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...

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/87718/a-novel-tale

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10. Chapter 9: Meeting Celestia

The next day...

Novel Tale paced back and forth within their small room aboard the passenger cabin, door closed for privacy. Twilight watched him with concern. “Come on, Novel, I’ve already told you that everything is going to go fine with Princess Celestia!”

He stopped pacing and turned to her. “Yeah, but that was when you were just writing her a letter. Now we have to actually go talk to her? This is something else entirely!” He went back to his pacing, no doubt pondering all the myriad ways that things could go wrong.

Looking back on it, Twilight really should have expected Celestia’s response to her letter to be a request to meet with Novel face to face. She was confident that everything would go fine, but could understand why Novel was in such a state. She knew that plenty of real, non-changeling ponies would fret like this upon receiving a summons to speak with the Princess. She gave a resigned sigh. It was probably best to just let him play it out.

Novel happened to glance out the window of their cabin and saw the spires of Canterlot Castle approaching in the distance. In the past, such a sight always warmed his heart; a sign that he was almost back to his home away from home. Now, it only reminded him of how topsy turvy everything had become lately. He wasn’t sure he’d ever feel the same living in Canterlot again. Maybe he could move to Ponyville? It had seemed to be a nice enough place during the short time he’d been there. It was also closer to the hive, and he would have a staunch ally in Twilight nearby. Come to think of it, there was that pink pony, too. If she threw parties like the one he went to on even a semi-regular basis, he would never want for food again! Moving to Ponyville was definitely something he was going to have to consider doing...

“You certainly seem to have calmed down,” said Twilight, snapping him out of his pondering.

“Huh?” He turned to look at her. “Oh. My mind just started wandering onto other things, is all.”

“That’s good. What about?”

“I was thinking about maybe moving to Ponyville once all of this is taken care of.”

Twilight smiled. “Well, that would definitely make Pinkie happy to know that her party won at least one pony over. It would make me happy, too. It would be a lot harder for us to be friends if you were in another town.”

Novel looked slightly surprised. “Friends?” It wasn’t as though he’d never had any friends before. He had a few nymph-hood changeling friends from growing up in the hive, though they were all off on assignment elsewhere and he hadn't seen them in some time. There were also some ponies back in Canterlot that he considered himself to be on friendly terms with, but he wouldn’t place any bits on them remaining friends if they were to discover that he was actually a changeling.

“That’s right, friends!" she happily announced. "What did you think we were?”

“I thought this was mostly a business relationship, since you need me to learn about changelings and I need you to ensure that ponies don’t see my entire race as evil monsters.”

Twilight sheepishly rubbed the back of her head. “Well, it did kind of start out that way, yes. But, I honestly have enjoyed hanging out with you these past two days, so I would certainly say that we’re friends now.”

“Friends, huh?” A pony that was a friend even though they knew he was a changeling? “I think I’d like that!” he said with a grin.

“I’m glad that you agree!” Twilight said. “Now, as your friend, will you please trust me when I tell you that our meeting with Princess Celestia is going to go alright? I’ll be with you the whole time.”

For once, her words actually help calm him down some. He looked out the window again. Canterlot Castle was still visible and rapidly drawing nearer. Now, however, he didn’t feel an upwelling of anxiety at the thought of what was going to happen. He still wasn’t looking forwards to it, but with Twilight’s support, he now felt that he could handle their upcoming meeting with the princess.

Novel, still looking nervous, was sitting next to Twilight outside the throne room of Canterlot Castle. He felt a hoof on his shoulder and looked up to see Twilight smiling at him reassuringly. He did his best to smile back.

The door to the throne room opened and a Royal Guard stuck his head out. “Princess Celestia will see you now.”

Novel got up and began walking towards to door, Twilight right beside him. “Remember Novel, I’m here for you. Just act normal, explain yourself, and everything will turn out OK,” she explained in a whisper.

“Right,” he replied.

The huge double doors opened before them, courtesy of the guards standing to either side, and they both stepped through.

There was Celestia, perched regally on her throne. He had seen Celestia many time in the past, usually giving speeches at big events. But it was quite a different matter being here in her throne room, with him being the main focus of her attention. He imagined anypony would be feeling as self-conscious as he was right now.

“Twilight, my faithful student. It is good to see you again so soon.” Her gaze turned to Novel. “And you must be Novel Tale. Twilight has told me a number of interesting things about you. However, I have a feeling that I’ll be able to learn much more by talking to you personally.” She stood up from her throne. “If you would both please follow me? I’d prefer if we could discuss things in more private setting.”

Celestia turned and began walking towards a door in the back. Twilight was quick to follow her, but Novel hesitated. Going somewhere private to talk? He hadn’t been expecting something like that, but then again he wasn’t really sure what he had been expecting. He supposed it made sense, this was a fairly delicate matter after all. He hurried to fall into step behind them.

They passed through the door. They were now in a hallway running perpendicular to the throne room, and Celestia headed off to the right. Novel couldn’t help but notice that this area was less decorated than the rest of the castle. It seemed to be concerned more with functionality than anything else.

“This area of the castle isn’t open to the public. It’s where we take care of a lot of the day to day affairs that keep Equestria running,” Celestia said to no one in particular, though Novel was pretty sure that the explanation was for him.

“And here we are,” Celestia announced less than a minute later. They had arrived at a door that was rather nondescript except for an emblem of Celestia’s cutie mark. “This is my private office. I enjoy doing paperwork out in the throne room on occasion, but some matters require more privacy than that.” She opened the door and walked inside, Novel and Twilight quick to follow.

The office was much more spartan and functional than he would have expected, considering it belonged to the princess. The walls were bare stone and were lined with shelves and drawers. The shelves were full of books and scrolls, all neatly ordered. In the center of the room stood a large desk. It was very clean and tidy, a few books and an inkwell with a quill laying next to it being the only items on it. He glanced behind himself and saw a large portrait of Princess Luna hanging on the wall next to the door.

When he turned back, Celestia was now sitting behind her desk. Her horn lit up and the door closed. “The guards know that I’m not to be disturbed while I’m in my office, so we should be free to discuss anything you want. Please, both of you, take a seat.” Novel noticed a number of cushions on the floor in front of the desk and sat down on one, Twilight picking another. “Novel, if it is not too much of a bother, could you change back to your changeling form?” Celestia asked.

Novel complied, shifting into Nurex with a burst of green fire. Celestia hummed thoughtfully and her horn glowed, but as far as he could tell, nothing happened. He patiently waited for her to start the conversation, but she just sat there, looking at him expectantly. As the silence continued, he idly focused his senses on her.

His jaw hit the floor. He wasn’t able to sense anything at all from her! But how could that be? All ponies gave of emotional energy!

Twilight looked between Celestia and Nurex, confusion clear on her face. “Princess, is there something I’m missing here?”

Nurex answered first. “I can’t sense any emotions from her at all!”

Twilight's face scrunched up in confusion. “What? But from what I’ve learned, the only things that don’t give off any emotions at all are...” Her eyes bugged out and she turned to Celestia. “Princess, you’re not actually a—”

Celestia chuckled quietly and waved a hoof in dismissal. “No, Twilight, I am not secretly a changeling. It’s just an emotion masking spell that I wanted to test out.” Her horn glowed again, and Nurex could now feel emotions from her. They were very subdued, but he was able to pick up excitement, curiosity and a hint of amusement.

“An emotion masking spell? I’ve never heard of one of those before...” Twilight looked thoughtful. “A spell like that wouldn’t have any purpose unless there were creatures around that could detect emotions, like changelings...” She looked to her mentor in wonder. “You didn’t create a brand new spell in one day just to meet with Nurex, did you?”

“No, this is actually a spell I created a very, very long time ago... back when I first discovered changelings.”

“Y-you already knew about us!?” Nurex exclaimed.

“But Princess, if you already knew about them, then how was Chrysalis able to catch you off guard like that?” asked Twilight.

“Perhaps I should tell you the whole story.” Celestia closed her eyes, the better to recall memories of days long past. “It was a long, long time ago, before Luna and I had taken over rulership of Equestria." She opened her eyes again. "It was not an uncommon thing for stallions to attempt to court me back then.” She smiled to herself. “I may have not been a princess yet, but I still had my regal appearance and was quite adept at magic, an attractive combination for stallions in those days. However, most of these attempts ended nearly as soon as they began, for I had more important matters to concern myself with at that time.”

“But there was one stallion that stood out from the others. Whereas the others tried to win my affection with offers of material goods and wealth, or positions of power, this pony offered only words.” She frowned slightly. “It seemed he always knew just how I was feeling and exactly what to say to me.”

The corner of Celestia’s mouth lifted in a smirk. “I imagine that many mares would have fallen for him in a heartbeat, and I later discovered that many had. But I have to admit, I was a touch paranoid in those days, and he managed to arouse only my suspicion.” Her expression turned more serious. “How could this stallion that I had never met before possibly know me so well? When I talked to Luna about it, she thought that he was just good at reading others and that I shouldn’t think too much about it. But I simply couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to this pony than met the eye. I decided it was time to take matters into my own hooves.”

Nurex was pretty sure he knew where this story was going. He’d heard of such things before; changelings who manipulated others a little too well and drew suspicion to themselves, forcing them to leave before they were discovered. He glanced at Twilight, who was fully engrossed in the story, apparently never having heard it before.

Celestia continued. “I followed him back to his home one night, under the cover of an invisibility spell. It was a large home, one that only a wealthy pony could hope afford, an impressive feat for an earth pony back in those days. I snuck inside the house and watched him for some time, and was beginning to suspect that maybe Luna was right. Finally, my tenacity was rewarded when he revealed a secret passageway leading down under the house. I was quick to follow. I caught up to him in a large, underground room, and there, before my eyes, he transformed into something else. Something that wasn’t a pony.”

Nurex could actually feel just a hint of anger from her. “That was enough for me. I dropped my invisibility spell and confronted him. He tried to fight, but as I said, I was very adept at magic even back then and I managed to subdue him in short order. I wasted no time in questioning him, and thus I discovered what changelings were.” Now he could feel a bit of shame. “Then, in a moment of distraction, he managed to blindside me and escape. I gave chase, but it was no use. There was no way I could locate him that easily with those shapeshifting abilities of his. So, I started making preparations to track him down. And not just him, either. He had made mention of a hive before he escaped, and if there were more creatures like him, I wanted to know. The emotion masking spell was but one of those preparations.”

Her expression darkened. Nurex could really feel some anger now, and a bit of fear as well. “But then, Discord took over.” Her voice had a hardened tinge to it that put him on edge. “I need not tell you that his appearance completely ruined all of my preparations for finding that changeling. Luna and I had to devote all of our time and energy just to surviving, and then eventually to overthrowing Discord. Then, once we had finally dealt with him, we were far too busy ruling Equestria. Even if the trail hadn’t gone cold, there was no way either of us would have been able to find time to go hunting for them.” Her face took on a resigned look. “For years, I kept my eyes and ears open for any signs of him or others like him, but I heard nothing. I decided that they must have gone extinct during Discord’s reign, like a number of other creatures.”

“Was Discord’s reign really that bad, Princess?” Twilight asked.

Celestia closed her eyes and sighed. When she opened them again, Nurex didn’t need his emotion senses to see the sorrow on her face. “It truly was, Twilight. You have no idea how easy we all got off the second time when you and your friends confronted him.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Tell me, have you ever heard of sea ponies?”

“Sea ponies?” Twilight frowned in thought. “Aren’t they just a myth? A race of half-pony, half-fish creatures that live in the ocean?”

“That is correct.” She had a look of profound loss. “Let’s just say that... they were more than just a myth before Discord took over.”

Twilight looked as though she was going to ask more, but Celestia forestalled the cascade of question with a raised hoof. “I... don’t really like talking about it. Maybe I will tell you about them some other time, Twilight. But right now, we have more important things to discuss.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to regain her composure. “Now, where was I?”

She continued her story. “As the centuries passed, I soon forgot all about my encounter with that changeling, and eventually about changelings altogether.” She sighed. “I had forgotten all about them until Chrysalis showed her true form. The shock and the rush of returning memories were so great that I was unable to properly focus when I attempted to subdue her, thus why she was able to overpower me.”

She looked to Nurex and smiled. “Truthfully though, Nurex, I am glad I was mistaken about your kind being extinct, even if I had to find out under such... unpleasant circumstances. The complete loss of any species is a terrible blow that Equestria can never fully recover from. I am also very pleased to learn that Chrysalis’ action are not representative of the rest your kind.”

Nurex nodded. “That’s right, Princess Celestia. I, uh, can’t officially speak for other changeling hives, or even my own hive, really, but I assure you that most of us just want to continue secretly living among ponies like we always have.”

“Yes, about that. Twilight tells me that you have been living as one of my subjects here in Canterlot for a number of years now?”

“Yes. I’ve been living in Canterlot for a little over ten years now...” Nurex proceeded to give Celestia a brief overview of his life in Canterlot up to the invasion. “When those other changelings started falling from the sky, I was just as scared and confused as any of your other ponies. I was sure that my life as Novel was ruined and that I wouldn’t be able to live here anymore.”

Celestia smiled. “I see no reason that you cannot continue living here, so long as you keep your identity secret. In fact, it might be useful to have a changeling nearby in case I wish to communicate something to you for you to pass on to your queen.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Yes, I do believe that having one changeling living here in Canterlot would be beneficial for all of us.”

Only one changeling? That’s right, he had never told Twilight... “Uh, about that, your majesty. I’m not the only changeling—”

Nurex was interrupted by the sound of hoofsteps outside. The lock on the door clicked, and the door to the room suddenly burst open. “Ah, Tia, there you are! I have come to inform you... that...” Luna’s voice trailed off as she noticed that Celestia was not by herself. An awkward silence fell upon the room as everypony stared at each other.

Finally, Luna turned to Celestia with a frown on her face. “Sister, what is the meaning of this!? We captured a changeling and nopony thought to inform us?” She looked back to Nurex and gestured with her hoof. “Is thiswhat passes for an interrogation these days? The subject is not even restrained! It should be more like this!”

Nurex’s anxiety had been building rapidly since Luna entered the room, and that last statement was the breaking point for him. He instinctively lifted up into the air in an attempt to escape, but before he could get anywhere, Luna’s horn glowed and a set of translucent midnight blue manacles and a collar appeared on him, causing him to crash back down into the cushion he had been sitting on. He could hardly move at all, these things must have weighed a ton! Twilight immediately went to check on him, and was about to say something to Luna when Celestia spoke up.

“No, no, it’s nothing like that Luna.” She sat up and walked around the desk to Nurex’s side. Her horn glowed, and sparks of golden light appeared within the manacles and collar, causing them to break apart and dissipate into nothingness. “This is Nurex. He is from a hive that has nothing to do with Chrysalis and is here on peaceful terms. He has come to inform us that the rest of his kind are appalled by what Chrysalis and her hive have done, and that as a whole, they wish only for there to be peace between us.”

Luna stared at Celestia in disbelief. “Truly?” Celestia gave a simple nod. Luna turned towards Nurex, who had since returned to a sitting position, and he vigorously nodded his head in confirmation as well. Luna broke out into a relieved smile. “Well, this is most joyous news indeed! We were not looking forward to having to constantly be on the lookout for more changeling infiltrators.” She trotted up to Nurex and grabbed one of his hooves in a hoofshake. “Greetings, Nurex! Apologies for my rash behavior.”

“Oh, I-it’s no problem, Princess Luna,” he said nervously. “I-I’m sure you were just... startled to see me, is all...”

“Indeed I was! Had I but known ahead of time that you would be here...” Luna looked to Celestia. “Sister, whenever did you learn that...” She glanced at Twilight, then looked back to her sister with a knowing smirk. “This is what that letter from Twilight was about, isn’t it? The one that nearly caused you to fall out of your throne?”

Twilight looked at her mentor in surprise. “You nearly what?”

Celestia blushed slightly. “I have to admit, Twilight, that letter you sent gave me quite the shock. Where it from anypony else, I likely would outright dismissed it as some sort of elaborate hoax.”

Luna was grinning widely now. “You should have seen her! She locked up almost as soon as she began reading it and would not respond to anything said to her. Rarely have I seen such an expression of shock and disbelief on her face! Eventually, I went to tap her on the shoulder to get her attention, and she nearly jumped clean out of her throne!" Her amused expression turned more thoughtful. "She then immediately excused herself and ran to her office without telling any of us what the letter was about. I think I understand the need for secrecy now, but you really should have informed at least us, sister!"”

Celestia’s slight blush had progressed to a much deeper shade now. “Yes, well, uh...” She cast about for a change in topic. “Luna! You came here to inform me of something, yes?”

“Ah, right! There is a pair of noble ponies requesting an audience with you.” Her expression turned dark. “Apparently, they are unsatisfied with their homes simply being restored to the way they were before the attack. They think that we should be funding upgrades to their homes as well!” Luna explained with more than a hint of indignation in her voice.

“I see.” Celestia looked thoughtful for a moment, then smiled. “Luna, do you think you could handle these noble ponies for me?”

“Of course, sister. We can see that you have your hooves full with this matter.” Her smile took on a predatory tinge. “I will show these nobles what happens when one attempts to take advantage of our generosity! Good luck, sister! And welcome, Nurex, to Canterlot!”

Nurex simply nodded, too stunned to actually say anything. “Have fun, Luna,” Celestia said as the door closed. “Now, Nurex, I believe you were in the middle of saying something?”

“What?” It took him a moment to recall what had been happening before the interruption. “Oh, right! I was saying that I’m not the only changeling who lives here in Canterlot.”

Celestia’s smile faded. “Is that so?”

Nurex cringed as he felt a small surge of suspicion. It wasn’t directed at him, but he still didn't like it. “Y-yes, your majesty.”

She was looking much more serious now. “I do not suppose that you could identify these other changelings for me?”

“You won’t do anything to them, will you Princess?” asked Twilight.

“That will depend, Twilight. If they are to remain in Canterlot, then it is my duty to ensure that they are not a potential threat to my subjects. At the very least, I certainly intend to talk to them, as I have with Nurex.”

Nurex looked to the ground and fidgeted. One one hoof, he really wasn’t comfortable with the thought of revealing every changeling in Canterlot. On the other hoof, this was Celestia’s city, so she kind of had a right to know. And he had a feeling that, even if he didn’t tell her, she’d eventually be able to find them on her own. He looked up to see Celestia looking at him, patiently awaiting an answer. He then glanced at Twilight, who gave him a reassuring nod. Twilight had had nothing but good things to say about Celestia. He decided to trust her judgement.

“I... don’t actually know who they all are myself, but I do know a changeling who does know all of them...”

 
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