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...



14. Chapter 12: Hope for the Future

The next day...

Twilight was pacing anxiously back and forth in the main room of her library home. She stopped for a moment to glance up at the clock on the wall and saw that the very event that was causing her such anxiety was only half an hour away. She had spent all day yesterday preparing for this, trying to plan out all the different ways it could happen, and how she would handle each of those outcomes. It was a lot of preparation, even for her standards. But now that it was almost time, she couldn’t help but let her worries overtake her thoughts. This would be a huge help for her research if it went well, but it was a delicate situation and things could easily go wrong. When she first had the idea to do this, she had hoped that Novel would be there to help. She had been sure that his presence would greatly improve the odds of everything going favorably. But he had decided to stay in Canterlot, so now it was all up to her.

She was pulled out of her thoughts by a burping noise from upstairs, followed by the sound of claws scrabbling against the wooden floor. “Hey Twilight, we got some letters from Princess Celestia!” Spike said as he descended the stairs with a pair of rolled up scrolls in his hand.

Twilight perked up slightly. This was just the kind of distraction she need to get herself out of the mental rut she had found herself in! “I hope it’s about Shining...” she quietly said to herself as she walked to meet Spike at the bottom of the stairs. Ever since she had returned from Canterlot, she had been worried about how her brother had been handling the revelation that his friend and fellow guard Steel was a changeling. She took the first of the scrolls from Spike with her magic and unrolled it, both of them eager to see what was written.

Her face slowly broke out into a full smile as she read. “Shining decided that Steel could stay in the Guard!” Her smile faded slightly as she continued to read. “Although he’s still pretty shaken up about learning that changelings have always been living amongst us...”

“I don’t blame him after what he went through with Chrysalis,” Spike said. As Twilight continued reading the first scroll, his curiosity drifted and he unrolled the second scroll. “Hey, what’s this list of names about?”

“List of what?” Twilight glanced at the scroll Spike was holding, and sure enough, there was a list of a few hundred names. Curious, she scanned the paragraph at the top of the scroll, and her eyes widened. “This is a list of all the ponies in Canterlot that are actually changelings!”

“Woah, seriously?!” Spike looked back at the list. “I didn’t think there’d be that many!”

Spike and Twilight both scanned over the list, eager to see if anypony they knew was a changeling. However, only two names on the list were even vaguely familiar. They were a pair of socialites that Twilight recalled Rarity talking about once: Jet Set and Upper Crust. That gave her a pause; from what Rarity had said, it seemed like they were an item. Did that mean that changelings sometimes worked in pairs?

“Huh, looks like nopony we know,” Spike said disappointedly. “That’s too bad, I was kinda hoping that one of your old classmates or something was a changeling.”

“Uh huh...” Twilight replied absentmindedly as she scanned back over the list. Canterlot had over fifty thousand ponies living in it, but this list only had about three hundred names. Was that a normal changeling to pony ratio? She was going to have to see if there was any way to get similar lists from other major population centers like Manehattan or Fillydelphia...

She was so deep in her thoughts that a knock on the door startled her out of her wits, causing her to drop the scroll, which Spike deftly grabbed before it could fall to the ground. Her gaze darted to the clock on the wall. Five minutes till, but Twilight wouldn’t be surprised if she was a bit early. Her previous anxiety returned with a vengeance; this was it. She did her best to compose herself. “Come in!”

The door opened to reveal somepony that she hadn’t been expecting.

“Hey, Twilight! Surprise!”


Spike looked up from the letter. “Oh, hey dude. What's up?" he said as he waved. "I thought Twilight said that you were staying in Canterlot?”

“I was,” Novel said as he stepped inside and closed the door behind him, “but some things happened, and it turns out that I’m going to be staying in Ponyville from now on!”

“This is fantastic, Novel!” Twilight exclaimed.

“Yeah, I’m happy to be here, too!” Novel said with a grin on his face.

“Your timing could not possibly be better!”

Novel’s grin was replaced with a confused frown. “What?”

Twilight excitedly trotted up to him. “I really need your help with something! I don’t have much time to explain, but in just a few minutes, I’m going to be meeting with—”

She was interrupted by another knock on the door.

Twilight gave Novel an excited smile, then went to open the door.

“Bon Bon! I’m so glad you could find time to come see me! Please, come in.”

“I was only barely able to fit this into my schedule,” a grumpy and slightly frazzled looking Bon Bon said as she stepped inside. “This better be important, Sparkle!”

“Trust me, Bon Bon. This is vitally important,” Twilight responded with all seriousness. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Novel give a shocked look of what she hoped was recognition. “Before we get started though, I’d like to introduce you to a good friend of mine. Bon Bon, this is Novel Tale. Novel, Bon Bon.”

Novel quickly regained his composure as he put on a welcoming smile and offered a forehoof. “Hello!”

Bon Bon gave him an odd look before hesitantly returning the hoofshake. “Hi...” She turned back to Twilight. “So you had something you wanted to talk to me about?”

“That’s right," Twilight responded with a quick nod of her head. "It’s a... rather sensitive topic, so we’ll be heading downstairs for some privacy.” She turned back to look at her number one assistant. “Spike, can you look after the library while we’re downstairs?”

“Sure thing, Twilight! And good luck down there!" he replied, glancing at Bon Bon.

"Thanks, Spike," she said before turning back to Bon Bon. “Bon Bon, If you would please follow me? You too, Novel.”

She opened the basement door and the three of them descended down the stairs in silence.

Twilight had prepared the basement just for this meeting. All of her equipment was tucked away into the corners of the room, and she had set up a table and some cushions on the floor for them to sit on. Twilight took a seat on the side closest to the door, with Novel taking a seat next to her and Bon Bon on the opposite side.

Without the clopping of hooves from the stairwell, the silence became oppressive. Twilight opened and closed her mouth a few times, trying to begin, but only managed to start fidgeting uncomfortably. She had spent all day yesterday preparing for this, but now that she was faced with the real thing, she was having trouble actually getting started.

Bon Bon didn’t notice, however, because she was too busy suspiciously glaring at Novel, who did his best to smile back disarmingly. After a few more moments of glaring at him, her eyes widened slightly and she turned her glare upon Twilight. “Alright, Twilight, what is it you wanted to talk about and why is this Novel pony with us?”

“Oh!” Bon Bon’s prompt was enough to finally kick Twilight into gear. “Well, I figured that since you two are the same, having him around might help put you at ease.” She immediately winced and mentally bucked herself. Her mouth may have started working, but her mind was still playing catch up; that was not a part of what she had practiced yesterday.

“What?!” Bon Bon shouted in surprise as she nearly jumped out of her seat. She quickly glanced at Novel then looked back to Twilight, a hint of fear now joining the suspicion clear on her face. “I-I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sparkle.”

Twilight grimaced. Thanks to that horrendous opening, all her planning had been completely thrown off track, and she didn’t have time to mentally re-organize. She was just going to have to wing it. “You were glaring at Novel for a while, Bon Bon, I think you do know what I’m talking about. Like you, Novel here isn’t an ordinary pony...”

Bon Bon was visibly shaking now, her eyes wide with fear. “Twilight, t-this isn’t funny!” She tensed up and glanced at the door leading upstairs, the door that was across the table and behind Twilight.

Twilight watched Bon Bon's rapidly deteriorating state with a solemn look on her face. She hated having to put the confectionary mare through this, but it was going to have to happen eventually, and it was better that it happen sooner rather than later. “You’re right, Bon Bon, this isn't funny. This is very serious, because Novel is a changeling... just like you.”

That was more than Bon Bon could handle. In a burst of movement, she skittered away from the table to back up against the far wall and fell into a defensive posture. She was shaking violently and hyperventilating, staring at Twilight with pupils shrunk to pin pricks like the librarian was a hungry manticore.

Novel reared back in surprise at her reaction, but all the planning Twilight had done yesterday finally kicked in and she remained calm. This particular reaction was something that she had considered and prepared for. The lavender unicorn calmly and slowly stood up from her cushion. “Bon Bon, please, just listen to me. Nothing is going to happen to you. I just want to talk.” She stepped around the table and began, very slowly, approaching the cowering mare. “I know that Queen Chrysalis was just a single queen from a single hive and that you have nothing to do with her. I know that most changelings are appalled at what she and her hive did and just want to live peacefully with us like they always have. And I’m working very hard to let everypony else know this as well.”

“It’s true!” Novel added from the back, having finally recovered. He shifted back to Nurex in a bust of green fire before continuing. “Twilight went to my hive and met my queen, Queen Polistae, and she’s going to help! And then we went to meet with Princess Celestia, and even she wants to give us a chance! They all just want to help us!”

Twilight shot an appreciative glance at Novel before looking back to the quivering mare before her. “That’s right. We all just want to help you, Bon Bon, and other changelings, too. But even with all their support, this is still going to be a lot of work, and I’m going to need all the help I can get. Especially help from changelings like you.”

Twilight stopped, now only a foot between her and Bon Bon, and put on a hopeful smile. “So will you please help me help you?”

Bon Bon, still shaking in place, began rapidly looking back and forth between Twilight and Nurex, her gaze finally locking on to Twilight, who was still smiling. Her shaking seemed to get even worse for a moment and her face twisted into a strange expression Twilight couldn’t read. Suddenly, faster than Twilight could react, Bon Bon lunged forward, wrapped her hooves around the lavender unicorn’s neck, and began sobbing into her mane.

“Oh, Twilight! I-it’s been so hard just for me to get by ever since that disastrous wedding!” she choked out between sobs.

Twilight was completely taken aback. This... this was not one of the many reactions she had prepared for. She hesitated only a moment longer before returning Bon Bon’s embrace. “It’s alright, Bon Bon. Just let it all out, you can tell me all about it.”

Face still half buried in Twilight’s increasingly wet mane, Bon Bon continued. “I-I had wanted to go with Lyra to the wedding, but Pinkie had placed a huge order of candies to be filled for when she returned, and Lyra insisted I stay behind. But then, when I heard Canterlot had been attacked...”

She removed her face from Twilight’s mane to look her in the face, tears still streaming from her eyes. “Twilight... I was afraid I might have lost her.” She finally released Twilight and fell back to her hooves. “I just couldn’t stand the thought of anything happening to Lyra. Until I heard that she was okay, I was a complete wreck.”

Twilight was suddenly more glad than ever that Cadance had managed to diffuse that whole brainwashed bridesmares situation without any injuries.

Bon Bon looked down at the floor and sniffed noisily, an occasional tear still falling to the ground. “But then when I learned what exactly had happened, that Canterlot had been openly attacked by changelings... things just got even worse. Ponies now knew that we existed. I... I started having nightmares.”

Tears started flowing more freely again as she recalled her dreams. “I-I wake up in my home, with an angry mob of ponies outside who have somehow found out what I am. T-they break into my house, and drag me away... Sometimes, Lyra will be at the door, calling for me, b-but the mob won’t let her reach me. A-and sometimes... s-sometimes Lyra i-is a p-part of the angry mob, to-oo!” She collapsed to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably again, face buried in her hooves.

Twilight quickly moved to comfort her, lying down next to the despondant mare and putting a hoof around her.

“I-I’ve been putting on a tough front f-for Lyra’s sake, but she’s starting to suspect that something is wrong. I-I just don’t know how much longer I can keep this up...”

Twilight pulled the distraught mare closer to her. “Oh, Bon Bon... I had no idea...” And it was the truth. She had never considered that ponies might not be the only ones traumatized by the events of that wedding. How many other changelings might be suffering like this? Her face took on a resolute expression. “Bon Bon, I promise that I will do everything in my power to ensure that nothing bad happens to you or Lyra because of what you are.”

Bon Bon looked up at Twilight and rubbed a hoof over her eyes, just a hint of hope visible on her face. “R-really?”

“Really,” Twilight said with a smile. “Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.” She sat up momentarily to perform the requisite actions, remembering to close her eye first this time, before lying back down next to Bon Bon.

“Y-yeah, I’ll be around to help you out, too!” Nurex added. “I don’t know where your hive is, but mine is real close by! If you ever need a safe place to just get away for a while, I’ll be glad to take you there! Or maybe if you just need a changeling to changeling talk, I’d be happy to do that, too!”

For the first time since she had arrived, a smile crept onto Bon Bon’s face. “T-thank you. Both of you.” She was still crying slightly, but Twilight had a feeling those weren’t just tears of sorrow anymore.

“Of course, Bon Bon. If you ever need to talk to somepony about this, both me and Novel will be glad to lend an ear.” The two mares lay there for a short while before Twilight stood up from next to Bon Bon and turned to look at her. “Now, I’m glad that we were able to help you, Bon Bon, and I know that this was really hard on you, but there's still one question left." Bon Bon looked up a Twilight with an unsure expression, tears now mostly dried but still sniffling, and the unicorn responded by offering the earth pony mare a friendly hoof. “Will you help me learn more about changelings, so I can help other ponies learn that there’s nothing to fear from you?”

Bon Bon looked back down to the ground for a few moments before responding. “I will,” she said quietly, then looked up and clasped Twilight’s hoof with her own.

Twilight smiled and helped pull Bon Bon back to her hooves. “Then would you please show me your changeling form?” She did her best to keep her excitement out of her voice. She was finally going to get to see a female changeling!

Bon Bon looked at her for a moment, then looked down to the ground before she was engulfed in green fire.

Twilight did her best to keep her disappointment off her face. Bon Bon had a light pastel green carapace plate and eyes the same shade of pink as Pinkie’s coat, but other than that, she looked identical to every other changeling Twilight had seen so far. Was there no physical difference between male and female changelings? She had initially wondered why Nurex’s hive seemed to have only male changelings, but now she had to wonder if that was actually the case...

Twilight tucked that question into a corner of her mind for later. She had more pertinent information to collect right now. Using her magic, she grabbed a quill and some parchment that she had stowed away in the corner of the room with some of her equipment. “Do you think you’re up for answering some questions about you and your hive?”

Bon Bon, having now mostly recovered from her breakdown, simply nodded her head.

“I’m glad to hear that, Bon Bon. Thank you. To start off, do you have a different name for your changeling form?”


Two days later...

Twilight had begun compiling everything she had gathered so far on changelings, and she was getting more than a little frazzled. It was only now dawning on her the enormity of the task she had ahead of her; she had never really considered how much work was involved in describing an entire species. She had already gathered so much information on changelings, but she only found herself with even more questions as a result.

Even worse, she had realized that she was actually going to have to write two books; one purely scientific version for academia, and another more down to earth version for the common pony.

The beleaguered unicorn was currently seated in the main room of her library juggling a calendar, a quill, and a giant scroll of paper in her magic. She was attempting to create a checklist and a schedule for everything she figured would need to be done accomplish her goal, but it wasn’t going very well. Just from a rough outline of a potential schedule, this was going to take her half a year at the very least, assuming that she had accounted for everything and nothing went wrong. But she was pretty sure that there was a bunch of stuff she was missing and she knew that something was bound to not go according to plan. There were just too many unknowns for her to even attempt to schedule around. A few strands of hair sprung up from her mane to point in different directions. She wished Spike was here to help and not out getting groceries...

She was distracted from her increasing mania by a familiar, pleading voice outside her door. “C’mon, Bonnie, you’ve been acting strange ever since the wedding!”

Twilight quickly shoved her calendar and checklist under the table just as the door opened. A very grim but determined looking Bon Bon entered, followed by a concerned looking Lyra. “Why can’t you just tell me?” the mint green unicorn asked.

“Uh... Can I help you two?” Twilight hesitantly asked.

Bon Bon opened her mouth to speak, but Lyra beat her to the punch. “I sure hope so!” Lyra sat down on the floor and began waving her hooves about animatedly as she spoke. “Ever since I got back from that crazy wedding, Bon Bon has been acting all weird! I thought that she was just worried about me and that it would pass, but it’s just been getting worse! This morning, she wouldn’t even eat breakfast! She was just sitting there, staring at her food! So I ask her what’s wrong—Not for the first time, mind you!—and she gives me this really weird look that I’ve never seen before and says that she has to tell me something, some kinda big secret. Only, she can’t tell me on her own; she apparently needs your support for some reason!”

It took Twilight only a few moments to connect the dots. Her mouth fell open as she turned to Bon Bon. She was already strung up enough because of that attempt at scheduling; this was the last thing she needed! “You mean you want me to help you tell Lyra abou— R-right here, right now?!” Bon Bon just gave her a stare that was all the answer Twilight needed. “But... but I can’t possibly... not all of the sudden like this! …I mean, I’m real busy right now, and I need time to prepare and... and...”

Any further protest died in her throat at the pitiful, pleading look Bon Bon gave her. Despite how stressed she currently was, Twilight knew that Bon Bon was going through something much worse. She needed all the support she could get. And she had told Bon Bon that her door would always be open for her...

Twilight closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, holding it for a moment before exhaling. Now significantly calmed down, she looked back to Bon Bon. “I-I’m sorry, Bon Bon. Of course, I’d be glad to help out.” She stood up from the table and turned towards the basement door. “Let's go downstairs, we’re... going to need some privacy for this one.”

As Twilight and Bon Bon began walking towards the stairs, Lyra just looked back and forth between the two, completely flabbergasted at Twilight's sudden reversal. Twilight had lived in Ponyville long enough for Lyra to know that the unicorn librarian took her planning seriously and wasn’t the best at handling unexpected surprises. For her to immediately calm down and agree to help like that... “Wow, whatever this is must be big!” she said to herself as she moved to join the other two in the stairwell.

They all approached the table downstairs. Aside from a few pieces of equipment that had been moved out from the corners, it was still largely arranged the same way it had been a few days ago when Twilight had confronted Bon Bon. Twilight took a seat on one side, and Bon Bon and Lyra on the other.

Bon Bon turned to Lyra and attempted to say something a few times, but nothing managed to come out. Twilight felt bad about leaving her hanging like that, but she honestly had no idea where to possibly begin with this kind of thing either, and so remained silent as well.

Lyra was getting tired of waiting. “Well?” She looked back and forth impatiently between the other two mares. Her gaze settled on Bon Bon. “Look, Bonnie, if this big secret is what’s been causing you so much distress lately, I need to know! I hate seeing you like this!” Bon Bon looked away, seemingly ashamed at being unable bring herself to say anything.

Lyra winced at her marefriend's reaction and turned to Twilight. “Twilight, c’mon! I don’t know why, but Bonnie came to you for a reason, so help us out here already!”

“Well, uh...” Twilight thought of all the ways this could happen, and finally decided it would be best to take it slow. “Lyra, you... remember the wedding, yes?”

Lyra looked back at her incredulously. “Do I remember the wedding? It hasn’t even been two weeks! And I got brainwashed by a giant shape shifting bug pony! I’ll probably never be able to forget it!” Lyra didn’t notice the pained look Bon Bon gave at her description of Queen Chrysalis.

“Although, honestly...” Lyra glanced to either side conspiratorially before continuing. “I actually thought it was really exciting!” She smiled widely. “I mean, yeah, I was totally scared out of my wits, and I probably could have gotten really hurt, but I didn’t! And in return I got to be right in the middle of one of the biggest events in recent Equestrian history! I got to experience it all first hoof! And getting brainwashed by the changeling queen? Sure, I don’t actually remember much of anything that happened, but how many other ponies can say they’ve been brainwashed by a changeling queen? Not very many!”

Twilight couldn’t help but grin at the mare’s enthusiasm. Lyra always was interested in new and unique experiences and things. She recalled that whole ‘hands’ phase the excitable unicorn had gone through after that minotaur motivational speaker had visited Ponyville.

“I mean, wow!" Lyra continued. "Just imagine the kinds of stories I’ll be able to tell our foals if we ever get around to adopting! Right, Bonnie?” She looked to Bon Bon and nudged her in the side with a hoof, but her smile faded when she failed to get a reaction out of her marefriend.

“Alright...” Twilight thought for a way to continue. “So... how do you feel about changelings then?”

“Huh?” Lyra was caught off guard by the question. “Well...” She looked down and put a hoof to her chin. “Even though it was really exciting, I guess I still really don’t like that changeling queen, since she was trying to overthrow Princess Celestia and trap us all in cocoons and suck out all of our emotions, or whatever it is they do with ponies. And I guess that means that I also don’t really like the changelings that were under her command, either.” She looked back up at Twilight. “But there’s got to be more changelings than just the ones that attacked Canterlot, right? And they haven’t done anything bad yet. At least, that I know of. And I can’t really hate all of them for something only one group did...” She shrugged noncommittaly. “I guess I don’t really feel all that strongly one way or the other about other changelings.”

“Do you think you might be able to become friends with a changeling?”

Lyra raised an eyebrow inquisitively. “If they were friendly, then sure, I guess. But I don’t really see where all of this is going...”

“Do you...” Bon Bon said quietly while still looking down at the floor. Both the other mares turned to her, surprised that she had finally found her voice. “Do you think you could love a changeling?”

Lyra gave Bon Bon a shocked look. “What!? Could I love a changeling? I-I...” She threw her hooves up into the air in frustration. “I don’t know! How the heck could I answer something like that?! What’s up with all these crazy hypothetical questions anyway?!”

Bon Bon winced slightly at Lyra’s outburst, but still continued. “Lyra... what if...” She steeled herself and looked up to stare Lyra in the face. “What if these weren’t hypothetical questions?”

“Huh?” Lyra’s brow knit together in confusion. “C’mon, mare, speak some sense already! What are you talking about?”

Twilight, having some idea of what was about to happen, began walking around the table to Lyra’s side.

Bon Bon simply stared back a Lyra for a few moments. A look of grim determination overtook her face, and she was engulfed in green fire as she shifted back to changeling form.

Lyra’s eyes bugged out of her head and she reared back in shock. She would have fallen flat on her flank, except Twilight was already in position to catch her.

“I know what you’re thinking, Lyra,” Twilight said to the mare in her hooves, whose body had almost completely locked up in shock, “but Bon Bon hasn’t been replaced or anything like that. That really is her. And that’s what she always has been; a changeling.”

Lyra’s only response was to continue to stare in disbelief at the changeling before her. The determined look on Bon Bon’s face slowly broke down into despair. She looked down to the floor her body began shaking with quiet sobs as tears started falling from her pink eyes to the floor.

This was something the scientific side of Twilight’s mind took interest in. Since changelings shared so many other insect like characteristics, and insects couldn't cry, she had wondered if those tears Bon Bon had shed the other day were real or a part of the disguise. This certainly answered that question.

More importantly, Twilight could also feel all the tension start to bleed out of Lyra’s body as changeling before her wept, her face going from shocked disbelief to a frown. “Oh wow, Twilight’s right, it really is you... Nopony but Bon Bon could make me feel this bad just by crying...” It only took her another few moments of watching the other mare cry before she returned to her hooves. “Aw jeez, even as a bug pony it breaks my heart seeing ya like this. C’mere, candy flanks.” She walked up and embraced Bon Bon.

Bon Bon, unwilling to believe that everything had just gone as well as it had, hesitated to return the hug. “So you... you don’t hate me then?”

Hate you?” Lyra gave a look that was somewhere between a sincere smile and a smirk as she held the changeling. “How could I possibly hate somepony that obviously needs me as much as you do?”

Bon Bon hesitated only a moment longer before returning the hug as hard as she could, now crying tears of relief rather than sorrow. Lyra’s eyes once again bugged out of her head. “Woah, hey!” Lyra chuckled quietly. “Lay off the grip, will ya? I still need to breathe, you know!”

Instead of lessening her grip on her marefriend, Bon Bon only said “I love you, Lyra.”

“Yeah, I know. I love you too, Bonnie.” Lyra absentmindedly began stroking the back of Bon Bon’s head, right where her mane would be if she was in pony form. “You know,” she said to nopony in particular as she held Bon Bon in her hooves, “this is actually pretty cool! I’m in love with a changeling, and she loves me back! How many other ponies do you think are able to say that?”

Twilight wisely decided not to inform her that entering into stable relationships with ponies was the modus operandi of changelings from Bon Bon’s hive, and apparently a few other hives as well. There were probably more than a few ponies out there in relationships with changelings, not that they knew it. She instead just remained silent and allowed the sight in front of her to warm her heart. She knew that Lyra was hardly representative of the average pony, but this outcome still raised her hopes about the future of pony/changeling relations.

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