Growing Up Dandy

This story is a sequel to Change of Life
Dandelion is a pegasus filly, Cogs and Lavender's firstborn daughter, and a joy to them both. As a changeling though, Cogs had no experience with raising pony foals, so when a crisis arises, he often has to wing it. Sometimes the solutions are more creative than others, and sometimes the problems are unique. After all, how many fillies have a changeling parent?
This is a series of stories that are sequels to "Change of Life" and takes up after chapter 10 (Foals).

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/163295/growing-up-dandy

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3. Changing Attitudes

“Dandelion, dear, please stop leaning out of the window so far,” Lavender Dreams requested of her over-excited child.

The six year old filly continued to hang out of the train carriage window, oblivious to her worried mother’s request as her mane streamed behind her, the wind of their swift passage in her face and roaring in her ears.

Lavender nudged her husband. “Will you please try to get our daughter to behave?” she asked in exasperation.

Whirring Cogs grinned at her. “What? And spoil the excitement of her first train ride?”

“It’s Sky Fern’s also, and she’s not trying to leap out the window.”

“With your forehoof wrapped around her like that, I doubt that she could even try,” Cogs observed.

Lavender glared at him meaningfully, and Cogs sighed. “Okay! Okay!” Cogs reached out of the window to pull gently but insistently on Dandelion’s shoulder.

Dandelion pulled herself back inside and asked, “Yes, Daddy?”

“It’s alright to lean on the window sill and watch the scenery, but don’t lean out of the carriage, hon. It worries your mother.”

“Okay,” she agreed without hesitation, and then went straight back to enjoying the ride.

Lavender shook her head in amused disbelief. “I still can’t get used to how readily that she does as you ask. I mean, she’s not disobedient with me, but she almost never seems to question you.”

“I think it’s because we’re so much alike. In some very important respects, we think and react the same way because of my heritage.”

Lavender nodded. Her soul-mate might look like a pegasus, but he had been born a changeling, and he often had a childlike response to many things too. It might be tempered with an adult’s sense of responsibility, but she knew that this train ride excited him almost as much as their daughter. After all, it was not only his first train ride, but also their first holiday as a family away from Whitetail Meadows. In fact, since Lavender had found him and brought him back to her village, he had left it only on the occasions when he accompanied her on her flower harvesting expeditions, and the two times he had accompanied Twilight Sparkle on her changeling lectures. This was kind of a big deal for all of them.

“I’m excited too, you know? We haven’t had the opportunity to take a family trip until now.”

“Then how about you loosen up and let Fern join her sister? I doubt that she will jump out the window, dear,” Cogs said gently.

Lavender sheepishly loosened her embrace on the unicorn foal, who promptly joined her sister in leaning on the window sill and enjoying the breeze in her face.

 

 

 

Their proud parents watched the children indulgently. They had both worked hard and tried their best to raise the fillies well these past years, and it had been well worth the effort. This holiday was as much a celebration of their family unity as it was a vacation. With both their foals old enough to travel, it was cause enough to take a break from their jobs and indulge themselves for a change.

The locomotive wound its way through Whitetail Woods for about an hour before emerging into open fields for a time, curving around the foothills of a small mountain range for a while before plunging into a long tunnel that finally opened up on the outskirts of Ponyville. They reached the station at Ponyville mid morning, where the family got off and looked around to try to get their bearings.

“Wait here while I get directions,” Cogs said, and he headed off to the stationmaster’s office. He quickly returned and said, “It’s pretty easy. Follow me.” They gathered their luggage and trotted off the platform.

Their destination was the huge tree-shaped crystal castle dominating the northern side of the town, and it was within easy sight of the station. Upon arriving at the castle's doors, Cogs raised a hoof and tapped loudly.

A dragonling quickly answered the door, and both fillies gasped in delight at seeing him.

“You must be Spike,” Cogs said with a smile.

Spike grinned and said, “At your service! And judging from the descriptions that Twilight gave me, you must be the guests that she’s been expecting. Come on in!”

They followed Spike inside, not knowing what to expect to find inside a princess’ home. The young dragon led them through the entrance hall into a room dominated by a huge table surrounded by several thrones, and with a chandelier made from the roots of a massive tree.

“Wait here while I let Twilight know that you have arrived,” Spike instructed. “As usual, she’s engrossed in her research.” He then disappeared up the stairs to the next level.

While he was gone, the two fillies looked around, checking out the artifacts that were on display along the walls. Some were rare books, plus some relics or mementos. Of particular interest to them though was a picture featuring six ponies.

“Ooh! I know who they are!” exclaimed Dandelion, recognizing Twilight among them. “They’re the Element Bearers!”

“Who?” Sky Fern asked.

“My dearest friends,” came a voice from behind them.

Turning around, they spotted the purple alicorn who had entered the room unnoticed.

“Auntie Twilight!” both fillies exclaimed, rushing up to get hugs and nuzzles.

Princess Twilight Sparkle greeted Dandelion and Fern warmly, happy to see her honorary nieces again. She had followed their lives since conception, at first greatly interested in Cogs and Lavender’s foals because of their unusual father, but she had gotten emotionally invested in them, and often visited them just to socialize.

“Hello, girls! I’m so happy to see you again. I’m pleased that you got to visit me here in Ponyville for the first time.”

Cogs patiently waited until the fillies were done before saying, “So this is what an Equestrian princess’ palace is like. Very ...um... crystally!”

Twilight grinned. “I have a permanent room in Canterlot Palace whenever I want, but this...” she waved a hoof about the room, “...this is really for all my friends. They have their own thrones too, as you can see. They helped decorate it to make it more homey too. The tree root chandelier is what remained of the Golden Oaks Library, my first home in Ponyville. Tirek destroyed it, but part of it remains as a reminder of the wonderful times we had in there. This castle though has its advantages, especially when it comes to entertaining guests.”

Lavender said, “Well I like it. Thanks for inviting us to visit.”

“You know that I've wanted you to visit for a long time,” Twilight demurred. “I get to see you too little as it is. Always busy, you know?”

“You don’t have to tell that to parents of two foals,” Lavender replied.

“Yeah – look how long it took us to find the time for a holiday,” Cogs added.

“But sometimes you have to make the time for your friends,” Twilight finished. She then turned her attention back to the fillies. “Speaking of making time, my friend, Pinkie Pie, heard about your visit, and she’s taken the time to arrange a party for you.”

“Wow! What for?” Dandelion asked.

“Because Pinkie,” Twilight explained simply.

“Huh?”

“You’ll figure it out,” Twilight said with a knowing smile.

“Oh. Okay. When?”

There was an abrupt squeal of party tooters, and accompanied by streamers and balloons suddenly appearing seemingly from nowhere.

“Right now, of course, silly!” said a high-pitched and excited voice.

“Holy Celestia! What in Tartarus…?” exclaimed Cogs who had almost accidentally lost his pegasus form due to shock.

“Everyone – I’d like you to meet Pinkie Pie – one of my best friends and Aspect of Laughter,” Twilight announced. “Pinkie, these are Whirring Cogs and Lavender Dreams, and their daughters, Dandelion Dreams and Sky Fern.”

Pinkie dashed over, grabbed Cogs’ right hoof, and started shaking it over-enthusiastically. “Pleased to meetcha!” she told him, and then repeated it with Lavender. She then reached out and drew the two fillies into a hug. “We’re going to have so much fun! Come on – I’ve got cupcakes!”

Pinkie led away the two slightly overwhelmed fillies, leaving the adults to themselves for the moment.

“That gives us a few minutes of privacy to discuss things before we join them,” Twilight explained. “So, anything new to add to my report on changeling-pony foals?”

“Nothing since the incident with Dandelion’s bully,” Cogs replied. “Dandy has been developing her lightning skills since then, but that doesn't seem to be related.”

“Sky Fern is showing the first signs of horn use,” Lavender added. “About average for unicorn foals.”

“Even normal results are data,” Twilight replied. “In fact, it would be best for the girls if normal results were all they ever got, and good news for other potential parents.” She scribbled a few notes in a book, and then pulled out another one. “Now I believe that you had a visit from a changeling recently?”

“Two, actually, and you know it,” Cogs replied with a grin. “A little sneaky there, Twilight.”

The alicorn was unabashed. “I never said that there would be just one, did I? After all, that was about gauging reactions to them, and that includes yours. So now that you’re here, tell me about the meeting in your own words.”

“Well, as you know, they first stopped at my shop,” Lavender began. “Of course, when one of the occupants of the cart is an undisguised changeling, that attracts more than a little attention….”

* * *

The traders’ cart drew up in front of the Wild Dreams flower shop, pulled by a very stocky earth pony stallion. Riding up in front of the cart was a unicorn, which was hardly unusual. However, the mare had a companion seated beside her who had attracted a small following among the villagers as it had passed through the town. After all, this was only the second time that most of them had seen a changeling, or at least that they were aware of, and only the first to arrive undisguised.

“Looks like the right place, Brick,” the unicorn announced.

“Yep,” the earth pony acknowledged. “What’s the crowd like, Kershak?”

The changeling replied, “Lots of curiosity, but no overt hostility so far. That’s encouraging.”

“Then we’re good to start unloading, Canny?” Brick asked.

The unicorn nodded. “You two begin unloading while I talk to the proprietor.” The mare climbed off the cart and entered Wild Dreams.

Lavender Dreams greeted the newcomer. “Welcome to Wild Dreams. How may I help you?”

“Hi, my name is Canny Maneuver, and we have your shipment of aromatic oils.”

Recognition lit up Lavender’s eyes. “Ah, yes! I have customers to take care of right now,” she said, indicating a couple who were browsing in the herb section. “I’ll get my husband to attend to you.”

Lavender went to the door behind the counter and called back. “Cogs! Our shipment has arrived. Can you help out, please?”

It was Saturday, so Cogs was available, but that was no coincidence. This particular delivery had been arranged weeks ago, and Cogs had been awaiting it with a mixture of eagerness and apprehension. He quickly came out, and Lavender indicated the unicorn. His eyes widened in surprise, but before he could say anything, Canny forestalled him.

“My partners are unloading the goods now. If you could show me where you want them, we’ll have this done in no time.”

Cogs nodded. “Let’s get this done quickly then.” He brought a trolley from behind the counter and followed Canny outside. There he found Brick and Kershak unloading crates and cartons, while an audience of curious ponies watched the changeling from a respectful distance. Canny made introductions and Cogs pretended surprise at having a changeling being part of the team. They then loaded up the trolley and took them to the shop’s storeroom to be unpacked later.

When everything had been stashed away, Cogs said, “Could I offer you three some refreshments?”

“That sounds great,” Canny answered. “It’ll be good to take a break before we set up in the market place.”

“Come on in then, and be welcome.”

Brick and Canny followed Cogs inside. Kershak gave the audience a cheeky wave before following suit, causing a ripple of comment among the ponies.

Cogs said to Lavender, “I’m just going to get some refreshments for these ponies, dear. Please join us when you can.”

Lavender nodded and smiled at their guests. “Welcome to our home.”

Cogs closed the door behind them, and then fixed Canny in his gaze. “Twilight never told me that she was sending two changelings on this mission.”

Canny grinned, and then in a flare of red flame, changed to her natural form. “It was a last-moment decision. Princess Twilight felt that I could be a back-up for Kershak, and take his place if necessary, or be a distraction.”

“Fair enough, I suppose. So who are you all really?”

“Let me do proper introductions. My name is Kerza, but like you, I have taken up a life as a pony.” Red fire flared again as she resumed her unicorn form. “I've been Canny Maneuver for over a decade now, well before the invasion of Canterlot by Chrysalis. I've been a member of the special Changeling Response Squadron since the Princesses set us up to deal with the aftermath of that event. All of us were drafted from our units in the Canterlot Royal Guard after we were identified as being changelings, but fortunately also after Princess Twilight had discovered that Chrysalis was the exception, not the rule, and we were actually loyal to the Equestrian diarchy.” Canny looked bitter for a moment. “We lost two changeling Guards trying to fend off the invasion, and we could not even bury them with the honor that they deserved because their corpses had reverted to natural form, and they had been swept up with the rest of the changeling casualties.”

Cogs felt immensely uncomfortable due to this revelation. He still had not been able to completely put aside his own role in that invasion.

Canny must have picked up his body language, because she immediately added, “Yes, I know of your background, Cogs, but I don’t blame you any more than Princess Twilight does. In fact I was impressed after I heard how you renounced Queen Chrysalis. Until then, I was not aware that it was even possible to completely turn one’s back to the hive.”

“It wasn't easy, although once I made the break, I knew I was free from the queen forever. Best thing that I ever did. I've got a question for you though – how did you not get expelled from Canterlot like we did?”

“We’re not sure of that, although there are plenty of theories. It’s not as if we were totally unaffected – some of us were flung around pretty hard when the shield passed through. However, we were left behind while the invaders continued to be pushed relentlessly.”

“I know exactly how that went,” Cogs said fervently.

“Yes, and our best guess is that the shield was tuned to changelings from your hive, so you were the ones primarily affected. Anyway, I've kind of gotten off track here. This is Kershak, and he’s a new addition to the squad. He has no permanent alter-ego as yet, and he volunteered to be our undisguised changeling to judge the current community reaction to us. Brick Wall of course is not a changeling, but he is a sergeant in the Royal Guard, and our heavy-hitter. His primary purpose besides hauling our cart is to try to prevent any dangerous ponies from getting near us. While we hope for the best, we’re prepared for the worst.”

“Obviously I’ll be interested to find out how that works out. You started out in Ponyville, I believe?”

“That’s correct.”

“You can tell me what that was like, but first I promised you all refreshments. What would everyone like?”

Canny was a tea drinker, Kershak preferred apple juice, and Brick was a black coffee stallion. Cogs made himself tea also, plus one for Lavender when she came to join them after briefly closing the store for her morning tea break.

Lavender was surprised to find out that Canny was a changeling also. “I thought that being married to a changeling would help me recognize one when I met them, but it appears that I’m quite wrong.”

Canny said, “I've been living as a pony for a long time, and it’s second nature to me now, so really I’m virtually indistinguishable from a natural pony. Kershak might come off as a bit odd because he’s inexperienced, but even then if you’re not actually looking for it, you probably wouldn't realize that he was a changeling. Our kind spent centuries hidden from ponykind, after all.”

“So having Kershak completely unhidden must be a bit weird for you?”

Canny grinned. “You got that right. I’m not even the one who is exposed, and yet I can feel the stares.”

Kershak laughed. “I think Canny feels worse than I do. She’s used to hiding, while it’s still new to me. I admit that I’m a bit nervous about potential threats, but it’s balanced out a bit by the feeling of freedom of not having to hide out in public. In fact, it’s been fun freaking out some ponies so far.”

Cogs shuddered. “It creeps me out. Even after all those public talks that I did with Twilight, I never got used to being so exposed. Anyway, you were going to tell me how things went in Ponyville.”

Canny nodded. “Yes, we started there for a couple of reasons, mostly due to Princess Twilight Sparkle living there, of course, but also due to it being a modest-sized town that is used to a lot of weird things happening, not to mention that it’s the home town to all the Element Bearers who have protected the townsponies from said weird things.”

“I suppose that might color the reactions of the ponies?” Cogs asked.

“I reckon so. Kershak got some flak from a handful of ponies, but little fear. I think that they might be too used to having champions on hand to be truly intimidated.”

“I bet none of those ponies were in Canterlot for the invasion. They wouldn't be so blasé then,” Cogs said fervently.

“True, but that’s why we’ll be touring as many places as we can to gauge reactions from as many types of communities as possible so that we can give a full report to the princesses. We’ll be heading off to Los Pegasus after the market closes. Hopefully we will…”

Canny was interrupted as the back door opened with a bang, and Brick was up on his hooves in an instant and on the defense. He relaxed when he realized that the only invaders were three young fillies.

“Daddy! Mommy! Green Leaf says there’s a changeling in our village, and it was seen… ooh.” Dandelion came to an abrupt halt to stare wide-eyed at the changeling in their living room, causing Summer Storm and Sky Fern to almost plow into her rump.

Kershak waved a hoof, gave them a fanged smile, and said, “Hi.”

They all continued to stare raptly at Kershak without replying.

 

 

 

Cogs stepped up to them. “Everypony, these are our daughters, Dandelion Dreams and Sky Fern, and Dandelion’s best friend, Summer Storm. Girls, this is Kershak.”

“Can I touch you?” Dandelion boldly asked.

“Sure!” Kershak replied with amusement in his voice.

Dandelion reached out to stroke Kershak’s carapace, quickly imitated by the others. “You’re so smooth and shiny! Are all changelings like you?”

“Well, there are different colors of crests and wings, but yeah, us drones are pretty much alike.”

“Why do you have holes in your legs?” Summer asked.

“Actually we have cavities throughout our bodies, although you can’t see most of them. They allow us to compress down into smaller forms, or unfold to enlarge ourselves.”

“Why do you have such long pointy teeth?” Dandelion inquired, staring closely at them.

“We’re omnivores, so that means our teeth are adapted to catch prey as well as chew food.”

“Ew! You eat meat like griffins do?” Dandelion pulled a disgusted face before a thought occurred to her. “Wait! Do you like fish?”

“I love fish. Do you?”

“I love fish too! What’s your favorite?”

“Pan-fried trout.”

“I like that, but my favorite is salmon.”

“Really? It’s harder for us to get those.”

“You should buy some while you’re here. Daddy gets some from the fishmonger every couple of weeks when it’s in stock.”

“Thanks, I might just do that.”

“Can you transform into someone for us?” Summer asked.

Kershak glanced at both Cogs and Lavender, who nodded in assent. “Sure! Anyone you would like to see?”

“Can you do Auntie Twilight?” Dandelion blurted out.

Kershak was surprised. “Auntie Twilight? You mean Princess Sparkle?”

“Yeah, Auntie Twilight Sparkle.”

“Okay. I've met her, so I know what she looks like.” With a flare of red magic, he transformed into a perfect facsimile of Twilight Sparkle. “Well, girls, how do I look?” Kershak said in Twilight’s voice.

Dandelion looked at Kershak critically and then said, “You look almost perfect.”

“Almost? What have I done wrong?”

“Auntie Twilight would have hugged us by now.”

“Ah, I see. Well, I’m not really your auntie, but would you like a hug from me anyway?”

Sky Fern didn't wait for Dandelion to answer. She hugged Kershak’s leg, and Dandelion quickly joined her to hug Kershak around the waist.

Kershak smiled in pleasure, lapping up the happiness that the fillies were radiating. He wrapped his wings around them to hug them back.

They soon ended the hug, but Dandelion was not finished asking questions. “So are you really an alicorn now?”

“No, I’m not. I can fly,” Kershak said, flapping wings to lift off the floor a little before settling down again, “but I don’t possess alicorn magic. In fact no matter what my form, I don’t have any magic that is not natural to changelings.”

“Aw, too bad.”

Summer said, “Can you change into our classmate, Green Leaf?”

“I don’t know what Green Leaf looks like.”

“She’s a unicorn, same age as me, light brown fur and green mane and tail.”

“A bit vague, but let’s see what I can do.” With the usual flare of magic, Twilight was replaced by a unicorn filly. “How’s this?” Kershak asked in a young filly’s voice.

“Her mane is lighter, but yeah, not bad. You’re pretty good at this, Kershak,” Summer approved.

“Thanks, but I’m not that special.”

“I wanna show you to our friends. Can we, please?” Dandelion pleaded.

Kershak resumed his normal form. “I’m going to be in the market place with my partners. Bring all your friends if you like.”

“I will! Come on, Summer!” The excited filly and her pegasus friend dashed out the door again, closely followed by her unicorn sister.

“Nice fillies,” Kershak commented. “Is Fern always that quiet?”

Lavender replied, “Yes. She normally lets her sister do most of the talking, but she’s not actually shy.”

Cogs said, “Thanks for indulging them so much. I want to teach them about changelings without giving away the fact that their father is one. I think that it’s important that they get to know something about their heritage.”

“You’re welcome, but it was a pleasure. Besides, one of my tasks for this mission is to try to pass on a positive impression of changelings to the populace, and the fillies and colts are usually the most receptive to the message, and they in turn can influence their parents. So, do you intend to ever tell them you’re one?”

“Yes, although we haven’t decided exactly when yet. We’re thinking maybe somewhere around when they turn sixteen. They should be old enough and wise enough to be entrusted with that knowledge by then.”

Canny said, “Well I think that they’ll be delighted to learn that secret, judging by their reaction to Kershak. I find myself envying you a little for your foals.”

Lavender put a foreleg around Canny’s shoulder and hugged her. “Don’t be jealous. While you’re doing your tour, you should look around for a potential husband. I can say from experience that the right stallion will make your life that much better. Or a mare if you’re that way inclined. Alternatively, maybe you and Brick could hook up. You’re both in the Royal Guard, after all.”

“Say what?!” the hitherto quiet earth pony blurted out.

Canny laughed. “Thanks, Lavender, but I’m not quite that desperate. No offence, Brick. Besides, it’s not as easy for female-oriented changelings.”

“I know, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Lavender pointed in the direction of their departed daughters.

“Good point. However we’re not here about my love life, and we've been here for quite a while now, so we had better move along. I’ll try to drop by to let you know the village’s current attitude towards changelings.”

“Thanks, Canny. Good luck with your assignment,” Cogs replied.

* * *

Twilight said, “Their report stated that except for one particular unicorn stallion that they encountered, Kershak was generally met with tolerance. The crowd of children that he attracted at the market were definitely a positive influence on their parents.”

“Yeah, in fact his visit became the subject of town gossip for days. There has been some discussion about what it would be like to have a changeling as a permanent member of the population. A few of the more astute have wondered if there are some already,” Cogs replied.

“The fact that this has not caused any significant concern is encouraging.”

“True, but it won’t all be that easy. That stallion you mentioned was Classy Threads, the father of Pearl Charm, the bully that Lavender dealt with. He’s just one of a few unicorns who have a bias against other pony types in the town, let alone changelings. He made it quite clear that he wanted none of our kind in Whitetail Meadows Village.”

“I would have been surprised if there weren't a few, but I’m still happy with that result. It’s been a bit more mixed at the team’s other stops.”

“Could I ask you to send me copies of their reports, or at least summaries? Also any new material that you publish on changelings? I want to keep Dandelion and Fern informed about their friend.”

Twilight quickly caught on. “And teach them more about changelings in a way that doesn't point to you?”

“Exactly!”

“I’d be happy to do that. In fact that gives me an idea about writing a primer for school children, and I have your family to use as a reference. Where’s my notepad?” Twilight began digging in a pile on the desk.

Just then, Pinkie stuck her head through the door and said, “You’re missing out on all the fun, sillies! I've saved you all a cupcake though.”

“Looks like that will have to wait,” Twilight said with a regretful smile. “The Element of Laughter has summoned us.”

Lavender and Cogs had to grin.

Author's Note:

The family holiday continues in the next episode.

Nothing too special about this episode. Mostly filling in the gaps with some fanon and getting Dandelion and Fern a little education on the side.

 
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