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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3. Decisions

“Good morning, Healer,” Lavender said with a touch of surprise. “I didn't expect to see you again until later this afternoon.”

“Circumstances called for a small change of plans, so I decided to call on my patient a little sooner,” Healing Hooves explained. “Could I trouble you for the private use of your living room once more, dear?”

“Of course – go right ahead.”

“Thank you. Come along, Mr Cogs – we have much to do.”

Zevan reluctantly followed the mare inside. He sat down and waited for the inevitable. Once the door had been firmly closed behind them, Healing Hooves’ pleasant demeanor quickly dropped.

“Tell me that you had nothing to do with that altercation in Canterlot yesterday!” she angrily demanded in a low voice so that she would not be overheard by Lavender Dreams.

Zevan cringed before her righteous anger but could not deny it, but neither was he happy to have been part of it either, so he sulkily said nothing.

 

 

 

“Hmph! Knocked out of the sky, my shiny chitin! Blown all the way out of Canterlot is more like it.” She leaned in close to Zevan, practically muzzle to muzzle. “Are you totally insane? Do you know the damage that your hive has done to the reputation of changelings? Millennia of peaceful coexistence with ponies ruined in one fell swoop! What in Equestria were you thinking?!”

“I was thinking that I was doing my duty. I was thinking that no matter what my misgivings, I had been given orders by my queen, and I obeyed!” Zevan snarled back at her before subsiding. He then quietly added, “I was thinking that this was a potential disaster.”

“You got that last part right anyway. What possessed Chrysalis to do something so monumentally stupid?”

“Oh, it was far from stupid. My queen was ambitious, and she saw a way to wrest control from the Princesses, and she nearly pulled it off. I just don't know what went wrong. Last thing that I knew, we had the citizenry on the run, and then we were all blasted out of the city by an irresistible wave of love energy.”

“I felt it pass by even though this village is a huge distance from Canterlot – very impressive! It's a pity it didn't blow you further still. I want you out of my village!” Healing Hooves declared.

Zevan glared back at her. “First of all, since when has any changeling been able to claim a village exclusively, even one as small as this? Secondly, you of all people know that I'm in no condition to travel yet. I want to return to my hive. I want to learn what has happened to my hive-brethren and my queen. And I am concerned about the consequences of our actions also.”

“It's far too late for that now. You've made every changeling a potential target for Celestia’s Royal Guard. Rumors and misinformation will see ponies questioning whether their neighbor is a changeling. Fear and mistrust will spread. And all this because you had to follow that mad queen’s orders blindly.”

“Don’t you dare accuse me of being a blind fool, you damn hypocrite!” Zevan hissed furiously. “I challenge you to tell me that you would disobey your queen if she ordered you to do what we did. Come on – tell me! Tell me how you would take the moral high ground and tell your queen that she is wrong and you refuse to obey. Tell me how your hive-mates would stand behind you in solidarity because you are so much more superior to us and would never let your queen do such horrible things. I'm sure you must be gloating over how much better than us that you are.”

Healing Hooves seethed and glared venomously at Zevan. For a very long moment she was silent, then her eyes dropped and she exhaled in a calming breath. “You're right – I would obey. It's not in a changeling’s nature to refuse a queen’s orders. Question them, maybe, but not disobey. Did you even try though?”

“Remember that I told you that I haven't been able to do my field job for a long while? Well I approached Queen Chrysalis when I was informed about her plans upon my return to the hive, and I expressed my misgivings. I asked her not to go through with that course of action. For that she demoted me, banning me from returning to my job at the weather factory, and relegating me to a common soldier. Any of my hive-mates who also made an objection just swelled our ranks. Yes, we tried. She was too blinded by visions of power.”

Healing Hooves’ ire deflated. “I see. It seems that I must save my accusations for your monarch. Not that that's going to make things any easier for any of the other hives. How in Tartarus did she expect to get away with this though? How did she expect to overcome some of the most powerful entities in the world?”

“By using their strengths and our nature against them. How much have you heard so far?”

“Not too much as yet,” the Healer admitted. “Word was passed around that Chrysalis and her hive had attacked Canterlot and Princess Celestia herself, but were repelled by Princess Cadance. So far all that I've heard has been in the nature of an advance warning to changelings rather than a detailed report. I'd like you to fill in the blanks.”

Zevan was puzzled. “It makes sense that the Alicorn of Love was responsible for that massive love blast, but she was supposed to have been replaced by Queen Chrysalis and taken out of the picture. By doing so, Chrysalis could feed not only on Shining Armor’s great love for Cadance, but it would also put her in close proximity to Celestia over a period of weeks. That gave her the opportunity to feed on Celestia’s enormous love for her subjects, powering up our queen to an unheard of degree while simultaneously subtly weakening Celestia. Overpowering the Princess was always going to be key to the success of Chrysalis’ plans, so both a great store of energy plus surprise were needed.”

“So it was a just brute force attack after Chrysalis got sufficient power to overcome Celestia?”

Zevan paused for a moment as he recalled some more details. “No, there were Canterlot’s defenses to deal with also, primarily the magical shield to take into account, but we used that against them. While Chrysalis stole the love energy, a rumor was spread regarding an imminent attack on Canterlot which necessitated extraordinary defensive measures, including Shining Armor’s magic shield. By keeping that constantly up for a very long time, it severely weakened him and put one of Canterlot’s greatest defenses out of action at the critical moment. Meanwhile the Royal Guard’s attention was focused outwards, but of course a large contingent of changelings was already within the shield. Their task was subversion, and at the appointed time, try to ensure that Princess Luna’s slumber was not disturbed, preventing her from taking part until it was too late.”

“So that’s what you were doing?”

“I wish! I was reduced to a basic soldier, responsible for little more than attacks on Canterlot citizens. While the wedding was causing the greatest distraction, we worked to shatter the weakened shield. With that down, Canterlot’s defenses were split, Chrysalis could make her move against Celestia, and we would take over. Some of us were even specifically ordered to watch out for the Element Bearers to prevent them from using the Elements of Harmony against us. By rights, the plan should have worked. It was working. I have no idea how Cadance got back into play, or exactly how Chrysalis was defeated.”

Healing Hooves looked thoughtful. “I can only guess that Chrysalis overlooked some significant detail or an unknown factor. Whatever the case, Cadance certainly was back and the wedding went ahead later with the real bride. In fact if it wasn't for that wedding ceremony, I'm guessing that we would have had a lot more action from the Royal Guard before this. I suppose that we’re going to have to wait for more news to find out the details. Meanwhile, what are your plans in light of this news?”

“I have asked Lavender for a map so that I can try planning the best route home taking my current condition in mind. Hopefully I can start traveling in a few days if this leg of mine heals sufficiently.”

“And what if you get back to your hive and it's under siege? Or worse yet, Chrysalis is planning another attack?”

Zevan looked at Healing Hooves bleakly. “Then in either case, I suppose I would have to fight.”

“Despite you knowing that this would be wrong and making things even worse for all other changelings?”

“I would still have to obey – you know this already.”

“I do, so don't go back. Take that moral high ground and refuse to participate. If you don't go back to your hive, you won't get any orders to disobey.”

Zevan was shocked. “You want me to abandon my hive?”

“I'm urging you to do so. No change happens without sacrifice, but a life spent in harmony with pony-kin will be worth it. Prove to me that your words are not meaningless, Zevan. Stay here and make a new life for yourself.”

Zevan gave a humorless laugh. “Moments ago you were ready to expel me from this village with extreme prejudice. Why the turnaround?”

She gave him a smirk in return. “I may be old, but I'm no fool. I'm not going to condemn you for the sins of your queen if you truly believe what you have told me. I'm giving you the opportunity to prove that to me and the ponies of Equestria.”

The more that Zevan thought about what she said, the more sense it made. He had hated how his life had been turned around by Chrysalis’ mad quest. Why would he be eager to go back to that? However, leaving his whole life and hive-mates behind was no simple ask. Could he even cope in the long term? “I… I will have to think about this. I honestly can't say if I can do it right now.”

“I would have been suspicious if you’d instantly agreed. I'll let you think it over tonight and see if you have come to a decision tomorrow. I'm warning you though that if you can't agree to this course, then I won't be able to trust you around here, and especially around Lavender. She has a hard enough life without you complicating it further.”

“I would never hurt her!” Zevan protested.

“Maybe not intentionally, but unless you know where you stand, she could be collateral damage, and that I won't tolerate,” Healing Hooves said fiercely.

Realization burst upon Zevan. “You care for her! You have feelings for Lavender!”

Healing Hooves nodded. “I've known her since she was a filly. I treated her after her accident and gave her physical therapy to try to regain as much magical ability as possible with her broken horn. She's become like the daughter whom I could never have, and I will protect her with my life. Now do you understand how serious I am about the potential threat that I regard you to be?”

“I do. I swear that I won't betray your trust,” Zevan replied earnestly.

“Good. Now let's have a look at that leg. I need to change the dressings.”

Healing Hooves pronounced satisfaction with the condition of the wound, and checked the rest of his dressings while she was there. She sighed over the wing, but that would not show signs of real improvement for days. She then packed her saddle bags and prepared to leave.

“I'll be back again tomorrow before lunch. Think hard and try to have an answer for me by then. Goodbye, Zevan.”

Zevan nodded, and then realized that he might have to get used to being called just Whirring Cogs from now on if he chose the course that Healing Hooves offered. The changeling named Zevan would have to be forgotten – a casualty of Chrysalis’ war. Could he do it? Could he make such a fundamental change to his life? He honestly did not know yet. Zevan limped back out to the shop, intending to resume his position on the bench while he pondered the possibilities.

“So is the leg any better?” Lavender asked.

“The healer says that she’s satisfied with it so far. It's too soon to say much more yet.”

“If it's not getting worse, then it must be getting better,” she said with cheerful confidence.

Zevan returned her smile. “That's true.” He opened the shop door and the top hinge gave way. He caught the door with a small twinge of pain from his foreleg. “Oh, I'm sorry!”

“No, I'm the one who's sorry. It's not your fault that the door is broken. I've been meaning to fix it but I… have a bit of trouble holding the screwdriver.” Lavender came over and helped lean the door so that it would not twist off the lower hinge.

Zevan was not surprised that she could not handle such a simple repair. It required a strong grip with the hoof’s kinetic field, or a unicorn’s horn, to use a screwdriver, neither of which she could do for herself now. “If you fetch me a screwdriver, I can fix this. Have you got any new screws too?”

“I think so. Let me go look.” Lavender rummaged in her drawers, and after a moment, found a packet of screws and a screwdriver. “I bought these a while back, intending to do some maintenance. I… just haven't gotten around to it yet.”

More likely she could not afford a tradespony to do the work for her, Zevan realized. Probably too proud to ask for help also. “Well, rather than just sitting around all day like a useless lump, let's see what I can do that doesn't involve me needing to fly or put strain on my bad leg. It's the least that I can do to repay your kindness.”

“Thank you, Cogs, and it's been my pleasure to help a pony in need.”

Zevan quickly had the door repaired, and then he looked around for what else could do with some maintenance. Sadly there was no shortage of small fixes needing to be made, and they kept him busy for the next couple of hours. It was only because he was tiring due to his debilitated state that he agreed to Lavender’s urging to put the rest off until the next day. He retired to the warm bench with much relief, but feeling much more satisfied with himself than he had for many weeks.

As he lay on the bench, once again he observed the citizens go by, but this time he considered what it would be like to treat them as his neighbors and friends. He was used to living in Cloudsdale, and that was so much different from this town. It was not just the airy and bright nature of a city in the clouds compared to the earthy nature of a village on the ground that made it so different, but also the attitude of its citizens. He simply was not as familiar with unicorns, or earth ponies for that matter, and he wondered if he would fit in with them. After all it was hardly a coincidence that he had chosen a pegasus form as his alter ego – he just seemed to fit in with them better. He was still trying to sort out his feelings when Lavender called him in for dinner.

Lavender served up the soup left over from the previous night, followed by a salad. To his plate, she added a fried fish with lemon. Zevan blinked in surprise at the latter. “Did you buy this fish just for me?”

“I hear that pegasi like fish, so I thought you might enjoy it,” she confirmed with a smile.

“I do, but you didn't have to go to the extra expense.”

“You've done a couple of hours of repair work for me – it's a small price to pay in exchange.”

Zevan realized that she would probably be insulted if he protested that it was he who was repaying her, so he simply said, “Thank you. I haven't had fish in quite a while.” He took a bite of it and found it to be succulent and flavorsome. “Mmm! That's good! Do you like fish too?”

“I tried it as a filly and I was ambivalent over it, but my tastes may have changed since then.”

“Care to try a bit?” He held up his fork with a piece of fish speared upon it.

Lavender looked a bit doubtful, then she grinned that irrepressible smile of hers. “Oh, why not?”

Zevan leaned over the table to let her delicately take the morsel off without her lips touching the fork. She chewed it thoughtfully and then smiled. “You know, you pegasi might have something going there. That's not bad; I could grow to really like it.”

“Good, but the rest of this fish is mine!” he said with a grin.

Lavender laughed. “I promise not to steal any more of it.”

They spent the rest of the meal lightly bantering. As Lavender started cleaning up, she said, “I haven't been able to lay my hoof on a map for you as yet.”

“That's okay,” Zevan replied. “There's no great rush. In fact I may end up not needing it at all due to something that Healing Hooves told me this morning.”

“Oh? Did it have something to do with why she turned up so early today?”

“Yes, and it may change my plans drastically. You see something happened in Canterlot yesterday that may have a profound effect on my future… umm… employment.” He hated to prevaricate like that to her, but such was the lot of a changeling.

“The wedding?” Lavender said in puzzlement. “How did that affect you?”

“Huh? Oh no, besides that. Anyway, I am now considering whether to stay on here in Whitetail Village, or at least for the immediate future until circumstances dictate otherwise.”

“We do have a few other pegasus residents, so you wouldn't be entirely lacking in contact with others like you,” she added helpfully.

“It's not just that. I need to know if I can fit into this township, or whether going back to my home town would be the better alternative.”

“What's your home town like?”

“What can I say? I grew up there with many brothers and sisters. It was comfortable and we knew our places in it. But things have changed recently and it's not the home that I remember anymore.”

“You had lots of brothers? That's unusual for ponies,” Lavender noted.

Zevan kicked himself for that slip-up. He'd forgotten that there was a great predominance in the number of mares over stallions. Even for his kind, gender was more of a personal thing than an actuality for commoners like himself. “Yeah, our mother was rather unusual.”

“She'd have to be a bit of a celebrity then.”

Zevan laughed. “Yeah, you could say that.” He sobered up again. “But as I said, going home might not be a good option anymore, especially as I would probably not be able to do the work that I love. On the flip side, I lost everything in the accident. I have no money and I have no tools. I would have to start again from scratch, and because of this busted wing, I won't be able to do so in any job that requires flying for the foreseeable future, if ever. Healing Hooves is a bit pessimistic about my chances there.”

“I'm sorry to hear that, but if anyone can fix it, she can.”

“You seem to have an enormous amount of confidence in her. How much do you know about her?”

“When I was just a little filly, a bad sickness infected our village, affecting half the population including myself. We were too small to have our own doctor at that time, and the worst affected had to be shipped over to Ponyville’s hospital for treatment. Healing Hooves answered our call for a doctor and worked tirelessly to help us. She was credited with saving the lives of many ponies, and she was petitioned to stay on as a citizen of Whitetail Village. We were very grateful that she decided to stay on as our town’s Healer.”

That sounded like standard changeling procedure to Zevan – find a need and fill it. There was never a chance that Healing Hooves would have rejected their petition. It did cement his opinion of her though. She was genuinely concerned about the welfare of her villagers, and especially of Lavender of course, and she was old and experienced enough to offer sound advice. It still remained up to him to consider whether it was the best advice for him, but it weighed heavily in her favor.

“Thanks, Lavender, that was a big help. Anyway, as I said, I don’t have anything to get a fresh start here, and that would make things very difficult.”

“You have a friend – that's always a good start.”

Zevan smiled at Lavender. “Good point. I'll chalk that up with Healing Hooves’ recommendation.”

“And if you decide that you are serious about staying, there's always work to be found here. The village is not as small as when I was a filly, and it's growing a lot more lately.”

“Okay, make that three points in favor of staying. I'll look into that tomorrow, and what I can do for accommodation if I do decide to stay. That will be a bit tricky without money up front though.”

“You could be my boarder until you do, as long as you don’t mind sleeping on the sofa each night. I don't have a spare bed to offer, I'm afraid.”

“I'd hate to take so much advantage of your generosity, but I'm not in a position to be picky. Besides, it's a very comfy sofa,” Zevan added with a grin. “You make a perfectly charming hostess, and I can't see why some stallion hasn't asked you to join his herd before now.”

Lavender’s smile faltered for once. “Stallions don't want broken mares,” she said quietly.

“What?! You can't be…” Zevan was about to say ‘serious’, but of course she was. He realized now what should have been obvious – Lavender’s broken horn made her a cripple in the eyes of other unicorns, and that was a very harsh problem for a mare looking for a very special somepony. She could not even handle things like a pegasus or earth pony, further decreasing her odds of finding a mate. It was a wonder that she could maintain such a cheerful demeanor normally, or maybe she did so because of her plight. A positive attitude to life was certainly better than self-pity.

“I'm sorry for upsetting you, Lavender. I can only say that there have to be many stallions out there who don't realize what they are missing out on.”

Lavender’s smile returned. “Thank you, Cogs. I do believe that's the nicest thing somepony has said to me in a long time.”

The emotional energy of Lavender’s gratitude and genuine liking for Zevan washed over him and he absorbed it reflexively. It made him think though – ‘Find a need and fill it’. Was this a sign? Lavender deserved a good stallion, but could he be the next best thing? He would have to think long and hard about that because his decision had the potential to hurt her even more. Perhaps he should walk away before any permanent harm could come about from his presence? At worst right now she would suffer some disappointment. After the events of Canterlot, he did not want to be the cause of anyone else’s suffering. He felt that he had much to atone for yet.

“You've given me much to think about. I'm going to sleep on it and talk with Healing Hooves again tomorrow. Hopefully I can make a decision then.”

“That seems sensible to me. Now would you like dessert, or perhaps coffee?”

Less serious small talk filled the remainder of the evening, but even that showed Zevan that the mare seemed hungry for more socializing and personal interaction. He settled down on the sofa that night with much weighing on his mind.

* * *

Zevan woke as soon as Lavender came out to start breakfast. He had evidently caught up on sleep and recovered his energy. Some time to heal more and he would be as good as new.

They shared a meal of oat cakes and fresh fruit. Zevan insisted on doing the cleaning up so that she could get a head start on readying her shop for the day’s business. After that chore was complete, he started looking into some more of the maintenance jobs that needed to be done. Some he realized could not be accomplished without buying some new materials, and he was not sure if Lavender could afford that. Others required the tools that he no longer possessed. Perhaps he could borrow them? Of course he would have to stay on to do that. Maybe Healing Hooves could suggest something.

Late morning, Lavender asked him to mind the shop while she made a delivery. He was pleased that she trusted him that much already. He was tempted to try to help her load her cart, but suspected that she took pride in her competence despite her disability, and just admired how she did it so well.

Healing Hooves turned up while Lavender was away, leading him to wonder about the timing. Then again, how would she have known that Lavender would trust him to mind the shop?

“So have you made a decision, Zevan?” she asked without preamble.

“Do you know that Lavender is starting to get feelings for me? As a stallion, I mean.”

“I suspected the possibility,” Healing Hooves admitted.

“Any decision that I make will affect her too either way.”

“And that's why I want you to decide quickly.”

“Do you think that I could find suitable work here?”

“As a matter of fact, I know a business that might have an opening for someone with your skills.”

“Looked into it already, did you?” Zevan said with a tinge of humor. “I don't suppose you found me a place to live while you were at it?”

“No, but I think that might already be taken care of,” she replied with a meaningful glance.

Zevan was in no doubt about what she meant. “Are you serious?”

“Do you really think I'd be otherwise?”

“No, not really, but I had to be sure. It's not often that someone turns their back on the hive, and I have to be sure that I’m doing the right thing for everyone, and not just me.”

“So you have decided then?”

“Yes I have.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, mentally closing the book on his previous life. He then opened his eyes again, looked at Healing Hooves resolutely, and said, “Zevan the changeling is gone for good, and Cogs the pegasus is here to stay.”

Healing Hooves smiled warmly. “Welcome to Whitetail Meadows Village, Whirring Cogs!”

 
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