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.


11. Epilogues

To be totally honest, perhaps Cogs was not the best father the village had ever seen, but considering that he had been born a changeling and raised in a hive, thus having exactly zero prior experience with it and no natural instincts either, he managed very well. What he lacked there, he more than made up for with determination, dedication, and considerable love. Lavender patiently coached him in the finer points of pony parenting, and he was a fast learner. In fact he got perilously close to spoiling the child until Lavender reined him in. After nearly two years, she decided that he had learned enough, and it was time to have another foal.

Mystery Mare thus made a return, and Silver Heartbreaker was once again the unwitting donor, not having changed his ways in that time. In due course, they had another daughter, but a unicorn this time. She even had a coat color resembling her mother’s. However it was more than obvious what trait she had inherited from her father because her mane was an exact match for Cogs’ blue and green one. They had a much longer debate over what to name her than with Dandelion, but eventually they settled on calling her Sky Fern.

The birth of Sky Fern was slightly marred by an announcement from Healing Hooves. As with Dandelion, she had been the midwife for the birth. While Lavender was resting from her labor, the healer had taken Cogs aside for a private talk. She went straight to the point.

“Five nights ago, I woke up in my natural form,” she informed Cogs. “It happened again last night.”

Cogs looked startled. “You lost control of your shape-change overnight? But that only happens to the very elderly.”

Healing Hooves smiled crookedly. “I may have given you the impression that I am younger than I actually am. In fact I was fairly old before I even came to Whitetail Meadows. I chose this village because I wanted some place less hectic to spend my later years. Now it looks like my time has nearly come, and I will have to start making preparations for a successor.”

“Another changeling? Or a real pony this time?”

“A changeling. I've had an application for an internship with me by a recent graduate. I've received them before but I knocked them back. This time I will be accepting the applicant, and I want you to give them some help fitting in here.”

“Of course, but won't you be able to do most of that yourself?”

“I don't know how much more time I’ll have. Once automatic control of one’s alter-form starts happening, the loss of the ability to change can happen in as little as half a year, or several years. I need to plan for the worst.”

“I suppose you must. What are you going to tell Lavender though? When you return to the hive and never come back to the village, how do you think she will feel? In fact, how will you feel?”

Healing Hooves looked distant for a long moment before replying. “She has always been like a daughter to me, and it will tear me up to have to say goodbye with some of my last words being lies.”

“Then tell her the truth. You know that she was more angry with me than anything else for hiding my nature from her. She will be angry with you too for not having told her sooner, but she will also be more understanding of you having to leave. You know how smart she is, and the publicity that changelings have been getting over the past years has certainly skewed the perception of us a lot more in our favor lately.”

The healer turned her gaze towards the room where Lavender rested, considering his words. “I feel a strong resistance to the idea of revealing myself after all these years, but perhaps you are right. We are changelings, and it's in our nature to change, not stay static.”

Healing Hooves chose to wait until her new intern arrived before speaking to Lavender about the matter. She introduced Soothing Touch to Lavender and Cogs on a visit to their home to check up on the foal’s progress. The new healer had also taken a unicorn form, but that was very common for those who practiced medicine due to the number of healing spells that it facilitated. Then came the moment of truth.

“Lavender dear,” Healing Hooves began with an affectionate smile, “it’s time for me to tell you something that you deserved to know long ago. Your husband is not the only changeling in the village. I am also a changeling, and my real name is Hurax.” She stopped and waited for Lavender’s reaction to the news.

Lavender just smiled back. “Or perhaps I should call you Sun Shower?”

Healing Hooves merely arched her eyebrows in slight surprise. “When did you realize that?”

“Right after I learned that Cogs was a changeling, I started thinking about his ‘sister’ and how well we got along, and then I went back further and wondered how you could have missed that Cogs was not a real pegasus. Other little things started to add up, and I pretty much guessed that you might be a changeling. I figured though that you had the right to your secret. Who am I to question someone who has been like a second mother to me?”

“You flatter me, dear. A changeling’s alter ego is very difficult to discern for the average unicorn, and only if they're looking for it. Usually it takes a highly trained professional to notice any discrepancies, which is why Cogs never went to see one to get his wing fixed. Nevertheless I am proud of you once more. You continue to prove yourself an exceptionally perceptive mare, and I truly wish that I had been your real mother.”

Lavender stepped up to hug Healing Hooves. “I would be proud to have you as my mother, whether you are Hurax or Healing Hooves.”

“Thank you. Thank you so much, Lavender.” Tears glistened in the normally stoic healer’s eyes as she returned the hug fervently.

When they finally parted, Lavender said, “I presume Soothing Touch is a changeling also?”

Soothing Touch nodded. “My birth name is Xanis, but I've hardly used that name lately. Like Hurax, I have been devoted to a career in medicine and wish to spend my life with ponies. I am also very impressed with your relationship with Cogs, and I hope to talk to you about it sometime. I am attracted to the thought of having such a close relationship with a pony too, and I could use advice from both of you.”

“If you think we can help, I'd be delighted,” Lavender replied. “First piece of advice though – be truthful. Deception may be second nature to changelings, but it can be deadly for relationships.”

“Chrysalis’ actions have caused great changes in the past few years. I foresee a time when changelings become an accepted part of Equestrian society, and we won’t have to hide behind our alter egos if we do not wish to do so. It will be easier to be honest with a potential partner when that day comes.”

“It takes many small steps to make the big changes,” Lavender agreed. She then turned back to Healing Hooves. “So why have you finally decided to reveal your secret?”

“I am old, dear, and the signs are that my life is drawing to a close. Some time in the not too distant future, I will be leaving for my hive and I won't be returning. As Cogs pointed out to me, I could not just leave you like that without you knowing why I could not come back.”

“My husband has learned some wisdom in the past years. So how long before you have to go?”

Healing Hooves shook her head. “Just as with ponies, it varies, so I can’t answer that accurately. It could be mere months, or some years. I did not wish to leave telling you until the last moment though.”

“Then we'll spend whatever time you have left together with us more. After all, you're both a second mother and a sister-in-law to me, so you’re doubly qualified as family.”

“Family – yes, I’d like that.”

Healing Hooves ended up spending at least one night a week as a guest of Cogs and Lavender. Thirteen months later, she said farewell for the last time. Cogs spent much of that evening consoling his wife.




* * *

The years passed and saw great changes both far and wide. Whitetail Meadows grew from a quiet little village into a small town, and Soothing Touch was instrumental in establishing its first hospital. Work for Cogs grew to such a degree that Square Deal Renovations took him in as a business partner and appointed him as the manager of his own section. He needed help though, and got an apprentice – a young unicorn stallion named Steel Wrench. Set Square’s two oldest children had gone into the family business, so Cogs had not been needed there for a while.

Shock was felt throughout Equestria upon the appointment of the first undisguised changelings to the Royal Guard by Celestia and Luna, but the education programs that Twilight had set up had done their work, and soon the novelty and uncertainty both wore off, and changelings started appearing elsewhere in other roles throughout the towns and cities, emboldened by the actions of the Princesses who had shown such confidence in them.

Despite this, Cogs never revealed his true nature to any others. However, it was not because of fear anymore, but because it was irrelevant. He was a pegasus, a husband, and a father, and that was all that mattered. He knew that he would have to tell his children some day, but he put that off for another time.

As his foals grew into teens, it became obvious that Dandelion not only loved her father a lot, but also very much liked doing the same kind of things as him, and so he decided that he would offer her the chance to be his next apprentice. He saved up that news for her fifteenth birthday party though. When that day came, they threw a party for her with the usual feast of fish that she loved, a cake, and lots of presents. Cogs left his offer until last.

“Dandelion, I've been very pleased with your school work, and also the aptitude that you've shown with mechanical stuff. If I'm not imagining things, I believe that you'd like to get into my line of work too. How would you like to be my new apprentice?”

Dandelion’s face lit up with joy. “Yes! I’d love that! I want to be just like you!”

Suddenly there was a flare of green fire, and Cogs was left facing a mirror image of himself.

Dandelion looked down at her now grey fur, screamed and fainted, reverting to her normal self when she did so.

Sky Fern excitedly exclaimed, “Can I do that too?!”

Cogs turned to Lavender who was just as stunned as him. She said, “Don't look at me – she’s obviously yourdaughter.”

“Oboy,” was all Cogs could say.

* * *

Author's Note:

While I might add more tales of Cogs that occur both before and after this epilogue, for now his story has come to a close. Perhaps his daughter's has only just begun though! See Growing Up Dandy.

There is now a prequel to this story called Prelude To Change.

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