Change of Life

Zevan was a loyal changeling and always did his queen's bidding, although he quietly questioned why changelings should end centuries of secret but peaceful intermingling with the pony population. After being expelled from Canterlot by the irresistible force of love and badly injured after crash-landing in trees, he had to reconsider his future. Ponies knew that changelings existed now, and the only example of them was Chrysalis' attempt to overthrow Celestia and their attack on Canterlot's population. His kind would be pariahs for the foreseeable future and maybe even their disguises would not keep them safe. A unicorn mare with a broken horn might do the trick though.
There is now a prequel to this story - Prelude To Change I suggest that you read that first.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/141487/change-of-life

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7. Bonds

To the average pony, the next few weeks might have been considered a nerve-wracking, exhausting, and frustrating – in other words, a typical lead-up to a wedding. To Cogs, it was an exciting and novel experience, something that he had never dreamed of ever having. The myriad details were intriguing, even if most were handled by Lavender’s friends and parents. Although many changelings often made relationships with ponies, few went so far as he intended to do. As far as biologically possible, he was going to be a real pegasus, and live the life of any normal pony. Towards this end, each week he set aside some of his wages to pay for the wedding ring, some of it went towards preparation expenses, a bit went towards some more tools to add to his kit, and the rest of it was put into Lavender’s business.

The effects of Cogs’ efforts to renovate the shop were starting to show. The revitalized business was drawing more customers, especially as Lavender could afford to add to the range of products that she could offer for sale. He also continued to mind the shop when she went on one of her wildflower harvesting trips.

“You were right,” Lavender told Cogs after one of her trips. “Customers expect the shop to be open when they want something, and it was hurting the overall business when I wasn't there. There’s been a noticeable increase in trade all during the week from repeat clients. This village is too small to afford to lose custom to other merchants. You make a difference just being here, Love.”

Of course, not everything worked out quite so well, and as usual it came about from an innocent question. It was a work day not unlike several others that had passed since Cogs and Lavender had gotten engaged. However, their current job was completed early in the afternoon, so the threesome headed back to home base to make preparations for a new job starting the next day. Cogs encountered Golden Words heading out of her office for a break just as they arrived.

“Oh, Cogs! Just the stallion I've been wanting to talk to,” she told the surprised changeling. “Have you got a few minutes to spare?”?

“Sure! What’s it about?” he asked as he followed her outside.

“First, I just need to stretch my wings and get some fresh air. Want a lift?”

“I’d like that, yes.”

As she had done the previous time, Golden Words lifted Cogs up into the sky with strong beats of her wings. Flying up to the lowest clouds, she deposited him there before she did a couple of spins and barrel rolls, while he enjoyed the breeze in his mane. Before long, she rejoined him on the cloud.

 

 

 

“Phew! Much better! That always clears up the cobwebs in my brain after sitting at the typewriter for so long.”

“I know what you mean,” agreed Cogs. “Just having the wind in my face is exhilarating after so long without it.”

“So no improvement from the wing, I take it?”

“It’s a bit stronger now and it doesn't ache anymore, but I still have trouble holding it steady. And of course the flight magic still isn't working. It’s looking more and more as if I’m ground-bound now except for little jaunts like this.”

Golden Words looked thoughtful. “Have you tried flying without flight magic?”

“What? Every pegasus knows that you need magic to fly. Our weight is too great and wings too small in proportion to even get off the ground.” And that was true for changelings too, he added mentally.

“I know that, but we’re not entirely dependent on magic. Have you tried free gliding?”

Cogs shook his head. “What’s that?”

Golden Words gave him an odd look before explaining, “You turn off your flight magic, open your wings to their fullest, and just let yourself feel the air currents to try to travel as far as possible just by gliding. We all did it as foals, and I’m surprised that you haven’t even heard of it.”

Cogs realized that he had been caught out in not knowing something that any real pegasus would know about it, and he thought fast. “Er… I have. We… umm… just called it something else. And no, I haven’t tried it since my accident.”

Golden Words grinned mischievously. “Then it’s time to find out. First – more altitude!” She grabbed him and started doing just that. Higher and higher they went, and although Cogs had flown at much greater altitudes in his life, the knowledge that he could no longer fly made that height more than a little frightening. Finally she put him down on a high altitude cirrus, the wispy cloud barely supporting him despite his cloud-walking magic.

“There, that should be plenty of altitude,” she said, breathing a little hard from carrying him so high. “Now let’s see how good I am at this still.”

Golden Words launched herself off the cloud, straightening out her wings as wide and flat as she could. Of course without magic, she started descending at quite a rapid rate, but as she picked up airspeed, she also gained more lift from her wings and the downward plunge began leveling off. Cogs watched as she found a thermal and circled about it, slowing down even more. It took far longer for her to get low to the ground than it had for them to work their way up to his current height, and it was obvious that she was quite good at free gliding. Abruptly she started gaining altitude again as she turned on her flight magic once more and sped above the village before beating her wings to rejoin him.

“Whoooo! That felt awesome! I wonder why I forgot how much fun that could be? So, how about you trying it, Cogs?”

He looked down a little doubtfully. “I don’t know, Goldie. What if my wing fails? That’s a long way to fall.”

“Don’t worry – I’m not going to let you do it alone. If something does go wrong, I’ll be right there to catch you. That’s one reason why I wanted to start so high; it will give me plenty of time and opportunity to rescue you. All you have to do is not panic, and the worst that will happen is some disappointment.”

Cogs saw that he was not going to be able to wriggle out of this, so he gritted his teeth, prayed to Celestia, and jumped off the cloud. He tried to emulate Golden Words and spread his wings wide, and for a moment it seemed to be working, but then a severe twinge in his bad wing caused him to lose hold of it and he tumbled in the air. He cursed and pulled the wing back into place. It trembled but held, and with the greater falling speed, he could now feel the lift effect starting to work. He was flying again! He shouted with joy and relished the roar of the wind as he sped through the air. It did not last long though because as he got faster and the lift effect grew stronger, it put more strain on his injured wing, and inevitably it failed again. This time he was going far too fast to be able to recover, and he started flailing in panic.

“Cogs!” Golden Words screamed over the wind noise. “Pull yourself together so that I can grab you!”

With an immense effort of will, Cogs stopped thrashing about and relaxed. Within moments, he felt the strong hooves of the mare wrap around his barrel and they rapidly slowed down. She carried him over to the nearest cloud and set down upon it.

“Well, that was quite an adventure,” she commented with a sigh of relief.

Cogs’ heart was still beating wildly from the close shave, and he looked at her incredulously. “Really? You think?”

They stared at each other for a few seconds before simultaneously bursting into laughter, the relief evident in both of them.

“So, do you want to try again?” Golden Words asked slyly.

Cogs nodded. “Yes, but not today. I think one heart-stopper is enough for one day, but it was great to feel like I could fly again. Thanks, Goldie.”

“You’re welcome, Cogs. Anything for a friend.”

“However, you didn't come up here just to get me to try suicidal stunts. What did you want to talk to me about?”

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot in the excitement. I’m just about ready to send out the wedding invitations, and I need to know who you are going to invite. Lavender tells me that you come from a large family, and we’re going to have to know how many to cater for.”

Cogs froze. For the second time that day, he was caught out, but this time it was far worse. He had no idea that when he was chatting with Lavender that first night that such a trivial detail would come back to haunt him. How was he going to explain this one? In retrospect he should have realized that he would be asked this question, but his inexperience had betrayed him.

“Is anything wrong, Cogs?” Golden Words asked as he sat there wordlessly staring out at nothing.

“I… I'm not inviting anyone.”

The mare looked shocked. “No one? Not even your mother? Why not?”

The mention of his mother gave Cogs an idea. “My mother is the reason why. We had a massive falling out, and she has disowned me.” ‘Not far from the truth if she knew what I was doing, although the queen is more likely to kill me for my actions,’ he added to himself. “Mother is a very strict matriarch, and she has forbidden my brothers and sisters from associating with me, so I can’t even invite them.”

“Oh you poor stallion! No wonder you looked so pained. I’m sorry that I dredged that up.”

“It’s not your fault, Goldie. When I was talking with Lavender, I only told her about the happy times. I saw no reason to burden her with my recent painful memories, so she didn't know not to tell you.”

“You miss your family, don’t you?” she replied sympathetically.

“I do,” Cogs replied honestly, “but I have gained so much here with good friends and the love of a beautiful mare. Maybe in the future I’ll be able to see my siblings, but not yet. It’s much too soon.”

“I understand. What about some friends from Cloudsdale?”

Cogs thought about the people that he used to hang around with in Cloudsdale, mostly work buddies from the weather factory. He realized now just how shallow most of those relationships were, and he almost dismissed them all until he remembered Blue Arc, an electrician at the weather factory. He had started there at about the same time that Cogs had, and they had worked together frequently. They had also supported each other while they had been newbies learning the ropes, and the stallion could be the one pony that Cogs could name as a true friend.

“I'd like to invite a stallion named Blue Arc,” he told Golden Words.

“Just one?” Cogs nodded in confirmation. “Looks like he’s going to be your Best Stallion too then.”

“Fine by me. I’ll give you his address when we’re back at the office. Just be sure to ask him not to spread around where I am living now. There are people I really don’t want back in my life now.”

“I understand, Cogs.”

No you don’t, and I hope you never do,’ Cogs thought to himself.

“Anyway, it’s about time for me to get back to work. These books don’t write themselves,” Golden Words said.

“How soon before we see your next book?” Cogs asked curiously, glad to be able to change the subject.

“Not long now. I’m just going through the editing process right at the moment. Then it has to go to the printers and publicity has to be done for the new release. It will be some time after your wedding – probably a couple of months later. You can come to the book-signing at the book store. I always release my new novels here in Whitetail Meadows first, and then do a little tour of the towns and cities.”

“Sounds great. I’ll be sure to do that.”

Golden Words carried Cogs back down, and she went back to work. Cogs, however, made his way to Healing Hooves’ clinic. He felt an urgent need to discuss the latest wrinkle in his plans.

“You should know better than talk about things that you won’t be able to back up later,” she admonished him.

“Hey! I was just making conversation with a mare who rescued me. I had no idea at the time that I would even stay in this village, let alone get into a relationship with her!”

Healing Hooves waved it off. “I know! I know! It’s not always possible to account for every possibility, but try not to be so loose-lipped in future.”

Cogs sighed and knew that she was not going to let him off without a scolding. Sometimes he could picture her as his mother if he had been a pony and not a changeling. “Look – the damage is done, so what do you suggest? I’ve implied that I might never see any of my family again, but I can see Lavender trying to reach out to them on my behalf. I can’t let that happen.”

“You’re right. So your sister had better pay you a visit and help smooth things out so it doesn't happen.”

“What sister? There’s no way that I’m even going to try to contact one of my hive-mates!” Cogs objected.

“There’s no need for you to do so. After all, she already knows you’re here.” In a flare of blue fire, Healing Hooves disappeared and was replaced by a pegasus mare with a pale blue coat and a pink mane, and with a cutie mark consisting of stylized sun with rain drops in front of it. “Aren't you going to give your big sister a hug, brother dear?” she asked in a different voice with a hint of amusement.

* * *

Cogs was ‘excited’ to introduce his ‘sister’, Sun Shower, to his fiancée the following evening. In truth, he was worried that Lavender would see through the ruse. However, Healing Hooves handled the occasion with ease. She explained to Lavender how she had risked her mother finding out about going to see Cogs after finally tracking him down after he had disappeared, and that it would be unwise to try to talk with the matriarch. She would be happy to pass on the good news to their siblings though.

Lavender had insisted that ‘Sunny’ come to Cogs’ wedding, and the mare allowed herself to persuaded. Healing Hooves knew that she would have to come up with an excuse not to attend Lavender’s wedding as her normal self, but at least she knew that she would still be there when she tied the knot.

The rest of the evening was spent with the mares doing a lot of talking and Cogs doing little but listening and nodding as Sun Shower regaled Lavender with tales of their childhood. He was quietly awed by the fabrications that so easily rolled off her tongue and made him almost feel like he had really experienced them. He made sure that he remembered them for future use, and for when Lavender inevitably brought the subjects back up again.

Eventually Sun Shower had to beg to be excused. “I have to start on my way home. My absence would be difficult to explain if it was noticed.”

Cogs genuinely regretted that their guest was leaving, and resolved to thank Healing Hooves the next day. Lavender gave the mare a warm hug before departure, and then looked at Cogs pointedly. He hugged his ersatz sister with genuine warmth also, trying to convey at lest part of his gratitude. Sun Shower looked a little surprised but not displeased.

“Farewell, little Brother. I’ll see you on your wedding day!” She then took off and they closed the door behind her.

“You have a wonderful sister,” Lavender told him.

“I know. A better one than I ever knew,” he admitted.

* * *

The rest of the preparations went fairly smoothly. At one point Set Square dragged him off to a tailor to be fitted for a tuxedo at the orders from the mares. Although he had never been one to indulge in unnecessary clothing, Cogs had to admit that he looked pretty snazzy in a tux. He also made the final payment on the horn ring a few days before the wedding. He admired the golden band engraved with the words – Lavender Cogs – in flowery script before putting it safely away in a small jewel box that he placed in his saddle bag. They checked with the weather patrol that the wedding day had sunny skies scheduled, and they double-checked that the catering was under control.

The day of the wedding arrived, and Cogs had a minor attack of pre-wedding jitters. Fortunately for him, Set Square fortified the groom with a some hard cider – not enough to make him tipsy, but it sure helped soothe his nerves. His boss also ensured that he turned up at the appointed hour at the rotunda in the village gardens where the wedding was being held. Just before they reached it, he was practically pounced upon by a white pegasus with a bright blue mane and a cutie mark of an electric arc between two spheres.

“Cogs! By Celestia it’s great to see you! What in Tartarus happened to you? One day I hear you've quit your job abruptly and you've disappeared, and then weeks later I get invited to your wedding!” the stallion exclaimed as he pounded Cogs affectionately on the back.

Cogs grinned and replied, “Short version – family problems, big accident, and gorgeous rescuer.”

“All that and a wedding in so short a time? I've got to hear the long version!”

“I’ll tell you all about it after the wedding, Arc. I hope you’re ready to be my Best Stallion?”

“What’s there to be ready for? Make sure the groom doesn't faint, and pass the wedding ring at the right time,” Blue Arc replied with a grin.

“Good to hear that I’ll be in the safe hooves of the best lightning wrangler in Cloudsdale. Or should I be shocked?”

“Ha, ha. Very funny. I hope your bride to be hears better lines than that from you.”

“She hasn't called off the wedding, has she?”

“Not yet anyway. Not that I've seen her as yet either. There’s still time for you to escape.”

“Now who’s being funny?” Nevertheless Cogs grinned at his old friend. “Damn, it’s good to have you here, Arc. At least I’ll have a little support on my side of the aisle. It’s going to be a little heavy on the bride’s side, I’m afraid.”

“What do you mean? What about those ponies?” Blue Arc swept a forehoof in their direction.

They had reached the rotunda, and there seated on the groom’s side of the aisle were a large number of the village’s citizens. Cogs was surprised to realize that he recognized them all. There was Green Hooves, the matriarch of the farming family from his very first job, and a couple of her family members. There were several of the regular customers whom he had served and eventually befriended while minding Lavender’s shop, and many of the clients he had helped with their mechanical problems. There were even a few drinking buddies from the bar - Top Coat, Brolly, and Gold Leaf, who grinned and cheered when they caught his eye.

“Seems to me that you've made quite an impression on the locals already,” Blue Arc concluded.

Cogs was stunned, and then felt ready to cry as so many ponies came up to pound him on the back, shake his hoof, and wish him and Lavender all the best for the future. He had not realized just how much he had become part of the local community already. That so many ponies had turned up in support of him on this day was nearly overwhelming. “I’m… stunned. I never knew.”

“It seems somepony did,” Blue Arc replied, his eyes finding a widely grinning golden pegasus mare. “They've been spreading the news about your wedding and encouraging everypony to come to show support for you because most of your family couldn't come.”

Blue Arc eventually drew him away from the crowd and started pulling him towards the rotunda. “Well, Mr Popularity, I can’t leave you here rooted to the ground like a statue. What kind of Best Stallion would I be if I couldn't get you to the ceremony on time?”

Cogs let himself be dragged along with a goofy grin on his face. He nodded and smiled at the rest of the guests, and they nodded and smiled back at him. In the front row, he spotted Healing Hooves in her guise as Sun Shower. She gave him a sisterly grin and called out, “Good luck, little brother!”

“Thanks, Sis!” he replied with a grin.

He had not been at his place at the rotunda long before Mauve Prose joined him.

“Are you ready to marry my daughter, Cogs?” she asked quietly.

“I've been ready to marry your daughter since she became my very special somepony, Mrs Prose. This ceremony is only to make it official.”

“Good answer. Now if you can stop your wings from twitching, you might look less like you’re about to panic and fly off,” she replied with a small smirk.

Cogs blushed in embarrassment. “I assure you, I’m exactly where I want to be right now, and I won't be going anywhere.” He then sought to change the subject. “So who is going to perform the ceremony for us? Golden Words has been standing in during the rehearsals.”

“I am,” Mauve Prose replied. “Town Recorder and Deputy Mayor are but two of the many jobs that I do. Civil marriages are some of the more interesting ones though.”

“Uh-huh. No pressure, Mrs Prose?”

“No pressure, Mr Cogs. Just get the words right and you'll do fine.” She then turned her attention to an assistant and quietly gave her an instruction. The mare nodded and trotted off.

Blue Arc whispered to Cogs, “Your future mother-in-law is going to be your celebrant? You're so screwed if you botch this!”

“Don't I know it!” Cogs replied fervently.

Just then, Mauve’s assistant started calling for all the guests to take their place as the ceremony was about to start. A minute later and the wedding march tune began to play, and the two daughters of the Square Deal herd entered the aisle as flower-fillies. They were soon followed by Lavender’s father leading her to the rotunda where he ceremoniously hoofed her over to the groom. Cogs barely noticed any of this because his eyes were riveted on the bride. Lavender was dressed in an elegant satin gown, and her mane was coiffed to perfection. Below her throat hung the pendant that she had worn since he had gifted it to her, but the thing that caught his attention the most was the supremely happy smile on the face of his fiancée. He did not have to be a changeling to sense the pure joy that was radiating from her at that moment. He returned the smile in kind as he took her hoof in his.

The music stopped, and Mauve Prose spoke up. “Citizens of Whitetail Meadows, family and friends of the bride and groom, we are gathered here today to bear witness to the union of this mare and this stallion in the ties of matrimony. We celebrate the love that has brought them together here on this day to be united henceforth as one family. The bride will now make her vows.”

Lavender locked eyes with Cogs. “My love, you fell into my life when I most needed it. From the moment we met, it was like you were a long-lost friend, and we were so comfortable with each other. You never saw me as anything less than a capable independent mare despite my broken horn, but you knew how to help me in spite of that. You have brought me more happiness than I have ever known before, and I want to bring you the same joy as your wife. I pledge my love to you for as long as I may live.”

“The groom will now make his vows,” Mauve Prose declared.

Cogs’ gaze had never left Lavenders’. “My darling, you saved my life, you gave me hope, and you filled my life with joy. I never knew what it meant to want and need somepony so much until I met you. We have shared weeks of happiness and laughter, with the promise of so much more to come. I wish to make that promise come to pass as your husband, and as such I pledge my love to you for as long as I may live.”

Mauve Prose said, “May we have the ring.”

Blue Arc stepped up and held out the jewel box on his outstretched wing. Cogs opened the box, took out the ring, and held it up before Lavender. “This ring is a symbol of my love and my promise to you. Will you accept it from me?”

Lavender replied, “I accept your pledge of love and your promise.”

Cogs carefully placed the ring over her horn and settled it into place against her scalp.

Mauve Prose declared, “We have all borne witness to the pledge of love of this mare and this stallion. By the authority invested in me, I now declare them husband and wife.”

Cogs and Lavender kissed each other fervently to the cheers of the crowd, momentarily oblivious to them. Then their lips parted and they turned to their friends and family with joyful smiles on their faces. Cameras flashed and the moment was preserved forever for posterity.

 

 

 

* * *

The signing of the marriage contract and the wedding reception were a bit of a blur to Cogs later, but he did remember the latter to be the most uninhibited celebration of joy that he’d ever experienced, and that every moment of it was spent side by side with his new wife. At some point, ‘Sun Shower’ had to excuse herself, pleading the need to get home before arousing suspicion due to her absence, and a suitable interval later, Healing Hooves ‘returned’ from her emergency job to congratulate Lavender and Cogs and join in the celebration.

The feast was lavish, the entertainment was delightful, and the dancing was energetic. In between, he enjoyed catching up with the news from Cloudsdale as recounted by Blue Arc, and in return, Cogs acquainted his best friend with some of the more interesting aspects and events in his new home town. Eventually they both realized that there was not enough time for them to more than scratch the surface of what they wanted to tell each other, and this was not the occasion to distract the groom from his bride anymore. Cogs made Blue Arc promise to come back soon for a longer visit, and in return vowed to give him one of the best home-cooked meals that he had ever tasted.

Cogs avoided the excess consumption of alcohol, but he was a little bit drunk on all the positive emotions filling the hall. He wondered if it was possible for a changeling to absorb too much emotion and burn himself out. He began to think of ways for he and Lavender to excuse themselves from the party without hurting anypony’s feelings, but Lavender beat him to the punch.

“Mares and gentlestallions, may I have your attention?” she called above the hubbub. When the crowd had quieted down, she continued. “Thank you all for making this a day to remember for my husband and I. We will never forget this day as long as we live – or at least he had better remember the anniversaries!” she said with mock fierceness.

There was burst of laughter at that. Lavender waited until it finished before saying, “However, it’s time for us to call an end to the evening. We still have our wedding night before us, and I wish that we both have the energy left to enjoy it fully.”

There was some more laughter and not a few cheers, whistles, and hoof stamps.

“So my lovely family and dearest friends, on behalf of Cogs and myself, we thank you for coming and we wish you all a good night.”

Amid more cheers and stamping of hooves, the newlyweds exited the room. The reception hall was not too far from their home, so they were able to walk there at a leisurely pace, letting themselves unwind from the party. When they reached the back door which was the private entrance to their house, Lavender paused in the doorway.

“Cogs, my darling husband, what’s mine is now yours also. This is our home now, and I hope that we build many happy memories in it.”

“If you’re here to share it with me, every memory will be a happy one,” Cogs declared and kissed her for good measure.

They entered the house and made their way immediately to the bedroom. They were careful to take off their fine clothes and lay them safely aside before they began to make love for the first of many times that night.

* * *

Lavender went into season just over three weeks later, and Cogs was once more confronted by the final challenge to their relationship. To be fair, Lavender reiterated that she would not push Cogs into having foals immediately, and he knew that she genuinely meant it. However, she also made it plain that she would be happy to have one now if that was what he desired. He agonized over whether to use the Loving Deceit, but in the end decided that for this first time at least, he would not, and see what happened.

When it became obvious to Lavender that she was not pregnant, her disappointment was palpable to him. She never said a word or gave an outward sign that she was, but you could not hide emotions from a changeling. It seemed that next time he would have an even harder decision to make because the wait and see option was now well and truly gone.

 
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