A young colt struggles to deal with his family life, meanwhile the CMC have found evidence of changelings living in ponyville.
Comet and his father have always had issues relating to one another, but the Cutie Mark Crusaders' discovery of a mysterious substance near their school would end up changing their relationship forever. This story takes place during season 3.
The door to Golden Oak Library swung gently open, admitting two earth ponies, first a stallion, and then a colt. The stallion had a coat of deep blue that nearly hid his cutie mark of a quill dipping into a pot of ink. The colt was deep purple with a fiery red mane, and had yet to earn his cutie mark.
"Salutations Twilight Sparkle." the stallion greeted cheerily. Twilight looked up from her copy of Organize everything! volume XII and moved to greet the visitors as a thin blue ribbon slipped carefully into the closing book.
"Oh, hello Inkwell. Did Wishing Well like that book I recommended?" Twilight asked, smiling pleasantly.
"She loved it! Much more than the ones I write," Inkwell responded with a chuckle. "and to that end, here it is." He twisted to pull out a slim volume from his saddlebag and placed it in the book return.
"Glad to hear it. Did she ask you to pick up another book for her?" her face twisted in a moment’s contemplation. "I think I know of a few historical fiction series she might enjoy," she offered a moment later.
"No no, she said she won't have time to read for a few weeks, but Comet here was looking for something to read," Inkwell said, indicating the colt who was up until now trying his best to remain unnoticed behind his father. "Something other than what his dear old pop has written anyway," he explained with a smile as he stepped aside and brought the little colt up beside him. "Seems like no pony wants to read the boring old tales I write anymore," he said with a twinkle in his eye.
"Oh-ho, no. You know I like your novels, and now you're just fishing for compliments," Twilight rebuffed, then, turning to Comet, "Now, as for you young colt, I'd be willing to bet you like adventure stories. Am I right?" Comet nodded sheepishly as Twilight turned and walked over to the one of the many bookcases that lined the walls of the great tree. "Ok then," she said as her eyes scanned the titles. "How about something by Jewels Barn, A Journey to the Center of Equestria. How's that sound?" She asked giving the colt a hopeful look over her shoulder.
"An excellent choice!" Inkwell broke in. "You know your readers, Miss Sparkle." at this, Comet's face twisted up in confusion for a second, but Twilight, not noticing, merely smiled as her horn began to glow as she brought her attention back around to the appropriate tome, which slid carefully off its shelf and zipped over and into Inkwell's open saddlebag. She moved back to her guests as this happened, and opened her mouth as if to speak.
Just then, three fillies bounded into the library shouting, "Twilight!" in excited tones.
"Well, looks like we're done here, thanks again Twilight," Inkwell said as he and Comet calmly made their way out.
"Any time, Inkwell," Twilight called back, and then to the new arrivals, "Ok girls, what can I do for you?"
"We need to use your chemistry set to identify some gak we found!" exclaimed the young pegasus.
"It's not gak, it's gunk," corrected the little earth pony contentiously.
"It doesn't matter what you call it, until we identify it and become cutie mark cellular biologists!" said an exasperated unicorn. Twilight sighed at this, Scootaloo, Applebloom, and Sweetie Belle made up three quarters of a club devoted to discovering their special talents, and this activity frequently led to disruptions throughout Ponyville.
"Alright girls," Twilight started, deciding the best way to minimize damage was to be directly involved. "Why don't we start by showing me what you've found?" she suggested, taking a seated pose near them.
"Sure thing Twilight," Applebloom said amicably, twisting to pull a jar of green slime from her saddlebag. Almost immediately the jar shot like a rocket to just a few inches shy of Twilight's face, container shimmering in a faint pink nimbus. She then tried to hide her reaction to the thing, but she knew she had already given away too much. The jar floated a little lower so Twilight could see the three friends, their eyes wide as saucers, and said, "Ok" drawing the word out. "let's head down to the lab."
Inkwell and Comet made their way through the market. It was sparsely attended, this being a midweek summer's afternoon. Even the fountain in the town square had seemed to flow lazily with summer's mirth. Various carts were set up along the main thoroughfare, displaying a dizzying array of goods. Everything from fresh produce, to cleaning products, to stands boasting knife sharpening and hoof polishing services. Inkwell stopped a several of these, picking up some odds and ends that their family would need over the next few days.
Once the two had moved on past the main market, Comet summoned the courage to confront his father. "Dad," he started, picking up his pace to move from behind to beside his father, "why didn't you let me handle it earlier? Just jumping in like that." Inkwell shot a confused glance at his son. "At the flower cart?" he asked, puzzled.
"No!" Comet said curtly, clearly annoyed. "At the library. The lady asked me a question, and you just jumped in and answered for me," the little colt was building up steam as well as confidence and a little indignation tinged his voice as he continued, "I mean, I can talk for myself. I can make my own decisions." Inkwell considered that for a second and then shrugged. "Yes, I suppose you're right. I should've waited for you to make your own decision, but trust me son, you'll like Jewel's Barn," he said with all the confidence a brick wall has staring down a tennis ball.
"How do you know!" Comet blurted, his face flush, eyebrows narrowing. Inkwell gave him a warm look as they turned onto their street and said with slight smirk, "I was like you once, and like they say, the apple never falls far from the tree." Inkwell bumped his son's flank as he delivered the colloquialism. Comet's head sank a little as a heavy frown crossed his face. "I'm nothing like you," he muttered with all the seriousness and finality a colt could muster.
The laboratory beneath Golden Oak Library had been dug out by Spike in the months after her taking permanent residence in Ponyville after Nightmare Moon's defeat. It was now the perfect place to conduct dangerous scientific experiments. Twilight's horn glowed for an instant and the multitude of candles throughout the room came to life, illuminating the various machines that lined the walls of the cave-like basement. The four ponies solemnly made their way to the chemistry set on the northern wall. The jubilence of the fillies was gone now, replaced by awed silence. The levitating jar of semi-viscous fluid settled down gently on the counter, its nimbus fading.
There it sat, for what seemed like an eternity as Twilight Sparkle craned her head about the jar, inspecting it from multiple angles, her face twisted with thought, until Applebloom finally broke the silence with a timid, "Well, uh, aren'tcha gonna open it?" Twilight looked back at the three fillies with a concerned look on her face.
"I'm trying to decide what safety precautions to take," looking back at the jar, she added, "I don't know if, or how dangerous it may be," Twilight explained.
"Well, we're fine, and I scooped it into that jar with my hoof," Scootaloo said, somewhat disgruntled, one eye cocked and her shoulders shrugged as she looked to her two friends for confirmation.
"You did what!" a shocked Twilight exclaimed, the force of the thought rocking her back onto her rear hooves. Her horn instantly flared as she whirled to see the filly's front hooves, now magically held in place before her.
"Sheesh, I'm fine Twilight!" Scootaloo protested while trying to pry herself loose.
"Hmm, so it would seem," Twilight said, processing what she saw. "You don't feel any numbness do you?" she asked looking back up into the filly's eyes.
"No!" Scootaloo half shouted.
"Ok," she said, releasing the magic holding Scootaloo's hooves aloft, causing her to tumble head over horseshoes into an uncharacteristic pile of miscellaneous equipment. "Here, wear these safety goggles in case some of it bubbles or splashes out," Twilight said as four pair of goggles floated over from a cabinet a few feet away. Once they were all wearing proper safety equipment, she turned to start her work.
Twilight poked, prodded, heated, cooled, and generally did things the Cutie Mark Crusaders couldn't identify.
"She's been at this forever," complained Sweetie Belle, sprawled out, chin resting on the dirt floor.
"Yeah, I don't think I want a cutie mark in celery boogey anymore," Scootaloo added from a few feet away where she sat, cutting shapes into the floor with her hoof.
"Cellular. Biology." Applebloom corrected fiercely, who had found a workbench leg to lean her back on.
"Ugh, you are such a dictionary," Scootaloo said, staring daggers at her reclining friend. "Maybe you could get a cutie mark in being the word police," she teased.
"What is wrong with you two!" Sweetie Belle exploded, sitting up, "You always do this, can't you just be civil for once?"
"Civil?" Applebloom pondered as she stroked her chin with her hoof, then a grin began to spread across her lips as an idea settled in, "That's it! We could be cutie mark civil engineers!"
"Yeah!" The other two cried out, jumping to their hooves.
"Hmm..." came floating over from Twilight.
"Hmm?" echoed the three fillies, having remembered why they were here in the first place as they zipped over to the chem lab in their familiar formation.
"Do you know what it is Twilight?" Applebloom asked, eyes wide with anticipation.
"I think I do," said Twilight confidently, nodding her head once as she turned around.
"Well, what is it?" asked Scootaloo excitedly.
"I don't want to say until I get a second opinion," she responded flatly, and the fillies faces fell like bricks as the jar lifted up off the counter, and they made their way back upstairs.
"Well, who are you going to ask, Princess Celestia?" inquired Sweetie Belle hopefully.
"No, I don't think I need to bother her with this. I'm going to go ask Zecora what she thinks," Twilight replied as she slipped on her saddlebag. "Her alchemical knowledge is even better than mine," she said as she turned to the girls as she pocketed the jar, "and before you ask, no, you can't come with me. I need you to stay here and watch the library for me while I'm away." Scootaloo, Applebloom, and Sweetie Belle gave each other exasperated looks. "If this is what I think it is, I'm going to need your help, so please, just wait here and make a record of any books lent out." The girls seemed disappointed at this, but submissive, so Twilight started out the door at a trot, but then swiveled her head back through and added, "If Trixie comes in asking for Ghastly's Grimoire, tell her it's still out. Better for everypony that way."
Zecora's hut came into view as Twilight Sparkle approached the glade where the eccentric zebra had made her home within the Everfree Forest. Colored lanterns and carved masks dotted its exterior in an organic manner without coming off as haphazard. She moved up to the front door and knocked with her hoof.
"For a friend who knocks, no door shall block," a voice from within beckoned. Twilight opened the door and went in. The domicile was a simple single room design. An iron cauldron dominated the space, beneath a baffled flue in the roof that allowed the smoke and steam to rise up and out of the home harmlessly. The medicine mare was at the back of the hut, carefully measuring out herbs.
"Hello Zecora, I hope I'm not interrupting anything, but I wanted to get your opinion on something," Twilight said once she had closed the door behind her. She moved in closer to Zecora to get a better look at what she was doing. Zecora began to crush the various ingredients with a mortar and pestle. "Oo, what are you working on?" she asked, her mind racing to get to the answer first by mentally comparing the assortment of ingredients to concoctions she was familiar with.
"One who is pink and bristles, seems to have a bad case of the sniffles. When he drinks this cup, he will be fixed right up," the zebra replied as she turned and tipped the mortar's contents into the barely simmering pot. "Now that work is done, I can attend to fun. How may I be of service, to a pony who looks so nervous?" Zecora asked looking back to her visitor.
"This was found in Ponyville recently, do you know what it is?" Twilight asked after she brought out the jar of green ooze and set it on the counter Zecora had been working at. The zebra took one look and her expression became grim.
"That I do, as do you. Those buggy ponies that change, are indeed quite strange. This slime they use to create a cocoon, that traps ponies so that to their lives they can attune."
"So they, what," Twilight started, realization creeping in, "absorb the memories of cocooned ponies so they can imitate them better?" Zecora nodded gravely, eyes narrowing.
"You prove your intellect, of this you are quite correct," she confirmed, as Twilight bit her lower lip and eyed the jar. That was it then, she thought, there's at least one changeling in Ponyville, and it could be anyone.
A cuckoo clock sounded in the Golden Oak Library. The three young fillies sat near the library's log book, ready to do their duty should somepony come in to check out a book. Scootaloo let out an exasperated groan, "How long have we been waiting here?" she grumbled, head dipping low in boredom.
"It's only been like ten minutes," Applebloom said, eying her friend who had decided to take up residence sprawled out on the floor.
"Hey, so far being cutie mark librarians hasn't been so bad," Sweetie Belle pointed out, hoof raised. "We haven't been covered in tree sap even once," she added, looking at Applebloom for support.
"Well you haven't," Scootaloo shot back, eyes flashing, but refusing to move to put any force into the look.
"Well no one asked you to make sure the chimney was clean," Sweetie scolded as she whipped back around to look at Scootaloo who had, at this, lifted her head to get a better look at the pony she was arguing with.
"What-" Scootaloo started, cut off by the sight of the door swinging open to reveal a huge drum of what was labeled 'Ink' "the hay is that?!" The drum wobbled into the room toward the little fillies, their mouths agape, and crashed down to the floor as an exhausted little purple and green baby dragon came into view. He was panting heavily, leaning with one claw against the heavy burden. After a moment he said breathlessly, "It's Twilight's monthly supply of writing ink. There was a mix up on the delivery so I had to bring it over from 'Quills and Sofas'." Then, looking around "What are you guys doing here? Is Twilight home?" he asked as he straightened up.
"She went to ask Zecora about some green gunk we found," Applebloom explained, then with a gesture to her friends, "She asked us to look after the library until she got back.”
"Gak," Scootaloo said crossly and then flopped onto her back, protesting the world.
"Green gunk, huh? What, like changeling slime?" Spike asked, his arms crossed and with an eye-ridge twitched up.
"Gaaak," Scoots pined.
"Changeling?" Sweetie Belle said quizzically, a blank look crossing her face.
"Yeah, you know, those things that tried to ruin Cadence and Shining Armor's wedding last year. They trap ponies in this green gunk and take over their lives. They couldn't fool Twilight though, she noticed right away that something was wrong with the way Cadence was acting," Spike elucidated, adding with a nod, "She's smart like that."
"Gaaaaaaaaaak," came a faint whisper from the Scootaloo section of the floor. The others continued to actively ignore her.
"So these changelings pretend to be ponies? Why would they do that?" Applebloom asked, dumbfounded.
"Oh, I think I remember Rarity mentioning something about them. They feed on love right?" Sweetie Belle offered hopefully, a spark of enthusiasm flickering across her face.
"Exactly," Spike said, flicking a claw at the unicorn, "and their queen had been impersonating Cadence so she could feed on Shining Armor’s love for her, and take over all of Equestria." he intoned gravely.
"Of course!" Scootaloo exclaimed, shooting straight up into the air, wings buzzing, "Girls, we have to go! You can handle the library, right Spike?" Vitality had apparently flooded back into the little pegasus.
"Hmph, sure I can. How do you think Twilight can go on all her adventures?" Spike said, chest swelling, then added seriously, "Running a library is a big responsibility."
"Great! Let's go Cutie Mark Crusaders!" the suddenly vivacious pegasus shouted as she grabbed her confused friends and bolted out the door.
At the Well's, a mare was in the kitchen, her forelegs resting by the sink as she washed the last of the dishes that she had been neglecting due to literary pursuits. She wore her silver mane long, in a style that hadn't been in fashion for nearly a decade. Her coat was a pale blue that accented her cutie mark of a little covered well beset with coins, perfectly. She hummed softly to herself as she worked. The tune was a common lullaby, one that she had sung to Comet countless nights, and the memories the song conjured helped make her work less burdensome. As an earth pony, she of course had to do all the steps by hoof. Unicorns could use their magic to aid in the chore, and she had heard of several clever pegasi who employed their wings to aid in drying, but she didn't mind, she did it for her family.
As she was putting the last of the dishes away, she heard the front door open and the sound of two sets of hooves entering the house. She turned to see her husband enter the room, saddle bags full. His eyes shone with a look as if he hadn't seen her in months, as opposed to the five hours it had actually been.
"Hi honey," he said quietly as he moved in for a nuzzle, and then added a little louder, "How're things going around the house?" She breathed in Inkwell's scent, as if storing it away for later and backed away as she said smiling.
"Swimmingly, dear. I just finished up the dishes, so the only thing left on my list is the garden."
"Wish, you know I can't swim!" He feigned a wince as he jokingly admonished her, causing her to roll her eyes as she grabbed his saddlebags with her teeth and deposited them on the newly open counter.
"Go on up to your writing room. If that's the best you've got, you're going to need a head start on that new novel," Wishing Well joked as she set about emptying the bags. Inkwell brought his hoof to his chest and made a pained face at his wife, then flashed a quick wink and then left to make his way upstairs. "Comet?" she called out to the house. "Could you come in here and help me please?"
"Yeah, alright," Comet grumbled as he moped into the room.
"Don't drag your hooves son, I just waxed that floor," She said, in that way that’s so automatic and matter-of-fact that only a mother could manage it. Then pausing her activity, after placing a jar of jam in the cupboard, to turn and add, "What's the matter Comet?" Comet looked up at his mother with his mouth shut in a way that made it seem like steam was building up inside the colt.
"It's Dad," he finally blurted out. "He just goes around acting like a goof all the time. Why can't he comport himself with more dignity?" he said, fumbling somewhat over the words, but the hoof stamp at the end really sold the line. Wishing Well was rocked back by this display, but only for a second. Her look of shock giving way easily to one of compassion.
"Your father is the best stallion I have ever met, and believe me, he's had a much longer run at aggravating me than you," she said as she ran a hoof through her son's mane. "No matter what he might have done that embarrassed you, believe me, if you think long and hard over your life, he's done infinitely more to build you up into the best you can be." Comet looked away briefly, but then helped his mother put the rest of the shopping away.
"What's this? Jewels Barn?" Wishing Well asked as they hit the bottom of the bag and the book from earlier was revealed.
"Oh, that's the book dad wanted me to read," Comet said with a tinge of disgust in his voice. "He didn't ask for my opinion, he just said I'd like it."
"A Journey to the Center of Equestria," she read off the cover, then picked it up and held it out to her son, who took it, begrudgingly. "Trust him on this one, or at least read it to prove him wrong." She threw in the last option with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “Either way, just make sure you’re honest. Both with your father, and with yourself.”
Over the next hour Spike managed to change out the ink in the storage closet, re-shelve all the books in the return, and dust the reading room. "Ugh, I'm pooped," Spike said to the empty room, then added, while eying his bed, "Yeah, I think I've earned some shut eye." He fell like fresh-cut timber, his sheet flipping up and over him in an instant. As soon as his eyes closed they flew open again to the sight of Twilight's muzzle just inches away from his face calling, "Spike! This is no time for a nap!" He winced briefly, and grumbled, "I dunno, seemed like a pretty good time a minute ago," then maneuvered himself so that he was facing her rather than have her continue to loom over him.
"Where are the girls, Spike? They were supposed to be waiting here for me," Twilight queried intensely, her teeth began to clench ever so slightly, and her eyes were looking big.
"They left after I got back from my errands." Spike said with a shrug.
"Did they say anything before they left?" Twilight asked stepping closer, eyes widening.
"Yeah, hang on, let me think," Spike said, crossing an arm over his chest to better facilitate the the claw tapping on his chin, "Let's see, I said I brought your ink, they said you went to ask Zecora about a thing," he paused and then placed both fists on his hips and looked down at the ground, "what else..."
"Spike, this is important, think!" Twilight demanded, stamping a hoof and furrowing her brow so much even the furrows had furrows.
"Uh, Twilight. You're standing in my bed..." Spike pointed out timidly, a claw extended towards the little basket full of pillows, blankets, and unicorn. A flicker of pure feminine fury flashed in the unicorns eyes, but she just very deliberately stepped out of the baby dragon’s bed, her gaze never leaving Spike's.
"You have to remember, what else did you talk about," Twilight said levelly.
"I don't know, we talked about Cadence and Shining Armor's wedding and then they left all excited." Spike shrugged, then added, "They're a mystery."
"Wait, you were talking about changelings weren't you!" Twilight exclaimed, her eyes nearly popping out of their sockets.
"Uh, maybe..." Spike answered, shrinking back a bit.
"Gah!" Twilight blurted out, throwing her head back in frustration, "Come on Spike. We have to find them before they get themselves in to trouble." She spun toward the door and waited until she felt that familiar weight of baby dragon.
"Got it!" Spike said, his courage returning now that he felt he was free from Twilight's wrath, and leapt onto her back as she galloped out the door.
A single light clicked on in a dark room, illuminating two foals tied to a chair while leaving the surrounding area in total darkness.
"Dah, this is fun!" one of the prisoners managed groggily.
"No it isn't, Snails," his co-captive corrected.
"Oh. Then why are we doing this, Snips?" Snails asked, perplexed.
"Enough talking," a female voice snapped from the darkness. "Now, start talking," the disembodied voice added grimly.
"But you just said to stop talking," Snails stated flatly, slouching as much as his bonds would allow him.
"Who are you? Where are we? Why are we tied up?" Snips fired in rapid succession. They were answered by a single sharp stamp of a hoof.
"I'll ask the questions here. Where were you on May the 14th!?" the voice demanded.
"Uh it sounds like Scootaloo, Snips," Snails said, twisting his head to the left to look at him.
"Why would she want to tie us up?" Snips asked as his gaze shot up to meet Snails'.
"Answer the question!" Scootaloo demanded impotently.
"Maybe so she could ask us questions," Snails offered, a hopeful look in eyes.
"But she could've done that without foalnapping us," Snips pointed out as he shifted his attention back to the darkness, where the sound of hooves pacing was growing louder as well as more irritated.
"Admit it, you two have been acting strange recently. Like you're not yourselves," Scootaloo said through gritted teeth.
"But if we weren't ourselves, then who would we be?" Snails asked, innocently slack-jawed and staring into the light overhead.
"Ahg! Applebloom, you interrogate the prisoners!" Scootaloo exploded.
"Why don't I get to do the interrogating?" Sweetie Belle asked, annoyed.
"Because you're about as intimidating as Spike," Scootaloo shot back as the door to the clubhouse burst open, spilling daylight into the room, revealing the odd tableau.
"Hey!" Spike called from just outside the door, offended.
"No pony will be interrogating any pony," Twilight said sternly as she entered, steel in her eyes. "Now untie those colts and apologize."
"But!" the three fillies protested as they formed their typical phalanx.
"Guh, we're sorry, Twilight," Snails said causing everyone to cock an eyebrow in his direction.
"Not you, Snails," Twilight clarified, drawing out the 'not', then shifted her attention back to the crusaders as she continued, "Girls, no buts. You could've saved yourselves a whole lot of trouble once this is over if you did what I told you to do, and you could've been seriously hurt if you had actually found a changeling." The girls' faces sank at this.
"You're right, we should've stayed at the library like you said, but we just wanted to help," Applebloom sighed dejectedly.
"You did help, by bringing the slime to me in the first place, and you can still help by showing me where you found it. Running off, when I needed you, to seek out danger didn't help anything," Twilight explained gently.
"Yeah..." Scootaloo murmured.
"We're sorry guys," Sweetie Belle said as she untied Snips and Snails.
"Eh, the afternoon was looking pretty boring anyway," Snips suggested as he hopped down from the chair, and the two colts headed for the door.
Comet had taken his book to a spot out back, under a tree. He had started with every intention to hate this story, just out of spite. The more he read however, the more he realized that his dad had been right, and the more he liked the book, the more it hurt. Not that he was wrong about a book, he only opposed the book out of misguided emotions toward his father. The real reason he was upset with his parents, he realized, was because he knew that if they ever found out his secret, it was all over. He wasn't a real pony, he was a soul sucking monster. He was sure his unwitting family would hate him, because he hated him.
Twilight, Spike, Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo arrived at the school house, having divested themselves of their former captives. "Ok, now where's the exact spot?" Twilight asked the three fillies, who then led her around back to some bushes. "Well, here goes nothing," Twilight muttered as her horn pulsed with energy. The remaining pool of snot shimmered briefly, and then glowing pinkish hoofprints appeared.
"Whoa," Spike said, "What spell is that?"
"It's a modified version of that lost puppy spell we worked on last month," Twilight answered, "Now all we have to do is follow these prints back to their owner."
The door to Inkwell's office was slightly ajar, as was his custom. He always welcomed interruption, even though it meant he had written far less than he probably should have. Wishing Well nudged the door open soundlessly. Inkwell was sat at a desk on the far wall in front of a window that let plenty.of natural light in. He wore a pair of horn-rimmed reading glasses, and in his mouth he held a quill that twitched and danced across the paper on the cluttered writing desk. She waited for her husband to dip the quill into his namesake to enter and make her presence known. A ritual the two of them had performed countless times before. "I'm not complaining, but this is certainly sooner than I expected. Is everything alright?" Inkwell asked as he swiveled his head around to his wife behind him. A faint smile crossing his face. Wishing Well bit her lip slightly, hesitating as she tried to form her thoughts. "Ink, I’m worried about Comet,” she said, walking closer.
“Why’s that?” Inkwell asked, spinning his chair to face her.
“I’m not sure, but something just doesn’t seem right with him lately. He tries to open up to me occasionally, but I think what he needs right now is you,” Wishing Well said softly but firmly as she closed the last few feet between them.
“His attitude has changed recently,” Inkwell sighed as he removed his glasses and pursed his lips as he looked away, “but I’m not sure what I can do. I’m not as good as you are at this parenting stuff,” He added, eyes downcast, absently tapping his specs on the arm of his chair. Wishing Well gently brought her hoof to her mate’s chin and slowly lifted his face until their eyes met once more.
“I would be frightened if you were as good a mother as I am, but right now, he needs a father, and you are far better at that than you realize,” she said, smiling.
“You’re right,” Inkwell said softly, returning the smile, then louder, with a smirk touching the corners of his eyes, “and thankfully, you’re best wife in Equestria.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere mister,” Wish said, dropping her hoof back to the floor and striking a dignified pose. “Well, not exactly nowhere…” she flirted.
Comet found himself in a cave. A brown stallion up ahead waved a hoof back at him and called out, “Do keep up, Master Comet.” Comet scurried after him, but he tripped on a stone, and the ground landed a right hook on his jaw.
“Sweet Celestia, dear uncle, what is that creature!?” A colt exclaimed, staring right at him.
“No,” Comet mumbled, “No, please, not again.” He lifted a hoof to his eyes and confirmed the worst of his fears. Chiton covered the swiss-cheese like flesh of his true form. He began to rise as he called out to the expedition, “You need to run, right now, fast as you can!” The cavern began to tremble and the light became dim. “GO!” he shouted, but the group of adventurers just cast their gaze about the cave in a feeble panic as it came crashing through the tunnel wall. As the creatures that stalk the nightmares of little ponies so often are, it full form was never really ascertainable. Occasionally Comet could see a limb or mouth in perfect detail, but those pieces never made a whole. He was sure of only three things. 1, it was big. 2, it was shadow. 3, it was hungry, and it gobbled the trio of ponies before they even began to register what was happening. “No!” Comet shouted, “NOT AGAIN!” he charged the beast, planted his front hooves and spun with the momentum and bucked the thing as hard as he could, hooves thundering into what he thought was a leg. White hot pain shot down the colts legs with the jar of impact. “My childer so rarely try to play with me these days,” the headless, roiling mass of claws and teeth spoke, in a voice more felt than heard. “I’m not playing…” Comet growled, “I’m going to end you.” he lowered his head and scraped at the rock floor, wings spread. It laughed, a sick, greasy laugh. The kind that slithers in through your ears and coats your brain with sick. “You are mine, spawn. A courier, a vessel and nothing more, or have you forgot our previous encounters?” Comet’s eyes went wide at this. “Mom… Dad… oh Celestia, no,” he muttered in remembrance. It laughed again. “I do so enjoy playing this game you, little vessel,” the beast said as Comet bolted. It tore after him, overcoming its inertia effortlessly. “The others have all accepted their place and merely pour their bounty into me, but you, you entertain me.” It sent a pseudopod at Comet like a bolt of shadowy lightning, but he had taken to the air and flown up a chute overhead and the strike crashed harmlessly into the cavern wall. It just became a massive worm and gave chase. As Comet was starting to think he had lost the beast its voice echoed up the chimney. “You were made to deceive, to steal.” “Oh, come on!” Comet shouted, “Right, shapeshifting, two can play at that game.” Comet spun as he burst into a cavern. It came up after him and when it did the claws of a manticore drove into the hide of the mighty worm. “but you have allowed your own lie to burrow its way deep into your false heart.” It didn’t even notice as it continued its soliloquy. Comet became a cockatrice and poured every bit of venom and will into a deathgaze. “Hmm, our time is at an end. Until next time, youngling.” It came crashing down over him, drawing out the energy of his parents’ love.
The Well’s made their way down the stairs, through the kitchen, and out the back door to the yard, where, sure enough, Comet lay with a book in front of him under the old ash tree. His face was flush, the hair on his cheeks matted. He was staring, shocked, off down a hoof path where Twilight Sparkle, Spike, and the trio of fillies from earlier were coming to a halt. The Well’s looked confused as well. "Stay back Mr and Mrs Well. That's not your son, he's a changeling!" Twilight commanded as she planted her hooves and brought up a surge of will that caused a sunburst of energy to explode from her horn, washing over the whole area with a pale magenta light. When the dazzling display was finished, a small insectoid creature sat in the place the colt had been, looking panicked. Inkwell’s jaw set, his face hardening, and he moved to stand before the little changeling. “Inkwell, let me handle this. You’re blocking my line of sight,” Twilight pleaded. “Yes, I am,” he said as he turned to face Twilight Sparkle as Wishing Well joined him. "and you’re wrong Twilight, he may be a changeling, but he is our son," he said gravely.
"What?" Twilight blurted, her eyes going wide, trying to make sense of the scene.
"Inkwell and I had tried for a long time to have children, but couldn't. I had wished for it so hard for so long, but... nothing. Until one night there was a shooting star and I wished on that for a foal of our own. The next morning we found Comet on our doorstep," Wishing Well explained.
"We couldn't put our finger on it, but we knew Comet wasn't a normal pony. We didn't care though, and we don't care now. He is our son, and we love him," Inkwell said firmly as he turned back to the terrified little thing, his face softening. "Comet," he said in a steady quiet voice, "you don't have to be afraid. Your mother and I will always be here for you, and we love you. No matter what." Wishing Well laid down and put a foreleg over Comet, tears rolling down her face and into his buggy mane. Inkwell joined in and the family hugged each other. It was an odd sight to see, two ponies and a changeling in it's natural form in that heartfelt embrace. But then Comet began to glow, subtly at first and then growing in intensity until it was blinding. When the light died, Comet looked like he had this morning at the library. He seemed just as surprised as everypony else.
"Did he just change back?" Spike asked.
"No Spike," Twilight started hesitantly, "My spell is still in effect, I can feel it. That's really him!"
"I love you Mom and Dad!" Comet exclaimed after he was done staring at himself, throwing himself back into the embrace with his parents.
Twilight came out of her crouch with a relaxed smile, taking in the sight. Then turned around and lowered her head as she whispered, “Come on, let’s leave them to it.” Her coterie nodded and they all went to slip off back to town.
“Wait!” Comet cried as he burst from his parents embrace and ran up to Twilight. They turned to the little colt. “Miss Sparkle, I’d like to write the Princess, if that’s alright.” Twilight gave him a warm smile and glanced sidelong at Spike.
“I don’t know. Spike, do you have any letter writing material?” she smiled as she asked the question even though she knew the answer.
"Sure do!" he responded, producing a scroll and quill with a flourish, flashed a wicked grin, then assumed his writing stance. Comet gathered his thoughts briefly, then poured out his heart.
"Dear Princess Celestia, Today, I learned that no matter what you may think of yourself, your true family and friends will always love you, no matter what. If you let go of fear, and let them love you, it can transform you into who you really are. Your faithful subject, Comet."
"Got it," Spike said, rolling the scroll up and then bathed it in green spellfire. The Well’s came up on either side of their son, and the trio waved as the group trotted off down the path.
They soon came to a fork and Applebloom said excitedly, "I can't wait to get back to the farm and tell everypony about this!"
"Yeah, Rarity is gonna love this story!" Sweetie Belle agreed. The two of them half bolted in different directions towards their respective families.
"What are you going to do Scootaloo?" Twilight asked carefully. Scootaloo's head sunk a little and she kicked up a small dust devil with her hoof. "Uh, you could come back to the library if you want. I have some things to do still today, but I could probably reschedule them to next Tuesday." Twilight tried to flash a big grin to show that everything was fine, but it wasn’t working. Scootaloo turned to respond, but then a boisterous voice called out. "Hiya Squirt!"
"Rainbow Dash!" Scootaloo exclaimed, her head shooting straight up and a huge grin spreading across her face.
"The one and only," Rainbow Dash said, chin held high with one hoof placed proudly on her chest. Then shifting forward she cocked her head and asked "Hey, you wanna catch the Wonderbolts? They're performing in Baltimare and if we leave now I should be able to get us there in time for the first fly over."
"Do I!?” Scootaloo exclaimed as she shot up into the air, eyes wide. Then, first her face and then the rest of her, sinking slowly back to the ground as her undersized wings buzzed, she added, “But Baltimare is like, forever away. How can we possibly get there in time?" Rainbow sat back and arched an eyebrow.
"Kid, try to remember who you're talking to," and with that Dash grabbed Scoots and flew off, while the little filly squealed with delight.
"Well Spike, all in all, everything turned out fine,” Twilight said, looking up into the sky as the two pegasi slowly disappeared into the distance. Spike padded up beside her, gazing similarly. "Yup, no fallout from that adventure whatsoever," he added.
When they arrived back at the library there was a huge crowd gathered at the door. When they saw her one of them cried out, "There she is!" The whole lot of angry ponies were all shouting things about what they needed from the library and how long they had been waiting. Mayor Mare saw the scene and came walking up to her and said, "Twilight, you really must maintain regular hours. Ponies need to know that when they visit a public institution in Ponyville that it will be open to serve them."
"Yes Mayor," Twilight replied with a sigh.
High up within her fortress, far to the east of Ponyville, the changeling queen laid on a bed mewling cat like creatures. She was deeply annoyed as she watched her witless brood try to re-establish the magical link to her sleeper agents. They had minimal success over the last few days with the new scrying eyes she had created. Then, one by one the eyes began to reveal images from all over the world. Equestria, Saddle Arabia, and even the Zebra tribal regions began to flit across the crystalline spheres. Chrysalis rose majestically and stalked over to get a closer look, and as she did a few of the little cat things scurried off to play with a dust bunny.
"Excellent work Commander, I knew you were not entirely incompetent." The Commander inclined his head to her at this near-compliment.
"Thank you, my Queen," and added as he ended the bow. "Will my Lady like any of the sleepers to awaken?"
"No, not yet." Chrysalis looked over the spheres, each depicting what each of her unwitting progeny were seeing in real time. "Needs must that I locate that insolent little-" she trailed off as an image of Twilight Sparkle, Spike, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders came into view on one of the spheres. "Well, that was quick..." she watched as the scene played out, and then suddenly, the sphere lost connection. The Commander immediately struck the technician shouting, "Get it working again!"
"It does not matter," the queen of the with the pain changelings said, turning away from the wall of scrying eyes. "I now know that Twilight Sparkle is in Ponyville, and that she has some connection to those three little fillies." She walked out onto the balcony and gazed to the west over her new kingdom. It was charred, and green mucus coated much of the buildings that made up the once peaceful town. "Now," she intoned gravely, "I can plan my revenge."