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...



3. Chapter 2: Arrival In Ponyville, The Party

Two days later...

Novel Tale stood in a line of ponies waiting to board the train. Anypony whose homes had been damaged during the changeling invasion had been offered the chance to be relocated elsewhere while repairs were made, all expenses covered by the crown. He had jumped at the opportunity and was now going to some small town called Ponyville, a destination he had chosen because it was the most convenient stop in between Canterlot and his hive. He swore that he had heard the name before and that he should know the place, but he just couldn’t put his hoof on it.

He was drawn back to the present when he found his path blocked by a unicorn stallion wearing Royal Guard armor.

“Greeting, citizen. This is just a quick check we’re performing on all ponies leaving Canterlot to make sure they’re not changelings. It’s just a simple illusion dispelling spell. Please remain still while we cast it.”

Novel had to try very hard to keep from bolting right then and there. He had been so caught up in his thoughts and wondering how his queen would take the news of what had happened, that he hadn’t noticed all the other ponies in line were being checked like this. Before he could react much at all, the unicorn guard had cast the spell. Somehow, his disguise remained intact, with a small flickering around his horn the only thing out of the ordinary.

He could sense a burst of surprise and curiosity from the guard which quickly gave way to suspicion. He had to do something, and fast.

“Oh no! I-it must have... uh... interacted somehow with... with my mane color changing spell!” Novel’s horn lit up with a gray glow that also enveloped his mane and tail, and they turned from black to blond. “You see? A light gray coat like mine with a blond mane is just so unfashionable, so I keep my mane color changing spell up almost all the time. I forget I even have it going sometimes!” He chuckled nervously and put on the most innocent smile he could manage.

He was quaking on the inside. Sure, he had been terrified during the changeling attack two days ago, but he was just a small side player in that event. This was a much more personal kind of danger, just him and impending imprisonment or whatever it was they were doing to changelings they found.

The guard continued glaring at him and the feeling of suspicion didn’t seem to be diminishing much. Just as Novel was about to collapse out of sheer anxiety and fear into a quivering pile of pony on the floor, the guard finally spoke. “Very well then, citizen. You may pass.”

He gladly began moving forward on legs he wasn’t sure could support him. Never had he been more thankful that ponies were such naturally trusting creatures. He wondered why the spell hadn’t revealed him as he boarded the train.

He figured it must have been similar to why the wall of love energy hadn’t blasted him out of Canterlot. Emotion powered magics weren’t too common among ponies. Combined with them likely having no clue how changeling disguises worked, and having only had two days since the attack, they must have jury-rigged up a spell tuned to disrupt any magic powered primarily by love energy. They probably hadn’t even explained exactly how the spell worked to the guard; just showed him how to cast it and sent him out. He was glad these ponies didn't know too much about how changelings worked, or they would have been able to expose him easily.

He took his seat on the train and hoped that the guard was the last big problem he would face today.

“Next stop, Ponyville! Everypony getting off, please gather your belongings and get ready to disembark!”

Novel stepped off the train, thankful that the trip had been as uneventful as it was. He noticed a small group of ponies welcoming the recent arrivals and handing them some kind of slip of paper. He doubted this was a usual practice since this particular train only had ponies relocating here from Canterlot on it. Now he just had to sneak away from everypony else and make his way to his hive. He started looking around for a good place to break off from the crowd.

“Novel Tale? I wasn’t expecting to see you here!”

Novel froze in place. That voice belonged to a mare he also had not been expecting to see, and had in fact been hoping to avoid. Now he remembered why the name Ponyville sounded so familiar; she had mentioned it at some of the book signings as where she lived! He turned and saw Twilight Sparkle walking towards him from the group of ponies greeting the passengers.

He put on a friendly expression that he really wasn’t feeling and waved. “Oh! Hi, Twilight!” This wasn’t good. Twilight was the first pony he’d expect to put two and two together and suspect him of being a changeling. And she then had a direct line to the Princess to report him! He definitely wouldn’t be able to stay in Ponyville very long.

Twilight had a slight frown on her face. “So your home was damaged in the attack, too? You weren’t hurt, were you?" she asked, concern radiating off of her.

Novel shook his head. “No, no, I’m fine. I just got a big hole smashed in my roof, is all.”

A smile returned to Twilight’s face, and the concern he could feel changed to relief. “That’s good to hear. A lot of ponies didn’t got off so easily. That’s a shame about your house, though.”

Novel waved a hoof dismissively. “Oh, it’s not so bad. I was just thinking it was time for a change of scenery anyway! Just the thing to get the creative juices flowing, right?”

Twilight nodded. “I suppose so. It’s good to see that you’re keeping a positive attitude about this.” Her eyes suddenly widened as she remember something. “Oh, by the way, I’m supposed to give you one of these.” She levitated a pink slip of paper towards him.

“What’s this?” Novel asked as he grasped the slip of paper with his magic.

“It’s an invitation to the big party we’re throwing tonight for everypony who relocated here!” Twilight responded with a wide smile. “My friend Pinkie Pie always throws a party for new ponies in Ponyville, but we’ve never had this many new ponies at once before! As soon as we heard what was being planned, Pinkie started preparing. She’d be out here handing out invitation herself if she wasn’t so busy setting it up!”

Novel looked at the invitation. It said You’re invited to Pinkie Pie’s ‘Sorry-Your-House-Got-Damaged-We-Hope-You’ll-Like-It-Here-In-Ponyville-And-Maybe-Even-Decide-To-Stay' Party!

“Huh,” was all he could say.

“So, you’ll come to the party, right?” Twilight asked eagerly.

Novel had been to some parties in Canterlot before. They were generally subdued affairs, with lots of quiet talking and good food. They were also usually decent sources of emotional energy. After having lost most of his stores during the attack and having used up the rest while waiting to leave Canterlot, he could use a bit of a refill. He really didn’t want to spend any more time than he had too in the same town as Twilight for fear that she’d discover what he was, but one night couldn’t hurt, right?

“Sure, I don’t see why not,” Novel said with a shrug.

“Good! I’m sure Pinkie will be pleased to hear that!”

“I don’t plan on staying in Ponyville much longer than that, though,” Novel continued. “I’ll probably be leaving tomorrow morning. I have some, uh... friends nearby I was planning on staying with. Ponyville was on the way and I figured, if the crown wants to pay for some of my travel expenses, then I should let them!”

He could feel Twilight’s enthusiasm die down a bit. “Oh. Well, at least you’ll be here for the party.” She gained a thoughtful look and he could feel her excitement rising again. “You know, if you’re only going to be in town for a day, then you can stay with me!” she said with a huge smile on her face. “I have a guest bed that nopony is using, and I’d love the chance to talk about books with you!”

That was the last thing he wanted to be talking about! He didn't want to, but he was sure that saying no to such a generous offer would seem suspicious. If he accepted, he would at least have some control over what exactly they talked about.

He put on a smile that matched hers. “How could I refuse such a generous offer from one of my biggest fans? I’d be delighted to!” He was sure he would figure out some way to get out of this.

“Great!” She nearly jumped in excitement, and Novel couldn’t help but soak up some of the happiness she was giving off. “We can head over to my home now, you can drop of your things, and by then it should be about time for the party!”

Novel actually liked the sound of that. It didn’t seem like there’d be much time to talk about things before the party, and he imagined everypony would just want to sleep afterwards. Then he just had to find an excuse to leave as soon as possible the next morning. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all!

It had only taken about an hour and a half to get Novel all set up with the guest bed. Twilight’s assistant, a young dragon named Spike, had helped them out. Novel had been surprised at that. Twilight had mentioned that she had an assistant before, but she had never said it was a baby dragon! The sun was hanging low in the sky by the time they had left to go to the party.

They had passed a sign saying Welcome To Sweet Apple Acres! and were now traveling through an apple orchard. They were approaching a barn, something Novel found odd. “So... do you typically have parties on farms around here?”

“Not necessarily. Only when it’s a special occasion or when there’s going to be so many ponies it wouldn’t fit anywhere else,” Twilight explained.

Novel nodded. “I guess that makes sense.”

He could hear a fair bit of noise, both music and ponies, coming from inside the barn, and wondered what kind of party this was going to be. Twilight opened the barn door.

Novel was immediately knocked into a sitting position on the ground. It wasn’t the music, or the colors, although both were certainly loud enough to knock a pony off their hooves. It was the emotions! The second she had opened the door, the tremendous amount of emotional energy coming from the barn had hit him so hard, he had been temporarily blinded. He hadn’t seen this many ponies in such a high a state of emotions since a Wonderbolts show he had attended a few years ago, and that had been spread out across an entire stadium, not condensed into a single barn!

“Are you okay, Novel?” Twilight asked, looking at him curiously.

Novel realized he had been sitting there with his mouth hanging open, a dumbstruck look on his face. He got up and moved inside, Twilight following behind him. “I’ve just never been to a party like this before!” he said in awe.

Twilight gave a small laugh. “That’s not too surprising. Nopony throws parties quite like Pinkie Pie, after all!”

“Thaaaat’s right!”

Novel suddenly found himself assaulted by a completely pink pony with a curly mane.

“There's no party like a Pinkie Pie party, and I'm Pinkie Pie!” She grabbed his hoof and gave a shake. “You must be Novel Tale! Twilight has told me a lot about you! She just loves those stories you write! They really bring a smile to her face, and anypony that can make my friends smile is also a friend of mine!”

Twilight blushed slightly at Pinkie’s description of how much she liked his stories, but Novel didn’t notice. He was too busy being completely stunned by an emotional energy overload from the pony before him. He had thought that Twilight gave off a lot of emotions during his book signings, but this mare was making her look like a dim bulb! He had no idea how a single pony was capable of giving off this much energy.

Pinkie backed off and sat on the ground, a comically thoughtful look on her face as she put a hoof to her chin. “Though now that I think about it, saying that implies that ponies who don’t make my friends smile aren’t friends of mine. And I know that’s not true, because I’m friends with everypony!” she said excitedly as she threw her hooves up in the air. Suddenly, she leaped up off the floor as her back left leg started twitching violently. She turned her head to look at the offending appendage and gasped loudly. “I sense a punch bowl in need of refilling!" She turned back to Novel and waved. "Glad I could meet ya, Novel! I hope you enjoy the party!” She dashed off faster than he thought an earth pony mare like her should have been able to.

He was sitting in place with his mouth hanging open. Again.

“Yeah,” Twilight said knowingly as she put a hoof on his shoulder. “Pinkie can have that effect on ponies. Come on, let me introduce you to the rest of my friends!”

Introductions were going swimmingly, and it hadn’t taken Novel long to realize he had seen all these mares before. Having already met Pinkie Pie, Twilight next introduced him to Applejack, who Novel learned owned the orchard and was responsible for all the non-dessert foods at the party. Then came Rarity, who had bombarded him with questions about living in Canterlot. Next was Fluttershy, who had mostly hidden behind her mane and squeaked out a hello. According to Twilight, there was just one more pony for her to introduce him to.

“Now where could she be...” Twilight asked herself as she looked about the barn.

Novel was in an extremely good mood. He had never seen so much concentrated emotional energy in one place before, and he was soaking in as much as he could. It was actually starting to make him slightly giddy. He had never heard of changelings getting inebriated off of emotions before, but that didn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t possible.

“Ah, there she is!” Twilight exclaimed as she pointed up into the air. Novel followed her gaze and saw a cyan pegasus mare with a rainbow mane hovering near the roof of the barn, chatting with some other pegasi.

“Rainbow!” Twilight shouted, struggling to be heard over the noise of the party. “Rainbow Dash!” There was no reaction from her friend. Twilight frowned, and a moment later her horn lit up. Novel saw a purple, phantasmal foreleg appear behind the pegasus mare and tap her on the shoulder.

Rainbow Dash rapidly spun in place to see who was there, but her expression turned to confusion when all she saw was a glowing, translucent limb. The ghostly appendage turned to point towards where Twilight and Novel were standing, and Twilight waved when the pegasus finally noticed them. Dash smiled, turned to say something to the pegasi she had been talking to, and swooped down to join them.

“Hey, Twilight, sup? Great party, huh? Not that I’d expect anything less from Pinkie!” She noticed then that Twilight wasn’t by herself, and landed on the ground in front of the unknown stallion. “Hey, Twi, who’s your friend?”

“Dash, this is Novel Tale, the author of that book series I like so much! Novel, this is my good friend, Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said with a smile.

Upon hearing Novel’s name, the cheerful expression immediately fell off of Dash’s face and was replaced with one of wary suspicion. Novel was a bit taken aback by this, and instinctively tried to focus his senses on her to see what she was feeling, but it was no use. The ambient emotion levels in the barn were just too high for him to focus his senses on the emotions from a single pony.

“... Hi...” Dash said reluctantly. She turned to Twilight. “Hey, Twilight? I just remembered something I need to talk to you about. Right now. In private,” she said in a serious tone of voice.

Twilight looked to her friend in confusion. “Really? Are you sure it can’t wait till after the party?”

“Yeah. I’m sure.”

Twilight looked unsure, but nodded her head anyway. “Well, alright then.” She turned back to Novel. “Sorry, Novel, but it looks like you’re going to have to be on your own for a while.”

There were alarm bells going off in the back of Novel’s head. However, all the emotions he had been soaking up at the party were clouding his thoughts, and he couldn’t guess why he was suddenly feeling so worried. He did his best to push the negative feelings aside in favor of enjoying the party. “That’s fine, Twilight. I hope whatever you have to talk about won’t ruin the party for you!” He waved to her and Twilight waved back and she and Rainbow Dash headed towards a side entrance.

Now bereft of his guide, Novel wandered the party aimlessly, mingling with ponies and just basking in the emotions in the air. He found himself a short time later at the food table eyeing an impressive looking cake. He currently had more emotional energy then he knew what to do with, but some physical food sounded pretty good right about now. He levitated a slice onto a plate, grabbed a fork, and took a bite.

He found himself stunned for the third time that night.

Twilight chose this moment to return, Rainbow Dash no longer accompanying her. “Enjoying yourself, Novel?”

“This... this has to be some of the best cake I’ve ever had!” Novel said with awe, still too stunned to even turn to look at Twilight. “In fact, this must be some of the best food I’ve ever had, period!”

“Yeah, Pinkie is a great chef, especially when it comes to parties. She really puts her heart and soul into everything that goes into making these events, including the food.” Twilight chuckled quietly. “I guess you could say it was made with plenty of love and care.”

Novel had to agree! ‘Made with love and care’ may just be a quaint saying to ponies, but for changelings it was a bit more literal than that. Chefs who were truly enthusiastic about what they did really could infuse their creations with their emotions. He had been to a few high class restaurants in Canterlot with food like that, but this was easily the best he had ever had.

His exuberance died down a bit when he finally turned to look at Twilight. Her demeanor had changed, and not for the better. It seemed like she was still trying to enjoy the party, but something was distracting her from doing so. Now that he thought about it, her voice had also been missing some of her previous enthusiasm when she had explained the cake just now. He tried to sense what she was feeling, but again, was unable to pick out anything over the rest of the emotions in the room.

The alarm bells in the back of his head went off again, and a stray thought told him that this was a sign that something he was afraid of was going to happen. But in his current emotion-addled state, he couldn’t remember what that thing was, so he ignored it. He couldn’t let distractions and bad thoughts get in the way of enjoying himself; this party was simply too great to skip out on!

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