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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9. Fears

Zevan the changeling faced the sea of pony faces that had crowded into the Whitetail Meadows meeting hall. He nervously tasted the emotional out-pour from the audience – curiosity, fear, surprise, hate, and surprisingly, pleasure. It answered a lot of questions about how they would react to him if they knew Cogs was a changeling. Not that he’d had any intention of finding out that answer, but when you owe a huge favor to an Equestrian Princess, you could not say no.

Cogs had waited curiously to find out what Twilight’s favor was as she explained.

“My research into your kind has been a quest to demystify your species, and build up a knowledge base on all aspects of changelings from your society to your biology. However, in doing so, I have come to realize that your secretiveness has worked very much against you after the unfortunate events of the Canterlot wedding. The public perception of changelings is of course that you’re a menace, and without any evidence to counter that perception, those changelings who live among ponies are at risk from an overreaction to a misconception. Therefore, I have been taking the time to visit various towns to give talks on the subject of changelings in an effort to give a more balanced view of them. What I have done on a couple of occasions when it was possible was to have an actual changeling with me to give a demonstration and a short speech of their own. I would like to do that here while I have this opportunity.”

“You want me to out myself in public?” Cogs asked fearfully. “I will do so if you command, as I have sworn to do, but I would rather not.”

“Oh no! I’m sorry if I gave you that impression. I will present you as a changeling who has been accompanying me for these lectures. You can take on another form for this purpose. I just need a changeling for demonstration purposes, not to tell everypony that you're one.”

Cogs heaved a sigh of relief. “Okay. So what exactly do you want me to do for you?”

“Do you know if the town’s meeting hall is being used tonight?”

“I don't believe so, although the library might be open to the public. Our town is so small that they are in the same building.”

“Good. I am going to requisition the use of the hall tonight to give my lecture. Because it’s an impromptu event, I will need it advertised as much as possible in a short time. I want as many ponies as you can get attending so that I can address their fears. Therefore your first task is to spread the word. Your second task is to compose a speech. While I will be doing most of the talking, it will be you who will make the greatest impression. I’ll go over it with you before the lecture, but I prefer to have it coming from your heart rather than from me.”

“I've never made a speech before,” Cogs admitted.

“And that could be to your advantage. An over-rehearsed speech might be less effective for you, while they might expect it from me. Now, on another matter – are there any other changelings in this community?”

Cogs hesitated before replying. “There is one. I'm pretty sure that they would not be happy if I told you who they are though.”

“Is this changeling from your hive too?”

“No, from a completely different one.”

“Then I don't need them to be identified. However, I would like it if you were to ask this changeling to meet with me. I assure you that it's merely a part of my overall task of identifying the changelings in the various communities. This is partly for their benefit so that appropriate action can be taken if there is a problem involving one. For example, if one is suspected of being a changeling and feels threatened, they can seek discreet help from me or a member of the changeling task-force that has been established. That task-force’s members consist entirely of Royal Guards who are also changelings. There were a surprising number of them, and they were among the best also. They answer directly to the Princesses and the Captain of the Guard only.”

“That sounds doable. I'll let them know.”

“Excellent. Now let’s go over our plans.”

They had worked out the details, and Twilight had left to talk with the mayor of Whitetail Meadows. Cogs kept minding the shop and dealing with customers until Lavender returned. Meanwhile he told the customers about the lecture and asked them to spread the word. Most of them were more excited at the prospect of meeting Princess Twilight than the actual lecture, but Cogs did not care – whatever got them there was good enough.

Lavender was still giddy with excitement and happiness due to her healed horn. Mauve Prose had accompanied her daughter back to the shop in the hopes of meeting Twilight and giving her their thanks also. Cogs advised them that they could do so at the meeting tonight, and that the best thanks that they could give her was to promote the event. Knowing Mauve Prose like he did, Cogs suspected that she would achieve far more than his own efforts would. Nevertheless after he excused himself, he set to passing around the word as best as he could.

One of his earliest stops was the book shop. Golden Words was back doing her book signing. Apparently someone else had gotten the word to her that lunch was ready as she'd had her break. However, her curiosity was unsatisfied.

“Thanks for saving me from Princess Twilight, but why did she point you out, and why did you take off like that?”

Cogs looked sheepish. “I've… met her before briefly,” he explained accurately but misleadingly. “I'm afraid that I can't tell you the reasons behind everything, but I can tell you that I brought her home where she met Lavender and healed her horn.”

Goldie gasped. “Her horn is healed? That's wonderful! Oh, I never knew that the Princess could do that.”

As Cogs had hoped, Golden Words had completely forgotten about his flight from the shop. “Her horn is as small as a young filly’s, but Twilight assures us that it will grow again to full adult size at its normal rate. Lavender can already hold things again though. And one more thing – ” Cogs held out his right wing fully and unwaveringly. “Twilight fixed my wing too. I can fly again!”

Golden Words got up to hug him. “I'm so happy for you both. I'm so ashamed that I felt so uncomfortable about the way she was obsessing over my books. She's just really enthusiastic about everything she does, isn't she? I mean, a Princess who just does that sort of thing for the common pony is so awesome!”

“I think you'll find that the Princess just wants to be like you and I outside of royal occasions. Anyway, you could do us both a favor and promote an event tonight for her.” Cogs explained the details and Goldie promised to tell all her customers for the rest of the afternoon.

Cogs’ next stop was Healing Hooves’ clinic, although he did stop to talk to a few familiar ponies along the way. He explained to the healer what had happened, and she was overjoyed to hear how Lavender’s had been healed. When he told her of Twilight’s request to meet her, she considered thoughtfully before replying.

“Please tell her Highness that if I like what I hear at tonight’s lecture, I will introduce myself to her later. And Cogs, be careful. I don't think things will get ugly, but if they do, I don’t want to have to try to explain to Lavender what happened to her husband.”

“Yes, sis,” he replied with a grin.

She gave him a semi-annoyed look. “Get going, you cheeky colt!” She shook her head in a mixture of disbelief and amusement as he left her office.

Cogs spent the rest of the afternoon going from business to business, and even speaking to people in the street. Fortunately because it was a small village, he was able to cover a large cross-section of the community, and word-of-mouth helped ensure that the majority of the population learned of the event.

When Cogs was satisfied that he had done enough to spread the word, he finally took the time to do something that he had been aching to do since his wing had been healed. He took off into the sky and flew for the sheer joy of flying. He climbed high into the sky, dived, did barrel rolls, loop-the-loops, and speed runs. Eventually he parked himself on a cloud, breathing hard from his exertions, but feeling absolutely great. After a couple of minutes, Golden Words surprised him by landing next to him.

“Looks like you don’t need my taxi service anymore,” she observed.

“Nope, and although I am very grateful, I hope that I never will again. So, are you done for the day?”

She nodded. “Yes, the book shop has closed and the book-signing will continue in Canterlot for the major release. I'll be flying there in the morning to meet up with the publishers. Hazy will be following by train with our luggage, and she’ll be accompanying me for the remainder of the publicity tour. You and Set Square will be handling all the work for the next couple of weeks. That’s why we asked you not to schedule any days off with Lavender for that period.”

“Yeah, I realize that. Considering how well things were going right here, I suspect that your new book will do very well. I hope you enjoy the tour.”

“They're always a lot of work, but Hazy and I always find the time to enjoy ourselves at the same time.”

“Does Set ever go with you?”

“He did once, but it's not his thing. He’s happy to let us go while he stays and looks after business. We look forward to seeing him again when the tour is done, and we really enjoy our reunion, if you know what I mean?”

Cogs smirked. “I believe I do.”

“Anyway, I was just clearing the cobwebs as usual before dinner when I spotted you, so I had better get along before my herd starts wondering where I've disappeared. I'll see you later at the lecture.” Golden Words took off in the direction of her home.

Cogs remained however, enjoying the view of the setting sun from the peaceful high vantage point. It was the perfect place to consider what he would say in front of the crowd, and he mentally composed a speech before he too headed home for dinner.

* * *

Cogs had to excuse himself from accompanying Lavender to the lecture, explaining that Twilight had asked him to do other things as part of the favor he owed. He left early to rendezvous with the alicorn at the hotel room where she was staying. Although she had originally intended to fly home immediately after getting her book signed, she had decided to stay on rather than fly home at night. It also gave them the perfect place for Cogs to make the switch. He did not enter through the lobby, but rather through the open window of Twilight’s room.

“Ah, Cogs! Right on time, I see.”

Cogs noticed that she checked that off a list that she had made. He supposed that a very important and busy person like herself had to be very organised.

“Now, let’s hear what you came up with for your speech,” she prompted.

Cogs recited what he had composed, and Twilight wrote it down as he talked. When he was finished, she went over it with him and tweaked a few aspects of it before nodding in satisfaction.

“Yes, that will complement my lecture very nicely. I suggest that you rehearse it a couple of times so that you feel comfortable giving it in front of an audience. But first – let’s work out a new disguise for yourself.”

They settled on dark blue coat with a red mane, a pattern that did not seem to be similar to any pony that Cogs knew in the village. The cutie mark consisted of two masks, one happy and one sad. They also decided to make him a mare because for starters they were more common than stallions, but also to help disassociate the changeling from his usual stallion form. They debated changing his species also, but decided to leave ‘her’ as a pegasus because it helped explain how the changeling arrived without anyone noticing, and presumed to travel with Twilight.

Twilight had arranged to have a room adjoining the meeting hall made available for them to prepare, and they avoided the crowd by entering there instead of through the front door. This time though, it was not through an open window. Cogs was a little dazed by the abrupt transition as Twilight teleported them into the room directly from the nearby hotel.

“Wow! That’s really weird,” he commented in his mare voice.

“It’s a bit disconcerting at first, I know, but you’ll get used to it,” Twilight replied. “Besides, this way no pony will have any idea from which direction you came, so there won’t be any clue to your identity. Wait here while I check out how things are progressing out there.”

Twilight went out into hall outside where she surprised the mayor who had been waiting for her.

“Your Highness! How did you get inside?”

“My guest and I teleported in to avoid the crowds. Speaking of which, what is the turnout like?”

“The prospect of meeting you seems to have been a big drawcard; I've seldom seen such a crowd.”

“Then we should be ready to start on schedule?”

“Definitely. I can go out and make the introductions whenever you're ready.”

“Let's get started then. I'll bring out the guest and introduce you first.”

Twilight went back into the room and said to Cogs, “Are you ready?”

“As much as I will ever be.”

“Then it's show time. Let's go.”

Twilight led Cogs out into the hall. “Mayor Scrolls, this is my associate, Dual Face. She will be making a short presentation along with me.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Ms Dual Face,” the mayor replied, holding out a leg to shake hooves with Cogs.

“Likewise, Mayor Scrolls,” Cogs replied.

The mayor turned back to Twilight. “Your Highness, I had a thought. It would make a strong impression with the audience if you were to take the stage in the same manner as you arrived, and that's by teleporting in.”

“An excellent suggestion, Mayor. I've seen the stage, so I know where to go.”

“Wonderful! I'll start off the proceedings now.” The mayor trotted off to do exactly that.

“Must we?” Cogs whined, his stomach still a bit queasy from the last teleport.

“As the mayor said, it will make a strong impression, but there's also another good reason. There's going to be some ponies who would wonder if I'm a changeling impersonating Princess Twilight, but only an alicorn or a powerful unicorn can teleport. That ought to dispel most doubts.”

“Good point, except how many ponies know that changelings can't teleport?”

“Oh.” Twilight sighed. “I suppose I can't expect a perfect scenario. Come on, we had better get ready for our entrance.”

They stood outside the door to the entrance to the stage, and listened as the mayor quieted the crowd, and then made her preamble before announcing, “Now please welcome Princess Twilight Sparkle and her associate, Ms Dual Face.”

“And we're on!” Twilight announced before teleporting them onto the stage.

The crowd was indeed suitably impressed, and applauded their entry. Twilight waited for the cheers and hoof-stamping to die down before she started her speech.

“Mares and Gentlecolts, thank you for your warm welcome. I have asked you to come here tonight as part of my campaign to educate everypony about changelings and how they might affect you. First of all, I wish to assure you that aside from one rebel queen and her hive, it has been determined that changelings do not present a threat to Equestria or its citizens. In fact they have been coexisting with us peacefully for our entire history, and wish to continue doing so. To assure us of this fact, I have asked my associate to give you a short demonstration before I present you with my lecture on what we have learned about changelings. Dual Face, if you would be so kind?”

Cogs stepped forward, while Twilight remained to one side, smiling in reassurance. In a burst of green fire, Cogs reverted to his natural form. Gasps and shouts of amazement and concern came from the audience, and the audience burst out in loud comments to each other. He waited for them to calm and quiet down while he tested the emotional response, and was reassured that their curiosity had won over their concerns.

 

 

“Mares and Gentlecolts, my true name is Zevan, and when Princess Twilight asked me to show my true self and give a short speech to you, I must admit to being concerned. Up until recently, no pony had even heard of changelings except perhaps in vague legends, so when one changeling queen chose to betray our race and invade Canterlot, we were understandably concerned about the impression that was made. I have come here today to try to reassure you that the majority of changelings wish to continue living and working in peace beside and with ponies, just as they have done so for millennia. Our races have evolved side by side with each other, and because we need to feed on emotions, we have supported and even protected ponies over the centuries. We need you, so we do not wish harm to you. The madness of one power-hungry queen is an aberration that is not true of any other queen and her hive. I wish that I could reassure you that Chrysalis will never bother the citizens of Equestria again, but I cannot. However, it is extremely unlikely that you will ever encounter a changeling from her hive disguised as I just was because those of us who work outside of the hive know our true place in Equestrian society, and that's not as your enemies. Therefore I am pleading with all of you to believe me and don't let mistrust cause animosity between our species. If you suspect somepony you know to be a changeling, please give them the benefit of the doubt, or if you truly think that there is cause for genuine concern, please contact the Royal Guard who have a special task-force specifically trained to deal with changelings. Their Royal Highnesses, Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and Princess Twilight hope to maintain a cordial relationship between themselves and the hives so that we may all continue to live and work together in harmony. Thank you for giving me your attention.”

There was an outburst of conversation then, but one strong voice rose above it all to yell out, “You say you need us, but why would we need you. You sound like parasites to me.”

Zevan was surprised and stung by that question. “As I said, we need to feed on emotions to survive, but we vastly prefer strong positive emotions – love, admiration, respect and such. To get those in large amounts, we have always promoted situations that produce those strong positive emotions. A changeling may be a peacemaker, an orator, an entertainer, or simply your best friend. Changelings have moderated the more negative elements in not just pony society, but also griffins and other species. A good changeling contributes much to society in return for the emotional harvest, and we are both better off for it.”

“Thank you, Zevan,” Twilight said, heading off further comments. “I will now be presenting my lecture on what I have learned of changelings and their society. If after that you have any questions, both Zevan and I will try to answer them for you. Please bear in mind that this is still a work in progress though, and not everything can be answered at this time.”

Twilight was allowed to give her lecture without interruption, and Zevan was impressed by the depth of the knowledge that she had already acquired. He also noted that she was wise enough to not go into unnecessary detail so that she would not bore her audience. He watched the audience as she spoke, and monitored their mood. He was pleased to sense that it had shifted in favor of the positive, although he dared not hope for one hundred percent approval.

Suddenly as he scanned the crowd, his eyes locked with Lavender’s. The mare was surprised and a bit disconcerted for some reason that she could not fathom, and she tore her gaze from his. Zevan was upset by her reaction to him in his natural form, and sincerely hoped that it would never happen again.

The lecture concluded with a question and answer period that proved to be harmless in comparison to the earlier pointed question. Naturally most were concerned with Chrysalis and her hive, but they reassured the audience as best they could. As they pointed out, Equestria had other enemies and preparations were always in place to deal with them. Now that the changelings were discovered, similar preparations were being put into place. In other words, everything was normal, and for ponies, that was always for the best.

As soon as Twilight and Zevan had retreated to the preparation room, he resumed his Cogs form with a sigh of relief. “It's good to be me again,” he said emphatically.

“So your natural form is not you?” Twilight asked in amusement.

“It hasn't been for a very long time. I may have been born a changeling, but I am a pegasus at heart, and that's the way I am going to remain as much as possible.”

“I hoped that you might consider accompanying me to other towns so that we can give the same presentation as we did tonight. I thought that it went very well.”

“I suppose it did, but I don’t really want to spend that much time away from my wife and work.”

“Don’t worry – the engagements would be scattered, not a continuous tour.”

“Then it would be my humble duty to do as you ask.”

“Thanks, Cogs. I'll let you know when I will need you again. Now I suppose I had better get you back to Lavender.” She teleported them outside the meeting hall, but behind some trees so that the exiting ponies did not notice them. Cogs then made his way to the doorway and waited until Lavender came out.

“There you are!” he exclaimed and gave her a hug. “It was so crowded in there that I could hardly move, let alone find you. What did you think of the changeling?”

“Strangely fascinating, actually. Something about it both intrigued and bothered me, but I suppose that's why Princess Twilight is doing these talks. Changelings are obviously going to cause mixed emotions in ponies, so they need to be reassured.”

“I agree, and let your husband reassure you now that you will never need to worry about them.”

“What? You’re going to protect me from Chrysalis’ minions? I’m probably stronger than you after years of hard manual work.”

“Then you can protect me,” Cogs said with a grin.

Lavender laughed. “I'm certainly going to do something with my husband, now that my horn is healed,” she promised.

Cogs’ grin grew wider in anticipation.

* * *

Cogs was surprised to find Twilight waiting for him as he left for work the next morning. She walked with him on his way, gathering a few curious stares.

“I just wanted to thank you again for your help last night, and pass on to you this letter of introduction. If you need to contact me formally, this will cut through a lot of red tape.” She levitated an envelope to him, and he placed it in his tool saddle pouch. “Hopefully you won’t need it. Besides, most of the time I will still be living in my home in Ponyville, and there you won't have to do much besides knock on my door and ask my assistant Spike to see me.”

“I can't see myself needing it either, but thanks anyway.”

“I also thought that you might like to know that I got a visit from Healing Hooves last night.”

“Oh? Why was that?” Cogs answered noncommittally.

“I think you know already. She thanked me personally for healing Lavender. Apparently she has a strong emotional bond with her. Then she revealed that she too is a changeling.”

“Huh! How about that? I would have bet that she'd keep that secret.”

“She swore an oath of loyalty to Equestria in front of me, and then took her leave.”

“Short and to the point – that's Healing Hooves alright. That reminds me of something that I thought of last night that I wanted to ask you about.”

“Oh? What was that?”

“Well… Lavender wants a foal and… well – you know.”

Twilight stopped and looked at him intently. “You want to know if there's some kind of spell to make you fertile with her?”

“Yeah, that would be great. I know that they exist because of creatures like the hippogriffs who are the child of a griffin and a pony.”

“Yes, such spells do exist, but that doesn't mean that one does for you.”

Cogs was enormously disappointed. “Why not?”

“For starters, compatibility spells, as they are known, are exceedingly complex and difficult. Each has to be crafted specifically for each pairing of species. For example, a compatibility spell between a pony and a griffin is vastly different from that of, say, a pony and a dragon. However, both do exist, but that is because the need came up long ago, and the research and testing of the spells has been completed. Here's the big problem though – your species wasn't even thought to be real until recently, and knowledge of your biology is sketchy at best so far, although much is currently being done to add to that knowledge. However, it will be years before sufficient is known to even begin crafting a compatibility spell.”

Cogs looked crestfallen. “So it could be ages before a spell would be available?”

“It's worse than that, Cogs. You changeling drones are naturally infertile. I'm not sure how that problem can be overcome. I'm not saying that it can't be – the fact that your nymphs can be fed a special food to make them develop into a new fertile queen or male indicates one possibility. It's just that it's going to be a long and difficult task, and not one with a terribly high priority either.”

“Then because Lavender really wants a foal of her own rather than adopting, I suppose it's either a stud service, or my last resort, and I don't think she's going to agree to the stud service either.”

“Your last resort is the Loving Deceit, I take it?”

“You know about that?”

“The subject came up one time when talking with my Ponyville changeling friend.”

“Then you think that I should do it?”

Twilight looked at him hard. “Would you do anything to make your wife happy?”

“Absolutely!” Cogs declared.

“It's not my business to tell you, but I think you have your answer right there. If you can't tell her why you can't have foals, then you must give her them one way or another. You can't sit on the fence for this one because you know she will be unhappy and confused.”

Cogs nodded. “You’re probably right. Hopefully I will see when the time is right.”

Twilight put a reassuring hoof on his shoulder. “Sometimes there aren't any perfect answers, Cogs. Sometimes you just have to go with the best option and try to make it work. I promise I will look into doing something for you though. You never know what surprises may pop up.”

“Thanks, Twilight. You really are a Princess, alicorn or not.”

Twilight blushed a little. “You're welcome, Cogs. It's good to have made another friend.”

“And friendship is magic, right?” Cogs replied.

“The best kind!” Twilight agreed. “Farewell, friend!”

With that, Twilight launched herself into the sky to start her journey home.

She still needs a few more flying lessons,’ he decided critically before resuming his trot to work.

 
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