really, super, big, and important on my mind talking to my friends helps.”

“Well, you’re not my friend.” The comment was blunt but Chrysalis had about enough of the mare by this stage, pausing to sit as the sun slowly began its descent.

Ugh, is it that time already? I need to find Legend and get out of here.

Pulled from her thoughts she raised a brow to see a pained expression flicker like a ghost over Pinkie’s face before the mare sighed and smiled warmly.

“No, you’re absolutely right, but I would like to be. Everypony needs a friend no matter who they are.” The earnest nature of the mare caused Chrysalis to exhale again before she closed her eyes.

A friend huh…

Her thoughts turned back to the biped, the one who had shown her kindness, and… remarkably had fed her in her natural form. Willingly feeding a changeling was a fairy tale, something that simply did not exist. Still, that was what Legend had done, and in the process saved Chrysalis’s life. Even now, contrary to her entire nature, she felt guilt at allowing the biped to be captured and taken into this town.

Ugh, okay… Focus. I just need her for the hive, that’s all. It’s… It’s not like I actually care about her or anything.

The idea of a ‘friend’ was somewhat of an anathema to a changeling. They got on well enough with each other, but it was never on a term one would call companionship. At best it was they all worked for the good of the hive, even if some did put themselves first. Chrysalis however was somewhat different. When young, hatchlings bonded with each other in a sisterly fashion, relying on each other as they learnt the way of the hive. Then, by the second or so year, they would drift apart while starting to help with small tasks until eventually going to obtain nectar themselves.

It wasn’t that they suddenly detested each other, but the bonds that had formed were simply no longer as important. Ultimately, it was deemed the survival of all outweighed being ‘friends’ with each other. Plus, changelings were brought up, and quickly learned, to distance themselves from those they fed upon. They were just a source of food after all, nothing more, and certainly not something to be friends with.

Chrysalis was unabashedly aware of the fact she was pragmatic, cynical, and somewhat jaded even among her own kind, yet she was also one of those who refused to relinquish her hatchling sister. Upon growing up and becoming a full-fledged worker, she had never severed the bond between herself and her hatch-mate.

In fact, when it came to light that her hatch-mate was a ‘Feedless’ it only seemed to strengthen what they already had as Chrysalis became relied upon. In turn, Chrysalis enjoyed the company of the quiet and somewhat shy changeling, entertaining her hatch-mate’s dreams even if she did poke folly at them.

And yet, here I am trying to rescue a creature that comes from legend itself. Freely giving emotions and never seems to suffer no negative effects of it either. Heh, she was right all along with those stupid tales… Makes me kind of glad I never took up gambling.

Suppressing the self-deprecating mirth that spawned from the thought, Chrysalis came to realise something. She never wished to admit it, but it was painfully obvious. Somewhere down the line she had begun to ‘feel’ something towards Legend. While she tried to brush it off merely as gratitude for saving her, the fact she risked life and limb – not to mention blatantly throwing herself in the opposite direction of common sense – would show she might have come to consider the creature…

Okay, that is absolutely ridiculous! So I went back to save her, and got her food. That was purely to keep her alive so she could provide food for me and for the hive when I get her there. So I lured off a chimera so she could save a stupid foal that was stupid enough to be stupidly on the path and…

Chrysalis mentally winced as she realised her arguments, against herself no less, were sounding rather paper thin. Also juvenile, but she ignored that part.

So what if I watched her sleep, and enjoyed watching her laugh… and felt warm when she refused to abandon me… and…

Much to Pinkie Pie’s apparent surprise, Chrysalis slapped her forehead with a hoof before groaning loudly.

Chitin-rust. I do care about the crying, helpless, idiotic creature don’t I? Congratulations Chrysalis, you’re developing feelings for your food. What other part of being a changeling can I completely shatter by the end of the day? Make friends with a turn-coat pony and live a life of harmony and sunshine?

Chrysalis gazed at the pony beside her before giving a derisive snort.

Uh… No. I’ll live under the same roof as their precious princesses before that happens.

“Are you okay? You were all-“ Pinkie interrupted herself to stare straight ahead blankly before standing on hind hooves to flail her front legs. “So I was all trying to get your attention, and then you were-“

“I’m fine.” Not willing to hear a full account of the last few minutes, Chrysalis nodded her head towards the hospital just up the path. Realising that being abrupt was not working with the pony and only seeming to make things worse for herself, Chrysalis instead forced a smile upon her muzzle. “Thank you… Pinkie Pie was it? I’ll be fine from here, really.”

Please… Please… Please…

“Oh… Well that’s great! I’ll come and visit you every day and when you’re better I’ll make sure to...”

Beginning to wonder why the Bearers were perceived as such a threat – or at the very least, this pony in particular – Chrysalis kept the forced smile on her face, nodding at everything spoken. Eventually Pinkie Pie seemed satisfied and waved a foreleg, trotting off while humming happily to herself. Wondering just what she had agreed to, Chrysalis immediately dismissed her concerns. Once she found Legend she should, in theory, be easily able to fight her way out of the village and escape after a quick feed and as such nothing else mattered.

Thankful to once again be left alone, the disguised-changeling moved around the building to hide within the bushes. Once certain she was concealed, she waited for the sun to sink over the horizon before shedding her disguise, mentally subduing the magic to its lowest level to avoid detection. Knowing that waiting a bit longer would be in her best interests, Chrysalis took the time to look over her body and see just what had changed.

Like all changelings she was very aware of minute physical details, especially those of her own body. Not all changelings would bother creating a new disguise out of nothing, most content to copy the features of another. It was not a very common skill, as what was the point in disguising oneself as someone who no-one else felt emotions for? It was more an ability of the vain, a way to escape detection, or in Chrysalis’s case, something of a necessity. Still, it meant she had an eye for the little details.

After all, she had been a lifer and that required her altering the disguise to keep it consistent with aging. There were hiccups of course, unexplained growth spurts being the most common, but ultimately she had mastered the skill. Then the invasion happened and she betrayed Ivy Touch and…

Wait… Wait, how could I be the one to betray when I was never their daughter to begin with? I must be hungrier than I thought.

Shaking the memories of what happened from her mind, Chrysalis continued looking herself over. Rubbing a hoof up the back of her neck found, much to her alarm, that her frill had moved to the top of her head and was longer, separated, almost like a mane of sorts. Thankfully that proved to be the most noticeable of the changes, that is aside from the fact she was taller and her horn seemed to have grown ever so slightly.

Well, this is just terrific.

Thankfully her pragmatic side coped well with the discovery. Ultimately there was little she could do about it, so panicking would be a waste of time. Besides, she had a task to do. Once she had retrieved Legend from whatever horrors the ponies were subjugating her to and the two of them had escaped, she could then spare the time for a freak out.


Taking a deep breath, Chrysalis focused magic into her horn, aware to get Legend out she would have to sacrifice nectar initially. Casting the detect spell she then closed her eyes, becoming acutely aware of not only emotions, but the life force around her. Unsurprisingly the town was alive with that of anxiousness, so much so that Chrysalis stuck out her tongue in disgust. She never had acquired a taste for those sorts of emotions and never understood the changelings that had. Fear, anger, sorrow, they all were not high on her list of preferences. Fear in particular always tasted too ‘earthy’ for her, and after her impromptu landing in the forest she had tasted enough of the real thing to last her a lifetime.

Now where are you?

Turning her attention to the building beside her, Chrysalis was more than a little surprised on just how little the spell was taxing her. Not really having the time to dwell on it, she instead filed that fact away for later as she gazed upwards. Ponies, not to mention a few donkeys, were prevalent throughout the hospital. Yet one point caught her attention on the second floor, one so drastically different to the others it could only belong to one creature.

Legend, there you are.

Despite herself Chrysalis felt a smile slip over her muzzle. Taking a deep breath she dipped into her nectar reserves again, casting a spell that removed attention from herself causing her to be easily overlooked. Next, for good measure, she also cast a spell to muffle any and all sounds she created. Satisfied at her work, the changeling flew upwards counting on the night sky to shroud her and the spells to hold.

Hovering before the window she focused, having to rely on a skill that she was admittedly rather poor at. The latch holding the window shut proved to be remarkably stubborn, her magical grasp fumbling several times before granting her success with a soft click. Then, slowly, she lifted the window up and slipped through the curtains like a thief in the night. Which… amusingly to the changeling, was actually pretty accurate all things considered.

Settling down soundlessly to her hooves, Chrysalis looked about the room only to spy the one she sought within one of the beds. What was most surprising to the changeling though was that Legend appeared to be resting peacefully, her wounds tended to and most remarkably, considering how she was captured, she seemed to be free and unattended.

To say Chrysalis was confused at that point would have been an understatement. It went contrary to everything she had assumed would have happened. Granted, her time as Rosebloom had shown her not all ponies were as she had grown up in the hive learning. Every hatchling had heard how ponies had turned on their own kind, bringing the windigos down upon the valley, now known as The Frosted Glades, and dooming everything to a slow, cold, death. Now, while Chrysalis didn’t much care about history of that regard, she did always take the underlying lesson to heart.

Changelings on the other hoof were raised from an early age that everything aside, they needed to work together as a hive to survive and serve the queen. To betray another would impact the entirety of the hive itself; it was for that reason alone that the Feedless, while disliked, were tolerated by a majority of the other changelings.

Of course, look where that got us.

Pushing the bitterness aside, Chrysalis still found herself confused as she trotted closer to the bed. She had thought she would be coming in to find Legend being held captive. Sure, she had thought the ponies would treat the wounds but past that it was anyone’s guess. Chrysalis of course knew that Legend was harmless, that is unless you were an apple, but the ponies thanks to those idiotic brothers and their lies thought her an eater of foals, a monster.

“-afraid she is sleeping right now Twilight.”

Having dismissed the detection spell to conserve nectar, Chrysalis jumped at the sound of voices alerting her to others approaching the room. Cursing her stupidity, while also being thankful of continuing the other spells, Chrysalis moved to scamper under one of the other two beds. As the door opened, she also quickly masked the glow of her eyes now not caring if she used more nectar than she wished. If she were caught it would be all for naught anyhow.

“I see…” Twilight Sparkle entered but remained near the entrance, a look of disappointment falling over her features before smiling at the sight she saw. “She really does look so peaceful.”

Just what are they doing?

Chrysalis watched on knowing she was safe from detection. Well, that wasn’t entirely true; if the Bearer actively searched under the bed with her magic she would be found. However, the chances of that were slim to none.

“She does doesn’t she?” A white mare followed the unicorn in and by her hat and the cutie mark, Chrysalis easily deduced she was one of the nurses working in the hospital. Both ponies speaking in hushed tones so as not to wake Legend. “Dinky was right all along, in more ways than one.”


The nurse approached the bed while Chrysalis tensed. Then, much to her added confusion, the mare gently raised a forehoof to stroke Legend’s hair gently. The biped squirmed a little before mumbling something and smiling while the two mares watched on, their smiles growing. Chrysalis could only blink as she watched the nurse show affection towards Legend, the magic she was about to tap into instead loosening from her grasp.

“It’s hard to imagine, but she is no different to a lost and confused filly. She’s scared of us, more than I think we’re scared of her.” The nurse gazed towards Twilight before giving a sad smile. “It seems unicorns instil more fear in her than anything else, that or magic… but Doctor Carehoof’s mere presence caused her no small amount of terror.”

That part caused Chrysalis’s eyes to narrow while her teeth grit against each other, anger building within.

Yeah, I wonder why she is so scared of magic and unicorns? I knew I let that idiot off too easy in the forest, if I ever meet them again…

“I wonder why…” Twilight said, unknowingly partially mirroring Chrysalis’s thoughts. The unicorn trotted close, somewhat cautiously now upon hearing of the fear Legend held for her kind. “I was hoping to try communicating with her tonight, but that will just have to wait until tomorrow.”


Chrysalis felt her ears perk, her body betraying her interest as she watched on. Again, this was definitely not what she expected to find. Unaware they were being watched, the nurse nodded before offering a warm smile, still slowly stroking Legend’s hair in a soothing fashion.

“Well, how about tomorrow when we get her breakfast?” The nurse hummed thoughtfully before smiling down at Legend, moving to settle upon all fours again. “When we see what she actually does eat.”

“Oh, that sounds like a fantastic idea.” Realising she may have spoken too loudly, Twilight lowered her voice before blushing. “I could make a chart, and use some pictures to see if that helps.”

Listening as the two ponies continued their discussion, Chrysalis found she was now suddenly indecisive. She knew she had to get Legend back to the hive as soon as possible, if it even still existed that is. Yet, she found her earlier plan to bust Legend out and run suddenly becoming less appealing. Granted, she still wished to but at the same time part of her could see how Legend was being cared for. Most amazingly, she could see that the nurse genuinely had Legend’s best interests in heart as she had given a small glare when Twilight had forgotten the volume of her voice.

“Still, she has a long way to go for that shoulder to heal.” The nurse’s voice got Chrysalis’s attention as she listened in, the mare moving to tug the sheet back gently to observe the bandaged injury. “But, if she continues to rest it the healing magic should continue to mend the injury within a week. Of course, that is just what we think, as we discussed earlier it all depends on how her body reacts to the treatment.”

A week?

Chrysalis narrowed her eyes already weighing up the information she had just overheard. Indecision ate at her though. She could, conceivably, bust Legend out once the two mares had left but then her shoulder would continue to be injured and…

Focus! What of the hive, what of the eggs and the others? Yeah, I didn’t want the responsibility, and yeah I blew it. But they need her; they need Legend to survive, for the eggs to survive.

Still, Legend looked so peaceful and happy, a far cry from the tortured and miserable creature that had initially been captured and thrown into the cage. Closing her eyes Chrysalis could almost see the small unsure smile on Legend’s face as she reached through the bars, the compassion given freely, her own life saved.


“-was heart-breaking seeing her cry as she did. The poor thing, all this time and all she seemed to need, or want was a friend.” Chrysalis realised she had been so lost in thought she only caught the tail end of what the nurse had said. Strangely enough, her thoughts turned back to a brief second to something the other Bearer, Pinkie Pie had mentioned about everypony needing a friend. Shaking the comment off, she looked over to notice Twilight biting upon her lower lip while the nurse gazed sadly down at Legend again, the hoof once more stroking the biped’s hair. “It took Dinky to remind me of this fact, that sweet little filly knew all along what was needed and we didn’t listen.”

There’s that name again… who is that?

“She’s smart for her age, even when I was asking her questions she steadfastly refused to believe anything bad about the one who saved her.” Twilight smiled and gazed at Legend, nodding as if coming to a decision of sorts. “Will Dinky be visiting her tomorrow?”

“I believe there is no way we could stop her from doing so, she seems to have become quite attached to her saviour.” A small giggle accompanied the nurse’s words as she gazed once more at the sleeping figure before sighing softly. “But for now I guess we should leave her to sleep in peace.”

Her Saviour? That means it’s probably the filly that got Legend into this mess.

Chrysalis frowned thoughtfully before sighing, content in the knowledge her spell was holding. No matter how much common sense and reason tried to beat their way into her mind she found she had already come to a decision. It wasn’t the smartest, and it went against everything she desired to do, and yet…

“Hmm, I don’t remember leaving the window open.”

Oh… right. Things were going far too smoothly weren’t they?

Chrysalis winced as she watched the nurse trot over to the curtains before pulling one aside to close the window. The unicorn however was now looking about with a raised brow and, much to Chrysalis’s chagrin, had a pink glow surrounding her horn.

“Is, something the matter Twilight?” The nurse’s tone was becoming somewhat concerned as the mare in question continued looking around the room, a frown now falling over her features.

“There’s… traces of magic in here, recently cast spells and something else… almost like there’s somepony in here. Did anyone come in before us?”

Chrysalis froze at that last part. Her spells were still in effect, she knew that for a fact, but somehow the unicorn could detect her, or at least sense the spells currently active.

Is that what a Bearer can do? Clumsy idiot, anything concerning Legend and you act like a fresh pupa.

Berating herself Chrysalis instead tensed, ready to run if need be. If it came down to it she was certain with her remaining nectar she could at least snatch Legend and break out the window. After that was another matter entirely, but if she could make it to the forest they might have a chance.

“No, no-one has come in. I’m the only nurse assigned to her now.” The white pony looked uneasy as she too gazed around the room. Twilight meanwhile lowered her head to peer under the beds. Despite her gaze passing briefly over Chrysalis the spell indeed held, the changeling thankful that the unicorn didn’t probe deeper with her magic. Somewhat satisfied, if not still paranoid, Twilight exhaled as her horn ceased its glow.

“It could be just the healing magic reacting to her body, and I may have forgotten to close the window earlier.” The nurse smiled slightly as she gazed at the curtains before looking back to the other mare. “It was a rather hectic day after all.”

“I guess so.” Not sounding overly convinced, Twilight instead offered a small nod before giving another gaze around the room. Nonetheless, eventually the two mares made their way to the exit, another fond smile given towards the sleeping body of Legend before the door quietly closed.

That… That was far, far, too close.

Releasing the breath she never knew she was holding, Chrysalis waited several minutes until the hoofsteps retreated along with the muffled voices. On the bright side, her decision was now one that even her common sense had to reluctantly agree with. It was simply too risky to try breaking Legend out now. She could tell the unicorn was now paranoid, and rightfully so. Plus, with so many Bearers active – not to mention the other ponies – there was no way she could get away as she first intended, even with a full stomach.

Chrysalis, you’re a mess.

Pulling herself from under the bed she buzzed her wings to stretch the flight muscles. Content the cramps had been worked out from how they were pinned to her back through the whole ordeal, she made her way over towards the sleeping figure. Against everything she knew she had to do, Chrysalis had already decided to let Legend stay, to heal, and hopefully find some comfort. The reason why was an enigma to her, yet she felt it was the right decision. Once Legend was healed, then she would take her to the hive, but to do so before that point…

It… It felt wrong. Legend had been nothing but kind to Chrysalis, had trusted her, and above all else had saved her life. Most importantly, Legend had done so to her, not a disguise, but herself as a changeling. Even taking into account Chrysalis had repaid the debt in full – at least three times over now – she still felt something towards the strange biped. Legend cried, a lot, she made silly decisions such as saving the filly, she was somewhat clumsy, and her language was incomprehensible to understand. Yet, Chrysalis found herself smiling as she leaned over the edge of the bed, her muzzle gently rubbing to Legend’s cheek.

There was no denying it, when she had felt the compassion flowing into her, when Legend had looked relieved upon seeing Chrysalis meant her no threat, when she smiled, when she cried, when she offered the apple back, and even when she refused to leave even at the risk of death. It was becoming a fact she had to admit, one she begrudgingly conceded despite how much she wished to deny it.

She had really come to care for the biped.

Oh sure, she had always scoffed at the stories of a changeling choosing to live in disguise willingly with another, be it so called friendship, or even worse, a relationship. Truthfully she had always put it down merely to a changeling breaking from the hive for selfish reasons and the stories then made up to validate it… but now…

Now she could see why.

Legend had felt and done those things for Chrysalis. Not for any disguise she wore, not for Rosebloom, but for her, as a changeling; as herself.

“You’re a pain in the butt, you know that?” Chrysalis spoke softly, her tone warm as Legend squirmed on the bed, her eyelids fluttering. “You make me do the most inane things, but…”

Her muzzle once again rubbed gently along Legend’s cheek as she sighed, a fanged smile rolling over her face as she let the spells fade.

“But you’re my pain in the butt. Now, don’t go thinking it’s because I like you or anything.” The eyelids of the sleeping girl fluttered again as Chrysalis watched on, her own wings buzzing as she sighed. “Fine… I do, now heal up. Knowing my track record, I’ll undoubtedly do something stupid again in my efforts to get you to the hive to save the others.”

She felt light in the chest after the confession, to voice her thoughts, even if they were a little self-deprecating. Granted, no-one but her could hear them but they still felt liberating to say. She had not felt this way since… Well, since she was living as Rosebloom with her ‘parents’, the memory pulling up painful reasons why she personally considered ponies turn-coats. Not willing to dwell on it, she was about to recast her spells and depart out the window when she was stopped by soft murmuring.

Blinking, Chrysalis looked back to see Legend slowly parting her eyelids, the biped’s vision appearing blurry and only partially awake. The voice murmured again, the same word as before and one Chrysalis had a day ago heard in the forest for the first time.


The tone was questioning, the word unknown, but Chrysalis found herself smiling warmly as she nuzzled gently to the hand that moved to the edge of the bed. With a small smile gracing Legend’s lips, Chrysalis felt the hand slide over her muzzle only for the warm sensation of compassion to start flowing in again. Chrysalis savoured the taste, amazed at how much Legend actually cared for her while buzzing her wings softly.

“I’m here and not going anywhere I assure you. You’re under my protection and not even their entire village will stop me keeping you safe.” Her resolute words carried with them her feelings as she gently bumped the hand from her muzzle, already full despite the brief contact. Legend just smiled softly and closed her eyes, her expression now far more content than it was a moment ago. Again the word was softly spoken before Legend’s breathing slowed and she fell back into peaceful slumber.

~Ebony~… Is… That the word she uses to describe me? Well that or it’s hello or something.

Chrysalis frowned thoughtfully, the prospect that Legend had given her a name was intriguing, if not a little funny considering she had done the same for the biped. It would make sense though, and even though she could not tell the meaning, she felt it held weight.

“~Eb-o-ny.~” Trying the word for herself she smiled, trotting towards the window before reapplying her spells to once again mask her presence and sound. Now, overflowing with nectar she felt the ease at which she could cast the more complicated magic, another indicator of her continued changes. Shrugging it off, at least for now, she instead frowned as the latch again proved to be problematic.

Finally flicking it open, her hooves were used to push the window up before gazing back at the slumbering form behind her.

“~Ebony~, you know, that has a nice ring to it.” Chrysalis allowed herself a small grin as she slipped out past the curtains, turning to shut the window behind her. Again, she fiddled with the latch before finally securing it with her magic after several more attempts. Turning she gazed through the window only to notice – much to her surprise – Legend having rolled over to face her. Even though there was no way the biped should have been able to detect Chrysalis, let alone see her, her eyes partially opened and a warm smile found its way across the female’s face.

Sparing one last glance back as Legend closed her eyes again, Chrysalis slipped back down into the bush below. Taking a moment to detect that Twilight Sparkle had left, she then reapplied her disguise once again. Stretching her limbs she resisted her body’s attempt to heal her wound even though healing it now, with the surplus of nectar, would be something a pupa could do with little effort. Having dropped the spells at the same time she returned to being a pegasus, Chrysalis made her way slowly inside the hospital, wincing slightly with each step.

Ugh, I wish I could heal this… but now, when I have the nectar to do so, I actually need to keep the damn thing.

Limping past the doors she was met with a gasp by the mare at the desk upon spying her hind leg. Chrysalis knew her plan was risky, but she could think of no better way to remain close to Legend and also have free access to her. Plus, she knew better than anyone that her disguise would hold up even under the most thorough of scans. At the moment she was no different from any other pegasus, biologically that is, except for a few key differences she would mask with her spells when the time came.

Well that… and I doubt anyone is going to blast me full in the face with magic… again.

“Oh my! What happened to you?” The mare looked worried as she made her way from around the counter, fussing over Chrysalis’s hind leg as the changeling resisted the urge to roll her eyes, but just barely. Instead she worked on her story in her head before voicing it, well aware it was one of the riskier parts of her plan.

“Oh…” Pretending to look back at her hind leg as if it deeply pained her, Chrysalis exhaled loudly as her head drooped. “I-I was in the Everfree Forest looking for my companion w-when all of a sudden there was this commotion and a hydra and I barely got away!”

Knowing the story alone wouldn’t be enough, Chrysalis used a little of her magic to sweeten the deal. Granted the magic available to her was limited while disguised, she could still always count on the ever faithful forgetfulness spell. With a little tweaking she used it just a touch, just enough to partially hypnotise the mare into believing what she said was truth. The green glow flashed over the receptionist’s eyes before the mare gasped, a fore hoof held over her mouth.

“Oh you poor thing!” Moving behind the counter she started scribbling onto some documents, Chrysalis quickly losing interest until the mare’s voice got her attention again. “Now, I’ll go get a doctor, but first I’ll need a name.”

Chrysalis thought for a second. She clearly couldn’t use Rosebloom as that would surely only raise further suspicions from Twilight Sparkle, and worse, probably bring the Royal Guard down upon her immediately. ‘Chrysalis’ was out, firstly because it would be like waving a giant flag proclaiming just what she was, and secondly because she loathed the very existence of the name.

Slowly though, a third option presented itself, one that she found herself liking the more she dwelled on it.

“Dear?” The mare questioned again, the quill held at the ready within the azure aura.

“~Ebony~” Chrysalis took a breath before nodding, a smile coming to her face. It was perfect, exotic, and better still, it was one that given to her, presumably, by Legend herself. “My name is ~Ebony.~”

Seconds passed before the receptionist, Ink Sketch if the name on the desk was any indication, looked thoughtful before humming quietly.

“Uh… how… How do you spell that?”

Grimacing at the obvious flaw in her plan, Chrysalis applied the spell again so that the mare would write down how she thought it sounded; the changeling immensely thankful that the waiting room was empty at the current late hour. With that she was eventually led upstairs by one of the doctors, and, amusingly, also informed about the unique occupant also sharing the floor with the other patients. Granted, Chrysalis herself had no obvious problem with Legend, but she couldn’t let the others know that… Not yet anyhow.

Still, all in all it had gone perfectly with no obvious hitches aside from one.

“~Ebony~ huh, that’s an intriguing name, so where does that originate from?”

Make that two.

Sighing Chrysalis tapped into her magic for a third time, all the while her expression turning deadpan as she realised the spell was going to get a lot of mileage before this stunt was through. Still, the hard part was over and now, now she could simply wait for Legend to heal before making their escape.

Chapter 4.5: Guardians

View Online

Celestia waited in the throne room portraying – as always – a calm and yet powerful presence. Normally by this hour she would have deferred to her sister to run the Night Court while she herself had retired to bed. Tonight however proved to be a special exception, one that she felt would become common over the next few days. The court had been postponed tonight, much to the displeasure of several petitioners and nobleponies, but it could not very well be helped. Celestia had personally apologised and offered, in compensation, to attend to their matters personally the next day; which, thankfully, had gone some way to solving the issue. An arrangement that Luna seemed, at least to Celestia, all too happy to agree upon, much to the Solar Monarch’s hidden amusement.

Both alicorns currently sat side by side before the large throne, positioned in such a way that neither held any higher status than the other. Strangely it was something they both did without consulting between themselves. Yet another sign, at least to Celestia, that things were returning to how they should be. Once more both sisters ruling as equals; two making one, as everything should be.

“Sister, art thou...” Luna scrunched her nose before continuing, correcting herself, “are you sure you do not require Captain Aurora to handle this?”

Celestia could sense the desire of Luna to do something, anything to assist. That was what made it so painful for her to slowly shake her head, the sting of the gesture removed with the warm smile she wore.

“No Luna, while I have no doubts about Captain Aurora’s prowess, I feel it would be better to have Captain Dawn handle this.” Alone in the room Celestia could spare to allow some of her formality to slip as she smiled more warmly. “I know you wish to help, and you know I would under normal circumstances accept without question.”

Spreading a wing across the small gulf that separated them, she brushed the appendage against the other alicorn’s back. Leaning partially to the wing, Luna gave a small sigh as she looked once more at the letter held within her ethereal grasp. Celestia, watching on was at least thankful her sister had acquired an hour or two rest after the earlier encounter, if only to try and observe more of the creature’s dreams to no avail.

“You are right, Tia.” Luna read over the words from Twilight Sparkle again. In a single letter, the unicorn had managed to both raise hopes and cause worry with what she had discovered. While the visitor from another world proved to be no threat was wonderful news, the fact she was so traumatised was not. Nor were the suspicions of something following the female creature. “I am well aware that my guards would cause unease for this task, though the knowledge of such does not make me any more at ease.”

Feeling her sister’s wing brush along her back tenderly, Luna spared a small smile at Celestia. She knew that Captain Dawn was the right choice, and yet she wished it was not so. Upon being reunited with her sister she had come to learn that her own guard had vanished after her banishment, a thousand years ago. With their absence, Celestia’s Solar Guard had expanded to take over all aspects of the military and as such, over time, the Lunar Guard had been forgotten.

Yet, after a series of events involving the sibling captains, Swift Dawn and Aurora Blossom, her guard, the ‘noctral’s had been rediscovered once again; or, at the very least, the long, lost descendants of such. Then, after proving herself no longer Nightmare Moon, they had begun travelling the immense distance to Canterlot to pledge their service to their self-proclaimed, ‘Keeper of the Night’.

Luna personally had always found the title a little romantic in a way, yet the numbers of her Lunar Guard still remained few. Also, much to her displeasure, their absence over a thousand years from ponies eyes had caused their appearance to create discomfort upon return. Personally, Luna found them charming with their bat-like wings, fangs and slit pupils, but the sentiment was unfortunately not widespread amongst the populace. Still, she was thankful their numbers were increasing and becoming ingrained within the royal guard, even if it would take time.

“Give our little ponies time Luna. The noctrals will once more fit in, and, as you know it has already started to happen.” Celestia’s words caused her sister to smile slightly, almost as if the other alicorn could peer into her thoughts. Luna found her gaze moving to the door where, on the other side, Captain Aurora would be standing to attention.

“You are right of course sister.” Luna sighed as she looked at the letter again finding herself reading the words for the seventh time. Celestia, seeing this, gave a small smile before inclining her head ever so slightly.

“I am glad that the creature is benign, yet, I cannot help but feel concern as to what brought her into this world.” Celestia sighed as she looked at one of the large stained glass windows, an image of Discord being defeated causing unpleasant memories. “If he was not locked in his stone prison, I would suspect him responsible.”

Luna closed her eyes, well aware of whom ‘he’ was. Celestia, noticing her sister looking thoughtful, folded her wing back in.

“You seem to think otherwise dear sister.” Celestia knew Luna held other suspicions, especially having shown what she had discovered earlier in the day. “Please, tell me what you think.”

Luna met her sister’s gaze with her own teal eyes, a sad smile slowly coming to the alicorn’s face.

“The tome, I feel that it plays a vital role to her appearance here.” Looking at the majestic doors at the end of the room, Luna sighed quietly before ruffling her wings. “I felt… magic lingering within the tome, a powerful spell. Though, I continue to be unable to identify it… yet.”

Celestia too seemed to realise they would soon have the company they both expected, muted voices barely heard from on the other side of the portal. A small nod was given to her sister to continue, knowing those soon to enter could be trusted.

“Nay, that is not the whole truth. I believe the tome holds the truth of the matter, but as to how, or why continues to elude my efforts.”

“I am here for you Luna, and I always shall be if you need to confide in me.” The Solar Monarch nodded to her sister, her tone as warm as the rays of the sun as Luna offered a smile in return.

“And as always, I return the same offering to you.”

Both alicorns shared the moment, a welcome return to how things used to be. Still, there was a pressing matter to attend to as the doors opened, two pegasi clad in golden armour standing within the entranceway. Guarding the door stood a helmless noctral with a lopsided bob for a mane, a small grin passed between her and the helmless Solar Captain.

Trotting forward, both pegasi approached only to stop short of the princesses, bowing before standing to attention.

“Captain Dawn, Bastion, thank you for coming on such short notice.” Celestia greeted both while Luna nodded towards the two. Still, she couldn’t help but spare a glance to the entranceway where Aurora stood with her tongue sticking out at her brother’s back. Realising she had been seen, the Lunar Captain coughed and stood at attention, her slit pupil eyes flicking back towards Luna several times. If Celestia noticed she wisely chose not to betray the fact, Luna instead giving a small grin towards her captain which was returned.

“You need only ask, Princess.” Captain Dawn stood proudly to attention, his armour immaculate, and his blond mane styled short, combed, and with not a hair out of place. He, like his sister, went helmless but every other piece of armour worn was polished, capturing the light over every inch of its surface. Beside him stood a larger pegasus, also without a helm, but his short blue mane was ruffled and looked barely maintained. Still, he stood stoically and held an air of responsibility about him that Luna always found admirable.

“I have a task I wish you both to undertake, one that may put you both into harm although I wish it were not so.” Swift Dawn listened to his princess before bowing his head, Bastion following shortly after. They didn’t need to hear the details before they would accept, it went without saying. Still, Celestia smiled and continued anyhow.

“Luna, if I may?” A tilt of her head indicated for what she desired, the letter being offered to her as her golden aura overtook that of her sister’s. A nod of thanks was given before Celestia looked down at her two guards once more.

“I require you both to undertake a very special assignment, one where you are to guard an individual.” A look at Luna was given as the dark alicorn took her cue.

“We wish for you…” A soft tsk was given by Luna as she started to revert back to her comfortable way of speaking. “That is to say, my sister and I, wish for you both to guard a very unique creature.”

Seeing the questions already forming upon their faces, well, Swift Dawn’s at least – even Celestia evidently could never truly tell what Bastion was thinking – Luna started to explain.

“This creature is not from our world, she has come here through means that I am currently investigating.” A look at both of them was given, and, for good measure, one also towards Aurora before she continued. “You are both to be protectors, not wardens. You are to guard her as you would any other pony, not stifle and restrain as you would a prisoner.”

A look to her sister was met with a nod, Celestia taking over again.

“We fear there may be individuals who wish to harm her, or to use her for their own needs.” Seeing the intrigued look upon Captain Dawn and Aurora’s face, Celestia nodded. “We have reason to believe that there is at least one changeling who has made contact with her. However, if something unexpected happens you are to follow, but not interfere.”

Celestia fought down the concern that threatened to flow over her features. What she was asking of them was to go against their very training. Not for the first time she sorely wished that things were not as they were, Luna’s noctrals were far better suited for this role with their penchant for subterfuge and stealth.

“Thou must be confused by my sister’s words.” Luna took over again as she raised her head to look down at the two pegasi. “We wish for you to not interfere so as to learn the reasoning why the changelings have an interest in this female, and, perhaps, find where they have been holding within our territories.”

Captain Dawn seemed to mull over this, a glance given to the other pegasus before he cleared his throat.

“I do not wish to doubt you Princess Celestia, or you either Princess Luna, but what if a threat comes that we must act upon?” A gaze to his side saw Bastion give a barely perceivable nod in agreement.

“In that situation my dear captain…” Celestia smiled warmly as she gave a small nod of her head towards the two guards. “Then I would expect you to do as you thought necessary.”

Her words seemed to ease some of the Swift Dawn’s concerns, Luna giving a small sigh to betray how she really felt.

“We are aware what we ask to be most difficult.” Luna’s words filtered through the air as the throne room fell into silence.

“I… Have a question.” The deep voice instantly garnered attention, if for no other reason than the one who spoke. Bastion, seeing he was being looked upon raised a brow before inclining his head ever so slightly back in Aurora’s direction. “You know I do not doubt Swift Dawn’s ability, but would it not make more sense for Aurora to be the one chosen for this?”

Captain Dawn nodded at the other guard’s words while Aurora raised a brow, her attention now firmly entrenched within the conversation. Celestia and Luna meanwhile shared a glance, the Solar Monarch’s expression relaxing somewhat as a wry smile tugged at her lips.

“You may very well be correct, but given the situation it would create undue attention.” A nod was given by Celestia towards Aurora to show there was no slight in her words. Thankfully the noctral smiled, accepting them for their face value as Luna also smiled at her captain.

“Two royal guards alone will create enough without complicating things further, but yes; Luna’s personal guard would make a more apt choice if we had more time. Although, the fact you are both pegasi and not unicorns also works to your favour in this situation.” Celestia gained a mirthful smile as she nodded her head towards the door. “Aurora, if you would please shut the door behind you and come join us?”

The Lunar Captain looked slightly confused before obeying to step forward. Once inside Aurora nodded back into the hallway causing two other noctral guards to fly over, each taking up guard position as a heavy clang signified the portal closing.

“Aurora, thou wilt not be left out, I will have a special task for you.” A smile came to Luna’s lips as the female guard blinked, a fanged grin coming to her muzzle.

“Well, that sounds intriguing.” A nudge with her bat-like wing was given to Swift Dawn, the Solar Captain grunting a little before rolling his eyes at his sister’s attitude. “See; guess you don’t get all the fun.”

Celestia watched their actions fondly as Luna grinned at her captain’s demeanour. It filled Celestia with joy to see her sister start to return to her old self, even if she might have to endure the insufferable pranks again at some point. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful sight to see noctrals and pegasi together again within the guard. Unicorn, earth pony, pegasus, and noctral, all were once again represented as they should be.

It also felt wonderful to have her sister back, even if she could not always express so as openly as she desired.

Luna however was simply amused at her captain; she knew she had chosen wisely upon appointing Aurora as such. She still remained impressed just how much the mare had given up obtaining the position, to be part of her guard. Images of a pegasus with long blonde mane and shining white coat flittered in her mind before she smiled at the grey mare currently teasing her brother, the short black bob partially hiding one of the mare’s eyes.

Thank you for believing in me Aurora. Luna smiled as she watched on, a glance given to her sister as the letter was rolled up then levitated towards Swift Dawn.

“Captain Dawn, this here is a message from my most faithful student Twilight, she is working in our stead to learn more about our visitor. In that letter you will learn as much as we know about the situation.” As Swift moved the letter onto the ground to unravel, he looked up to catch a mischievous twinkle within his princess’s eyes before she continued speaking. “Just try not to distract my student too much.”

A snigger escaped Aurora while Swift Dawn’s lower jaw dropped. Luna’s gaze slipped over to meet that of Celestia’s while a small smile was given back, the Lunar Monarch in turn holding a hoof before her mouth to stifle the gentle laughter.


“Yeah, yeah, Twilight’s just a friend… Well, that and we both know what Shining would do if you really did like her that way…” Aurora slinked up beside her brother after his outburst, a predatory gaze on her face as she grinned. “Plus, we all know the kind of mare you do prefer an-“

Finding herself now with a gilded hoof pushed to her muzzle, Captain Aurora lowered her brow at the owner of the limb, namely her brother. Bastion meanwhile sighed ever so softly before stepping forward, somewhat distancing himself from the twins he had known from foal-hood.

“When do we leave?” His question, as normal, was blunt, precise, and thankfully, at least for Swift Dawn, brought the conversation back on track. Once more the very image of poise and dignity, Celestia bowed her head to the question before looking to her sister. With a nod shared between the royal monarchs all three of the guards stood to attention.

“You both are to arrive there first thing tomorrow morning. If you need to contact me for any reason, do not hesitate to ask Spike for his services.” A smile was given as Swift Dawn and Bastion nodded their understandings. “Now, you had best go prepare, and thank you, both of you.”

“You need not thank us princess, it is our duty.” Both golden clad guards bowed before making their way out, the scroll rolled up to be slipped into Captain Dawn’s armour with a wing. Aurora, casting a glance back at Princess Luna was met with a warm smile.

“Luna will go over your role later Aurora.” Celestia tilted her head before nodding towards the doors. “Go spend some time with your brother; I know he will miss you while he is in Ponyville, even if he won’t admit it.”

A nod was given as Captain Aurora bowed before the two monarchs prior to following the other two out. Left alone once again with her sister, Luna instead gazed towards the ceiling.

There were still too many unknowns about all this for Luna’s liking; chief among them being why was the creature so familiar with a changeling, at least in her dreams. Then there was the fact of the tome and the writing within. Such a thing couldn’t be coincidence and that alone alarmed her. Still, she was glad that the creature turned out to be as she had hoped. Something about the girl seemed so, vulnerable, yet she could feel within the dreams something trying to get her attention, trying to pull her somewhere.

“A bit for your thoughts, dear sister?”

The voice broke through Luna’s musings as she turned her attention to the caring visage of Celestia.

“It is… nothing, I am… Well I am most relieved that the creature, this ‘Foal-Hunter’ turned out to be nothing of the sort. Still…”

Picking up on her sister’s concern, Celestia leaned a little closer, moving a wing to brush against one of Luna’s own.

“The existence of the tome, along with the changeling troubles you, doesn’t it?” Celestia’s words earned her a small nod from her sister.

“I would not be being honest were I to say it did not.” Luna exhaled before gazing up at the stained glass portraying the Bearers and their respective Elements of Harmony. “The mystery remains, why would she be on friendly terms with a changeling, and why would a changeling have such interest in her? But… most of concern is why would there be the tome in her dreams, one she appears guided to work upon.”

“Starswirl, what secrets didst thou take with thee?” Luna added quietly, yet Celestia overheard, concern falling over her features as she watched her sister ponder. Deciding to put the morose thoughts aside, at least for the evening, Celestia smiled and got to her hooves.

“Come Luna. We both know there is little we can do tonight, let’s go and get something to eat before we send a letter informing Twilight of what we have decided.”

Seeing the wisdom in her sister’s words, Luna got to her own hooves and followed, a nod given to the guards positioned outside the chamber. Indeed, the events of the day were catching up to her as she stifled a yawn lest her sister see and demand her to sleep. Tomorrow with Twilight Sparkle meeting with the creature directly would hopefully have more answers brought to light.

And that, ultimately, would have to suffice for now.

Chapter five: Mystery

View Online

With books strewn across the floor haphazardly, scrolls randomly distributed, and – perhaps most alarming of all – things not even categorised, the library was certainly in a state of disarray. Normally the librarian would be aghast to see her abode in such a messy state. That is, of course, was she not the one directly responsible.

“Spike! Are you ready yet?” Twilight found herself multitasking between levitating three books, five scrolls, and checking on the current status of Spike. Several seconds passed before she decided which of the items she would gain the most benefit from before slipping those into the saddlebags she wore. “We need to go as soon as Rarity gets here!”

Twilight was undeniably anxious to head towards the hospital, although that might have been evident by the fact she had only slept for around four hours before spending the remainder of the night downstairs. That time had been spent hunting through the vast amount of knowledge to try and discover anything else about the biped in the hospital. Finding not even a scrap of information – as she knew was highly likely to be the outcome before she began – she instead focused her efforts onto the other pressing issue.

Well, two issues if she were to be completely honest.

The first centred on the primary problem, that of language. From what she had discovered yesterday and from talking with Nurse Redheart last night, the biped had failed to understand attempts to communicate with it. However, one piece of information she had gleaned from their talk was that the ‘Foal-Hunter’ did understand and use similar tone and expressions. It wasn’t by any means perfect, but it did allow one hoof in the door so to speak. As long as they could vaguely understand what the other meant, or what their expressions reflected, it could open up some avenue of communication.

Apparently the biped responded positively to Dinky’s efforts and also to Nurse Redheart’s. She was also clearly scared, and calmed when comforted so that means at least expressions appear to translate over. Tone of voice is also important. It gives me the opportunity to gauge her reaction off what she says, and vice versa.

Regardless, Twilight still put some of her hopes on finding a compatible language. To that end she had chosen several translation spells from her collection, one in particular had proven difficult to locate which had been the catalyst behind half the mess surrounding her.

Honestly, who would have put the translation spell from the Qilin Empire under the ‘k’ section? Doesn’t anypony know that pronouncing it ‘Kirin’ is not only wrong, but inconsiderate to their culture in general?

Still, the spell had been found and stowed into one of her saddlebags nonetheless. That left her other particular issue and research topic for the last few hours; changelings. Oddly enough, apart from anecdotal evidence or a few vague snippets of information, there was nothing in her collection that gave her insight into the creatures. As frustrating as that was it did in fact make some form of sense, even if that realisation didn’t help her mood.

From what Twilight knew – which, admittedly was rather little – changelings used guile and illusions to steal emotions as a food source. She knew they had a queen, and that the others were fanatically loyal to her, if the multitude of changelings that threw themselves in their way at the wedding was any indication, but…

Argh! Why is there no evidence in any of these books?

She had however found something peculiar in one of her prized possessions. That being the journal of Clover the Clever, gifted to her by Princess Celestia on her fifteenth birthday. Well, not the actual journal itself as that was kept elsewhere, but it was a perfect copy, and with so few ever made, it was treasured fondly. In the journal, Clover had mentioned hearing a story about insect-winged pony-like creatures that went from village to village, performing shows to entertain the masses. Amazingly enough, to Twilight and evidently Clover the Clever herself, this act was performed for free.

Still, it was a story of a story, and the writer had not dwelled longer on the matter so, ultimately, it really left Twilight with no further answers. In any case, she had more important issues to worry about at the moment. The primary one being a certain dragon that really needed to get up if they were going to make it to the hospital before breakfast was served.


Directing her voice to the room upstairs she heard muffled grumbles in reply, rolling her eyes in response to the sound.

“Don’t you remember how important this morning is?” Twilight tried again, this time garnering success as the sound of a door opening reached her ears. Looking up she could see in the now open doorway a bleary eyed Spike smacking his lips a few times in the process of waking. With a snort from his nostrils the young dragon rubbed at his eyes before giving his best unamused look down towards her.

“How could I forget?” Stifling a yawn behind a claw, Spike frowned before making his way downstairs at a slow pace. “It’s not like I could sleep or anything with a certain someone being up all night.”

Oh… Um, Oops.

Blushing slightly, Twilight offered an apologetic smile towards Spike as he padded across the library floor, stepping over the mess she had inadvertently created.

“I’m sorry Spike, but I’m just so nervous about today. I mean the whole thing is unprecedented and this will be the first time an Equestrian has ever tried formally communicating with a creature from another world!”

There was a brief pause as Twilight caught up to her own words before flicking an ear, a curious expression falling over her features. “Although, are you sure I was making that much noise? I thought I was being rather quiet, personally.”

Twilight tried to explain herself before watching Spike give her yet another unamused gaze, his bloodshot eyes now clearly visible to the mare. “Okay... I guess I might have gotten a little carried away. I really am sorry Spike.”

A gaze around the room by the dragon was her only response before a long and exasperated sigh escaped his mouth.

“Look, I know you’re excited about today and all.” A little irritated puff of smoke escaped from Spike’s nostrils before he rubbed at his eyes. “I just wish I could have gotten some more sleep.”

Almost as an afterthought he blinked at Twilight before both his eyelids lowered partially. Impressively, his following words were issued in such a deadpan way that even Rainbow Dash would have been proud.

“You… did get some sleep, right Twilight?”

About three hours counts, right?

“Of course Spike.” Seeing the sceptical look directed back at her, Twilight cleared her throat before encompassing the mess on the floor within her magical aura. As Spike took a cautious step back she levitated up the assorted books and scrolls before, with a furrowed brow, moving each item back into its appropriate place. On completion of her task a small wince crossed her features as she rubbed under her horn with a hoof. The tell-tale beginnings of a headache were a clear sign of straining her magic with such little rest.

Ow… Okay, maybe not so much.

“Okay… Maybe I could have done with a little more.” Twilight relented before realising – much to her horror – she had put several books into the wrong shelves. A quick application of magic was enough to solve the issue before she exhaled and noted Spike was now tapping a clawed foot on the ground. “I’ll be fine Spike, and I am sorry again for waking you, but Rarity should be here soon and then we really need to get going.”

Wait for it…

As if on cue Spike’s expression immediately changed as he ran a claw along his head-spines.

“Wait, is it that time already?” Spike looked about frantically before running towards the stairs, his voice following him as he made his way up to their room. “Why didn’t you wake me sooner?!”

Not through lack of trying…

Loudly exhaling before an amused smile came to her lips, Twilight continued to make sure her saddlebags were in order as she pushed down the figurative butterflies in her stomach. The intruder from last night, while concerning, was oddly enough not currently on the top of her priorities. This was mostly due to Princess Celestia’s letter that arrived before bed, one that within had detailed she was sending two guards to safeguard the visitor from another world. This fact – when discussed in robust conversation between Spike and herself – had led to the conclusion if only two guards were being sent then it can’t be as large a threat as Twilight first surmised.

Still, the fact she sent anypony at all validates my concerns. Perhaps I was correct in that the so called ‘Foal-Hunter’ has made friends with a changeling? It’s far-fetched but… again; the evidence does lean towards that way.

Blinking, Twilight realised as her thoughts wandered she had subconsciously enveloped a book with her magic. Most annoyingly, she was already halfway through tugging it from the shelf before she had realised and pushed it back in.

Okay, focus. You’re just nervous because this is, perhaps, one of the most important events in Equestrian history and you’re the one chosen by the princesses to do it. That’s not even getting into how much knowledge could be gained from her! Oh my gosh, what if she is someone important from their world? What… What if I mess this up and accidentally upset her? She’s already afraid of unicorns, what if I cause not only an incident, but an inter-dimensional incident?!

Realising her heart rate had increased in direct accordance to her growing trepidation, not to mention she was starting to breathe heavier, Twilight pushed a hoof away from herself in an attempt to calm down. Working herself into a nervous wreck wasn’t going to help anyone; that much was for certain.

Okay Twilight, you can do this. The princesses chose you for this task and so far you’ve proven she’s not a threat. Now you just have to try and initiate some form of communication and learn about her, her world, and how she got here. Honestly, it’s not like you’ll cause some form of a war between our worlds or anything.

Twilight tried to ignore how her ear was now twitching sporadically despite the sound reasoning given to herself. Thankfully she soon found a distraction in a knock originating from the front door. Realising there was only one pony that it could be at such an early hour she made her way over, excitement beginning once again to overtake her anxiety. Of course she was understandably still surprised when the door opened to reveal an alarmingly tired looking Rarity. Concern flashed over her face before she noticed that Rarity held the exact same look, both blinking before giving into small giggles at each other’s dishevelled appearance.

“Let me guess, you stayed up all night to finish the outfit, didn’t you Rarity?” Twilight voiced the question, aware that the answer was blindingly obvious. Rarity however seemed to be more concerned that her appearance had given away that fact, one hoof raised to fuss with her mane. While the attention fixed up any stray hairs the same could not be said for the lines present under the mare’s blue eyes. “You really shouldn’t have, you know.”

“Darling, one shouldn’t be so quick to judge when it’s clear that I was not the only mare burning the midnight oil.” Rarity offered a playful smirk with her words, Twilight feeling a slight blush cross her cheeks at being caught out so easily. A glance at her mane caused her to use some magic to straighten it, unaware until that point on just how dishevelled she actually appeared to be. Still, Rarity looked rather pleased with herself as she continued unabated. “Be that as it may, I simply had to do so.”

Not allowing a chance for a reply, Rarity applied her magic to remove a wrapped parcel from one of her worn saddlebags. Then, after closing the flap with an azure glow, she levitated it before Twilight, who, in turn, encased it gently within her own magical grip after a nod was offered her way. Once content that the parcel was held firmly within the pink aura, Rarity continued speaking with a wide smile.

“Once I begun on this project, I just couldn’t help myself.” Finding her attention drawn again towards the package, Twilight observed as Rarity’s magic unfolded the paper. With a raised brow from Rarity quietly asking for permission to continue, Twilight relinquished her own magic’s hold enough that the contents could be revealed. With the task done, out levitated several items of clothing, unfolding to hang within the air as Rarity gestured with a hoof in their direction.

“Now, given the condition of the originals,” Rarity began, emphasising the word ‘condition’ with a slight scrunch to her features while Twilight offered a sympathetic look. “It did take some effort, and… cleaning to understand the tailoring involved. I did however try to remain faithful to the original designs but I couldn’t help but let inspiration run its course. You’ll see that I recreated the top to the same measurements, but I shortened the skirt to keep with the current fashion trends. The hoofwear though I had to sadly forgo. I just simply could not recreate them overnight and also finish the outfit for it to be ready now. However, it may have worked out for the better as bare hooves and short skirts are in this season after all.”

Twilight fought to repress the look of ignorance from her face and instead nodded as if she understood; she really was never one to keep up with fashion. Still, she had to admit on a closer look at the sweater in particular that what she could see so far – as per Rarity’s usual standards – was amazingly well tailored.

Rarity has really outdone herself this time. I can’t believe she did this all in one night! Wow, she even got those elastic pieces done as well.

“I did however notice that the quality of the originals, other than their… obvious state were lacking somewhat. Oh, they were most certainly well-crafted from a purely functional standpoint, but they were so bland and uninspired. However, upon saying that, I did discover something wondrous while taking them apart to understand their tailoring!” Twilight blinked as Rarity levitated out what looked like some form of string from one of her saddlebags along with a perfectly cut square of slightly soiled fabric. Her friend’s eyes were wide, excitement teasing her features while Twilight blinked again as Rarity continued. “But would you just look at this fabric, and at this thread! I have never seen anything like it in all my life.”

Wait, is that material from the original skirt? I didn’t see anything special about it at the hospital, but if anyone could, it would be Rarity.

“What do you mean?” Twilight pressed as she felt the tingling of excitement build within, one ear perking in clear curiosity as she raised a hoof to gently touch at the square of fabric. It was evident by the condition of the textile that it was indeed from the original clothing worn by the visitor. But at a glance Twilight struggled to tell the difference between the new outfit’s fabric and the cut out piece. Rarity however looked to barely be containing her glee, her eyes wide as the piece of, presumably cloth, was pulled back so she could rub her cheek fondly against it.

Amusingly, seconds later, Rarity seemed to realise what she had just done and quickly levitated away the cloth before removing a napkin from a saddlebag to wipe her cheek clean.

“Why Twilight, what I mean is that this is simply the most remarkable thing I have ever seen! It is a stronger textile than anything I have on hoof or even have knowledge of. That is, at least without any enchantments present. Now, I will admit it doesn’t have quite the same feel to it as say, cotton or silk that I used for the new outfit, but oh, imagine the possibilities if we could figure out how to craft it!”

That certainly got Twilight’s attention, both ears now perking as she found herself now studying the string more acutely. A stronger string and cloth could have a variety of practical uses, even outside the fashion industry. If they were able to reliably reproduce it that is.

“Do you know what it’s made of?” Twilight asked, intrigue starting to seep into her voice as she raised a hoof towards the object of her curiosity. All the while however, one of her ears flicked at the muffled sound of drawers opening and closing issuing from upstairs, the noise understandably somewhat distracting her.

Now, just what is Spike up too?

Pulled from her musings she blinked as any tiredness seemed to vanish from Rarity, her friend now gazing at the fabric as if it were a ticket to the Canterlot elite itself.

“Oh no, and that’s the problem. While it does share some common traits with the threads and cloth I am familiar with, it is still different enough to… well, be different! I don’t believe to have ever seen anything of its sort. I would even be so bold as to say it may not exist in Equestria, or, dare I say, even the entire world.” Rarity fussed with her mane further before placing both hooves to the ground, a studious look falling over her features as she continued. “With Sweetie Belle’s… help last night, I discovered that it was even resistant to water, but alas turned out to be somewhat more… flammable than other fabrics. Still, it dries fast enough and isn’t quick to stain, which, when taking into account the other factors and perhaps an added fire resistance spell I could see it proving very popular indeed.”

Twilight blinked before trying to hide a grin at what she just heard. She was at least partially successful in this regard, and if Rarity noticed she chose not to comment.

About to thank Rarity for the effort that had taken her through the night, Twilight instead found something slip out one of the sweater’s pockets as she moved the clothing about. Catching the sleek black object within her magic, she levitated it up to analyse, blinking as on first glance it appeared to be made of metal. Yet, upon closer inspection, she found it was possibly a type of a hardened rubber or even a plastic of some sort, but she could not exactly place the material. Still, the reflective capabilities were as confusing as was its purpose.

There also appeared to be some writing on the top, or she presumed it was writing. The squiggles and lines meant little to her but the spacing and linearity gave credence to her suspicion. All in all, it was clearly not crafted in Equestria, or even anywhere else in the world that she could place. That meant without doubt, that it was something that came through with the visitor, and as such caused her to inspect it far more attentively.

There’s more of the ‘writing’ on the back. Overall it looks to be a repeat of what was on the top of, what I guess is the front, or maybe this is the front? Is this perhaps the crea- I mean, the visitor’s language? Hmm, there’s also some slits in the object, and what appears to be a button or two on the side. The front seems to be made of glass but with that crack going through the middle, does that mean it’s broken?

Pulled from her inspection, she found an azure glow had overtaken the rectangular object before it was spun slowly, Rarity appraising it with a critical eye. Exhaling softly, she allowed Twilight to retake it in her own aura, a look of mild disappointment now on the mare’s face.

“I was hoping you may have had some idea of what it was.” Sighing softly again as Twilight shook her head, Rarity studied the object for a moment longer before holding a hoof to her chest. “I found it while taking apart the sweater, hidden within one of the pockets. It was already cracked and I simply could not figure out what it was either. My guess is that it’s perhaps a mirror of sorts; the front does appear to be rather reflective. Regardless, it is fascinating though if a little drab. Black was, after all, so last season.”

Hmmm, maybe Rarity is right about it being a mirror of sorts. But the buttons on the side and top imply some additional purpose. Well, no point pondering on it now… hopefully I’ll learn about it later today if things go well.

Twilight wished for nothing more than to take it apart and find out its purpose, but she knew that would be a mistake as surely as Rarity must have done. If she found herself in another world she would certainly not like anypony to go taking apart her things. As such she would extend the same courtesy to the visitor. Still, something else had caught her eye as the items of clothing were slowly refolded into the paper by Rarity.

“What’s that?” Twilight asked with a hoof pointed towards the skirt, specifically at what she had seen on the side. Rarity in turn blinked before absently stretching the article of clothing out, spinning it around and flapping it within her magic to unfold it fully. “What did you put there?”

Intriguingly, Twilight had noticed something upon the side of the skirt, something embroidered upon the fabric. Squinting she had seen it was in fact small gemstones placed to create a design of sorts, yet their purpose, outside of being ‘flourish-y’, had eluded her. Understanding came to Twilight just as Rarity explained, having finally noticed that it was in fact a word stylised to curl into itself in an artsy manner.

“Ah, well, that would be Mystery.” Rarity commented in a bashful fashion while scuffing a hoof, now finding she was being fixed upon with a confused expression from Twilight. Before the obvious question could leave Twilight’s lips however, she found it answered as Rarity folded the skirt and gently wrapped it fully within the large sheet of paper. “After all, we simply cannot continue referring to her as something as ghastly as ‘Foal-Hunter’ after what you told me last night, now can we?”

I suppose that’s actually very true…

Offering a nod of partial understanding, Twilight could very well agree that the term ‘Foal-Hunter’ was a grossly inappropriate title for the visitor. From what Nurse Redheart had told her – not to mention her own gathered evidence – the female patient would be more at threat from ponies than the other way around. Add into the fact she was apparently terrified of them far more than they were of her – at least initially – it wasn’t hard to see the reasoning behind Rarity’s decision. Twilight was just surprised that her friend had taken her explanation to heart after visiting briefly last night. Still, one question still nibbled at her, one she simply had to find the answer to.

“Okay, I understand that.” Pausing for a second, Twilight raised a brow before partially holding a foreleg up to gesture vaguely. “But… Why, Mystery of all things?”

Rarity simply smiled as she coyly folded up the small piece of fabric to place it back into her own saddlebags along with the thread. Before she could answer however both mares found themselves blinking as the sounds from upstairs grew in volume. A confused glance given towards Twilight was answered with a shrug and mouthed word of ‘Spike’ given in return. With understanding dawning on the other unicorn’s face, along with a somewhat amused smile, Rarity gestured with a hoof towards Twilight’s saddlebag where the clothing was now secured.

“Why, for no other reason than that is simply what she is. What you told me last night and from the letter you showed me not only is she from another world entirely, but also, we know barely anything about her.” Rarity paused to fuss with her mane for the umpteenth time before giving a warm expression as she raised a foreleg to gently bump a hoof to Twilight’s chest. “The poor dear needs to be called something, and I felt it held a certain… charm to it. I was ‘in the zone’ as it were, and, honestly, the outfit just seemed incomplete without a design there. So, in a burst of inspiration, I decided to give her a nickname until we learn her true one, one that isn’t that hideous ‘other’. Now, I will admit it isn’t my finest work, but it was entirely a last moment sort of thing.”

Smiling softly, Twilight could only shake her head good-naturedly at Rarity’s explanation. It did make sense that they needed to call the visitor something, and in reality, ‘Mystery’ was about as good as anything else so far. The circumstance around the name’s creation was just something she could imagine happening with Sweetie Belle possibly having a part to play in its conception. Still, she did notice that Rarity now had a gleam in her eyes, an excited smile slowly splitting the mare’s muzzle.

“Oh Twilight, isn’t this so exciting? Just think of it, imagine all the clothing and styles from her world and oh… My word, all the new fabrics and methods used! Why, you simply must share with me anything you find out about her! The fashion, the designs… It’s enough to make me as giddy as a filly!” Rarity’s enthusiasm was contagious, but it did make Twilight scuff a hoof slightly as her ears lowered upon remembering her own earlier nervousness. This didn’t go unmissed by Rarity, her friend’s visage shifting to one of concern as she stopped her bouncing from hoof to hoof. “Oh dear, was it something I said?”

Oh, just that I have never been this nervous and excited before in my life. Okay, well… not often in my life. And not at the same time…

Twilight could only sigh softly before fixing Rarity with a smile, suddenly immensely grateful that Pinkie Pie was nowhere to be seen. Knowing her admittedly eccentric friend, she would have a word to describe how Twilight felt, and in doing so, another way to butcher the poor Equestrian language in doing so. Maybe something like, nervous-ited, or excitous, or…

Ugh, now I’m doing it. I really should have gotten more sleep last night.

“No… No, I’m just a little nervous about the whole thing. I mean, last night it was easy to focus on the problem as all I had to do was simply gather evidence and prove my theory. But today? Today I have to try communicating with a creature from another world, which is slightly more nerve-wracking. On the other hoof, I couldn’t sleep with how excited I am at the prospect of finding out things about her world!” Twilight took a deep breath before fixing a smile at Rarity as she continued. “One I might add that is apparently absolutely terrified of both unicorns and magic and… I… Well, I kind of happen to be somewhat closely tied to both of those things.”

Without any hesitation, Rarity moved to slip a foreleg around Twilight’s neck once she was finished speaking, surprising the mare before she smiled at receiving a comforting hug.

“Oh don’t be so silly Twilight, you’ll be fine. The princesses trusted you with this did they not? All you have to be is just be yourself and I am certain it will all work out.” Rarity’s tone offered no argument as she released the hug to settle on all fours. With a smile finding itself upon Twilight’s face again, she was once again reminded just how lucky she was to have such wonderful friends.

She knew without a doubt that were the situation reversed she would be there for Rarity. Well, not just Rarity but any of her friends, without question or hesitation. Still, it was always nice to be reminded how they were there for her, through thick and thin.

“Thank you Rarity, and thank you again for making the outfit. It means a lot to me that you would do it, and it looks absolutely wonderful.” A glance to the saddlebag was given before Twilight smiled again at her friend. “You know, you could come along as well if you wanted? Perhaps see how she reacts to it?”

Hopefully positively. I’m not sure how she will take the fact we kind of destroyed her old clothing to make her new ones. I really hope I made the right decision on that.

Blinking at the question and unaware of the conflict within Twilight’s thoughts, Rarity tapped her chin with a hoof. To Twilight it seemed the mare was seriously appearing to be considering the idea until a heartfelt sigh instead escaped her mouth.

“Oh, I would love to, I truly would. But, alas, I simply have too much to catch up on. There’s at least three orders I need to have done by tomorrow. Besides, if she is hesitant around one unicorn, perhaps it would be wise to limit it to only you for now?” Smiling again towards Twilight, Rarity gave a small bow of her head before raising a foreleg partially. “But I do appreciate the offer nonetheless.”

Rarity’s right, and I kind of knew that would be the case but I still felt I had to ask. Still, to find out she was already swamped and still pulled an all-nighter to make the outfit? It’s not like I forced her, and she took it upon herself to do so… Still…

“I could help out if-“

Twilight never got to finish as Rarity interrupted almost immediately with a shake of her head and soft tsk escaping her lips.

“Oh no Twilight, I simply couldn’t accept your help when you already have such an important task ahead of you.” Rarity continued with an earnest smile now on her face, one that was slightly dampened however by the tiredness returning once again to her features. “You don’t need to worry any though. Fluttershy, the dear, has already volunteered to help me this week to catch up. She even agreed to come over after lunch to lend a hoof.”

Pausing, Rarity then turned to look up at the low positioned sun before clicking her tongue at what she saw.

“Speaking of which, I had best hurry to make breakfast before Sweetie Belle gets up.” A deadpan expression found its way to Rarity’s face, Twilight having to hide another smile behind a hoof. This time however she seemed to have very little success in this regard.

“It is no laughing matter! I can understand burning toast, but how my sister managed to burn oats is another matter entirely.”

Twilight actually found herself pondering on that one when the door upstairs opened, her head tilting to the noise as she shifted her weight to adjust her saddlebags. If Spike was coming down that meant they could leave soon, or at least that was the plan now that she had the outfit.

“Well, I suppose if she were boiling them and ran out of water…” Twilight offered helpfully before Rarity rested a hoof to her face with a soft groan. Removing the appendage, she settled upon all fours again to fix Twilight with a pointed stare.

“Twilight… As far as I know she was only adding milk to the oats. And don’t get me started on how she tried to save time by putting everything in one pot: toast, eggs, milk, cereal, juice, salad…” Rarity turned a little green as she remembered before swallowing the bile that obviously threatened to rise.

Thankfully for the mare she was cut off from further reminiscing on other culinary horrors when Spike finally made his way down. Twilight flicked her ears hearing his approach but before she could turn around she found her attention drawn towards Rarity’s face. This was primarily due to the fact her friend had gone from barely holding her dinner in to instead trying hard to restrain amusement. That alone explained more than words ever could, even as she heard his voice from behind.

“Oh hey Rarity! Fancy seeing you here this morning.”

He’s wearing a fake moustache… isn’t he?

Turning around Twilight found that, yes, Spike was indeed sporting more facial hair than normal on his small snout. However, that wasn’t even the end of it; oh no. Somewhere down the line he had also managed to scrounge up not only a top hat, but also intriguingly enough a monocle. Now just where he had obtained them was a mystery for another day, but at the moment she could only exhale and offer a bemused smile at his choice of style. Still, Twilight could confess to one fact.

Today would certainly not be boring by any means.


“I mean, I know it’s important and everything but couldn’t we have stayed a little longer?”

A low groan emitted from Twilight’s mouth as she kept up the brisk canter towards the hospital. While she was definitely not upset with Rarity’s visit – especially given the precious parcel now in one of her saddlebags – it still had distracted her from the time. Although, being honest with herself, she admittedly should have picked up on it when Rarity had mentioned breakfast. However, be that as it may, she was now pressed to get to the hospital on time. Having to figuratively pry Spike from wanting to spend more time with the other unicorn had certainly not helped in that regard.

Thankfully, realising that Twilight was in a hurry had resulted in Rarity's aid on getting Spike out the door. It had also helped that her friend had a vested interested in getting back to her own home before Sweetie Belle woke.

Still, it now left Spike in a somewhat sour mood which he had made no attempt to hide over the journey thus far.

“And…” Spike’s voice caused Twilight to emit another groan followed by folding both ears back. If nothing else his irritation was providing her with more motivation to get to their destination that much faster. “I didn’t even get breakfast!”

He’s right… Actually, nor did I when I think about it. I can’t keep ignoring him either, that isn’t fair to Spike, it’s not like it’s his fault.

Realising that ignoring the problem wasn’t going to make it go away, Twilight slowed down as she offered a friendly few greetings to the ponies they passed. Now finally on the path leading up to the hospital, she spared the attention to look back at the predictably sulking visage of her assistant.

“Spike, I’m sorry but you know we have to get there early.” Twilight tried to explain herself only to see his mouth open for a retort of some kind. Cutting him off she verbally pushed onwards, knowing only one way to deal with this situation; bribery.

“Okay Spike, what will it take to make up for this morning?”

Obviously caught off guard by the offering, Spike was left to ponder the question as Twilight trotted up the path, all the while absently tapping under his muzzle in deliberation. Thankfully, at least in Twilight’s eyes, he had left the accessories back at the library. Still, where he had managed to hide the pieces in their room continued to elude her.

I wonder what other surprises are waiting in- Actually, no. I really don’t want to know.

“Hoooow about, five gem cupcake specials from Sugarcube Corner on the way home?”

Continuing to trot up the small hill, Twilight raised a brow at his words while angling her neck to gaze back at him. Spike, in return, offered a tooth filled smile which only resulted in Twilight trying to suppress laughter at the sight. As if a dam had burst she felt the stress bleed out of her merely at the expression her assistant had directed her way. With ears beginning to perk once more she paused to favour him with a smile tugging at her lips.

“Three or you won’t eat dinner.”




“Three, final offer.”

“Six and that’s my final offer.”

Spike’s last counter-demand caused Twilight almost to miss a step before a chuckle escaped her mouth. Opening the doors she trotted inside before gazing back at Spike, mirth now written all over her face as he in turn looked slightly taken back by her reaction.

“Spike, you’re meant to barter down, not up.” Twilight explained, still trying to hold in her amusement. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, but she found it had struck her funny bone somewhat.

Upon being informed of this crucial piece of information, Spike could only shrug before offering a lopsided grin. “Can’t blame a guy for trying, right?”

No, I really can’t.

“Okay then, four cupcakes on the way home, I think that’s fair.” Stopping before the receptionist desk she briefly nodded towards Ink Sketch. The orange-maned unicorn appeared suitably amused by the conversation that had wandered in, one of her brows raised as Twilight gave another glance back at her passenger. “But you had best promise to eat all your dinner mister.”

Holding a claw in the air, Spike looked the picture of innocence.

“Hey now that I can promise. Applejack’s still bringing over that pie, right?” Almost salivating at the thought of the treats he would get, plus a delicious hot apple pie, Twilight could only laugh softly before leaning back to nuzzle at him. At the show of affection he pushed at her muzzle before folding both arms followed with a soft huff. “Hey Twilight! Not in public, sheesh!”

Heh, still my little guy.

Turning to Ink Sketch while Spike attempted to hide the blush upon his cheeks, Twilight offered a friendly greeting to the receptionist. After exchanging pleasantries, and noting that the waiting room’s atmosphere was far calmer than yesterday, she then made her way upstairs. A glance at the clock downstairs had at least reassured her that she was still on time, if cutting it a little fine. Twilight always preferred to at least be half an hour early at the latest, now she would be lucky if she had ten minutes to spare. All in all, things could be worse, she wasn’t… tardy, and that was a definite plus.

Even the thought of being late was too horrendous to contemplate.

“Uh Twilight…”

Spike’s voice caught Twilight’s attention as she paused to peek into the doctor’s office. Finding no trace of either Nurse Redheart or Doctor Carehoof she continued on her way, continuing to peer into each room while addressing Spike, more than a little curious as to the nervous tone of his voice. She was well aware from yesterday that he was slightly hesitant around the so-called ‘Foal-Hunter’ so it was understandable he would not be feeling overly confident right now. Or, that was what Twilight presumed at least.

“Yes Spike?”

Despite what she had just surmised about his voice, something in his tone grasped her attention. Turning her head she caught a glimpse of golden armour out the corner of her eye, deducing it must be one of the promised guards who seemed to be waiting at the corner ahead.

Well there’s one, I wonder where the other is?

Pulled from her thoughts on seeing Spike’s expression she felt worry gleefully dig its talons back into her confidence. She did note however that the way he held a strange blend of grimace mixed with a smile was impressive, if perhaps a little disconcerting to gaze upon. Compounding this fact was how he was also offering a nervous wave to someone in front of her, most likely she guessed at the guard she had glimpsed seconds ago.

With one ear going askew she regarded Spike with a raised brow waiting for an answer. Oddly enough he was acting peculiar given that he had never been nervous around any of the guards before, if anything he would normally be acting more relaxed in their presence.

Something isn’t quite adding up here… What am I missing?

“You know how we said if Princess Celestia was only sending two guards then it can’t have been that big of a deal… Right?” Spike cleared his throat as Twilight begun to twig to his intent, turning her attention forwards only to notice what she had so blindingly overlooked mere seconds ago. So caught off guard was she that she barely heard Spike’s follow up question.

“So, what does it mean if one of those two guards is the Captain of the Royal Guard?”

It would mean that this is a big deal. A very, very, big, changeling-filled deal.

Sure, in the momentary glimpse previous she had indeed seen there was a guard standing at the corner. Now, what Twilight hadn’t noticed was that the guard in particular was, firstly, a pegasus, and secondly, was also Shining Armor’s replacement after her brother had moved to the Crystal Empire. Funnily enough that second point her brain rightfully deemed rather important, especially when categorising how she should gauge the situation. In her defence though, she had always known Swift Dawn to forgo the use of a helmet. Thus Twilight found herself more than justified in not recognising him immediately given the fact he was, amazingly, wearing one for once.

“Twilight, Spike. It’s good to see you both again. From what I hear you have both been busy since I saw you last.” A respectable nod was given from the guard as he offered a tiny hint of a smile. Spike for his part puffed up his chest some at the recognition, a gesture that Twilight could only roll her eyes at before fixing the captain with a welcoming smile. Despite the shock of seeing him, not to mention the presumed danger the intruder posed by his necessity, she was nonetheless pleased he was the one appointed.

“I honestly didn’t expect you to be one of the guards here Swift Dawn,” Twilight stated truthfully enough. Intriguingly, a small shake of the captain’s head was given to someone out of view before he flicked an ear, regarding her with a raised brow and mirth filled expression. “Princess Celestia didn’t mention who she was going to send, just that she wasn’t sending unicorns due to Mystery’s apprehension towards them.”

Which… Again, I just happen to be one myself.

It took several seconds, primarily due to wondering just who, or what Swift Dawn had been looking at before she realised what she had just said. Sure enough Swift Dawn raised a brow, his wings ruffling before he fixed Twilight with an understandably baffled expression.

“Mystery?” The guard’s question hung in the air before Twilight mentally slapped herself with a hoof. That was one thing she had to give Rarity credit for; the nickname was indeed catchy if she was already starting to casually use it. Amusingly, the sound of a claw meeting a scaled snout behind her showed that Spike wasn’t quite as reserved in his assessment of the situation.

“Sorry. That’s the name my friend, Rarity, decided on for the biped when she was tailoring her outfit. I guess I inadvertently or maybe even subconsciously latched onto the idea without realising it. In any case it wouldn’t do to continue to refer to the patient as ‘Foal-Hunter’ given all the contrary evidence and thorough debunking of that idea. In essence, giving her another nickname, one without such negative connotations would help alleviate any nervousness, and-“

Twilight paused when one of her ears flicked due to a silence falling over the hallway. Well, not a complete silence as the hospital continued on around them. But, in her immediate vicinity, she could have heard a pin drop, that, or the sound of a dragon clearing his throat in a brazenly awkward fashion. Noticing the blank look directed her way from Swift Dawn only made one ear lower as she exhaled in growing frustration. Quickly surmising that she had begun talking in a ‘lecturey’ fashion as Applejack sometimes put it, which, thankfully, was more favourable than ‘egg-heady’ as Rainbow Dash preferred to term it, she found herself snorting disdainfully.

Why is it whenever I try to explain something to somepony in a simple, straightforward manner, they look at me as if I am talking in another language entirely?!

Given her souring mood, that, admittedly, was highly likely due from lack of sleep, Twilight found herself growing steadily more agitated than she normally would at the situation. That is until an amused chuckle from Swift Dawn completely dissipated any annoyance she felt, replacing it instead with mild confusion.


“Well, it’s good to see that she hasn’t changed at all, has she Spike?” Swift Dawn raised his head to regard Twilight’s passenger while the dragon slipped from her back, his arms stretching upwards before giving a pat to one of her front legs. Raising the limb with an annoyed frown, she watched Spike grin sheepishly before shrugging towards the pegasus.

“Oh yeah, I mean you should have seen her this morning! There were books everywhere around the library. She was so nervous tha-“

The pink glow suddenly surrounding Spike’s mouth prohibited him from continuing his recounting of events. Glaring up at Twilight he instead folded his arms while she released a somewhat nervous laugh, one ear going askew as she tried to salvage the situation. Having the Captain of the Royal Guard know how nervous she had been was definitely not something she desired to happen. The only saving grace about it all was that that it was Swift Dawn, and not Aurora Blossom who was here. If that had been the case she definitely would never have lived it down.

Once content that Spike wasn’t about to continue she released her magic’s grip from around his mouth. With a raised brow she silently promised to do so again if he tried continuing, a tongue poking out at her his silent rebuttal on the matter.

Thanks Spike, you just had to blab how nervous I was to Swift Dawn, who, most likely now thinks I’m some neurotic mare who can’t handle this task from the princesses! I bet he’ll report to Princess Celestia and Lu-

The sound of laughter again cut through her annoyance, not to mention growing anxiety. Spike too seemed to be caught off guard as both he and Twilight regarded the guard with varying degrees of puzzlement. Something about her and Spike’s interactions had obviously amused the Royal Captain, although whatever it was remained beyond her. Still, the chuckles soon stopped only to be replaced with a lopsided grin upon his face.

And some ponies say they can’t see the resemblance between him and his sister…

“I wasn’t kidding about what I said earlier; it really is good that you both haven’t changed. Why, I remember when Twilight used to try and give me lengthy lectures on just why I should allow her into the barracks to see her big brother.” A mischievous glint shone in Swift Dawn’s eye as he gestured for them to follow, moving to take the lead as he continued recounting the story. “She would even drag books along with her and quote fact after fact. Now, I said try, but she always managed to convince me to let her past. I think I lost count on how often I had to do extra drills because of letting her in.”

Guilt filled Twilight at that, having been completely unaware of the trouble her youthful desire to see her brother at every opportunity had caused for Swift Dawn. That wasn’t even taking into consideration all the other guards who had the poor luck of being stationed during Shining Armour’s training. Granted, she had been just a young filly at the time and it was in the past, but she wasn’t the type of mare to not apologise. Her parents along with Princess Celestia had brought her up to be far better than that!

Of course Spike’s attempts to muffle his amusement on learning this fact wasn’t helping matters any either. But, then again, he would have been too young to remember, and Princess Celestia or her parents were usually looking after him when she snuck off to see Shining Armor.

“I’m sorry that I got you into trouble, I honestly didn’t mean for that to happen.” Apologising as she turned the corner, Twilight was again surprised when she saw the identity of the second guard standing by the door. With one eyebrow raised on the stallion’s face he regarded them as they approached, his large armoured frame unusual amongst other pegasi. That last observation alone would have been enough for Twilight to guess his identity, which was even before she saw his face and offered a shy smile.

Bastion’s here too? That settles it; Princess Celestia is definitely taking no chances with the intruder, or protecting the bi- I mean, Mystery.

Also, the lingering question of Nurse Redheart’s location was solved when Twilight saw her also standing by the door with both ears perked. Another observation was that on the mare’s back was balanced a tray of food with a glass of water, that, obviously, meant the nurse had been waiting for Twilight to arrive. Nonetheless it was the observation that the other mare was trying to restrain a bemused expression on her face that Twilight was most concerned with.

It meant that some, or the entire conversation had probably been overheard.

Well this morning appears to be getting off to a good start. It’s not even past breakfast and I am already mortified.

“Swift Dawn is exaggerating.” The deep voice of Bastion filled the corridor despite, or perhaps due to, the fact he barely raised his voice. The large pegasus stood resplendent in his gilded armour, the blue tail and white coat complements of the enchanted armour he, like most guards, wore. Swift Dawn on the other hoof was one of the few exceptions given that his blond tail was flicking behind him, inadvertently displaying his mood to the other guard’s words. Undeterred, or simply uncaring, Bastion gave the bare hint of a grin before continuing.

“No-one would have ever got into trouble for letting Princess Celestia’s personal student in. No, he got in trouble all on his own accord.”

Part of Twilight was relieved by the revelation, but still, having the Captain of the Royal Guard here not to mention Bastion resulted in her reconsidering her suspicions. Now it wasn’t so much a question of whether the intruder was a changeling, now it was a question of how many were there. The fact that at least one of the shape shifters had checked in on the girl last night was, well… it still made no sense. From what she knew they stole emotions, they fed off fear and disharmony, and, most importantly, they all seemed to follow the commands of the one known as ‘Queen Chrysalis.’

Does that mean the queen herself has interest in the visitor, and, if so, why? No, if that’s the case two guards definitely wouldn’t be enough. Something else is going on…

The mystery frustrated Twilight. However, for some reason that she couldn’t quite put her hoof on, she found she was not as worried as she knew she should be. Concerned, yes, but oddly enough not worried. The reasoning why that was proved elusive, but she contemplated that perhaps it was instead due to what had not happened the previous night. The patient had remained undisturbed, no damage had been done, and the princesses had only sent two guards. Granted, one was a particularly important guard, but only two of them all the same.

Despite evidence to the contrary however, she didn’t think that the princesses were withholding information from her. Or, if they were, it wasn’t out of a sense of malice or lack of trust. She could only believe in their judgement and focus on her own task. That of course, didn’t mean she still couldn’t try and formulate an answer though.

I must be missing something here. Okay Twilight, let’s put the facts together. Now, not only was Dinky saved in the forest by ‘Mystery’, but also by a strange green fire that distracted the chimera. That means that without a doubt there must have been another pony or something else assisting Dinky’s rescuer. A chimera would have chased them otherwise, well at least to the limits of its territory. That I guess narrows it down to two options. Either it really was a changeling and for some reason it helped them and checked in on Mystery last night… Or…

Twilight blinked as a stray thought struck her, one she hadn’t even considered until that point. That being what if there was another creature like Mystery running around, one that had somehow come in to check up on her in the night? Yet no sooner had she given rise to the thought was she then dismissing it altogether.

No… No, that can’t be right. For one, how could it have wandered into the town without being seen given the reaction towards Mystery, or I don’t know, even getting up and through the window? Secondly, the princesses would surely have noticed something. No, the intruder would have needed the ability to fly, great aptitude at stealth, and a reason for visiting. And so far all the clues I have point firmly towards a changeling, but the question again is, why?

So deep in thought was Twilight that she only noticed Nurse Redheart was talking to her when the mare gently bumped her with a hoof. Concern was clear on the nurse’s face as she shifted to keep the tray balanced on her back. Shaking her head to bring herself back to the present, Twilight offered a sheepish smile in return.

“I was worried for a moment. Spike mentioned you had only a few hours’ sleep last night.” The kind expression that played over Redheart’s face instantly transformed into much a sterner variant, not to mention a brow was raised as the hoof gently nudged Twilight again. The kind of look, Twilight surmised, that would be used on a particularly stubborn patient. “Are you sure you’re alright to do this today?”

A glance was given by Twilight towards the traitorous dragon, who on being noticed, folded his arms and returned the look defiantly back at her. Noticing everyone had stopped to look in her direction, Twilight realised they were only concerned about her wellbeing. Still, that didn’t mean she couldn’t be just a little annoyed that Spike had blabbed.


“I’m fine, I was just…” Pausing, Twilight thought on how to proceed before turning her head to nose open the flap of one of her saddlebags. With a touch of magic she then proceeded to levitate out the large checklist of food items both she and Spike had created before bed. Unrolling it so Nurse Redheart could look over it, Twilight continued explaining herself. “I’m just kind of excited about today; I mean behind the door there is a creature from another world entirely. Imagine what we can learn from her?”

The other mare after nodding and murmuring her approval of the checklist, turned her gaze back towards Twilight, the stern look fading as a smile teased at her muzzle.

“I can understand that Twilight, but please…” Once more Redheart’s voice took on a serious tone yet the smile never left her face. “She may be from another world, but while she is in this hospital she is my patient. She’s scared, confused, and displaying clear signs of something traumatic having happened to cause it. Maybe it was how she was brought to the hospital, maybe it was something previous…”

Twilight cringed as Nurse Redheart stepped closer, one of the mare’s brows raised.

“All I know is that I will not allow my patient,” Nurse Redheart stressed the last word out causing Twilight to swallow quietly, “to be further traumatised, even by accident. Do I make myself clear Miss Sparkle?”

Oooo-kay… I can now see why Doctor Carehoof put her in charge.

Twilight blinked twice, noting that even the guards were directing their attention elsewhere. Spike had even managed to find something immensely interesting to look at other than them, even if that ‘something’ happened to be a certain large amethyst positioned in the centre of the food tray.

“I know, and I promise not to upset her. I just want to find out more about her as the princesses requested, and perhaps maybe find out how she came to Equestria.” Twilight fidgeted under the scrutiny of the nurse before she scuffed a hoof absently. It didn’t help she felt like she was once more a filly and being reprimanded by her mother. No, scratch that, her mother could always make her feel that way regardless of her age. Still, Twilight had faced dragons, invasions, and even a corrupt being of black magic itself…

And right now, any of those seems preferable to this. Now I know how she got Pinkie Pie to behave, and to think I didn’t believe them when they told me…

Thankfully Nurse Redheart seemed content with what she had heard, a warmer smile coming to her face.

“That’s good to hear Twilight, but you should also take better care of yourself as well.” Twilight nodded to the nurse’s words while catching Spike giving her a look that screamed ‘I told you so.’ Rolling her eyes she found a smile coming to her lips before gazing back at the nurse. Now that the ground rules had apparently been set, she was keen to get started.

“I’ll get an early night tonight, but right now we have more important matters.” While speaking, Twilight glanced towards the door. “How is she today?”

“I’m not sure. I didn’t want to disturb Mystery’s sleep before we started.” Nurse Redheart stated with a suspiciously wry smile. Twilight flicked an ear at that, quickly realising that her conversation with Swift Dawn had been heard in its entirety. That, annoyingly enough, undoubtedly included her youthful escapades. Noticing Twilight’s expression, and seeming to interpret it as a reaction to the nickname, Nurse Redheart’s smile became noticeably softer.

“Don’t worry; I think it’s actually quite a lovely name to call her by. It’s much better than… well, the other one.” With a nod of agreement given to Nurse Redheart’s words by both Spike and herself, Twilight levitated out the parcel from Rarity. Flexing her magic some, the clothing items were unwrapped and held up for the others to see, primarily the skirt with the name placed on the hip. This led to the nurse giving a sound of appreciation as she moved a hoof over the texture of the sweater, a smile coming to her lips once more.

“Rarity made these in only one night?” A small sound of awe escaped from Nurse Redheart before she gave a firm nod towards Twilight. “Please, pass on my compliments to her, these are amazing. If I hadn’t seen the state of the originals myself I would never have believed these were completely newly made.”

“Yeah… Rarity is amazing alright.” Spike stated dreamily leading to Twilight rolling her eyes. With a playful smile she trotted over to nudge him with a hoof before casting a glance back at the nurse. It also amazed her just how quickly the guards could seemingly melt into the background. She knew they were there, but at the same time she paid them no conscious mind.

Well obviously Twilight. They wouldn’t have been sent if they couldn’t be somewhat discrete now would they?

Offering a respectful nod to both Swift Dawn and Bastion, with only the former returning the gesture, she noted that both had taken up position either side of the door. Seeing this was the case she decided to get right down to the reason for her visit.

“So, how are we going to go about this?” Twilight paused before one of her ears flicked as a thought sprung to mind. “I think it would be best if you went in first, and then I came in once she was settled after what you told me yesterday.”

A nod was given by Nurse Redheart in reply, the mare obviously having come to the same conclusion as she trotted towards the door. “I think that would be best. Give me a couple of minutes before you come in, alright? First I want to make sure she is awake.”

Nodding in agreement, Twilight watched the nurse take a deep breath before using a forehoof to pull down the door handle. With a push from her head the door slowly opened and she trotted into the room. Twilight found herself almost forgetting to exhale as she moved out of sight, painfully aware that out of all those assembled she was the most likely to cause a negative reaction. That knowledge continued to make her feel uneasy no matter how much she tried to rationalise it.

Spike, evidently picking up on Twilight’s mood, gently placed a claw to her side before offering a reassuring smile.

“Hey, I know she’s scared of unicorns, but you’re you Twilight. There’s no way she can be scared of you.”

Twilight had to admit as far as pep talks went it was a little lacking. Still, she couldn’t fault Spike on his earnest nature so returned the smile down towards her assistant.

“Thanks Spike, I just hope you’re right.” Twilight gave Spike a soft nuzzle for his earlier comment and, amazingly, only received a half-hearted complaint in response. Raising her head she barely caught the two guards exchanging a glance, Bastion’s brow partially rising while Swift Dawn suppressed a small chuckle.

“Awww, Twilight, not in front of the guards,” Spike grumbled, folding his arms while flustering slightly. Twilight couldn’t help but laugh at his predictable reaction, a sentiment shared by Swift Dawn if his own laughter was any indication. Now acutely aware of the attention upon himself, Spike exhaled and gestured towards the door. “So, uh, when are you going to go in anyhow?”

Twilight felt one eyelid lower as she gazed down at her assistant. What he had said did not go unnoticed by her, lowering her head followed with a gentle push with one of her hooves to his side.

“You mean when are we going in, right?” Twilight watched as Spike shifted on his feet at her words. With a soft sigh she bent her forelegs to get down to his eyelevel, smiling as he met her gaze. “I can’t do this without my number one assistant.”

Spike however seemed unconvinced as he spared a glance back inside Mystery’s room. Whatever he saw didn’t seem to reassure him as he reached to grab his tail, wringing the end of it fitfully.

Oh Spike...

It went without saying that yesterday Spike’s comments throughout the day had helped structure her thoughts. She had told him as such when they had gotten home, something that he had been bashfully proud of. Still, she knew him well. Just like he had proven he knew her more than she knew herself sometimes, she was the same for him. To her he was more than an assistant, more than a friend. He was part of her family, and sometimes she almost saw him as…

Okay, getting off track there Twilight.

Her lack of sleep, nervousness, and excitement were affecting her train of thought significantly that was for certain. But regardless, her mind ticked over several options in her head for why he was acting as he was. Truthfully it didn’t take more than a second for her to come to the most likely cause.

“Spike, are you scared of her?” Twilight questioned, her tone kept soft spoken. Instantly the dragon shifted in demeanour, his tail let go as his eyes darted between the two guards. Puffing up his chest before folding arms over it, Spike looked the very picture of bravado.

“What? Me? Scared? No way Twilight! Why would I be s-scared of her anyway? You said she’s no threat and she’s just eating a sandwich.” Spike’s argument was almost believable, if not for the slight quiver near the middle.

Hearing this, Twilight offered a comforting smile and nuzzled him again. Tellingly that time he didn’t move to stop her.

“Spike, she won’t hurt you, I promise. Remember what I said about Dinky last night?” Twilight offered, a slight tilt of her head accompanying the words. She had relayed everything from the day to Spike before bed, in part so he could pass the information onto the princesses, but also because she trusted him. Thankfully it seemed to work as he rubbed at the back of his head and shuffled from foot to foot.

“I know that! I just didn’t expect her to be so… big.” Spike nervously confessed and received a warm smile from Twilight in response. Yet it was Swift Dawn who spoke up, his head tilting to look back at them with a small grin on his muzzle.

“She might be big, but you’re a fire breathing dragon.” As the grin grew on Swift Dawn’s face he shared a glance with Bastion who gave the barest hint of a smile. Looking back towards Spike the captain raised a brow before indicating with a wing back towards the room. “Besides, I’m pretty sure we can trust you to protect Twilight in there, can’t we?”

Spike pondered on that while giving another glance back into Mystery’s room. After a scratch of his chin his chest was puffed up before looking towards the three ponies in the hallway again. Thankfully he seemed to miss the brief amused expression Twilight gave to Swift Dawn and Bastion while his attention was diverted.

“Well my fire is getting pretty impressive.” Spike bragged and looked about ready to continue on that line of thought. That was until Twilight recalled what he had mentioned previously, her eyes going wide as her brain caught up.

“Wait, you said she was eating already?” Twilight felt the earlier nervousness return in full force as Spike shrugged at her question.

“Yeah, she was taking a bite out of a sandwich.” Spike answered with a lowered brow, looking confused as to why that was a pressing issue.

I guess now’s the time.

Moving to hesitantly peek inside, Twilight saw Nurse Redheart looking back in her direction. With a quick glance towards the patient, the nurse then gave a nod of consent for Twilight to enter.

“Let’s go Spike.” Speaking with far more confidence than she felt, Twilight took a step past the threshold and entered the room. She felt more than heard Spike following behind, his front claws resting to one of her hind legs as she trotted in. A small part of her was somewhat bemused by his guarding her from behind, but at the very least he had followed her.

Nonetheless, she couldn’t help but find herself somewhat transfixed by the bipedal creature sitting up in the bed. Sure she had seen the pictures and even visited while Mystery had been sleeping, but seeing her awake was another thing entirely. It was also immediately evident that Nurse Redheart was correct in saying her facial expressions were relatable to those she understood. Of course since that was true it also meant that Mystery was looking decidedly uncomfortable at her presence. Twilight wasn’t certain, but she was pretty sure Mystery gazing at the wall with her lower lip gently bit was a giveaway.

The gripping of the sheets tightly with one hand was also a bit of a hint.

One other thing that Twilight noticed was that the bed sheet was tugged up to partially hide Mystery’s body from view. That observation meant one of two things, either she was cold, or she was modest about her body. From her experiences yesterday she was more inclined to lean towards the latter, making a mental note to investigate that possibility later.

Okay Twilight, you can do this. She’s not dangerous; you’ve proven that. She’s just very, very scared.

Yet before she could begin, Twilight found her eyes glancing away from the patient and further into the room. Thinking back to the previous night she let her horn glow for the barest of seconds, using her magic to probe under the beds and around the other furniture. Satisfied at finding nothing she looked over at Mystery only to see the biped still lost in her thoughts, or so Twilight presumed.

A questioning glance at Nurse Redheart was met with a concerned gaze up at Mystery before the nurse nodded at Twilight. Not knowing how quite to get the biped’s attention, she went with a tried and true method; clearing her throat.

Instantly she saw Mystery give a small jump before her green eyes moved to lock onto her. What hurt Twilight the most though was how fearful the female seemed before she looked down at Nurse Redheart. The nurse gave a reassuring – if albeit small – nod upwards which had the benefit of seeming to remove some of the fear present on Mystery’s features. Now seeing first-hoof how expressions and gestures translated over, a remarkable discovery all on its own merits, Twilight took a deep breath and begun.

“Hello, my name is Twilight Sparkle. Do you understand me?” Making sure to accompany her question with a fitting tilt of the head, she waited patiently to see if it would garner any success. Granted it was a next to nil chance given the previous interactions she had been informed of, but it never hurt to start with the basics when tackling a problem.

For a second Twilight felt her heart skip a beat when a small unsure smile crept over Mystery’s lips. Unfortunately, the following reply was unlike anything she had ever heard before. It was language, she was sure of it, but the sounds were… well, strange. She wasn’t sure if it was due to the size of Mystery’s tongue or the lack of a muzzle, but ultimately she found it gibberish at best to listen to.

Still, the apologetic tone of voice was all she needed to know for her to understand that the attempt had utterly failed.

Well so much for the control, now to try out these translation spells.

“Nurse Redheart, I want to try using the spells now, but I’m not sure how she will react to my magic.” Twilight looked over at the nurse as she spoke, the white mare wincing slightly before gazing up at Mystery.

“I guess it can’t be helped.” The nurse chewed on her lower lip before fixing Twilight with a stern expression. “But if she starts to get uncomfortable, you are to stop immediately. Am I understood?”

“Yes, of course,” Twilight said in reply, all the while trying to keep how much the nurse intimidated her off her face. The fact she didn’t even have to raise her voice to make Twilight feel like a filly was equally impressive. Preparing to commence with the spells, she was marginally surprised to see Mystery staring at her. Not with fear though, but with clear curiosity.

Wait, she’s not looking at me.

Shifting slightly to the side she felt Spike try and keep her between himself and the patient, who, in turn, continued following him with her eyes. Now certain where Mystery’s attention lay, she looked at the nurse, both giving a smile at the sight.

“I think she doesn’t know quite what to think about you Spike.” Twilight offered with amusement present in her voice. “You don’t need to be scared, she won’t hurt you will she?”

The last part was directed back over at the nurse who nodded softly in agreement to Twilight.

“She won’t harm you Spike, although, I haven’t seen her react this way before. She really does seem genuinely curious about you,” Nurse Redheart mused while gazing between both Mystery and Spike.

Finally, with a grumble, Spike folded his arms and walked out from behind Twilight.

“Yeah well, doesn’t mean she needs to stare at me like that.” Gesturing towards Mystery he then threw his arms into the air. “Oh c’mon! Look! She’s still staring!”

Maybe she’s just surprised to see someone else with fingers? Or maybe they have dragons also on her world? Still, it seems to have relaxed her somewhat.

Restraining a small giggle at her assistant’s antics, Twilight shifted to adjust her saddlebags prior to nudging him gently with a hoof. “Maybe you’re really interesting to her? I mean, you are pretty special.”

“Well you’re right, I am pretty special.” The flattery seemed to do the job as Spike rubbed at the back of his head, a grin finding its way to his face.

Oh brother… I won’t hear the end of that for a few days at least.

Satisfied that the crisis was averted, Twilight then concentrated on the other matter at hoof, using her magic. The technique was a trivial one, but she needed to keep her actions slow and deliberate so as not to cause alarm. Nonetheless, the very second she begun and her horn begun to glow, Mystery flinched. Immediately Twilight paused, gazing between both the other mare in the room and the patient, unsure exactly on how to proceed. Amazingly, it was Mystery who broke the stalemate by taking a calming breath and offering a small nod, presumably for Twilight to continue.

Surprised, but not ungrateful, Twilight replied with a smile before once more using her magic. Unfastening one of the saddlebags she easily identified the scroll she desired without even looking, plucking it deftly out within her magical grasp. A quick peek was given over the unrolling paper at Mystery before she started the incantation to activate the spell. A few mumbled words later, a flash of light and Twilight was ready.

“Hello, my name is Twilight Sparkle, do you understand me?” Again Twilight tried, this time in the native tongue of the griffons. Truth be told, the shrill sounds inherent in their language never really appealed to Twilight, with it being a bit too high pitched for her liking. But, as always in the interest of scientific discovery, sacrifices sometimes had to be made.

And… No luck.

All she got in reply was a tilt of Mystery’s head with a clear lack of understanding on the female’s face. Still, just because it was the outcome she expected didn’t make it any easier to swallow. Nervousness was long forgotten as the pursuit of knowledge tugged Twilight onwards, another translation spell attempted, another failed. This continued for several minutes until finally she was out of scrolls. The last had at least garnered some reaction, but it too ended the same as all the rest, failure. No matter what she tried, she couldn’t understand Mystery’s words any more than she in return.

“Well that didn’t work.” Twilight placed the scrolls back into the saddlebag before grumbling under her breath. Truthfully, she never expected it to work but she had still held hope that maybe, just maybe, it might have had success. The fact gestures, tone of voice, and expressions seemed to be common ground between them had raised her hopes further, but ultimately it had not come to fruition.

“Well, there’s still the chart, right?”

Spike’s voice brought Twilight out of the funk she was in, her ears perking as he reminded her of exactly why they had come for breakfast.

I can’t believe I forgot!

“You’re right Spike. At the very least it let us learn what she eats.” Her mood lifting with the prospect of learning new things, Twilight moved towards the bed before noticing Mystery’s expression. Again her eyes were wide, pupils quivering due to Twilight having gotten closer. Immediately Twilight remembered herself and took a long calming breath.

Stupid! She’s not a research subject; she’s a scared creature from another world.

Exhaling, Twilight made sure to smile in as warm a fashion in an attempt to display she was no threat to the female. Thankfully the fear seemed to lessen on Mystery’s face but was only replaced with another look of incomprehension.

“Twilight, why not show her the chart you made, maybe she will understand then?” Nurse Redheart offered that led to Twilight mentally slapping herself with a hoof. Making a conscious effort to not use her magic, she instead used her mouth to bite gently down on the large roll of paper protruding out of one bag. With a glance towards Spike he got the hint and moved to stand before her, reaching to take chart when she offered it down.

Now in his element, Spike unrolled the paper before holding it as high as he could so Mystery could see what was on its surface. The results were better than Twilight could have wished for. Immediately she saw the female concentrate on the drawn images, her green eyes flicking left to right as she tried to understand the layout of the chart. With Mystery glancing back from the tray to the chart Twilight was caught off guard when the biped first pointed to the apple drawing, and then pointed to the apple on the tray.

“Yes! She understands!” Immediately Twilight felt a little bashful, however it still was an amazing turn of events. It wasn’t like she wanted to jump around the room in her excitement or anything. Well, maybe just a little but she resisted the urge to instead watch as the checklist was started.

Spike also watched on, ink-dipped quill held at the ready as the two mares simply observed. From that point Mystery sampled the food on the tray one after another. If she seemed to enjoy it, there was a tick. If she gave a look of disgust or didn’t touch the food at all, there was a cross. Ultimately there was very little not sampled on the tray, mainly anything with hay, flowers, or fish. The last option had been offered due to Mystery’s omnivorous-like teeth, merely just in case.

Finally however, only one item remained untested or outright declined on the tray. Clearing her throat again, Twilight indicated to the remaining amethyst. When Mystery looked confused again, she followed up with a point of her hoof at the gem and then making an effort to mime she was eating something. Never the best mare at charades, she was glad when the message was understood with Mystery hesitantly picking up the amethyst.

While her teeth hadn’t seemed on first glance suited for the consumption of metals, rocks, or gems, Twilight was nothing but thorough. Besides, it was on the checklist, and an incomplete checklist was too ghastly to even entertain the thought of.

Giving a reassuring nod to Mystery when she was looked at along with Nurse Redheart, Twilight was slightly bemused by the unsure expression given back. Nonetheless, Mystery winced and attempted a bite before moving it away from her mouth immediately after. Strangely, she then looked at Spike before moving the gem slowly back and forth. It didn’t take much for Twilight to deduce just why, although she couldn’t see his face she knew Spike well enough to tell he was enthralled by the suddenly up for grabs amethyst.

Amazingly, Mystery then lowered it down towards him, Spike flinching in response before he became aware of just what she was offering. As if a switch had been flicked, all fear was lost from the dragon as he gazed up at Mystery, a tiny nod provided in response to the unvoiced question. When he predictably glanced back at Twilight, she could only smile.

“Alright Spike, you can have it. She does seem to be offering it to you after all, but that does count as your treat for the morning, alright?” Suppressing a giggle at his excitement, she watched as he eagerly accepted the gem, remembering to say thank you before savouring a large bite to chew in contentment. Interestingly enough, Mystery’s face on seeing him consume the amethyst brought doubt into having offered it as a meal option in the first place.

I… guess a gem being eaten is not something normal in her world. To be fair, it’s not for ponies either, unless you are living with a dragon. Oh well, at least Spike is relaxed around her now, so it worked out for the best.

“Let me get rid of the tray and I’ll be right back.” Nurse Redheart’s voice was quietly spoken so as not to disrupt the moment between Mystery and Spike. Nodding in understanding, Twilight watched as the nurse followed up on her word, a smile given to her patient before trotting out of the room. Immediately upon the mare’s departure however, Mystery started to display clear signs of unease, shifting further back to the headboard. It was painfully obvious that Twilight still made her uncomfortable.

I guess Nurse Redheart is at least a calming presence for her.

Despite herself Twilight couldn’t help but feel a little hurt by it, even if it didn’t seem to be anything personal. She knew that the biped was just scared, she also knew something must have happened, whether on Mystery’s world or in Equestria for her to be acting as she did. That didn’t make it any easier for her to accept these facts however. The last thing she wanted to do was to scare her, intentionally or just by being herself.

If only I had some way to show her that I’m not going to hurt her…

“That’s it!” Twilight immediately opened the other saddlebag she wore, realising that she had something to prove exactly that. Before she could grab the paper-wrapped parcel within however, she was interrupted.

“Hey Twilight, stop it! Jeeze, can’t you see you’re scaring her?”

Immediately she froze at the utterance of those words from Spike. Regrettably in her attempt not to scare Mystery, she had only succeeded in doing the complete opposite. With cheeks burning in shame Twilight watched Spike fold his arms, looking thoroughly unimpressed in her direction. Bowing her head she wondered if she had ruined her chance with the momentary lapse of judgement only to be surprised yet again. For when she gazed up she saw Mystery smiling hesitantly down towards her. The female still looked uncomfortable, that was undeniable, but the smile at least gave Twilight a little cause to relax.

Okay… Slowly, carefully.

Carefully removing the parcel from the bag, she then levitated it over to the bed and gently placed it upon the sheets. Mystery, watching this all the while, uttered something in a questioning tone before Twilight gestured with a hoof towards the item. After a few attempts the message was understood and Mystery reached down with her right hand, taking the parcel and securing it in the sling of her left arm.

While watching her un-wrap the gift, Twilight was again reminded of just how injured the female still appeared to be. The bandages covering her left shoulder clearly attested to this fact. She had also noticed that Mystery appeared to be in more pain than she was letting on, flinching and wincing periodically whenever she tried to move her injured arm.

Any further observation was brought to a halt though when the unknown device was delicately plucked out of the paper and placed onto the sheets. Twilight had purposefully left it on top after showing the others the clothing in the hallway. Her curiosity had driven her to make the decision, and now it was about to pay off.

She watched as Mystery gave a relieved smile before one of her fingers pressed to a button on the side of the sleek object. After a couple of seconds the flat surface lit up and a small sound emitted from the device. Flicking her ears, Twilight shared a glance with Spike, both of them leaning closer to observe exactly what was going on. Much to her surprise she saw a picture forming on the glass, almost like some form of screen, but the device itself was clearly far too small for that to be the case.

Still, the evidence was undeniable in front of her as Mystery moved a finger deftly over the screen faster than Twilight could keep up. Eventually however a single symbol appeared on the screen with a small bar down the bottom. Then, seconds later, what amazingly enough seemed to be music emitted from the object. Her ears flicked and she leaned back, caught off guard by that development before she realised that was all it was going to do.

That’s… That’s amazing, it’s… Wait, that really is music? It is!

She could hear a violin playing, the music surprisingly strong yet soothing as it filled the room. A glance outside saw the guards looking in before she smiled and shook her head, gesturing there was no cause for alarm.

“It plays music?” Spike leaned closer, looking at the sleek black object before glancing back up at her. Twilight in reply gave a slight shrug but couldn’t help but feel the corner of her lips continue to tug upwards.

“I…I guess so.” She gazed at the device again before an ear flicked while the sound poured forth. Still she had to admit the more she heard the music the more it grew on her. It was so similar to pieces she was familiar with yet at the same time also so amazingly different. In any case, she was now even more inquisitive and excited on seeing the type of technology that Mystery’s world contained.

I wonder if that is an everyday item, or perhaps she really is important on her world. Does it store the song somehow like an enchantment stone, but where would the crystal sit? I wish I could ask her directly…

With the strange violin music providing a welcome ambience to the room, Twilight watched as the other items were being carefully unpacked by the biped. Both she and Spike silently waited, not wishing to disturb her as each article of clothing was looked over and placed onto the sheets. Eventually Mystery noticed she was being watched and hugged the tailored items to her chest in as clear a sign of approval as ever there was.

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! She likes it!

Practically bouncing from one front hoof to the next, Twilight could barely contain her delight. Knowing her gamble had paid off was one of insurmountable relief, especially seeing how happy Mystery was with her gift. Making yet another note to thank Rarity again, Twilight found herself instead blinking as a sniffle sounded from above. Tilting her head upwards she bit her lower lip while eyelids partially lowered due to what she witnessed.

For despite the small smile and content expression on the girl’s face, tears were rolling freely down her brown cheeks only to steadily drip onto the garments held tightly to her body.

She… She really is just a lost and scared girl, isn’t she?

Twilight felt fresh guilt stab through her chest at the sight. She had been so focused on finding out more about Mystery, not only for the princesses but for her own pursuit of answers, that she had forgotten something monumentally important. That being that the female before her, the one struggling to hold her tears in and clearly overwhelmed by the gift she had received, was simply that; just a scared girl lost in a strange land.

Yes, obviously Twilight needed to find out more about her so she could find out why she came to Equestria, and how. Yet, above everything else, she still needed to make sure that Mystery was treated with kindness and care.

Is… Is this why the princesses gave me the task, because I learnt the lesson of friendship?

Twilight exhaled softly before feeling her ears flatten partially against her mane.

No. It doesn’t matter why they did, all that matters is that I find out more about Mystery. But… But I do so while respecting her feelings and treating her like any other pony. Figuratively speaking of course.

Any further moral quandaries were put on hold as she raised an ear, the sounds of hoofsteps approaching from in the hallway. Turning her head she saw Nurse Redheart speak briefly to the guards before re-entering the room; however she had evidently not returned alone. For following in her stead was not only Derpy looking far more relaxed than she was yesterday, but also Dinky who eagerly bounced behind her mother. An excited expression dominated the filly’s face on seeing Mystery, the young unicorn quickly cantering past both the nurse and her mother to make a beeline for the bed.

Twilight could only watch in growing amusement as Dinky leapt up, the filly’s forelegs finding purchase on the sheets while her hind legs scrambled in an effort to pull herself up. Eventually she got it though and bounced over the blanket, completely unafraid of Mystery as she settled contentedly upon the biped’s lap. While the scene was cute to behold, the change to Mystery proved to be nothing less than remarkable. Immediately the female’s face lit up, one of her hands moving to gently stroke over the filly’s mane which resulted in a giggle shared between the two.


Twilight shook her head slowly, a smile pulling on her lips as she watched Derpy converse with Nurse Redheart. Before she could listen in she found her vision pulled back over to Dinky and Mystery, both clearly at ease in each other’s presence as they laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. Obviously Dinky was undeniably a unicorn like she herself was, and yet despite this, to Mystery that fact didn’t seem to matter at all.

Twilight thought back to what she had heard and also to what she had witnessed when she had visited the day before. Indeed, Dinky had believed in Mystery’s innocence the entire time, believed without a shred of doubt that she had been saved and then protected by the biped. In return it seemed Mystery had opened her heart up to Dinky with the two clearly displaying that bond. Interestingly the language barrier didn’t seem to pose an issue between the two of them; through their actions they understood each other perfectly.

I understand…

“Spike, can you take a message for the princess please.” She now knew what to write, and, more than that, she knew the most important thing she had learned today. Thankfully as always her number one assistant was there and waiting when she needed him.

“Sure thing Twilight.”

Lowering herself down she let him acquire both a blank sheet of paper and a quill from her saddlebags. After which he patiently waited, one eyebrow raised while holding the quill at the ready. Seeing this, Twilight cleared her throat before beginning to dictate her thoughts.

“Dear Princess Celestia, as promised I am sending a letter to state my findings so far. The two guards you and Princess Luna arranged to guard the visitor have arrived and while I am surprised about their identities, I remain grateful for their presence.” A glance was given outside, Swift Dawn’s ear briefly flicking but otherwise betraying no other sign he was listening in.

“So far the morning has gone well and I have continued to find out more about the patient. Firstly, thanks to Rarity, we have decided to call her ‘Mystery’ until we come to discover her real name. I think you both will agree that her previous nickname was completely inappropriate on discovering her true nature.”

A nod of agreement was offered by Spike, the quill scribbling over the paper as he kept pace.

“So far after several attempts with translation spells I have been met with zero success. Based on the results witnessed so far, I would suggest that we will not find a compatible language within Equestria, or, even, anywhere else for that matter. However on saying that, amazingly, it would appear gestures, along with tone of voice and expressions translate over perfectly. How this could be remains a mystery for now but my theory would be that either such things are universal between sapient species, or, alternatively, that our cultures are remarkably similar. I don’t think I need to point out just how momentous a discovery that would be if either explanation turns out to be true.”

“Mome…Moment-o...” Pausing for a second, Spike shrugged and continued onwards with his own choice of a replacement word. “How big a discovery that would be…”

Twilight could only shake her head with a small chuckle as Spike looked up with another shrug. Indicating he had caught up, he waggled the quill at her in a sign for her to continue. Taking a deep breath she found her gaze moving back to the scene on the bed, the small grin she wore growing in size prior to resuming in her task.

“Anyhow, on what I have seen so far today I can proclaim without doubt that Mystery is as Princess Luna stated. With everything I have observed so far, along with what I have been informed of, it all leads back to the following conclusion. Mystery is obviously lost, scared, and as such acts exactly as one would expect anypony in her situation to behave. I imagine it will take time and care to get her to open up, but already today I can see progress being made even with just how she interacts with Nurse Redheart who has seemed to earn her trust.”

Clicking her tongue, Twilight was reminded of another matter as she peeked back at her saddlebags.

“Oh! Spike and I have also created a chart with the nurse’s help of what Mystery eats and I’ll be sure to send you a copy once I get a chance to duplicate it later tonight.”

Twilight exhaled softly before seating herself, continuing to watch Dinky and Mystery interact. She also noticed that Derpy and Nurse Redheart had moved to the other side of the bed by that point, both also watching on with matching warm expressions.

“I was reminded of something else today, a lesson I learned not so long ago. Sometimes you can’t judge someone by their appearance, or by what you hear from others. Sometimes, you have to look past that and learn who they are on the inside. Sometimes… there is one pony that does that from the beginning and from that true friendship can be born.”

“And from that true friendship can be born,” Spike repeated back, stopping to gaze up at Twilight as she looked down at him. “Hey Twilight, is this how about how you kept finding evidence until you could prove she wasn’t, well, y’know…”

“No Spike, not me.” Twilight shook her head as she favoured her assistant with a soft nudge to his side. Having gotten his attention she pointed towards the bed with the same limb. “Some pony believed all along despite everyone telling her otherwise. She had seen the true side of Mystery before any of us could and continued to do so even when others continued to fear her. I may have had my doubts from the beginning and sought to gain evidence, but Dinky didn’t need any of that to know what was in her heart.”

Spike watched for a few seconds before shrugging and tapping at the paper with the quill.

“I don’t really get it, but if you say so. I mean, I never doubted Mystery for a second.”

And I’m sure a certain amethyst didn’t have anything to do with that.

“Okay, okay, back to the letter.” Rolling her eyes, Twilight cleared her throat to continue. “Rest assured that I will send more updates throughout the day with any new information and further progress made. But, for now, I believe that Dinky deserves some time with her new friend.”

Lifting her head she witnessed Mystery looking startled from being observed before relaxing, the girl’s attention falling back down to the filly on her lap. Dinky meanwhile was looking positively jubilant as she enjoyed the attention, but above all, she seemed to enjoy Mystery smiling more than anything else.

“And I think that Mystery would like to spend time with her friend just as much. As always your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.”

With the letter completed Spike rolled the paper up and gave a puff of fire over its surface to send it on its way to Princess Celestia. Twilight taking the time to watch the magical ash as it dipped and dived through the room before slipping out the window. Slowly she found her attention instead drawn over to Derpy, the pegasus blinking before meeting Twilight’s gaze. With a shared smile, the two joined the others in watching Dinky shift around on Mystery’s lap, the filly asking question after excited question on what her new friend ate.

It seems friendship truly can exist in all things. Even between a creature from another world and a sweet, little filly.

There was no denying how much she wished to learn about Mystery and about the world she came from. But for now, witnessing what was occurring before her, she decided all of that could wait and she knew the princesses wouldn’t mind.

Because right now the morning belonged to Dinky and Mystery, and she wouldn’t interrupt that for the world.

Chapter six: Solace

View Online

Chrysalis lay on the bed with her eyes directed at the ceiling, the changeling clearly focused on her current task. Her blue eyes flicked back and forth as she processed the information provided by them, equations working tirelessly within her head all the while. She had been at it for over two hours, her mind occupied with the most essential of tasks. Finally she gave a soft click of her tongue before stretching, the deed done.

There were exactly two hundred and thirty seven tiles making up the ceiling in the room she occupied. The odd number had thrown her off numerous times until realising that some had been replaced by light crystals. Part of her was impressed on how well they blended in with the tiles, almost indistinguishable from their surroundings. It went without saying if not for her growing ability to ‘see’ enchantments she might never have noticed.

It also went without saying that Chrysalis was irrefutably bored.

Exhaling softly the disguised changeling instead moved her forelegs to fold over her eyes. Three days; three whole days had passed so far since her infiltration into the hospital as a patient. In that time, she had faced three uncomfortable truths.

The first was that her whole ‘plan’ – if it could even be termed such – had not only been impulsive, but also, on a little reflection, rather stupid. The town was home to the Bearers. The same six mares who, while outnumbered one hundred to one against an army of changelings, had almost managed to turn the tide. This small fact – unsurprisingly – only served to reinforce how idiotic the whole concept of staying was. Of course, that brought her to the second truth.

As loathe as she was to admit it, Legend had become something… more to her. When this event happened, she couldn’t say. However, that night when she snuck into the hospital, she had meant every word spoken. Legend was indeed her pain in the butt and not even the Bearers could dissuade her to keep her distance. She had even – against all logic – started to intercept Legend when the girl went for her walks.

Most surprising about the whole thing was that while Chrysalis in her disguise caused Legend some unease for whatever reason, the girl still felt some compassion for her. It was faint, barely nourishing, but it was there. That left Chrysalis with two possibilities as to why. Either Legend was simply a compassionate creature, or, as unlikely as it was, she somehow could sense the changeling even through the disguise.

The second option had caused a certain amount of apprehension. Yet, despite this, it had made Chrysalis feel something within her. That something was warm and, much to her confusion, not entirely unpleasant. Breathing gently she felt her heart beat faster as she thought back to how Legend had been three nights ago. Grunting, Chrysalis gave a soft ‘tsk’ before pushing the thought aside. Well, after a few more seconds lingering on it that is.

That of course brought her to the third truth. Regardless of how she felt about her name, it still remained one of the highest honours to receive. She had proven to be capable, cunning, quick-witted, and above all, pragmatic and analytical in any situation she found herself in. For six years she lived the life of another and not once had she ever been suspected of deceit.

She was not the strongest of changelings, nor was she the fastest. Her magic skills were average, well, that is, they had been average before her recent changes. Despite all this, she had always persevered no matter the challenge. What she lacked in the other areas she more than made up for in her guile, her skill of subterfuge, and, modesty aside, she knew she could react to any situation.

That is, until Legend was added to the mix. Emitting a soft groan, she found she couldn’t deny that particular fact. Whenever the biped was concerned, Chrysalis became – for lack of a better term – an idiot. Over the course of not even a week she had filled her quota of stupidity for an entire lifetime. In no particular order she had attempted a transformation that should by all accounts have left her drained, played tag with a chimera, and purposely aggravated a hydra. That wasn’t even getting into her current situation.

With a heartfelt sigh, Chrysalis raised her forelimbs enough to gaze up at the ceiling.

I really can’t stop doing irredeemably stupid things because of her, can I?

Still, she couldn’t deny if she could choose to do it all again, she would. There was something about Legend, something beside the fact she fed her willingly, which pulled Chrysalis in. It made her act without thinking, and, most alarmingly at least to the changeling, she didn’t mind. Well, not really. She would complain and grumble, but never fully hate the choices she made. The simple fact she had stuck to her decision to wait a week proved that.


The question filtered through her thoughts as Chrysalis moved both forelegs back over her eyes. The question was one that she always tried to evade, not wishing to admit it. This exercise was, however, futile given that she had, in a way, already admitted how she felt.

“You’re a pain in the butt, you know that? You make me do the most inane things, but… But you’re my pain in the butt.”

The corner of her mouth twitched at the memory, the conclusion reached undeniable; she liked Legend. There was something about the crying, smiling, clumsy, compassionate girl that she found herself drawn towards. It wasn’t just the fact she displayed the ability to feed with no effort, nor was it truly even about how she fed Chrysalis willingly. It wasn’t even how she saved her life; Chrysalis had, after all, repaid that debt at least tenfold over at their current point in time.


It felt… strange, when she smiled at me. Although, maybe it’s due to this… other issue that’s being a problem.

Turning her attention inward, the disguised changeling briefly focused on the draining sensation within. She could feel her stored nectar being consumed, and, in turn, her body altering in strange ways. Already after only a few days she could tell her capabilities were increased. The meagre amounts of emotions she managed to feed upon were becoming like a drop in a growing ocean.

The depth of her new magic reserves was in its own way concerning. Advanced spells, ones that were normally only used as last resort, were now becoming as easy to cast and maintain as something as mundane as say, illumination. It was becoming so trivial she surmised she could have casted any high level spell with nary a second thought. Even with her nectar being feasted upon by the… affliction, enough remained to stagger the changeling.

Chrysalis desperately desired to be wrong on her growing hypothesis. Exhaling softly she felt her tail flick over the sheets, a nervous habit picked up in her long years as Rosebloom. The more she thought about it though, the more the facts pointed to only one outcome. She didn’t wish to believe it, the mere idea was so ridiculously impossible that if anyone else were to suggest it she would have scoffed in his or her face.

But a lot of things I thought impossible seem to be coming true recently. Fantastic, just what the world needs, two Queen Chrysalis’s… Or, is that Chrysali? Chrysalises? Whatever…

Smiling ruefully, Chrysalis followed with a soft tsk before shifting her forelegs enough to see once more. Staring, unblinkingly towards the ceiling, the changeling became dimly aware of voices outside. With one ear flicking she could pick up the voice of Twilight Sparkle along with that of the little dragon that seemed to accompany her everywhere. Deducing that they must have been visiting Legend again, Chrysalis relaxed.

She knew, from the last couple of days at least, that Legend would be wandering the hallways shortly. The walks were becoming almost routine by that point, a time also for Chrysalis to get some much needed sustenance.

It was most certainly not simply a chance to see Legend again. Nor was it a chance to make sure she was alright, that she was healing well and that no additional harm had come to her. If that was the case she would be lying on the bed waiting. Waiting, that is, for the tell-tale sound of the two guards assigned to Legend’s room moving in their assumed duty to keep tabs on her. Waiting so she could leave her room and 'accidentally' cross paths with th-


Before she could dwell further on the issue a sound caught her attention. One of her ears flicked at the noise, then the other, thankful for the distraction. The source, however, a voice speaking further down the hallway, resulted in Chrysalis’s eyes going wide. She couldn’t hear what was being said, but that didn’t matter. She could tell who it was.

Oh… Please by the All-Mother, not again.

For the briefest of seconds, Chrysalis almost gave into panic. With eyes darting wildly, she gazed about the room, identifying several possibilities and formulating the chances of success for each. However, with a resigned sigh, Chrysalis moved her forelegs once more to obscure her vision.

It was, after all, futile to even try and resist what was about to occur. She had tried everything over the last couple of days. From casting any spells able to be done while remaining disguised, to simply hiding under a bed. Yet, so far nothing had worked. No matter what she tried, the mare would inevitably find her.

If it wasn’t so annoying, she might have even been terrified on how tenacious the pony was.

Ultimately though, there was little to do but wait for the inevitable. Her ears flicked at catching the sound of Twilight wishing Chrysalis’s tormentor farewell. Soon hoofsteps slowly approached the room she resided in, each impact sealing her impending doom that little bit more.

Unfortunately, due to previous experience, Chrysalis knew what was soon to follow. After a couple of knocks, apparently nothing more than a formality, the door opened. She heard all this, but refused to move on the bed. It was a desperate ploy, but perhaps if she pretended to be asleep the mare might-

“Hi ~Ebony!~” The disgustingly cheerful voice filled the room even as the hoofsteps approached the side of her bed. The voice suddenly took on a more quiet tone, a gasp of realisation coming from the speaker. “Ooooh, you’re sleeping. That’s okay, I’ll wait riiiiight here until you wake up, that way you won’t be lonely at all.”

Why am I not surprised?

After a few seconds contemplating whether to continue the act or not, Chrysalis came to the conclusion it really wasn’t worth the effort. She held no delusions that her tormenter would not continue to wait until she did eventually ‘wake’.

“I’m not sleeping.” Chrysalis stated, her forelegs sliding up enough to confirm what she already knew. Indeed, seated to the side of the bed, was a pink mare. On seeing this the pony’s two blue eyes twinkled in delight at seeing she was awake.

“Oh! Well that’s super-riffic, because I was going to ask you something and I already asked the doctors if it was okay, that is because last time I did something without asking Nurse Redheart growled at me, and-“

Chrysalis once more obscured her vision as she withheld the desire to sigh. Ever since her ‘admission’ to the hospital, Pinkie Pie, one of the Bearers no less, had taken it upon herself to visit every day. Although, the reason why this was continued to elude the changeling. On the first day she had initially assumed that the mare had suspected something amiss about her. Chrysalis had predictably kept her guard up in response, expecting at any moment the room to swarm with armed ponies, the Bearers, the princesses, or just to be thorough, all of the above.

She had not, however, been expecting a verbal battering of the most inane conversation topics that she could possibly imagine. At first, she had presumed it was a bizarre form of interrogation, but that was also proven false with time. There was no malice, no anger behind the words. The mare, confusingly enough, seemed genuinely enthused in keeping Chrysalis ‘company’ as far as she could tell.

This in turn had led to several more visits along a similar vein. Whether it was ‘merely’ to stop a perceived notion of loneliness by chatting, or, like yesterday, to bring in board games in an ill-fated attempt at ‘fun’, the pony wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Chrysalis had no doubts on this, she had tried.

It also hadn’t taken long for her to also learn one vital survival tip; that being, when Pinkie Pie started talking, it was best to just tune her out.

Although… I can’t shake the feeling that’s what got me into this mess in the first place.

Pushing the thought aside, she became acutely aware on the absence of talking beside her. Peeking between limbs, Chrysalis found an expectant looking mare gazing back at her. Realising there must have been a question she had missed, Chrysalis decided that she wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Instead of giving one of two responses and having to deal with the consequences, she chose instead to go with honesty.

“If you asked a question, I didn’t hear it. I wasn’t paying attention.” The blunt tone of voice used was perhaps a little risky, but she wished to get out of the room as soon as possible. Not to bump into Legend again. She just wished to… stretch her legs a little. Maybe even gather more information to be used in their escape at the end of the week. If she bumped into the biped, well… that would have just been a coincidence, nothing more.

As she watched Pinkie Pie’s expression falter for just a second, Chrysalis wondered if she had finally been successful in dissuading the mare. Her hopes, however, were dashed when the mare smiled followed by shifting shortly after to gesture vaguely towards the window nearby.

"Oh that’s okay! I was just asking if you wanted to go outside, I did get permission from the doctors first so it's all okey-dokey with them!” Pinkie Pie smiled the entire time as she spoke, shifting to pull a board game from one of her saddlebags. “Or, we could play a game! This is Gummy’s favourite, but he’s not here today because apparently no pets are allowed in the hospital. I tried, but then Ink Sketch said no, and I even tried to explain he’s really, really harmless, but she just said no again and wouldn’t let him come in! But it’s okay, as I left him with Rainbow Dash and Tank, and they’re just the bestest, most extra-riffic of friends!”

Chrysalis blinked slowly as she tried to digest everything that she had just heard. Tilting her head to regard the pony directly she was stunned by how earnest Pinkie Pie looked. Of course, the board game pushed almost directly into her face still caused her to jump slightly. Feeling annoyance start to tinge her thoughts, Chrysalis had to swallow down the comment threatening to flow past her lips.

Oh she was tempted to speak her mind; that was an undeniable truth. But, she was far more experienced than that. She knew trying a blunt remark earlier was risky, but she knew her present mood had caused her to make the attempt. Reminding herself that she was better than allowing her true self to flow through her disguises, Chrysalis took a long calming breath.

Stop acting like a pupa just because you want to… Go for a walk. Yes, a walk.

Forcing a smile onto her face, Chrysalis made to sit up on the bed. Wincing at the appropriate time, she made sure to draw attention to the bandaged wound on her leg, instantly gaining a gasp from Pinkie Pie. Before the mare could spill forth more inane jabbering, Chrysalis made sure to speak up first.

“I’m sorry for snapping earlier Pinkie Pie, but this injury is making me a little cranky.” Putting on her most earnest expression, Chrysalis tried to look as apologetic as possible. Granted, she had a lot of experience at manipulating others as Rosebloom. Not that such a thing had really been required, she had always acted the perfect filly, never getting into trouble and-

“My baby girl… This can’t be happening… This can’t be happening.”

Chrysalis furrowed her brow as the memory of Ivy Touch’s reaction resurfaced. Thankfully it seemed Pinkie Pie had misinterpreted the expression, a look of worry coming to her face.

“Should I get the doctor? Wait, what did Twilight tell me? Oh! Let me raise your leg up!”

Before Chrysalis could protest she found her injured leg being pony-handled, lifted upwards as she gave a strangled yelp of surprise. She knew she should be angry at the blatant invasion of her personal space, but at that particular second, she was far too startled to care. Pinkie Pie, unfazed by Chrysalis’s now flailing limbs, let the leg go to instead place a hoof to her own mouth thoughtfully.

“Waaaaait a minute, was that the right thing to do, or is that if it’s bleeding?” Rocking her head back and forth, Pinkie Pie hummed thoughtfully. Amazingly, she seemed completely oblivious on how Chrysalis’s left eye was now twitching sporadically. “Don’t worry ~Ebony~, I’ll make sure to take super-duper good care of you, and will keep visiting until you’re better, and you can come meet my friends, and we’ll have the bestest surprise party ever!”

Fantastic… Wait, how is it a surprise party if I know? Actually, I have better things to think about than that.

Pushing her own thoughts aside – and how much she would have delighted in throwing the mare out the window – Chrysalis instead allowed a smile to come to her muzzle with practised ease.

“That’s very kind of you Pinkie Pie, but I’m sure I just need to relax.” Making sure she had the mare’s attention, Chrysalis continued while shifting a little on the bed to get comfortable. “You know… on my bed, where it’s nice and quiet?”

I know it’s too much for her to take a hint, but… maybe she-

“Well if that’s the case, then I will just have to stay here and make sure you’re comfortable then!”

And… Nope.

Forcing the smile she didn’t truly feel in the slightest, Chrysalis continued to act the part of a gracious pony. Unfortunately, this meant that time continued to march on, and with it, she could hear Legend going for a walk with the guards accompanying her. Hiding her aggravation at this, she instead participated in playing board games with Pinkie Pie, intentionally losing each as quickly as possible.

Much to her chagrin, over the next two hours she learned details about half the ponies in Ponyville, how much Pinkie Pie loved parties, and, as thrilling as it was, the joys and wonders of baking a cake just right. Thankfully, it wasn’t all useless information. The names of the ponies were something she stored away for later, and she did steer the conversation enough to garner a few titbits of useful knowledge.

One of which was the names and some history on the rest of the Bearers, and, amazingly, also several of their personality traits that Pinkie was all too happy to divulge.

Twilight Sparkle I know, Pinkie Pie is a given… and Applejack I have seen visit here before, and she was the one that… assisted, in capturing Legend.

Feeling a wave of anger surge at the memory, especially of Legend’s terrified expression and her own part in it happening, Chrysalis focused instead on the other names.

That leaves Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Rarity. I know of them, vaguely, thanks to my role as Rosebloom, but it just helps to get any information regardless. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie appear to be the weak links in the event I need to force an escape. One is apparently incredibly meek, and the other is…

Gazing at Pinkie Pie as she continued to talk about her family, Chrysalis resisted the urge to smirk.

An idiot… Admittedly a rather annoying idiot, but an idiot none the less.

Eventually though the light outside began to dim, and with it, Chrysalis’s chance of seeing Legend for the evening. Exhaling softly at that knowledge – not to mention that she would go hungry for the night – the changeling made sure to keep the irritation felt hidden behind a polite mask. She was vaguely aware of the compassion directed her way from Pinkie Pie, but the meagre amounts were barely snack-worthy, especially when compared with the literal feast the same feeling coming from Legend provided.

Not surprisingly, Chrysalis decided the ‘visit’ had gone on long enough. As such, she held up her hoof to interrupt Pinkie Pie mid-sentence, the mare having been recounting something about her day before coming to the hospital.

“Thank you for keeping me company, but it is getting late, and I really should sleep.” Speaking with sincerity in her voice that she didn’t feel, she decided to sweeten the comment further. “You did help me feel better though, thank you.”

Looking taken somewhat aback, Pinkie quickly recovered to give a wide smile in return.

"Well I'm glad I got to make you feel better, ~Ebony~!“ The mare’s voice was earnest in her reply, something that, again, surprised Chrysalis. Before she could dwell on it though, she was caught off guard as Pinkie Pie’s voice took on a different tone. Turning her head to regard the Bearer, she found the mare looking contemplative, a hoof tapping gently under her muzzle.

“Buuuuut, I have one, teeeeny, tiiiiiny, liiiiiittle, question. Weeeeell, two actually, but one is more important than the other, or is it? Hmmm... Oh! How about I ask them, and you tell me which is the more important of the two?"

Raising a brow at this, Chrysalis regarded Pinkie curiously before replying. “Okay… What is it Pinkie?”

Much to her growing surprise, and equally rising trepidation, she found the mare looking at her intently, Pinkie’s front hooves moving to prop up her chin on the edge of the bed.

This… This is different. Just what is she up too?

Although somewhat confused as to the change in the mare’s behaviour, Chrysalis found her curiosity piqued nonetheless. Yet, before she could ponder further on the matter, the first question was asked.

“Soooo, when do I get to meet the real ~Ebony?~”

If Chrysalis were any younger – or less experienced – she would have betrayed herself in how she reacted. Instead, despite her inner confusion and growing worry, she kept up a bemused smile.

“What do you mean by that Pinkie? This is the real me.” Releasing soft laughter to follow up her words, Chrysalis pressed on. “I’m not an actor or anyone famous, if that’s what you’re implying.”

Unexpectedly, Pinkie giggled in response. The reaction caught Chrysalis completely off guard as the mare then followed up by playfully rolling her eyes.

"Ooooh, I know that silly! Buuuut, you're all being like this!" Random hoof gestures, each more confusing than the last followed Pinkie’s words. Abruptly, she then furrowed her brow in a rather unconvincing scowl. "And this is how you really are, so why are you hiding it? Is it because you're afraid of being all meany-pants to me?"

A bright smile came to Pinkie's face as she ‘booped’ Chrysalis on the nose, the disguised-changeling feeling her muscles relax. Offering a sincere smile, she followed with a small nod as if conceding to the mare’s observation.

Oh by the All-Mother, is that all she thinks this is about?

“I guess you could say that.” Releasing a long sigh, one that was as much an act as it was real, Chrysalis gave a tight-lipped smile. Having let some of her personality slip through had almost been a disastrous mistake. She now wasn’t quite sure on just how ‘air-headed’ the mare really was, and as such, her guard was raised again. That meant she would have to cut some of her losses and give a partial truth, if only to make her disguise more convincing.

Shifting on the bed, Chrysalis sat up some and in doing so, deliberately moved her injured leg enough to cause a wince to flash over her features. This didn’t go unnoticed by Pinkie if her gasp was anything to go by, but that was precisely what she was aiming for. She wanted to divert the mare’s attention; if the pony truly did suspect her then she needed to keep her distracted. “Okay, it’s true. I’m sorry I was pretending to be something I’m not, but the ‘real’ me can be a little... abrasive.”

Or so I’ve been told.

"It's okay, I think the real you is actually kind of fun! Just because you're really a big grumpy pants, I know you're actually really, really nice on the inside!” Pinkie Pie said that showing, on the surface at least, that she had bought Chrysalis’s half-truth. Grinning inwardly, the changeling was about to rebuke herself for worrying over nothing when she heard the mare continue. “Whiiiich, kind of leads me to the second question..."

Hang on, Grumpy pants? That’s a new one. Argh, focus Chrysalis. There were two questions weren’t there? Wait, what does she mean it leads into the second…?

Chrysalis blinked, unsure quite what to expect next. The tension returned with a vengeance as Pinkie gave a smile. But, it was the following question that made the blood chill within the changeling’s veins. "Why haven't you gone to meet your friend yet?"

Chrysalis froze, unable to formulate a response.

She knows…

The words filtered through her ears as she looked at the mare in a new light. Despite the warm expression on Pinkie’s face the room seemed to close in on her. She had been foolish, that was all there was to it. She had underestimated the pony in front of her, and, in doing so, had left herself wide open. Her eyes flicked to the door, expecting it to burst open at any second. When the hospital room remained remarkably guard-free, she instead found herself struggling to put words into her mouth.

“I… Well, that is…”

Sure, let’s just believe the mare is a drooling idiot and become complacent. Just fantastic, excellent plan there, Chrysalis. Ten out of te-

“Yes, your friend. You do want to go see her, right?”

Blinking a few times, Chrysalis turned her attention back to Pinkie who was looking, funnily enough, worried in her direction. Taking a second to structure her thoughts, she replayed the last few moments back over in her head. With a little introspection, it occurred to her that everything so far, on the surface at least, seemed innocent enough. In fact, right now she was being her own worst enemy, jumping to conclusions and failing to analyse the situation.

It was no secret that the affliction was the cause to her issues. Even at that moment she could already feel her nectar supplies dwindling away as they were feasted on. Proving her earlier theory correct, being disguised was definitely hastening the process, which, honestly, was not something she really wished to dwell on. Ultimately though, hunger was making her absent-minded and unable to think straight, a danger that had led her to being captured in the first place.

Well, that, and she was feeling a little jittery for completely separate reasons. Though, In the grand scheme of things, she felt such a reaction was entirely justifiable given her surroundings and current location.

Alright, alright, focus. She doesn’t know everything or I would be in chains by now.

“I’m afraid I don’t follow.” Chrysalis chose her reply carefully, and, at the same time, kept a look of bafflement on her features. Pinkie, however, just smiled and gave her head a slow shake in response. This was followed by her moving to rest on all four hooves accompanied with a roll of her blue eyes.

“Oh, silly, the one you were in the forest with of course!”

Oh, come on! Just how much does she really know?!

Time slowed to a crawl as Chrysalis quickly analysed what the mare had just said over in her head. With that in mind, whatever reaction the Bearer was looking for she was determined not to show it on her face. Instead a small unsure smile slipped over her muzzle, both ears carefully slanting forward to give the impression of confusion. Inwardly though, Chrysalis was focused, adrenalin flooding her system.

“From the forest…?” Chrysalis made sure to leave the question ambiguous on whether she understood or not. By this point, she was certain that whatever the mare was up to wouldn’t result in the guards being called on her. If that had been Pinkie’s plan, there were far more ample opportunities for her to have done so. That fact alone pushed the panic aside. For it went without saying if she had been discovered to be a changeling, Chrysalis held no delusions on how she would have been treated.

Especially in the village that’s home to the Bearers. The princesses and their guards would be swarming here before I could blink. No, whatever she is up to isn’t because of that… but then, just what is she after?

Chrysalis wasn’t afraid to admit she was rather baffled. What Pinkie Pie was saying, along with her actions, went against everything the changeling expected. Chrysalis had come into the hospital expecting to be just another anonymous patient; in fact, she had been counting on it. Her cover story had been created to coincide with the chimera attack, something she had to improvise with at the time. And, while, yes, it wasn’t one of her best infiltrations, it had really been a spur of the moment sort of thing.

To this effect, she had been abrupt and blunt to nearly everyone; from ponies who were concerned, to the doctors and nurses themselves. This was so as to isolate herself, and in doing so, avoid creating situations she was now currently in. In fact, the strategy itself had worked flawlessly, all except for apparently on the Bearer of Laughter.

“Yip-er-roonie! After I saw you, and met you on the way to the hospital, you seemed really, really focused on something. Then, when you said you weren’t my friend, it made me feel a little sad but not as sad as realising something a day ago.” Pinkie Pie said, once more gaining Chrysalis’s attention. Noticing the mare smiling in a downcast fashion, the changeling felt her intrigue grow.

“Realised… What?” Sitting up some, Chrysalis inquired before having Pinkie’s blue eyes meet her own.

“That I was the only one who was visiting you.” With that, the mare’s smile grew wider, and with it, her energy seemed to return. “So I went and asked Ink Sketch, because somepony must know you were here, but she said that no-one had come to visit you at all! Howeeeeever, she did mention you were looking for your companion in the forest when you got injured…”

Chrysalis felt her stomach sink as the pieces started to fit together.

Oh Chitin-rust. I wasn’t thorough enough with the forgetfulness spell, was I?

Pinkie Pie, unaware of Chrysalis mental groaning, continued on unabated. “Soooo, I asked around, but other than Mystery and Dinky, no-one had seen anyone else come out of the Everfree Forest. I first thought about a friend who lives in there, but when I asked her she had no idea who you were! So I then asked if anyone had seen any other pony come out, or minotaur, griffon, or even a diamond dog! Then I remembered how you looked after I mentioned everypony needing a friend, and how something, ooooor someone, was on your mind.”

Pinkie Pie then reared up on her hind hooves, and, before Chrysalis could even react, wrapped her forelegs around the disguised-changeling’s neck in a hug. Thankfully, at least for one of the two involved, the embrace ended as soon as it started with Pinkie then eyeing Chrysalis knowingly.

“Buuut, explaining how I found out isn’t important, well, it is, but not for the point I am trying to make! Aaaaaand that point is… Why haven’t you gone to see Mystery yet?” A brief look of worry flickered over Pinkie’s face before she gasped loudly, hooves moving to rest on her cheeks. “Wait, is that even her real name? I mean that’s what Twilight said it was, but she also said that is what Rarity decided to call her as her other name was really, really awful. But, it’s not her name is it? I mean, that can’t be her name, as Rarity named her that after she was found, unless… Ooooh, did she get lucky and that really is her name? That would be-“


Chrysalis removed the hoof she had used to push against Pinkie’s muzzle, having to interrupt the mare to get a word out. Gone now was the changeling’s panic, replaced with growing irritation towards the mare before her. Whatever the reason, the Bearer of Laughter had taken it on herself to delve deeper and uncover loose ends. That led to the conclusion that if the mare before her could put that connection together, then, it stood to reason, that any pony could do the same.

Yet, no-one else has seemed to do so…

Removing the hoof from the surprised pony’s mouth, Chrysalis realised there was no point in lying anymore, not on that issue at least. Still, the reasoning behind Pinkie’s involvement continued to confuse Chrysalis. For three days she had thought the mare to be as airheaded as a balloon. This had also led to her pondering on how the pony and her friends – excluding Twilight, as she knew how talented the mare was – had managed to almost ruin the entire invasion by themselves.

Now? Now she needed answers. Keeping the confused expression on her face, she made ready the remaining nectar in the event it was required. An hour ago she would have believed herself more than a match for the pony in front of her, now… Now that was no longer a certainty.

She acts idiotic, but that seems to merely be a cover. Thinking on it, for her to piece all that she has together, granted I was a little clumsy, but still… She seems to be as dangerous as Twilight; That means I need to play this very, very carefully.

Taking a deep breath, Chrysalis moved to sit up in bed, her back resting to the headboard while her wings spread behind her for comfort. It was easy to act defeated, as if Pinkie had pierced through an illusion and glimpsed the truth. Discarding her mask, at least in a figurative sense, Chrysalis looked upwards at the ceiling, feeling more vulnerable than she was comfortable with.

“Her name is Legend. At least, that’s what I call her.”

Opening her eyes, Chrysalis felt strangely naked, uncomfortable even. Granted she was still disguised, but… She was no longer pretending to be something she wasn’t. Her outer form may have been a slight variation of Rosebloom’s, but her words, her actions were now simply her own. It was a dangerous gamble and it was a very uncomfortable experience for her, but… But if Pinkie Pie was truly as perceptive as she was beginning to suspect, then, it was all she could do to protect the secret she needed to keep hidden above all else.

Allow her to think she has stripped all the layers back… Give her no reason to pry further, she wants something, I need to figure out what that is.

It went against everything she felt, everything her life experience had taught her. When in disguise changelings had to become the mask, to be something they were not. They had to become the one they were imitating to avoid suspicion, but, also, to avoid emotions bleeding through. Just like someone acting on stage, be that a pony, a griffon, or minotaur, the emotions felt by the actor were that of the character played for the performance. The same applied to changelings, and it helped disassociate themselves from their food, to avoid becoming… attached.

Something you have a fantastic track record of doing thus far. Go me. What next, feeling empathy for a marshmallow?

“Legend? That’s a pretty name.” Chrysalis looked up to see Pinkie Pie smiling, this time far more earnestly than she had seen the pony do so far. She then watched as the mare moved closer to the bed only for her forelegs to prop up her chin as she gazed at Chrysalis. Unexpectedly, Pinkie didn’t talk further, her expectant look seeming to be waiting for more to be spoken.

Okay, now what is she playing at?!

Growing frustrated at being unable to read the mare, Chrysalis instead sighed. She felt the corner of her lips tug upwards as she thought back to Legend smiling in the cave, the apple being offered back to her.

“I… guess it is. I didn’t know her real name.” A raised brow was given in Pinkie’s direction before gesturing vaguely with a fore leg. “As you might have noticed, it’s not exactly as easy as asking her what it really is.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t know, I haven’t spoken with her at all.”

Wait… What?

Chrysalis blinked as she tried to comprehend what she had just heard. Pinkie, seemingly oblivious, continued to smile serenely as she perked both ears from her fluffy mane.

“You… You haven’t tried talking with her?” Speaking in a neutral tone, Chrysalis was growing increasingly confused. In response, the mare shook her head before giving an amused giggle.

“Noooo, how can I talk to someone if I haven’t met her yet? I mean, I want to because she is new to Ponyville too, but Twilight and Nurse Redheart said It might not be for the best yet, since she is still super nervous around other ponies. Only Twilight, Spike, Derpy, Dinky, Nurse Redheart, and Applejack have spent time with her.” Pinkie smiled, looking aside and out the window almost wistfully prior to continuing.

“I mean I’m really excited for when I can actually spend time with her, and I was kiiiind of jealous that Applejack got to go see her, but Twilight thought it would be a good idea for less to be involved right now. It’s just… sad that she’s easily scared around ponies, but that’s why Rainbow Dash and I are staying away. I… I just wish we didn’t have too.” Pinkie’s ears drooped a little, almost as if she really was disappointed at this fact. Or, Chrysalis mused, actually genuinely concerned about the biped, about Legend.

“Okay, I get that,” Chrysalis began saying, shifting on the bed as she relaxed again. She couldn’t understand the Bearer’s motives – or just how much she knew for that matter – but she could tell that the mare wasn’t lying. The ability to detect and taste emotions helped an awful lot in that regard. “But how does this apply to me?”

Pinkie Pie looked startled, her eyes going wide as her forelegs flailed wildly in the air.

“Are you kidding me? It has, like, everything to do with you!” Settling back onto all four hooves, Pinkie smiled and looked towards the door before gazing back at Chrysalis. Intriguingly, her next words spoken would have been foreboding were it not for the playful, almost sing-song tone used. “Buuuut, you still didn’t answer my second queeeeestion.”

Furrowing her brow, Chrysalis realised her attempts to divert the aforementioned question had indeed been thwarted. This observation only led to solidifying her belief that the Bearer of Laughter was merely acting scatter-brained, an act that had almost worked. Now aware of the mare’s strategy, she found herself becoming increasingly able to deal with the situation.

Need to give her what she wants; she’s fishing for something… Just, need to make sure she hooks only half the truth.

Taking a long deep breath, Chrysalis looked down at her injured leg only to move a hoof slowly over the bandage in a thoughtful manner. She was reminded on how she had earned it, doing something incredibly stupid just to protect Legend. Something she would never have done for anyone else. Well, save for her sisters and maybe, just maybe, a very small number of ponies. Not that she would admit the last part out loud; or ever.

“You got hurt helping her, didn’t you?”

Chrysalis couldn’t stop herself flinching as Pinkie’s question, raising her head afterwards to see the mare casting a knowing look her way.

By the All-Mother, is she just guessing, or does she actually know? Wait… Actually, that observation was pretty obvious with everything else mentioned so far.

Realising that the mare either knew far more than she was letting on, or, alternatively, was incredibly good at making educated guesses, Chrysalis decided she couldn’t hide the truth. Well, not the whole truth at least; misdirection still remained one of the greatest tools at her disposal.

“You could say that.” Exhaling through her nostrils, the disguised-changeling ran a hoof through her dark curls. “Okay… You want know why I haven’t visited her?”

As soon as the question left her lips, she watched as Pinkie Pie began nodding, vigorously.

“Because…” Chrysalis waggled a hoof towards the door accompanied with one brow being raised. “If you haven’t noticed she seems to be a little off limits. What, with having two guards and Princess Celestia’s personal student doing a good job of barring access. Plus, I barely met her… So, there you have it. I didn’t think it mattered if I saw her or not.”

There, that sounds entirely reasonable.

Noticing that Pinkie Pie appeared to be dwelling on her words, Chrysalis concluded the battle of wits had gone on long enough. Shifting on the bed she moved to lie down, feigning comfort while forelegs obscured her vision once more. “But anyhow… It’s late, and while I have enjoyed the company, visiting hours will almost be over.”

Unable to see Pinkie Pie’s reaction, Chrysalis was pleasantly surprised when she heard the mare trot closer to the door. The question that drifted across the room though, that one she was not ready for.

“Would you like to go see her?”

Several seconds passed as she remained motionless, unmoving that is save for her chest rising and falling with each breath. She could tell that the mare was waiting, and yet, she sensed no malice from Pinkie Pie. In fact, all she could sense from the Bearer was anxiousness. At first the emotion put Chrysalis on edge for understandable reasons. Pinkie Pie could have been attempting to trap her with the question, waiting for the answer to confirm whatever suspicions the mare held.

Yet, when Chrysalis reluctantly tugged her forelegs away from her eyes and sat up, she saw Pinkie Pie gazing at her, a warm, uncertain smile on the pony’s face. Risking some of her dwindling nectar, she applied a small, discrete spell. One that was able to accurately detect the emotions of those around her, or, more accurately, three ponies in particular. The guards in the hallway were not on alert, and were, against Chrysalis’s expectations, almost relaxed in their current task of guarding.


Unable to hide the puzzlement falling over her face, Chrysalis sat up to eye the mare critically. Indeed, Pinkie Pie was only displaying anxiousness, along with a hint of hopefulness. Why that was remained a mystery to the changeling, but, then again, the entire thing continued to baffle her. The whole scenario reeked of a trap waiting to be sprung and yet, despite this…

What was I saying earlier about Legend causing me do the most irredeemably stupid things? And I’m the one becoming a… Ugh, may the All-Mother protect my sisters if I’m right about that.

“Well, yes…” Chrysalis found herself admitting, ignoring the part of her screaming that it was a horrible idea. Although, she happily conceded with her logical side that the guards were not very well going to just allow her to wander in. She was just about to voice this – content in knowing that it would thwart whatever plan Pinkie Pie was trying to put into effect – that is, until she was interrupted as soon as her mouth opened.

Well, not so much interrupted as forcefully, and unexpectedly, dragged off the bed and towards the exit.

“W-What the he-“ Any complaint passing from Chrysalis’s mouth was stifled as Pinkie Pie opened the door. With horror she could only watch as the Bearer flashed her a wide, earnest, smile, prior to waving frantically down the hallway.

She isn’t… She wouldn’t…

“Psssst! Pssssst! Swift Dawn! Swiiiiiiift Daaaawn.”

Oh chitin-rust, she is…

Frozen in horror, aware she may have made the last horrible impulsive decision of her life, Chrysalis watched as Pinkie Pie trotted forward as the two guards regarded her curiously. Unable to hear due to their hushed tones, she could only imagine what they conversed about as she willed her body to remain rigid, trying to avoid letting the fear building within from showing. Instead she mentally ran over several escape plans – most futile – on how she could get out with Legend and escape the town.

What she was not expecting was Pinkie Pie to perform several gestures, ending with a hoof pushing against one eye. Despite herself, Chrysalis found herself wincing even as the mare seemed none the worse for wear. Then, after nodding in an ecstatic fashion, Pinkie Pie returned to where the changeling stood, a smile almost splitting her muzzle.

“Okie dokie, you can go in! They were a little suspicious on why you hadn’t explained yourself earlier, but I explained it all and they haaaad noticed you bumping into her a lot in the hallway, and she never seemed scared of you which, of course she wouldn’t, as she knows you! But, just to be sure I Pinkie Promised that you would behave yourself, not that I had to because I know you won’t do anything mean because she’s your friend, right?”

Chrysalis found herself lowering an eyebrow slowly, even given the situation, at trying to keep track of everything that the mare had just said. She had no clue what a ‘pinkie promise’ was, but, like most things about the mare, she wasn’t going to question it.

“Uh, right…” Finding herself a little lost for words, Chrysalis didn’t have long to think on it as she was unexpectedly nudged forward. Looking behind her, she saw Pinkie Pie’s head pushing against her backside, forcing her to take another step.

“Don’t be shy ~Ebony~! Go and see her!” The reassuring smile given by the mare along with the words spoken, could only lead Chrysalis to sigh in defeat. Offering a small nod she trotted forward, acting the part of a timid mare as she approached the guards. Admittedly, it wasn’t much of an act, even if she was in reality more concerned than timid.

Once she got closer, Chrysalis found herself a little intimidated by the larger pegasus. The fact he gave nothing away in his body language put her further on edge. Thankfully, he seemed to only glance at her briefly before resuming his silent vigil ahead. The other guard, Swift Dawn – and as she recently discovered, also Captain of the Royal Guard – trotted forward to meet her, his eyes giving her a quick once over before one of his brows raised.

Why do I keep running into ponies that knew Rosebloom?!

Swift Dawn’s eyes narrowed for the barest of seconds, then, just as abruptly, the stallion raised a brow before addressing Chrysalis. Inwardly, she found herself relieved that her disguise, as meagre as it was, seemed to hold up under scrutiny.

“So, Pinkie Pie says you know the patient?”

Chrysalis regarded Swift Dawn, well aware of his mannerisms due to her ‘father’, Steel Point, being in the guard. Because of this, she could tell that he didn’t buy what Pinkie Pie had told him, at least, not in its entirety. Offering a nod, she found him continuing to look down his muzzle at her before his posture relaxed some, a head tilt gesturing behind him.

“I was curious why you were always around when she left her room, well, that is, aside from today it seems.” Swift Dawn spoke casually, his stance becoming less rigid. “Anyhow, you can go in but we’ll be right here, listening in. Just in case, you understand.”

Chrysalis nodded once more, also offering a small mumble of understanding in the process. The glance in her direction from the other guard, his name eluding her, also didn’t go unnoticed. In all honesty, as Swift Dawn partially opened the door for her, she found herself a little mystified on how easily they allowed her access. Her suspicions that it was all an elaborate trap, one she had willingly stumbled into no less, were looking more and more likely.

Well, can’t do anything about it now.

Just as she was about to enter she was stopped as Swift Dawn cleared his throat. Curious as to why, a glance given down the hallway led to the reason being Pinkie Pie – for whatever reason – nodding vigorously in their direction. Before she could question this, the stallion looked aside while releasing a small sigh.

“You’re welcome to close the door if you wish, we’ll be right here anyhow.”

Chrysalis found herself somewhat confused by the offer, but wasn’t about to turn down a gift of providence.

“Oh, uh, thank you. I will then if that’s okay.” With that, the changeling entered the room only to gently close the door behind her with her uninjured leg. Once there was an audible click signalling the portal being shut, Chrysalis came to realise why they were not bothered by her doing so. She could sense magic permeating the room, powerful magic at that. From what she could tell, wards had been placed to protect Legend, and, quite possibly, in response to Twilight Sparkle’s paranoia the night of Chrysalis’s visit.

Huh, that unicorn is far more dangerous than I thought; that or she has way too much time on her hooves.

She couldn’t tell exactly what the magic did, yet from what she could sense both warning and restraining spells were primarily used in their construction. In any case, she could tell they would be no threat as long as she didn’t cast any changeling magic within their presence. Besides, she had more important things to worry about at that stage. For in the closest bed on the other side of the room Legend resided, a look of surprise on the biped’s face.

Chrysalis found herself the subject of a wary expression, watching as Legend moved to put a held quill back into an inkpot. While mildly curious as to what the quill could possibly have been used for, Chrysalis instead noticed that a look of apprehension was flickering over the girl’s face. Slowly, as if wary of making sudden movements, the blankets were timidly tugged up as a makeshift barrier before the girl. Tilting her head, Chrysalis was somewhat dumbfounded by the reaction.

Just what is she doing? Oh… Excellent, that’s just perfect.

Realising that Legend truly had no idea who she was, Chrysalis could only chuckle softly at the situation. As she gazed at the biped she wondered exactly how to rectify that problem. She couldn’t very well remove her disguise, not with the wards present. The other issue was if Legend panicked leading to the guards coming in; and, given what she knew of the biped so far, the girl was easily startled and rather fearful at the best of times. This left Chrysalis in a predicament, one she wasn’t quite sure on how to find a solution to.

Maybe if I get closer…

Venturing forward, the changeling was caught off guard when Legend backed up against the wall. Part of her felt hurt by the girl’s reaction especially as the room became saturated in the earthy taste of fear. Normally Chrysalis would be amused at inspiring terror, but, when it came to Legend, she found herself angry for doing so. Regardless, as she rolled her eyes at her own stupidity, the changeling noted she was effectively stuck in place.

To move forward would make Legend possibly alert the guards, which, while ironic, was not something she was going for. Yet, to stand still would get her nowhere. Time was also of the essence, her ears picking up the guards outside the door becoming suspicious. Strangely enough she could also hear Pinkie Pie trying to ease their concerns. Yet again, the mare continued to be an enigma.

“If only I could get close, you would know it was me,” Chrysalis said, exhaling afterwards. She knew to try talking was a wasted gesture, but she felt it was worth a try.

How do I show her it’s me without dropping my disguise? Chitin-rust, this is stupid. This, this Chrysalis is the situation you get into when you start to develop feelings for your food. Now the room stinks of fear and-

Blinking, Chrysalis came across an idea. It was foolish, stupid, and, if she were to be honest, a plan that was becoming second nature to her when involving Legend. Remembering back to in the forest she looked directly at the frightened-looking girl and did something that had worked once before. Scrunching her nose up, she implied that Legend stunk.

Her heart beat a little faster on seeing a spark of recognition flash across Legend’s widening eyes. Deeming the risk acceptable, Chrysalis trotted forward, all the while keeping herself a little lower to the ground. Noting that the girl was not moving and the fear was starting to dissipate, she approached the bed. Once close enough, one of her forehooves rested onto the sheets, pulling herself up enough to push her head forward.

If this doesn’t work, I am going to maul that pink mare before they take me down, I swear.

Much to her relief, Legend didn’t react as Chrysalis pushed her muzzle ever so gently against the girl’s trembling fingers. Once contact was made, she wriggled a little closer, pushing her head so that the hand slid over her muzzle and into the disguise’s curly mane. After a second she was rewarded with warmth flowing into her, a small trickle that steadily grew.

Noting that Legend still retained a little fear, she raised her head and allowed her true eyes to shine through for an instant. She knew it was a risky thing to do, but she ventured that the wards would not detect such a miniscule alteration. When the wards indeed remained inert, Chrysalis offered a grin upwards as the mud-like taste in her mouth was exchanged for something else. Silence filled the room, uncertainty beginning to build within her body as she started to second-guess how she had approached the issue.

Of all the reactions she was expecting, finding two arms suddenly tugging her closer to the girl was not one of them. Her surprise was short-lived as she felt Legend push her face into her mane, a laugh escaping the girl’s lips while Chrysalis felt tears dampen her ears.

You really do cry a lot don’t you?

“~Ebony!~” Legend exclaimed, the arms holding onto Chrysalis as if afraid she would vanish again. That fact made the changeling relax, letting herself be held as she drank in the emotions being gifted to her. With it the aching feeling within ebbed away, the fiery hunger of the ‘affliction’ becoming quenched as her nectar was steadily refilled. It would be easy for Chrysalis to say this was the only reason she wished to see Legend so desperately, to fill her belly and that be that.

But that would be lying.

As she was held Chrysalis closed her eyes, enjoying the warmth of the creature holding her. She wanted to see Legend for another reason; the same reason she kept intercepting her in the hallway. Oh, sure, she needed the emotions to keep herself alive and there was no denying that. But, as she felt the girl’s tears drip into her mane, Chrysalis couldn’t help but confess that, ultimately, she wanted to be here.

To her astonishment though, the feeling grew as more emotions poured into her. Compassion was there, but something more. An exquisite taste filled her mouth as, like a waterfall, she was submerged in a torrent of raw - and very surprising – amount of love. It was the strongest emotion she had ever felt, and with it, she felt the yawning chasm within her fill. Leaning back, Chrysalis looked up at Legend in wide eyed wonder.


Unable to cope with the influx of emotion, Chrysalis lost her grip on her body’s desire to heal itself. The wound on her leg sealed, and, if that wasn’t enough, she could feel the changes continue under her disguise. Yet, at that moment, she didn’t really care as a smile slid over her muzzle. Shifting her wings, the changeling gained a dreamy look on her face, indulging in a sensation she had never felt before.

It was like a feast, the flavour more delicious than words could hope to describe. But, even with a full belly, she knew there was another reason she felt so warm, so content. Legend cared about her, more than Chrysalis could ever have suspected.

Legend cared about her. Her! She had been loved as Rosebloom, but that was only for the disguise and never really her. The feelings had been always muted somewhat, and she had always remained somewhat detached even after all those years. Well, that’s what she told herself at least.

This, this however was something new, something inconceivable. She could feel them all intermingling, all the feelings of Legend pouring forth. Concern she had felt for her, relief at seeing her again, and, most importantly, an undercurrent of love flowing through the whole mixture.

You silly, easily startled, cry-baby.

Shifting a little, Chrysalis found she was being looked upon. Meeting Legend’s gaze, she noted the girl was also giggling, quite possibly at the slight blush pushing along her muzzle. Giving a snort, Chrysalis looked aside only to move her head back into the girl’s arms. Slipping a foreleg to drape over one of the limbs holding her, she relaxed in the embrace.

But you’re my cry-baby. You’re going to save the others, and I swear to the All-Mother to never let you get harmed again.

For how long they remained there, Chrysalis couldn’t say. To be given emotions willingly was little more than a legend, a myth. To be given the emotions she was receiving now? That was simply unheard of, unprecedented and an impossibility. A changeling either took emotions while disguised, or forcefully drained them from a victim. All undisguised changelings got directed their way was fear, revulsion, or anger. Such emotions, unless drained from the host, were inedible and useless.

Legend continually proved herself to be something unique, and, without a doubt, something more to Chrysalis. What that was exactly, well, that continued to be a point of contention. Regardless, as her head rested to Legend’s chest she found herself listening to the heart beat within. With each soft thump, Chrysalis found she was fighting a losing battle with her own emotions.

Oh sure, Legend was a pain in the backside, that went without argument. Yet, the crying, the timid nature, the traits that on anyone else would make her fume in anger only became endearing when coming from the girl.

Alone and separated from everyone you know. I guess we have that in common, you and I.

Exhaling softly, Chrysalis listened to the heart beat for a few seconds longer before gazing upwards.

“But… You’re not alone, because you have me.” Pausing for a second, she moved her head to look directly up at the one embracing her. “And I hope you appreciate just how out of my comfort zone this is, alright?”

Noticing Legend meeting her gaze, she offered a grin upwards at the smile given. Still, the hour was now late and she knew the girl would need her rest to recover fully. With that in mind she reluctantly tugged free of the embrace, the movement seeming to confuse Legend. Chrysalis decided to answer the unspoken question by pointing a hoof towards the window that showed the moon high in the sky.

The girl seemed to reach the same conclusion that Chrysalis had, sighing softly and nodding in agreement. Amused at their simple exchange of communication, the changeling instead returned the nod and slipped from the bed. Turning, she trotted slowly for the exit, hearing voices on the other side of the door once she got closer.

Yet, just as she reached her destination, a voice spoke from behind her. Looking over her shoulder, Chrysalis saw Legend smiling towards her. While she couldn’t tell exactly what the biped had said, she could possibly tell the context. With her ears slanting forward, Chrysalis felt a smile creep over her muzzle as she felt warmth infuse her; and, this time, it wasn’t due to being fed.

“Sleep well, Legend.”

With that, Chrysalis opened the door and exited the room. Surprisingly, once outside she found the hallway to have a very different atmosphere to when she had entered. Indeed, the guards seemed more relaxed than previously, each glancing behind her before Swift Dawn offered a small smile to the other stallion.

As she looked around though, Chrysalis found someone – or more specifically, somepony – strangely absent. Swift Dawn seemed to notice this, his head tilting down the hallway in the direction of the stairs.

“Pinkie Pie left a few minutes ago.”

Chrysalis blinked at the stallion’s words, her mind struggling to comprehend what she was hearing. Her thoughts spun and twisted wondering exactly what the mare was up to and why she had left. A thousand questions raged in her head, but in the end she only could voice one.

“Why?” With her head tilted to reflect her confusion, Chrysalis found Swift Dawn shrugging in response before he scratched under his muzzle with a gilded hoof.

“She said that she had something to do, and, that you and ‘Legend’ needed some time together. Although, I have to admit that I was a little sceptical to begin with.” Settling his hoof back down, Swift Dawn gestured with his head back to the room Chrysalis had just left. “But, from the look on the girl’s face it seems she was right.”

Huh… Yeah, they definitely gave me the abridged version. That sounded far too exact to be something that mare would say.

Chrysalis mused over what she had just heard before allowing a smile to come to her muzzle. In the end she had managed to meet directly with Legend, who, thankfully, now knew it was her. Also, with her nectar reserves full, Chrysalis was feeling pretty good about the night, even despite the rocky start.

“Well, thank you. But I think it’s time I got sleep, given it is getting late.” Deciding it was time that she retreated to her room, Chrysalis gave a nod to each guard while keeping up a timid image of sorts. With the gesture returned, she made her way down the hallway, back to her sanctuary of sorts.

That Bearer… I can’t place her, and the more I think about it, the more I suspect she was planning this from the start of today. I can’t decide if she knows far more than she lets on, or if she is dangerously perceptive.

Ruffling her wings, Chrysalis could only ponder over the information she had. She felt sure that the mare was unaware of her true identity, but, again, it was concerning just how unknown Pinkie Pie was. She couldn’t get a read on her, and while the emotions showed the mare was earnest in what she was doing, it made absolutely no sense for her to do as she did.

Nonetheless, and, despite her best efforts, Chrysalis found herself warming up a little to the pony. She had made it possible for her to visit Legend. It didn’t matter if the Bearer had done so for ‘Mystery’s benefit, for ‘~Ebony~’ or for both. No, no matter the reason she knew Pinkie Pie had somehow talked the guards into letting Chrysalis in, and then somehow allowed her to spend the time unhindered.

I guess, maybe she really isn’t so bad.

Pausing before the door to her room, Chrysalis shifted her hind leg, feeling with exasperation the fact her wound had completely sealed. She couldn’t help but smile though as she mulled over Pinkie Pie’s words, or, to be more exact, on Legend being Chrysalis’s friend.

To have a friend, one who doesn’t like a disguise, who knows me… for me? Could I? Is it even possible for that to happen? Is that what she is to me, or am I simply doing this because I need her to save the others?

Resting a hoof to the door, Chrysalis exhaled before pushing her forehead to the smooth painted wood. It was true she needed Legend to save the makeshift hive. It would even be true to say that she needed Legend, to keep herself alive lest whatever her body was undergoing ate her alive without any nectar to feed upon. But, none of that required her to worry about the girl in the way she did, nor did it explain why she took such risks just to be close.

Well, I have officially decided I am now an idiot.

It seemed that Pinkie Pie had been right, yet Chrysalis had not wanted to admit it to herself. She considered Legend close, and, without a doubt, a friend. Once more she was breaking another rule she had grown up following, one she had believed whole-heartedly; yet, she found herself not caring. As a smile came to her muzzle, the changeling felt warmth flow through her body in remembering how nice it felt to be held by the biped.

As the smile grew on her face, Chrysalis raised her head, gazing back down the hallway to where Legend, her friend rested.

I feel like I should thank Pinkie Pie for this… That is, were she not a pony, and annoying.

Pushing the door open, Chrysalis trotted inside only to blink twice at the sight that confronted her.

Or… Maybe I’ll go back to my earlier idea of tossing her out a window. Yeah, you know what? I like that one. Let’s go with that one.

It may have been the balloons tied to the end of the bed, or it might have been the banner hanging from the wall with a presumably rushed drawn picture of ‘~Ebony~’ hugging Legend. Whatever the reason, Chrysalis could only chuckle at the situation before crawling onto the bed. Still, as she wriggled under the covers she felt for the first time, in a long time, truly happy. Brief images of her time as Rosebloom flittered through her mind before she squeezed both eyes shut.

Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Chrysalis instead rolled onto her other side. While she was certainly not the sentimental sort, her eyes nonetheless roamed over the banner before she smiled once more. Content in the knowledge that Legend was happy, she closed her eyes, letting the welcome feeling of a full belly carry her off to sleep.


The moon bathed the world below with its warm, gentle light. Like a silent guardian it seemed to watch over those who busied themselves through the night. A thousand years ago, few, if any would venture out during these hours. Now, now there were a multitude of creatures which sought solace in the starlit sky. Be it a pair of young griffon lovers sharing a tender moment, or a poet, looking for inspiration within the beauty held above. Time had moved on, and with it, a new appreciation for the waning hours.

Once a time to be feared, now the setting of the sun brought about a beauty, a wonder that had begun to capture the imagination of a generation. Something had changed, and while the night had always held a special mystique about it under Celestia’s guidance, with Luna’s return something was indeed different. The stars shone brighter, the moon appeared fuller, almost as if they too rejoiced in her reclamation of her duties.

It had been decided on Luna’s return that both sisters would rule again as equals, the monarchy once more becoming a diarchy. This was a matter that Celestia proved to be absolutely steadfast on. Understandably some had not been so welcoming of the news, whether it be reluctance to the sudden change, or, more accurately, due to exactly how she had returned. It was testament to the trust that they had in their princess however that the decision had been accepted, if albeit reluctantly from some factions.

Still, Luna had initially insisted on a reduced role, to give the populace some time to become reacquainted with her. Celestia, conceding to the wisdom of the idea, nonetheless made the caveat that neither would be higher than the other in authority. This had come as a shock to the castle staff, no more so than the nobles themselves. Some were dubious, concerned of what this could mean.

Luna had, after all, once been thought a mere myth and now, suddenly, she was equal in power to The Sun’s Keeper herself. Due to her domain, some thought her a beautiful, yet mysterious figure. Others were wary, if not outright frightened of her – perhaps rightfully so – due to the nature of her arrival and the troubles that followed. Others still thought her a creature out of time, a tragic figure from the fairy tales told to them in their youth, the mare in the moon.

Then, there were those who believed her naïve, and, accordingly, easily manipulated to get what they desired. These nobles, ambassadors, traders, and diplomats knew Celestia’s almost motherly demeanour hid a fine-edged mind, one that had untold millennia of wisdom and experience to guide it. Her sister on the other hoof, she was an unknown. For the first few weeks Luna had been almost sheltered by her sister as she recovered from her ordeal, and, due to this, rumours had spread that she was both timid and easily confused from her thousand year absence.

Luna knew her sister well enough to realise that was the goal in her decision. Those few nobles who had attempted such a thing quickly learned that, while she was adjusting to culture shock, she was no fool. Many had come to her attempting to push their proposals through, or, more deviously, curry her favour to gain standing. She dealt with each by unravelling their words, turning them back against those who tried, and, in doing so, gained the respect deserving of her position.

Still, it was true that things had changed significantly since her banishment. Territories had altered, and with it, not a single town or village from her time remained; well, all except one that is. Canterlot had been a mere village in her time, now it was the capital of Equestria, having migrated to the top of the cliff that had once overlooked the small rural community. While she missed their old home, Luna knew it was due to her that they had to move on. The memories would have been too painful for Celestia to remain there.

The language had also changed – not as dramatically as she had feared – but enough that it required her to relearn nonetheless. Relations with the outside races had also altered for the better, the griffons were now seen as allies, and the minotaurs as trading partners. In this respect, Luna had expected no less from her sister.

For all the differences though, some had surprised her more than others. Everywhere she looked there was evidence of what she herself had held domain of when they ruled together. Schools for both art and for music were prevalent among Canterlot, some even proclaimed to be the best by – and draw students from – the other known races.

Then there was how the night was no longer as lonely as it once was. Ponies worked into the twilight hours, be it for their jobs, or, more commonly, simply to spend time under the stars. There were many more examples she could point out, but those were the few that stuck out in her mind. It was almost as if Celestia had, over the thousand years, been performing a dual role. Suspiciously, it seemed the reason there was so little fuss over the diarchy was, that in essence, it always had been that way to a certain extent. Granted, there were now two sisters leading the country, but, the way it was now run, the views shared, they remained largely unchanged.

One might suspect – were it not for the sheer enormity of the whole undertaking – that it had been planned all along for Luna’s return. Indeed, such a thing would be impossible under normal circumstances given the time and patience required. That wasn’t even getting into the strain one would feel, effectively doing two jobs so that, when the time came, there was little disruption for everypony involved. But, Luna knew that her sister was no normal pony.

Being an immortal alicorn aside, Celestia, if she felt it was the right thing to do, would undertake any task no matter the personal cost to herself. Luna knew this, and had thusly confronted her sister over it. Her suspicions had been confirmed and while she was touched by how much her sister cared for her, she had several questions that had to be voiced. What if things had gone different? What if the Elements had not cleansed her of the corruption? What if Twilight Sparkle had not acted as she had done?

Celestia had smiled and drew her sister in with a wing, the following answer quiet yet spoken with conviction.

“Honestly? I had no way of knowing what would happen that day. All I could do was have faith in my student, and, in you. All I knew was one thing. I needed my sister back; I needed you back, Luna.”

Those words had remained with her since that day, always at the forefront of her mind. It wasn’t until that moment that Luna realised that while she had been banished, largely unaware of time drifting by, Celestia had been forced to endure each and every moment of that time alone. Since their birth they had been together, and, aside from disagreements just like every sibling, they had always been there for each other, millennia after millennia.

Luna couldn’t fathom how isolated Celestia would have felt, suddenly alone and having to pick up the pieces of what had transpired. Not for the first time she admired her sister’s courage, her resolve to continue onwards. To spend the time – not knowing if her sister would return, or could even be saved – rebuilding the kingdom, as if both sisters still ruled. Even if there was only one now remaining, all so their subjects wouldn’t suffer. All so that in the slim chance when Luna returned there was a home for her, one where she was appreciated.

Luna didn’t wish to brag, but she was pretty certain she had the best sister that ever was.

Yet, not everything had gone smoothly on her return. The newly reinstated night court – despite the word of mouth spreading that Luna was not to be taken lightly – continued to attract those who thought they could outsmart her. Or, alternatively, those who wished to curry her favour so as to gain support with nothing more than sugary words and empty promises.

That being said, Luna wasn’t exactly certain which classification the noble before her fell under. Seated before the royal throne, the so-called ‘Keeper of the Night’ – a title the noctrals under her command insistently referred to her as – had patiently listened to the petitions and concerns put towards her. So far the night had gone relatively smoothly. Matters were dealt with, and she had even made progress on signing off several projects on finishing the repair to the city.

Then there was the commotion near the doorway, one that had pulled her attention only to see a male unicorn wave a piece of paper at one of the guards. The armour-clad pony gazed back into the room, the guard’s eyes asking a silent question as he patiently withstood the verbal barrage.

Giving a nod to the guard, an action that caused the armoured ponies to step aside and allow entrance, Luna carefully kept the bemusement off her face as the stallion stormed forward. Once near the base of the throne, the caramel-coloured unicorn waggled the piece of paper around again before thrusting it forward.

“Princess Luna, can you please explain the meaning of this outrage?!”

Luna blinked; one brow becoming raised as she first glanced at the paper, then at the one holding it.

“I am unaware as to what you speak of,” Luna begun only to see the pony’s nostrils start to flare. “Please Made Manifest, if you would explain yourself more clearly. I am capable of many things, but reading the paper from this distance is not one of them.”

Made Manifest’s horn glowed crimson before the paper settled in the air, encased within a similar aura. Turning it around, he smoothed it out before glancing first at the writing, then over the edge of the document to gaze up at Luna.

“They are removing carrot pitas from the menu, and, for Celestia’s sake, replacing them with hay fries! Hay fries!” With each word, Made Manifest shook the paper like he could somehow remove the offending print from the surface. Luna, meanwhile, could only exhale as a hoof pushed under her horn.

“Made Manifest, I…” Peering down her muzzle, Luna sucked in a deep breath and withdrew the limb from her face. “I do not see how this issue is one you needed to wait until the night court to bring to my attention; you could have easily taken this matter up with my sister during the day. Besides, I for one like these, hay fries. They are… delicious, and a most welcome surprise to find in this age.”

Made Manifest remained standing where he was, his eyes never wavering from staring straight towards her. It looked for a second as if he was about to erupt again, until, anticlimactically, he blew his grey-flecked blue-mane from his eyes.

“What? How could I do such a thing?” As the aging stallion spoke, a grin spread along his muzzle. “When I have the wonderful opportunity of your company by bringing it to you, Princess Luna.”

“Ah, I see. Well I thank you for bringing this most dire of information to me.” Releasing a small snort, Luna felt the edges of her lips curl ever so slightly upwards at the pony before her. As she watched him slip the now folded menu into his jacket pocket another piece of paper within caught her eye. Ruffling her wings, Luna pursed her lips before raising a silver clad hoof to gesture for him to continue. “But, that is not the real reason for your visit this eve, is it Made Manifest? Speak, please; reveal to me your true concerns.”

Realising he had been caught out, Made Manifest’s horn glowed to retrieve the other item from his pocket. Unfolding it, his gaze flicked up towards Luna before frowning as he gazed at the paper before him.

“My real concerns, your highness?” Pausing for a moment, he set his jaw while his tail flicked absently. The paper crinkled at the sides as if great force was applied to it before once more smoothing out, the stallion then exhaling as his shoulders slumped some. “I’ve been elected to bring a list of concerns pertaining to the quote, royal announcement, unquote, that you and Princess Celestia gave out yesterday.”

Luna could only blink at this piece of news. Indeed, the day previous she and her sister had gathered all the heads of staff, Captain Aurora and Captain Swift Dawn’s second in command given his absence, and any of the nobles that could attend, all to announce their intentions to have a special guest visit the castle. They had outlined about what they knew of ‘Mystery’, and, perhaps more importantly, that she seemed to be of interest to the changelings.

To say it had gone over well would be akin to stating that her beloved moon was pink with yellow stripes.

“Then, let us hear your concerns.” Luna mentally gave a small mental tsk at the slip-up, yet made sure to keep any agitation from appearing on her face. Made Manifest in turn shrugged and cleared his throat, proceeding to read from the paper suspended before him.

“Princess Luna, we do not wish to bring doubt onto the ruling of either you, nor your sister, but given the information provided yesterday, we feel that we have no choice but to voice our concerns.”

Made Manifest paused at that point, one of his eyebrows raised while the beginnings of a sneer started to pull at his lips. With a small shake of his head, the stallion continued as Luna and her guards continued to listen.

“Firstly, it has come to our attention that this ‘visitor from another world’,” Luna quirked an eyebrow at Made Manifest’s interesting octave choice for the last part, “is also known as another name, that being ‘The Foal-Hunter.’”

Luna noticed Made Manifest gazing at her curiously as the title was dropped. It was only at that point did she notice she was frowning, a slip of showing her emotions that she instantly regretted.

I do not know why I am bothering… I am not Tia. I am… unable to mask my emotions behind a mask, nor shall I ever be.

Knowing she could not just brush off the reaction, Luna instead raised her head high and gazed down at the stallion.

“Thou shalt know this and take thy information back to those who sent thee here. That name – that title forced on her by a pair of miscreants – is forbidden, henceforth immediately, from being used to refer to her. Dost thou understand?” Luna felt her muscles tense as she spoke and fought hard to stop her feathers ruffling. The guards throughout it all remained at their posts, unflinching, even as the moon flared only to return to its former glory almost immediately.

The same could not be said for Made Manifest, his ears flattening before his left hoof lifted in a placating gesture.

“Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, princess. I never said I agreed with them.”

Lowering her eyelids, Luna regarded the stallion carefully before giving a slight nod of her head.

“Yes, you are correct and I apologise for my outburst.” Sniffing once, she flicked an ear to gaze at one of the guards near the door, noticing a smirk sliding along the noctral’s muzzle. “But my decree still stands, and I ask that you follow it. That title has caused untold harm to her, and, given her… unusual status as a visitor from another world, we, that is to say, my sister and I, have no idea of her standing and thus wish to treat her, regardless of her status, with as much respect as possible.”

Seeing Made Manifest’s eyes widen, Luna smiled inwardly.

He, unlike some of his peers, is no fool. Still, I must make sure to remind Tia on the matter of sending out the warrant of arrest for those two responsible to Captain Swift Dawn tomorrow.

“You know, I never actually thought of that. I guess that makes more sense as to why you’re going to all these lengths. Still, I thought the stories I heard about her… I mean…” Seemingly lost for words, Made Manifest rubbed between his eyes with a hoof. “To think that…”

Despite everything, he is indeed a good pony.

Luna nodded slowly, agreeing to his unspoken comment, prior to perking both her ears.

“You said firstly, what were the further issues to bring to my attention?” Her tone was curious; her interest piqued as the stallion before her shook his head to clear his thoughts. Clearing his throat he put his mind back onto the task, speaking the rest without pause.

“There’s more to the first, where was I… Ah, yes… Ah-hem, with this is mind, we strongly advise against bringing this creature into the castle. Furthermore, the knowledge that the… Uh, let’s just say ‘creature’ so as not to repeat earlier, has the interest of the changelings, or at least one in particular, casts more concern on the entire matter. We do not wish to doubt the wisdom of either Princess Celestia, nor Princess Luna, but due to recent events, it stands to reason that to gain their attention once more while vulnerable would prove disastrous.”

Luna listened even as her attention was drawn outside when a patrol flew through the sky, casting their silhouettes reassuringly before her moon. A small amount of satisfaction filled her on seeing Captain Aurora had carried out her request as promptly as ever. She half paid attention to the concerns being talked about, one ear flicking as an issue was apparently had with the labour and bits put into renovations within the crystal caverns below the castle.

Luna found she would have paid more attention, that is, if it were not for the way each point was being spoken. The monotonous tone of voice was clearly deliberate, and the way one of his eyebrows would rise up or fall depending on the particular issue only cemented this fact.

“We thank the princess for her time, and hope that we get an answer, or actions, to these issues soon. Yours respectfully, and ever faithful, the bunch of idiots I am forced to work with.” Luna blinked at the last part, a soft sniggering from one of the guards in the room breaking the silence that followed. Hiding her own mirth at the choice of words, she saw Made Manifest waggle a hoof in the air. “Okay, maybe not all of them are idiots, but not one of them had the backbone to bring this list to you personally, princess.”

I cannot imagine as to why.

Exhaling softly, Luna slanted her ears forward while wriggling her backside ever so slightly. Not for the first time she made a mental note to procure a cushion if the sessions were to last as long as this one currently had.

“Well, that is certainly a most… comprehensive list you have brought to my attention.” A shrug was given to her words as the paper was roughly folded and shoved back into Made Manifest’s pocket. Luna thought for a second, contemplating on how she should word her responses. “Please, assure your peers that we are aware of the aforementioned dangers and thus procedures have been put into place accordingly. However, as thou art aware, this is something that we must do.”

The truth of her words seemed to be readily accepted by the stallion as he nodded sagely. Rubbing under his muzzle with one hoof, Made Manifest gave a bitter sigh before his ears flattened.

“Yes, well, I guess we can only hope that she isn’t someone important. I mean, what if others come here looking for her?” His words made Luna’s tail swish slightly behind her, the ethereal appendage slipping over the throne as she shared his concern. Her sister, not to mention Twilight Sparkle, also shared that thought, and, as such, it was decided to bring her to the castle as soon as she was well enough to leave the hospital.

That wasn’t the only reason though.

‘Mystery’ was to also serve two functions while a guest at the castle. One was to try and force the changelings’ hooves, and, in doing so, also hopefully reveal their whereabouts. It was risky, and both sisters felt no small amount of guilt for this action, but it was something that needed to be done. That was why Swift Dawn himself had been appointed, to safeguard her against any threat that may occur. They wanted the changelings to expose themselves, not put the female in danger.

The second reason was on a far more personal matter.

I am now certain that is Starswirl’s journal in her head, but… Why, and how? I can not help but feel that it is calling out to me, beckoning me into her dreams.

Pushing the thoughts aside, Luna instead flicked an ear while regarding the stallion waiting patiently. Clearing her throat, she caught his attention and gestured with a silver-clad hoof to brush it against her regalia.

“That is of concern, but thanks to the efforts of Twilight Sparkle and several others, a more… amicable atmosphere is being provided to her. Still, those responsible for the heinous acts initially shall be brought to justice.” Finding her ire once more rising, Luna instead shook her head, changing the matter in a subtle direction. “Yet, tell us Made Manifest. You have made your feelings known on what the others think, but what do you think about this situation?”

The stallion looked thoughtful for a moment before scrunching his nose up. “You mean about bringing her here, while knowing that the changelings seem to have, I don’t know, a thing for her?”

Luna could only smile as she gave a small bow to her head. “Yes, as to that matter exactly.”

Made Manifest looked as if he was trying to formulate exactly how he was going to word his reply. A hoof rubbed under his muzzle before he opened his mouth, stopped, and then scrunched up his nose once more. This continued for several seconds until, abruptly, the stallion firmly placed all four hooves to the ground.

“Honestly Princess? I think this is a bloody stupid idea.”

As her brow partially rose, she noted two of the guards push armoured hooves to their faces before shaking their heads slowly. Luna, however, was well accustomed to the mannerisms of Made Manifest and, like her sister, appreciated his brutal honesty. Truthfully, she found him a breath of fresh air to the stuffy politics that she now had to become reacquainted with.

“Oh?” Settling her hooves back before her, Luna repressed a lopsided smile that threatened to pull at her muzzle, instead keeping a calm and neutral expression on her face.

“Look, I know you haven’t told everypony everything, but I’ve been around long enough to read between the lines. Heck, I can bet even some of the others, especially that twit, Blueblood, has managed to do the same. You’re bringing the Fo-“ Noticing Luna’s expression darken, Made Manifest quickly cleared his throat. “I mean, ‘Mystery’ here as bait. Now, I don’t know exactly for what, but given what happened a couple of months ago, I would say you’re bringing her here to make the changelings act. You’ve already upped the patrols, I mean, look in the throne room itself, there’s like twenty of the bloody guard in here when you used to have four. It’s as if they can’t do their job properly unless you fill every open space with them. No offense.”

The last part, directed at the grey-coated guard nearby was met with a shrug. “Eh, none taken.”

“Look, all I’m saying Princess is, you and Princess Celestia obviously aren’t just bringing her here to apologise and find out how she came to Equestria. I don’t doubt that’s probably your main priority, and perhaps you’re even bringing her here to keep her safe. I don’t know and, honestly, I don’t want to know. Heck, we don’t even know all that much about the creature herself and what she can do. What if she’s dangerous and no-one knows?”

Luna remained silent as Made Manifest took a deep breath, rubbing under his horn with a hoof to collect his thoughts.

“All I am saying is, this is a risky, stupid plan, and again, I can’t help but feel that bringing something the changelings obviously want back into the capital after last time, well, it isn’t anything but completely insane. What if one of them is that, ‘Chrysalis’ again? And don’t get me started on whatever downstairs is being converted into, I’m not sure if it’s being made as a guest quarters for the creature or not, and again, I don’t want to know…”

Luna waited, allowing him to finish until he cleared his throat. There was no fear on his face for reprimand, nor would she have expected there to be. Granted, how he spoke was outside the norm, but privately, she allowed him to speak as he did just as her sister also did. Each of them had certain ponies they trusted the opinions of more than others and Luna was thankful the stallion before her was one she could do so with. Before she could reply though, he exhaled and fixed her with a gaze.

“On saying all that, if I had been asked about what Celestia was planning with your return, I would have told her it was a bloody stupid idea as well. How it all worked out I have no clue, but… look what we got out of it.” Luna felt a small smile take hold of her lips as he offered a lopsided grin up at her. “Maybe not everypony knows how lucky they are, but we now have two rulers, two alicorn rulers no less. And, to be completely honest, I haven’t seen Princess Celestia ever be as happy as she has been since you’ve come back.”

Offering a bow of her head to his words, Luna felt a small warmth blossom in her chest. After the shock had fled her system after being purged of the corruption, she had begun to feel doubt claw its way into her mind. To hear those words spoken and to know her sister cared deeply for her helped to banish those thoughts away.

“Thank you Made Manifest, as always, thy words and honesty are truly appreciated.” Smiling, Luna found a warm grin returned her way as the unicorn chuckled and smoothed out his jacket.

“Anytime your highness. Well, I think I have taken enough of your time for tonight, but I am serious about that matter you know.” His visage hardened as he spoke leading Luna to blink twice before exhaling, a hoof soon moving to the base of her horn in response.

“Very well… We shall have the cooks review their menu tomorrow and have these, carrot pitas, returned post-haste.”

A satisfied nod was given by the stallion as he gave his jacket another brush with a hoof. “Ah, very good. I knew I could count on you Princess Luna to deal with the most urgent of matters.”

Finding herself smiling, Luna was nonetheless surprised when Made Manifest made to leave before stopping mid-step. About to question as to why, she saw him gaze back at her, a wistful smile on his muzzle while his greying mane fell partially over one eye.

“You know, when I was a young colt my favourite story I would ask my mother to read every night was about the Mare in the Moon. My children, many years on, adored it too.” Giving a respectful nod, Made Manifest smiled, this time more earnestly. “I won’t pretend to know what happened a thousand years ago, but all I can say is, it’s great to have you here now and don’t let anyone tell you differently.”

Luna felt her smile widen before she gave a small, respectful nod to the stallion as he trotted out of the room, pausing only to offer a parting farewell to the guard he had verbally abused earlier. She sat there for several seconds, noting that the guards were giving their own small acknowledgements to Made Manifest’s words which only aided in the warmth within. Returning the smile to each in turn, she cleared her throat and turned to address one of the Lunar Guard positioned nearest to her.

“Please send for Captain Aurora to come see me; I have matters most urgent I need to discuss with her. She will be most likely found at her parents, or, if not, you will find her visiting her friend, Sunshower.”

“Yes your highness.” The armour-clad earth pony saluted before galloping to carry out his task. Taking in a deep breath, Luna exhaled to clear her mind before glancing to the two noctral guards near the entrance. Nodding their understanding to her silent desire both moved to close the large ornate doors, sealing off the throne room to offer her some privacy.

Once more taking in a deep breath, Luna let it gently flow out her nostrils as she closed her eyes. With some free time before the Captain of her guard arrived, she decided to use it effectively. Slowly she felt her consciousness split, aware not only of her physical form, but of another realm altogether. Not for the first time, she was somewhat amused by the title given to her by the noctrals over a thousand years ago. ‘The Keeper of the Night’ was chosen, not just because of her domain over the night sky, but also for her role as guardian of dreams.

It was something only she could do, and it was a role she held dear to her heart. Even as she effortlessly glided through the dreamscape – remaining aware of her physical surroundings all the while – she took note of each and every dream she came across. To her, each was special, no more than the next. Each told her much about the dreamers themselves, their private thoughts, their feelings and desires.

Yet, as her astral form glided through the shifting colours of her realm, she made sure to watch out for any that were tinged with darkness. To her, the dreamscape was an innumerable series of portals, each leading to somepony, or someone’s dream. If anyone else could glimpse it, they may have been overwhelmed by the almost chaotic nature, the sheer scope of the realm. To Luna though, it was no more difficult than turning the page of a book.

Time played out differently within the dreamscape, and while only half a minute had passed in the throne room, she had already aided several foals, two donkeys, and a griffon with their nightmares. Yet, the entire time, through the swirling mass of colours and abstract images, she could feel something tugging at her attention. It was a familiar sensation, one she had grown acquainted with over the last week or so.

With a flap of her wings, Luna brushed her hooves over several nightmare-infused dreams, a silver ripple flowing from each impact to cleanse all they touched. Within the dreams themselves, she knew an aspect of herself would be there to guide the dreamer, but for now, a majority of her attention was being drawn towards something in the distance.

Each dream, each portal held a distinct signature of sorts to it. A griffon’s for example, was almost hard, distinct. A young foal’s on the other hoof was almost fragile, fluid in its nature. The one she was being pulled towards however was something entirely different. For one, it was larger than the others, and it almost seemed to pulse across the vibrant realm. It pulled into itself and, at the same time, seemed to stretch impossibly in many directions. It was an enigma, an abomination.

It was also beautiful in its own way.

It had appeared almost two weeks ago, heralding the arrival of a new creature into Equestria. Initially she had found herself unable to even peer inside, the chaotic images too… alien for her to comprehend. Yet something had driven her on regardless. Soon, with some patience, she had come to slowly pull emotions out to gauge the dream. What she found had alarmed her. The owner of the dream was terrified, angry… lost.

This had only steeled her resolve, always keeping part of her within the dreamscape to be aware for the distinct sign of the creature having fallen asleep. Over the days she had slowly come to pull more meaning from the dream, and, eventually, peer inside. Even now, she found herself limited in what she could do, unable to fully pierce the veil and interact with the dreamer herself.

Moving closer, she gazed inside to see a familiar sight. Within was the creature, ‘Mystery’, or at least the dreaming version of herself. Luna found herself taking in the female’s form, curious as to how it in some ways resembled a minotaur, yet was so very different at the same time. Bipedal, but lacking any fur save for on her head and brows. She wore clothing, and lacked any natural weaponry except for long nails on her fingers.

It was the expressions though that always surprised Luna. They were so… similar to those she knew, and indeed, seemed to translate over perfectly with the faint emotions she could pull from the dream itself. It was all so very strange, and she found answers frustratingly elusive, but that wasn’t the reason for her looking in. This was more of a visit to check on the mental health of Mystery, to make sure the wounds to her psyche were healing.

“You have suffered much, but…” Smiling, Luna noticed a few more additions this time to the room. Most times she visited, the girl was seated in what appeared to be a library, or the analogue for such a thing in her world. Also, normally, there would be a changeling nearby, and tonight was no exception. The interactions between the changeling and the girl continued to confuse Luna. It was clear, even with no context, that Mystery dearly trusted the creature. Curiously enough, at least from the girl’s perspective, this feeling was returned.

But tonight there were others, others that made Luna’s smile grow further. There was the little filly, Dinky, and her mother seeming to help with whatever Mystery was trying to do. The way Mystery stroked the little unicorn’s mane reflected what had been written in one of Twilight Sparkle’s letters recently.

The third new addition, who appeared to be the one known as Nurse Redheart, also made relief fill Luna’s heart. It seemed that, despite everything that had happened, Mystery had not closed her heart off to the ponies around her. That had been her initial fear, that whatever had transpired had caused the female to shut herself in. Yet, here was proof that the girl was beginning to treat those around her with friendship.

“It seems you are recovering well.” Finishing her earlier thought, Luna found her smile faltering as another reoccurring aspect of the dream was starting to play out. It seemed the wounds were far deeper than she had anticipated, watching on even as she continued to have her spread consciousness aid other dreams in need.

This fact frustrated her as she rested her hooves to the surface of the dream, finding it solid, unable to be fully pierced yet by her. She desired to help, her very being screaming at her to do something. A nightmare, one most foul, was forming again before her and she was powerless to stop it. Her very duty was being denied to her and it was not a feeling she relished in. She could watch on, she could even pull the dream with her and show others as she had with her sister, but she couldn’t influence it.

Helpless, she could only witness as a wind began to pick up within the library. Paper flittered about and Mystery began to show signs of alarm as her dream took a, sadly, predictable path. Those within the room seemed to offer signs of encouragement, a strange phenomenon of itself given the circumstances, but even that was unable to dissuade the inevitable.

The girl was slowly pushed back towards a large window behind her, the wind growing into a tempest that thrust her closer and closer to the now shattered portal. Soon the library itself warped and changed, ponies of all types and ages beginning to jeer, to laugh at her plight as she struggled fruitlessly against the nightmare. Two in particular caught Luna’s eye, frowning as she saw the unicorns’ identities. Then, as always, Mystery was thrown out the window like a ragdoll, her eyes wide in terror as she plummeted.


Luna furrowed her brow further, her silver-clad hooves slamming to the unyielding surface barring her entry. Again she slammed them against it as her resolve burned within. This was her domain, this was her realm! She would not sit by and watch as a creature – regardless of where it came from – suffered right before her eyes.

She could feel in the physical realm her horn begin to glow, and in turn, pull more magic into her body. She was also aware of the guards in the room watching on curiously, unsure as to what was going on. She knew all this, but at that moment there was only one thing she was truly focusing on.

“You are scared, you are confused.” Her hooves slammed harder to the surface with each word, the barrier shimmering but refusing to give in. “You desire friendship, companionship, but cannot fully accept it. Afraid that you shall be hurt once more.”

She watched as the girl fell in her dreams, a countryside growing closer as the wind tore at her clothing, whipping her short mane about.

“Thou shalt not fall victim to thy fears tonight, I will not allow it!” With those words magic filled her being, her hooves pushing once more to the barrier. This time as they impacted, she felt something on the other side push back. It was a magical signature, one she found strangely familiar but unable to place. Whatever it was, she found the dream no longer resisted her as strongly, and, with great effort, she was able to pierce through.

Feeling her physical body relax as the tension left her, Luna started to guide the dream, to pull away the nightmare that had feasted upon the poor girl’s mind. Gazing into the twisting portal, she closed her eyes before opening both, her words soft spoken yet filled with conviction.

“You are not alone.”

It was a simple sentence, four quietly uttered words, but as she watched it led to something wonderful. Mystery came to an abrupt halt in her descent, coloured ribbons of various thicknesses moving to support her weight. Each led back up to somepony, or someone that Mystery had accepted into her heart. The three thickest of them all, and thus those she trusted the most, brought a smile to Luna’s face. The changeling was no surprise to her, but seeing Dinky and Nurse Redheart having ones of near equal strength was a welcome discovery.

Twilight Sparkle and Dinky’s mother, Derpy, each having only slightly thinner ribbons, caused Luna to yet again marvel at her sister’s student. The last two of the ribbons – each thinner than the others but in no way less important – led up to Spike, and the Bearer of Honesty, Applejack. Spike, from what Luna had learned about him since her return, was not so much a surprise given his nature. Applejack, however, having been one of those in the initial discovery of Mystery outside Ponyville… That was something that made Luna’s smile grow.

Each looked determined as they slowly tugged the girl back up into the now restored library. From there, they moved behind Mystery, ready to shield her should the window shatter once more. Luna watched as the girl favoured each of those with her with a kind smile, her feelings evident even without the warmth radiating from the dream. With her work down, the dream now flowing naturally on its own and the nightmare banished, Luna stepped back from the portal. Sliding a hoof along the edge, she took the chance to glimpse at the book Mystery had begun working from again.

“Starswirl…” Exhaling, Luna furrowed her brow before dismissing the thoughts from her head. Hopefully today would be the start to learning more. More about Mystery, how she came to the world, and, hopefully, why Starswirl’s tome was within her dreams. Taking one last glance at the tome, she smiled and dismissed her astral presence as her other duties called to her.

Opening her eyes in the physical realm, Luna watched as Aurora Blossom trotted through the opening doors, a curious expression on the mare’s face.

“Please, sit… There is much that we need to discuss.” Luna’s words were accompanied with a smile, one that proved to be infectious throughout the room. For as she started to explain what Aurora’s role would be in the upcoming events, she couldn’t help but feel the beginnings of excitement take her.

As it seemed, all things going as planned, today would certainly prove to be a most auspicious day indeed.

Chapter seven: Deceit

View Online

As the sun hung in the sky and the warmth of the spring morning fell over the town, Twilight couldn’t help but note what a wonderful day it was. Inhaling deeply, she took in the scents that permeated the air before a gentle sigh passed her lips.

The last few days had almost become a routine of sorts for Twilight. Truthfully though, she liked things being of this nature; predictable, and as such, able to be planned and thus easily followed. Every day she would visit the hospital twice – once in the morning, and once in the evening – and, each time, she got to know more about Mystery. So far it had gone – at least as far as she was concerned – remarkably well.

As for today though? Today was different. For today was the day that Mystery was to be discharged from hospital, and all things going well, she would soon be on her way to Canterlot Castle to meet the Princesses personally.

The excitement filled Twilight, so much so in fact, that, much to Spike’s ire, she had been unable to sleep for most of the night. Learning from earlier in the week, Twilight had cast a few soundproofing spells onto their bedroom, primarily to allow the dragon his rest. Given that sleep was out of the question, she had instead gone over the vast amounts of notes generated over her time with Mystery. Curled up downstairs with a stack of books beside her, it had been a fantastic way to wait out the hours.

Indeed, truly nothing could dampen her mood today.

“Look, all I’m saying is that she could be one.”

Well, almost nothing.

“Rainbow Dash, for the last time, she ain’t a changeling.”

“C’mon, you gotta admit AJ that it totally fits!”

“I-Is she really a changeling?”

“No Fluttershy, she most certainly is not. Rainbow Dash has simply got a silly idea into her head that she refuses to let go. Isn’t that right, dear?”

“What? How is it silly? Why else would they have come to her if she wasn’t? I mean, hello, isn’t that why they all came to the wedding? Oh, wait, new idea, maybe she’s really that Queen, and they’re planning to invade by having us let our guards down then, bam, we’re all taken out!”

“Oh don’t be silly Dashie, Mystery isn’t the queen.”

“How would you know Pinkie? Actually, how would any of us know? This could all be some kind of, I don’t know, super changeling plot that-“

“Okay, enough!” Twilight quietly counted to five before noticing the others had also been brought to a standstill from her outburst. Exhaling to ease her growing agitation, she shifted on her hooves before looking around making sure no-one had overheard. Thankfully the way to Derpy’s house appeared to be largely absent of anyone else, the early hour evidently helping in that regard.

“Rainbow Dash.” Glancing upwards, Twilight fixed the cyan pegasus with a firm stare. It was one she used when a book was overdue, or Spike was trying to sneak snacks in before bed. It seemed, funnily enough, to also work rather admirably on a certain hot-headed mare; an observation that she made sure to make a mental note of for later. “Firstly, keep your voice down, no-one else is allowed to know about… them, being involved. Secondly, you know how Fluttershy is about that topic!”

The words brought a slight grimace to Rainbow Dash’s face, apparently realising her error far too late. An apologetic glance was given by her towards Fluttershy, the other pegasus trying to look unperturbed as she smiled back to her friend. It might have worked, if not for how her cream-coloured wings rustled constantly against her sides. Opening her mouth, Rainbow Dash was however cut off as Twilight verbally pressed onwards.

“Furthermore, Mystery is most definitely not one of… them.” Lowering her eyelids, Twilight noticed Rarity and Applejack nodding in agreement out the corner of her eye. “Also, Dinky really likes her, and Derpy seems fond of her as well. What do you think would happen if you blurted out what you just said in front of them? You can’t just say things like that!”

Again, Rainbow Dash tried to open her mouth only to shut it just as quickly when Twilight stomped a hoof into the grass.

“Look Rainbow, you, like everyone else, agreed to come along, and I appreciate you all doing so. I really do. But you… actually, make that everyone, need to be very mindful of how she reacts and her current situation. Mystery is… Well, as I said last night, she’s rather… nervous around ponies, especially unicorns. I’m not sure exactly why that is, and right now it doesn’t matter. All we need to know is that she’s just a very scared, and very lost girl, in, what it must seem to her at least, a strange world. That’s why I invited you all along, we don’t know when the Princesses will be ready for her to head to Canterlot, and, until then, she will need some friendly faces to be around her.”

With her venting done, Twilight exhaled again before flicking both ears. Noticing how Rainbow was looking suitably chastised – whether from Twilight’s words or on seeing Fluttershy’s unease, she wasn’t quite sure – Twilight instead offered a smile, gazing to each of those with her.

“On saying that, I can’t think of any other ponies better suited for that task either. Plus, with Dinky and Derpy I’m sure we’ll be able to make her feel welcome.” Gaining some smiles in return, Twilight resumed trotting, the others following her lead as they continued towards their destination. That is until a throat being cleared made her roll her eyes with a lopsided smile. “Oh, and of course you as well, Spike.”

“Okay, sure, she kinda looks a little scary, being how tall she is.” Spike’s voice piped up, Twilight turning her head to see the dragon seated on her back as he addressed the other mares. “Actually, come to think of it, I think she miiiiight even be taller than Princess Celestia.”

Rubbing under his chin, Spike shrugged before abandoning that train of thought.

“Eh, that doesn’t matter.” Waving his claws before him, Spike then folded his arms, nodding sagely once before continuing. “The point is she’s really nice when you get to know her.”

Oh Spike.

“Okay okay, I get it. So, if she isn’t a-“ Rainbow Dash paused as she cast a glance down at Fluttershy while clearing her throat. “If she is what you say she is, then why the hay are they so interested in her anyhow? What’s so special about her other than, y’know, the whole being from another planet thing? Which, I admit, does sound pretty awesome, but, just how the heck did she even get here in the first place?”

“That…” Twilight began to say before one of her ears folded down. “Is something I wish I knew, Dash.”

I’ve learned so much about her so far, but…even so, she continues to be, well, for lack of a better term, a mystery.

About to ponder further on the issue, Twilight found the silence that had fallen over the small group broken by none other than Rarity.

“Well, it seems we have some time on our hooves until we reach Derpy’s house.” Looking over at her friend, Twilight saw the unicorn return a smile her way. “And I for one would be most interested in hearing more on what you have discovered about our dear Mystery. That is, if you would be so kind, Twilight?”

That definitely caught Twilight be surprise, her ears slanting forward as she looked around at the others. “Really? I mean, I can if you want…”

Applejack was the first to speak up, a soft nudge given to Twilight’s side by the earth pony.

“Well shucks, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also wanna hear more.” Pausing to consider for a second, Applejack clicked her tongue while looking about at the others with her. “I’m sure we’d all love to hear what you’ve gone and found out so far, Twi.”

A chorus of affirmatives – along with one soft groan – served to remove any lingering hesitation Twilight may have felt. Reaching behind her with her magic, the clasp on one of her saddlebags was unbuckled without having to break stride.

“Spike, can you hand me the notes I made this morning?” Peeking over her left shoulder, she watched as he foraged about in the opened bag before procuring the journal in question. Gently encasing it with her magical aura, she then guided it to hover before her face. “Thank you, now, what would you all like to know more about in particular? I have theories on multiple aspects of her life, hypotheses on her culture from listening to her music, analysis of her biology, and even-”

Cutting herself off mid-sentence, Twilight gazed around to find a bunch of bashful or confused expressions on her friend’s faces.

Oh, right…

Taking in a deep breath, she instead gave a small dip of her head, inviting them to actually answer her question. Surprisingly, at least to Twilight, it was Fluttershy who responded first.

“U-Um, h-how do you know she isn’t a, well, a, um… changeling?”

At the question, several looks were quickly exchanged amongst the group. Two in particular, heavy in disapproval, were aimed up at Rainbow Dash who, in turn, winced before landing to walk beside the other pegasus.

Is she having the nightmares again? No, Princess Luna said she would watch over her. She’s just frightened, and I guess I can’t blame her.

Twilight couldn’t help but recall the events after the wedding, especially how everyone, initially at least, had coped after the ordeal. She herself had held a large amount of self-doubt, especially given how her friends, Spike, brother, and even her mentor had all turned their backs on her. Thankfully, that had been rectified while Cadence was getting ready for her wedding, several heartfelt apologies given her way that helped mend – but not fully bridge – the rift. It wasn’t until much later, and several trips to her parents, which had finally resulted in her getting over the event.

Still, it wasn’t until a few days after returning to Ponyville that they had noticed one of their group showing clear signs of fatigue. Fluttershy would look exhausted, but, being who she was, would try not to allow her problems to bother anyone else. Even the spa visits with Rarity had garnered no success, and, in fact, had led to the shy mare to start acting increasingly nervous around other ponies, even her friends.

Eventually they had all gathered at her cottage where, after each conveyed their concern, Fluttershy had admitted the horrible nightmares that had been plaguing her. They varied in theme it seemed, from changelings replacing everyone she loved, to herself waking up one day a changeling, having been none the wiser, and leading to her friends turning on her. Ultimately though, it seemed they were all changeling related in one way or another.

Thankfully, given some time, and a few sleepovers later, they had thought the fears had been put to rest. Now it seemed that recent events had caused a resurgence of sorts, thanks in no small part to a certain talks-before-she-thinks pegasus.

“I promise you Fluttershy, she isn’t one.” Twilight said, all eyes once more falling upon her. Seeing that Fluttershy wasn’t entirely convinced, she pressed on, making sure to smile to hopefully alleviate her friend’s fears. “I placed several wards around the room, ones that would only react to changeling magic. If any was found they would restrain it, and also, alert me when they were activated.”

Spying Derpy’s cottage ahead, Twilight slowed her pace before looking directly at Fluttershy.

“I won’t lie to you Fluttershy, or, any of you.” Taking a deep breath, Twilight flicked her tail at the other piece of news she would have to divulge. “There was changeling magic on her, very trace amounts. But it was on her, not in her. Her own magic, on the other hoof, is something I have never seen before. I even tried the same spell I used at Canterlot to dispel the disguises worn, but nothing happened. She isn’t a changeling, she’s… just a scared girl, lost in our world.”

Fluttershy – seeming to take a few seconds to consider the words – inhaled softly before offering an earnest expression towards Twilight.

“Thank you, Twilight. I… I believe you.”

Twilight found a smile crossing her muzzle at seeing Fluttershy looking at least a little relieved, a nod following the action towards her friend.

The information nonetheless seemed to silence the group, each continuing to walk in their own thoughts. Twilight, however, was very well aware – and feeling slightly guilty – that she had not been completely truthful in what she had just said.

The truth was there had been in fact four magical signatures found on, or within, Mystery, including the aforementioned changeling magic.

The previous day, and with a few detection spells applied – which, admittedly, was an awkward feat to do with Mystery’s aversion to magic – Twilight had discovered residual magical signatures on the girl. Some were easy to identify, such as that unicorn magic had been used to heal her in the past, and, if she was right, also inflict injury upon her. That last part had been difficult to accept, yet despite this, the proof had remained undeniable.

But, aside from that, there were also three other faint traces. One, she presumed was from the girl herself. It was weak, barely there in fact. Yet, to that end, and after discussing with Doctor Carehoof, both had thought of it more like a small ember. However, like Nurse Redheart had said on hearing about the news, an ember provided very little warmth or light, but, given a source of fuel, it was also able to flare into a brilliant flame.

It was that very discovery that had first prompted Twilight to presume that Mystery’s world was without a magical field. Or, alternatively, that it did have one in the past but, for whatever reason, had become rigid, unmalleable… stagnant. The idea had made Twilight quite disquieted at the very notion such a world could exist.

Well, that was the original thought at least; that was, until they discovered something else.

It really went without saying that whatever had brought Mystery into the world had been a powerful spell; that much was without question. For a spell to be potent enough to tear through dimensions, space, or even time… The sheer knowledge required, let alone the intricate crafting of the spell, it was as exciting as it was horrifying in its scope.

But, what they had discovered was that the spell was also rough, and dangerously unrefined.

With this in mind, Twilight had been surprised when she had picked up faint traces of… something, while crafting the wards for Mystery’s room. Only when she was drawing in magic to cast the spells did she discover the source. Sure, originally, she had thought it merely residual changeling magic. That was until she tried to draw it in and dissipate it back into the field. Despite all her efforts it had resisted the attempt, acting more like oil spreading on water, refusing to blend in and… if she were to be honest… it also felt, alien, wrong.

It was almost… primal. Eventually, with Doctor Carehoof’s help, they had studied it, pulled it apart and coerced it to meld into Equestria’s ambient magic. However, this discovery had proven one thing. There evidently was magic on Mystery’s world, yet it was untamed, and also extremely difficult to use.

After sending correspondence to the Princesses they had all come to a similar conclusion. While Mystery seemed, at least in theory, to be capable of wielding magic not unlike a pony, it seemed the magic of her world remained an untouched resource. Of course, the other possibility was that those of Mystery’s world were able to wield the magic, and she was one of the exceptions.

Regardless, Twilight had been content – and somewhat relieved – knowing that Mystery had the spark. Of course, that left the fourth signature she had found. It seemed, even if the magic was faint within the girl, not all of it was hers. There was another signature inside of her, one that proved most confusing. For now though, they had merely put it down to the fact that perhaps that was how Mystery’s kind was, as bizarre as that seemed.

This had all led to a hypothesis of sorts, one that even this morning, Twilight continued to ponder over. Given Mystery’s lack of obvious natural weaponry and overall seemingly frail build, it would make sense that they were a primarily magic-based race. This would support the remarkable second magic signature, using both to tap into the more stubborn ambient magic of their world.

It was a nice theory, but none of those who had put it forward, the doctors, the nurses, or even herself, had really been invested in the idea. The magic within her was almost… dormant, so, really, it left only a couple of options as Twilight saw it.

Either Mystery’s species were magic-based, and the girl was one without much ability – with the option of it being gender-based also put forward – or, that they didn’t use magic inherently, and they were more of a tool-based culture like Minotaurs and Diamond Dogs. With the evidence and behaviours observed so far, Twilight found herself leaning somewhat towards the second option.

With the sun on her back and the silence still prevalent over the group, Twilight’s mind continued turning over the facts in her head.

Her fear of magic could easily be construed as due to either abuse by magic, or not understanding it at all. The way she reacts supports either outcome, although when I find whoever would do such a thing to her…

Exhaling to calm herself, Twilight flicked an ear. She heard murmured voices discussing something behind her, but, hearing nothing that caught her attention, she retreated once more back into her mind.

Okay Twilight, you can’t do anything about that right now. Besides, the Princesses are personally dealing with that issue. So, it seems the most logical answer is that she doesn’t know how to use magic, and she, and her race by extension, are more tool-oriented because of this.

Thinking on this, Twilight found the pieces slowly falling into place. It was frustrating, only having part of the puzzle to play with and having to guess the blanks. The lack of reliable communication outside drawings and gestures understandably hampered her ability to get answers.

That… device she has. The one that plays music… When she actually let me examine it, I couldn’t detect any mana being drawn into it. That means it’s either powered by a crystal, one that is somehow self-sustaining, or the technology used is far, far beyond anything found here.

Twilight repressed a small shiver down her spine as she continued to trot along. She couldn’t deny how exciting the prospect was, the prospect that whatever world Mystery came from could hold such marvels, whichever theory turned out to be true.

Still, that does beg the question on how she got here in the first place. My theory fits perfectly… right up until that point. A spell was definitely used to bring her here, but… Hmm, maybe it’s some form of sexual dimorphism with the females being advanced scientifically to make up for the fact that the males are magic-users? Wait, what would the males even look like then? Would they even look anything like Mystery?

Pondering on that idea, she did find it held an appealing amount of merit to it. It would help explain Mystery’s physiology and, at the same time, explain how she got here. Of course, she would still require additional evidence to confirm her hypothesis, but, at least on the surface, it was looking quite convincing. But that was to be further studied another day.

Because, at that very moment, and unbeknownst to Twilight, Applejack was sharing a raised brow between herself, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity.

“Ah, Twilight?”

Looking over her shoulder at the sound of her name being spoken, Twilight gazed at Applejack, a small smile coming to her muzzle. “Yes, Applejack?”

Applejack in turn scrunched her nose for a second, her brows knitting as she seemed to think on just the right way to ask the question that plagued her. Apparently giving up on trying how to word it differently, the mare instead just outright voiced her concerns.

“Look, I don’t want ya take’n this the wrong way an’ all… But, you didn’t, well, y’know, blast Mystery in the face when you tried ta find out if she was a changeling. Did ya?”

“No!” Twilight blushed a little at the volume her denial reached before lowering her voice to acceptable levels. “N-No, I didn’t! I made sure to modify the spell somewhat first. See, initially it used my magic to effectively ‘brute force’ their illusion away; this was why they were so disoriented afterwards since their own magic was destabilised after the fact. With Mystery, I refined the spell to be more, wide-area, but in doing so it takes far longer to cast, but is far more subtle and less intrusive to-“

“Okay, okay. You could have just said you didn’t zap her in the face.”

Twilight frowned at Rainbow Dash who raised a brow, seemingly unaware of why she was on the receiving end of the look. Thankfully, before it could possibly – and highly likely – escalate any further, Twilight realised they had reached their destination, that being the white picket fence that ringed the cottage.

“Hey, I just thought of something,” Spike said, Twilight turning her head to regard her passenger with a raised brow.

“Oh? Something about Mystery?”

Shaking his head to her question, Spike chuckled softly. Rubbing at the spines on the back of his head, he then gestured towards the house with a claw. “No, weeell… not exactly. I was just thinking that since you were so excited about today you could barely sleep, I wonder how Dinky was?”

The group, stunned into silence by this revelation, gazed at one another silently; that is, until they all broke into soft giggles.

“Oh dear, I fear the poor thing had little sleep, if any.” Rarity’s comment was followed with a shaking of her head followed with a lopsided smile.

“Who? Dinky or Derpy?” Rainbow Dash added, a cheeky grin slipping over her muzzle. It was at this point, however, that the group’s attention was captured by a most peculiar sound. It was, Twilight deduced, almost like a muffled voice; an excited muffled voice at that. Rainbow Dash was the first to look down the path towards the cottage, the grin only growing in intensity. “Heh, well I think that answers that then. I think we’ve been spotted.”

Blinking, Twilight followed Rainbow Dash’s gaze, finding herself also looking in the direction of the house. It was then that she noticed – curiously enough – a flash of light-purple and blonde appear briefly in one of the windows. Flicking an ear on hearing the muffled noise again, she squinted and saw the movement more clearly this time, noticing it was a rather excited-looking filly gazing out the window back at them. Offering a wave towards Dinky, she was somewhat amused as a wave was returned in earnest before the filly ducked back out of eyesight.

“Well, I suppose there is nothing for it now is there?” Rarity smiled, moving to open the gate with a small application of magic. “After all, we simply cannot keep the little dear waiting to see her friend, now can we?”

“No, you’re absolutely right, Rarity.” Twilight smiled at her friend as she passed her, a nod also given prior to leading the way down the cobbled path. As the others followed her, she couldn’t help but think over what she had discovered in the first couple of days of learning about Mystery.

That’s right. Out of all of us, it’s Dinky who believed in Mystery the most, and as such, has created the greatest bond with her so far.

The thought filled her with a little warmth, knowing that from that, Mystery had begun to open up more around them all. Even the use of her magic, once something that would cause the bipedal girl such fear, now caused distress only if done without warning. Of course, the reason for her fear in the first place was not something Twilight was going to dwell on. Releasing the tension in her jaw to stop her teeth from grinding together, she instead sighed and smiled.

Today was a happy time after all, a day for Mystery to be discharged from hospital and get used to the town while waiting for an audience with the Princesses. The preparations, as far as she was aware at least, seemed to be going along smoothly, and hopefully they might be heading to Canterlot within a few days. Until that time, however, Twilight would endeavour to make Mystery feel welcome, and at the same time, try and learn more about the girl.

“Hey, uh Pinkie… Are you okay? You’ve been awfully quiet so far.”

Caught off guard by the question, Twilight flicked her ear at Rainbow’s words as the truth of them was rather surprising. Turning her head, she noticed everyone had also stopped to look at the mare in question. Uncharacteristically, Twilight realised, Pinkie Pie had in fact been oddly quiet. Well, for her that is.

“Huh? Oh, sorry! I mean I wasn’t that quiet was I?” Pinkie Pie asked, both her ears perking out of her mane. Gazing about at everyone who nodded in reply resulted in her rolling her blue eyes. Thankfully, at least to Twilight, a smile then split across her friend’s muzzle as she giggled. “Awww, you don’t all have to be worried about me, although that’s super-sweet of you! I’m just wondering how ~Ebony~ got on last night.”

“Huh, ain’t that the pony you’ve been visiting at the hospital?”

Twilight had to admit she was somewhat curious over the strange pegasus, ever since she had seen ~Ebony~ hobbling through Ponyville on that fateful day. Every time she had seen her at the hospital, that nagging feeling of knowing the mare would resurface. Try as she might, however, neither she, nor Spike, could ever place where they knew her from. Not to mention, she barely got anything more than a glimpse of her at the hospital whenever she visited Mystery, the mare surprisingly scarce, even in her room, despite the nasty-looking leg injury.

Her own confusion over why the mare seemed so familiar aside, Twilight couldn’t help but smile as an excited filly’s voice sounded out again from within the house. Flicking an ear, she then turned her attention back to her friends, watching as Pinkie Pie had just draped a foreleg over Applejack’s neck, much to the latter’s exasperation.

“Yep-er-oony! She’s the pegasus I told you all about, the one who was new in town and I didn’t know who she was, so I followed her and- Mmph?” Finding herself cut off by an orange hoof pushing to her mouth, Pinkie Pie blinked at the owner of the limb who held a bemused expression on her face.

“Alright sugarcube, we all know about how you met her.” Resting her hoof back onto the ground, Applejack then shook her head before smiling warmly. “But what we wanna know is how the poor thing is doing. Ya did mention she ain’t been very happy lately.”

“Oh, wasn’t she the one with the injured leg?” Fluttershy interjected, concern filtering in her voice. “I really hope she is okay.”

Flicking an ear again, Twilight approached the door to knock upon its surface a few times. It went without saying that their presence had been well and truly noted already, but it never hurt to be polite in announcing it formally. Of course, Twilight’s desire to get the hospital as soon as she could may have had some influence on the decision.

“See, I told you they’re here mom!”

“I know sweetie, I believed you. You know they won’t leave without you.”

A small giggle passed from her lips as she heard Dinky’s voice filter through the door, closely followed by the distinctly tired-sounding voice of Derpy. The chuckling sound from on her back signalled that Spike too had picked up on it. Her ear flicked again as Derpy called out that they were coming, a smile finding its way to her muzzle at the knowledge they would be underway again soon.

“-and then we played games all day. Some of them were Gummy’s favourites, but Nurse Redheart said he wasn’t allowed to come in! But that’s okay, because when I got home I made sure to play double as many games with him so he didn’t feel left out.”

Sighing a little, Twilight listened to Pinkie’s explanation, an amused smile passing between herself and Rarity. Meanwhile, Fluttershy was listening with rapt attention, whether out of politeness or genuine interest, Twilight had no idea. Applejack, being the primary one to have the tale told to, was a captive audience, much to her obvious desire to be anything but. Rainbow Dash, on the other hoof, was looking noticeably confused over some matter, something that it seemed she couldn’t help but interject over.

“Whoa, whoa. Are you saying you asked if she wanted to go outside and stretch her wings, and she said no?” Folding her forelegs over her chest, Rainbow Dash snorted in a derisive fashion. “I know her leg was injured, but she was cooped up for a week in there unable to fly. I went almost crazy after only a couple of days! There’s something not right about that pegasus…”

“Rainbow Dash, not all pegasi are like you, now are they, Fluttershy?” Rarity chimed in, gazing at the mare in question who fidgeted on being the new centre of attention. Seconds passed as her blue eyes gazed aside before she cleared her throat, the answer given in response barely spoken over that of a whisper.

“Oh… Um, well… I… I might have liked to have gone outside…”

“Ha! See! I told you something isn’t right about that pony. I mean, c’mon, why wouldn’t you want to go outside and get out of the stuffy hospital room?” Rainbow Dash, flush with her self-perceived victory then puffed up her chest.

Unable to help herself, Twilight peered up at the pegasus, one of her brows lifting as she regarded Rainbow Dash. “Gee Dash, I don’t know. Could it be because she has an injured leg, hence why she’s in hospital in the first place?”

“Oh… I forgot about that, sorry.” Fluttershy quickly apologised on being reminded, a smile given her way by several in the group.

“Ain’t nothin’ to apologise for Fluttershy.” A nod was given from Applejack as she spoke, a warm smile given back in return by the one she reassured.

“Yeah, well… Okay, maybe that makes sense.” Rainbow conceded before she once again rubbed under her muzzle. “I still say there’s something weird about this, ~Eb-a-nee~ though. She did stay in a room with Pinkie Pie for hours on end… Oh! Maybe she’s the-”

“Rainbow, yer like family to me. But I swear, if ya start up with that again I’ll buck some sense right into that thick skull o’yers.” Applejack’s words brought a quick stop to Rainbow’s mouth, the mare closing it quickly on apparently remembering what happened last time she went down that path. A sheepish smile instead slid over her face as she rubbed into her mane, trying, it seemed, to not look at the reprimanding glare Twilight was sending up her way.

“And I believe you owe Pinkie here an apology for that thoughtless remark,” Rarity added, a nod given in the direction of the one mentioned.

“Ooooh, Dashy is just goofing about, she doesn’t mean any of it, do you?” Gazing upwards, Pinkie Pie smiled brightly, the look answered when Rainbow Dash flew a little closer to the ground looking suitably chastised.

“No, but Rarity’s right, I shouldn’t have said it anyhow. Sorry Pinkie, I wo- Urk!” Whatever Rainbow Dash was expecting, having a pink missile leaping up to entangle her into a hug was definitely not one of them, especially when both ponies tumbled into the grass. Applejack, for her part was just looking relieved to no longer be leaned upon as she chuckled at the scene. “P-Pinkie… C-Can’t… breeeeath.”

Thankfully, at least for Rainbow Dash’s air passageway, Pinkie was distracted like everyone else by the sound of a door opening.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Derpy offered in way of apology as she exited her house, a yawn soon following that was unsuccessfully stifled behind a hoof. A smile then crept over her face as she gazed behind her, a rather excited looking Dinky bouncing out of the doorway immediately after. Offering a small nuzzle to her daughter, Derpy then closed the door before turning back to face the others, one of her ears slowly lowering as her wings drooped. “I forgot the time, and…”

Blinking, Twilight heard someone approach to stand beside her, gazing aside to meet the smiling visage of Rarity. The unicorn, sneaking a playful wink at Twilight, then raised a hoof to toy with her curls. “Nonsense, you didn’t keep us waiting at all. If anything it is we who must apologise for getting distracted.”

Following Rarity’s lead, Twilight nodded and smiled bashfully.

“Actually, that’s kind of my fault.” Sighing a little, Twilight then smiled and looked behind her at the others now waiting for them outside the fence. With Applejack holding the gate open, Twilight gazed at Rarity prior to smiling down at Dinky. “Well, now that we’re all here, shall we get going? We don’t want to keep Mystery waiting, now do we?”

Laughing softly, Derpy nuzzled at her daughter’s mane who returned the gesture by rubbing her nose under her mother’s chin. With one eye gazing at Twilight – and the other looking off into the clouds – Derpy ruffled her wings before a smile slid over her muzzle. “Oh, there’s been somepony who’s been waiting to go all morning.”

A frantic nod by Dinky followed her mother’s words much to Twilight’s amusement. Well, that is until a voice piped up from on her back.

“Tell me about it, Twilight was so excited she couldn’t even sleep.” Turning her head, Twilight gazed back at Spike, ignoring Rarity in the process who was trying hard not to show her own mirth at the comment.

“Spike!” Twilight huffed at her assistant who in reply raised both claws in a questioning fashion. Sighing, she instead looked at Derpy and Dinky, her ears lowering into her mane as she laughed nervously. “Haha, oh Spike, what a kidder.”

“What do you mean? You were up for like, five hours before the sun rose.” Again, Spike found himself on the receiving end of Twilight’s stern expression, and again he evidently was unaware as to why. “What?”

Thanks Spike, now everyone knows I was so nervous about today. Well, excited, but nervous.

“Really? You were excited too?”

Ignoring the muffled laughter coming near the gate, Twilight instead gazed down at the owner of the question only to see Dinky gazing up at her. Pausing for a moment, Twilight relented to offer a bashful nod only to then smile at the delight that spread across Dinky’s face, the filly’s tail wagging behind her. Bouncing in a small circle, Dinky then flustered a little before hiding against Derpy’s front leg, peeking up at the now bemused Twilight.

“She’s been eager to see her friend all day; it’s all she talks about recently.” Derpy explained, smiling down at her daughter before lowering her head and nuzzling the filly’s behind. Reassured, Dinky stepped forward again, nodding twice before pausing to look down at her front hooves. Scuffing them on the path, the filly then peeked up at Twilight, her ears slanting forward.

“Um, I-I was wondering if she could stay at our house while you wait for Princess Celestia and Princess Luna to…” Trailing off, Dinky shifted a little on her front hooves, her tail slowly moving behind her. Chewing on her lower lip, she gazed up at Rarity and then Twilight, her voice growing more confident before faltering. “While you wait for her to go to Canterlot… S-Since I won’t be able to come as well. I-I could show her around Ponyville too!”

Oh Dinky…

A soft murmur of adoration came from Rarity on what she had just seen, a small smile followed by her lower lip being bitten stopping whatever she wished to say. Noticing Rarity was gazing at her with a small, lopsided smile, Twilight snorted from her nostrils in a soft, gentle exhale.

“I’m sorry Twilight, I told her that given how important Mystery was that it wasn’t-“ Derpy began to explain, misinterpreting Twilight’s reaction. Turning her attention down, the mare then looked about to soothe the now distraught looking Dinky as the filly pushed herself to Derpy’s foreleg. Finding herself aghast at how crushed Dinky looked, Twilight lowered her head to smile warmly.

“I will admit, Mystery is certainly very important, but…” Leaning forward, Twilight inched her head closer to Dinky, seeing the small unicorn peek at her curiously through her blonde mane. Reaching with a forehoof, Twilight then gently pushed the hoof against the now confused-looking Dinky’s nose. “So is having a certain special little filly around that she trusts, and who is a wonderful friend who seems to care very much about her.”

“W-Wait, does that mean she can?” Dinky asked, pulling away from her mother slightly as her tail began to wag once more. Seeing Dinky’s face light up caused Twilight to giggle prior to standing up straight. Shaking her head slowly, she felt her lips curl upwards even as she saw the confusion now slip over both the mother and daughter’s faces.

“Well, we have already arranged for her to stay at the library for now…” Tapping at her muzzle with a hoof, Twilight took on a thoughtful air before gazing back at her assistant. “What do you think Spike, do you think we can talk Captain Swift Dawn into allowing a sleep over for one night?”

Spike, picking up on her intent, folded his arms over his chest. Shifting where he sat, he then rubbed under his chin slowly, a small hum escaping from his mouth.

“Weeeell, you are Princess Celestia’s student, so, I mean, you might be able to talk him into it.” Spike finished with a grin tugging at his snout, a smile given in reply as Twilight winked.

“If it’s okay with Derpy, then I think we could handle having you stay overnight.” Directing the statement towards Dinky, Twilight found herself suppressing a giggle once more as the filly gasped loudly. Turning, Dinky gazed up at her mother who looked momentarily unsure before sighing softly.

“I… Well,” Derpy begun to speak before ruffling her wings against her sides. Lowering her head to nuzzle at her daughter’s mane, she then visibly relented, looking to Twilight before a tiny, uncertain smile slipped over her muzzle. “Only if I can stay as well.”

Thinking it over for a second, Twilight could clearly see the merits in the act. For one, she really wasn’t certain on just how Mystery would react once she was out of the hospital. The female was still very skittish around other ponies, that much had been clearly evident from what Swift Dawn and Bastion had told her.

They are saying she is at least going for walks now when accompanied by them. Still, Swift Dawn did also say she acts very hesitant going near ponies she doesn’t know, and outright avoids any unicorns.

Pushing aside her anger that welled up again from that thought, Twilight instead gazed back at her friends waiting by the gate before looking at Rarity. The mare raised an eyebrow, clearly waiting for Twilight’s answer, yet, it was abundantly clear that she already knew what said answer would be. It went without question that her friends, while wonderful ponies, would probably cause Mystery distress initially. Well, the clear exception to that was Applejack, but that was only due to them having already met.

To have Dinky also present would help immensely, not to mention that Derpy herself had, over the last few days, also warmed up to Mystery. It had not been an uncommon sight to see Derpy resting on the bed beside the girl, Mystery equally comfortable around the pegasus’s presence. With all that in mind, Twilight found it an easy decision to consent to the request.

And honestly, there was simply no way she could say no for a friend to be there to comfort a friend.

“Of course, I would be delighted to have you both stay the night, and I’m sure Mystery will as-“

“Woo! Sleepover at Twilight’s!”

Twilight winced as she was cut off, her ears flicking as she turned her head to see Pinkie Pie bouncing by the gate, Rainbow Dash meanwhile pushing a hoof to her own forehead. Applejack, chuckling a little, tipped her hat to Twilight, a grin given while Fluttershy bowed her head, seeming to appear quite unsure on how she felt on the matter.

“Yes, well, I guess it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have everyone around to help her adjust. After all, it could take two or three days until the Princesses have everything set up.” Twilight turned her head to gaze ahead, giggling at the sight of Dinky bouncing about her mother who, in turn, was trying to follow her with one eye, the other gazing aside. Turning to lead the four of them – plus her passenger – down the path, Twilight paused to gaze back at the jubilant-looking filly. “I’m sure she’ll be more than happy to have her friends be there too.”

“Well, I will have to think about what to wear for such an event,” Rarity said, her eyes going wide as she followed up with a gasp. “Why, what if Mystery is someone important from their world? She might even be royalty what with that most wonderful device and fabric she had.”

“Rarity… I don’t thi-“ Twilight tried to reassure her friend over the matter but it was too late. Rarity was now in full planning mode, and no-pony was safe.

“Yes, I simply must design a new outfit for this event. Oh, maybe something with a sleepwear theme to it, but with a little more…”

Twilight sighed good-naturedly as Rarity mulled over the possibilities; even the declaration from both Applejack and Rainbow Dash that it was a sleepover, and thus, sleepwear was probably all that was required, didn’t dissuade the fashionista from her train of thought. Rolling her eyes at Spike’s comment that anything Rarity wore would be ‘perfect’, Twilight took the lead, Applejack moving to keep pace with her while Rarity and Fluttershy fell behind, the latter being pulled somehow into whatever the former was planning.

“Soooo… What will ~Ebony~ wear then?”

The question caught Twilight completely off guard as she flicked an ear, blinking to see Pinkie Pie now trotting beside her. Confused, she looked to her left at Applejack who appeared just as puzzled as she did.

“Pinkie, why does that even matter?” Twilight questioned, blinking shortly after as she heard Dinky and Derpy ask the predictable question on who they were talking about. Hearing Spike explain, Twilight instead found herself stunned by what Pinkie said next.

“Well duh, you said that Mystery would be happy to have her friends be there too.” Pinkie, apparently oblivious to the confused reactions she was getting, continued on as she bounced a little with each step. “I mean, ~Ebony~ iiiis her friend, so it would be rude not to invite her. Unless you’ve already invited her and then it’s going to be a surprise, in which case that’s a super-awesome idea!”

Wait. What?!

Shaking her head, Twilight paused causing everyone else to stop with her, her eyes staring at Pinkie Pie who remained looking about as happy as ever.

“Pinkie, what are you talking about. What do you mean by ~Ebony~ being her friend?” Trying not to be too harsh in her question, Twilight tried to keep her voice level while struggling to comprehend what she had just heard. Pinkie Pie, meanwhile, just giggled before starting to walk again, forcing Twilight and the others to resume their own pace to keep up with her.

“Just that, silly!” Peeking back with her blue eyes, Pinkie Pie smiled at Twilight before stopping to waggle a hoof in the air. “I found out yesterday that she knew ~Ebony~ before she came to Ponyville, but didn’t want to approach her with the guards and you around. Which I can totally understand, because you’re really important, and the guards, while really extra-nice when they’re not being all grrr-“

Twilight, along with the others, could only blink again as Pinkie reared up on her hind legs to mimic a bear in accompanying the ‘grr’ noise. Lowering herself onto her front hooves again, and not skipping a beat, Pinkie continued.

“-look really imposing, which I guess is kinda their job! But, ~Ebony~ really missed her, so I talked to Swift Dawn and Pinkie Promised that she wouldn’t do anything to harm Mystery, because, why would she when she’s her friend? Oh! Plus, she said that Mystery’s name is Legend, or, that’s what she calls her which is a pretty name, but I kinda like Mystery better, because it sounds more like a surprise which-“

“Pinkie!” Twilight, unable to keep quiet anymore looked incredulously at her friend before opening her mouth to speak. Strangely, no sound came out aside from a soft squeak, the action repeated twice more until a hoof patted her gently at the base of her neck.

“Breathe, Twi.”

Following Applejack’s advice, Twilight took a deep breath before pushing her hoof out, trying to force the problems and panic away from herself.

It didn’t work.

“I thought I said that Mystery shouldn’t have any visitors other than those I had already said could!” Realising how harsh that sounded, Twilight rubbed at the base of her horn before setting the hoof back onto the ground. “I mean, given how easily frightened she is, it was the best decision to help her from feeling overwhelmed, or from scaring her accidentally. By keeping those she interacts with to a small amount, we help ease her from her fears and show we don’t mean her any harm.”

“Noooo, you said that Rainbow Dash and I couldn’t go see her until she was ready, and I didn’t!” Pinkie stated, a wide smile on her face. “I didn’t go see her, ~Ebony~ did, and Swift Dawn and Bastion were both okey-dokey with it too, they even let her shut the door when she went in!”

“They shut the door?! But that would mean they were on the outside, and then…” Finding her left eyelid having gained a sporadic twitch, Twilight struggled to keep her composure. The possibilities of disaster ran through her head even as Rarity approached to offer a soft tsk, her own dilemma put aside for now it seemed.

“Twilight, darling, while what dear Pinkie Pie did was a little… outside of what you wished, it technically wasn’t going against the rules you set.” Smiling, Rarity then moved a hoof to try and fix Twilight’s mane that was looking decidedly frizzier than it had a few moments ago. “Besides, if something had happened, surely Swift Dawn would have communicated such to you by now, would he not?”

Rarity’s right, if something had happened they would have done something immediately. Plus, if they allowed her in then they must be certain that she isn’t any threat. I did also place all those wards around, so if ~Ebony~ was a changeling, then she would have been revealed and incapacitated the second she walked in…

Finding the reasoning too sound to ignore, Twilight breathed in deeply before exhaling through her nostrils. A smile was then given to Rarity as she thanked her friend, then, gazing at Pinkie Pie, she felt both her ears flick. Before she could question further, however, Dinky’s voice piped up from behind her.

“Mystery has another friend? Can we meet them?”

“Mmhmm!” Nodding frantically, Pinkie Pie trotted past Twilight to talk to Dinky, seemingly unaware of the heart attack she had almost caused in the mare. “She does act all like a meanie-pants, but she really, really cares about Mystery, and she’s also really nice when you get to know her!”

“Wait, so I can understand why Pinkie Pie couldn’t go see her, and I know why Fluttershy and Rarity chose not to, but why the heck was I not-“ Rainbow Dash’s indignant comment was cut short by three pairs of eyes – four including Spike – glancing back at her, each with a lowered brow. Apparently replaying her earlier comments over in her head, she then cleared her throat, continuing instead to fly just above the group. “Oh, uh… Right. That. Yeeeeah…”

Sharing a concerned glance with Rarity and Applejack, Twilight moved again to lead the way, her desire to reach the hospital only growing in urgency. Evidently, it seemed her two friends also shared her unease over the matter. While none of them would doubt Pinkie Pie’s version of the events, there was still so much unknown about this, ~Ebony~. Yet, if it was in fact true, then that also meant the pegasus knew Mystery before anypony else had.

Maybe she knows more about her, or even how she got here?

Question after question pushed through Twilight’s mind as they closed the distance, tumbling over the facts she had just learned. Primarily, that the guards had allowed her in and even allowed her to close the door. Twilight knew for a fact that Swift Dawn wouldn’t do such without good reason, and with that, it added credence that ~Ebony~ really was as Pinkie claimed her to be. That meant that maybe she would unlock more of the secrets surrounding their visitor from another world, and, hopefully, ~Ebony~ may even have a way of communicating with her outside of pictures and gestures.

But, no matter how much she tried, Twilight couldn’t shake the feeling that something was… off about ~Ebony~, the name itself sounding both strange, yet, familiar the more she heard it. Ultimately though, with each step closer to their destination, Twilight was decided on one thing.

Even though ~Ebony~ didn’t seem to be a changeling due to being able to enter the room uneventfully, that didn’t mean she was not all she appeared to be. And, if her intent was ill, then who knew what nefarious intent she held for Mystery, or, even what she was up to at that very moment?


Chrysalis’s nose itched.

She wriggled it, she scrunched it, she even tried blowing out her nostrils, yet nothing she did alleviated the need to scratch. Normally, of course, one would simply use a hoof or magic to ease the sensation. Some might even have rubbed their muzzle against a coarse surface if the itching was aggravating enough. She, however, did not have such a luxury to do any of those.

“Are you alright there?”

Careful not to move her head to any large degree, Chrysalis looked towards the speaker, noting that the one responsible, Swift Dawn, had amusement tugging at the corner of his mouth. Suppressing the sigh she dearly wished to give, Chrysalis instead gave a bashful smile, one that was not entirely insincere.

“I’m fine, thank you.” Pausing for a moment, Chrysalis then flicked her ears while scrunching her nose again in an attempt to rid herself of the annoyance that plagued her. Suppressing the desire to scratch, she instead ruffled her wings before gazing to the side, a smile coming to her lips at what she saw. Looking back towards the Captain of the Guard, she swished her tail, her forelegs moving just enough to ease the building cramp. “My nose itched, that’s all.”

“You could always move, you know?” Swift Dawn suggested, the taller pegasus beside him – Bastion if Chrysalis remembered correctly – raising a brow before looking down at the other stallion. Noticing he was being gazed upon, Swift Dawn turned to look at the other guard, both his eyes widened slightly in silent question only to get an exasperated sigh in reply.

“I don’t want to wake her.” Chrysalis offered in response, the words spoken easily due to the truth within them. This seemed to satisfy both guards, each returning to their silent vigil as Chrysalis allowed a smile to slide over her lips.

It was true that she could move to scratch her nose, the very action one that required little effort and would have solved her issue immediately. Magic, of course, was another solution yet being disguised as a pegasus negated that path, at least with others present. To suddenly use magic, or revert to her true form to do so, well… that really wasn’t an option.

The reason she didn’t move, however, was due to the two hairless, soft-skinned arms gently holding about her neck. A glance to the side saw the owner of the arms, Legend, sleeping peacefully. The girl even smiling a little in her slumber.

You silly cry-baby.

Smiling at the sight, Chrysalis had then closed her eyes, simply enjoying the warmth that flowed into her. Even asleep it seemed that Legend held strong emotions for the changeling. Finding herself surprised yet again by the girl, Chrysalis couldn’t help but rest her chin gently on the arms, letting herself be held.

As she sat there, however, she couldn’t help but reflect on how well her plan seemed to be going.

Oh sure, her original plan that she had spent the first hour of the morning pondering over – that being to sneak Legend out and then journey to the make-shift hive – had been all but shattered once she was visited by the doctor. Having come into her room to check on her now non-existent injury, he had spilled the news while trying idle chit-chat that ‘Mystery’ was due to be released that day. That particular issue had been dealt with easily, a subtle spell cast and a few persuasive words had seen her released from his care with a full bill of health and no-one the wiser.

No, the information that the Bearers would be personally escorting Legend around while waiting for her to be summoned to Canterlot, well, that had dissolved any hopes Chrysalis had retained of her original plan working. Once the doctor had left, however, she had come up with a new idea. Granted, it was reckless, inane – and were she to be completely honest – absolutely idiotic. But, truthfully, it was no less stupid than enraging a chimera, sneaking into a hospital, or any of the other things she had done over the last week.

It really was something born from necessity more than anything else. Ultimately, she needed to stay close to Legend, hopefully getting incorporated into the group, and once a chance presented itself, lead herself and Legend away. If she were to be honest, however, Chrysalis held little hope of actually succeeding getting away unnoticed, especially with Twilight Sparkle present. That wasn’t even getting into the impossibility of it with Pinkie Pie being around, the mare’s intentions still confusing Chrysalis.

In the end though, for the first time she could only hope that her suspicions were correct on what was happening to her body; and, from that, that she would be powerful enough to break away with Legend in tow before the Princesses were alerted.

To say the whole thing was a gamble would be a mild understatement at best.

Surprisingly, however, once she had arrived at Legend’s room the guards had allowed her in with minimal effort on her part. Swift Dawn had questioned her on why she was there and had simply accepted her explanation – and truth – that she wanted to be there when Legend woke. If it hadn’t been for them moving to guard from inside the room after saying she could go in, she would have thought the whole thing a delusion on her part.

With one of the larger hurdles out of the way, Chrysalis had then gone to sit beside the bed, hoping that when the Bearers arrived, her closeness with Legend would be taken into account. Of course, no sooner had she sat down, than Legend had moved in her sleep. Thinking nothing of it, she had been about as surprised as the guards seemed to have been when the slumbering girl had ensnared her into a hug, reaching over the bed to hold Chrysalis as she slept.

This ultimately had all led back to her current predicament, that being resisting the urge to scratch her muzzle lest she wake Legend up.

Even now as she sat there, Chrysalis noted the guards watching on, the looks of suspicion they initially had worn now having been replaced with something else. Even if she couldn’t read their expressions as easily as she would have liked, she could still tell that both were more relaxed around her now, also tasting a small amount of happiness at the sight they saw. Thus, Chrysalis had remained in that position, allowing Legend to hold her even if she had to endure the bemused looks given her way by medical staff, and not to mention, the other patients that had trotted by and looked inside.

After all, her dignity was a small price to pay to allow her friend comfort.

“Captain Swift Dawn?”

The female voice sounding from out in the hallway caused Chrysalis to perk an ear, and, curiously enough, notice with interest the exchanged look between Swift Dawn and the other pegasus. Subtle as it was though, she didn’t miss the small amount of amusement that flashed over the captain’s face as his name was mentioned. It was then that a white mare gazed into the room, a mix of emotions – from anger, surprise, and finally curiousity – flowing over her face. Without missing a beat, the nurse – Nurse Redheart if Chrysalis recalled her name correctly – trotted inside, her tone growing colder as she gazed at Swift Dawn.

“Captain Swift Dawn, need I ask why you are inside the room, and why my patient…” Nurse Redheart drifted off, her gaze moving to fall over Chrysalis while her eyes briefly narrowed. Feeling her own ears flatten down into the thick curls of her mane, the disguised-changeling moved to hide further within Legend’s arms. Much to her surprise, the stare from the nurse was actually making her feel decidedly uncomfortable.

Trying to make herself look meek under the intensity off the frown levelled her way, Chrysalis wasn’t really sure on just how much was a genuine reaction to the nurse’s scrutiny, or how much was simply an act for appearance’s sake.

Okay… Just how can one pony, one nurse of all things, be so scary?

Finding herself wilting further into Legend’s arms under the disapproving gaze given her way, Chrysalis blinked as the girl began to stir. With her eyes going wide she moved on impulse, her muzzle gently rubbing to one of Legend’s forearms, which, in turn, caused the girl to smile and settle in her sleep. On seeing this, the nurse’s visage softened, the scorn replaced first with surprise, then followed closely with an earnest smile.

Well, at least I now understand how she got Pinkie Pie to listen to her…

“So, why does my patient have a visitor I was unaware of?” Apparently carrying on her earlier question with a lighter toned voice, Nurse Redheart raised a brow inquisitively to the guards. Thankful that the attention was now taken off her, Chrysalis gazed at Legend to see the content look on the girl’s face. Offering a small sigh, she then rested her chin again on the arms, allowing herself to be held while basking in the warm emotions flowing into her freely.

You’re just lucky you’re worth all this trouble. Well… That and you’re cute when you’re asleep. Maybe.

“We’re in here to keep an eye on the visitor.” Swift Dawn answered, his answer pulling Chrysalis’s attention in time to see him tilting his head in her direction. “As for who she is, Pinkie Pie brought her to visit Mystery last night.”

“Pinkie Pie did?” Nurse Redheart scuffed a hoof before fixing the guard with an astonished expression. “Captain Swift Dawn, you know she wasn’t allowed to visit until we were certain that-“

Stopped by a small smirk playing over the stallion’s face, Nurse Redheart lowered a brow as a sigh passed her lips. “Pinkie Pie never entered, did she?”

“No she didn’t, and given she was one of the only two that were specifically denied entry…” Swift Dawn trailed off before grinning at the far more exasperated sigh that escaped the nurse’s mouth.

“Captain, I never would have thought you much of a comedian.” Nurse Redheart, now significantly more relaxed in posture than she had been on entering, offered a lopsided smile to the guard. A glance was shared between the stallions before a small chuckle escaped Swift Dawn, his gilded hoof wagging a little in the air.

“Be glad that you haven’t met my sister then.”

Watching the exchange, Chrysalis felt the tension leave her body as the threat of being expelled from the room lessened with each passing second. As such, she allowed the nectar she had been priming to instead be gnawed upon by the ravenous hunger within her, aware – and increasingly irritated – by the enhanced sensation while she remained disguised. Not at all interested in the banter that had developed between the two, Chrysalis instead found herself only half paying attention while her mind turned over what she had just learned.

So… no-one knew that Pinkie Pie was going to get me in to see Legend? But, does that also mean the other Bearers don’t know? The guards are now inside… But then, why would they let me in if they knew? No… they can’t know, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t… Ugh, that mare is impossible to figure out.

Further puzzled by Pinkie Pie’s motives – and just on how much the mare really knew – Chrysalis flicked an ear as Legend’s arms shifted slightly, moving herself to keep the girl in a comfortable position without conscious thought. It was then she finally noticed the others had stopped talking and were now looking at her. Several seconds passed and in that time, Nurse Redheart’s expression became almost wistful.

Chrysalis, however, had little tolerance for being stared at, especially after her stint as an exhibit in the idiotic brothers’ travelling freak show.

“Do I have something on my face?” Chrysalis enquired in a blunt fashion, something she regretted immediately after the fact. Granted, it was more that it revealed more of her true self than she wished to, but thankfully the emotion that flashed over her face was appropriate for the situation.

Appearing caught off guard by the tone given in her direction, the nurse raised a foreleg before smiling warmly.

“No, I… Well…” Trotting a little closer, Nurse Redheart gazed back at the guards before looking towards Chrysalis once again. “I’ve just never seen her like that with anypony.”

“What do you mean?” Chrysalis asked, and while somewhat curious if not still somewhat cautious, turned her head just enough to see Legend’s face. Seeing the girl’s relaxed expression – along with a hint of a smile – the changeling frowned thoughtfully before flicking an ear.

“That.” Nurse Redheart once more gained Chrysalis’s attention, a raised hoof directing towards the arms gently ensnaring the disguised changeling. Moving ever so slightly closer, almost as if the mare was scared she might ruin the moment, Nurse Redheart then cautiously stepped to the end of the bed. “She looks so relaxed…”

“Is that so?” Unsure on just how to react to that information, Chrysalis instead opted to flick an ear again. Granted, part of her held some pride at being able to do something the filly she had heard about couldn’t do; Legend was hers after all. Still, even as she looked back at the girl once more, she couldn’t help but feel warmth in her chest at the smile on Legend’s face.

“I’m sorry I doubted you initially.” Nurse Redheart apologised, once more capturing Chrysalis’s attention. Looking towards the one speaking, she was mildly surprised to see an apologetic expression on the mare’s face. “It’s hard to argue with the evidence, although, I never did catch your name.”

Did she really just change her mind about me that easily?

Smiling in reply, Chrysalis pushed aside the pessimism from showing on her face with practiced ease. Something about the whole situation, well, it just didn’t sit right with her. For one, the whole business with Pinkie Pie the previous night still confounded the changeling. The Bearer, despite acting the fool, clearly was far more perceptive than she let on. Whether she was truly fooled by Chrysalis’s act or not, she had still taken her and gained her entry to see Legend.

Yet as to the ‘why’ of why she did such a thing to a pony she barely knew? Well, that proved to be the most elusive of answers. Not to mention that it had all gone far too well after that point. Such as somehow finding out about Legend’s imminent release from hospital the morning before it happened, being let in by the guards without so much as a challenge, and then, finally, having the nurse accept the story just because Legend was hugging her in her sleep.

There were too many coincidences in Chrysalis’s mind; too much good fortune thrown her way.

Ultimately though, that really was the problem, and with it, the notion of it all being a trap about to close around her only increasing with each passing moment. Still, if nothing else, she was pragmatic enough to not look a gift pony in the mouth. Whatever their true intentions, be it that they knew what she was – or worse, what she was becoming – or that they were actually foolish enough to believe the whole thing, well… She would take advantage of it as long as she could.

Of course, there was also the possibility of a third option, one that she found herself beginning to consider the more she noticed Nurse Redheart’s expression. The warmth in the nurse’s eyes when she gazed at Legend holding Chrysalis, that was telling enough. Sensing the emotions also aided in proving the expression held no falsehood to it.

Huh, seems she does genuinely care about Legend’s wellbeing. Well, I guess I should know that from how she reacted that night, but still…

Caught off guard by this realisation, Chrysalis took a few seconds to find her voice. Once getting her mind back on track – and remembering she had a question to answer – she bowed her head as best she could with the arms about her neck.

“~Ebony.~” Giving her current disguise’s adopted name, she watched as Nurse Redheart smiled warmly, nodding her own head in return before trotting closer. Once a few steps away, the mare spoke in a lowered voice so as not to wake up her patient.

“~Ebony~? That’s a rather unique name.” Seating herself down, the nurse looked at Legend again, only to move a hoof so as to gently push the blankets back from where they had fallen off a shoulder. Content with her work, she then gazed back at Chrysalis, the smile never wavering from her face. “I haven’t seen her like this, not even with Dinky or Derpy.”

“What do you mean?” Chrysalis asked, unable to hide the curiosity that was piqued from the comment.

“This, with you.” A hoof was raised by Nurse Redheart that was then directed to the arms holding onto Chrysalis. “Normally she doesn’t like ponies to touch her, with only a hoofful of us even able to get close to her without her flinching, and fewer still she actually enjoys the company of. Yet, here she is clasping onto you and sleeping like a baby. How long have you known her for?”

“A few days.” Chrysalis stated, the truth being carefully obscured in the vagueness of the answer. Seeing the mare nod with a raised eyebrow, Chrysalis realised she had underestimated the pony. Even if the smile never left Nurse Redheart’s lips, it was evident that the mare would not be satisfied with what was given so far. Looking bashful, she instead flattened her ears to appear reluctant to talk further on the issue. With a soft sigh Chrysalis then followed up by swishing her tail over the floor, her eyes looking aside into the hospital room.

“We got separated in the forest though. Then, when I finally found her she was outside the woods and surrounded by so many ponies, all acting terrified of her.” Taking a deep breath, Chrysalis was surprised by the amount of guilt that welled up within her. “I wanted to come out, but then you took her away, and I thought she might get the help she needed… Then I was too ashamed to confront her, in case she thought I… I abandoned her.”

Nurse Redheart blinked before smiling, her eyes looking at her patient before fixing back onto Chrysalis. “Well, from what I can see, she seems to have forgiven you if that’s the case.”

Nodding in agreement as best she could, Chrysalis then moved her chin to rest back on the girl’s arms. Sure, it might have all been a bit of acting on her part, but, were she to be honest with herself, the truth of what she said was closer than she would ever admit. In any case, she needn’t have worried. As the delicious emotions flowed into her – not to mention the interaction with Legend last night – she felt the warmth bloom in her chest again.

Legend cared about her, for her, and it seemed it didn’t matter what form she took the outcome was the same.

“I guess so,” Chrysalis admitted with the smile given earnest in its nature. Past that point only small talk was exchanged, both not wishing to wake Legend from her slumber and, in all actuality, it was rather nice to just relax. Even the stiffness in her joints was no real issue compared to the meal she was receiving, and, just as importantly, the content smile on her friend’s face.

Through it all though, only she and the nurse seemed to be the ones chatting, the guards instead listening in and only sometimes contributing. Well, Captain Swift Dawn primarily, the other one, Bastion as she overheard his name being used, was not much for talking it seemed. Nonetheless, the questions asked were generally enquiring what she knew of Legend, which, as she answered truthfully, was very little.

That is, until the sound of voices approached from the hallway.

Oh no…

Chrysalis froze as one voice in particular caused icy terror to push through her bowels, her eyes going slightly wider as she gazed at the door frame.

Swift Dawn, evidently hearing the noises as well, tilted his head to gaze out the door way, a glance shared between himself and Bastion. “Well, it looks like they’re here.”

Nurse Redheart offered a nod at the observation, smiling as she moved towards the door.

“I’ll go meet them outside and explain the situation.” Clicking her tongue once, the nurse then frowned as a particular voice caught Chrysalis’s ear, one that made dread run its claws along her back. Nurse Redheart also seemed to hear it as she sighed in an exasperated fashion, trotting past the guards to exit the room. “And make sure that a certain pony doesn’t scare Mystery half to death.”

Watching the mare leave, Chrysalis shifted a little, somewhat self-conscious about how she was being held. On one hoof, it would prove that she knew ‘Mystery’ and with that, the logical outcome that she should accompany them. On the other hoof, however, it gave her very little room to escape if things went downhill. After all, she was about as far in enemy territory as a changeling could be. Well, short of being in the throne room with both of the ponies' Princesses present of course.

Well, this is it.

Rubbing her muzzle gently along one of Legend’s arms, she readied herself for the inevitable confrontation about to occur. The next few seconds would determine how everything would play out. Would her gambit work, or would it lead to her fighting for her very life, struggling against those that almost defeated a large portion of Queen Chrysalis’s army?

With the gravity of the situation weighing heavily upon her, Chrysalis mentally prepped herself for what she may have to do. Already she was considering to cast several spells she had seen Queen Chrysalis do – some of which she wasn’t even sure she even had the capacity for – to escape if it was as she suspected and the whole thing was just an elaborate trap.

Taking in a deep breath to steady herself, she waited, her ears flicking as the voices approached. Unexpectedly, as much as the tension in her body grew, it was also offset by the soft murmuring escaping from Legend’s lips. Granted, Chrysalis had absolutely no idea what the bipedal girl was saying in her sleep, but at the very least, it was a nice contrast to the tense atmosphere falling over the room.

As the voices got closer, she could make out a little of their conversation, a small part of her amused by the insistence from both the nurse, and Twilight Sparkle, that Pinkie Pie behave herself. It was of small comfort that at least she was not the only one that had difficulties with the mare. She also caught mention of Rainbow Dash, the Bearer of Loyalty, also being told the same. The grumpy response given in reply spoke volumes of the mare’s nature and current mood, something that Chrysalis filed away for later use.

It went without saying that any information, no matter how slight, could always prove invaluable if – or when – things took a turn for the worst.

“Good morning, Swift Dawn, Bastion. Nurse Redheart tells me Mystery has a visitor.”

Chrysalis watched as Twilight Sparkle entered, a polite nod given to the guards that each returned in kind. Yet, as she watched the purple unicorn enter, she didn’t miss the brief glance given her way, nor the suspicion that flashed across the mare’s eyes. Thankfully, however, Twilight’s face took on a look of surprise, her gaze seeming to be focused on the arms holding Chrysalis in place.

“Morning Twilight, and yes, as you can see, she does.” A smile played its way over Swift Dawn’s mouth as he indicated with his head towards where Chrysalis sat. This caused Twilight to look back towards him, a small frown given in the guard’s direction who, in reply, merely grinned.

“Yes, I see that. I really need to be more specific next time, don’t I? Honestly Swift Dawn, you’re just as bad as Aurora Blossom sometimes.” Twilight’s comment, delivered in a rather deadpan fashion, definitely caught Chrysalis’s attention. It went to solidify her theory that the other Bearers were unaware of Pinkie Pie letting her in to see Legend. What that information actually provided her was too soon to say, but it was an intriguing situation nonetheless and one she felt she could work to her benefit.

“Oh, now that’s just being harsh,” Swift Dawn retorted, a look towards Bastion disappointing him after finding no visible support from the other guard.

Sighing a little, Twilight smiled towards the small dragon, Spike, who rode on her back, the lizard shrugging in response before gazing directly at Chrysalis, making the changeling uncomfortable. Trying not to look suspect, she offered a shy smile in response, one that only served to make the dragon rub under his chin in thought. Looking confused at his antics, Twilight then gave him a small shake of her head, one that caused him to start a rebuttal only to instead fold his arms, a disgruntled look falling over his features.

What’s that all about?

Trying to keep the curiosity from her face, Chrysalis instead perked her ears as Twilight approached her, the mare offering a smile.

“So, you must be… ~Ebony~, is it?”

Nodding as best she could to the unicorn’s question, Chrysalis shifted a little, careful not to disrupt Legend’s hold too much.

“Yes, and… Well, I’m sorry for not admitting I knew her sooner, but…” Playing up the meekness, she was satisfied to see the suspicion within Twilight’s eyes dull, instead replaced with a more sincere smile as the mare shook her head slowly.

“No, it’s fine. But, well… It really is unexpected that she knows another pony to the level she seems to with you, especially given how she reacts to us in general.” Speaking quietly, Twilight gazed behind her, nodding towards Nurse Redheart who was now looking into the room. Of course, there were also the several other ponies peeking in as well, one of which Chrysalis knew was going to cause no end of headaches before the day was through.

“But, I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself.” Pausing, Twilight sat down, an action that allowed Spike to hop off her back. Chrysalis watched as he cast a glance back her way, his eyes looking inquisitive, almost as if he was trying to figure something out. Fortunately he quickly became distracted as a white unicorn trotted into the room, her purple mane thickly curled along with her tail.

The Bearer of Generosity? From what Pinkie Pie said, she should be as little threat as the Bearer of Kindness.

Immediately Chrysalis chastised herself, realising she had thought Pinkie Pie as inconsequential initially as well.

Stop being a pupa, Chrysalis. You can’t underestimate any of them.

Realising that Twilight had asked something of her, she flicked her ears while mentally slapping herself. She had to stay sharp, now was no time for her mind to wander.

“Sorry, I didn’t hear that.” Chrysalis whispered, an apologetic smile given in reply causing Twilight to blink before smiling, her head tilting as she gestured with a hoof.

“That’s okay, I was just saying how peaceful she looks, like she never wants to let you go.” Casting a quick glance at Legend, Twilight appeared almost wistful. The emotion was fleeting however as she seemed to collect her thoughts, a sigh escaping her lips before a headshake then followed. “So, ~Ebony~, may I ask a very important question?”

Flicking an ear again, Chrysalis unfortunately found herself distracted further when more ponies entered. Darting her eyes back towards Twilight, she nodded, knowing she would be unable to escape the scrutiny from those in the room. Still, as long as she played her cards right, there was little they should be able to trip her up on. She was a lifer, and, as such, she had more experience in keeping up a masquerade than most other changelings. Granted, it would be more difficult now that she had let her mask slip around Pinkie Pie, but still, there was nothing they could ask of her that she wouldn’t be able to-

“You’re right, we absolutely have to ask the most important question ever!” Both Chrysalis and Twilight seemed to freeze at the same time, yet this was all the opportunity the speaker needed to trot closer, stopping within almost touching distance to Chrysalis, just out of her sight. And while she couldn’t exactly see the owner, she could tell by the horrified expression on the others faces – Twilight and Nurse Redheart in particular – that it was not something they were expecting to happen.

“What clothes would you like to wear to a sleep over? I like pyjamas myself because they’re all nice and comfy, but I was thinking that maybe…”

Uh… What?

Her guard dropped completely, Chrysalis could only blink slowly, with the processing of what she had just been asked causing her brain considerable discomfort. She had been expecting many things asked of her: leading questions, information on Legend, or even just details about herself. What she wore to sleep in, however? That was a question that could only have come from one mare.

As expected as she shifted just enough to look to her left, the owner of the voice, Pinkie Pie, stood smiling only to gasp at the sight that greeted her. Immediately, several hissed voices sounded from within the room, their intent clear. Pinkie Pie, gasping again but at a much reduced volume, pressed a hoof to her muzzle, her ears flattening into her mane before she gazed over towards a still aghast-looking Twilight, to the guards, and finally, to Chrysalis and Legend.

“Eep! Sorry! Nurse Redheart and Twilight both told me to whisper, but then I got so excited that I forgot, but eeee, look at you and Mystery together! I told Twilight that you’re bestest friends, but Dinky really wants to meet you too, so then you and her and Mystery can be bestest friends and that’d just be the bestest, most terrific thing ever!“

Chrysalis simply blinked as she tried to understand exactly what was going on, watching as Pinkie Pie smiled only to suddenly start sliding to the side. The reason, evidently, was a magenta glow that encased the pony’s tail, which dragged her across the floor. Raising an eyebrow, the changeling watched, morbidly curious, as the pony was tugged to the back of the room, her front hoof waving in Chrysalis’s direction all the while.

“Oh, and hi ~Ebony~, I’m glad you and Mystery are back together.”

Dumbstruck, Chrysalis raised a hoof to wave back before realising what she was doing. Setting the limb back down, she raised a brow again as Twilight Sparkle pushed a hoof to her forehead, the glow on her horn signifying her as the source of reining in the pink mare.

Uh… Okay.

“Pinkie Pie,” Twilight started to say, one hoof resting to her muzzle as she paused to take in a deep breath. “What did Nurse Redheart and I just say to you before we came in?”

Tapping at her muzzle with a hoof, Pinkie Pie appeared contemplative before she smiled and waggled the limb in the air. Noticing how a few of the mares at the back of the room shook their heads, Chrysalis noted that this wasn’t by any means a one-off situation.

“To behave myself and not scare Mystery, buuuut I didn’t scare her, since she’s asleep silly, and ~Ebony~ is there with her, see?” Puffing her cheeks out, Pinkie Pie continued on, her voice carefully kept to a whisper. “I mean, I’m not silly Twilight, I totally don’t want to upset Mystery, and I wouldn’t! But deciding what ~Ebony~ wears when we have a sleepover is super important, because Mystery would obviously be sad if she wasn’t there as well, right?”

Twilight seemed to digest this information before exchanging glances with several members of her group, the nurse included. After a few seconds, the unicorn glanced back towards Legend and then back to Pinkie Pie before releasing a long sigh.

“Okay, Pinkie, I didn’t mean to insinuate you would try to scare her and I know you wouldn’t. But please, just stay over there for now; we don’t want her to get scared when she wakes up because there are too many unfamiliar ponies close by her, right?”

“Okey-Dokey.” Seemingly brushing off the earlier incident, Pinkie smiled at Twilight’s words before moving to seat herself near the cyan pegasus. It was at that point Chrysalis became aware of several gazes given her way of varying emotions. The Bearer of Generosity, Rarity, was looking somewhat delighted in the scene, an emotion shared it seemed by the Bearer of Honesty, Applejack.

It was not forgotten, however, that the earth pony was one of those responsible for terrifying Legend initially. Resisting the urge to frown, Chrysalis instead noted that the cream pegasus, Fluttershy, was trying to hide – unsuccessfully she might add – behind a few of the other mares. Yet it was Rainbow Dash’s expression that was the most confusing. A glare was being levelled at her, animosity flowing from the mare as apprehension filled Chrysalis.

What made it most confusing is that none of the others were reacting in even a remotely similar fashion. Oh, there was still suspicion lingering, but she could tell that by their body language and expressions easily enough. No, this was something else and it sent a small shiver down Chrysalis’s back.

Does she know?

A quick analysis of Pinkie Pie showed that the mare, as usual, was simply happy and content with the situation she was in. While that didn’t eliminate the possibility that she had shared what she possibly knew with the others, it did make it more unlikely. In fact, other than the dragon, the rest were looking remarkably relaxed. Well, that is aside from the grey pegasus with an extreme case of crossed eyes and the filly that was responsible for the whole mess.

The filly, Dinky, was pressing close to her mother, but Chrysalis could tell from what she had learnt in her time at the hospital, and from the little unicorn’s body language, that she wished to be close to Legend. Even though it was beneath her, and served no real practical purpose, Chrysalis couldn’t help but feel a little smug as she rested her chin on the arms that held her, able to see the filly’s eyes go wide before fidgeting further.

Hah. Mine.

Content in her self-perceived victory, Chrysalis perked her ears to listen in on the others conversing amongst themselves in hushed whispers. Several comments were undeniably directed towards her, but strangely, most of what was being said was instead related to Legend herself. Yet it was Rainbow Dash that caught Chrysalis’s attention the most. As the others almost seemed to forget about her presence in the room, she could observe quietly as the others exchanged comments.

“I’m just saying that it’s not cool that I’m not allowed to see this alien, yet some pony from who-knows-where is allowed to get cuddled by her.”

“Oh, oh, I wasn’t allowed to come in either!”

“Yeah, that too. Pinkie and I weren’t allowed to visit, but she’s all buddy-buddy with her.”

“Look, it’s not like I said she could come in, plus she has a name you know.”

“Rainbow Dash, after all the fuss this mornin’ do ya really blame Twi’?”

“Oh c’mon, that was like, one thing!”

Chrysalis blinked as she witnessed nearly the entire group pause to stare at Rainbow Dash, the mare rubbing into her mane under their scrutiny.

“Okay, okay. All I’m saying is that, who knows where this ~Ebony~ comes from, or how she knows-”

“You do realise I can hear you, right?” Chrysalis quietly stated, interrupting Rainbow Dash. Seeing the sheepish looks given in her direction, the changeling sighed before rolling her eyes, looking aside as she then relaxed her head down onto Legend’s arms again. Despite the annoyance directed towards herself at acting so rashly, she knew she had to cut off that train of thought before it took root. If they got onto the subject and delved deeper, more questions would appear. The more questions that they asked, the more likely it was they would find an inconsistency with one of her answers.

The chance of course was small, but it wasn’t something she wished to risk in any case.

“Sorry, I mean… Argh.” Throwing her hooves into the air, Rainbow Dash grunted before folding her forelegs over her chest. “Y’know what, I’m just going to keep my mouth shut.”

“O-Oh, I don’t think you need to do that. I-I’m sure she knows you didn’t mean it, right?”

Chrysalis blinked as she looked towards the source of the soft voice, noticing it to be Fluttershy, the pegasus smiling up at Rainbow Dash before looking in her direction.

I really couldn’t give two bits what she thinks of me.

“No it’s okay…” Pushing her own thoughts on the matter aside, Chrysalis instead smiled in reply only to rustle her wings as a young voice sounded from beside her.

“S-So you’re Mystery’s friend too?” Looking to the side, she noticed Dinky was now standing there, her tail swishing behind her in an almost wag of sorts. Every few times it would pause before starting back up, seemingly reflecting the filly’s mood.

By the All-Mother, how do they keep sneaking up in my blind spot?!

Pushing the agitation down from being caught off-guard twice now, Chrysalis shifted so she could look more easily at the little unicorn. The concept of being friends with any potential source of food was still a rather awkward concept for Chrysalis to grasp, yet she couldn’t deny that is exactly what Legend had become to her.

“Yes, but I call her Legend.” Chrysalis stated, then, amusingly, watched the filly’s eyes go wide. As she watched the filly’s tail started wagging earnestly, she also caught out the corner of her eye one of the ponies start to step forward.

“Is that her real name?” The excitement in the filly’s voice was, strangely enough, oddly endearing as Chrysalis smiled in a genuine fashion. Even as Derpy approached, Dinky was creeping a little closer, her young eyes peeking up at wonder at the arms holding Chrysalis gently.

“Not as far as I can tell.” Chrysalis stated, a wry grin coming to her muzzle as she shifted her tail slowly along the floor. Moving her head enough to glance at Legend’s face, she then looked back down at Dinky, a hoof lifting off the ground enough to waggle slightly. “It’s just what I called her.”

“O-Oh.” Looking to think on those words, Dinky was soon joined by Derpy, the pegasus sliding a wing gently over her daughter’s back.

“Sweetie, come on, you know what Twilight and Nurse Redheart said, we should give her some space when she wakes up with everypony here.” Derpy’s words caused the filly to look slightly downcast before being guided to where the others stood. “I’m sure when she wakes up, she’ll be happy to see you.”

“O-Okay mom.”

Following her mother, Dinky paused to look back, Derpy looking surprised as her wing gently lifted, watching as her daughter smiled towards Chrysalis. “U-Um, my name is Dinky, and she’s my friend too. I’m glad she has more friends though, and that you make her smile.”

Exhaling softly from her nostrils in amusement, Chrysalis found a small grin passing over her muzzle. She couldn’t deny the feeling twisting inside of her, a strange but not uncommon emotion for a changeling to feel. She just never thought it would be caused by a young filly, especially not while she was in a remarkably dangerous situation.

Bravo, Chrysalis. Jealous because a filly spent more time with Legend than you? What next, being angry at the bed sheets or her pillow because they’re closer?

Chrysalis knew she wasn’t about to win any awards for her altruistic behaviour, but she also knew that as a whole, changelings simply didn’t like sharing. When almost everything you gain is to be given away to thousands of sisters and your mother, well, anything you get to keep of your own becomes that much more special.

Still, she did find herself giving the pillow a bit of an eye before relaxing once more, simply content to listen to the conversations going on. Granted everyone was keeping their voices down, but she knew it was a matter of time before Legend woke. Flicking an ear, she actually found herself quite bemused on how heavy a sleeper the girl was.


Looking to the source of the voice, Chrysalis noticed Twilight approaching, the mare walking to within a few steps from her before coming to a stop. Seeming about to say something more, the unicorn looked to collect her thoughts before offering a warm smile towards her.

“Well, it’s evident that Mystery, or Legend… I believe that’s what you called her?” Twilight paused as Chrysalis offered a nod, the unicorn’s horn glowing as a notebook was removed from a saddlebag only to be scribbled into frantically. “Well, it’s clear that she is relaxed around you, much like Dinky and Derpy.”

“So, given what Pinkie Pie said earlier, would you wish to join us for a sleepover while we wait for the summons to Canterlot?” Closing the book, Twilight then returned it to her saddlebag, the straps tightened without the mare even glancing back. “I think it will make things go much more smoothly if you’re there, that is, if you can of course? I mean, I’ve never seen you in Ponyville before, so I don’t know if you need to head back to where-“

“It’s fine, I’ll go where she goes.” Chrysalis stated, cutting Twilight off before ruffling her wings. Moving a little, she heard Legend mumble something again, her head turning to look at the girl before gazing back at the Bearer of Magic. “Don’t worry about me, I can’t really go back home anyhow given last time I saw my mom, we…. Well, let’s just say we didn’t see eye to eye on some things.”

Nodding slightly, Twilight looked concerned for a moment before a smile broke out over her muzzle. “Well, okay, but I’m sure your mother will allow you back home. Although, if you don’t mind me asking, where exactly do you come from? I’ve never heard a name like yours before. If I were to guess, I would say maybe from near the Griffon Empire? But I didn’t know there were any pony settlements there, that is unless you live in the empire itself?”

Chitin-rust she would be curious wouldn’t she.

Finding that everyone was now looking at her, Chrysalis realised that she wouldn’t be able to lie, not entirely anyhow. She was already wary of Pinkie Pie’s intuition, but given Twilight Sparkle was the one asking the question, she knew she had to play this very carefully. That wasn’t even getting into on any of the other ponies in the room, not to mention the dragon, who, at that moment, was also looking at her in an inquisitive fashion.

With nothing really else for it, she took a deep breath only to pause as Legend started to stir. Much to her chagrin though, the girl didn’t wake which would have been an excellent distraction at that very moment.

“No, I…” Shaking her head a little, Chrysalis offered a grin and spread one wing to direct the limb towards the occupant of the bed. “It’s not my name, it’s the name she calls me.”

Unsure on just what would follow, Chrysalis was expecting the shock that came to Twilight’s face. Yet, the fact it then turned into a thoughtful expression, that was somewhat of a surprise. More so was how the mare then looked as if she had found the missing piece to a puzzle, the hoof that had been rubbing under her muzzle settling back onto the floor.

“Well that explains that then, I thought it sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite place it.” Offering a smile, Twilight then tilted her head. “So you named each other because you couldn’t understand each other, or do you… Wait, you couldn’t possibly have a way to actually communicate with one another outside the obvious use of diagrams and pictures? Perhaps through interpretation of her language, or shared-“

“Twilight, dear, maybe you should let ~Ebony~ actually answer.”

“Oh… Um, sorry. I guess I did get carried away.” Twilight admitted, having been gently chastised by Rarity’s interruption.


Blinking, Chrysalis wasn’t expecting to see the hunger within Twilight’s eyes, the hunger for knowledge. She had been expecting further questioning, but thankfully, the mare had just provided her an opportunity to divert the conversation. One that she wasn’t about to let slip through her hooves.

“Yes, I named her Legend, and in exchange she called me ~Ebony~. I guess we did it to make it easier to communicate with each other.” Chrysalis inwardly cringed, knowing that her story, while partially true, wasn’t exactly fool-proof. Still, given on her recent interactions with Legend, she knew the likelihood of the girl using the name while talking with her was high enough that it was a calculated risk. “But, no… we can’t really understand each other. All I know is that she’s easily scared, likes apples, and…”

Finding a smile coming to her face, Chrysalis gazed over at Legend before chuckling softly.

“And that she’s a cry-baby and gets herself into really stupid situations, but… But that she’s more compassionate than anyone I have ever met.” Flicking her ears, Chrysalis then folded her wings tight to her side, glancing at Twilight and catching the mare off guard with how intense her stare was. “And, that I will never let her get hurt again, no matter what.”

With one hoof raised in surprise, Twilight blinked, a shocked look falling over her face. Setting the limb back down to gaze back at her friends, the mare then looked forward once more. “No-one is going to hurt her, I mean, we just want to understand what’s going on and help her.”

“Ain’t no-one here want to hurt her none, y’all can be sure of that.”

Chrysalis resisted the urge once more to glare at the hat wearing pony, instead offering a small nod as she looked aside.

Yeah, easy for you to say after you and your idiot pony friends terrified her. Then again, I just watched… Didn’t I?

“I can assure you that Twilight here, along with everypony else, wish no ill on the poor dear.” Chrysalis looked towards Rarity, surprised by the earnest smile on the mare’s face accompanying the calmly spoken words.

“Hee, don’t be so silly ~Ebony~, we all want to see Mystery smile and be happy.” Pinkie Pie added, her ears perking before she tilted her head slightly. “That’s why we want you to come with us, so you and Dinky, and everypony else can make her feel welcome.”

Shifting where she sat, Chrysalis was a little surprised by how welcoming they were. She didn’t doubt that they held Legend’s wellbeing in mind, she had already seen that in their expressions, and in the actions over the last few days. Even if she wasn’t privy to their emotions, the evidence was overwhelming. What she couldn’t dismiss, however, was the possibility this was all still a trap to snare her.

Ultimately though, whether it was benign or not, she had to get Legend away before they got summoned. If they succeeded in getting her to Canterlot and with the Princesses, well, it would be all but impossible to get her away, or to accompany her without great risk. Not to mention, and more importantly, any chance of saving her sisters would vanish completely.

“Well, I think we’ve established that no-one is going to hurt my patient.” Nurse Redheart’s voice caused all present, Chrysalis included – and still wondering how the pony could be so intimidating – to nod in agreement. Seemingly satisfied with the response she received, the nurse then smiled and glanced at the clock on the wall. “Now, if you all can behave yourselves, I think I will go see what is keeping Doctor Carehoof and look at getting her out of here and stretching her legs.”

With that, and after a pointed look at Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, both mares wilting slightly under the scrutiny, Nurse Redheart trotted out of the room, a nod given to the guards as she passed them both.

“I’m sorry, I… You could have come to us though, we would have been happy to help. I know you were injured from what I hear, but, we were only just down the hallway most of the time.” Twilight offered, Chrysalis looking at the unicorn as a smile was given her way. After a few more comments of support were given from the other Bearers, Chrysalis sighed and shook her head. Yet, before she could answer, she was surprised when someone else did. More so, in fact by whom that someone was.

“Weeeeell, you are kinda sorta the Princess’s student so you’re like, super important, and then there were two big scary guards.” Pinkie Pie spoke up, stopping to wave towards Swift Dawn and Bastion. “No offense you two, but you both are pretty big and imposing!”

“Uh, Pinkie. That’s kinda their job.” Rainbow Dash interjected, a hoof gesturing to the two stallions as Swift Dawn appeared amused by the whole thing.

“No offense taken, and Rainbow Dash is right,” Swift Dawn said, a small chuckle escaping after. Looking to Bastion, the Captain of the Royal Guard grinned, a wing reaching across the gap to gently tap on the larger stallion’s breast plate. “Hear that, you’re imposing.”

“My day is now complete.” Bastion offered in reply, Swift Dawn rolling his eyes before returning to standing at attention.

“What Pinkie said.” Chrysalis offered a nod towards the pink mare, getting a bright smile in return. Turning her attention back to Twilight, she then sighed a little. “It wasn’t exactly like I could just wander up to you and say I knew her, you wouldn’t-“

About to say that none of them would have believed her without proof, Chrysalis was cut off as Legend began to stir.

Oh, now you wake.

Feeling the arms pull away from around her neck, Chrysalis shifted a little, now able to work the cramp out of her legs. Looking up, she noted that the Bearer of Kindness was trying to hide behind the Bearer of Honesty, an act that caused the earth pony to look amused at her friend.

As silence filled the room at the expectant awakening of the girl, instead they were disappointed when Legend rolled onto her back, the sheets tugged closer to her body as she returned to slumber.

Or not.

As the tension bled out of several of the ponies, Rarity was the first to speak, a hoof moved to tease her mane.

“Well, since we must wait for the good doctor before anything may proceed, and given I feel a little parched, I think I might go and get a drink from downstairs.”

“Wait, I can go get it Rarity.” Spike spoke up, Chrysalis watching as Twilight rolled her eyes with a lopsided smile on her muzzle. Curious as for the reaction, Chrysalis instead found the answer when Rarity leaned down, a hoof moving to rub over Spike’s head spines.

“Oh, would you do that for my little Spikey-Wikey? That is most gentlecoltly of you.”

Watching as Spike almost melted to Rarity’s words, Chrysalis fought to roll her own eyes. The amount of happiness rolling off the dragon was almost nauseating as he nodded frantically and struck his chest gently with a fist.

“Leave it to me, I’ll be right back!”

With that Spike departed from the room, running as fast as his legs could take him. So fast, in fact, that he missed Rarity laughing softly, her head tilting as she sighed good naturedly.

“Oh dear, I didn’t even get a chance to tell him what I wanted. Oh well, I’m sure whatever he brings back will be fine.”

Ignoring the amusement rippling through the ponies, Chrysalis took the chance to stretch her hind legs. Spreading her wings as well, she lamented on how stiff all her limbs felt. Working the stiffness out of each leg, she then sat herself back down, gazing over towards both mother and daughter. Not surprisingly, while Derpy was joining in the conversation that was developing, Dinky was looking over at Legend.

Noticing how forlorn the filly looked, Chrysalis briefly considered simply enjoying the fact that Legend was hers and that the silly unicorn that caused it all was left out. Yet, whenever she tried to enjoy the moment, she felt something niggling within. She remembered seeing Dinky screaming, the fear of death clear on the filly’s face as the chimera chased her. She remembered her own indecision on helping, and, even before she could act, Legend moving to save the filly.

She also remembered a small pegasus, lying broken at the bottom of a gully, the look of hope on her face only to-

That’s not my life, it never was. But… Argh, you’re getting soft Chrysalis.

Grumbling under her breath, Chrysalis then sighed and forced a smile on her face, a wing moving to flap and gain Dinky’s attention.

“Thanks for being there for her.” The words, while not entirely sincere, did have some truth to them. She was thankful that the filly had kept Legend company where she had not, and, more importantly, had made the girl happy. Granted, that was now her duty alone, but she wasn’t going to be ungrateful for what the mother and daughter had done for Legend thus far.

Smiling widely, Dinky’s tail wagged behind her, looking up at her mother who smiled back down, a nuzzle given that was eagerly returned. Before anything more could come out of what she had said though, the sound of voices in the hallway caused everyone to go silent, their ears perking almost simultaneously.

“-seems fine, her wounds are all fully healed aside from the shoulder, and that too will be able to mend easily enough if she takes care of it.”

Hearing a male voice, Chrysalis flicked an ear as Nurse Redheart returned, two doctors also following her into the room.

“I must concur with Doctor Flint, after replacing her bandages last night, I would be…” Pausing, the doctor blinked at the amount of ponies in the room. Glancing at Chrysalis next, his brow raised before he cleared his throat, looking at Twilight and then at Nurse Redheart. “In any case, if you say she is good to go nurse, I will support your decision. She is your patient, after all.”

Offering a smile to his words, Nurse Redheart then nodded, glancing at the others before fixing her gaze on Twilight. “Well, I think that settles it. Once she wakes you should be fine to give her a tour of Ponyville, but please, if anything happens you are to contact me immediately, understood?”

Nodding in reply, a little too earnestly if Chrysalis was any judge, Twilight then smiled as she trotted to stand by her friends, offering a nervous giggle before speaking. “Of course, we won’t do anything too major until she-“

A female voice abruptly cut everyone off, each freezing in place. Well, all except for Fluttershy, who issued a strangled squeak and backed against the wall. With Rarity and Applejack attempting to calm her down, Chrysalis turned to the source of the voice, a smile coming to her face as she saw Legend on the bed, her eyes now open.

As the girl shifted, she moved her weight onto one arm, propping herself up to look past the foot of her bed and, inadvertently, seeming to spy the gathering of ponies that stood across the room. Several seconds passed, no-one moving, as she turned her gaze over each in turn. For reasons that Chrysalis couldn’t fathom, Rarity appeared to be gazing back at her in an almost studious fashion, one that caused Legend some distress.

As the girl held the sheets up to partially hide behind, Rarity quickly had an apologetic expression replace the previous, not that Legend seemed to notice as she was now looking at Pinkie Pie. Unsurprisingly, Chrysalis watched as the pony almost seemed to be vibrating with excitement, bouncing on the spot.

“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, she’s awake and she’s looking at me, and this is so super-exciting. Hi Mystery!”

“Pinkie, please settle down, we don’t want to frighten her. She doesn’t know half of you yet!” Twilight, admirably, attempted to calm the Bearer of Laughter down, yet, from previous experience, Chrysalis knew it was a wasted gesture.

Noticing that Legend seemed fixated on Pinkie, and the clearly confused look falling over the girl’s face, Chrysalis took matters into her own hooves. Coughing gently, she was rewarded by Legend looking to the side and finally noticing her. Sighing dramatically, Chrysalis then rolled her eyes, communicating her own thoughts on what was going on.

The girl, on seeing this, started to smile before giggling, her posture relaxing some as the other ponies began to sigh a little, each clearly relieved. Chrysalis, however, knew that the hard part was far from over. Now that she had established herself as essential to being with Legend, she would then need to somehow break free from the others and get herself, and the girl, to the hive.

In all honesty, the fact that the ponies evidently did care for Legend was becoming something of a curse for the changeling. It meant they would be far more alert to anything out of the ordinary, and worse, would make escaping with her all the harder. If the task wasn’t hard enough to begin with, the true scope of what she was trying to achieve was now open before her.

Six Bearers, two guards – one being the Captain of the Royal Guard himself – and that’s not even getting into a filly who is almost infatuated with Legend. Yeah, this is clearly going to go well.

Yet, before she could even try and contemplate on how she would achieve the seemingly impossible task, she was distracted as Twilight trotted forward. With her horn glowing, Chrysalis watched as Twilight levitated a bundle of clothing that she hadn’t noticed resting on the side table until now. Curiously, she saw the items be moved to hover before Legend’s face, the girl looking slightly perplexed before they were gently placed upon the sheets.

“Ah, Twi, I don’t think she knows what you’re want’n her to do.” Applejack offered, Twilight rolling her eyes before she smiled back at her friends.

“I know she doesn’t, but I made some diagrams earlier to explain what-“

Twilight never got to finish what she was about to say, as at that moment, Spike’s voice filtered in from the hallway, his claws pounding on the floor giving away his hurried pace.

“Twilight! L-Letter… F-From the…” Entering the room, Spike held a scroll tightly in a fist, his laboured breathing showing he had probably run the entire way back upstairs. Taking a deep breath, he held the paper in the air, presenting it to pony in question. “P-Princesses. Do you think that they could possibly…?”

Chitin-rust, no… Not now!

Pulling her wings in closer, Chrysalis felt her world come crashing down around her. If it was what she believed it to be, then her worst fears were about to come true. She watched, in morbid curiosity, as Twilight levitated the scroll over to herself, breaking the seal to unfurl it and then read aloud its contents.

“My most faithful student, I am happy to inform you that the arrangements have gone better than we dared hope. To that end, both Luna and I are happy to formally invite both yourself and our visitor, Mystery, to come see us as soon as possible. I must apologise for the short notice, but both Luna and I felt that the due to the current circumstances surrounding her and of those that have interest in her, we feel she will be safest here, in the castle with us.”

Chrysalis felt the walls close in on her as she listened, her plans slipping through her hooves ever increasingly with each word spoken.

They know about me… Not just suspect, but know.

“I also must ask that your friends accompany you on this journey, as the Elements of Harmony might be required. Their expenses will be paid for of course, and I must apologise again for hindering them, and yourself, with this task. I have already arranged for the train departing from Ponyville this afternoon to be informed of your arrival. All you must do is talk to the receptionist and she will provide you with boarding tickets for the journey.

If, for any reason you are unable to make it today, please inform me and we shall arrange for tomorrow. I am sorry for the urgency of the endeavour, but you must understand the reasoning behind it. I wish I hadn’t needed to place this burden on you, but never forget of how proud of you I am my dear Twilight, and I look forward to seeing you, Spike, and your friends, again.

Princess Celestia

P.S: Spike, I have already informed the chef to make those cupcakes you mentioned previously, and please, do keep my student out of trouble. Wait, hey!”

The last part, joined with a sniggering from Spike, was Twilight looking indignant towards the dragon. The others, on the other hoof, were looking surprised by the contents of the letter. Some, like Pinkie Pie, were evidently rather excited by this prospect, already talking about a sleepover at the castle. Others, like Applejack, were looking more cautious over the whole thing, mentioning that she had lots to do on the farm.

“So, do we go today or not?” Twilight asked, gazing about at the others while Nurse Redheart and the Doctors looked on. A consensus was then reached, the Bearers all deciding that given it came from Princess Celestia herself, there really was nothing to be decided. Even Fluttershy quietly offered her acceptance to go. Rarity and Rainbow Dash, however, seemed far keener on the prospect of a formal invite from the Princess herself, and a chance to see the Wonderbolts, respectively.

Dinky, however, was looking noticeably crestfallen over the whole thing.

“Can… Can we go too mom?” The question, spoken softly by the filly was met with a torn look on her mother’s face. Derpy, after sighing softly, rubbed her muzzle along her daughter’s mane.

“I’m sorry sweetie, but you have school, and I can’t just leave my job. Who will deliver the mail if I don’t?” Derpy’s words didn’t seem to appease the filly entirely, Dinky looking towards Legend before pushing her face against her mother’s wing.

“But she’s my friend too…”

Twilight, evidently hearing the exchange, shared a look with her friends, Rarity in particular who offered a soft murmur at what she was witnessing. Nodding to whatever was mentioned, the mare moved over to the mother and daughter, bending down to get at eyelevel with Dinky.

“I know you want to go Dinky, but Derpy’s right.” Offering a smile, Twilight then reached with a hoof to gently tap the filly on the nose. “How about, after we get the tickets sorted, you can show her around Ponyville while the others get ready? We’ll have some free time until the train arrives, and packing won’t take very long for Spike and I anyhow.”

“That’s if Twilight doesn’t try to pack the library with her again.” Spike added only for Twilight to fix him with an exasperated expression.

“Spike, I only did that once, and I wasn’t trying to pack the library, I was only trying to test the applications of a distortion spell on a bag to try and test the limits of what could be seen as endless storage. It worked too!”

Waving a claw in Twilight’s direction, the dragon rolled his eyes. “Oh sure, it worked until the bag exploded and I had to then help pick up all the books.”

Looking somewhat sheepish, Twilight rubbed into her mane while averting her gaze. “W-Well, yes, but that was because I hadn’t reinforced the durability spells enough, but it was working fine until that point.”

The random side-track aside, the filly seemed appeased to some degree, a smile crossing her muzzle. Gazing up at her mother – presumably for permission – got a small nod in return from the mare, a smile crossing Derpy’s muzzle as she moved a wing to hug her daughter closer to her.

“Okay!” Dinky exclaimed, appearing far happier with this arrangement. Chrysalis, however, was soon finding herself being looked upon by Twilight as she cleared her throat.

“So, will you be joining us as well, ~Ebony~?” The question posed by Twilight was then followed by a confused look falling over her face. “Oh, sorry, I never actually asked what your real name is.”

“~Ebony~ is fine, it’s what Legend calls me and that’s good enough for me.” Chrysalis responded, forcing a smile onto her face that she in no way felt. Noticing that the answer wasn’t quite what Twilight was hoping for, Chrysalis instead pressed on, in no way about to reveal the name gifted to her by a queen she no longer had any faith in. “But yes, I’ll go where ever she goes, I won’t leave her alone again.”

Nodding, yet obviously not entirely convinced, Twilight appeared to unexpectedly drop the subject. Smiling, she then moved to unclasp one of her saddlebags again with a small application of magic. Removing a folded piece of paper, Twilight then trotted over to Legend, unfolding what turned out to be a large sheet with various pictures drawn upon it, each connected by an arrow. Flicking an ear, Chrysalis heard the others talking over the matter but, truthfully, she barely noticed what they were saying.

She however did see that Legend evidently understood what was being asked of her by the diagram, if that is, her body language and reaction were anything to go off by. Chrysalis on the other hoof knew exactly what they were planning; she had seen the train drawn on the paper and also the picture of two alicorns standing. It was a diagram explaining to Legend what they intended to do, and thusly, it was a diagram explaining where they were to go.

Even as the girl nodded, and Twilight shot Pinkie Pie a deadpan look for some reason that eluded Chrysalis, the others began talking animatedly between themselves in the background. Talks of how exciting it would be, talks of the high fashion in Canterlot, and talks of what the Princesses could possibly want with the Elements of Harmony was discussed.

Chrysalis, however, knew, at least for her, that it was all over.

She knew that she could – nay, that she should – escape and that it would be an easy enough task. She could slip away and with a couple of disguise changes vanish forever from Ponyville. The problem was, without Legend, the whole thing was meaningless. She could, of course, try to escape with the girl, but that lowered her chance of success to almost nothing, and that was being generous.

No, if she didn’t bring Legend to the hive, if the hive even still existed, then her hatch-mate, and all the others were doomed. When the eggs hatched, there would be nothing more for them; no nectar would be enough to sustain the hive. Even before that fact, they were barely treading water, and it was only time before that too would start to fail as fatigue took hold and mistakes were made. Much, she admitted, like the one that had gotten her into this whole mess in the first place.

Yet, no matter how much she considered an idea, it was always doomed to failure. She didn’t even know the limits of her changing physiology, so that also threw a spanner into the works. For all she knew, she could try to do something and simply fail. She wasn’t even sure what her real body looked like anymore, that prospect being a scary one in and of itself.

In fact, so engrossed in her thoughts was she, that she only realised that Legend had gotten out of bed when she heard the girl speak. Flicking an ear, she noticed that the curtain had also been drawn around the bed, presumably to offer Legend some privacy. For what reason, Chrysalis couldn’t really say, watching on somewhat perplexed as the girl started tugging on a small article of clothing up her legs.

Good going Chrysalis, not paying attention again. Well, at least I’m still with her, that’s something at least.

Shrugging, she decided that the girl must be somewhat shy about putting on clothing. It wasn’t really unheard of, given that plenty of ponies and griffons were a little iffy about the whole thing. Then there were the minotaurs who, from the majority of the admittedly very few that Chrysalis had ever encountered, seemed to enjoy parading around with the minimal of clothing present, some even making do with just a tie, or a hat, Chrysalis didn’t see the big deal over clothing herself, only having worn it as Rosebloom or when disguised only when the time called for it.

Thankful however for the distraction, Chrysalis mulled over that possibility, one eyebrow raised as she looked over Legend’s mostly bare form.

Huh, so that’s what she looks like out of her clothing or without a sheet. Almost hairless, but about what I expected. She does look a little malnourished though yet… Wait… Why is she looking at me like that?

Noticing one of the girl’s eyelids beginning to twitch, Chrysalis found herself growing further confused by the roiling emotions present within Legend. Her mind, still torn over the more pressing issue plaguing her, was slow to piece the information provided into the most obvious outcome. That was why the next thing Chrysalis knew, she was being propelled along the floor having been forcefully removed from within the curtain.


Coming to rest after sliding a fair distance, Chrysalis found that her bruised posterior was secondary to the shock she felt. Blinking, she peeked behind her at where she had come from before noticing the amused looks given by several of the ponies watching. Well, granted there was a couple of sympathetic looks, but those were few and far between.

Flicking an ear at the sound of Legend saying her ‘name’ with something preceding it, Chrysalis grumbled quietly, assuming by the guilt emanating from within the curtain – not to mention the tone it was spoken in – that it was an apology of sorts.


Choosing to ignore the laughter coming from Rainbow Dash over her situation, Chrysalis instead got to her hooves, barely noticing that Twilight was hastily scribbling into her notebook again. Hearing something about ‘modesty’ and ‘re-evaluate muscle strength’ mentioned by the doctors, the changeling instead rolled her eyes and sat herself down, waiting for Legend to finish getting changed.

After several more seconds, and some strange utterances from Legend, the curtain was pulled away to reveal the now-clothed girl. With the unveiling, a gasp sounded from Rarity, the mare smiling widely before turning to look at the other ponies with her.

“Oh it fits her just perfectly! Why, this is giving me an absolutely inspired idea for other creations for our Mystery to wear. Just think, if she does return home… Oh my, my fashion might catch on in a whole new world entirely!”

Chrysalis watched as Legend fidgeted with the black skirt she wore, clearly uncomfortable with the attention focused upon her. Interestingly, Chrysalis also noted the equine word for ‘Mystery’ tailored into the fabric, a brow raised partially at that addition. The sleeveless purple top was, she guessed, a good fit for the girl, her eye also catching the glint of metal from the bracelets worn on each wrist.

It does kind of suit her I suppose.

Sighing softly, Chrysalis was a little bemused by how bashful Legend looked under the attention given her way, her own ears flicking as she listened half-heartedly to the conversations going on.

Truthfully though, her mind was preoccupied on other things. Primarily, on just how to get Legend out of Ponyville with her. She knew that, were they to get onto the train and thus confined that it would be the end of any chance she had. To that end, it was clear that the only opportunity that Chrysalis had was before that point. In theory, that meant that after they had gotten the tickets, she would possibly have a brief window while waiting for the train to arrive.

Of course, even on coming to that conclusion, that didn’t help in her actually getting away from the Bearers and the guards. Still, it was something at least, and that was something she could work with, no matter how faint the chance. To give up now would be to condemn the others to a slow death of starvation, and, having almost experienced that herself, Chrysalis was in no way keen to let her sisters go through the same fate.

Eventually, however, the conversations ebbed away only for Twilight to signal it was time for them to go. Watching Nurse Redheart and Legend share a hug caused Chrysalis to raise a brow, especially when Legend looked surprised when the nurse waved at her.

Seeing that the girl was looking a little unsure on realising that the nurse was staying behind, Chrysalis sighed and trotted over, moving her nose to push against Legend’s fingers softly. Raising a brow again in a questioning gesture, she was rewarded with warm emotions flowing into her as the girl nodded, smiling and waving towards the doctors and Nurse Redheart as they departed the room.

Slightly amused on seeing how the strangely intimidating nurse could be so open and warm when Legend was involved, Chrysalis moved to follow the girl on the way out, keeping close as they exited into the hallway. As she expected, the guards fell into step behind them, causing Legend to utter something in an almost sardonically toned fashion. Looking up at the girl in confusion, she was met with green eyes gazing back down, the girl shaking her head soon after as her dark mane swished about with the movement.

I wonder if she’s as sick of the guards as I am…

Figuring it was thusly unimportant, she made sure to match Legend’s slower pace, watching meanwhile as the Bearers led the way with Derpy and Dinky just behind them. All the while, Dinky kept peeking back at Legend as she walked, the girl in turn looking down to offer a small smile to the filly which was returned. Nonetheless, Chrysalis couldn’t help but feel slightly agitated by the way patients and medical staff alike were clearly avoiding their procession, their eyes casting fearful looks towards Legend as they did so.

Well, not entirely she noted, as a few were giving Derpy a rather large berth as well, the mare clearly oblivious as her attention was on her daughter. This, however, did seem to rankle some of the Bearers, Rarity in particular scowled at a few ponies who hastily apologised.

“Now honestly, do they not know it is rude to stare?” Huffing softly, Rarity tossed her mane, Applejack moving to adjust her hat with one hoof in-between steps.

“I don’t like it none either Rare, but ya know they’re all just frightened. Those pesky rumours have spread like wildfire ‘round the town despite everythin’ we’ve all been saying.”

“But she’s not mean, and she’s nice and friendly.” Dinky commented in reply to Applejack’s comment, her words soft and carrying a confused tone to them. “W-Why would they think she’s going to hurt them?”

“Because they fear what they don’t know.”

The others peeked back briefly at Chrysalis’s comment, her ears flicking as she frowned towards a doctor. One that – intriguingly enough - had moved into a side room, pretending to read a clipboard and check on a patient if the mumbled comments he was giving were anything to go by. It would have worked too, were the clipboard not held upside down and the room containing nothing but empty beds.

Most annoying of all, however, was the earthy taste filling Chrysalis’s mouth. Resisting the urge to drag her teeth over her tongue, she could feel it saturated in the very air. Most, much to her ire, originating from the tall female beside her and caused by the situation she was in. Gazing up at, she saw the fear in Legend’s eyes; saw the way her fingers fidgeted. The fact she was also walking closer beside her wasn’t lost on Chrysalis either.

Thankfully though, they eventually walked down a smooth slope, Twilight having opted to take the wheelchair access it seemed. This proved to be a wise idea, as it brought them closer to the exit on reaching the bottom. Yet, still, in the waiting area they were immediately set upon by several sets of eyes, all fearful to some extent. Some were wary; some were trying to look anywhere but at Legend, but some… Some that angered Chrysalis, were looking at the girl as if she were a monster about to tear into them at a moment’s notice.

Before Chrysalis could say something, however, Twilight spoke up, the mare smiling at those gathered.

“Please everypony, I know she looks different, and I know there are rumours going around, but she is really no more dissimilar than from you or me. If you just take the time to look at her, I mean really look at her, you’ll see she’s more scared of you than you are of her. She’s just lost, and Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are going to help her get back home. So please, treat her just like any other guest in Ponyville.” Having said her piece and unexpectedly actually managing to ease the tension within the room, Twilight nodded over towards a unicorn behind the receptionist desk. With the mare waving back, Twilight then led the way to the entrance, a pink aura surrounding it before opening the portal.

Following the others out, Chrysalis moved with Legend, the girl however pausing at the threshold. Shifting on her feet, Legend slowly took in a deep breath, her hands curling into fists as she steeled herself. As the others waited outside, Chrysalis felt a small amount of respect fill her for her friend, knowing the turmoil that churned within her at that moment.

Oh sure, snatch a filly from an angry chimera, but the thought of stepping out into a town full of idiotic ponies? Actually, yeah, I would take the chimera too.

Watching Legend close her eyes, Chrysalis smiled nonetheless as the girl took a step out of the hospital, opening her eyes as she gazed about the town with clear wonder on her face. Still, the anxiety soon returned to Legend’s features as she became the subject of fearful gazes from the ponies and donkeys that were going about their business. Yet, even as the mud-like taste filled her mouth again, Chrysalis noticed Dinky look over her shoulder, her ears flattening as she saw how uneasy Legend looked.

Trotting back the pair, the filly pushed her head to Legend’s shin, the girl blinking to peek down at Dinky in surprise. Seeing she had been noticed, Dinky smiled upwards warmly, her tail wagging once as Legend returned the expression, the girl’s eyes half closing before resuming walking to close the distance with the others.

Hmmph, I could have done that.

Hiding her frown behind a near-lifetime of practise, Chrysalis again felt foolish for allowing herself to be jealous of a filly. Still, she did notice that despite Dinky’s efforts, the inhabitants of the town were quickly undermining the reassurance the filly had given.

Gritting her teeth, Chrysalis was forced to watch as Legend started to look down at the ground in front of them, clearly trying to avoid the gazes – both fearful and accusing – in her direction. Flicking her ears, knowing she could do little for Legend right then, she instead stuck beside the girl, making sure she remained a close presence. Yet, all the while they were walking, she was also making sure to commit to memory every alley, every empty street, and every possible hiding spot.

Any information, any advantage would highly likely be the difference were she to try and run, or worse, fight.

She knew that if or when the time came, for when an opportunity presented itself, she would have to take it no matter what. That left little time for any plan, and as such, she would have to rely on any bit of information she could gather. Unfortunately, no matter how much she tried to delude herself, Chrysalis knew that such a thing had about as high a chance of happening as if Queen Chrysalis would swoop down right then and there to break into a jig for their amusement.

Sure it was possible to happen, but there was a world of difference between something being possible and something being probable.

“Eeeee, don’t eat me!”

Chrysalis blinked twice, her ears flicking as she was pulled from her thoughts by the sight of a pink mare running away, screaming at the top of her lungs. Blinking again, she recalled it was the same mare who had taken off screaming when Legend had been initially captured, one of her ears lowering to the side as she scrunched up her nose.

However, before she could make a comment – and one that was definitely going to be derogatory in nature towards the mare – she was beaten to the punch by one of the others.

“Y’all think that Lily would get tired of runnin’ like that all the time.” Applejack said, one of her eyebrows rising while she watched the blonde tail disappear down a side street. Once the mare had vanished, she rolled her eyes before pushing the brim of her hat up. “I thought you told her Twi that Legend was gonna be out an’ about today?”

“I did!” Twilight replied, a snort escaping the mare’s nostrils before she resumed trotting. “I told everyone in the meeting yesterday, but well… You all know that Lily’s a little…”

Clearly trying to be diplomatic in what she was trying to say, Twilight sighed as Rainbow Dash made a looping gesture beside her head with a hoof. Choosing to ignore what her friend was doing, Twilight instead led the group towards the train station.

“Now Rainbow Dash, you know that ain’t nice.” Applejack said, yet even Chrysalis could tell that the earth pony was finding it hard to argue against it.

However, as they got closer and closer to their destination, Chrysalis couldn’t help but feel the sinking feeling within her grow. She knew that ultimately, the only real chance she would have to succeed would have to be trying to make a break for it with Legend. She also knew that even with her enhanced abilities, that for her to get herself out if it came to a fight, let alone taking Legend with her, well… She couldn’t even delude herself with the possibility anymore.

Chrysalis in truth had no real idea on just what capabilities the mares with her had. She of course knew to some degree what Twilight was capable of, given her time as Rosebloom. While she hadn’t really interacted with the mare, she had seen enough of her around the castle and had heard of her antics enough to gain a fair idea. Plus, she had first-hoof knowledge from at the wedding.

But, she had no real way of knowing what the others could do. Pinkie Pie was for all accounts and purposes a complete enigma. Chrysalis still wasn’t convinced that the mare didn’t know what she really was and was, in effect, acting ignorant for some reason. The others, however, well… All she knew was what most other ponies knew about them, but she had the benefit of seeing them in action.

They act like idiots, but… Even Fluttershy evaded capture for as long as the others did. She acts meek, but what is her true strength?

Of course, ultimately it all mattered little. For one other fact had come to Chrysalis’s attention, one that rankled her, and, for some reason, made her feel a little queasy the more she thought about it. And that was the simple truth that she had no idea if Legend would actually leave the others to follow her in the first place.

Frustratingly, it seemed that the girl had become attached to the filly, Derpy, and quite possibly even Twilight as well. A week ago, she knew that Legend would – and had – followed her no matter what. But now? Now she wasn’t even sure if she still would. She knew that Legend cared about her, but she wasn’t sure to what extent that actually stretched.

Was she even the most important among them to Legend anymore? It was petty, especially considering her circumstance, but for some reason it mattered a great deal to the changeling. It was a strange concept, but no matter what she couldn’t push the feeling aside. It was foolish for her to act in such a way, but…

Chitin-rust, why does this even matter? Why does it matter if she follows me willingly or not?

Moving closer to Legend, she was surprised when Derpy looked back at her, the mare’s wings ruffling to her side. Walking a little slower, the pegasus dropped back to get closer to both Legend and Chrysalis, Dinky following suite.

“Is something the matter?” Offering a smile with her words, Derpy clearly seemed to be showing concern due to Chrysalis’s body language. Chiding herself, Chrysalis noted that Dinky was also looking at her

“D-Do you want to come with her when I show her about Ponyville? You’re her friend too, so…” Dinky shyly offered, trailing off as her mother tugged her close with a wing. As she was nuzzled affectionately above her horn, the filly giggled softly before peeking back at Chrysalis again. “So you both should come together!”

Shaking her head, Chrysalis tugged her wings in closer, pressing a little to Legend’s leg as they walked.

“I… No, I’m fine...” Noticing the concerned looks exchanged between the two, Chrysalis was about to further decline offer until a thought struck her.

Pausing for a second, Chrysalis realised that what she was asked might be exactly what she was looking for. If the others were going to get ready before the train ride, then that would leave less guarding Legend at the time. Or, if things went truly her way, then only a hoofful might remain. And, while it would still be incredibly risky to attempt anything, at least it would be less than impossible if most – if not all – of the Bearers were not present.

Maybe, just maybe, she would be able to deal with the situation and overpower them if she only had a mother, her daughter, and two guards to factor into the equation. Of course one was the Captain of the Royal Guard, and the other looked like he could stop a tornado in its tracks just by simply standing, but…

And what if Legend doesn’t follow me, what then? Will I actually force her… Could I force her?

Exhaling at the obvious problem that now plagued her, the changeling was surprised to feel fingers slide into her mane, the curls being teased as the digits moved. Realising it was Legend trying to comfort her, Chrysalis allowed herself the luxury of a small smile, her eyes closing to enjoy the taste of the girl’s compassion.

No, she’s mine.

Emboldened by the show of affection, she followed the others as they made their way to the train station. Ignoring their conversation for the most part, she joined the others up on the boarding platform, careful to match Legend’s pace as the girl walked a little more slowly. This somewhat confused Chrysalis as the girl had walked faster when they were in the forest, but for now she simply put it down to the current location.

Once they were all grouped again, and the heavy sounds of metal-clad hooves signalled the guards had also stopped, Twilight smiled with the excitement clear on her face.

“Alright, so we’ll get the tickets, and then decide what we’ll do from there, sound good to everypony?” Looking about, a series of nods and affirmatives – both eager and reluctant – answered Twilight’s question. Applejack, however, moved to adjust the Stetson worn, her green eyes darting first to Legend and then to Dinky.

“Actually, y’all don’t mind if I stay out here an’ enjoy the sunshine fer a bit, it’s a lovely day an’ I’d hate ta waste it since we’ll all be on a train fer most of the day.”

Twilight looked to consider this for a second before nodding, smiling as she gestured with a hoof absently. “Oh, of course! Don’t worry, I’ll get your ticket Applejack it’ll be no problem at all.”

“Psh, that just means I get the window seat.” Rainbow Dash added with a grin, her forelegs folding over her chest in a smug manner.

“Ah, Dash… Y’know they’re all window seats. Right?” Applejack countered, her eyebrow raised as the pegasus in question snorted, the grin growing further along her muzzle.

“Well yeah, but I’m going to get the most awesome one.”

Is it too late for me to reconsider if they’re actually idiots or not?

Watching as Applejack sighed at her friend’s rebuttal, Chrysalis instead clicked her tongue, looking up at Legend who looked rather confused about the whole thing.

“I’ll stay out here with Legend, so she doesn’t feel uncomfortable in the small space.” Chrysalis said, Twilight again looking thoughtful before sharing a glance with Applejack. The exchange, while curious, didn’t seem overly suspect in its nature as the mare soon smiled and nodded.

“Alright, that makes sense. Okay, I’ll get your ticket as well ~Ebony~.” Pausing for a second, Twilight then flicked an ear, looking around to see if anyone else was going to wait outside. The guards when looked upon simply nodding in response that seemed to answer Twilight’s unasked question. A glance was then given to Dinky and Derpy, the former of which gazed up at her mother while a small pout came to her face.

“Okay, you can stay out here with your friend sweetie. But will you be okay when I go get you some juice from inside?” Even as her daughter gave a small sound of approval, Derpy looked somewhat reluctant to leave her daughter alone. Granted, after what happened in the forest, Chrysalis really couldn’t say she blamed the mother. Gazing at Applejack, the mare smiled reassuringly to the pegasus, seeming to alleviate the uncertainty on Derpy’s face.

But, Chrysalis was finding herself less interested in what the ponies were doing and instead on something she saw across the platform. For opposite where they stood was a train. A train, that given the steam and smoke starting to issue from the chimney at the front, looked like it was about to depart.

Unable to believe her luck, she watched as the others trotted inside thus leaving a scant few on the platform with her and Legend.

“Last call for Baltimare!”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Flicking her ears, Chrysalis gazed at the stallion standing before the train, the cap and vest identifying him as perhaps the porter or maybe even the conductor. In the end it didn’t really matter though. Through the All-Mother herself, or through sheer good luck, the train was going in the exact direction she required, back to the town that the whole series of events had started in.

Glancing over her shoulder, she saw the others had already headed inside and in turn, left her alone with Legend aside from three ponies and a filly. Granted, two of those were definite threats to her plan, while one was a bearer and thus an unknown threat, but one was merely a filly. Plus, as she noticed, Dinky was currently conversing with Applejack while the two guards watched on, no-one really paying any attention her way.

It’s now or never.

Realising her window of opportunity was at best a hoofful of seconds, Chrysalis needed to get Legend and herself onto that train as soon as she could. Gazing up at Legend, she saw the girl’s attention was on the other four, watching them quietly from where she stood. Dipping into her nectar, she risked casting a subtle spell, one that would divert attention away from herself and Legend. It was neither strong, nor fool proof, but she hoped it would buy her the precious few seconds needed.

How do I get her to follow me without having the others notice wha-

Struck by inspiration, she moved her head to gently bite down on Legend’s skirt, remembering when she had done a similar thing after their escape from Flim and Flam. In response the girl looked down, her eyes looking confused down at her before Chrysalis indicated with her head for them to go to towards the train. Trotting across the platform, she was rewarded with the sound of Legend quickly following behind causing her to release a breath she never remembered holding.

As she approached the green-haired stallion, she saw him eye Legend with no small amount of surprise, his hat almost falling off as he took a step backwards. Before he could speak, however, Chrysalis dug into her nectar. Now was not the time for subtlety, and although it went against her usual practices, she knew she needed to get on that train before they were noticed missing. All it would take is someone actively searching for them for the spell to be rendered all but useless.

“You don’t need any tickets today, do you? You’re going to let Legend and I on.” With a powerful compulsion spell linked into her words, she watched as the stallion struggled briefly against the hidden command as his eyes glowed green for but an instant. Moving his hoof in an almost mechanical fashion, he gestured then for them to enter, Chrysalis quickly moving into the carriage while she sensed Legend was close behind.

“Enjoy your trip, miss.”

Hearing the comment from behind signifying that the spell had fully taken root, Chrysalis repressed a smirk at her own ingenuity. Leading the way further into the cabin she heard the whistle sound, and, with it, the rocking motion signalling the train was about to get underway. It seemed, against all the odds, she was about to do the impossible.

She had managed, with a stroke of incredible luck, to slip not only herself, but also Legend out from under the Bearers noses. Not only that, but she was on her way back to the hive, all without having to fight and with no-one the wi-

“S-Should we be on this train?”

Trying to hide how much the question had startled her, Chrysalis looked behind her to see a confused, yet inquisitive-looking Dinky.

Oh, of course it was too easy. Silly me.

Noticing that only the filly had followed them, she let go of the spell she had been about to release, one that would probably have caused significant harm to the little unicorn. Although she knew Dinky posed no real threat, she still desired not to be followed, especially if someone had seen the filly board the train as well.

“You shouldn’t be on the train, now quick, before it leaves.” Waving her hoof for emphasis, she found her balance almost thrown off as the train lurched, starting to move down the rails.


Realising that there was nothing for it now, Chrysalis released a sigh as the filly started to look distraught, obviously now noticing the train was moving, and thus, there was no way to disembark. It was unfortunate that one of them had followed, but given it was only the filly it would be easy enough to give her the slip once they reached Baltimare.

Gazing back at Legend, she saw her friend had moved to sit at a window seat, her eyes moving from looking outside to gazing back at both herself and Dinky.

I can’t believe that worked. I mean, other than the whole unwanted tagalong and all.

Relief filled Chrysalis as the tension began to bleed out of her body, the fact they were underway, that they had evaded the others; it was all just such a huge weight off her shoulders. Now all she had to do was get to Baltimare and somehow sneak Legend to the hive. Comparing that task to what she had just been through, well, unless there were any more unforeseen issues it was going to be relatively easy all things considered.

Of course, as the fates would have it, it was at that point that the cabin doors opened to reveal a rather irritated-looking Applejack. The mare’s nostrils flaring as she first looked at the upset-looking Dinky, then at the confused-looking Legend. Finally the eyes settled back onto Chrysalis, the mare’s brows lowering as she took a step forward.

“Just what’n the hay do you think yer doin’?”

Now knowing that she hadn’t gotten away quite as cleanly as she thought, Chrysalis caught movement outside the window, craning her neck to see the others running along the platform. Ignoring the range of expressions – from confusion, anger, and anguish – she noted that two were absent from the impromptu sprint, two very distinctive armour-clad stallions. Realising through a quick series of deductions that could only mean they were on the train with her, Chrysalis inwardly groaned at this revelation.

Tasting the anger directed her way from the Stetson wearing pony, Chrysalis glanced back at Legend for a moment prior to flicking an ear at the sound of metallic hoofsteps. Looking towards the clearly infuriated Applejack, Chrysalis realised that her trials were far from over. While in no way was the situation as dire as it was moments ago, she still knew the whole thing was far from perfect.

At the sight of Swift Dawn standing in the cabin doorway, one eyebrow raised in silent question, Chrysalis summed her thoughts up in the only way she knew how.