Six Queens

by Princess OtakuGeek

First published

The Mane Six suddenly find themselves changeling queens ruling over Chrysalis's hive.

Months after Chrysalis's attack on Canterlot, Twilight and her friends are turned into changelings. And not just any changelings. Royal changelings. Royal changelings who've now inherited what's left of Chrysalis's swarm.

The cover was suggested by a friend and was made by 0ravensrequiem0


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The sun hung high over the sky. At this time of day, the subterranean tunnels of Chrysalis' hive would normally be filled with activity. Instead a tense resigned silence blanketed the hive as the changelings found themselves unable to do anything out of anxiety for the future. In her bedchamber, Queen Chrysalis took slow rasping breaths. After they had been violently ejected following the Canterlot invasion, many of her soldiers had been injured or killed. Chrysalis on the other hoof had sustained internal injuries that even her best healers couldn't fix. At best they had only soothed her pain and prolonged the inevitable. And now...

Chrysalis brought a hoof to her muzzle and coughed violently. Pulling her hoof away, she found it stained red and felt a small trickle in the corner of her mouth. 'So this is it.' The tension in the hive rose. Turning, she gazed out her window overlooking the badlands. She could practically feel the other queens on the edge of their thrones just waiting for her to croak so they could take her hive. Despite her pain, Chrysalis smirked.

'Wish I could see the looks on their faces when they see what I have in store.' She almost chuckled at the thought. ~Kormac, come.~ She called over the Hivelink

Instantly, a changeling entered his Queen's quarters and bowed. "I am here your highness."

Chrysalis nodded acknowledgment to her commander. "This is it for me Kormac." Her voice was raspy and weak but still held some power.

Kormac winced at this statement but didn't deny it, no matter how much he wanted it to be false. Chrysalis had no royal daughters to pass the crown on to when she died. Tartarus knew what would happen to them once she left them. He could think of several possible scenarios and all of them were unpleasant.

"Rise Kormac." Chrysalis commanded. "And don't count me out just yet. I don't plan on leaving the hive without a leader."

Kormac stood with a look of surprise that quickly morphed into a hopeful look. Chrysalis smiled and continued. "I may be a lot of things, but I don't plan on leaving my changelings to the mercy of those old hags."

Kormac sighed with relief and many of the other changelings relaxed a little as well. "We thank you, Your Highness and shall serve our new queen to the best of our abilities."

Chrysalis's smile became a little mischievous. "And what are your feelings about six queens?"


Applejack paused her trot down the road that lead to Ponyville from her farm and glanced around. Some part of her felt like somepony was talking about her, but when she looked around she didn't see anyone. Applejack shivered then shrugged it off as best she could before continuing down the road.

It wasn't anything new for Applejack. For the last few months she'd been getting strange feelings that she couldn't explain. For example, she'd been feeling depressed, like she was a filly sitting by a loved one's deathbed, knowing that she couldn't stop the inevitable. At first she thought it would pass, but it didn't. Instead it got worse to the point where she just didn't want to do anything but wait. For what, she didn't know.

In addition, there was also a fear of the future. Like everything would change when this pony died. And she had no clue why she was feeling like this. It worried and annoyed her since it was interfering in her work. On the bright side, Applejack felt a sudden loss of that fearful feeling. The sadness was still there sure, but now she felt some hope that things would get better. Applejack smiled and continued her walk cheerfully, completely unaware of what the future held.


"If I may be so bold your highness, where might these heirs be found?" Kormac asked.

Chrysalis got out a few chuckles before she started coughing wetly again. "In due time." She finally rasped. "Once I've passed on, you'll be able to find them. Which brings me to the reason why I called you here."

Kormac nodded and stood at attention. "Whatever your will, it shall be done."

Chrysalis nodded. "I want you all to abandon the hive."

Kormac stumbled in shock. "Abandon the hive?!"

Chrysalis nodded. "That's right. Once my body is buried, I want every male, female and nymph to gather what we can and leave the hive."

Kormac was flabbergasted, a sentiment shared across the Hivelink. This hive has been their home for countless generations, and now we are to leave it? A dozen questions floated through Kormac's head, but only one was voiced. "Why?"

Chrysalis was silent for a moment before answering. "This whole time I've been thinking about how things went wrong at invasion. It's all I can do. And I've come to the realization that it was my pride and our foolish ways that got good changelings killed. Things need to change. And the queens I've chosen are just the ones to do that. They have potential, I know it."

Komac nodded. Regardless of reasons or doubt, they would fulfill this request. "And where would we go?"

"Go to your new queens."

"Wouldn't they come here?"

Another coughing chuckle. "They won't know how or when to get here. And if the throne sits vacent for too long, the other queens will descend upon here like vultures to carrion." She grimaced as thoughts of what the other queens would do to her changelings floated through her mind.

"How do we find them?"

"The link will guide you. Follow it, no matter where it points."

Kormac put a hoof to his chest and bowed. "By your will, it shall be done." He said before straightening. Silence descended on the room, broken only by Chrysalis's rasping breaths.

"Kormac?" She whispered.

"Yes your highness?"

"Would you stay with me until the end?"

Kormac moved to sit by the side of the queen's bed and placed a hoof on hers. "Of course Chrysalis."

Chrysalis smiled as a soft melody hummed through the Hivelink. No words needed to be exchanged.


"Hello! Equestria to Applejack. You there?"

"Huh?" Applejack almost jumped at the sudden appearance of a certain pink pony in her face.

"There you are!" Pinkie proclaimed triumphantly as Applejack focused her attention on the pink pony.

"You seem a little distracted darling." Rarity said with concern in her voice. "Is everything alright?"

Applejack looked down at the table as she tried to figured out how to word her thoughts. "Truth be told, Ah ain't sure."

Her friends frowned at her in concern. "You can tell us what's wrong." Twilight prompted.

"Yeah!" Pinkie Pie confirmed joyfully. "We're all here for ya!"

Applejack paused a moment before spilling. "It might be nothing, but lately I've been feeling sad even when ah'm happy."

Pinkie suddenly gasped and jumped onto the table to lean into Applejack's face. "Like somepony is really hurt and going to die but you can't do anything except sit and wait and it's getting real close to that moment?"

"Uh, yeah. Exactly like that. How'd ya know?" Applejack asked curiously.

"Cause I've been feeling that too." Pinkie deflated a little and settled into her chair. "And it's really been throwing me off my game."

"I must admit I've been feeling the same." Rarity admitted. "So has Fluttershy. She told me about it at our last spa visit." The pegasus in question nodded confirmation.

"I've been feeling it too." Twilight admitted. "I haven't been able to focus in the last couple of weeks because of it."

"Yeah, I've been feeling it too." Rainbow Dash admitted. "Don't know what it is, but I've crashing more than I'd like to these past couple of weeks because of it."

Twilight looked around the table in surprise. "All of have been feeling this?" Surprised nods all around.

"Well at least now Ah know Ah ain't crazy." Applejack said with relief.

"Too true." Rarity agreed.

"And here I was thinking it was just me." Twilight said. "But since we're all feeling it, I'd say there's something going on. Some magic malady or something."

"Is it dangerous?" Fluttershy asked.

"Not sure. So far it's been relatively harmless, but now that I know that something's up I can perform a magic scan."

"But first, I think some tea and snacks will do us good." Rarity suggested before calling out for a waiter.


True to his word, Kormac stayed with his queen the entire day, soothing her or catering to her needs. All through the day Chrysalis drifted in and out of sleep as her breathing grew more ragged and shallow. Then around evening, as Chrysalis stared at the sunset out her window, she took a deep breath then released it as a sigh, smiling gently. She didn't breathe in again. Kormac sighed sadly and reached up to close her unseeing eyes. Wails of sorrow echoed through the tunnels and Hivelink.


'Well that was a waste of a day.' Applejack thought grumpily. After tea, they'd gone to the library where Twilight cast her spell. When it came up clean, they thought it would be a good idea to check in with the doctor. The rest of the day was spent going through various tests only for them to all come up clean. Since it wasn't a serious condition, the doctor had released them advising them to relax and get some rest.

Applejack didn't have anything against the doctor, but after an entire day of answering questions and getting needles stuck in places she'd rather not name, she felt like jamming something painful where Celestia's sun doesn't shine.

'At least it's a pretty sunset.' She thought as she gazed and the reddening sky and for a moment she felt happy. Then suddenly she froze like she was rooted in place. And then drops of liquid wet the dirt between her hooves. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky.


Rainbow had been reading Daring Do, when suddenly the book fell from her hooves as tears streamed down her face.


Rarity had been serving her sister some soup when she froze, dropping her ladle back into the pot with a splash. The younger sister cocked her head and walked up to see her sister staring straight ahead with a blank look and pupils the size of pinpricks, tears pouring down her cheeks. Instead of saying anything, Sweetie Belle wrapped her hooves around her sister's leg and gave her a hug.


There was a clatter and Fluttershy's animals turned to their caretaker. Fluttershy stood there, stockstill before collapsing into a sobbing heap. At first they were shocked and surprised; even Angel had been acting better since the pegasus started getting depressed. Still not sure what was wrong, Angel pulled out a comb and settled on her back as he combed her mane gently.


Pinkie Pie had been in her room bouncing when she suddenly froze in mid-air then sat down. Eyes watering, her mane deflated entirely and she then she unleased a waterfall of tears.


"Twilight?" Spike asked the unicorn cautiously.

*Sniff* "Yes Spike?"

"Why are you crying?"

"I *hic* have no idea."


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Rainbow Dash's eyes cracked open and she let out a moan. 'Ugh, what happened?' She groaned then turned her memory to last night. She remembered she had been reading the newest Daring Do book when heart wrenching sadness hit her with the force of a train and suddenly she was crying herself to sleep on her couch. If the past two weeks had been all about some pony dying, then they probably died last night. She sighed and got up. As she prepared and ate breakfast Rainbow Dash noticed something else. She wasn't depressed anymore.

'That's it? Huh. Wasn't too bad.' She stretched her wings out only to find them incredibly stiff and sore. 'Agh. Guess I must've slept on them wrong. Nothing a little flying won't cure.'


Chrysalis had been put in a clear crystalline green coffin for her burial. As the drones lowered her to her resting place, all was quiet. There was nothing to say that hadn't already been shared across the link. She looked so peaceful she could be sleeping; but with her gaping absence in the Hivelink, no one was fooled. Once the gravestone was in place, the changelings began to gather everything they could. They already had a general direction. It was faint, but growing stronger by the second. The presence of their queens shone like a beacon on the Hivelink, and they were going to meet them no matter what.


Applejack woke to a piercing headache like something was trying to drill into her skull. And it wasn't just her head; her entire body was stiff and sore. She moaned and thought back to last night. When she'd suddenly been assaulted by that wave of intense sadness, she hadn't been too far from home. After shedding a couple of tears, she pulled it together just long enough to get back home, run upstairs and bury her face in a pillow before releasing the floodgates.

'At least I don't feel depressed anymore.' She thought, trying to put a positive spin on what had been the worst two weeks of her life. Now if only she didn't have this headache.

For a moment, some part of her wanted to lay there all day, but she pushed that thought away. There was work to do and she was already behind due to her depression. Pushing herself upright, she ignored her spinning head as she made her way out of her room on stumbling hooves. While she walked down the stairs, Granny Smith looked up from her pot of apples and oats and frowned at her grand daughter's unsteady hoofsteps. Big Mac and Applebloom looked equally concerned but none of them said anything as they settled at the table.

"Applejack." The mare in question looked up from her oats and at her grandmother.

"Yes Granny?"

"You alright there?" She asked in concern. "Y'all look a little unsteady there."

"Ah'm fine. Jus' a little headache. Should pass eventually."

Granny Smith stared at her in concern. "Applejack, maybe y'all shouldn't be buckin' today."

"WHAT?! But what about mah chores?!"

"Big Mac an' Applebloom can take care of them. I however am a mite more concerned 'bout you."

"It's jus' a small headache." Applejack defended. "Like Ah said, it'll pass."

"When ya come stumbling in like that, ah'm inclined ta believe it's a mite bigger than ya make it ta be."

Applejack blushed a little. "Uh, maybe." She admitted.

"Mmhmm." Granny hummed firmly.

"But how can ah jus' lay in bed when everypony else is workin'?"

Granny's expression softened. "Applejack honey." She said as she put a hoof on her grand daughter's. "There ain't no shame in admittin' ya can't do something. Remember that Applebuck season when Big Mac got himself hurt and y'all had ta tackle those fields alone? Y'all pushed herself hard day and night and all it brought was grief."

Applejack blushed when she remembered that Applebuck season. She'd launched Rainbow Dash into the library. Nearly poisoned half the town. And had started a bunny stampede. Not her finest moments. In the end she gave in and let her friends help her and the rest of the season had ended nicely.

Applejack squirmed in her seat. "But ah'm not doin' mah part!"

"Oh Applejack. Y'all can always get on yer chores later. But fer now, Ah want ya ta rest."

Applejack hesitated a moment longer before capitulating. "Alright. Ah'll do it for you Granny."

Granny Smith smiled. "That's all ah'm askin'. Now finish up yer breakfast then Big Mac can help ya up tha' stairs before gettin' on tha' chores."

"Eeyup." Big Mac agreed.

Applejack wanted to argue that she didn't need any help getting upstairs, but couldn't find the energy. Once her oats were done she let Big Mac lead her up. She almost fell back down twice and, by the time they were in the hallway, she was sweating and leaning on her brother for support. She was out like a light before she hit the pillow.


"Are you sure you're alright?" Sweetie Belle asked her sister, remembering last night's events. Rarity had cried all through the night, leaving Sweetie to coax her upstairs to her room before serving herself some soup.

"Of course I'm fine." Rarity said as she worked. "What makes you think I'm not?"

"Well, you did cry an awful lot last night."

"Yes." Rarity replied a little briskly but without hostility. "I remember."

"What was that all about anyways?"

"I have absolutely no idea." Rarity said. "All I know is that I was suddenly feeling like I was being hit by a freight train of sadness. The kind of sadness one feels when a loved one dies."

"And your sure you don't need to see the doctor? Or Twilight?"

"In due time." Rarity soothed the filly. "But for now it can wait a little. Right now I need to make some head way on these designs. I've been putting them off for too long thanks to that little bout of depression."

Sweetie didn't say anything. Instead she sat and watched Rarity work. As she watched her sister work, she squinted and leaned forward as though she noticed some small detail. After a bit, Rarity found herself growing uncomfortable under the scrutinizing gaze.

"Sweetie Belle, is there something wrong?" She finally asked.

"Hmmm. I could be wrong, but you look a little darker than usual."

"What!?" Rarity exclaimed and lifted a hoof to examine. Her sister was right. The skin under her coat was indeed darker than usual and she swore she saw indents.

"And is it me, or are you a also bit taller than usual."

Rarity snapped her head up, immediately noticing her subtly increased height. Suddenly Rarity's head spun and darkness began to push in around the corners of her vision. As she moved towards her bed, she idly thought about how fortunate she was that that she had the foresight to work in her bedroom instead of her workroom. As the darkness crowded her vision, her last thought was, 'at least I made some good headway on the design.'


Twilight had never heard of a magic malady like this. After her night of tears, Twilight had spent her morning sifting through all her books on magic maladies, curses and more.

"Hey Twi!" Rainbow announced her presence as she burst in. Twilight slammed her book shut and turned to the pegasus. There wasn't anything helpful anyways.

"Hey Rainbow." She greeted. "Did you enjoy your book?"

"Didn't get far unfortunately." Rainbow admitted a little sadly. "Do you have a book on wing pains?"

Twilight cocked her eyebrow a little surprised. "Any reason why?"

"I slept on my couch wrong and woke up with stiff wings. I thought some flying would fix them up, but they're just worse."

"Shouldn't you just talk to a doc- wait, you slept on your couch?"

"Yeah, I was kinda sitting there reading my book when suddenly I felt so sad I cried myself to sleep right there."

"You too huh?"

Rainbow's eyes widened. "You felt it too?"

"Pretty much. And I don't doubt that the others did too."

Rainbow gasped. "Fluttershy! Sorry Twi, but I gotta-"

"No need to apologize. I completely understand. Just let me know how she is later, Kay?"

Rainbow grinned. "Thanks Twi! You're the best!" And with that, she was gone in a prismatic blur.

Sighing indulgently, Twilight began to turn back to her books when she heard a second familiar voice shout out her name. "Hey Twilight!"

Twilight jumped at Pinkie's sudden appearance right next to her. "Hey Pinkie. What can I do for you?"

"No idea!" She said cheerfully as she bounced up to the shelf.

"Uh, what?"

"I have absolutely no idea!" She repeated.

"Then why are you here?"

"Because my ears are twitchy and my knee is pinchy and that usually means go see Twilight."

"You have a combo for me specifically?" Twilight asked a little skeptically.

"Uh-huh. At first I thought it was pie day since my hooves are sore and my joints are achey, but then I remembered my Pinkie Sense doesn't have sore hooves and achey joints."

"Shouldn't you go see a doctor then?"

"I normally would, but my Pinkie Sense says I need to be here. By the way, why is the room spinning?"


"Yeah, I mean it feels like everything is spinning around and around like a Merry go Round, only different."

It was then that Twilight saw that her friend was unsteady on her hooves and instantly stepped close so Pinkie could lean on her as she guided her up the stairs. The moment Pinkie Pie was next to her bed, she blacked out and collapsed on the mattress. Just as she tucked her friend in however, the room began to spin as darkness began to press into her vision. She only had enough time to call out for Spike before fainting.


"Fluttershy, open up! You in there?"

Fluttershy set down her cup of tea and walked towards the door. Just outside door stood Rainbow Dash giving her a studying look before looking into the house though the wide open door. On the table was a teapot and a cup of tea. And all over the floor were used tissues. Rainbow turned to Fluttershy and nodded.

"So you've been crying all night too." She stated.

"How did you know?" She asked as she let her friend in.

"Cause I was crying too. Also I talked to Twilight and she was crying too. I think it's safe to say the others did too."

"Oh my." She whispered as she closed the door.

"I know." Rainbow agreed. "So, are you okay?"

Fluttershy smiled and nodded. "Mmhmm. Angel helped me calm down and get into bed. Then he finished feeding the others. Would you like some tea?"

"Usually I'd say no, but why not? Sure. I'd like some tea."

As Rainbow Dash settled at the table, Fluttershy went into the kitchen to get a second cup. When she came back, her friend was furiously scratching her back and wings.

"Rainbow, are you okay?" She asked in concern as she set the teacup down.

"At this point, I'm not completely sure. When I woke my wings were sore. I thought I'd slept wrong and that a little bit of flying would do me some good. Except it got worse and now I'm itching like mad. I think I might need to see a doctor."

As her friend explained, Fluttershy poured her some tea. When she finished, Fluttershy leaned to the side and spotted some blue feathers on the ground behind Rainbow. "You're also dropping some feathers." She observed quietly.

Rainbow whipped her head around and cursed at the discarded feathers. "Dangit! Scratch that, I definitely need a doctor!"

"You wouldn't mind if I came along too, do you?"

Rainbow gave her a quizzical look, bordering on concern. "Why? Everything okay?"

"Since this morning, I've been having a headache. At first it was small, so I thought it would go away. But it's been getting worse and worse and now the"

"The room is what?" Was all Rainbow got out before Fluttershy's head dropped to the table. Alarmed, Rainbow Dash started to surge forward only to stagger as she was hit with a wave of vertigo. "Shy!? You...oh...kay?" Was all she got out before collapsing to the floor.

Angel bunny stared at the two passed out pegasi in concern before turning to get backup. He didn't see the feather that detached itself from Fluttershy's wing and floated to the ground.


Granny Smith rubbed a cool wet cloth across Applejack's face. After she'd finished cleaning up breakfast, she'd gone upstairs to check on her grand daughter. When she got upstairs, she found Applejack tossing, turning and sweating buckets. A quick touch to her forehead told her that Applejack was also running a fever. She'd then gathered some clean cloths and a bowl of cold water. As she ran her soaked cloth across Applejack's forehead, Granny Smith paused when she felt something different. Lifting the cloth, she saw a lump in the center of her grand daughter's forehead. And it was growing.

'Well that's different.'


When he'd heard Twilight call his name, Spike immediately rushed to her side just in time to catch her as she fainted. Since her bed was already occupied, Spike moved Twilight to the guestroom bed. As Spike mopped up Twilight's forehead, he noticed that her horn was growing longer and more twisted.

'That can't be good.'


As Sweetie Belle tended to her sister, she saw that her coat was coming off in chunks, as the skin beneath it was getting harder and darker. Not to mention the white coloration that was creeping up her mane from the roots and the indents in her hooves that were getting deeper and deeper.

'Oh, this is bad.' She thought as another chunk came out. 'Rarity's going to freak when she wakes up.'


Angel bunny gently wiped Fluttershy's forehead. After her and her friend had fainted, the rabbit had gotten Mr. Bear to help him tuck Fluttershy into her bed and Rainbow Dash on the couch. Now, the animals were dealing with two feverish pegasi shedding feathers everywhere. With almost all of her feathers gone, Angel was more than a little concerned for Fluttershy. And now both of their coats were going.

'Whatever's going on, it better stop.' His plea was in vain.


Rarity stirred and blinked her eyes open. Her room was darker than she remembered. At first she thought it was later in the day than when she first fell asleep, but then she saw a sliver of sunlight stretched across the room and deduced that the curtains had been drawn. The next thing that she saw as she pushed herself upwards was Sweetie Belle smiling at her like she'd just been caught with her hoof in the cookie jar.

Since there was a lack of smoke or fire alarms and the room was still in one piece, Rarity decided to file away her greeting for later since there were a few more pressing matters to attend to. As she climbed out of bed, there was a stiff soreness all over but it dissipated as she stretched herself.

"Hey Rarity." Sweetie said. "How do you feel? Did you sleep well?"

"As well as one can. How long was I out?"

"A few hours." Sweetie answered quickly.

"Hmm. That long? Well, I do believe that you're right. I probably should go see the doctor." She moved towards the door, only to be intercepted by a grinning Sweetie Belle.

"Oh, there's no need for that anymore."

"Sweetie darling, I may not be a doctor but even I'm sure that anything that knocks me out for a few hours is reason for a visit to the hospital."

"But what if what you had ran it's course while you were asleep and now you're all better and don't need to go to the hospital?" Sweetie Belle suggested with a smile.

Rarity leaned down and studied her sister, not noticing the abrupt difference in height. Her eyes narrowed at the tiny beads of nervous sweat for a minute before she spoke. "Sweetie Belle, is there something I ought to know?"

Sweetie briefly considered lying, but as she stared into those firm eyes, she knew she couldn't lie to her sister. Her smile dropped and she shuffled her hooves as she tried to think of a way to put it tactfully.

"Well, um, while you were asleep, you had a fever and sweating."

"Is that why you don't want me to go out? Sure I'll need to take a shower and brush before going out, but if that's it-"

"That's not it exactly." Sweetie interrupted. "While you were out, you kinda changed."

"Changed? Changed how?"

Sweetie bit her lip. Here was the most delicate part. "Um, I think you'll need to look in the mirror for this."

Rarity cocked an eyebrow and walked towards the mirror as she talked. "Very well. But I highly doubt I could've changed so....dramatically."

Rarity froze the moment her eyes landed on her refection and Sweetie Belle pulled out her earmuffs in preparation of what was to come.


Twilight groaned as she came to. The was a sore stiffness in her limbs, but that was quickly disappearing. 'Something feels different.' She thought. For a moment she was confused when she saw she wasn't in her bedroom, but that quickly melted away when she recognized the guest room. 'Of course. Pinkie's in my bed. Spike must've brought me in here. Speaking of Pinkie....'

She began to push herself up so she could check on her friend when she felt Spike's claw on her shoulder. "I'd stay still for a bit if I were you." Spike said in a worried voice.

"Spike." She said before yawning. "How's Pinkie?"

Spike fidgeted. "She's....fine. Bout as fine as you are."

"Oh good." She sighed and began to get up again only to be gently pushed down by Spike once more. Twilight quirked a eyebrow. "Spike I'm fine now. Just need to check in with the doctor and everything will be okay."

"I'm not sure if I'd use that word just yet."

"Why? And was the guest room bed always so small?"

"Not exactly; and you may need to stay sitting for a moment." Spike then pulled out a tall mirror with the back faced to Twilight. "Just try not to freak out." Was all he said before he flipped it around. Twilight froze at the reflection and Spike jammed ear plugs into his ears.


In Twilight's bed, Pinkie twitched before leaping out of bed with a shout. "CUPCAKES!"

"Who!?" Pinkie turned at the startled hoot and spotted Owlowiscious flapping his wings to regain his balance on his perch.

"Oh hey Owlowiscious!" Pinkie greeted him with a smile. "Sorry I startled you. Were you waiting for me?"

"Who!" Came the reply as the owl shook his ruffled feathers.

"Well good morning to you! Or is afternoon?"


"That late huh? Welp, I better get going!" Before she could trot out however, her face was suddenly filled with feathers as Owlowiscious flew in front of her face and herded her back into the bedroom.

"Who! Who! Who!"

"Hey! What's going on?"


"Well why can't I leave?"

Owlowiscious flew to the mirror that Pinkie was certain hadn't been in the room when she passed out and tapped on the glass insistently. "Who!"

"You want me to look in the mirror?" Pinkie asked.

"Who." Owlowiscious confirmed.

Pinkie Pie shrugged and began to walk over to the mirror. "Well okay then. But I'm not sure what could be so urgent I can't.....leave." Pinkie Pie froze at her refection and Owlowiscious immediately evacuated to the next room.


Applejack woke to find her headache gone. There was a dull throbbing and she felt a little stiff, but the throbbing was quickly fading and there is no better cure for soreness than a good stretch and a day's work. As she stretched, she noticed a couple of new details in her room that hadn't been their earlier: her curtains had been drawn and there was a bowl of strange orange liquid at her bedside. But she didn't dwell on these differences and grabbed her Stetson of the bedside table before going downstairs.

As she walked down the stairs, she banged her head on the first floor. Applejack frowned. Wasn't she always just below that? No matter. She'd think about that after chores.

"Applejack?" Applejack paused her journey to the door and turned to Granny Smith.

"Oh hey Granny." She greeted, not noticing the odd change in her voice. "Ah was jus' going out ta get started on my chores since mah headache is gone now."

Granny Smith didn't say anything at first. She just stared at Applejack for a time and it was then that Applejack noticed the hoof mirror her grandmother was holding glass down against her chest, making a part of her feel uneasy.

"Come here, Applejack." The older pony finally said before leading Applejack into the living room and settling into her rocking chair with the mirror pressed into her lap. "Sit." She said in a commanding tone. Applejack obeyed without question.

For a time they sat there, Applejack on the floor with Granny Smith in front of her studying her closely. As the seconds ticked by, Applejack began to squirm uncomfortably before finally speaking.

"Uh Granny, is somethin' wrong?" The question seemed to snap Granny Smith out of it and she sat back as though considering what to say to her grand daughter. Finally she picked up the mirror and held it, glass side down, towards Applejack.

"Y'all need ta look in here." She finally said. Applejack grasped the mirror, but before she could flip it, Granny continued. "But remember, no matter what you see in that mirror, you'll always be an Apple and my grand daughter."

Applejack pondered these words and for a moment was afraid to look. But she needed ta know the truth, so she steeled herself, flipped the mirror around, gazed into it and froze. Nothing could've prepared her for this. She was dimly aware of Granny Smith raising her hooves to her ears.


Fluttershy woke to find Angel sitting on the bed near her and waving. \Hey there.\ He said in bunny. \How are you feeling?\

Flutter smiled at his concern. "I'm feeling much better. Thank you for asking." Seeing that she was now in her own bed, Fluttershy guessed that Mr. Bear or Rainbow Dash had helped her into bed. "Rainbow Dash!" She suddenly remembered. The last thing she remembered was fainting while Rainbow was there.

\She's okay.\ Angel quickly said. \She fainted after you did, but she's doing fine now.\

"Oh dear." Fluttershy said as she began to get up from her bed. "I should go check on her."

\Uh, I think you've got bigger problems.\ Angel said as he pushed against her to prevent her from going anywhere.

Fluttershy cocked and eyebrow at him. "What do you mean?" She asked.

The white rabbit reached down the side of the bed and pulled up a mirror. \See for yourself.\ He said as he offered the mirror. The moment Fluttershy looked in the offered mirror she stiffened as Angel began jamming cotton in his ears.


Downstairs on the couch, Rainbow stirred, turned and nearly suffocated herself in the fur she jammed her muzzle into. After coughing and heaving, she finally steadied her breath and took a look at her surroundings. She was in Fluttershy's cottage, on her couch with a blanket wrapped around her. For a moment she wondered why she was in Fluttershy's cottage when she suddenly remembered what happened.

"Fluttershy!" She immediately jumped up....and rammed herself into a wall of thick fur. 'No, not a wall.' She thought once she regained her bearings. 'A bear.'

There, right next to her blocking her path was a huge brown bear. "You must be Mr. Bear, right?" She asked.

The bear snorted and nodded.

"So you're Fluttershy's friend, right?"

Another nod.

"So, Fluttershy's okay, right?"

Yet another nod. Rainbow sighed in relief and dropped back to the couch. The bear gave a throaty roar that got her attention and fumbled with something too small for his paws. Rainbow Dash watched curiously, as the bear finally managed to get a handle on a small hoof mirror and offered it to her. Rainbow Dash picked up the mirror but didn't look.

"What's this for?" She asked the bear. Mr. Bear roared again and pointed to the glass.

"What, you want me to look at the glass?" A nod. Rainbow shrugged. She already knew she was awesome. The second she glanced at the mirror however, her train of thought exploded as she froze, staring at her reflection. Mr. Bear ducked and put his paws over his ears while the other animals evacuated.


All over Ponyville and Sweet Apple Acres, six simultaneous screams rocked the foundations of all the buildings and several timber wolves howled at the sound.


Hundreds of miles away an entire hive was immediately staggered or dazed by the torrent of emotions that poured into them through the Hivelink, the primary emotions being shock and distress. And it all poured in from their future queens, which could mean only one thing: they were in trouble. The hive doubled their speed. It was now imperative to get to the queens.


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"WHAT THE HAY HAPPENED?!" Rainbow demanded to nopony in particular. After she and Fluttershy had screamed their piece, Rainbow had dashed into Fluttershy's room, picked her up and flew to the library at speeds Twilight didn't think possible with their new wings. And she wasn't the only one. As soon as Rarity and Applejack caught their breath, they also ran to the library at speeds only matched by Rainbow after a Sonic Rainboom. Nopony could blame them.

Twilight completed her breathing exercises and took stock of her friends. Altogether they'd become taller and more slender than normal, with holes in their hooves, crooked horns and draconic eyes, completely covered in black chitin save the backplate. Rainbow Dash's backplate was blue like her coat used to be and her mane and tail were still prismatic. Her wings were large twin sets that shone like a rainbow when the light hit them as the former pegasus hovered in the air while she paced in agitation.

Curled up in the corner was Fluttershy, her backplate yellow and her mane pink. Her eyes were still turquoise and her wings now pink and shaped like a butterfly's. Pinkie Pie, who was breathing into a paper bag, had a backplate the same color as her old coat and her mane and eyes hadn't changed. Her new wings were round and pink with sparkles. Applejack had an orange backplate and golden wings tinged with red. Rarity's transformation was the most interesting. Her back plate was still white like her coat had been, only now it was slightly shaded grey with a mother-of-pearl sheen and her mane had become a silvery white. Her wings were angled and sparkled blue like her cutiemark.

And speaking of cutiemarks...they still had theirs. Despite the sudden change in species, their cutiemarks remained emblazoned on their flanks. And at that moment it served as a sort of reassurance that helped Twilight gather her thoughts back together and look at herself once more. Her own backplate was violet and her mane remained the same as well as her eyes. Her own wings were large and indigo in color. As she gazed at her wings, a sudden thought occurred. None of their wings were tattered like the changeling Queen's had been.

Suddenly, Twilight's eyes widened.

"Ah know that look Twi." Applejack's voice drew her back to the present. "You've figured it out, haven't ya?"

In an instant, Twilight found her vision crowded by her friends' hopeful faces. She backed up several paces. "I'm not so sure I've got it completely figured out-" She started.

"But you do have a cure, right?" Rarity asked desperately as she shoved herself back into Twilight's face.

"Now let's not get ahead of ourselves." Twilight said as she pushed her friend back. "It's a theory, but I'm almost certain that the changeling queen is involved somehow. It's possible that she might've even done something to us."

"But, you can reverse it, right?" Fluttershy asked hopefully. "You can fix this, right?"

"I don't even know what she did! Or if it's even reversible." Fluttershy wilted at Twilight's answer.

"Well then, I guess we'll just have to track that queen down and make her turn us back." Rainbow suggested, pounding her hooves together for emphasis.

"That's certainly an option." Twilight said in a calm placating tone. "But we wouldn't even know where to look and it's been months since the invasion. She could be anywhere by now. So for now, it'll have to be a long term goal."

"Fine." Rainbow folded her forelegs and slumped in disappointment.

"So what's tha plan till we get there?" Applejack asked.

"For starters, we're all going to take a deep breath and calm down." Twilight was surprised at how well she slipped into the leadership role. "Once we're done with that, we're sending a letter to Princess Celestia detailing our situation."

The others nodded. "And then what?" Pinkie asked.

"Then, we're going to tear through every book here in the library until we find something."


Celestia inhaled and sighed. She really enjoyed these moments. After a long morning of ruling a country, it felt good to sit down and enjoy a peaceful lunch with her sister. As she sipped her tea, a movement in the corner of her eye drew her attention to the curl of magical golden smoke that heralded the arrival of a letter from her student. Once the scroll manifested, she deftly caught it in her magic and pulled it near to read. She always enjoyed reading Twilight's friendship reports.

As she read the letter however, her eyes bulged and she spit her tea right into Luna's face. As her sister read her letter, Luna summoned a guard with supplies to wash her face. By the time she was done, Celestia lowered her letter and stared ahead in thought.

"I may not know everything about modern table etiquette, but I am fairly certain that spitting one's drink into another's face is considered rude." Luna lightly teased. "Is there something troubling thy mind?"

Celestia didn't say anything, instead passing the letter to her sister to read. As she read, Luna's eyes widened in shock before gradually settling into a curious look. Finally she lowered the scroll and stared ahead as she tried to put the pieces together.

"How is this possible?" She finally asked. "The power and magic needed to completely change anyone's genetic makeup within any time frame should be impossible, even for us. How did the changeling queen accomplish such a task?"

Celestia shook her head. "I have no idea. But then we know very little about changelings, much less their magic. In any case sister, it would appear as though we have much work to do."


Twilight sighed morosely and slammed her book shut before flinging it onto the huge pile of books. "That was a dead end." She said. "What about you guys?" Several sounds of denial followed by flying books was her only answer. She slumped to the ground in depression. Those were the last six books in the library.

"Guess we're just going to have to get used to this." Rainbow sighed as she sank to the ground.

"Don't count us out just yet." Twilight pointed out. "My library isn't filled with every book ever written. The Canterlot library, is one of the biggest and most grand libraries in Equestria. The Crystal Empire library is most definitely the oldest. And if neither of those is enough, there are dozens more in Equestria not to mention the lands beyond. I think it's a little early to be throwing in the towel."

As she spoke, Rainbow and the others found their spirits lift. "Yeah." Rainbow agreed with strength. "And let's not forget, if all that doesn't work out, we've still got a certain changeling queen to pound into the dirt. Heck, I may punch her just because she did this in the first place!"

Before anyone else could agree however, a loud belch was heard in another room. Every pony looked up as Spike entered the room, scroll in claw. Twilight instantly lifted it out of his claws, opened it and began to read.

My Dearest student Twilight Sparkle,

As you can imagine, my sister and I are deeply concerned about your newest predicament and would like to help you as best we can. And, given the nature of this matter, some discretion is most definitely called for. When you are ready, touch the seal and you and your friends will be teleported directly to Canterlot.

Hoping for safe travels to you all.

"So..." Twilight said at length. "What do you think?"

"Ah say we take her up on her offer." Applejack supplied. "Maybe she can fix this before we have ta go tearing through every library known."

"I know." Twilight said. "I'm just a little anxious about appearing before Celestia like this."

"Darling, we've already filled her in on the problem. The only thing that would surprise her if we showed up wearing polka dots and plaid." Pinkie giggled at Rarity's analogy and opened her mouth to suggest something before Rarity cut her off. "No we will not show up in polka dots and plaid."

Pinkie wilted a little. "Awww."

"Besides, if anyone can fix this, it's the princesses." Rainbow added confidently.

That gave Twilight some courage. "So we're all agreed?" Every pony nodded. Twilight took a deep breath and released it. "Well then, to Canterlot it is." She touched the seal in question and they all vanished, leaving Spike alone with every book in the library in a daunting pile.

The little dragon gulped before steeling himself and rolling up his metaphorical sleeves. "Well, may as well get started."


The teleportation was rougher that it usually would be. Even when she felt like hurling, Twilight's analytical side idly suspected that it was because of the change in species. A species ponies knew almost nil about. After what felt like hours, but was in fact only seconds, Twilight found herself crumpled at the bottom of a tangled pile of limbs trying to not hurl on the carpet beneath her.

"TWILY!!" Before she could even begin to disentangle herself from her friends, she was nearly deafened by the sound of a stallion shouting out her nickname. Before she could match the familiar voice to its owner, Twilight found herself yanked out of the pile and pulled into a bone crushing hug that didn't help her teleportation sickness. It was all she could do to not throw up all over her BBBFF.

"It's great to see you too Shiny, but could you please let me go before I lose my lunch?" It was then that Twilight realized she hadn't eaten anything all day. Nevertheless, Shining Armor still released her and held her away from himself at arm's length. As Twilight gathered her senses and got her bearings, Shining Armor looked her over with scrutinizing gaze.

"Dangit Twi." He finally said. "When Celestia said you'd turned into a changeling, I almost didn't believe it. In fact, I initially thought it was some sort of prank. But she looked at me so seriously I knew it couldn't be a joke."

"Twilight!" Twilight found herself swept into a hug once more, only this time it was a bit more pleasant and less bone crushing.

"Hey Cadence," Twilight greeted as she returned the hug. "How've you been doing?"

"I should be asking you that!" Cadence exclaimed as she suddenly thrust her sister-in-law forward to look at her. "Are you feeling alright?"

"Sort of. You're not upset?" One of Twilight's fears had been how Cadence and Shining would react given their history with changelings.

"Why would I be upset?" Cadence asked.

"Wel...I thought you would freak know, your history with changelings."

"Oh Twilight." Cadence pulled Twilight close to her chest. "We're not upset with you. This isn't your fault."

"She's right." Shining confirmed as he placed his hoof on Twilight's withers. "Cadence and I are big enough ponies to not discriminate changelings in general just because of what their queen did. Especially if that changeling is my LSBFF."

"Which is exactly why we are here." Celestia's calm voice cut in. Now that Twilight had the chance to look around, she found that they'd been brought directly to Celestia's private study. While she'd been speaking with Shining Armor and Cadence, Celestia and Luna had helped disentangle her friends and get them on their hooves. A couple had actually thrown up into bags that they'd had on hoof just in case.

As Twilight joined her friends to make sure they were alright, Celestia looked them over with a sad eye. Suddenly her horn lit up and the six changelings were hit by a brief wall of golden light that made them stumble back a step and a small pinch was felt by them.

"What was that?!" Rainbow demanded.

Celestia smiled apologetically. "Apologies my little ponies." She said. "That was a powerful scanning spell designed to examine your body and magic. Sorry about the pinch."

"Fascinating." Luna whispered as she went over the information on a screen that she projected out her horn. "We knew that a spell capable of transforming one species to the other would be impressive, but now that I look at it, I hesitate to even call it a spell."

"But you can fix it, right?" Pinkie asked.

"Hmmm." Luna hummed as she and Celestia examined the information.

"That was a yes right?"

"Pinkie, give them some time ta look at it." Applejack said. They sat there in tense silence for several minutes as Celestia and Luna examined the info with expressionless faces. Finally Celestia pulled back.

"Impressive." She said.

"That means you can reverse it, right?" Twilight asked. Both of the royal sisters frowned.

"The sheer complexity of this is staggering." Celestia explained. "At some point while the queen was here you were all infused with some form of magic that latched onto your DNA."

"Wait. Wouldn't we have noticed ifn' there was somethin' there?" Applejack asked. "Jus yesterday Twilight cast a magic scanning spell on all of us an we were all tested at the hospital. Neither found anything' unusual."

"Not very surprising since scanning spells are designed to find active spells." Luna answered. "Not to mention by then it had been in your system for months and had quite literally become part of your DNA. Essentially, nothing would show up as wrong when there isn't anything wrong to begin with."

"What do you mean 'nothing wrong'? I'd say there's something wrong!" Rainbow exploded before Twilight yanked her back. She shot Rainbow a hard look before turning back to Luna.

"You said that my scanning spell didn't pick it up because it wasn't active, what do you mean by that?" Twilight asked.

"Quite right Twilight Sparkle." Luna said. "As you well know, scanning spells are designed to locate active spells, but are useless against inactive spells. From what I've deduced, you and your friends were exposed to this oddly complicated magic that latched onto your DNA and remained inactive until something triggered it."

"How exactly does that work?" Applejack asked.

"Imagine holding a compressed spring tightly in your hoof." Luna explained. Applejack nodded. "Now when one removes their hoof, what would happen to the spring?"

"It would spring outta mah hoof." Applejack answered simply.

"Exactly." Luna said with a smile. "However, I still have no idea how the changeling queen could activate the spell remotely. But then again, this is an entirely new field of magic we've never seen before."

"Yeah yeah we get it." Rainbow groaned in boredom as she floated off the ground. "There was some sort of freaky changeling magic in our systems and it changed us. Puhleeze tell us you can fix it?!"

Luna looked at Rainbow sadly and bit her lip. "I wish I could tell you all that we can, but we cannot."

"WHAT??!!" Was the shouted response of every pony except Celestia and Luna.

"Aside from the fact that we have absolutely no idea how changeling magic works," Luna began to explain. "And this is no ordinary transformation spell. You have each been transformed on such a level that even your magic has been altered. We were very lucky to even catch a glimpse of what magic perpetrated this. If we were to even attempt to reverse this, none of you would likely survive."

"So...we're stuck like this?" Rainbow asked, sinking to the ground. Luna nodded, hating to be the bearer of bad news. Silence permeated the room as that news sank in for the six changelings. A minute later, they started freaking out. Fluttershy started crying into Cadence's shoulder while Twilight slumped to the ground and began rocking as she went through various magic calculations as she tried to salvage the situation. Shining Armor sat nearby, rubbing his hoof up and down her withers as he futilely attempted to calm her down. Even as a changeling, her mane still started to stick out in all directions.

Rarity was in a similar state as she kept going on about how bugs are and never will be in season and Pinkie Pie was breathing through her paper bag so fast they were afraid it would pop. Rainbow Dash ground her teeth and stomped the ground so hard it cracked.

"YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!?" She shouted. "The Wonderbolts are never going to accept a changeling into their ranks!!!"

"We're gonna be changelings fer the rest of our lives and THAT'S WHAT YER CONCERNED ABOUT!?" Applejack exclaimed. She was trying to keep calm for her friends, but she was quickly cracking as well.

As Celestia and Luna attempted to comfort them, the door burst open and a unicorn rushed and saluted. "Your highness, there appears to be-" The guard halted the moment his eyes landed on the scene before him and crouched into a defensive position, his horn lighting up. "Your highnesses, please back away from the changelings."

Cadence only pulled Fluttershy closer while Shining moved nearer to Twilight. Celestia stepped forward and spread her wings in a protective manner in front of the changelings who didn't seem to notice the intrusion/threat. "At ease, Star Lance. These changelings are not a threat."

Star Lance hesitated. "Are you certain?"

Celestia glanced at the still gibbering Twilight and her equally inconsolable friends. "I am certain." She confirmed.

Star Lance straightened and defused his attack spell. "Very well, your highness. You of course realize we'll have to scan all of you for any influences."

"Of course Star Lance." Celestia replied evenly. "But for now you came to report something..."

"Of course your highness." Star Lance replied, having remembered the reason he'd come here in the first place. "Princess Celestia, there seems to be a large number of changelings gathered just outside of Canterlot."

That got everypony's attention fast. Celestia frowned.

"How many?" She asked.

"Much much more than were present at the invasion." Star Lance reported grimly.


Kormac stood atop a cloud overlooking Canterlot and stared down at the city with a confused frown.

"Commander, are we certain that our new queens are here?" Forzik asked. It was a redundant question of course since the Hivelink clearly told them they were here. Kormac didn't bother answering Forzik since he knew that the younger changeling was only asking because he was nervous at the thought of being near the Equestrian capital. Instead he focused on trying to figure out what was going on.

Since the initial burst of shock, distress and panic, their queens' emotions had been fluctuating from distress, to hopeful, to gradual despair, to soaring hope once more. Now they felt crushing hopelessness so intensely it was enough to make him and the rest of the hive fidget anxiously. Every part of Kormac screamed to rush to his Queens' aid, and he wasn't the onlyling feeling like that. But this was Canterlot. And not just Canterlot. According to the Hivelink, their queens were in Canterlot castle. The home of the Celestial Sisters. Kormac could tell they would need to tread lightly.

~I'm going down there to retrieve the queens.~ He called out over the Link. ~All those who wish to accompany me, say aye.~

Kormac received more than a thousand volunteers. It only took a moment for him to pick out a few. No need to antagonize the ponies. They only wanted their Queens. And by the Empress, they were going to get them.


Celestia frowned. True to Star Lance's report, there were indeed much more changelings than the invasion. But for some reason they weren't attacking. Instead, they were clustered together just outside of the city. Some sat on clouds while others milled about in the sky.

"Dangit that's alotta changelin's." Applejack muttered. "Why are they here?"

"Maybe the queen thinks that with us as changelings, we'll be out of commission." Rainbow suggested before snorting. "As if. After a day like today, I'm ready to kick some changeling flank."

"Even if that were so, it's not much of a battle strategy." Twilight remarked. "They aren't even attacking. They're just sitting there. Also if the changeling queen had this many changelings at her disposal, then why didn't she bring them to Canterlot in the first place?"

As she spoke, a hooful of the changelings broke off from the main group and began to approach the city. "It appears as though you may get your answers." Luna commented as the group landed.


Kormac and his chosen changelings landed in the courtyard in front of the castle and were immediately surrounded by guards. Glancing around at the ring of armed ponies, he quickly located a pegasus who appeared to be in command and took a step towards him.

"Soldiers of Equestria," he spoke in a commanding tone that surprised the ponies. "I ask that you stand down and allow us passage."

The soldiers bristled and the pegasus that the command had be directed at snorted. "As if we'd ever let you bug brains past." He retorted.

Kormac felt nothing but respect for the soldiers. Had he been asked by one whom he'd perceived as his enemy to stand down while they entered his hive, he would've denied them. Though probably not in the way this pegasus had. Respect or no however, Kormac and his fellow changelings still had a mission.

"As much as I respect you and your soldiers for doing their duty, we still have a mission to complete and we refuse to be denied. So once again I ask that you stand down and let us pass."

"And what kind of mission is that huh?" The pegasus countered. "The conquest and enslavement of ponykind? Go fly back to your stinking bug queen and tell them she'll never get Canterlot."

~Calm yourselves brothers.~ Kormac mentally spoke as he felt the others bristle at the insult leveled at their queen. ~We do not wish to start a fight unless necessary. ~ The others relaxed a little but a couple still eyed the guard. Kormac however was a little too busy analysing that grain of info. Insult aside, the pony had told him to fly back to his queen, meaning they had no idea what they had and Kormac wasn't planning on letting them know until he was certain his queens were safe.

"What we do is our business and our business alone." He stated calmly, though given the current situation, it was a flimsy reason.

"That ain't how it works buddy." The pegasus growled as he jabbed his spear towards Kormac. "Either you and your buddies leave." The guard briefly flicked his spear, gesturing towards the swarm. "Or we force you out." The other guards pressed closer, swords, spears and spells at the ready.

Kormac stood firm as his brethren pressed closer in a defensive position. "We are not leaving till we get what we came here for." He reinforced his statement with a stomp of his hoof.

The pegasus charged at him, spear at the ready. "THE HECK YOU ARE!!!" He shouted as he raised the spear to bring it down on Kormac's head. Kormac's horn flashed and he easily deflected the blow with a shield.

"If you wish to bring battle, then we shall fight to defend ourselves." He said calmly. ~Do not harm the ponies.~ He commanded his changelings. ~Defensive moves only. We have to trust that the rulers are more understanding than their soldiers.~

~YES SIR!~ Came the simultaneous reply from the others as they fended off their own guards.


Celestia sighed as the 'negotiations' dissolved. The group had watched and listened to the whole thing. Luna watched with interest as the changelings remained in a defensive circle, incapacitating any guards that charged them with minimal injury to the opposite party. Shining Armor had face hoofed at Lt. Wildfire's conduct during the talk, though he didn't fault the pegasus. Given the way changelings had been introduced to Equestria, any pony would be a little on edge. Especially the Royal Guard.

Twilight for her part was curious about the lead changeling. He stood tall and spoke with a calm placating tone, though his stance was a little guarded. And judging by how the others seemed to look to him, he must've been someone they respected or was in a position of authority. Or both. But the thing that piqued her interest the most was how they had reacted when the Lt. insulted their queen.

'They won't give much of a reaction when they themselves are insulted, but insult the queen and they look ready to fight.' She noted. 'Interesting. Agh! I wish Spike was here to take notes!'

"So what do you think Twi?" Rainbow asked as she hovered at eye level. "We going down there to kick some changeling flank or what?"

Twilight shot her friend a glare. "Rainbow! Weren't you paying attention at all?" She demanded.

"Kinda." Rainbow said with a shrug. "What I do know is the lings want something here in the castle but they ain't getting it."

"Let us not jump to conclusions just yet, Rainbow Dash." Luna cut in. "I say we go down there and cease this battle before it gets out of hoof. Then ask the changelings what they wish of us."

"Agreed." Celestia said and the entire group began moving towards the door leading out to the courtyard.

"And if they step out of line, I can punch them right?" Rainbow asked.

Celestia chuckled a little. "Very well."

"Good." Rainbow said with a wicked smirk. "I've been dying to punch something all day." Despite the situation, everyone chuckled a bit. When Shining Armor pushed open the door leading out to the courtyard. Luna was the first out the door, followed by the others.

The moment they entered, the lead changeling glanced up and froze, dropping his shield. Seeing this, a unicorn guard began to take the initiative, only to find himself frozen in the grasp of blue magic.

"CEASE THIS MADNESS IMMEDIATELY!!!" Luna thundered in the Royal Canterlot voice. And just like that, time seemed to freeze. The royal guards that hadn't been incapacitated immediately snapped at attention while the changelings' gazes swiveled in Luna's direction.

"That is much better." Luna said a little proud of herself as she looked over the guards. "At ease, and tend to the wounded." As the guard followed her orders, Luna turned back to the changelings, only to find that they hadn't even moved and remained staring at Luna. No, not Luna. Behind Luna. Or to be more specific, Twilight and her friends, who were quickly becoming uneasy with the stare down.

"Uh...hi?" Twilight waved a hoof. That snapped them out of it instantly.

"Ah, apologies for our rudeness." The lead changeling quickly said and they moved from their defensive position and bowed before the six bewildered transformed ponies and spoke simultaneously.

"We are forever at your service, your Highnesses."


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There are moments in a pony's life when their brains just shut down as they try to process something. Quite frankly, given how her day had been going, Twilight was surprised it hadn't happened earlier; though she imagined that having several changelings bow down to you and call you 'your highness' was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. And judging by everypony else's expressions, she wasn't the only one. Her friends were pretty much a given to be sure, but her brother, his wife, Celestia, Luna and every assembled guard all had blank expressions of shock and confusion as they all tried to put the pieces together.

In the mean time, a look of curious confusion crossed the changelings' faces as they stood. "Your highnesses?" The lead changeling asked in concern. "Are you well and uninjured?"

Twilight blinked and shook herself as her mind rebooted. "We are...fine. But why are you calling us 'your highness'?"

"Wouldn't it be rude to refer to our queens as anything less?" Came the reply and Twilight's brain threatened to shut down once more. But she held it together as well as she could. They needed answers.

"Your highness, are your certain that you are well?" The lead changeling asked in concern.

"Perfectly." Twilight said in a slightly strained voice. "I'm sorry, but I never got your name."

The changeling stood straight and at attention. "I am known as Commander Kormac."

"Good to meet you." Twilight said. "Now could you answer a few questions for us?"

"Of course your highness."

"Okay first off, stop calling me that. My name is Twilight Sparkle."

"As you wish, Queen Twilight Sparkle." Kormac said with a completely straight face. Before Twilight could correct him however, Rainbow Dash pushed her friend out of the way and shoved her face into Kormac's.

"Alrighty Macky boy, start talking. What's going on? Why are you here? And what's so important that you'd pick a fight with the Royal Gaurd?"

Kormac cocked an eyebrow at the nickname, but didn't comment. "We were lead here by the Hivelink."

"Hivelink?" Rainbow cocked a head.

"A psychic connection between all changelings within our hive." He explained. "It is used as a communication channel and we can often share memories and emotions amongst ourselves. And at the center, supporting the entire array, is our queen or queens in this case. As we journied towards Equestria, we were staggered, almost thrown from the air, by intense feelings of panic, distress and various other emotions from all six of you that lead us to believe our queens were in trouble. Our natural reaction was to fly to your aid as soon as possible."

Rainbow and the others glanced up at the other changelings. Now that they weren't panicking, they could faintly feel the presence of more than a thousand minds in the back of their heads, all radiating concern so strongly that they wondered how they had missed that.

"Uh, false alarm." Rainbow said. "So you can all skedaddle now."

"Skedaddle?" Kormac asked as though the word were foreign to him. "Why would we 'skedaddle' when our queens are here?"

There was deathly silence as minds once more tried to process this. "Uh, care ta run that by us once more in a bit more detail?" Applejack asked.

"It was the last command of Queen Chrysalis." Kormac answered.

"Queen Chrysalis?" Applejack interrupted. "As in tha changelin' queen who invaded Canterlot?"

"That is correct." Kormac answered.

Rainbow pounded her hooves together. "Just point me in the direction of this 'Chrysalis'. I've got a few choice words for her." There were words of agreement from her friends.

"Of course." He pointed in the direction that Celestia realized was the direction of the Bad Lands. "Fly that way for a day and you shall reach our old hive, where you shall find her grave."

Everypony froze, but Kormac turned back to his queens and continued. "Following the failed invasion, Chrysalis sustained internal injuries that didn't heal. She passed away just yesterday evening." It was then that yesterday's inexplicable crying made sense to Twilight. "After her burial rites this morning, we then packed up what we could carry and abandoned our hive to find you, as per her final instructions."

"Wait a second." Twilight exclaimed as a thought suddenly occurred to her. "Are you saying that, that isn't an army?" She pointed to the large gathering of changelings just outside the city as she spoke.

"It is not, Queen Twilight." Kormac confirmed. "What you see is the entire population of our hive. Every single male, female and nymph all accounted for."

"Uh, nymph?" Applejack asked.

"I believe the ponies would say colt or filly." Kormac explained calmly.

'Children.' Celestia summed up in her head. Now that she was looking, she could see smaller forms amongst the older changelings.

"Why would you do that?" Twilight asked in shock.

"Our queen told us to." Kormac answered as though it were the most logical thing ever.

"Weren't you all scared?" Fluttershy piped up.

"Admittedly we were curious as to why Chrysalis would give us such an order, but as changelings the queen is the center of our world and we would willingly place our faith in her if she asked us to." Kormac said then he smiled at them. "Besides, now that we've found Chrysalis' heirs, we have nothing to fear."

There was absolute silence as everyone digested this wealth of information that had been given. Twilight, to her credit, kept her composure as she spoke.

"Could you please excuse us for a few minutes?" She asked. Kormac and the others nodded. With that, Twilight, her friends, her BBBFF and all three alicorn princesses turned and walked back to the castle. The second the doors closed however, Twilight immediately fell to the floor and curled up into the fetal position.

"HOLYSWEETCELESTIAICAN'TDOTHIS!!!!" She cried out as her mane began to stick out. "Running a library I can handle. Being an Element of Harmony and saving Equestria? Sure, why not? But being a changeling queen? I...I...I can't do this!!!"

"Hey, what about us?" Rainbow asked, promptly ending Twilight's downward spin. "What are we, chopped liver? You aren't the only one who got herself turned into a bug queen."

"Rainbow Dash is right." Rarity added. "Remember, those changelings were bowing to us as well. This is our burden just as much as it's yours."

Feeling a bit better knowing her friends would be there with her, Twilight had begun to uncurl when Celestia spoke up. "I may not know much about changelings, but Luna and I are willing to offer any advice you need. Our doors are always open to you all."

Rainbow Dash held out her hoof to Twilight who took it and let her friend pull her up. "And ya know, it isn't that bad. I may not have feathers anymore, but I've realized that I can still fly as well as before." She offered. Through the link, Twilight could tell that her friends were just as scared as she was but were trying to put a positive spin on it for her sake.

"You girls..." She said as she pulled her friends into a group hug. They sat there like that for several minutes before Luna cleared her throat to get their attention.

"As much as I am loathe to disrupt such a heartwarming scene, I must remind every pony that it is late and I believe the hive is very tired from their long journey." Luna said.

"Yeah, not to mention we're still blaring our emotions across this Hivelink and they're starting to get antsy again." Rainbow reminded them.

"Ah'm not entirely sure Ah feel comfortable with that." Applejack said.

Pinkie shrugged. "Maybe it's an acquired taste cause I think it's so cool."

Twilight chuckled a little. "Yeah, I guess it is." Pinkie beamed.

When they reentered the courtyard, the changelings were fidgeting and Kormac took a step forward. "Forgive my forthrightness your highnesses, but I am not entirely convinced that you are as fine as you say you are. Is something wrong?"

"Uh, that depends." Applejack said. "What do you know about spells that turn ponies inta changelings?"

"Not much." Kormac admitted. "I know that queens have access to such magics. It is called an Heir spell since it transforms a pony into a queen changeling upon the death of the queen that set it in the first place. The purpose is to create a queen for a hive if the queen dies without a royal daughter." Kormac paused as an expression of dawning crossed his face. "You all were not originally changelings, were you?" Six heads shook simultaneously. Silence permeated the atmosphere as Kormac stared at his queens. In the back of their heads, the six former ponies felt a buzz of activity but didn't understand any of it. Finally Kormac stepped forward.

"Truth be told, we do not know what to say in this situation." He said. "True, the spell I've just described is known and usable by all queens, but so very few have actually used it out of pride. And we cannot reverse it if you asked us to since it was designed to be irreversible."

Once those words sunk in, helpless depression began to sink into their hearts like darts. It was one thing for Celestia and Luna to deliver this news, but to hear it from a changeling brought a sense of finality to the situation. Their pony lives were officially over. The changelings began to shift around again, but not in a defensive or aggressive way. Rather like they wanted to surge forward and comfort them.

After a time, Kormac continued. "There is one thing that we can do for you." He said, drawing their attention. "Since you were not originally changelings, your connection with the link is incomplete. With your permission, we would like to complete that connection. If you would have us."

Even through their connection, the six changeling queens could still feel the link go silent in anticipation and they realized that despite their reservations about this whole thing, it wasn't fair to just leave them without a leader. As they stared at the swarm, they didn't see enemies or monsters, but mothers and fathers and children anxious about their future. Just like anypony would be in this situation. Twilight glanced at her friends, knowing that they felt and saw the same, and they briefly shared a nod.

"Alright." Was all Twilight said to Kormac.

"Let's do this." Rainbow said quietly, despite the normally gungho theme of the words.

Kormac nodded gently. "As you wish." He paused before continuing. "I advise that you brace yourselves though. This might be very disorienting."

Despite following his advice, the Mane Six were still staggered by what came next. There were no words to properly describe what they felt, but the closest they could liken it to was a surge of countless minds all radiating welcomes and loving comfort that made them sit down hard and cry tears of joy. At first Shining was concerned for his sister, but when he saw her smiling he forced down his fears and sat down beside her.

Enentually, Twilight returned to her senses as the feeling dimmed but didn't leave. Wiping the tears from her eyes she turned to her friends to see they were each in similar positions, with the exception of Futtershy who had at some point collapsed to her side. Seeing how late it was and considering how Twilight and the others were in no condition to speak, Celestia chose this moment to address the changeling Commander.

"Commander Kormac." She addressed gently as she stepped forward, grabbing his attention. "It has been a very long day for both yourselves and your queens; and since you are now homeless, my sister and I would like to offer you respite here in Canterlot castle."

Kormac blink and turned to look at his queens who nodded. Kormac turned to the diarch and bowed respectfully to her. "We thank you for your kindness."


Twilight flopped down on her bed in Canterlot castle with a sigh. After that, the next few hours were spent getting changelings and their supplies situated. Despite giving them an entire wing of the castle, there still weren't enough beds to go around. The changelings, to their surprise, were well organized and the beds were given to the elderly, sick, injured, and of course infant nymphs and their caretakers. The rest found comfortable spots on the remaining furniture, floor and even the hall. They didn't even complain when some had to sleep in the ballroom.

The changelings of course saved the largest bedroom in the wing just for their queens. When the changelings wouldn't be moved on the beds, they had no choice but to offer the other furniture in the room and the floor space. They only took the offer when Twilight pointed out that it would make it easier to protect them. And now here she was drifting off to sleep surrounded by more than thirty changelings draped across chairs and couches or settled on the floor. A situation she never imagined happening in her lifetime.


Instead of dreaming, Twilight found herself in a field of white that shone with a myriad colorful orbs floated around her. Her focus however wasn't on her surroundings, but rather on the gigantic tree that dominated the entire place. Its bark was silvery white with a rainbow sheen and its branches spread out wide with 'leaves' of various colored orbs of light. But what really caught Twilight's eye was the trunk, or rather trunks, of the tree. Instead of a single trunk, as is common of many trees, there were six white trunks that were twined together like a rope. And beneath her, Twilight saw an incredibly complex network of roots.

"Hoowee, would ya lookit that. That there's tha' biggest darn tree I ever seen." Twilight whipped around in surprise and saw Applejack staring up at the tree in awe.

"Applejack?" She said in surprise, catching her friend's attention. "What are you doing here?"

Applejack looked equally surprised. "Ah could ask ya the same thing." She countered. "What are you doin' in mah dream?"

Twilight paused and gave the sentence some thought. "I'm not so certain we are dreaming."

"That might explain a few things." A new voice joined in and the two watched as Rarity approached. "I for one am certain that I don't usually dream about trees like this. Though considering how our day has been, I'm not surprised."

"Tell me about it." Pinkie said as she suddenly appeared right next to Rarity, making the fashionista jump in surprise. "Normally I dream about things like pies and cupcakes and cookies and cake and fudge and piñatas and smiles! Lots and lots of smiles. And sometimes they grow on trees."

"Man, now you've got me craving some of that stuff." Every pony turned as Rainbow Dash approached with Fluttershy trailing behind. "So, what's up with the tree?" She asked as she came in for a landing. "And why are we all sharing the same dream?"

Every pony turned to Twilight, who didn't notice since she was staring up at the tree. "Uh, Twi?" Applejack said. Still no response. Instead Twilight walked up to the tree and tentatively placed her hoof on the bark of the trunk...and received a jolt of emotions and information.

"It isn't a tree." She realized. "It's the Hivelink. Look. Each branch represents a changeling. And the leaves are memories, emotions or info."

"Oh oh oh! If the branches are changelings, then which ones are ours?" Pinkie bounced ahead of the approaching group as she asked her question.

Twilight rubbed her hoof down the trunk. "We don't get a branch Pinkie." She said. Pinkie wilted, but Applejack nodded.

"We're tha' trunks, aren't we?" Twilight nodded and Applejack glanced up at the tree trunks. "Makes sense. There are six of us and there are six trunks supporting this tree. Jus' like we support this hive." Everyone was silent as the implications of that sentence sank in.

"So, we're really doing this?" Rainbow said as she stared up at the countless branches. "We're really going to be their queens?"

"What else is there?" Rarity countered. "The changelings and even the princesses say that it's irreversible. We're stuck like this."

"Besides, it wouldn't be fair if we just left them like this." Fluttershy added. "They've been so nice to us and I want to help them however I can."

"Flutters is right." Applejack agreed. "But, ah still can't believe all this. Jus' yesterday, all ah had to be concerned about were mah chores an runnin' a farm. Now look at us."

"I know what you mean." Twilight said with a nod. "In my entire life, never once have I thought that any of this would happen to me. But, here we are. And we may as well make the best of it."

"Yeah. And I betcha that we'll be even better queens than Chrysalis ever was." Rainbow said in a challenging tone that made the others smile.

"Ya know, I betcha yer right." Applejack answered confidently. The others only response was to smile as well. With a goal in sight, the six queens vanished from the plain as they drifted into actual sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a long, busy day.

Politics and Public

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Kormac shifted around in his spot on the ballroom floor and cracked an eye open to see the sun just barely beginning to rise. Despite his place on the marble tiles, Kormac was very comfortable and for a moment wondered why he was awake. A jolt to his side however reminded him and he smiled at the childish female voice crying out for him to wake up.

"Big brother! Big brother! Wake up!" Kormac grinned and shifted to his back while the little nymph was in the air and caught her before she could hit his chest. Alva only giggled at her brother's fast reflexes as he lifted her up high.

"Good morning little flower." He said with a smile. "Now what's so important that you had to wake me up?"

"You said you'd show me around Canterlot castle." She stated matter-of-factly.

Kormac chuckled warmly. Despite their situation, Alva had maintained an unbreakable spirit of adventure; and when she heard that they would be staying in the castle, she was beyond the moon with excitement and had wanted to explore every nook and cranny of the castle. She only went to bed when Kormac had promised that she would get to explore later. Apparently, later translated into before-Celestia-finished-raising-the-sun.

"As I recall, I promised that you would get the chance to explore later, not in the morning." He gently chided and Alva wilted a little. "Remember that this is Celestia and Luna's castle. I'll have to ask them permission before we can go anywhere."

Alva perked up a little. "And they'll say yes, right?"

'I certainly hope so.' He thought as he set her on the floor and got up into a sitting position. "Celestia and Luna are kind, benevolent rulers." He said out loud. "I have no doubt they'll let you explore. For now, I'd like you to stay near Eerika."

Alva gave him an absolutely adorable salute. "Yes sir big brother." She said.

Kormac laughed and ruffled her on the head. "That's my girl." He said affectionately. At that moment a request came to him through the Hivelink. The request itself was garbled, but he recognized that it came from the queens and, after thinking about it for a bit, he managed to deduce that he was being summoned to their side. "At ease soldier. Duty calls."

"Okay." Alva said as she dropped her salute and hugged him. "I love you big bro."

Kormac hugged her back. "I love you too." As the little nymph ran off to find Eerika, Kormac followed the guidance of the Hivelink towards his queens.


Twilight and her friends were with the Princesses, Shining Armor and Cadence on a balcony with a view of the front gate, where a large crowd of ponies had gathered demanding to know what was going on. Amongst them, Celestia saw ponies from the press. Privately she was very thankful that this entire thing happened months after the knee jerk reaction that had followed the Invasion. That didn't mean that there wouldn't be any problems with what was coming next, but at least things wouldn't be worse.

Before they could be spotted by the crowd, Celestia and Luna directed the group back into the study, drawing the curtains to protect the group from prying eyes. It was then that a knock sounded and Celestia opened the door to reveal the form of Kormac.

"You sent for me, your highnesses?" He asked.

"Yes Commander." Celestia answered. "I advised Twilight to call you so that you might tell us a few things about changelings."

"Very well." Kormac nodded and walked in. As he entered the room however, the others gasped in surprise and Kormac gave them a quizzical look.

"Is there something the matter?" He asked.

"Your eyes!" Rainbow Dash blurted out as she gestured at him. "They're different! Almost normal!" It was true. From his previous position they hadn't noticed that his eyes weren't the solid blue common of changelings. Instead, there was a normal clear blue iris with a slitted pupil.

Kormac's expression went from confusion to realization. "Ah, you must mean my second eyelid."

"Second eyelid?" Rainbow asked curiously.

Kormac nodded before he began to explain. "Due to our subterranean nature, changelings possess the sharpest night vision known. In darkness, we are capable of picking out a hundred details. The tradeoff however is that our eyes tend to be extremely sensitive, particularly in direct sunlight." At this point one of the eyelids in question slipped down over his right eye. "Our second eyelids protect our eyes from direct sunlight amongst other things." Kormac then lifted his hoof up and tapped it against the eyelid which made a sound much like if one tapped against thick glass.

"Like natural sunglasses and goggles rolled into one." Rainbow observed with interest in her voice. Kormac nodded.

"That is SO COOL!" Pinkie exclaimed. "Do I have a second eyelid too?"

"All changelings possess a second eyelid." Kormac answered, seeming unfazed by Pinkie's outburst as his second eyelid slid upwards once more. "Even royals, though they have little use for it since their eyes are already well adjusted to both light and dark. But that doesn't mean their eyes are completely invulnerable."

Almost immediately, Pinkie slid her eyelids down, revealing that they were bright yellow instead of blue. The others followed her example and began sliding their eyelids up and down experimentally. Rarity's eyelids were purple, Fluttershy's were teal, Applejack's were orange, Twilight's were magenta and Rainbow Dash's were red. For a time, Kormac watched them experiment before clearing his throat to get their attention.

"Begging your pardon your highnesses, but it has occurred to me that aside from Queen Twilight Sparkle, I do not know your names."

The ponies and former ponies blinked. "He's right." Applejack said. "With everythin' that's been goin' on, we ain't never introduced ourselves. Ah'm Applejack, but ya'll don't need ta add that 'queen' stuff."

"I'm Rarity. Sorry for not introducing myself earlier. It was not very ladylike of me. And this is Fluttershy." The queen in question waved shyly.

"Name's Rainbow Dash." Rainbow puffed up a little, but before she could go on about her accomplishments she was interrupted by a certain pink changeling.

"And I'm PINKIE PIE!" She announced then stuck her hoof out to him. "Nice to meet you!"

Kormac hesitated before bumping his hoof against hers. "Nice to meet you too." He said before bring his hoof to his chin in thought. "Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle." He'd heard those particular names before. "You wouldn't happen to be the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony, would you?" He asked as he pointed at them.

Rainbow Dash preened a little. "What gave us away Macky?"

Kormac's hoof dropped to the ground. "All hives know about the Elements of Harmony." He answered. "All with different reactions. Our hive respects the Elements since you have saved us all from Nightmare Moon and Discord. And reforming the Spirit of Chaos is in our eyes no small task."

Rainbow preened a little more before Kormac's sentence fully registered. "Wait a sec. You said hives, as in plural."

Kormac nodded. "Yes I did."

"So wait, there's more to Chrysalis' queendom than what we've seen?" Rainbow asked.

"No. Why would you...?" Kormac halted mid question as a thought occurred to him. "Wait, did you think Chrysalis was the queen over all changelings?" They all nodded. Kormac blinked then snorted. The next thing they knew, the commander had dissolved into laughter. "Pftthahaha! Chrysalis queen of all changelings! I'm sorry, but the idea of one queen ruling over changelingkind is just hilarious!" His laughter quickly began to fade. "But in hindsight I should've seen that coming. Ponies know so very little about us and it's not hard to imagine that when our queen showed up at the wedding you must've assumed she was queen of all changelings."

The others gawked in horror as the implications of what he'd just said sank in. "I suppose you'll want me to explain?" Kormac asked redundantly.

"Yes please." Fluttershy answered quietly.

"Very well then. As you've already guessed there are oth-" he started before he was suddenly cut off by Twilight.

"WAIT!" Her shout made them all jump back in surprise. Twilight blushed and turned to Celestia. "Sorry, but before we get started I'd like my number one assistant here to take notes. If I'm going to be queen, I need Spike here too."

Celestia smiled warmly. "Of course Twilight. I wouldn't dream of you launching this endeavor without an extra claw."

"Begging your pardon, but who is Spike?" Kormac asked. Celestia only smiled as her horn glowed with golden magic. In an instant a basket appeared floating in the air with a snoring baby dragon inside.

✴✴✴✴ An Hour later ✴✴✴✴

After waking Spike up and filling him in on the situation, they were now sitting comfortably with their attention focused on Kormac. Spike sat near Twilight, equally focused on the Commander with quill and paper in claw. Kormac cleared his throat and began.

"Alrighty then. Let's get started. As I've implied there are multiple hives, each ruled by a single queen. And each hive controls territory. Queens can of course fight other queens to expand territory. Queen Chrysalis had a sizable chunk of choice land as part of her territory; not to mention her hive, now yours of course, was one of the largest." Kormac paused before continuing. "Now that I think of it, it's fortunate that this subject was brought up sooner rather than later."

"Why's that?" Applejack asked.

"Whenever a queen's heir takes the throne, she must prove herself to the other queens. Queen Chrysalis for example, had to make no less than ten new spells beneficial to changelingkind, along with enforcing her borders before she finally proved herself. Plus, considering the current circumstances, the other queens might be a little harder on you."

"And what happens if we don't prove ourselves?" Twilight asked.

"The other queens would attack mercilessly till they destroyed you and your hive." Kormac said casually. There was a snap as Spike suddenly found his pen broken. The others just stood there frozen.

"I imagine they already at least have an inkling as to what happened." Kormac continued explaining. "It was no secret that Chrysalis was dying and since she had no heir, the other queens were poised to take her land and hive the second she passed on. They've probably already found out that we abandoned our hive and since changelings like to keep an eye on other nations, they already know that we're here. But since you have yet to make an official announcement, they will not know that there is a new queen or queens in this case."

"Which brings us to a new problem." Celestia interjected.

"Indeed." Luna added grimly. "Since thou hast all but announced thy presence to the population of Canterlot, if not the entirety of Equestria, we now have a mob knocking on our gates demanding answers."

Celestia nodded. "We shall have to tell them why you are here of course." She trailed off as she looked at six frozen queens adjacent to her.

"I do not believe that course of action to be wise at this moment." Kormac stated. "They have only been queens for a day and will need to adjust to their new life and duties. I am even beginning to regret telling them what I did on changeling politics as they appear to be broken." Cadence hid a snort of amusement at Kormac's attempt to inject humor into the situation.

"I was just entertaining the same thoughts." Luna commented before smiling. "And you are right. I do believe they have shut down to process what you have told us. Tell us, are there any other changeling secrets with similar results?"

"I do believe there are. But it might be prudent to reveal them one at a time."

"And it would be wise to buy you time to reveal them." Celestia added then smiled. "And we shall buy you that time. Luna..."

The Lunar princess nodded and the two vanished in twin flashes of light.


Celestia and Luna reappeared outside the gate surrounded by a number of the Royal Guard to keep the mob from charging straight towards them when they appeared.

"Princess Celestia! Princess Luna! You're both alright!" Somepony called out and the crowd began to calm down a little.

Princess Celestia smiled gently. "Yes we are. And we thank you for your concern on our behalf. So, what may we do for you?"

"Your Majesties, why are the changelings in Canterlot castle?" Celestia recognized the pony that asked the question as Silver Pen, a unicorn reporter from the Canterlot Times. Silver was a good direct pony that had always written honest articles.

"Due to circumstances beyond our control, these changelings have now found themselves without a home." Luna explained. "And so we have invited them into ours."

The loud protests at Luna's answer and one question floated over to the princesses. "And how do you know this isn't an invasion?"

"I can assure you that there is nothing to fear from these changelings." Celestia said calmly. "However, the situation is more complex then that. Rest assured that we shall reveal all at a later date." The crowd still didn't seem convinced. "Until that time the changelings will be under guard and shall not leave the castle without permission."

They still didn't like it, but the crowd began to disperse and for a second Celestia locked her gaze with Silver Pen. When her sister had returned, his articles had been very helpful in adjusting the public to her sister. Celestia hoped that Silver would provide a similar service to her student and her friends. While Silver Pen didn't know what was going on, he understood the gaze that Celestia sent him and conveyed that he would do his best to her.


After a few minutes, Celestia and Luna returned to the study. As she entered, she saw that the new queens, while no longer frozen in shock, were still troubled by the recent revelations. Glancing at the clock, she saw how late it was and decided a change in subject was in order.

"It's getting a little late in the day and as I recall you haven't eaten for a while." She said brightly. "Why don't we journey to the dinning room for breakfast."

The girls turned to look at her and, in a quiet voice, Applejack summed up their feelings. "If'n it's all tha' same ta you princess, Ah don't think any of us have much of an appetite any more."


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Even with the loss of appetite, Celestia managed to convince them to at least have some tea to calm their nerves. As they took their seats at the dining room table, the group noticed that at some point Kormac had slipped away. He reappeared once more as Celestia was pouring the tea. His second eyelids were of course down and he carried two strange items. The first that they noticed was a rough, waxy, bright pink orb about the size of a pony's head. The second item was two curved pieces of wood in a cross shape.

Kormac first placed the cross shaped wood, which was quickly revealed to be a stand when the orb was placed snuggly in it. The table was silent as the changeling commander then used his magic to carefully cut the top of the orb. With the cut made, Kormac then gave the top a twist before pulling it off. As he lifted the 'lid' off, little strings of sticky pink liquid followed. Once he'd carefully placed the 'lid' on the table, Kormac then pulled Fluttershy's teacup and a spoon towards himself. They then watched as Kormac dipped the spoon into the hollow orb and drew out a spoonful of a thick, clear, rich pink liquid with golden crystals floating in it. As he pulled it out and stirred it into her friend's drink, Twilight noted that this strange substance seemed to have the exact consistency of honey. After passing the cup back to Fluttershy, Kormac then repeated the process for the other changeling queens.

Twilight looked into her cup, which now had a pink and gold hue and a tantalizing sweet scent. They looked at Kormac, who only nodded and made a gesture for them to drink. They only hesitated a moment more before taking sips. The effect was almost instantaneous. As expected, it was sweet but also refreshing like a breath of fresh air, giving a pleasant sensation as it traveled down their throats; followed by a comforting warmth that relaxed and energized them, as if they had miniature suns in their bellies.

"Dear me, that was simply glorious!" Rarity exclaimed. "What do you call this stuff?" She asked as she began to take another sip. Pinkie Pie was of course quick to gulp her cup down followed by melting in her chair with a smile.

"Motherly affection." Kormac answered. "A bit hard to collect, but worth every drop."

The ponies and queens contemplated this answer. "So this is love?" Applejack asked as she studied her cup again.

"Indeed." Kormac confirmed. Applejack studied the cup once more.

"Don't ya normally get that from special someponies or somethin'?" She asked uncertainly.

Kormac chuckled good naturedly. "A common misconception." He said. "You ponies use the term 'love' to define the romantic relationship between two ponies. However, love is more than romantic. There is love between a mother and child and vice versa. There is familial love between family members. Even friendship is a form of love."

"And ya'll jus suck it from ponies?"

Kormac shook his head. "That's not how it works, Queen Applejack. True, we could do that; but the resulting love, while powerful, would have little flavor and nutritional value and would do us no good in the long run."

"So how does it work?" Twilight asked, her eyes bright with academic curiosity that Kormac could feel in the air and through the link.

"Most species don't realize it, but emotions emit a sort of energy that changeling bodies automatically absorb. We have very little control over this function as it is as natural as a pony breathing." As Kormac explained, Twilight nudged Spike, who immediately pulled another scroll and a new quill. "Some centuries ago, a queen conducted a series of experiments that revealed that freely directed love was healthier and tastier than stolen love. Since then, most if not all hive collectors, including ours, create their own identities and establish a life of their own." He tapped a hoof against the orb. "This particular batch was collected by one of our collectors when she had a run in with Celestia. When she spoke of her experience, she would say that she nearly fainted at the sheer amount of motherly love directed at her." Celestia smiled.

"Hmmm, fascinating." Twilight hummed. "But I have a question. How do you turn emotive energy into that?" As she asked, she pointed to the orb beside him.

Kormac paused as he contemplated how he could put it tactfully. "Queen Twilight-" he began before she interrupted.

"Just Twilight, please."

"Very well. Twilight, are you familiar with how bees produce honey?"

Twilight nodded. "I am. When bees travel from flower to flower, they-" Twilight halted her own lecture as her eyes widened. "Wait a second. Do you mean to say....?"

Kormac nodded. "Indeed. After the emotive energy is absorbed into our bodies, certain organs process the energy into a substance and infuse it with vital enzymes and nutrients that we require. What follows is a process identical to how bees process their honey. The end result is a substance on par with bee honey. Some hives call this changeling honey."

There were several gags and disgusted looks around the table. Twilight Sparkle however looked excited and pulled the orb towards her with her magic. "That's amazing! You said it's on par with honey, right? Does that mean that ponies can eat it safely?"

"In theory yes."

"And in practice?" Twilight prompted.

Kormac shrugged. "Many have theorized what would happen if a pony ate it, but none have been put to the test since no pony or otherwise have had any."

They contemplated this and looked around the table. Suddenly Luna raised a hoof. "I shall give it a try." She volunteered before pulling it near and dipping a hoof in it. Everypony held their breath as Luna slowly brought the small crystal free glob up to her muzzle and licked. The Lunar goddess's eyes shrank into pinpricks as she froze and, for a time, everypony and changeling were afraid something went wrong. Then Luna shook herself from her stupor and cleaned the rest of the honey from her hoof without any other incident.

"This is not half bad." She commented as she licked up the rest of the 'honey'. "Tell us, what are these crystals?"

"Bits of magic." Kormac answered. "We have no idea why, but little bits of magic always mix in with the emotive energy. Not enough for there to be any side effects for the pony of course. Unless we forcefully pull in."

"What happens when thy forcefully pull in?" Luna asked.

"We get more magic than emotive energy." Kormac explained. "It isn't heathy, but it lends a bit of power to our magic and is only used in times of emergency. The affected pony would experience headaches as well as a drop in power, but nothing permanent."

"So that's what Chrysalis did." Shining said and there was a sudden silent somberness as Kormac stared at Shining.

Finally, Kormac spoke. "Shining Armor, we do not expect any forgiveness for the wedding, but I do wish for you to understand a few things. Changelings make their nests in the Badlands, a very hostile place for almost any life form. Add to that the fact that queens tend to war with each other over territory and whatnot, and you find a lifestyle that is not for the faint of heart. Before the wedding, we received word that a couple of the larger hives were getting ready to make a bid for our territory and hive, the result of which would have been the end of many lives.

"Amongst changelings there are three times when we can get a boost in love. The best chance to receive a boost is during weddings so at least one collector will attend or sneak into a wedding. You may have met a few. You know, that pony that nopony knows who invited them. Once, one of our collectors snuck in as a dog and hid under the cake table. Since then he's had a fondness for chocolate cake with raspberry filling. When we heard of the wedding we knew it was the perfect opportunity to get what we needed since it was a royal wedding. We fully expected to sneak in three, maybe four or five collectors amongst the guests; and the collector I mentioned before was planning on pulling the same trick and managed to convince a couple others to join him. We did not expect Chrysalis to infiltrate the wedding party, much less as the bride herself.

"At that point we aren't sure what was going through Chrysalis' head; but we could feel her intense fear for herself and her changelings, and it only increased when she could feel Twilight's suspicion directed at her. She was already doing a poor, but passable, impression of Princess Cadence and feeling Twilight's increasing suspicion only further knocked her off her game, to the point where she began to think about after and if she was going to survive. I have no idea what she did since that kind of magic is known only by the queens, but I hope you understand why she did everything she did."

There was silence as Kormac finished and they contemplated what he'd said. "But does it have to be like that?" Fluttershy asked quietly. "Does war really have to be the only way to do things?"

Kormac smiled a little at her. "Before she died, Chrysalis said something similar. She told me that we needed to change our ways and that she had faith that her chosen heirs would do that."

That was a surprise. None of the ponies expected that and the resulting silence stretched until Rarity decided that a change of topic was in order. "So, you called this motherly affection?" She asked as she indicated the orb.

"Yes. While it has the same nutritional value of the more easily gotten emotions, it is valued as a very effective comfort food amongst the queens."

"Only amongst the queens?" Rarity asked curiously. "Why not amongst the other changelings? Surely you have felt the need for some sort of comfort."

Kormac was quiet for a time as he contemplated the answer. He hadn't expected this to come up so soon and he was currently speaking with a few of his siblings who had caught notice of the conversation.

~Tread carefully brother. They probably won't react very well to the answer.~

~Perhaps you should stall the answer brother.~

~No.~ Kormac said firmly. ~They will learn soon and they may as well know now.~ 'But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't be tactful with this subject.'

"Um.... yes it is true that there are times when we do require a little reassurance." He said slowly. "But we already, or at least used to, had that in excess with Chrysalis."

"What do you mean darling?" Rarity asked quizzically.

Kormac hesitated a moment more. "Um, you see, this type of love is maternal love and since Queen Chrysalis was our mother, we had plenty."

"Eh?" Was the simultaneous reply from all six of his queens as they tilted their heads.

"Within a hive, a queen isn't just a leader. She is also the mother to every single drone that makes up the population of the hive." Once more, Spike found his quill broken and once more everypony froze. Then Rarity fainted.


Ten cups of tea with changeling honey later, the girls agreed that they would file this away for later. Meanwhile, they wanted to speak with the collectors. Kormac had informed them that all collectors had returned to the hive two weeks ago, and they have been rationing their stores since. With that comment, they'd also wanted to see what they had. And so, they journied to one of the bedrooms.

In a pile in the the room were roughly forty orbs. Some were various shades of pink, but others were several different colors. Applejack pointed at the orbs. "Why are there other colors?" She asked.

Kormac gently placed the now resealed previous orb back onto the pile. "We don't just absorb love. We also absorb other emotions, though only love gives us sufficient nutrients. Pink is love, and the deeper the emotion, the deeper the color. The other colors are different emotions."

"Any emotion?" Twilight said as she studied a bright blue orb.

Kormac shook his head. "Not any emotion. Just positive emotions. Negative emotions are unpalatable."

"There's not an awful lot for so many changelings." Fluttershy whispered worriedly.

Kormac shrugged. "Maybe so, but we'll make it stretch. It helps that it isn't all we eat."

"It isn't?"

"No. Love still remains a very important part of our diet and at times when there is drought or famine, we can still sustain ourselves on just love, so long as there is a steady flow."

"So what else do we eat?" Pinkie asked as she bounced in front of him.

"Fruits and vegetables are one part of our diet." Kormac answered. "But we also process nutrition from meat."

The six queens ground to a halt. "Meat? As in...meat?" Twilight asked.

"There is very little edible vegetation, or farmland in the badlands."

They blinked and then, to everypony's surprise, Rainbow Dash smiled. "Aw yeah, I can't wait to see how bacon tastes." Then, noticing the looks directed towards her, Rainbow shrugged. "What? Gilda always teased me about the stuff and I've been curious ever since."


Their next stop was the ballroom to meet with the collectors. While they could technically ask them to meet in that room, the queens felt that if they were going to rule over these changelings, they may as well mingle. The adult changelings mingled about while smaller dark forms wove amongst them. At first the group assumed that they were all changeling nymphs, but that thought was quickly amended when a small dark shape ran into Celestia's leg.

"Oh my, I'm so sorry litt-" Celestia began speaking as she helped the form up, only to stop once she got a good look at it. While it was black all over and about the size of the other nymphs, this creature was definitely not a changeling. It was dog like in shape, with a long broad muzzle with fangs poking out and covered in pitch black fur. There was a long snake-like tail with a brush of fur at the end, like a lion's tail, and on its shoulders were dark plates and large broad claws. But the most striking feature of this beast were its eyes. They were solid crimson with a golden circle in the center that seemed to serve as a pupil.

"What is it?" Twilight asked.

"A hellir valdr." Kormac answered her. "Translated into Equestrian it means cave wolf. Hellir have been a very important part of every hive for as long as we can remember."

"Are they sapient?" Celestia asked.

"No, but they are highly intelligent and very loyal. We train them for a variety of tasks. Digging, hunting, guarding, search and rescue, and more. They even make excellent pets and companions."

"So they're like changeling dogs." Applejack summed up as her thoughts drifted to Winona and home.

"Exactly. Every hive has a pack. They're even able to use the Hivelink, though they don't have a permanent link."

"Oh my gosh, it's so adorable!" Fluttershy exclaimed as she began cooing over the cave wolf.

"Yes, the pups are rather adorable." Kormac agreed.

It took a full five seconds for the sentence to fully register in Fluttershy's mind. "Pup?"

Kormac nodded. "This little one is a two month old female pup. Her mother is right over there."

They turned in the direction indicated and their jaws dropped. The adult cave wolf was exactly like her daughter, but much taller and more mature. Standing at full height, she was a little taller than Luna with longer, sharper fangs and powerful muscles rippling under her fur. For a moment, all was quiet as the adult cave wolf stared down the group. Finally, Fluttershy spoke up.

"Um, sorry about playing with your pup without asking. I'm sure I must've worried you."

The female only snorted and bowed her head before turning around to make her way to the orchestra, stage where a large mass of adult cave wolves were piled together either dozing or fast asleep.

"Oh dear. I hope I didn't upset her." Fluttershy fretted.

"Not at all, Queen Fluttershy. She took no offense to you. On the contrary, she acknowledged you as her alpha."

Fluttershy looked confused. "But I didn't do anything to assert any form of dominance. In fact, I think I was very submissive towards her."

"Hellir valdr have held a very deep connection with changelings for longer than our 'history' can remember. It's why the adults are comfortable with resting from our journey while their young play with the nymphs. They view the hive as the pack and automatically recognize the queen as their alpha. The only reason why she came here was because she was concerned about her pup's proximity with the ponies, but you allayed her fears."

"Oh, well I guess that's good. So why do you think they have such a connection with you?"

Kormac shrugged. "If there was an answer, it is long lost to the ages."


The collectors were a varied bunch. After the initial bowing, they then asked the collectors questions about their lives which they were happy to answer. One by one they shared stories about their homes, jobs, friends, alternate identities (known to changelings as hamingja) and even families. There were laughs and tears shed, but the bottom line was that each and every collector expressed an interest in returning to their second homes.

The last collector in line was very unusual. He was a changeling to be sure, but at the same time was very different. He was a little taller than his fellow changelings and covered in thick black fur with shoulder plates and a black backplate where his wings were perched. His forelegs were more like a cave wolf, with powerful muscles and strong broad claws. Only his hindlegs looked like a changeling and his second eyelids were golden.

Kormac, noting the queens and ponies studying his brother, cleared his throat and began speaking. "Your highnesses, I'd like to introduce you to one of our collectors, Raoul." The changeling in question waved, thereby snapping the queens from they're curious trance.

"Um, hey." Twilight greeted. Raoul nodded and they got the feeling that he wasn't much of a talker. ", uh...." She wasn't sure what to say. Sure they wanted to know why he looked the way he did, but they didn't want to say anything to offend him.

"You're all curious about me." The changeling stated with a deep rumbling voice that would have many fillies fainting.

"How'd you know?" Applejack asked.

Raoul shrugged. "It wasn't that hard to figure out. Even without the link, I could practically see you working up the courage to ask. And I am not offended. The reason why I am so different from my changeling brothers and sisters is because of childhood folly."

"Oh, really?" Twilight leaned forward a little to listen.

Raoul nodded. "As a nymph I was very energetic and eager to explore. One day my 'exploration' took me where I wasn't meant to be and I was in a terrible accident that injured me to the point of death. The only way to save my life was for Chrysalis to perform a fusion spell."

"A fusion spell?"

"A fusion spell is a common spell amongst the hives." Kormac interjected. "Changeling DNA is compatible with almost every species. A fusion spell basically fuses two subjects in body and soul. Queen Chrysalis rarely used the spell, and when she did it was usually for medical purposes. In the case of Raoul, she fused him with a hellir valdr pup. Since then, he's been more quiet and thoughtful than loud and rambunctious. Whether it was the result of his soul being fused to a hellir or because the experience itself was humbling is anyone's guess."

"He surprised us all when he picked collector." Another collector by the name of Bjorn said with smile. "We all expected he'd want to be a guard or even the Queen's Guard since he was so grateful to mother for saving him."

Raoul smirked. "I may have become quieter than I used to be, but that doesn't mean my adventurous spirit died that day." They all shared a laugh.

"Yeah, and his hamingja is ingenious." Edda added.

"It really isn't that wonderful." Raoul said evenly.

"ARE YOU KIDDING!?" They said altogether. Raoul didn't flinch at the increase in volume.

Cadence chuckled. "So what is your hamingja?"

"A dog." Raoul said plainly. That was new.

"A dog?" Celestia asked. Raoul only nodded and the collectors laughed.

"Yep." Edda said with a grin. "Usually collectors take on pony forms and build pony identities. Raoul here however only ever feels comfortable in more canine forms."

"It's not like he can't take on a pony form." Gytha stated matter of factly. She'd established herself as the level headed voice of reason. "But he still feels more comfortable in a dog form. I remember that's how he infiltrated a wedding for his first collecting. He hid under the cake table and snagged a few bites."

Pinkie Pie brightened and bounced up to Raoul. "Ooh, you must be that changeling that likes chocolate cake with raspberry filling!" Raoul nodded and Twilight swore she saw a bit of drool. Pinkie squealed with joy. "Then I definitely need to make you a cake!" Now Twilight was certain that it wasn't her imagination. Raoul was definitely drooling.

Edda began laughing maniacally. "So...yeah. Tall dark and serious here got himself adopted by a family in Trottingham and has since been a loyal companion to the kids."

Raoul nodded, and looked both his queens and the princesses in the eye. "It's been a few weeks since I've been at my second home. My family must be very worried by now since I've only ever disappeared for a day at most."

Gytha nodded. "When you're a collector, anything you collect has to be processed and stored where you are. You can't always be going back to the hive every time you've got love. It would look too suspicious if you went on vacation every week. When you're a pony you have the benefit of a cellar or storeroom to process and store your earned love. And whenever your room gets full, or something comes up, you can always 'go on vacation'. But as a pet, you don't have that advantage."

"But we fixed that." Edda said as she jumped onto Gytha, who sighed in annoyance. "Since Raoul couldn't have a storeroom of his own, we let him use ours. Once a week he'd come either my place or Gytha's and hang out for the day. Otherwise he'd be with his family. Ah, those were the days."

"Indeed." Raoul said with a small smile of his own. "And I wish to return to it."

"Ah completely understand partner." Applejack said with a nod. "Ah mahself wanna see may family again. But ah'm not very comfortable with th' idea that yer lyin' ta them."

Raoul nodded. "That is understandable since you are the Element of Honesty."

Applejack shuffled her hole riddled hooves a bit. "Ah'm not so sure how accurate that is."

"Why wouldn't it be?"

"Because, look at us." She held her hoof out for all to see. "We ain't ponies anymore."

"So?" Raoul shrugged like it didn't bother him. "You may have changed physically, but your souls are still the same as always. I find it hard to believe that the Elements of Harmony would reject you simply because of a change in species. If they did, does that mean that friendship is limited to one nation and one species?"

The Element bearers gave it some thought. "Ah guess not. It just seems ta fly in tha' face of everthin' harmony and friendship stands for in th' first place." Applejack said with a small smile.

Celestia also smiled. "I have no doubt that the Elements will still recognize you as their bearers. But that aside, there is still the issue of your love supply."

"Ah'm not comfortable with them lyin' ta their loved ones." Applejack said firmly.

"Of course not Applejack." Celestia replied. "Neither am I given our circumstances. My little ponies will get suspicious and they would eventually be revealed. Yet this emotive energy is important to your hive's survival."

"It would seem as though our only option is public integration." Luna said grimly.


Luna stepped up to the podium on the stage set up in the castle courtyard and looked over the crowd of reporters and nobles. Sitting in seats right behind were Celestia, Cadence, Shining Armor and the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony wearing said Elements. It was almost unnoticeable, but if one looked closely one could see the Elements fidgeting slightly and casting glances across the crowd. The few ponies that noticed this passed it off as nerves from being in public. There were a scant few in the crowd however whose eyes had initially widened before settling into neutral expressions. Luna cleared her throat and began addressing the crowd.

"Greetings to all." She announced to the crowd. "First off we'd like to thank you all for bearing with us these past three days. Thy patience is greatly appreciated. Since you all are bursting with questions, we shall not stand on ceremony any longer. We already know that your first and foremost question will be why are the changelings here." The press leaned forward a little to make sure they didn't miss this.

"Recently these changelings have lost their queen and her heirs were in Canterlot." Luna answered. "We have personally spoken with these new queens," there was a slight grimace from Applejack "and we have determined that it would be beneficial for all of us to unite our nations."

There was an explosion of questions from several members of the press. Silver Pen however wasn't amongst them as he remained seated and taking notes on a pad of paper. Eventually Luna raised a hoof to quiet them down before continuing. "For the time being, a majority of the hive will remain here in Canterlot castle. The rest will openly mingle with the rest of Equestria."

There were whispers of shock and a few exclaimed the horror of it all. Eventually the shock wore out and gave way to protests.

"Are you kidding me!? They're nothing but monsters!!"

"Aren't you forgetting how they invaded us?!"

"We should be destroying those things, not making treaties!"

"The horror! The horror!"

Twilight and the other Element Bearers shifted back like they wanted to curl in on themselves but they held themselves. Shining Armor looked like he was itching to jump in front of them with a weapon drawn, but Celestia shot him a look that told him to hold fast. Shining reluctantly nodded before edging closer to his sister. Luna however stood in stony silence. Celestia made a move to step up and intervene, but Luna turned her head and they briefly conferred in a way that only close siblings could. Celestia sat back down leaving the matter in her sister's hooves. Luna then turned back to the increasingly angry crowd.

"BE SILENT!!!" She thundered in the Royal Canterlot Voice. Shocked at the sudden sound, they did as they were told. Luna glared at they ponies before her. "Thou would have us cast aside those who wish for help? Have us cast aside those who have asked forgiveness? Have us cast aside the very principles that Equestria itself was founded upon?!" That last part silenced those who would've protested the first two. Luna only pressed on undeterred. "Was not Equestria founded upon the principles of unity, friendship and forgiveness? If we were to rebuff those who seek the same, what does that make us? Does friendship truly reside within one nation and not anywhere else? I say thee, nay! I myself have been offered forgiveness when I felt I did not deserve it. Who am I to deny the same? And so I swear by the sun and moon under mine and my sister's control that we shall be the peacemakers, not just towards the ones who have wronged us, but also towards any and all changeling queens who come to us for the same."

The crowd stood silent as Luna's declaration echoed across the courtyard. Then, the sound of hooves stomping was heard as Silver Pen applauded the speech. Many more from the audience joined quickly, and soon most of the ponies present were stomping their hooves.

Luna smiled. 'Well, that's one hurdle cleared. Let us hope we can clear the others.'


Silver Pen flipped through his notebook as he trotted back to his apartment. There had been a few more announcements before they'd all been sent home. On the outside, the unicorn reporter looked as though he was entirely focused on his article. In reality, his attention was elsewhere.

~So, what do you think my queen?~ He queried. There was a pause on the other end of the link.

~Most interesting.~ Came the reply. ~I never would've suspected that Chrysalis would use the Heir spell, much less on the Element Bearers.~

~I do not think any of the other queens saw that coming either.~ Silver observed. ~I felt several other infiltrators at that press conference. One or two even attempted to start a riot.~

~Hmmmm. No doubt they were Riselle and Valli's. Those two have always seen ponies as below them.~

~Indeed. And what are your thoughts? What are we to do? This changes much for us. Some might even attack the hive.~

~For now we carry on as though nothing is different. This isn't the time for snap decisions. We must think long and hard.~

Silver Pen reached his apartment and entered. ~And what do you think I should put in my article? ~

There was a warm chuckle that made Silver smile. ~Publish the truth as you see fit.~

~Of course your hig-~

~Ehem~ came the firm but kind interruption.

~Sorry. Mother.~ He amended.

~That's better.~ Silver Pen smiled. Unlike most queens, his insisted that her subjects refer to her as mother, mom, etc instead of your highness. He and his siblings supposed it was because of her pony origins. After ending their conversation, Silver Pen, otherwise known as Torgny, began writing his article, giving as much support as he could. Celestia knew they'd need it.

Bonus Chapter: Returning Home

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"Can you believe we're going back?" An exuberant blonde and blue pegasus mare squealed. She was practically bouncing on her hooftips as she excitedly flapped her gold tipped wings. Her companion on the train to Trottingham, a purple earth pony mare with a black mane and glasses, rolled her eyes. Instantly, the pegasus was in her face, smiling.

"I mean can you seriously believe it Midnight Page?!" She exclaimed. "I bet you just can't wait to get back to your bookshop!"

Midnight Page pushed the pegasus' face out of her own. "Indeed I am Star Spark." She said in a calm tone. "I imagine my friends and regulars are a bit concerned. But let us not forget the promise we made to our queens."

At Gytha's point, Edda deflated a little and settled back into her chair. "Yeah, I know." The worry was evident in her voice. "How do you think they'll react?"

Midnight Page set her book down. "I have no idea. They might accept us or reject us. It's hard to say."

Star Spark pouted. "I don't wanna be rejected!" She wailed almost childishly.

Midnight cocked an eyebrow at her. "Nopony nor changeling wants to be rejected." Though the look on her face remained stoic, Gytha was just as worried as her sniffling friend. When Queen Chrysalis' condition worsened, the collectors had instinctively gathered at the home hive. A few even faked their deaths or revealed themselves one way or another since they didn't expect to come back. And now here they were journeying back to openly mingle with ponies.

Queen Applejack had insisted that they tell their loved ones about themselves. Already Gytha was hearing messages across the link from other collectors who had either been accepted or rejected. It was enough to set her on edge about the whole thing and so she and her traveling companions were riding the train in their hamingja. Midnight Page turned to her other companion, a stallion, sitting on her left.

The unicorn stallion was taller and broader than most unicorns. He had a dark blue coat, white mane and grey eyes pointed downwards. Though Sky Watcher looked for all the world like he was okay, Midnight Page knew better.

"Hey." She said as she put her hoof on his shoulder. "Don't worry about it too much. I'm sure that your family won't kick you out."

Sky Watcher, Raoul's pony hamingja, glanced at Midnight Page. "I'm not so sure I can share your confidence."

"Hey, your family isn't heartless." Midnight said. "At the very least they'll hear you out. And I'm sure the kids will absolutely love you."

Sky Watcher chuckled as he thought of Greenblaze and Roseheart. The twins. Great kids really. Greenblaze was a very bold and adventurous colt that reminded him of when he was his age before the incident. Roseheart was on the opposite end of the spectrum. Where her twin was loud and bold, she was quiet and a little shy. Raoul guessed that when she got her cutiemark it would be in gardening since she was already so good at taking care of plants.

"Yeah you're probably right. But I'm still a little concerned about how they'll react." Sky admitted.

Midnight Page put her hoof across his back and pulled him close. "Don't worry about it too much. One way or another things will settle into place, I promise."

Sky Watcher smiled and hugged her back. After a moment of sitting there a hoof tapped Midnight Page's shoulder. Midnight turned to see Star Spark who was giving her puppy dogs eyes. Midnight Page and Sky Watcher just smiled before pulling her into the hug.


Sun Bloom gasped in absolute horror at the sight right before her. "STAR SONG!! What the heck are you doing!?"

The violet and pink pegasus mare in question looked up from her task to face her twin sister who was currently failing in not panicking over her sister's health. "I'm making lunch?"

The yellow and blue pegasus moved to her sister's side at speeds that would impress even Rainbow Dash. "You're supposed to be lying down." She said sternly as she pulled the spoon away. "You're due to deliver any day now!!!"

Star Song spared a glance at her round belly. "I'm fine. Just because I'm almost ready to give birth doesn't mean I can't help out around the house. I can hardly leave everything up to you entirely. You're a guest in this house."

Sun Bloom quickly shut off the stove and moved the pot of soup to another burner. "What are you talking about, that's the whole reason why I'm here! With Wind Whistle putting in extra hours at work, you need all the help you can get."

As she led Star Song out into the living room Sun Bloom glanced at the photos hanging on the wall. The more recent picture there was Star Song and a yellow and brown pegasus stallion both dressed for their wedding and smiling happily. The next was of Star Song, Wind Whistle and a pair of kids. One was a green pegasus colt with a brighter green mane. The other was a pink unicorn filly with a red mane.

Further down the line was a picture of the same two kids, only much younger and on either side of a brown unicorn stallion with a pale blonde mane. Gold Hoof. The twins' biological father. Years back when the twins had been about five, Gold had been diagnosed with cancer. The kind of cancer that couldn't be cured. The kind that would kill him within a year or two. When the doctor gave him the news, he decided that he would be the one to tell the kids. That week he took them to the animal shelter and they picked out a sleek, black dog that looked like it would be better suited as a guard dog. But he'd been surprisingly gentle to the little ones and they immediately picked him rather than a puppy.

When they were picking out a name for him, Gold Hoof suggested the name Watcher because he wanted the dog to keep a watch out for his kids when he left. This statement of course led to questions about where he was going which led to Gold Hoof explaining his condition. While the children didn't understand what that meant at the time, Gold Hoof always swore that it seemed as though Watcher had understood. The full weight never hit the twins till the year they turned six. The year that Gold Hoof died. Those were sad times, but to this day Star Song and the twins swore that Watcher had been a big part of pulling them through this hard time.

That was why the family had been more than a little freaked out and devestated when he'd disappeared a few weeks prior. Sure the dog had a habit of disappearing every week, but only ever for a day. The rest of the time he was around Star Song or the kids. So for him to be gone for such an extended amount of time had them upset. Especially the kids, who were the most attached to him. The next picture to catch her eye was of the twins playing with a large black dog who was gently playing with them. Silently she wished Watcher was back.


The train pulled into Trottingham station and ponies disembarked. Amongst them were Star Spark, Midnight Page and Sky Watcher. There were other changelings amongst the crowd, many traveling in pony hamingja, mostly out of instinct, and a few in their natural forms. These three particular 'ponies' traveled together for a time. The first to leave their group was Star Spark as they passed her apartment. A little later they passed by Midnight Page's home/business. Midnight Page and Sky Watcher wished each other luck before parting, leaving Raoul/Watcher to confront his family. He sincerely hoped things didn't get ugly.


"What I'm wondering is why Wind Whistle is putting on extra hours?" Sun Bloom said from her seat in the living room. "I mean, since it's his first kid, I expected he'd want to take some time off to fuss over you."

Star Song glanced up from her knitting. "Oh believe me, he wanted to. But as it is we need the money. Plus I told him you'd be here to look out for me. That was basically the deal clincher."

"Really? Well then why don't you listen to me?" Sun Bloom asked.

Star Song smiled. "I said 'look after', not coddle." She countered.

Before Sun Bloom could argue however, there was a scratching at the door. A familiar scratching. Star Song started to get up before her sister stopped her then moved towards the door and opened it. Instead of Watcher however, Sun Bloom came face to face with a tall changeling covered in thick black fur with a clawed foreleg slightly raised. They both stood there frozen for a moment before the changeling opened his muzzle to speak.

"Nope!" Sun Bloom declared before the changeling could get a single word out. She then promptly slammed the door and locked it, ignoring the cry of surprise and pain on the other side.

"Sunny?" Star Song asked as she approached her sister. "Is something wrong?"

"Changeling!" Sun Bloom blurted out. "There's a changeling at the door!!"

Star Song shrugged. "So? Don't you remember that announcement that Luna made a few days ago?"

"Of course I remember. But why the heck is a changeling at our door?!"

"Well why don't we ask him?" Star Song gently pushed her sister aside and before Sun Bloom could object, she'd unlocked and opened the door. The changeling had taken a step back and was currently holding his muzzle when she pulled open the door. When the door opened once more, Raoul glanced up from his sore and definitively bleeding muzzle. This time he was looking at Star Song.

"Is there something you need?" Star Song asked in concern.

Raoul pulled his claw from his muzzle and glanced at the red against black before grasping his muzzle again. "Um, an ice pack would be nice, and may I come in? I need to talk with you."


"So lemme get this straight." Sun Bloom began. "You're a collector from this changeling hive, and this whole time you've been Watcher?" Holding his ice pack to his face, Raoul nodded. "And you really expect us to believe THAT?!"

"I believe him." Star Song offered. Sun Bloom whirled around to face her sister. That honestly didn't surprise her at all. Ever since they were fillies, Star Song had always been the more trusting one. But in this instance, that was stretching it a bit.

"You can't seriously believe this guy? He's a changeling!! Natural born liars!"

"We don't know that." Star Song pointed out. "In fact, nopony really knows much about changelings since they're a recently discovered species. Besides, I think we should hear him out first. After all, you've already slammed the door into his face."

"Speaking of which, exactly how hard did you slam that door?" Raoul spoke up, his deep voice sounding a little odd since he still had his ice pack pressed to his face. "Because it's been five minutes and the bleeding has slowed down a bit, but not stopped."

"Oh my. Should we take you to the doctor?" Star asked worriedly. Raoul waved her off as best he could.

"Let's give it a couple more minutes and if it doesn't stop, we'll go to the doctor." Star Song nodded at his reasoning.

Sun Bloom turned back to him and studied him a moment. "Okay, if you're really Watcher, than prove it. Tell us something only Watcher would know."

Raoul had seen this question coming and had no shortage of answers as there were many MANY secrets the family would confess to him. The trick was picking one that didn't hurt anyone's feelings. After a moment of deliberation, he finally settled on the perfect one.

"When Star Song started dating Wind Whistle, you glared him down and told him that if he hurt her in any way you would, and I quote, 'show him the very horrors of Tartarus itself'."

Star Song put her hoof to her face to stifle a laugh as she remembered the look of absolute terror on Wind Whistle's face when she said that. Sun Bloom still looked a little skeptical.

"That still doesn't prove that you've always been Watcher. You could've replaced him before then." She said defiantly. Raoul quirked an eyebrow, but couldn't deny that she was right.

"On the day after I was brought home you two were in the master bedroom. Star Song was crying and you were holding and comforting her. When I came in, you greeted me and began petting. Star Song even cried into my fur until her tears dried. You both thanked me for being there then continued on with your day. Star Song prepared dinner, Sun Bloom went to pick up the twins from preschool and Gold Hoof was out."

The was silent as they stared at him. Then Star Song threw her hooves around his neck. "Watcher!" Raoul grunted at the sudden jostle and placed a claw to his face. Pulling it back he found that a bit more blood was pouring out.

"Hmm." He hummed as he felt slightly unsteady. "Looks like we will have to go to the doctors after all."


Dr. Heartrate was known to keep a calm level head in the worst and oddest of situations. However, he still raised a brow when Star Song and Sun Bloom brought in a tall, odd looking changeling, holding an ice-pack on his bleeding nose. Regardless, Heartrate still led the changeling to an examination room and prompted him to sit on the table while Sun Bloom and Star Song sat in the room. After some introductions, Heartrate then began to examine Raoul's nose. As he examined, he found himself thankful that this wasn't a serious matter and that changeling noses didn't seem too different from pony noses, though there were still differences.

"Fascinating." He muttered. "It doesn't look too far from a pony nose, but there are still some things that distinguish it from pony noses."

"Changelings live underground and tend to have extra sensitive senses. We don't completely rely on our eyes." Raoul explained from his position.

"And how did you say this happened again?"

"There was an accident with a door." Raoul said calmly.

Dr. Heartrate raised a brow. "What kind of accident?" He asked as he began treating the injury.

"Sun Bloom slammed the door in his face." Star Song answered. Dr. Heartrate chuckled a little.

"That's our Sun Bloom." He said with a whistle as he stole a glance at the nose once more. "She really got you. A real spitfire if I ever saw one."

"Darn straight!" Sun Bloom said with a proud smirk. "And I don't expect any of you to forget it anytime soon."

"I don't think myself or my nose will forget anytime soon." Raoul said with a smile. They all laughed. A minute later, the doctor was finished.

"Well, there you are. I did the best I could, considering I have no idea how changeling anatomy works." He said. "But since it was just a nose bleed, I think you'll be okay. If something worse comes up, you'll have to track down a changeling doctor."

"Thank you doctor. It feels better already." Raoul thanked the doctor as he jumped down.

"So what were you doing at Star Song's door?" Dr. Heartrate asked curiously.

Raoul considered the question. "How much time do you have?"

Heartrate glanced up at the clock. "My next appointment is in half an hour, why?"

"You may need a little time to yourself for this."


"So, you're Watcher?" Heartrate asked. Raoul nodded. The stallion gave it some thought before sticking out a hoof. "Well it's nice to meet you."

Raoul took the offered hoof in his claw. "Nice to meet you too. You're taking this rather well."

Heartrate shrugged. "Well, the way I see it there really is no reason to make a mountain out of a molehill. True, this is a rather big molehill, but the point still stands that there really is no reason to make a fuss."

"Well, when I told them, Sun Bloom didn't believe me at first."

"Yeah well, Sun Bloom has always been a bit on the protective side. Especially when it comes to her family."

"That is something I understand." Raoul said with a nod.

"You two do know I'm in the same room?" Sun Bloom demanded, a little disgruntled that the two stallions were acting like she wasn't there. Star Song smiled, looked up at the wall...and let out a gasp that drew everyone's attention.

"Oh shoot, is that the time?!" Everyone glanced at the clock just as Star Song lept off her seat. "I've gotta go. I'm late picking the kids up from school!"

She was already outside of the clinic when Sun Bloom and Raoul caught up. "Hang on a sec sis, you're in no condion to go running across town!"

"Agreed." Raoul said with a nod. "You are far to close to delivery to exert yourself. I'll go fetch the children."

Sun Bloom dropped her grip on her sister and rounded on him. "Oh no you don't. You may have proven that you're Watcher, but you've got another thing coming if you think I'm letting you anywhere near those kids!"

Raoul shrugged. "Very well, then I will escort Star Song home."

Star Song's protests on how she didn't need an escort were drowned out by Sun Bloom. "You will do no such thing!"

"Then what do you want me to do?" Raoul asked with a quirked eyebrow. "I don't believe you can divide yourself between two tasks at once unless ponies have some sort of cloning technique that I'm unaware of."

Sun Bloom started to answer when Star Song thrust herself between them. "Enough!" She shouted then turned to her sister. "Sun Bloom, I love you, and I appreciate you looking out for me. But Raoul isn't going to hurt me or anyone else. If he were, don't you think he would've done it a while ago? And in addition I am a grown mare, I don't need an escort!!"


In the end it was decided that Raoul and Sun Bloom would both go to the school while Star song would go home ON HER OWN. She brooked no complaints from either though technically Raoul had none to voice. But he did voice concern on her behalf. Star Song quickly assured him, though he was still slightly hesitant. Sun Bloom however, was so sure about him in general. But Star Song insisted and so here they were, walking side by side to the school.

Sun Bloom kept glancing at the tall changeling until she finally asked the question that had been bugging her. "So why do you look like you're part dog? Are you some sort of genetic experiment or something like that?"

Raoul chuckled. "No, nothing like that. See, years ago, back when I was a nymph-"

"Nymph?" Sun Bloom questioned.

"The changeling term for our young. Ponies would say colts or fillies. Anyways, back when I was a nymph, I was very much like Greenblaze: bold and very excitable. Add to that an urge to explore, and you've got a recipe for trouble. And trouble was just what I got into. A lot. Until one day, I did something monumentally foolish on my part. I snuck away from the caretakers and out of the hive. As a nymph, I had been eager to explore outside of the hive, so when I snuck out of the hive I was so excited. But that excitement didn't last."

"What happened?" Sun Bloom asked. Raoul grimaced.

"Our old hive was located in the middle of the Badlands, a very unpleasant place by anyone's standard. The reason why the nymphs aren't allowed outside of hive without an adult until we mature is because there are numerous predators that don't have any qualms with making a meal out of a child."

Sun Bloom's eyes widened and Raoul continued.

"I remember that it hurt so much to say the very VERY least. I was fortunate that a passing scout spotted and rescued me. But the damage was extensive and I was going to die very soon. My mother, the previous queen, saved my life by fusing my body and soul to a doglike creature we know as a Hellir Valdr. I suppose you could say I learned my lesson the hard way that day and I have since been more quiet." There was a slight twinkle in his eye. "Though my adventurous personality never died. Which is why I became a collector."

Sun Bloom thought this over and ultimately decided she didn't need specific details. Then something else computed in her mind. "Wait a second, you said that the previous queen was your mom."

"I did." Raoul said with a nod.

"So does that mean you're a prince or king?"

Raoul shook his head. "It doesn't work like that. Our hives are ruled by queens, not because of tradition or anything like that, but because in the hive the queen is mother to all of the population. She is our matriarch."

Sun Bloom almost skidded to a halt as she went over the math in her head. "But then that would make all of those changelings your siblings."


Sun Bloom's mind drifted to the pictures of the swarm that she'd seen in the papers and whistled. "Huh. Big family. And I guess that makes the new queens your stepmoms?"

Raoul laughed. "Yeah, I guess so."


Back in Canterlot, six changeling queens chuckled awkwardly, through they felt an odd warmth in their hearts for some reason.


At the Trottingham school a green pegasus colt sat at his desk with a bored look as other students filed out to meet with their parents. Sitting beside him and fiddling with her mane was a pink and red unicorn filly. The colt blew at a lock of his light green mane that had fallen in front of his face.

"Mom's late." Greenblaze stated plainly.

"It's not her fault." Roseheart defended. "Momma's real close to delivering, so please don't be upset."

Greenblaze shifted in his seat. "Yeah, I guess you're right. But then where's Auntie Sun Bloom? Either of them should be here by now."

"Maybe something happened and they forgot." Roseheart suggested.

"Like what? What could be so important that they'd forget about us?"

At that moment the teacher came in. "Roseheart, Greenblaze? Your aunt's here to pick you up."

"Finally!" Greenblaze exploded from his seat and grabbed his saddlebags. Though Roseheart went at a more sedate pace than her brother, she was still hot on his heels. Neither noticed the somewhat uneasy look on her face; and when they saw the taller being with their aunt, they ground to a halt to stare in shock.


"So you're Watcher?" Greenblaze questioned from his place on Raoul's back. Once he'd gotten over his shock, he immediately began going on about how cool Raoul looked. He then began begging Raoul for a ride on his back. Raoul replied by saying that it was entirely up to his aunt. Greenblaze's puppy dog eyes could've downed a full grown stallion via cardiac arrest. Needless to to say Sun Bloom capitulated almost instantly. To her credit though, she managed to hold on for a full minute.

Roseheart had initially been a little scared of the strange changeling and had stuck close to Auntie Sun Bloom. As they walked and talked however, Rose found herself interested in this changeling. "Really?" She asked, looking up an the extremely tall changeling.

Raoul smiled gently. "Really really." Roseheart moved closer to him.

"So all this time our dog was a changeling? That's so awesome!" Greenblaze declared from his back. "So, do you know illusion magic?"

Raoul shook his head and smiled playfully. "Changelings don't use disguise magics, we shape shift."

Greenblaze's eyes couldn't have been wider. "That is so AWESOME! I can't wait to tell my friends that our dog can shape shift!"

"Don't changelings hide?" Roseheart asked.

"They do." Raoul admitted. "But our new queens have decided that in order to properly integrate with pony society, we'll need to mingle without our hamingja."

"Hama-what?" Sun Bloom asked.

"Hamingja. It's our term for our altered forms." Raoul explained. After a few moments of walking, Raoul noticed that Roseheart was staring at him. "Is there something wrong?" He asked. Roseheart scrunched her muzzle.

"Why is there red on your muzzle?" She asked. The group stopped and Raoul touched his muzzle with a claw. His nose hadn't started bleeding again, but he found that in the turmoil of the day he'd neglected to wash the dried blood off his face.

"Oh, well. There was an unfortunate collision with a door." He answered.

"You hit a door?" She asked. "Weren't you watching where you were going?"

"Yes I was, but the door wasn't."

Roseheart giggled and held her hooves up to be lifted onto his back. "It must've been a really silly door."

Raoul shot a quick glace at Sun Bloom. "Oh I wouldn't say that..."


Star Song wiped her hooves on a towel and went to the back door. "Kids! Time to come in! Dinner's almost ready." There was a small chorus of 'awwws', but the children obeyed and rushed inside to wash up and help set the table. And following behind was Raoul and Sun Bloom. When they came home, the twins dragged Raoul out to the backyard to play. Sun Bloom followed since she still wasn't completely trusting of Raoul. Of course, after washing up, he helped out as well. With the table set, and dinner on the table, the family started to settle in their seats and tuck in.

"Mommy, can Raoul sit next to me?" Greenblaze asked as he sat in his chair.

Star Song shrugged. "I believe that's a question better answered by Raoul himself." She pointed out. "In fact, I'm not sure if he can join us at the table."

"Hey Raoul!" The colt's call drew the changeling's attention to the colt. "Can you please sit beside me?"

Raoul blinked. "If your mother has no arguments, then alright." Star Song only nodded her head and Raoul took a seat beside Greenblaze with Roseheart sitting on the other side. Once she took her own seat, Star Song looked over all the food items.

"So, what do changelings eat?" She asked.

"Anything really." Raoul answered. "Changelings are omnivorous, so we can eat both vegetables and meat."

Star Song suppressed a small shudder at the last part as she began serving him first before moving on to the children, followed by her sister and herself.

"What about love?" Roseheart asked. "The newspaper says that changelings eat love. Is that true?"

Raoul nodded. "While it is true that love is an important part of our diet, it's not the only emotion we feed on. Love just happens to be our primary nourishment. And only when it's been processed into a physical form. Only queens are capable of gaining nutrition from raw emotion, but that doesn't mean they don't need the nutrients in its physical form."

"So how do you get all that emotion?" Greenblaze asked. "Do you need to suck ponies dry like vamponies?"

"Greenblaze!" Star Song scolded. "We do not talk like that at the dinner table! You don't even know if that's true." 'I hope it isn't true.' She added in the privacy of her mind.

"That is not how it works at all." Raoul said calmly, laying a few fears to rest. "Changeling bodies are capable of absorbing emotional energy and they do just that instinctively, much like how you or I breathe. There are no side effects to any of the surrounding ponies, unless we actively draw. But such methods, while providing a temporary energy boost for emergencies, give us little to no emotional or nutritional value. Hence the need for our kind to blend into society."

"Oh, well do you think you can get by without this 'processed love'?" Star Song asked.

Raoul nodded. "I can hold on for a time. I should be able to process some by tomorrow."

"You can process love?" Roseheart asked.

"Indeed. All changelings are physically capable of processing love into a physical farm that is edible to both changelings and ponies. Princess Luna herself proved that much."

"Really?" Sun Bloom spoke, taking some interest in the subject. "She tried it herself?"

Raoul nodded. "I wasn't there, but I heard about it from one of my brothers. At first she briefly froze, but after that she was just fine. The princesses and our queens figure that since it is emotions given form, anypony that eats it for the first time experiences a shock, but afterwards there are no apparent problems. They are still testing its effects on ponies, and so far the tests have been coming back positive."

"Hmmm." Star Song hummed as she took a sip of her water. "Sounds very interesting. I just might try it sometime. Once the princesses and your queens are certain of course."

"Of course."


Wind Whistle landed in front of his house and shook himself. The sun had set awhile ago and the sky was now illuminated by the silvery moon. He sighed. It'd already been a long day when Star Spark suddenly came forward with the news that she'd always been a changeling. The reactions of the other pegasi on the weather team were varied and not all of them were positive. By the end of the day, some were against her and some were okay with her. Wind Whistle was not sure how he felt about it, and he was to tired and hungry to really think about it.

As he approached his front door, he noticed an odd dent in the wood just slightly above eye level. It wasn't very deep and had a roundish shape. 'That wasn't there this morning.' He thought as he ran a hoof over it. Ultimately he decided that it would be an investigation for later. Pushing open the door, he wasn't surprised to find that he'd missed dinner. What did surprise him was the changeling that sat in a chair in the living room.

He was little more than half a head taller than the average changeling and covered in thick black fur, save for a backplate with wings folded across it. His hind legs were definitely changeling, but his forelegs looked like they came from some creature that Wind Whistle hadn't seen before. And at the end of these legs were broad triangular claws that grasped and spun a white disk like item with edges that curved up. As he entered, the changeling hybrid looked up at him and instead of solid sky blue eyes, his eyes were almost normal and crimson in color with a draconic slit. The changeling used his claw to lift a thick white cord like item that attached to the item in his claws to an unseen spot somewhere between his forelegs and with a snap of his jaws, cut it.

Putting the item down, the changeling stood, walked up to him and thrust his forelegs at him. "Name's Raoul." He introduced himself. "Though you already know me as Watcher."

"Um, nice to meet you." Wind Whistle said as he took the offered claw and shook.

"Star Song left some food for you in the oven then tucked the kids into bed before going to bed herself. Sun Bloom also went home ten minutes ago." Raoul said. Wind Whistle only nodded numbly and trotted into the kitchen. It had been a very long day, and it promised to be a long evening too.


Raoul had joined him in the kitchen and continued to work with his white disk, which was growing and looked a bit more like a large bowl. Wind Whistle eyed the source of the waxy cordlike substance, a spinneret in between and right in front of his forelegs.

"So, um.... Raoul right?" Wind finally spoke to break the silence that had descended after the changeling explained his connection with Watcher. The changeling looked up and nodded. "What's that you're making? And what's that stuff you're using to make it?"

Raoul pulled the strand up higher so that he could see that the single cordlike strand was actually lots of smaller strands covered and held together with a substance that looked a lot like wax. "This substance is basically silk like strands held together by a somewhat sticky wax." He explained. "It's actually sticky when you pull it out. When it dries it becomes hard and can repel water. If you do it right, it can actually become very airtight. We use this to make a lot of things in the hive, most predominantly what I am making here." Raoul held up his large bowl like item for him to see.

"When I am finished, it will look more like an orb that I will use for processed love." He continued to explain. "While the orb will keep the processed emotion dry and airtight, they do have a tendency to absorb some of it." He then smiled a bit. "Fortunately, it is completely edible, if a little bland on its own."

"Huh. That's actually pretty cool." Wind Whistle said. "What else can you make with it?"

"Some actually use it for edible dishware and when it absorbs emotion, it makes an excellent candy. Our queens are actually running tests to see what else we can make with it and one thinks that if we can find a way to separate the wax from the silk, she could make some excellent dresses."

"Hm. So why are you still up?" Wind asked before taking a sip of his drink.

"I couldn't sleep." Raoul finally said after a time. "You still hadn't come home and figured I may as well tell you when you get home rather than have it be an early morning surprise. Sun Bloom stayed with me for a while before finally getting tired and leaving. And while I was waiting, I figured I may as well do something productive."

As he spoke, Raoul was looking away from him and fidgeting. Wind Whistle didn't need to be a genius to recognize that the larger changeling was nervous. Wind Whistle sighed through his nose.

"Listen, I'm still kinda trying to wrap my head around this changeling thing." He smiled slightly for a moment. "I mean, it was quite the shock when Star Spark suddenly dropped her disguise and claimed that she was always a changeling."

Raoul snorted in laughter a bit. "Yeah, Edda has a bit of a flair for the dramatics."

"Tell me about it." Wind Whistle said and they shared a small chuckle that alleviated Raoul's nerves. Wind Whistle continued. "But if what you're saying is true, then I think you're a good pony. If you wanted to cause any of us harm, you'd have done something long ago. As far as I'm concerned, you're alright in my book."

Raoul completely relaxed and gave him a smile. Wind Whistle smiled back.

"Alright, now with that out of the way, maybe you could explain to me why there's a dent in the door?"


Wind Whistle threw a blanket over Raoul's exhausted form. After Raoul had explained the door dent, the two spent the rest of the evening talking and exchanging stories. Considoring how his day had gone, it wasn't long before Raoul's eyes began to droop. Noticing his exhaustion, Wind Whistle helped him to the living room and onto the waiting couch where he passed out. After making sure that he was comfortable, Wind Whistle trotted towards the stairs. Before going upstairs to his bedroom and his wife, he turned to glance at Raoul's peaceful form.

"Goodnight Raoul. And welcome home." He spoke in soft voice so as to not wake him. He then reached to the light switch and with a click the lights went out, plunging the room into darkness. As Wind Whistle trotted upstairs, Raoul's ear twitched slightly and he adjusted his position to be more comfortable, a small content smile gracing his muzzle. Home. He was home.


View Online

Applejack closed her eyes and concentrated as hard as she could.

"Remember Queen Applejack. Picture the form you want and imagine that your body is pliable."

Applejack shoved down her ire at the changeling's use of her new title and focused on the image of her pony form. She felt a tingling sensation across her body. It was slight and very slow, but she could feel a weak prickling sensation as fur started to grow through her chitin shell and her form contracted and got heavier.

"Yay! Go AJ! You can do it!"

Just when Applejack thought she was going to get it, everything halted for a moment before snapping back into place like a rubber band. Applejack stumbled back a step and collapsed as a wave of vertigo hit her. Applejack then opened her eyes and massaged her now aching head with a still perforated hoof. Berit trotted over and offered her hoof.

"For what it's worth your highness, you were much closer than last time."

Applejack scowled as she took Berit's hoof and let herself be pulled up. "Berit, what did Ah say about that 'highness' or 'queen' thing?"

Berit bowed apologetically. "Apologies my queen."

Applejack sighed and rolled her eyes as she turned to trot over to the room's other occupant. Pinkie Pie immediately bounced over to her friend and slung a hoof across her back.

"Wow Applejack you were so close I was 'she's going to do it'! And then I would have to throw a party to celebrate and we would invite everypony and changeling. Even the collectors!"

Applejack smiled a little weakly. "Thanks Pinks. That's real nice of ya to say."

Pinkie's grin widened. "You're welcome Applejack. But enough practicing, we gotta meet the others so we can get going to the train station."


Applejack fidgeted with the holes in her hooves, an action that had recently become a habit for the ex-farmpony. To the outside observer, however, she looked like an orange and blonde earthpony, tracing circles in her hooves as she stared at the ground. She only stopped her fidgeting when the purple hoof of her friend grabbed her own.

"Applejack, don't worry about it." Twilight gently tilted her head up so that she could look at her. "Your family is very understanding, remember? They won't care what you look like on the outside."

"Ah know. Granny said as much last time Ah saw her. But Ah still can't help but feel as antsy as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Ah ain't sure how well Big Mac or Applebloom are gonna take this."

"Darling, I'm certain that they'll take you no matter what you look like." Rarity spoke as she placed her hoof on her friend's shoulder. "But I get the feeling that's not the only thing that bothers you."

Applejack shot her friend an irritated disapproving scowl. "Y'all know how Ah feel about hidin' our situation."

Twilight glanced around the crowded train stain before discretely sidling closer to AJ to speak in hushed tones. "I know how you feel Applejack. Literally, I do since I can feel it through the link. But, the way things are between ponies and changelings, it would be a very bad idea if we aired that out right now."

"Ah know, ah know. Hysteria, mobs, riots or worse."

"Exactly. We won't keep it secret forever you know. Just long enough for things to settle. Then we'll come out with this. Until then, we'll have to keep a lid on it."

Applejack looked like she wanted to add more, but was interrupted by Pinkie Pie's joyful squeal. "Girls! Look look look look! It's almost here!" Pinkie Pie pointed a hoof down the track as a train approached and pulled into the station. The train ground to a halt with a hiss of steam and the doors opened. As ponies poured off the train and into the station, Applejack and her friends scanned the crowd for who they were looking for. Despite the fact that their illusions made them look like their old selves, it did nothing to alter their height, making it easy to scan the crowd from up high. Pinkie Pie was the first to spot who she was looking for.

"Mom! Dad!" She cried as she made a flying leap for her family. They received her with open arms and didn't jump at her loud voice. Not very far from them were the Cakes with their twins and... "Gummy!" Pinkie squealed with joy as she scooped up her crocodile. "Thanks so much for bringing him!" She thanked the Cakes as Gummy latched onto her tail.

"Well of course we brought him." Cup Cake said with a smile. "Your letter asked us to, so we brought him."

As Pinkie Pie hugged the Cakes, Rarity located her own family. "RARITY!" Was the only warning she got before Sweetie Belle latched onto her leg.

"There's our big girl!" Rarity tore her gaze from the clingy Sweetie Belle towards her approaching parents. Her father had been the one to greet her. Her mother held a cat carrier in her mouth and couldn't speak. But she did manage to smile at her daughter around the carrier. Her husband of course trotted up and threw his arms around her in a tight hug.

"Hey there hon. You seem a little taller than usual. How've you been?" He greeted.

"I've been doing very well." Rarity replied as he released her. Her horn lit up and her magic wrapped around the cat carrier. "Thank you very much for bringing Opalescence. I hope she wasn't too much trouble."

"Oh no trouble at all." Her mother said, now that her mouth had been freed of the carrier. "She was a little angel."

"Oh good." Rarity said with a smile. As she and her parents spoke, Sweetie Belle had a blank expression on her face. She was still latched around her sister's leg, and had noticed that it felt different. Instead of soft and furry, it was hard and smooth like a shell; and she distinctly felt holes underneath her. She silently released Rarity's leg and decided to keep quiet about this.


"It was nice of you to come mom. Dad." Fluttershy said. Sweet Blossom smiled gently at her daughter.

"Of course we came, my sweet little filly." The lovely pink pegasus mare with a golden mane cooed gently.

"Indeed. It isn't very often that we get to fuss over our little flower." Fluttershy blushed a little at her dad's comment and tried to hide behind her mane, only for her mother to push it back.

"I honestly don't see why you think you have to hide. You're a beautiful mare." Sweet Blossom pulled out a clip and used it to pin the mane back a little. Fluttershy blushed even more. As her parents fussed over her, Angel bunny took a leap from Sweet Blossom's back and towards Fluttershy, only to hit her side and fall to the ground, much to his surprise.

For a moment he lay there confused. He should've made it to Fluttershy's back, and there was something about that impact that felt different. It only took a moment more for him to figure out what happened. He then climbed back to Sweet Blossom's back and tried again. And this time his aim was true.

As Rainbow Dash watched Fluttershy's interaction with her parents, she almost dumped out of her chitin at the shout from behind her.

"ATTENTION!" Rainbow Dash immediately turned and snapped at attention mid-air. Right behind her was a stern looking navy blue pegasus stallion with a bright yellow red and orange mane. Next to him, a white mare with a blue mane streaked with purple and green shot him a look and nuged him with an elbow.

"Really Prism Bolt, we haven't seen our daughter in ages and you're already acting like a drill sergeant." Sky Ribbon scolded her husband, who relaxed his posture at his wife's complaint. Rainbow Dash smiled and relaxed as well.

"It's alright mom, it was just his way of saying hi." Rainbow defended. Before Sky Ribbon could respond, she was interrupted by a filly's voice.

"RAINBOW DASH!!" Scootaloo cried as she launched herself at the disguised changeling. Rainbow Dash easily caught her and hugged her adoptive little sister.

"Hey there squirt!" She said, dropping herself and Scoots to the ground and ruffling her mane. "Been a while since I last saw you. You look like you've been doing good." There was a slight buzzing sound and Dash spotted Tank flying towards her. "And you brought Tank! Thanks for saving my folks the extra trip."

Scootaloo beamed proudly as she pulled off her helmet. "No problem! And it's great to see you too. And to meet your parents. Applebloom, Sweetie Belle and I have been doing all sorts of things for our cutiemarks. We've been..."


As Applejack watched her friends' interactions with their families, she didn't notice the approach of a large stallion until he tapped her on the shoulder. Applejack swiveled around and came face to face with Big Macintosh. The large stallion smiled at his sister.

"Hey there AJ." He greeted. Applejack threw her hooves around her brother in a hug.

"It's good to see you, Mac." She said. Macintosh just smiled and hugged his sister back. A minute later they were interrupted by barking and a young voice calling out, "Applejack!".

Applebloom latched onto her sister's leg as Winona ran around leaping at her big sister. Applejack just laughed and returned Applebloom's hug before petting Winona. "Hey there 'Bloom. You been staying out of trouble since I last saw ya?"

"Define 'trouble'." Applebloom said a little sheepishly. Applejack stifled a giggle at her sister and turned to Winona.

"And how've you been Winona?" She asked the dog in a slight baby voice. "You been keeping an eye on things while I was gone?" Winona barked twice in answer. It was then that Applejack noticed the absence of a certain Apple family member. "Where's Granny Smith?"

"She said that somepony had ta hold the fort while we were gone." Applebloom answered. "Big Mac offered ta be tha' one ta stay, but Granny insisted that he go and y'all know how stubborn she can be."

'Ah bet Ah can guess why she was so insistent.' Applejack thought to herself then she put forth a smile. "Well, Granny's a tough ol' bird. Ah'm sure she can hold the fort till ya get back home."

Big Mac quirked an eyebrow. "Ah know. Don't mean Ah ain't gonna hurry home when Ah'm able ta." He said in a calm tone. Applejack's smile became genuine.

Then Twilight banged her hoof on the platform to bring attention to her. Her hoof made an odd banging sound and by this point, the entire group were the only ones on the train platform, save a few other ponies.

"Alrighty everypony, now that we've got everyone, we should get going to the castle." She announced.

There was a chorus of 'awwws' from the CMC. "Already?" Applebloom protested. "Ain't we gonna go see the city first?"

"Dearies, after a long train ride like that don't you want to rest and relax before running off?" Mrs. Cake answered before Twilight could.

Maud nodded. "I myself would like to sit and talk with my sister first."

"Eeyup." Big Mac agreed. Most of the other adults agreed. The Crusaders wilted a little before Sweetie Belle perked up again and turned to her fellow crusaders.

"Its okay girls. Why don't we look at it this way: we get to see the castle and in the meantime we can add a few more things to our list of Crusading ideas!"

While that cheered the CMC up, it sent shivers down the spines of the adults who were familiar with them and there was an announcement across the Hivelink to watch out for the Crusaders. Since their Queens had shared tales of their sister's exploits, the drones began preparations for ANYTHING.


As they walked to the castle, the group made small talk amongst each other and informing the six changelings of recent events. The general attitude of the group was more lighthearted. As they entered the castle however, the six Element Bearers grew quiet and more somber. Even Pinkie Pie. Seeing this of course turned the mood from lighthearted to somber. The group then split up, with each of the six changeling queens leading their loved ones to different rooms, leaving Twilight in the hall.


Applejack couldn't see the illusion charm, but she could feel it around her neck. The second the door slammed shut behind her, she hooked her hoof on the chain and threw it off and across the room. The illusion cloaking her form dropped, revealing her to her family in all her glory. For a time silence blanketed the room as her family took in her new appearance.

"Wow." Applebloom finally said. "Granny wasn't kiddin' when she said you turned inta a changlin'."

Big Mac approached and Applejack suddenly found the ground very interesting. Big Mac moved up close to her, raised his hoof... and used it to compare his height with hers.

"Huh. Never thought the day would come when you'd be taller n' me."

Applejack's head snapped up and she glared at her brother. "An what's that supposed ta mean?!"

Big Mac grinned and he began to laugh. Applejack was surprised at first and a little confused. Then she realized what her brother had done and she added her own laughter to his. It wasn't long before Applebloom's own laughter and Winona's joyful barks joined in. And just like that, the tension bled away like water in a colander, making this much easier.


"S-so you're not upset?" Fluttershy asked. Sweet Blossom pulled away from her daughter and brushed away the tears that had started to drip down Fluttershy's cheeks.

"Upset? Why in Equestria would we be upset?" Sweet Blossom asked.

"Because I've changed so much." Fluttershy answered her mother as she averted her gaze and turned her head to look down. "I thought you wouldn't recognize me as your daughter and reject me."

Sweet Blossom smiled gently and placed a hoof beneath her daughter's chin to draw her gaze towards her. "Now where would you get an idea like that?" She asked gently. "It takes more than just a new face for me to not recognize my sweet little daughter. You're still my beautiful little filly. The on I would sometimes cradle in her bedroom when she came home from school crying."

"Your mother's right." Greyhorn said with a warm chuckle. "You're still our little filly and nothing can change that. The only difference is that you've grown a bit."

A smile creeper up Fluttershy's face as tears welled up in her eyes. Seeing this from his perch on her head, Angel looked down at her in concern. \Hey, you alright there?\ He asked. \You need me to get the comb?\

Fluttershy didn't answer him. Instead she wrapped her hooves around her parents and pulled them into a hug as she began crying tears of joy. Angel had never really been one for mushy scenes, but he shrugged and joined in.


"So... now you're a changeling." Prism Bolt summed up. Rainbow Dash nodded. There was a moment of silence before he spoke again. "And you're okay with this?"

"Sort of." She answered as she briefly glanced to the side. "It helps that I'm not the only one to get their species changed." Prism bolt quirked an eyebrow with an unspoken question. "My five best friends were also changed." She explained. "Twilight figures that since this is permanent it wouldn't help anything if we sat around and moped. We've been rallying as best we can since we're all in the boat, we've been helping support each other."

Sky Ribbon grabbed her daughter's hoof. "Support like that can only go so far." She said gently. "If it helps, your father and I will stand by you." Her father gave her a small smile and grunted his confirmation. Scootaloo rushed forward and latched onto her other leg and Tank flew in circles around her. All signs of their own acceptance and it made Rainbow smile.

"I do have one question." Prism Bolt interjected as he ran his gaze across her changed form. "Why are you taller than all the other changelings I've seen?"

Rainbow Dash steeled herself for what she was going to say next. "That's because we're a little different from the other changelings. You see, we're..."


"... Queen changelings?!"

Rarity nodded at her mother's question. "Indeed. Myself and all five of my friends are now queens ruling over this hive of changelings."

Her parents and little sister, who'd latched herself to her big sister's leg, blinked. Then her father whistled. "So you all are those queens that the princess mentioned." He said.

"That is correct." Rarity confirmed. "Considering our circumstances and changeling/pony relations at the moment, we all, including the princesses, agreed it would be best if we withheld that information for now. It would give us time to not only settle into our new duties, but allow the pony population to become well adjusted to our presence."

"So when you say 'duties', what kind of duties are you talking about?" Her mother asked.

"Well, since the role of changeling queen is.. different from the roles that Celestia and Luna fill, I imagine that our duties may differ but still be similar. One thing that the six of us and the princesses are prioritizing is finding a new location for our hive since the old one is most likely gone."

"Rarity?" Sweetie Belle asked, drawing her sister's attention. "What do you mean when you say 'the role of a changeling queen is different'?"

"Well um, Sweetie Belle, and mom and dad. You see...."


"And you're okay with this?" Mrs. Cake asked the hyperactive pink changeling after she'd explained changeling reproduction.

"Well yeah." She said gleefully. "I mean, I guess it'll be a little weird since I used to be a pony, but it's super cool that I get to be the mother of hundreds of changelings!" Then she halted mid-bounce without even flapping her wings. "Though I wonder if I'll be a good mom."

Maud calmly pulled her sister down to the ground and hugged her. "I'm certain you'll make a great mom." She said with a slight smile in her usually even tone. The Pies nodded agreement. All through the revelations that had been made they'd remained remarkably calm, only ever raising eyebrows once in a while. The Cakes supposed that it was a result of raising Pinkie Pie.

As the Pies gathered around their daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Cake smiled and joined in. "We think you'll be a good mother too." Cup Cake said. "After all, you've been a great foalsitter for the twins. Though you might want to make some time for them when you can. You know how much they adore you, and they'd be heartbroken if they couldn't see you again."

Pinkie Pie glanced at the twins smiling at her from their spots in the carrier on Mr. Cake's back. She smiled as her eyes filled with tears and then she pulled them all into a group hug.

"I wouldn't dream of it Mrs. Cake!" She said. "I love you guys so much!" Gummy only blinked from his spot where he was clinging to Pinkie's mane and, if one looked closely, they would see the tiniest of smiles creeping up his face.


"Words cannot describe how happy I am that you two are okay with this." Twilight said with a smile.

Twilight Velvet took her daughter's hoof and smiled a half warming, half mirthful smile. "Of course we're okay with this." She said before a slight teasing glint shone in her eyes. "Though with the way you came to us about it, one would think that that we'd outright reject you."

Twilight blushed a little. Since her parents lived in Canterlot, Twilight figured that she may as well tell her parents and get it over with. She didn't bring anyone with her except Shining Armor, who came as moral support. She fully expected a negative reaction from her parents, but found herself pleasantly surprised when they told her that they didn't care what she was. This success bolstered her friends confidence and they sent letters to their own loved ones. When her parents heard about the impending meeting, they volunteered to be there to offer what support they could should worst comes to worst.

Despite being taller than her, Twilight leaned against her mother. "Still, thank you for being here with me." She said softly.

Night Light placed a hoof on her perforated hoof. "And we'll always be here for you."

They sat there for a few minutes in quiet bliss. The moment ended when five doors opened and five changeling queens and their respective families and friends stepped out. Twilight breathed a sigh of relief at the looks on their faces. Thank goodness they hadn't been rejected. It was at that moment that Night Light clapped his hooves together to grab their attention.

"Well then, who's up for lunch?" He asked with a cheerful expression.


Lunch at Canterlot castle was a very lively affair. After their talks with their families, the entire group moved to the dining room where the table was laden with various food items. Amongst the usual pony dishes there were also griffin dishes and a couple that the ponies didn't recognize at first. As they settled down in their seats, the queens explained that these were changeling dishes. Celestia and Luna sat at the head of the table while everyone else mixed and mingled a bit to get to know each other.

For a time they mingled and spoke lightheartedly like there were no changelings and no queens. Then Pinkie glanced at the ponies on either side of her. On one side was Maud. On the other was Prism Bolt.

"Hey hey Maud." Pinkie Pie nudged her sister to get her attention. "Check this out." Pinkie Pie then zeroed in on a slice cake halfway across the table and opened her mouth. Out slid a long forked tongue that snaked across the table and wrapped around the slice. With her target obtained, Pinkie Pie reeled her prey into her mouth and chewed.

"Ta-da! Sheee Maub? No hooves!" Pinkie exclaimed victoriously around the cake in her mouth. While Maud's only reaction was a pair of raised eyebrows, Prism Bolt and many of the other ponies were gawking at Pinkie Pie. Rainbow Dash tried to hold it in, but in the end, she began laughing loudly at the look on her father's face.

"Ahahaha...oh man dad!" She spoke between giggles. "The look on your face. Priceless!"

Prism Bolt shut his mouth with a clack and turned to his daughter. "Do you have a tongue like that?"

Rainbow Dash stopped laughing and shrugged slightly. "Sure I do. All changelings have long forked tongues. Changeling queens just have longer ones. Neat huh?"

Prism Bolt was at a loss for words, so Maud spoke. "Indeed." She said evenly. Rainbow Dash was quiet for a moment as she spoke with Pinkie via the link.

~Your sister doesn't surprise easily does she?~

Pinkie Pie giggled and declared 'nope!', which only confused the ponies in attendance. For a moment, silence descended. Then Big Mac decided to ask a question that had been nagging at him, but hadn't gotten the chance to ask in the events of the day.

"Hey Applejack." He called out to his sister across the table and she looked up from her plate at him. "Outa curiosity, why were ya wearin' an illusion charm when y'all are changelings?"

"Hey yeah! Didn't y'all tell us that changelings can become anypony? An if your a changelin', why do ya need an illusion charm?" After Applebloom's observation, the others began expressing these questions.

"Ah, well. About that..." Twilight began. "You see, changelings don't use illusion magics. They actually shape shift."

"An unfortunately, we haven't learned how ta do that." Applejack finished for her friend and fellow queen.

"But that doesn't mean we can't do some cool stuff." Rainbow Dash exclaimed as she lept from her seat. "Watch this." And then she vanished.

The ponies were surprised and began scanning the room. The only ones not surprised by this were the other queens and the Celestial Sisters. When Rainbow Dash had discovered this skill (among others) she'd began using them to pull pranks on others. Since it was impossible for her to sneak up on a any changelings in the link (at least until she figured out how to muffle her presence on the link without cutting herself off) she'd been pranking guards, servants and even the diarchs themselves. She had effectively become the terror of Canterlot castle. And her favorite was vanishing in front of them and keeping them guessing where she was.

A few minutes after vanishing, she suddenly reappeared in front of Maud grinning. The earthpony mare's eyes only widened slightly and she took a step back. Rainbow Dash frowned in disappointment and Pinkie Pie giggled.

"HOW THE HAY DID YOU DO THAT?!" Mrs. Cake exclaimed in surprise. While Maud had barely given a reaction, everypony else had jumped a mile at her reappearance and the pegasi were actually airborne; so at least it wasn't a total failure.

"Its what Berit calls 'the first level of disguise'." Applejack explained. "At a young age, changelin' nymphs are capable of changing their color ta blend in with tha' environment. An if one does it right, they can move about almost invisibly."

"Only almost?" Prism Bolt asked as they all settled back in their chairs to resume eating.

"Well it isn't perfect invisibility." Rarity said. "If you're very observant and know what to look for, it's rather easy to spot her."

"Pfft! As if I'd make it easy." Rainbow Dash said before chomping down on a piece of bacon.

Rarity rolled her eyes. "Of course not darling." She said with a hint of good humor. Then her colors shifted from her black and silverly white, to a blue and pink color scheme. "I on the other hoof find the ability to shift my color to be an advantage in the field of fashion as it allows me to test out color swatches against different coat and mane colors. Took a good amount of time to tweak it in this fashion, but I managed it."

"Fascinating." Greyhorn said as he settled into his seat beside Rarity. "And it is indeed, very useful." As she had spoken with Greyhorn, Rarity discovered a sort of camaraderie in this stallion since he also had an interest in fashion. And his knowledge of if was also a surprise. Rarity suspected that this stallion was the source of Fluttershy's knowledge on sewing.

"Quite." And with that, the conversation was concluded and a new one took its place.

"So you all mentioned that you had to find a new home for the changelings." Sweet Blossom started. "Why do they need a home?"

"Oh well, you see, when they lost their previous queen, they abandoned their hive to come to us." Fluttershy answered her mother. "They had to for various reasons. And Queen Chrysalis told them to."

"And we can safely assume that the hive is gone, most likely conquered by another queen, which leaves us with the task of finding a new sight for the hive." Twilight picked it up from there. "Unfortunately there are several things to factor in, the most important factors being that we are about to have a massive population growth. If you think the swarm is large, just wait until we start laying." The six queens suddenly began squirming a little uncomfortably. "Since there are six of us, with each queen laying hundreds of eggs, the hive is going to grow six times as big as it is now. Additionally, changelings are subterranean in nature. They dig networks of tunnels and live in them their whole lives. True, some leave the hive to collect the love we need, but I can't force everyone else to live above ground. You may have noticed the 'solid' blue eyes on the changelings. Those aren't their eyes. Those are second eyelids that act as sunglasses because changeling eyes are very sensitive to sunlight!"

At the end of her rant, Maud spoke up. "I'm very good with rocks and dirt. And so is my family. If it helps, myself and the rest of the Pie family will do what we can to help." The other members of the Pie family only nodded their confirmation. Pinkie Pie then slung her arms around Maud and pulled her into a hug.

"Oh thank you so much Maud!" She squealed. "You guys are all the best!" Before she could pull the rest of the Pie family into a group hug, Sweetie Belle picked up on something else in Twilight's rant.

"Wait, you said conquered by another queen." She piped up so everyone could hear.

"Ah yes. This was going to come out eventually." Rarity began. "You see, Queen Chrysalis wasn't the sole ruler of the changelings. In fact, changelings find the idea of one queen ruling over changelingkind laughable. There are many other hives, each with their own queens. We haven't met them as of yet, but from what I've heard there are a couple who might not be very pleased with the announcement."

"What announcement?" Sweetie Belle asked, severely confused. The other ponies were similarly confused. "I don't recall you making an announcement."

"Oh but we did Sweetie." Twilight cut in. "A sort of covert announcement."

"Yeah." Rainbow Dash had a wicked grin. "Ling' style."

Twilight nodded before she began explaining. "You see, changelings have this fascinating ability to sense the 'presence' of another changeling from a different hive. Usually when they are in disguise so this makes it easier for collectors to not step on each others' hooves. Of course, queens have a 'presence' as well. A bigger and stronger presence compared to a drone."

"Kormac described it as somethin' singin' out ta him while at the same time feelin' heavy an intimidatin'." Applejack added. "Even with that description, he said it didn't do it any justice. An accordin' ta him, some queens can train themselves ta suppress or muffle this presence so's they can seem like an ordinary drone or pony."

"Since we didn't have any such training AND we wanted to make our status known to them, we just let it 'hang out', so to speak." Rarity concluded.

"Eyup. I betcha some of those bug queens are squirming in their thrones right now." Rainbow Dash said leisurely. "Macky boy did say that there were at least a couple queens who would see our conversion as some sort of 'grave insult' because 'ponies are inferior to changelings' or so I'm told. Those ones will probably be after our heads the most."

Despite the casual manner in which she said it, it was on that grim note that the conversations ended as lunch drew to a close.


View Online

"C'mon c'mon c'mon!" A hyperactive pink changeling queen squealed as she bounced ahead of the Cakes and Maud. "You've got to see this!"

"Alright, dearie." Mrs. Cake said good-naturedly with a gentle smile. "We're right behind you." After lunch, they'd left the twins with a changeling caretaker and followed Pinkie Pie at her insistence.

"My goodness, I don't believe I've ever seen Pinkie Pie so energetic." Mr. Cake said with a smile before turning to Maud Pie. "What about you?"

Maud blinked at Mr. Cake in response. "I have." She said in her usual monotone then turned her gaze back to Pinkie Pie, who was still hopping about excitedly. And just like that, the conversation Carrot Cake had tried to spark died before it could live and the three fell into silence as Pinkie Pie led them towards the kitchen. Neither Cake notice the look in Maud's eyes as she focused in on her sister.


Once they reached the kitchen, Pinkie Pie threw open the door with a flourish and twirled on her hindlegs for a moment while waving her forelegs in the air.

"TA-DA!!" She declared as she purioetted to the center of the room before dropping back to all fours with a grin. "What do ya think?!"

The Cakes and Pie paused to take in the kitchen before replying. The kitchen was filled with various cakes and pastries, but only a hooful were finished. Most were incomplete. Some just a few steps from completion. Others were less so and a few were no more than batter in a bowl. By and large, it wasn't an unusual sight for the Cakes who lived in a bakery. What was new were the various colored orbs all over the room. Most were in a pile in the corner of the room while others sat in stands on tables and counters with their tops cut off, exposing the honey like substance within. However, while it looked like honey and even seemed to have the same properties of honey, the Cakes were very certain that they had never seen honey in these colors or with little crystals.

Cup Cake trotted up to the nearest orb, a bright blue one, and looked into it. The 'honey' inside was slightly darker with bright green crystals floating in it. "Pinkie Pie? What exactly is this?" She asked.

"Oh that? That's called changeling honey. It's how changelings eat love!" Pinkie Pie explained as she began stirring a bowl of batter.

"So this is love?" Carrot Cake asked curiously.

"Oh, no no no, blue isn't love. Actually none of these are love."

"Why not?" Cup Cake asked.

"Changelings can absorb and process any kind of positive emotions." Pinkie began. "But the really really really important emotion is love. And unfortunately we don't have a lot of it at the moment, even accounting for the orbs our collectors are sending in. So, I'm only using the other emotions for my recipe tests. Blue is happiness. And bright yellow is joy!"

"Interesting." Maud said. A second glance around the kitchen revealed a detail she hadn't noticed earlier. All of the pastries had some of the odd colored honey incorporated into them in some way. "Why are you using them for your cooking?" She asked.

"Oh well, I've been experimenting in making treats with changeling honey since its a lot like bee honey." Pinkie Pie said as she grabbed up a spoon and began stirring. "And since I'm only experimenting, I'm not using love. Just the other emotions. But when we get enough love, I will use that too."

Cup Cake nodded in understanding. Then she picked up on one of the things that she'd said. "Wait, you said changeling honey is like bee honey."

"Yes indeedily!" Pinkie said brightly. "Changelings process it just like bees process honey and Twilight even ran a few tests to confirm it. Changeling honey is almost exactly like bee honey!"

"Almost exactly?" Mrs. Cake asked.

"Well, it is made of emotions instead of flower nectar." Pinkie explained with a shrug.

"Oh yes, that's right." Cup Cake said then turned her gaze to a bright yellow orb. "So, if it's like honey so much, does that mean it's safe for ponies to eat?"

"Um...sorta. I think?" All three ponies cocked their heads at Pinkie Pie's answer.

"Uh...what do you mean by that Pinkie?" Carrot Cake asked.

"In theory, ponies and other creatures besides changelings should be able to, but it hasn't really been tested until recently, and even then it was just princess Luna who's given it a try but she's an alicorn. We have no idea if it'll be okay for a regular pony yet."

"I'd like to volunteer." Maud raised her hoof as she spoke. Two ponies and one changeling queen shot her questioning looks. "To try the honey." She elaborated.

Pinkie Pie smiled. "Okay! Just make sure you only take a little bit, alright?"

Maud gave her a small nod then dipped her hoof into the bright yellow orb and came out with a glob of the honey. For a moment she studied the glob of honey on her hoof before sticking it in her mouth. Her body became rigid and her eyes widened as she stared forward for a minute. Then she relaxed back to her usual expression and smacked her lips.

"Hmm. It tastes like joy." She said in her usual tone.

Cup Cake and Carrot Cake shared a looked then tentatively dipped their own hooves in the same substance. They paused a moment before putting the globs in their mouths. In an instant the word faded away as the Cakes were filled with the warmth and energy of a summer day. And with it came the brief urge to run and play like they were kids again. Maud was right. It did taste like joy. And it came so suddenly and so intensely that they stood stock still. Then it passed, but traces of the feeling remained like a taste on the edge of your tongue. As the world fell back into view, the Cakes suddenly found themselves being pulled into a group hug with Pinkie Pie and Maud.

"This is great!!" She exclaimed. "Now that you've tried it, that means it's safe for ponies to eat! Now who wants to get baking?"


Elsewhere in the castle, a grey earthpony maid was pushing a cart full of cleaning supplies and some sheets in the Eastern Wing. The wing that was now occupied by a changeling hive and the Terror of Canterlot Castle. It'd become something of a rumor at the castle that there was something else in the castle. Nopony had really seen it, but it was definitely there somewhere. Though so far, Feather Dust hadn't seen anything. As though the universe had heard her sentiments, the second her back was turned, one of the sheets began to move of its own accord.

When she returned to her cart, all color drained from her face at the sight of one of her sheets flying in front of her. The sheet flew up and around the hallway, thoroughly freaking Feather out and the spooky indiscernible whispering in her ears wasn't helping her nerves. Then the sheet made a beeline for her and the whispering picked up. Then the sheet dropped onto her face and at the same time she finally heard a single word in her ear.


That was the final straw. Feather Dust let out a scream and ran as fast as she could away from the 'ghost'. She didn't see the changeling or the laughing changeling queen fade into sight. For a time, the changeling watched as his Queen dropped to the floor in a fit of giggles.

"My Queen, are you certain that wasn't pushing it a little too far?" He finally asked uncertainly.

Rainbow Dash gasped for breath between chuckles before answering. "Of course I am." She said with a cocky grin. "Rule number one about pranks, you never pull them on somepony unless you're certain they can take it. And I'm certain that pony could take that prank. She's going to have the shakes for a bit, but soon enough she'll be laughing too. Trust me on this Aarne." As she spoke, she'd flown up to the drone and slung a leg around his neck.

"Very well you're highness." Aarne said with a nod. "But how can you be so certain she'll be okay?"

Rainbow Dash pulled her leg off him and gave him a conspiratorial wink. "That my friend is a trade secret." She said with a lopsided grin.

"Very well my Queen." Aarne said. "If you'll excuse me Your Highness, my duties as caretaker require attention."

"Sure! I just needed you for that demo." Rainbow Dash said with a wave. "Go on back to your duties and tell the nypmhs I said hi."

"You are too kind Your Highness." Aarne said with a bow before flying off. Rainbow Dash took a deep breath then turned around to face where the hall turned.

"Alright squirt, you get all that?" She asked the bend. In response, an orange pegasus filly moved around the corner and looked up at her with admiration in her eyes.

"You bet I did!" Scootaloo said with a smile. "I got every single word and action."

Rainbow Dash nodded in approval. "Good job squirt." She said. "Now you may need some extra preparation before you can pull off that prank, but always remember to be careful who you target and how far you go. It's not fun if you make somepony cry."

"Yes ma'am!" Scoots said with a salute and a serious experience that actually looked adorable.

"Oh and one more thing." Rainbow Dash added. "Don't call me ma'am. I'm not that old. Call me Rainbow Dash or just plain Rainbow or Dash."

Scootaloo's eyes sparkled even more. "Yes m- I mean Dash!" She said enthusiastically. Rainbow landed with a smile and ruffled the filly's mane. But before either of them could say anything, they interrupted by Sky Ribbon calling out to her daughter in greeting.

"Rainbow Dash! There you are!" She said as she approached. "I will say this, it seems as though your speed hasn't changed since you became a changeling. Your father and I have been trying to find you for awhile."

"Heh, sorry mom, dad." Rainbow apologized to her parents as they came up to the Queen and filly. "I was teaching the squirt here some pranking techniques. So what did you want?"

"Well, your mother and I were wondering if you could show us around this hive of yours." Prism Bolt explained. "We realize you don't have an actual hive yet, but while we're here, we'd like to see the swarm."

"Hmm, I don't see why not." Rainbow said before turning to Scootaloo. "Whatcha think Scoots? You want a grand tour of the 'hive'?"

Scootaloo's eyes brightened. "Heck yeah!" She exclaimed. "I'd love to see the changelings!"

"Well alrighty then." Rainbow Dash said with a cocky grin. "Let's go meet some changelings!"


"Okay then, now as you already know we're pretty much hiveless until we can find somewhere to settle, so there's not much to see." Rainbow started as she led her parents and Scootaloo on a grand tour of the hive, or rather the swarm. "And since we're hiveless, a few groups of changelings are also jobless. Like those guys over there."

She pointed to a small group of changelings that were chatting as they were grooming black dog like creatures.

"Those changelings over there are some of our hive builders." Rainbow explained. "Their job was to maintain the hive tunnels and make new rooms and tunnels if needed. For obvious reasons, they are unable to do their job."

"What are those creatures they are grooming?" Prism Bolt asked as he studied the odd creature.

"Those are what the lings call, 'hellir valdr'." Rainbow Dash answered. "Translated into Equestrian, it means cave wolf, which is pretty accurate since they're basically like changeling dogs. Anyways, they're subterranean in nature too and those powerful claws aren't just for show. Those bad boys can cut through dirt and stone like it's nothing. So the hive builders train them to help dig tunnels."

"Fascinating." Sky Ribbon said. "I assume that their dog-like nature means that they're trained for a variety of tasks as well."

"You got it." Rainbow congratulated. "Yeah, we do train them for a variety of tasks like guarding, search and rescue, hunting, etcetera etcetera. You get the idea. And they also make good companions. Plus the best part is that since they can also access the Hivelink, we can send them commands even from a distance."

"Hivelink?" Sky Ribbon asked.

"Oh yeah. Forgot I hadn't explained that. You see, changelings have this sort of psychic link that they share with each other. And each hive has their own psychic network of sorts. All supported by the Queen or in our case...Queens." Sky Ribbon stared at Dash at the hesitation, but didn't say anything. "Anyways, the link is pretty much a big part of a changeling hive and it can often be very traumatic for a ling to be separated from the link."

"Huh, seems like a disadvantage." Prism Bolt observed. "After all, all an enemy would need to do to incapacitate you is sever this connection."

Rainbow Dash smirked. "I can assure you that it's harder than it sounds. The link is tougher than you think. We've actually run tests, and we've discovered that nothing short of a Queen willingly severing the connection will affect the link. Now, let's move on."

As they'd been walking and talking, Sky Ribbon had spotted a changeling who was different from his brothers. He was a head taller than the other changelings and his chitin and even his wings were completely black, unlike the others who had a dark blue plate on their back and teal wings. But his second eyelid remained the same color of the other changeling eyelids. Sky Ribbon watched the changeling walk towards them, give her daughter a small bow before passing them.

"What kind of changeling is that?" Sky Ribbon asked as she watched the retreating form of the changeling. "He's different from the others."

"Yeah, I know." Rainbow said. "And he's not the only one. I've spotted a few others like him around the swarm. I haven't really asked why though since I've sorta been busy. Our education has been on the go and we still haven't learned everything there is to know about changelings yet. Anyways, I'll learn about those guys later when we get to it. Now for the rest of your tour..."


"...And finally we have the...caretakers room." Rainbow said as she gestured in one of the larger rooms. "It's basically the room that the caretakers commandeered for the nymphs."

Sure enough the room was mostly filled with small changelings running around and playing with each other and the various toys they had. With them were older changelings that the ponies knew it was safe to say were the caretakers. Some were playing with filly sized nymphs while a few stood at the edge of the room and near the door to keep watch. And sitting on chairs and beds around the room were caretakers tending to foal sized nymphs.

"So as you can see, the caretakers tend to the nymphs." Rainbow Dash explained. "Usually keeping them in a room a lot of the time so they don't get underhoof. That doesn't mean they're never allowed out of the room. Actually the only place they're not allowed to leave until they're older is the hive."

"Why not?" Scootaloo asked.

"Well, the original location of the hive was the Badlands, a place that's not know for its 'hospitality'. To say the least." Rainbow explained. Scootaloo waited for her to explain, but she didn't. Instead, she continued speaking. "Anyways, that's the end of our tour. Sorry that there isn't much to see, but I hope you enjoyed it."

When she finished speaking, Prism Bolt decided to backtrack a bit so he could speak with the Guard, in particular the Queens' Guard. Scootaloo decided to get to know the nymphs, so she joined in. Sky Ribbon however stayed where she was right next to her daughter, who had remained standing at the doorway of the room staring in. After a moment, Sky Ribbon reached up to lay her hoof on Dash's back.

"Dashie, are you alright?" She asked. The changeling Queen started out of her thoughts and looked at her mom with a smile that was too big to be real.

"Sure I am." She said. "Why wouldn't I be?" Sky Ribbon frowned.

"Rainbow Dash, sit." She said in a firm motherly tone that brooked no argument. Needless to say, Rainbow Dash obeyed. Now that she was sitting, she was a little more than eye level with her mother. Sky Ribbon then gently grabbed her daughter's chin and stared into her eyes.

"You're a bad liar." Sky finally said and Rainbow Dash tried to bow her head but her mother's hoof stopped her. Sky Ribbon continued in a more gentle tone. "Now Dashie, what's wrong?"

Rainbow hesitated a moment before speaking. "It's confusing." She said hesitantly. "At this point, I don't know how to feel. At first I was confused and angry because this means I can't follow my dream of being a Wonderbolt! But they all depend on us so, I can't just turn my back on them. But mostly, I'm afraid. When I start laying eggs, and having nymphs, that feels like that's it. It just feels so final, and I'm afraid that I'll lose who I am because of this bug queen thing."

Sky Ribbon sat down and stretched a wing as far as she could across Rainbow's back. "I don't think that's how it works." She said softly. "When I became your mother, there were things that I had to give up, but I gained so much more than I lost."

"Like what?" Rainbow asked.

Sky Ribbon smiled gently and began to stroke her mane. "Well for one thing, I got a wonderful, gorgeous daughter whom I couldn't be prouder of and who has filled my life with love and joy like nothing I've ever had before."

Rainbow Dash smiled and pulled her mom close as her eyes began to water. Sky Ribbon hugged her and continued to speak. "And you know I didn't give up who I was when you came along. Remember I still wasn't afraid to give you and your father a stern talking to when you needed it. Being a mother is a tough responsibility, but it doesn't mean you have to give up who you are. And when you start having nymphs of your own, I have no doubt that they'll become the joy of your life and will make you proud."

Rainbow Dash broke down and started crying into her mom's shoulder. Sky Ribbon just sat there and rubbed her daughter's back, being careful of her wings. After a time, Dash's tears ran dry and she pulled herself off her mother. Her eyes were still a little damp, but she was now wearing a genuine smile.

"Thanks mom." She said with a sniff. "I guess *sniff* I just needed to hear that. Thanks."

Sky Ribbon patted Rainbow Dash on the shoulder. "Anything for my little filly."

"Mooom!" Rainbow whined with a smile as she shrugged off the hoof. "I'm not a filly anymore!"

Sky Ribbon giggled and pulled the Queen to her. "You'll always be my filly." Rainbow Dash just resigned herself to the hug with a smile. After a few minutes, Rainbow Dash broke the silence.

"Hey mom?"

"Yes Dashie."

"Could you not tell anyone about the whole crying thing? I may be a bug queen, but I still have an image to maintain."

Sky Ribbon laughed. "Sure honey. I won't tell." She promised. She didn't tell her little filly that they had a small audience. Fortunately the changelings were respectful enough that they wouldn't do anything with it.


"Aaaand there!" Pinkie Pie said as she put the finishing touch on a triple layer, three tiered, red velvet and cream cake. All made with the addition of bright blue changeling honey. With the final detail in place, Pinkie, Maud and the Cakes stepped back to look at their creation.

"It looks good." Maud said.

"It looks wonderful!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed. The Cakes were still trying to figure out how these two complete opposites could be sisters.

"Well, I'd say we did a pretty good job." Cup Cake said. At that moment, a drone entered and gestured for the Cakes. The couple trotted up to the drone who whispered something to them then departed. The Cakes turned and walked up to the Pie sisters with apologetic looks.

"Sorry Pinkie, but we've got to run." Mr. Cake started.

"You see, according that drone, the twins are hungry and so since they're our foals and the drones have no idea how to give them milk, we've got to go take care of this." Mrs. Cake continued.

"It's alright." Maud said.

"Yeah! Don't worry about us! We'll be just fine!" Pinkie agreed. "You go and take care of the twins."

"Thank you Pinkie." Cup Cake said then she turned and trotted out of the kitchen with her husband. The second those doors closed, Pinkie let out a gasp.

"Maud, I just had a funny idea!" She said. Maud slightly cocked her eyebrow and Pinkie explained. "What if while the Cakes were gone, we made a pie! You know, because the Cakes were here for the cake and now the Pies make a pie! He he! You get it?"

Pinkie didn't wait for an answer however as she instantly began busying herself with making the pie dough. Maud watched her for a time then trotted up to her and placed a hoof on her sister's shoulder.

"Pinkie Pie." She said to get her sister's attention. Pinkie whirled around with her best smile, though it wasn't genuine.

"Yes Maud?" She answered.

"You're too perky." Maud said bluntly and evenly. Pinkie stared at her sister for a beat then her smile melted and she partially deflated.

"Oh. So you noticed." It wasn't so much a question as it was a statement of fact. Maud nodded.

"I always notice." Maud said with her usual expression. With a sound like a popped balloon, Pinkie Pie deflated entirely. Her colors were now dim and her hair had straightened and partially hid her face.

"I forgot that you...always notice when I'm upset or...sad and I'm hiding it." She said in a glum tone that was the complete opposite of her usual cheerful tone. "Silly Pinkie."

Maud didn't say anything. Instead she sat down next to her sister. "You know you can talk to me." Maud said. "I always listen."

Pinkamina was silent for a few moments then there was a sniff followed by a whimper. Then Pinkamina threw her forelegs around Maud and began to sob.

"Oh Maud! I'm s-so sca-a-a-ared!!" She whimpered into her sister's coat. "I mean *sniff* before all this I was just a baker at Sugarcube Corner! All I really had to worry about back then was making pastries and putting on parties for the ponies of Ponyville. Sometimes I'd help save Equestria or foalsit the twins but the whole saving Equestria is something I do with my friends and I just barely manage to take care of the twins! But now I'm a queen ruling over an entire hive! Plus I'm going to be having my own kids which means the hive is going to grow! And I just know I'm going to mess up!!!"

At the end, Pinkamina began to sob harder and Maud began to gently stroke her sister's mane and noted that it was softer and smoother than before. Like silk. After letting the Queen sob her piece for a few minutes, Maud decided she should say something.

"Pinkamina Diane Pie." She said firmly. Since her sister had decided to shorten her name to Pinkie Pie, it was a rare occurrence for any of her family members to use her full name. Whenever they did, it was usually in situations similar to this when they needed her to give them her full attention. So naturally, Pinkamina stopped sobbing and looked up at Maud.

"Aren't you forgetting something Pinkie?" Maud asked.

*sniff* "Forgetting something?" Pinkamina sniffed. Maud nodded.

"Aren't your friends also Queens of the same hive?" Pinkamina nodded. "And are your friends just as good as you've told me they are in your letters?" Another nod. "Then everything will be fine." Maud said plainly. "Because your friends will be there to support you and you can help support them when they need it. Just like when you're all saving Equestria."

Pinkamina blinked as what Maud had said sank in. "Y-you're right." She began quietly, but as she spoke her voice gradually gathered strength. "My friends are there for me. And I can be there for them too! And together, we can do this!" Pinkie's colors brightened and her hair poofed back into its usual style.

Maud watched her sister happily jumping around the kitchen in joy and she smiled. Then she cleared her throat. "Pinkie, didn't you have a pie you wanted to bake?"

Pinkie Pie paused and shot Maud a genuine grin. "Of course! How could I forget!" She then lept at Maud and threw her arms around her. "Thanks Maud! You're the best!"

Maud returned the hug. "So are you." She said with a smile of her own.


View Online

After learning about pranking and playing with some of the nypmhs, Scootaloo went up to where Rainbow Dash and Sky Ribbon were talking.

"Hey Dash?" She asked to get her sister figure's attention and the changeling Queen turned to her in response. "Not that I don't like hanging out with the best big sister ever, but the Crusaders and I were hoping to go see Canterlot and maybe find our cutiemarks!" The filly's eyes shone like stars as she spoke and despite her fangs, Rainbow Dash still managed a warm smile.

"Sure kid, but first you're all going to need someone with you." She replied. "And I know just the ling for the job."

✴✴✴✴ Half An Hour Later ✴✴✴✴

The Cutiemark Crusaders rushed out of the castle at high speed and trailing behind trying to keep up was a changeling and a unicorn Royal Guard. The two only got the chance to catch their breath when the fillies stopped at the gates and stared open mouthed and wide eyed at Canterlot.

"It's so beautiful!" Sweetie Belle exclaimed. "I can see why my sister loves Canterlot so much."

"Yeah! Ah'm not usually very interested in all that fancy shmancy stuff, but even Ah can see why ponies think this place is gorgeous." Applebloom said.

"And the best part is that it's all unexplored territory!" Scootaloo added. "Think about it, out there is a million cutiemark possibilities just waiting for us!"

"Then what are we waiting for?" Sweetie Belle asked.

"Yeah! Let's get Crusading already!" Applebloom cried out. But before they could start, the changeling instantly stepped in front of their path.

"Now hang on a minute." Kormac said gently yet authoritatively. "Canterlot is a much different place than Ponyville. There are certain things you can and cannot do here. So while we are out of the castle, you need to stay near myself and Sergent Sun Spear."

The Royal Guard nodded firmly. The Crusaders sighed and looked down. "Yes sir." They all said simultaneously and a little gloomily.

"Oh c'mon now." Kormac said kindly. "You can still have fun and 'Crusade'. But it can't be too dangerous and you can't run off from us. Understand?"

The Crusaders instantly brightened. "Yes sir!" They said with more enthusiasm than before.

"Good. Now let's get going." He said with a pleased smile. The Crusaders rushed forward once more, but at slower pace so they wouldn't lose their escorts. As they followed after the fillies, Sun Spear leaned near Kormac to speak to the changeling without drawing the fillies' attention.

"I didn't know you were good with kids." He said with a small grin. Kormac grinned back.

"In a changeling hive, all the adults lend a hoof with the nymphs to some extent." He answered. "And since I'm from Chrysalis' first clutch, I've had lots of experience."

Sun Spear looked at him respectfully. "You don't think you could give me some pointers could you?" He asked. "My sister often asks me to watch her kids and I swear, those kids are going to give me grey hair before my time."

Kormac smiled. "Well then Sergent, watch and learn." Was all he said before trotting a little faster to catch up with the fillies, Sergent Sun Spear of the Royal Guard following close behind.


Despite his new Queens not being his original Queen, Kormac and every other changeling held the same love and respect for them that any other species would for their mother. And in a situation like this, their wisdom was invaluable. When Queen Rainbow Dash, or just Rainbow Dash as she was insisting on being called, assigned him to look after the Crusaders, Queen Twilight made the suggestion that a Royal Guard accompany them. With how changelings were viewed in Canterlot, the presence of a Royal Guard would both assuage fears and keep him safe from any assaults from the most belligerent among the ponies.

And given the glares that the populace were giving him, he was glad for Queen Twilight's wisdom.

Choosing to ignore the looks that the ponies around were shooting at him, Kormac set his mind on his task, namely keeping an eye on three rambunctious fillies. Sun Spear was doing the same whilst keeping an eye on the ponies around them. Aside from the girls' chatter, there was silence between the two males. Eventually however, Sun Spear decided to strike up a conversation, and since he wasn't very familiar with the Commander, he started with the first thing that came to mind.

" were a part of Chrysalis' first clutch?" He asked. Kormac's ear twitched at the sudden break in silence, but he had no complaints and decided to humor the Sargent.

"I am, yes. Matter of fact, I was her first hatched nymph." Kormac said with a grin. "I don't remember that day anymore than you would remember your birth, but Chrysalis used to say that moment was the most amazing moment of her life."

"Huh. I wonder if my mom felt the same about my birth." Sun Spear said contemplatively. "I should make sure to ask her when I get the chance."

Kormac smiled. "I'm sure she'll tell you the same thing Chrysalis would say." He said.

Sun Spear smiled back. "Yeah, I guess she would. So I suppose that makes you the oldest out of all your siblings."

"Yes it does." Kormac nodded. Sun Spear scratched his chin thoughtfully.

"And you said Chrysalis was your mother, right?" He asked and the changeling nodded. "So if she's your mom, then why do you call her Chrysalis instead of mother? For that matter, why aren't you and your hive in mourning either?"

"Sergeant, try to understand that the world of a changeling is much harsher than yours." Kormac started. "We called Chrysalis by her name not because she was aloof from us, but out of respect for her position and duties. The nymphs would refer to her as mother until they were older. In the Hivelink, we did call her mother freely, regardless of age. And as for mourning, our Queen's last command was for us to leave our hive so that we wouldn't be destroyed by the other Queens. We miss her as much as you would miss your own mother, but I doubt that your mother would want you to grieve for too long when there's work to be done."

Sun Spear grinned. "No she wouldn't. Mom's just that type of pony, always encouraging and pushing us forward. I'm sure that if we sat around mourning her when she dies, she'd be turning in her grave. Oh and please, call me Sun Spear or Sunny. That's what my pals call me."

Kormac grinned as well. "Alright then Sunny. I'm glad to be counted amongst your pals."

"Yeah well, I'm an older sibling myself so I understand that there's some responsibility for the younger siblings there." Sun Spear said with a shrug before slinging a foreleg across the changeling's back. "I may not know a lot about changelings, but I do know that everyone else in your swarm are your siblings, plus you're a Commander so that's a lot of sibling responsibility."

"True true, but it helps that everyone helps each other, so I don't have the weight of the entire hive on my shoulders." Kormac said and Sun Spear pulled off of him.

"Still, older siblings should stick together and help each other out." Sunny then stuck his hoof out in an obvious gesture that Kormac recognized. The changeling stuck out his own hoof and bumped it against the unicorn's.

"Of course." He said. "And, if you want, you can consider yourself a member of our hive."

"Cool. I get a ton of brothers and sisters." Sunny said easily. At that moment, one of the girls called out, drawing the full attention of the two males.

"Hey look! It's a perfume shop!" Sweetie Belle announced as she pointed at a nearby shop.

"Whoa, an entire shop just fer perfume?" Applebloom said curiously.

"Honestly, it doesn't surprise me." Scootaloo said. "This is Canterlot after all."

"Girls, I just had an amazing idea!" Sweetie Belle said with a grin. "Why don't we try to get our cutiemarks for making perfume!"

"A perfume making cutiemark? That sounds lame." Scootaloo said dismissively. Applebloom frowned at the pegasus and gave her a small shove.

"Oh c'mon Scoots, not every cutiemark has ta be some sort of daredevil cutiemark." She said. "Ah enjoy adventuring as much as the next pony, but once in a while Ah wouldn't mind trying for a less dangerous cutiemark. And besides, isn't it our goal ta try EVERYTHING so we can find our cutiemarks?"

"Fine, I guess it's worth a shot." Scootaloo said resignedly, though if one were to look closely they could see a spark of interest in her eyes. Sweetie Belle grinned.

"Yay! And even if we don't get our cutiemarks, I bet my sister would like a bottle of perfume." Sweetie said cheerfully.

"Then let's get started!" Applebloom said and like that, the matter was resolved and the three fillies slapped their hooves together as they shouted their usual saying like a battle cry.


And with that, the group trotted in the door, save for one who paused at the doorway. Kormac wasn't a fan of perfume shops. Because of their subterranean and insect-like nature, changelings like himself tend to be sensitive to scents. Some would be alluring while others would be agitating. It wouldn't be enough to affect his behavior, but such scents would make him uncomfortable to varying degrees. And on top of that, while his nose wasn't as strong as a Heller Valdr's, he would still pick up things ponies wouldn't.

Under normal circumstances, this wouldn't be a problem, but perfume stores were places where lots of scents were grouped together. To the ponies, it would smell pleasant, but for a changeling like him, the multiple sources of alluring and agitating scents alongside the smaller scents he would undoubtedly pick up would be sending so many conflicting messages that it give him a headache and turn his stomach a little.

But, even though he would normally avoid the perfume shops as much as he could, it was still a minor discomfort. If his duty required him to enter a perfume shop, then he would enter a perfume shop. So before anypony could notice his hesitation, Kormac steeled his resolve and stepped into the shop. After all, it was just three fillies and he'd had plenty of experience with his own siblings. What was the worst that could happen?

✴✴✴✴Twenty Minutes Later✴✴✴✴

Despite the presence of changelings, life continued on like usual in Canterlot. And today couldn't be a better day. The sun was shining down on the city, making it glisten in the light. Various shops and businesses were bustling with customers and it honestly didn't seem like anything could make this day better.


Pedestrians on the street jumped at the sudden explosion that came from a certain perfume shop. Vapors of various colors and scents were now pouring out of the windows, vents, and other openings. Not even a minute after the explosion, the doors were flung open and ponies poured out. Among these ponies was a unicorn stallion dressed in Solar Guard armor. Following behind him were three fillies and draped across his back was the limp, passed out form of Commander Kormac.

The changeling honestly looked more dead than alive.

When they were a safe distance from the shop, Sun Spear lowered Kormac down from his back and laid his head down on his saddlebags so he would be comfortable. Shortly afterwards the changeling woke up with a groan.

"Hey buddy, you alright? How do you feel?" Sun Spear asked and Kormac groaned again.

"Not so great." He rasped hoarsely. "My nostrils are burning, my head feels like it's trying to kill me and my stomach feels......urp!" For the next five minutes, Kormac heaved the contents of his stomach into a bucket that Sun Spear provided. When he was done, Kormac coughed a bit before finally speaking again.

"Uhhhhh. You wouldn't happen to know any spells to help with headaches, do you?" Kormac moaned as he leaned against a nearby fountain. Sun Spear shook his head as he gathered up his bags and opened them.

"Not really, mostly attack magic." He confessed as he reached into his bags. "But, I do have some headache medicine." Kormac shot him a look.

"Why, in the name of the hive, do you carry headache medicine?" He asked.

"Remember how I told you that I watch my sister's kids?" Sun Spear asked as he fished out a bottle and opened it.

"Yeah?" Kormac answered. The Gaurd then set a pill on his hoof and began getting him a glass of water.

"Well I wasn't kidding when I said those kids are going to give me grey hairs before my time." Sun Spear passed him the glass of water. As the changeling was gulping his pill, the Guard continued as he put his stuff away. "Those kids get into so much mischief that I kinda have a bag of medical supplies prepared. Mostly bandages and medicines, but it works. They get into all kinds of shenanigans, so I keep headache medicine on hoof. They've gotten into all sorts of trouble, but blowing up a perfume shop is a new one."

"Me too." Kormac said, already feeling much better. "I honestly thought that making perfume was a safe thing to do. Now I understand why my Queens were concerned not just for the well being of these three. I swear I stopped breathing at some point."

"Uh, mister Kormac?" The two males looked up to see the three fillies in question looking at the changeling with wide, sad eyes that could induce a heart attack.

"We're really really REALLY sorry for what happened." Sweetie Belle started.

"Yeah. We didn't mean ta make you sick." Applebloom continued.

"And the worst part is we didn't even get our cutiemarks." Scootaloo finished with a pout.

"Hey, don't worry girls. No harm done, at least not completely." Kormac quickly said. "Just let me rest a little and I'll be right as rain. And as for your cutiemarks, well changelings can't get cutiemarks, but I'm sure you'll figure that out some day. You three are very bright, enthusiastic and determined fillies. I'm sure you'll earn your cutiemarks."

The CMC brightened at his encouraging words and after thanking him, immediately set to planning. Kormac just relaxed and breathed in fresh air as his head dulled and his stomach settled. As he rested, Sun Spear looked after the three fillies and when the owner of the shop stomped over angrily, he dealt with that too. Apparently the explosion of perfume was bad enough that she'd have to shut down her shop for almost an entire month.

Sun Spear managed to calm her and informed that the Crown would do what it could to compensate her. One thing that the mare was firm about was that the Crusaders were definitely banned from her shop when it reopened, which was fine for them because they didn't live in Canterlot and since they found that their destiny wasn't making perfume, they saw little point in it. By the time the shop owner left, Kormac was feeling better and was ready to continue on. As they once again walked through Canterlot, a passing shadow drew the Crusader's attention upwards.

"Whoa, what's that?" Applebloom asked as she pointed up.

"It's an airship." Sun Spear answered as they watched the ship dock not too far from where they were. The fillies' eyes were shining in wonder and Kormac could feel dread clawing at his stomach.

"That's so awesome!" Scootaloo suddenly said. "It's like flying without wings! I bet all three of us can fly that!"

At that moment, a spark of an idea ignited in their minds and the two males started to pale as they saw what was coming.

"Maybe we can." Applebloom said. They all grinned and the CMC cry echoed through the street.


As they dashed forward, their escorts stood frozen with wide eyes and pale faces.

"Hey Kormac?" Sun Spear said. The changeling nodded in answer. "I'm not the only one who thinks we're in over our heads am I?" Kormac shook his head then spoke. While the Guard didn't completely understand what every word meant, the meaning was clear.

"May the Empress have mercy on our souls." Kormac said and Sun Spear nodded in agreement.

"You can say that again. Good thing I stocked up just yesterday." Sun Spear hefted his saddlebags as he spoke then took off after the Crusaders with Kormac following behind.


With her sister out with her friends and her brother somewhere in the castle, Applejack saw this as an opportunity to practice her shape-shifting once again. This time there would be no Berit and no Pinkie so she could focus on her transformation. She closed her eyes and began to focus, picturing her old pony form. Soon she felt her magic starting. Her body began to shrink and there was and a prickling sensation spread across the body as fur began to grow. Her holes started to shrink and AJ thought that she might actually do it this time.

Then like she'd just jinxed herself, her transformation halted and she snapped back to her changeling form and collapsed. Disoriented and only seeing colored blobs, Applejack just lay there on the ground waiting for her vision to clear. Then a large red blob suddenly appeared in front of her and a deep, familiar voice spoke.

"AJ, whatcha doin'?" Applejack didn't need her vision to know who it was and once she was able to, she stood up with some help from her brother.

"Ah'm jus' practicing mah shape shifting." She said as she dusted herself off. "What are you doing here anyways?"

"After Ah finished touring the castle Ah wanted ta see what you were doing, so Ah asked a drone where you were and he pointed me this way." Mac answered. "Why are you tryin' ta shape shift anyways?"

"Shape shifting is an important part of changeling culture and stuff." Applejack said. "And until we can do it, we're relying on the princesses' illusion charm. Ah don't like hiding myself like this, but if I have to Ah'd like it ta be the changeling way because Ah'm not a fan of relying on somepony else like this. If Ah'm going ta lie, Ah may as well be the one ta do it and not drag anyone into it. But no matter how hard Ah try or how many times Ah try, Ah jus' can't seem to get it. Ah can only do it partway then it snaps back."

Big Mac studied her with a thoughtful look on his face then looked her in the eye. "Maybe yer tryin' too hard." He said firmly.

"Tryin' too hard?" Applejack parroted. "What do ya mean by that?"

"Ah mean that you aren't Applejack the Earthpony anymore." Big Mac said. "Yer Applejack the Changeling Queen now."

Those words hit Applejack like a brick and the former farmpony came to a realization. While she'd known that this was a fact, some part of her hadn't accepted it and now here was her brother saying the same thing. That just hobbled that part of her mind and she realized he was right. Every time she'd tried to shift into her old earthpony form, she'd been thinking to herself that she was an earthpony. But she wasn't. She was a changeling now. Applejack didn't know when she sat but the next when Mac laid a hoof on her shoulders, she noticed she was sitting on her haunches.

"But ya know something." He said gently. "Earthpony or changeling, you're still Applejack Apple, and a proud member of the Apple family."

"Ah....Ah don't know the first thing about leading." Applejack finally said quietly. "Ah'm an apple farmer. Ah only know apple trees."

Big Mac smiled a very warm and kind smile that always warmed her to the core and lifted her spirits. "You didn't know apple farming at first either." He said. "But over time, you learned. And myself and Granny Smith helped you along the way. You'll figure it out. Now, why don't we try that again."

Mac offered her his hoof and Applejack took it. When she was back on her hooves, she screwed her eyes shut and tried again. The familiar feeling washed over her, but this time it felt different. It felt less like she was being forced and more like her body was actually flowing into the shape she wanted it to be. In fact, she almost didn't notice the difference since it went by so quickly. The next thing she knew, it was over and she was standing in silence, he eyes still shut.

Then she slowly started opening her eyes and looked down at herself. Instead of black chitin, she saw orange fur and hooves with no holes. She didn't need to look in the mirror to know that she now looked the way she used to before all this. She turned to Big Mac, who was now smiling proudly at her. Without a second thought, she rushed right for him and threw her legs around him in a hug that he promptly returned.

"Thank you Mac." She whispered. "Ah needed that."

"Anytime sis. Anytime." He said kindly. They might've stayed that way much longer if Kormac hadn't cut the moment short.

~My Queens, we are returning to the castle.~ He said over the Hivelink, and judging by his tone, Applejack guessed that he'd had quite the day with the Crusaders.

~Hey Macky boy!~ Rainbow's voice said in reply and AJ knew that this was a shared conversation between herself, the Commander and her friends. ~So how was your day?~ RD asked. Kormac's response to the question was to share his memories of his day.

Usually ponies, even the the princesses, would take a significant amount of time to process the memories that they saw. Changelings on the other hoof have different brain chemistry and so it took the Queens less than a minute to fully see the memories. Even afterwards, there was silence across the Link before Twilight let out a sigh that was somehow audible on a psychic plane. If Applejack were to hazard a guess, she'd say that was probably because she was sighing mentally as well as physically.

~I'll gather the princesses and we'll all meet you in the throne room.~ She said.

~Yes my Queen.~ Kormac said before severing the Link. With that over, Applejack pulled out of her brother's embrace since she knew she'd be needed.

"Sorry Mac, but I'm needed in the Throne room." She announced. "It seems as though Bloom and her friends got themselves into some trouble today." Big Mac quirked an eyebrow questioningly. "Ah'll explain on the way."

Big Mac nodded approval and followed his still shape shifted sister out. "Uh, Applejack, why are ya still shifted?" He asked.

"Well, Ah can't just shift back when Ah haven't shown my friends yet." The Queen replied before launching into an explanation of the Hivelink.


Applejack was the last to arrive and because the Throne room was a very public area, the others were wearing their illusion charms so they didn't notice her transformed state at first. In front of them were the three fillies in question looking very remorseful. On either side of them stood Kormac and Sun Spear, both looked haggard but were standing straight and at attention in front of their respective leaders. When Applejack entered and settled into her seat, they began with Twilight's near shout.

"You three hijacked an airship!?" Twilight cried out. The Crusaders winced.

"Technically speaking we tried to hijack an airship." Applebloom piped up.

"And you darn near succeeded." Sun Spear added. "Kormac and I had to stop the ship before you actually left the docks!"

Kormac nodded then addressed his Queens. "My Queens, while I respect your judgement, the next time you request me to look after these young ones, I would like to bring some more changelings."

"And Royal Guards!" Sun Spear added. "I'm used to kids being a hooful, Celestia knows my nieces and nephews give me a heck of a time every time I watch them, no offense meant your highness. But these three far outstrip them in terms of rambunctiousness. I'm pretty sure Kormac almost died back at the perfume shop and stopping an airship definitely shaved years off both our lives."

The Crusaders drooped a little more and Celestia smiled kindly. "I will see about getting more Guards next time and no need to fear offense from me Sergent Sun Spear. I may not have met your nieces and nephews, but I believe you when you say that."

"Thank you Princess." Sun Spear sighed then turned to the disguised Queens. In answer to the unspoken question, Applejack spoke.

"All of us completely understand your concerns. After all, we've known the Crusaders since before they became the CMC." She said kindly and Kormac registered that there was some detail missing, but he couldn't put his hoof on what it was. Applejack continued. "But in all honesty we didn't expect them to blow up a perfume shop and hijack an airship, though it doesn't surprise us."

"Indeed." Rarity agreed before turning to the Crusaders. "Though I'm pretty we've told them that they aren't allowed to go flying without adult supervision."

"It wasn't technically a balloon though." Sweetie Belle said. "It was an airship."

"The point still stands." Rarity said firmly. "You shouldn't have been up there in the first place." The Crusaders wilted and at this point, Luna spoke up.

"It seems as though this part of the conversation should be in private." She said and everyone nodded in agreement.

"Yeah, you're right." Twilight said then turned to Celestia. "Princess Celestia, if there's anything I can do to help with damages and compensation....."

"Don't be silly Twilight." Rarity interrupted her friend. "If anyone should be paying for damages, it should be us three. After all, they are our sisters."

"Yup." Rainbow agreed with a nod.

"Darn straight. If anyone is taking responsibility for mah sister, it should be me." Applejack said with a nod. At that moment Kormac figured out the detail that he'd noticed was missing.

"Applejack, where is your illusion charm?" He asked. Everyone went silent and turned to the changeling Queen in question. Applejack just shrugged casually.

"Ah didn't need it." She replied in an equally casual tone. Everyone was silent as they took that in then Rarity, who was closest, reached out and touched her friend's side.

"This feels like real fur." She said softly. "Applejack, have you figured out how to shape shift?" Applejack grinned widely.

"Eeyup'." She then burst into a blaze of orange flames and when they cleared, she was standing there in all her changeling glory. With another blaze of orange, she was once again an earthpony. "Ah'd just figured it out when Kormac told us he was coming back to the castle."

The next moment, everyone exploded with various congratulations.

"That's so awesome!"

"Congratulations your Highness."

"Well done my little pony."

"Aw, I wanted to be the first. Think you can tell me how you did it?"

"I'd like to know how you did it too. It would be helpful for the rest of us so we can do it too."

"Yay! Now I can throw a party!"

"Indeed! It shall be a great feast in honor of Queen Applejack's accomplishment!"

"Okay, okay y'all, calm down." Applejack held her hooves up in defense. "Ah'll definitely tell you all how I did it but for now, I think Pinkie is itching ta throw a party. Oh and don't think we've forgotten about you three. You'll still get yer punishments."

The Crusaders pouted when Applejack said that. They couldn't deny that they were hoping Applejack's accomplishment would make them forget their punishment. No such luck it seemed.


That night, Pinkie threw her first changeling party. It lasted the rest of the day and through the night until everyone passed out in exhaustion. At some point during the festivities, Applejack recounted her talk with Big Mac and everything that happened to her friends. Soon enough, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash could shift and this just added to the already going party.

The next morning, the Mane Six's families left. The Cakes had a business to run, Big Mac and the Pies had their respective farms to run and the Crusaders had school. Ultimately it was decided that the parents would be the ones to mete out punishments to the three fillies since their sisters already had their hooves full. Though in the case of Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo, Dash was more of a sister figure and didn't have any authority over her in that manner so the pegasus had to leave that up to her parents. Big Mac of course promised to make sure they knew what had happened.

Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Fluttershy's parents of course had their own jobs, businesses and responsibilities to return to. It turned out that Fluttershy's father was a well known designer while her mother was a successful model. When they had Fluttershy, they took a small break from those lives, but when she moved out to live in Ponyville they went back to their careers. Greyhorn was quickly regaining his title as a top name in fashion and Sweet Blossom was once again taking the runway by storm.

Honestly, all they could say was 'so that's where she got her knowledge of sewing'.

The only ones who did stay were most of their pets and Maud. Maud said that she was needed here more than on the farm and the rest of the Pies agreed. Fluttershy had asked Angel Bunny if he'd go help take care of the animals back at her and after some persuasion, he finally relented and got on the train with everyone else. However he only agreed after extracting a promise from her that she'd come back in the near future.

As the six Queens watched the train pull out of the station, they felt like everything was going to be okay. There were still challenges to face in the future, but knowing that their families still cared for them and stood by them gave them the strength to face these challenges head on.

Side Chapter: New Possibilities

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✴✴✴✴✴✴Seven Years Ago✴✴✴✴✴✴✴

Sneaking in was almost a breeze. After all, it wasn't like I was trying to get into a military base or Canterlot Castle, I was sneaking into a hospital. And since I was a shapeshifter, that just made it easier. If somepony came around, I could just press myself into the wall and blend in like a chameleon. And if that wasn't an option, I could transform myself into a nurse, doctor or patient. Soon I reached my destination. I quickly ducked into the room and once I was sure the coast was clear, I dropped my disguise and stood there in all my changeling glory.

"Raoul, is that you?" A weak voice wheezed and I turned to the room's only other occupant, a brown unicorn stallion.

A few weeks ago, Gold Hoof had gotten to the point where he had to be admitted into a hospital. A hospital that didn't allow dogs. I'd only been a part of the family for a year, but I'd grown attached to them. Especially Gold Hoof. The warm, positive stallion had cemented a place in his heart and it impressed him that this stallion was acting so positive about his illness. So that first night in the hospital, he snuck in and revealed himself to him. It took some explaining, but when I was done, Gold Hoof was okay with me being a member of the family.

After that, Raoul made sure to visit him regularly and they would talk about anything and everything. Pretty soon, Raoul found himself looking up to him as a father figure. I'd never really had that kind of relationship with anyone. I had a mother, brothers and sisters but never a father. For me this was a new and welcome emotion and I quickly found that Gold Hoof had similar feelings towards him.

"Yeah it's me." I answered, returning to the present. "How are you doing today?"

Gold Hoof grunted as he grabbed the remote for his bed and began raising it so he'd be sitting up. "I've seen better days." He admitted with a grin. "My pain meds help a bit but I'll be honest with you, I'm ready for all this fuss and pain to be over with."

He finished with a weak chuckle that I returned halfheartedly. I wasn't ready. As if reading my mind, Gold lifted his hoof in invitation and I moved to his embrace. Despite his illness, Gold Hoof still seemed able to give firm hugs. Once in the shelter of his arms, I let out what I'd been holding in. I didn't sob or wail, I just lay there and let my silent tears be absorbed by Gold's hospital gown.

"Oh shhh shhh, you'll be okay." Gold soothed as he rubbed my back. "Don't forget, you have to look out for Star and the twins."

"I know." I choked out. "But I'm still going to miss you."

"I know, but you'll be okay." Gold said softly. "Mourn me for a little while and have a good cry then return to your daily lives. No need to put everything on hold. And there's no reason for Star to stay single. She should find herself someone so that the little ones can have a dad in their lives. But make sure she finds a good stallion. Star Song deserves the best."

I sniffed as my tears dried and I smiled. "Count on it." I said.

Gold Hoof nodded. "Good. Speaking of dating, is there anyone special in your life?"

"Not really, just you, Star Song and the twins." I answered.

"Anyone in particular that you've got your eye on?" Gold Hoof continued his line of questioning and my cheeks burned bright red as I blushed. I desperately wanted to say no, but I've never really been great at lying. Which was part of the reason why I chose a dog for my hamingja.

"Maaaaaybe." I said as I glanced away. Gold gave me a sly look and I began sweating at the inevitable questioning.

"Really, tell me is she pretty?" He asked. At first I was quiet and he continued. "Oh come on, give a father a break. Especially on his deathbed."

I flinched internally and gave a quick glance in his direction before bowing my head in defeat. "Yes." I mumbled and Gold clapped his hooves together.

"Excellent. Is she nice?" He pressed.

"I think she is." I admitted. "Though not in a way that most ponies would recognize. Most of the time she can be stubborn, loud and not afraid to speak her mind but I kinda like that about her."

"She certainly sounds like an interesting character. Anypony I know?"

At this point I squirmed uncomfortably. "Yes, you do know her." I finally admitted.

"Hmm, well that narrows down the list." Gold Hoof hummed in thought as he scratched his chin. It didn't take him long to figure out who I was talking about. He gave me a knowing grin and I quickly looked down as I blushed such a bright red I was sure I was glowing. Gold Hoof laughed a good natured fatherly laugh.

"An excellent choice if I do say so myself." He said. "My advice to you, try the more direct method. It's the best way to handle her. Don't try all those silly pick up lines and ploys. Especially the try-to-make-them-jealous trick. That never works for either party involved. Trust me on this sonny."

"I will. Of course, pursuing a relationship with anypony requires me to not be a dog. I don't think she goes for that kind of thing." I pointed out.

"True enough." Gold said with a shrug. "The only thing for it is to reveal yourself to her."

I bit my lip and fidgeted nervously. "Perhaps at some later date when I'm more sure." I said.

"Fair enough, but just to let you know, I'm rooting for you even from beyond the grave." Gold then reached forward and placed a hoof on my shoulder. "Take all the time you need, but don't dawdle too long or some other stallion will come along and sweep her off her hooves."

"Yes sir, I'll remember that." I said with a nod and Gold Hoof shook his head.

"None of that 'sir' business." He scolded lightly with a shake of his hoof. "You're a part of the family. You can call me dad."

I knew it was coming judging by the feelings I'd felt from him for a while now, but to hear him say it at that moment brought tears to my eyes and I laid my head on his lap.

"Okay, dad." I said with a smile and we lay there quietly for a few hours. I kept my head on his lap as he ran a hoof through the fur on my head. Neither of us said a word and we didn't need to. A month later, Gold Hoof passed on.


The day had started out pretty normal. After waking up and getting ready for the day, Sun Bloom had gone to her sister's house to spend the day as she had done for the past month. After helping send the kids to School and Wind Whistle to work, Star Song, Raoul and Sun Bloom settled into a lazy afternoon. Star Song was knitting, Raoul was molding a new orb and Sun Bloom settled beside her sister on the couch to read.

It had been a few weeks since Raoul had entered (or returned depending on how you look at it) to their lives and the changeling had been settling in quite comfortably. Sun Bloom hadn't liked him at first but those negative feelings gradually melted away and were replaced by something else. The pegasus mare sneaked a peek over her book to observe the changeling sitting on the love seat molding his orb into a bowl shape. After a few minutes, he glanced up and Sun Bloom ducked down trying to look like she'd been reading her book.

Most ponies who knew her didn't know that out of the two sisters, Sun Bloom was the hopeless romantic. Though if asked directly she would deny it, that still didn't change the fact that she was a romantic, and the romance novels that she enjoyed didn't help matters. And for a while now she'd been feeling an attraction to the changeling that until then was her sister's family dog. What could she say, she always had a soft spot for strong silent types and she'd always wanted to start a family of her own. Then she remembered that her minor crush was a changeling and she prayed to Faust that he couldn't tell what she was feeling for him.

A sudden groan from her sister drew her thoughts back to the present and both Sun and Raoul turned to Star Song with looks of concern. "Star, are you okay?" Sun Bloom asked.

"I'm fine just a-AHH!" Star Song started before she cut herself off with another groan that alarmed the other two.

"Star!?" Sun shreiked. Star Song was silent for a moment before finally speaking.

"I think that was a contraction."

Sun Bloom POV

One hour later, we were here in the hospital waiting room. The second Star Song announced that it was a contraction, Raoul and I exploded into action. After separating himself from his growing orb, Raoul grabbed Star Song's hospital bag and took her to the hospital. Meanwhile I flew straight to the town's weather headquarters to inform Wind Whistle then went to the school to collect the kids. By the the time I arrived, Star Song and Wind Whistle were in the room, leaving me and Raoul to watch the kids in the waiting room. And unfortunately the anticipation of a new niece or nephew wasn't enough to keep my mind from returning to my earlier thoughts.

I blushed and snuck a glance at Raoul. Stoic as ever, he showed no indication that he noticed and kept his gaze on Greenblaze and Roseheart. I turned my own gaze towards them, and after a few minutes I asked the question that was bothering me.

"So how do changeling have kids exactly?" I asked. "I know you've already said that you and your hive are children of the queen, but is that the only way you can reproduce?"

"Among changelings, yes." Raoul said. "Two changelings from different hives can have feelings for each other, but nothing can come out of it. The only ones who can reproduce with another changeling are the Queens. But we are capable of siring or bearing children with different species. Many think that this is because our DNA is compatible with the DNA of other species."

"O-oh. That's interesting." Sun Bloom said with a silent sigh of relief.

"Why do you ask?" Raoul suddenly asked and I burned a bright red.

"N-n-no reason." I tried to say casually. Raoul stared at me for a moment longer then turned away with a hum. The next few hours were filled with silence and the odd bout of casual conversation. Finally a doctor came out. We immediately straightened and waited with baited breath for any sort of news. Doctor Heartrate smiled and spoke.

"One healthy baby girl and and exhausted mother." He announced and we all smiled in relief. "You can go in to see them now."

It was the most beautiful moment of my life. After spending some time looking over my new niece, I stepped back to watch the family gather around the newest little bundle. Greenblaze and Roseheart were climbing onto the bed to get a better look and Wind was helping them up as Star smiled tiredly. I myself smiled at the family and their newest addition.

"Sun Bloom." A deep voice broke into my thoughts and I turned to Raoul. "I know this might be a little sudden, but would you care to join me for dinner?"

I was silent for a moment as I processed his question then spoke up. "Are you asking me out on a date?"

Now it was Raoul's turn to pause and glance away bashfully before he nodded. I smiled.

"I would love to."