A Novel Tale

Novel Tale is an author that's been living in Canterlot for about ten years now. That's a pretty good track record for a changeling. He's even included a changeling character in his latest book, and his fans have been loving his take on such an obscure mythological creature, especially his biggest fan, Twilight Sparkle. Things are looking up!
Then an army of changelings from another hive attacks Canterlot.
Now all of ponykind knows that changelings are real, and his readers are sure to realize that the changeling in his book was too similar to the real thing to have just been based on a myth...



13. Chapter 11: Complications

The next day...

Novel Tale charged out of the alleyway at full speed, hooves clattering loudly against the Canterlot streets, and made a hard turn to his right down the street he found himself on. He immediately recognized where he was, and would have sighed in relief if he wasn’t so busy trying to feed air into his lungs. He was now running alongside the outer walls of Canterlot Castle, and the main entrance wasn’t much further ahead.

The exact thing he had been afraid of happening ever since Chrysalis attacked had happened again. Some of his readers had come to the same conclusion as Twilight’s pegasus friend; the only way he could have written such an accurate changeling character in his book before anypony even knew they were real is if he was a changeling himself! After how well the entire thing had turned out with Twilight, he had allowed himself to hope that maybe, just maybe, anypony else finding out would go just as well.

But such wishful thinking turned out to be just that. He had returned home after an early morning stroll to find a small group of about eight or so ponies waiting outside his house. It was immediately obvious that they didn’t have the friendliest of intentions based on the emotions he could sense from them. He had tried to quietly sneak away, but one of the ponies had spotted him. He had turned tail and darted into the nearest alleyway, but not before he had felt some magic envelope him and one of the ponies shout something about a tracking spell.

He had fortunately managed to lose them in the back alleys of Canterlot, but that was only a temporary reprieve at best. If that really was a tracking spell, then they’d find him eventually. He couldn’t even risk changing forms to try and lose them; if that spell led them to him while he was a different pony, then that would that would effectively destroy any plausible deniability he may have had. His only hope was Princess Celestia. She would help him! She was holding Day Court around this time, so it should be easy enough to see her.

He slowed to a trot, tried to bring his breathing down to normal levels, and put on what he hoped looked like a casual smile as he approached the main gates of Canterlot Castle. He went up to one of the unicorn guards keeping watch over the entrance. “Hello! Is Day Court still in session? I have a matter to discuss with Princess Celestia.” Even as he spoke, he was already becoming worried as he could feel a hint of disgust coming from the guard.

The guard raised an eyebrow as he slowly looked Novel up and down. “Day court is still in session, citizen, but I’m afraid that you’re in no state to see Princess Celestia right now.”

Novel’s smile faltered as he turned his head to look himself over. His light grey coat was soaked with sweat, his black tail was a complete mess, as was his mane, and now that he was taking a moment to examine himself, he could tell that he smelled a bit too. Running through the city from that mob of ponies had not done him any favors.

He turned back to the guard, a frantic look in his eyes. “B-but it’s really important that I see Princess Celestia! I need her help!”

The guard didn’t budge, and Novel felt his disgust turning to annoyance. “Day Court will be in session for some time yet, citizen. Return to your home, make yourself presentable, and we will gladly allow you entry. If the issue is urgent and concerns your personal safety, then you can tell us your problem and the Royal Guard will be glad to assist you.”

“No!” He was in full panic mode now. “You can’t help me, only Princess Celestia can! And I don’t have time to return home! If I’m not able to see her soon, t-then I’ll...”

Novel trailed off as he could sense the guard going from annoyance to suspicion and a bit of anger. Before anything could happen, though, another voice cut in.

“What’s all this commotion about?”

The guard turned to salute the new unicorn guard that had appeared. “Sergeant Crimson! This unicorn is adamant that he sees Princess Celestia, but—”

“Sergeant Crimson?” Novel immediately perked up. “Sergeant Crimson Lance? You remember me, don’t you!? I was with Princess Celestia just yesterday! I really need to see her for some, uh, follow up business! It’s very urgent!”

Crimson looked at Novel for a moment before speaking. “Yes... yes, I remember you. You were indeed with Princess Celestia and Miss Twilight Sparkle, and then later with Lieutenant Steel Wing. I know not what business you had with the Princess, but it did seem to be important...” He trailed off in thought, curiosity and just a touch of suspicion radiating from him.

“Very well, let him through,” Crimson finally decided with a wave of his hoof.

“Sir!” the guard said as he moved aside

Novel wanted to hug Crimson, but decided against it. He instead just said “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” as he ran by, eager to make it to safety.

When he reached the waiting room outside of Celestia’s throne room, however, his spirits sank again. There was a huge line of ponies waiting to see Celestia! He mentally kicked himself; he should have known this would be the case. She had her throne room door open and he could actually see her over the heads of all the ponies waiting, but he had pushed his luck enough with the guards at the gate. There was no way he was going to be able to get away with cutting past all these ponies. All he could do was wait, and hope that the guards were just as stingy about letting a mob of ponies into the castle as they were about a slightly ripe unicorn.

After about five minutes of nervous waiting, a pegasus guard swooped in to hover in front of the entrance to the throne room. “Princess Celestia! An urgent matter has come up that requires your attention!”

Celestia looked up from the supplicant she was currently speaking with, just a hint of surprise showing on her face. She looked back down to the pony before her, said a few words, and then stood from her throne and walked over to the guard, who whispered into her ear.

Novel couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he could sense what Celestia was feeling. Surprise and shock quickly turned to a kind of resigned disappointment and a bit of sadness. As the guard finished his explanation, she lifted her head and scanned the ponies still waiting to see her until she came across Novel.

She locked gazes with him for a few moments before speaking. “I see.” She turned back to the rest of the ponies waiting in line. “I’m sorry, my little ponies, but I’m afraid that I must ask you all to wait while I attend to this matter.” Her horn glowed, and with a flash, she was gone.

Novel nearly collapsed with relief. This wasn’t an ideal outcome, but he was sure that Celestia would do what she could for him. The situation now out of his hooves, he began wondering what he would do next.

He had wanted to give Canterlot a chance, but this was a deal breaker. If he got out of this alright, he was definitely going to move to Ponyville.

A small crowd of rather angry looking ponies were vehemently arguing for entry into the castle with the gate guards, who were equally adamant about refusing them. They were all stunned into silence when there was a flash of golden light, and then Princess Celestia was standing before them.

She quickly put on her warmest smile. “Greetings, my subjects. I understand that you have something of vital importance to tell me about?”

The small mob of ponies was too stunned to react immediately. It took more than a few moments before one of the members of the crowd, a red unicorn mare, presumably their leader, steeled herself and stepped forwards to kneel down before Celestia.

“Yes, that is correct, your highness,” the unicorn mare said.

“Then please, rise, and tell me what it is that troubles you all.”

The mare rose and looked her ruler in the face, something Celestia was moderately surprised at. Most ponies, to her continued disappointment, were unwilling to look her straight in the eyes when speaking with her. The mare must feel quite strongly about this, which was a bad thing if this was about what she feared it was about.

“Princess Celestia, my name is Willow Winds, and we believe that we have discovered a changeling! Right here in Canterlot!” The ponies behind Willow became more animated at seeing their leader speaking so openly with the Princess, and began voicing their agreements at her claim. The mare continued. “We attempted to apprehend him at his home, but he was able to escape out initial trap. We managed to put a tracking spell on the changeling and chased him throughout Canterlot, and now we believe that he is within the castle itself!”

Celestia put on a concerned look, even though she was pretty sure she already knew exactly what this was about. “That is quite a serious claim to make, Willow Winds. I do hope you have some compelling evidence that this pony is, in fact, a changeling.”

“Of course, Princess!” Willow said confidently. “We would not have taken such drastic actions unless we were sure of our findings. This changeling, he takes the form of a unicorn stallion named Novel Tale. He is an author, and his last book had a changeling character. A changeling character that was almost identical to the changelings that attacked Canterlot only a few weeks after the book came out! This book was written before anypony knew how changeling acted or what they looked like, or that they were even real! How could he have known any of that unless he himself was a changeling?”

“I see.” It was exactly as she had feared; somepony else had found out about Novel the same way that Twilight and her friends had. Celestia mentally sighed to herself. She hated having to lie to her subjects for any reason, but centuries of experience had taught her that sometimes it was necessary for long term peace.

“It may surprise you to know, Willow, that you are not the first group to bring this particular pony to my attention.” Indeed, Willow and the ponies behind her seemed shocked at this admission. “My faithful student, Twilight Sparkle, and her friends came to the same conclusion that you did based on that same book only a few days ago, and quickly brought the matter to my attention. I personally met with Novel Tale in order to investigate further, and I can assure you that there is nothing for any of us to fear from him.”

The crowd of ponies began muttering to each other, clearly not having expected anything like this. They had been so sure that he was a changeling, but if the Princess herself said that he was okay...

“B-but then how was he able to provide such an accurate depiction of a changeling in his book?” Willow asked, looking crestfallen that not only had somepony else had beaten her to the punch, but that she had apparently come to the wrong conclusion as well.

Celestia put her warm smile back on and looked to the mare. “Willow, during my many years I have learned that sometimes, even the most unlikely of occurrences really are just coincidence. All I can say for sure is that Novel Tale has just as much right to be here as you or I.”

That took the last of the steam out of the crowd of ponies, who stopped their muttering and fell into silence.

“I know that you all have only acted in what you believed to be the best interest of Equestria, and for that I am very proud of you. However, I must ask that in the future, if you believe you have found a changeling, please report it to the Royal Guard and let them handle it. Now all of you, please return to your homes and families, and rest assured that we have everything well in hoof.”

The crowd of ponies dispersed. Celestia watched them leaving for a moment before heading back through the gates towards the castle. She stopped to address the unicorn in charge. “Sergeant Crimson Lance?”

He brought his hoof up in a salute. “Yes, your highness?”

“You heard what I said to those ponies about reporting changelings to the Guard, yes?” He nodded in confirmation. “Good. I want that made into a formal announcement to be sent to all Royal Guard stations throughout Equestria, and from there to be distributed to the local populace.”

For just a split second, his stoic expression cracked before returning. “Of course, your highness.”

It was only a minor slip, but one that Celestia noticed. “Please, Sergeant Crimson, feel free to speak your mind.”

“It’s just... I don’t believe that the Royal Guard currently has the proper channels or systems in place to handle that kind of duty, your highness.”

Celestia smiled reassuringly. “You will not have to worry about that, Sergeant. I am going to be having a meeting with Captain Shining Armor in the very near future to work out the details, and I have a strong suspicion that he will be recruiting Lieutenant Steel Wing to assist him in this. Now, if there is nothing else, I must be returning to Day Court.”

“No, Princess, that is all,” Crimson said as he saluted again.

“Very well then. Carry on, Sergeant.” Celestia’s horn glowed, and she disappeared in a flash of light.

Novel was starting to feel a bit antsy waiting for Celestia to return. To his surprise, only a few of the other ponies waiting in line were feeling similar; most were being quite patient. He had asked the pony in front of him about it, and apparently Celestia being called away in the middle of Day Court was, while not frequent, also not unheard of.

All the anxiety in the room evaporated as there was a flash of golden light and Celestia reappeared just inside the entrance to the throne room. “I am sorry for making all of you wait, my subjects. I am pleased to inform you all that the issue has been resolved and Day Court may now recommence.” Celestia turned and went back to her throne, whispering something to one of her pegasus guards as she did so.

With what he had come to see Princess Celestia about now resolved, Novel also turned and headed towards the exit. Just before he could reach the door, however, the swooshing sound of wings flapping and the click of hooves landing on the floor came from behind him. He nearly jumped as he spun around to see the pegasus guard Celestia had spoken to now standing before him.

“You are Novel Tale?” the guard asked.

Novel was worried for only a moment. He could feel just a touch of curiosity from the guard, but nothing else that would be cause for concern. “Yes...” he answered hesitantly.

The guard leaned in a bit closer to ensure that nopony else could hear him. “Princess Celestia has requested that you remain until Day Court has ended so that she may speak with you privately.”

“Oh.” Novel had been so preoccupied with worrying about what was going to happen with the mob and what he was going to do afterwards that he hadn’t considered that Celestia might want to see him. “Um... Alright then, thank you for letting me know.”

The guard gave a nod then lifted into the air to return to Celestia’s side. Novel took a seat at one of the benches along the walls. He should probably let her know about his decision to return to Ponyville on a more permanent basis...

The two or so hours left of Day Court passed surprisingly quickly for Novel. He made of game of guessing what kinds of issues ponies had for Princess Celestia based on the emotions they were giving off. It turned out that there were a lot of different emotions involved in meeting the solar diarch. He was able to pick up apprehension and anxiety from some ponies, eagerness and excitement from others, and even confidence and hope from a few. Novel was actually slightly disappointed when the last pony for the day left and the doors to the throne room closed. He was so distracted that he didn’t notice the guard approaching him until he spoke up.

“Princess Celestia will see you now.”

Novel almost jumped out of his seat as he turned to face the guard. He did his best to compose himself then nodded to the guard, who then led him towards the throne room doors which opened as he approached, courtesy of the unicorn guards to either side. He entered, and there was Princess Celestia, waiting for him.

“Novel, I’m glad you were able to spare the time to talk with me,” Celestia said with a smile as Novel approached her.

“O-of course Princess.” He bowed to her a moment before standing again. “I... assume you want to talk about what happened earlier today?”

Her smile faded. “Yes, that is correct, Novel.” She stood from her throne. “If you would please follow me?” Celestia headed back to the same door in the back of the throne room that they had gone through the first time Novel had met with her. When they passed through the door, however, they were beset by a pony Novel wasn’t expecting.

“Sister! Day Court is now over, yes? You simply must tell us how things went! Have any major issues arisen?”

Novel hadn’t been expecting to see Luna waiting for Celestia just beyond the door, but as he thought about it, he thought he could guess why. He knew from listening in on conversations in the street that very few ponies ever came to Luna’s Night Court, so having Celestia tell her all about Day Court was no doubt a big part of her adapting to modern day Equestria and keeping up on current events.

Celestia smiled warmly at her sister’s enthusiasm. “Yes, Luna, as a matter of fact, a fairly important issue did come up...” She looked back to Novel.

Luna, not having noticed that Celestia was not by herself, was surprised to see another pony. “Oh! Greetings, I did not see you there! Whatever issue you have must be quite important for Celestia to be seeing you after hours! Tell me gentlecolt, what is your name?”

Novel, after how his last meeting with Luna had went, couldn’t help but be a tad nervous. “M-my name is Novel Tale, Princess Luna. And, uh, this... isn’t the first time we’ve met...”

“It isn’t?” Lua’s face turned thoughtful. “I do not recall the name Novel Tale... Though admittedly, naming conventions have changed somewhat while I was... away, and I am still getting used to modern names.” She looked at Novel critically. “However, I never forget a face, and I do not recognize yours. Are you sure we have met before?”

Before Novel could respond, Celestia stepped forward and whispered in Luna’s ear. Her face went from confusion to dawning realization, and she looked back to Novel with a smile. “So we have met then!” Her expression quickly turned to one of concern. “But you are back so soon! I hope nothing unfortunate has occured.”

Celestia gave Luna a grave look. “I’m afraid so. We were on our way to my office to discuss it.” She turned back to Novel. “Novel, would you mind if Luna joined us? We’d both understand if you’d rather keep this among as few ponies as possible.”

Novel only had to think on it for a moment. He really didn’t want to deny the deluge of curiosity coming from Luna, and he had to admit that he was somewhat curious himself to see what she thought of things. “No, I don’t mind.”

Celestia nodded and turned down the hallway, Novel and Luna falling in behind. The short walk passed in silence, Celestia and Novel both thinking on what had happened and Luna realizing she shouldn’t ask any more until they were behind closed doors. When they finally reached Celestia’s office, they closed and locked the door and began recounting the events that happened earlier that day. Novel went first, beginning with that morning and the mob of ponies that had chased him up to the castle, and then Celestia picked up from there, talking about the how she had had to talk down the mob of ponies.

Luna had lain down during the telling, and when they had finished, had a very somber look on her face. “I am very sorry, although not entirely surprised, to hear that this has occurred, Novel.”

Novel sighed despondently, ears folded back against his head. “I was living in Canterlot just fine for 10 years, and now I suddenly have to worry about ponies chasing me in the streets. I’m still the same pony I always was!”

Celestia gave Novel a sympathetic look. “While I do love all of my little ponies very much, and am very proud of all the good they are capable of, they can be a little... jumpy, even at the best of times. And with their first introduction to changelings being what it was... Well, I’m afraid that acceptance is going to be a long and most likely difficult road.”

Novel couldn’t help but let his worrisome nature get the best of him. “They’re never going to accept us...”

“Now, Novel, do not say such things!” Luna reprimanded him. “I know that ponies will come to accept changelings in time. Truthfully, I am somewhat familiar with the situation your kind now finds themselves in.”

Novel looked up at Luna questioningly, and she obliged him by explaining. “When I first returned, ponies were... understandably wary about my presence. Indeed, if it were not for Celestia’s reassurances, I would not have been surprised if some ponies had gotten it into their heads to band together and chase me through the streets as well.”

“Oh, Lulu...” Celestia moved to lie down next to her sister and laid a wing across her, pulling her closer. “You know our ponies would never do such a thing.”

Luna leaned over to nuzzle her sister appreciatively. “I wish I could believe that, Tia, but you did not see the way that they looked at me when you were not around. They were always watching me as if they were afraid that I would pounce on them and gobble them up at a moments notice, or something equally vile.”

This came as something of a shock to Novel. He had been there when Luna had first returned to Canterlot and, thanks to his emotion senses, he had known that ponies were somewhat wary of the lunar diarch. However, he had never seen Luna when Celestia wasn’t around, and so had no idea that things had gotten quite that bad or that it had had such an effect on her.

Luna turned back to him, a smile now on her face. “However, things have since drastically improved. While there is still a distressing lack of supplicants coming to see me during Night Court, ponies at least no longer look at me with fear in their eyes. This change was, in no small part, thanks to the efforts of Twilight Sparkle and her friends, the same ponies that are now helping you! Granted, there are some rather significant differences between our situations, but I believe the point still stands. You must not give up hope so easily!”

“Luna is absolutely right, Novel,” Celestia said, turning to look at him. “I know you must be immensely worried over what the future holds for you and your kind, but you must never forget that you do not have to face this alone. Luna and I will support you, as will Twilight, and I’m sure that her friends will soon join her in this endeavour as well. You could not ask for a more wonderful group of ponies to help you.”

Novel perked up significantly, a smile creeping onto his face. “Yeah... I guess you’re right.” He chuckled to himself. “You know, Twilight has told me more than once that I worry too much and just need to trust her... I guess she’s right. It’s just kind of a hard habit to break...”

Celestia stood up. “I’m glad that you are feeling better, Novel, but there is one matter that still must be addressed. I’m afraid that, if you choose to remain here in Canterlot, you will not be able to find much in the way of peace and quiet. There’s no telling when somepony may come to the same conclusion that Willow Winds did and confront you again. There is not much that I can do to prevent this; any kind of special treatment I afford you would be seen with suspicion by others, and I believe would only hurt your cause.”

Novel nodded his head. “I understand, Princess. I was actually planning on moving out of Canterlot and going to live in Ponyville.”

Celestia smiled in approval. “An excellent decision, Novel. I could not have picked a better location myself."

Luna nodded in agreement. "It is indeed a good choice. That way you will have Twilight Sparkle and her freinds nearby to help you if you need it. When do you plan on leaving?"

"I was hoping to move as soon as possible, actually..."

"Very well, then," Celestia said as she nodded understandingly. "I can understand why you'd want to move as soon as you can. If there is nothing else, I believe we are done here. Give me a moment and I will summon a guard to escort you back to the entrance.” Her horn glowed, and not ten seconds later the door to the room opened and a unicorn guard stuck his head inside.

“You summoned me, Princess?”

“Yes, I would ask that you escort Novel Tale here to the entrance,” she said, gesturing to the pony in question.

The guard gave a quick salute. “It shall be as you say.”

As Novel turned to go with the guard, Luna stood up and waved. “Be sure to keep us updated and how things are progressing, Novel!”

“I will, Princess Luna! And thank you, both of you!” he said as he stepped outside, and the door closed behind him.

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