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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6. Unforeseen Changes

Dandelion laughed as she did a double roll around Summer Storm.

“Show-off!” Summer said with a grin.

Dandelion just stuck out her tongue cheekily. She was enjoying the day too much to take it seriously. No school, perfect weather, and flying with her best friend – what could top that?

“You've been practicing that for long?” Summer asked.

“Yeah. Dad’s been showing me some of the fancier tricks. He made me promise not to try this until I had it perfected. He didn’t want any mid-air accidents.”

“Remind me to thank him later.” Summer made a show of wiping her forehead in relief.

“Oh, knock it off! You know my dad’s a great flyer and just as great a teacher. He’s even raced with Rainbow Dash. Sure, he wasn’t in Dash’s league, but even she was impressed with his ability.”

“I know! I was there too, remember? Sheesh!”

Dandelion blushed a little, realizing that her hero-worship of her father sometimes got out of hand. “Sorry,” she said contritely.

“Teach me that, and all is forgiven,” Summer said slyly.

Dandelion brightened again. “Sure thing. Let’s get some altitude so that we don’t bump into any other pegasi accidentally.”

“Not like last time, eh?” Summer said as they proceeded to climb.

“You promised never to bring that up again,” Dandelion said with a pout.

“No, I promised to not rub it in your face on a daily basis. It’s been at least a week since I last mentioned it.”

“Oh, sure, never let me forget it, will you? The mare didn't even have to go to the hospital.”

“I bet you’ll never forget being grounded for a week either.”

“You want to learn this stunt or not?” Dandelion demanded.

Summer grinned. She loved teasing Dandelion, but knew when enough was enough. “Let’s do this!”

They spent the next half hour going over how to do the trick, and then practicing it. Summer was not nearly as talented as her best friend, but she was determined, and when Dandelion concentrated, she was a competent teacher too. Summer could see how very much like her father that Dandelion was at times like that, and just as Dandelion admired her father, so did Summer admire Dandelion.

Dandelion decided that they had done enough practice for that day, and they started heading down to the township again.

“Want to come over for dinner? Dad said he was going to be making cheese and mushroom pie with eggplant tonight,” Dandelion said.

“Is that a rhetorical question? You know I love mushrooms!”

“Just wanted to be sure that you didn't have other plans for tonight.”

“I’ll just have to let my parents know as usual.” Summer giggled. “Mom said that I’d soon have to start warning them that I’d be coming home for dinner instead because I spend so many meals at your place.”

“You’re practically one of the family. My parents have given me blanket permission to invite you over for meals, y’know? I just have to give them a bit of warning so that they can prepare to feed an extra mouth.”

“I’d come over more often, but my parents would like to see me at mealtimes occasionally too. You need to come over to my place more often.”

Dandelion nodded. “I know. I like your parents, really, but they’re not exactly the life of the party.”

“No need to tell me, but they’re not bad otherwise. They let me hang around with you, after all,” Summer said drolly.

“For that crack, you’re going to get the smallest slice of the pie!” Dandelion declared with a grin.

“Not if I ask your dad first!” Summer retorted.

Dandelion was about to make a reply when something caught her eye. Pegasus vision is very acute, and even from their current altitude there was no mistaking whom she had spotted.

“Ooh, look! There’s Black Ace!” Dandelion squeed with delight as she pointed out the jet black unicorn colt with the playing card cutie mark.

Summer rolled her eyes and said, “Not this again. Ace is seventeen, and you’re only fourteen. He’s not interested in fillies like us.”

 

 

“I turn fifteen next week – that’s not too big an age difference.”

“It’s a huge difference for him. Besides, he has half the eligible mares in the village chasing him already.”

“That just means I need to impress him more than they can,” Dandelion replied defiantly.

“Please, Dandy, don’t be so obsessed with him,” Summer pleaded. “What has he got going for him besides ridiculously good looks?”

“If all those mares want him as a mate, he’s got to have something, and I want a part of it.”

“That’s hormones speaking, not a reason.”

“Are you telling me that you don’t find him attractive too?” Dandelion asked pointedly.

“Of course I do! He’s absolutely gorgeous! However, I don’t know a thing about him other than what he looks like, and neither do you.”

“That’s why I need to get a date with him, so that I can learn more about him,” Dandelion replied smugly.

Summer sighed in defeat. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“I won’t. I’m going down there now while you go let your parents know that you’re coming to dinner.”

“Okay. Good luck, Dandy. I mean it.”

“Thanks, Rainy,” Dandelion replied with the nickname that she had given her friend. Then she nosed into a dive. ‘Let’s show Ace what a pegasus filly can do that those unicorns can’t,’ she thought as she planned her grand arrival.

Summer could hardly bear to watch.

* * *

Dandelion picked morosely at her pie, still on her first piece as Summer started on her second.

“Cheer up, Dandy,” Cogs told his daughter. “It’s not the end of the world.”

“Ace treated me like a foal, Dad!”

“I don’t think buzzing him and knocking over his drink onto him impressed him, Dandy,” Summer said around a mouthful of pie.

“He knocked it over himself!”

“After you startled him badly with that radical entrance,” Summer retorted.

“Better than what those simpering unicorn fillies were doing,” Dandelion replied sullenly.

Lavender said, “Those simpering unicorns probably understand better what Black Ace wants of a mare.”

“Is this about age, Mom? There’s nothing those unicorns can offer that I can’t.”

“Except more maturity. You have to accept that two and a half years make a world of difference at his age.”

“But I can offer him things that they can’t,” Dandelion objected.

“You’re not offering him anything, young filly,” Lavender said sternly. “You’re not even fifteen yet.”

“A week! Only a week and I’ll be fifteen!”

Only fifteen you mean. Dandelion Dreams, I made a promise to myself that I would not be a busybody mother, but there comes a time that I have to put my hoof down. You’re too young for Black Ace. Accept that fact and look for somepony your own age. Better yet, grow up a bit more first.”

“Yes, Mom,” Dandelion conceded unconvincingly.

“And eat your pie,” Summer added. “It’s delicious!”

Dandelion gave Summer a sour look, but started eating anyway. It really was good, and it did pick up her spirits somewhat. Unfortunately it also revived her determination to find a way to impress Black Ace and prove her mother wrong.

* * *

A couple more futile attempts had rather dashed her optimism only a few days later. “Why can’t I get Black Ace to pay attention to me?” Dandelion whined to her sister.

“Maybe because he’s seventeen and you’re only fourteen?” Fern replied with a grimace of disbelief that she would have to point out the obvious.

“Fifteen! I’ll be fifteen in only three days. That’s not too young for a fillyfriend for him!”

“Face it, sis, he’s not interested in you.”

“How would you know? You’re only twelve! You’re too young to know about more mature things like coltfriends.”

“I’m twelve and a half, but I know what they feel about people, and I know that he’s not interested in you.”

Dandelion glared at Fern. “How could you possibly know that?”

“I can always tell what people are feeling,” Fern replied smugly.

“Nobody can do that!”

“I can too!”

“Okay, then tell me what that mare is feeling,” Dandelion said as she pointed out a random passer-by.

“She’s tired and worried.”

“Worried about what?”

“I said I know what they are feeling, not why they’re feeling that way.”

“You’re making it all up,” Dandelion scoffed.

Fern pouted. “No I’m not. You never listen to me any more!”

“I’m not a child any more!” Dandelion retorted.

“Could’ve fooled me,” Fern mumbled. “I’m going home. You should too.”

“You can go home if you want. I’m going to try talking to Black Ace again.”

Fern rolled her eyes, shook her head, and gave up on trying. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Fern had only been home for about ten minutes when her sister arrived. She glared at Fern, daring her to say something. Fern was not intimidated though.

“So, what happened?”

For a long moment, it seemed that Dandelion was not going to reply, but her expression kept getting darker until she finally spat out, “His friend told me to go away and play games with the other foals and stop bothering him!”

“Told you so.”

“Aargh! I’m not a foal any more!”

Fern was about to make a retort when their father entered the living room, surprising both of them.

“Whoa! You look as if you’re going to blow a gasket, Dandy. What’s bothering you?”

“Why won’t colts treat me like a grown-up?” demanded Dandelion.

Cogs was a little taken aback by her vehement question. “Because you’re only fourteen?” he answered.

“That’s what I said,” Fern interjected.

Dandelion threw up her front hooves in disbelief. “Not you too? I’m almost fifteen! Not much longer and I’ll be a grown mare! You’re no help!” She turned and stomped off to her room.

Cogs watched her leave with his jaw agape, stunned by her reaction. He looked at Fern who only shrugged.

“I think I’m out of my depth here,” Cogs murmured, then sighed and added, “Again.”

* * *

Cogs told Lavender what had happened earlier with Dandelion, adding it to the list of odd things that their daughter had been doing lately.

Lavender gave him a sympathetic nuzzle. “Welcome to the puberty blues, dear. It looks like it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

“I don’t understand this puberty business,” Cogs complained. “It’s like all logic goes out the window.”

“You really have had no experience with puberty at all?”

“No I haven’t. With changelings, after we pupate, we just grow and learn stuff until we’re full grown and get assigned to the jobs for which we’re best suited. There’s none of these illogical emotional tantrums.”

“You once told me that changelings are sexually undifferentiated and not fully developed unless a queen or one of the fertile breeders; puberty is all caused by our change from a child to a sexual adult, with all the hormones stirring us up during that phase, so I suppose that your lack of that development spares you the effects of puberty.”

Cogs considered this information and nodded. “Sounds about right to me. Our relationships with ponies are based on our feelings and more logical reasons, and not those hormones.”

“Don’t sound too smug about that, Cogs. Your lack of experience will only make dealing with them with our daughters just a bit harder.”

“Did you go through that phase too?”

“Yes, I had my moments, although my puberty was tempered by my accident. I had to learn to deal with a lot of things about that time.”

“So, any advice?”

“Patience – lots of it. Try to understand her viewpoint, even if it isn’t a very logical one. Put your hoof down if the occasion demands it. Adapt if necessary. Changelings are supposed to be very adaptable, right?” She gave him a sly smile.

“Not that kind of adaptable, and you know it. However, I’ll try.”

“I know you will, Love, but you don’t have to do it alone. We’re a team, you and I, and where one of us is less able, it’s the other who takes up the slack. In other words, don’t hesitate to ask me if you get in over your head.”

“Thanks, darling, but I think we both know who’s better equipped for whatever comes.”

Neither had a clue right then that Cogs would prove to be quite wrong about that.

* * *

Over the next few days, Dandelion’s behaviour was a lot more normal, much to Cogs’ relief. They were planning a birthday party for her, and they hoped that there would not be any odd outbursts to spoil the event. As parties go, hers was not unusual. Besides her family, there were a number of her classmates there, and of course, Summer Storm. Her young brother, Forest Breeze, even enthusiastically wished her a happy birthday, but only after being bribed with a promise to let him have a sleepover at a friend’s place that evening so he did not have to hang around ‘those silly fillies’ as he described them.

Lavender and Cogs held a separate family-only party that evening after all the guests had gone home. With just Sky Fern there also, it was a quieter and more intimate celebration, with her favourite foods including the baked salmon that was her special treat. The meal concluded with carrot cake and the gift-giving, but Cogs was saving the best until last. In fact he was pretty excited for himself also because his firstborn had always been so close to his heart.

“Dandelion, I've been very pleased with your school work, and also the aptitude that you've shown with mechanical stuff. If I'm not imagining things, I believe that you'd like to get into my line of work too. How would you like to be my new apprentice?”

Dandelion’s face lit up with joy. “Yes! I'd love that! I want to be just like you!”

Suddenly there was a flare of green fire, and Cogs was left facing a mirror image of himself. His jaw dropped in disbelief.

Dandelion looked down at her legs and their now grey fur, then around at her body and the green-blue tail, her eyes bugging out in shock. She screamed and fainted, reverting to her normal self when she did so.

 

 

Fern excitedly exclaimed, “Can I do that too?” oblivious to the consternation of her parents.

Cogs turned to Lavender who was just as stunned as him. She said, “Don't look at me – she's obviously yourdaughter.”

“Oh boy,” was all Cogs could think of to say right then.

They lifted Dandelion onto the couch and tried to revive her. As she dizzily regained consciousness, they gave her a glass of water and told her to take it easy.

Cogs said, “I know that this comes as a shock to you; it certainly was not something your mother and I expected. However, there’s a reason why that happened, and we had planned to tell you by your sixteenth birthday, but it looks like the cat is out of the bag now.” He looked at his younger daughter. “Especially in regards to Fern. We really weren’t sure when you’d be ready for the news, so we intended to leave it until you were both more mature.”

“You’re a changeling!” Fern blurted out.

Cogs stared at her in shock. “How did you know that?”

“Because I’ve never been able to feel your emotions like other ponies, and the only other ponies who I know that I never could feel were that fake Auntie Moonlit, and Kershak. Oh, and Doctor Soothing Touch. Is he a changeling too?”

“You can taste emotions?” Cogs asked in surprise. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Not taste – feel. And I didn’t think it was so unusual.”

Cogs looked at Lavender for her opinion, and she said, “It looks like we’re only now discovering just what traits of yours were passed on to the foals.”

He nodded. “Twilight never said exactly how much would be passed on, just that something definitely would be. I’m guessing that it’s more than any of us suspected.”

“So you really are a changeling?” Dandelion asked incredulously. “Does this mean that you replaced a pony when you came to Whitetail Meadows Village?”

“Sweet Celestia, no!” Cogs denied vehemently. “I thought you learned better than that. Whirring Cogs is, and always has been, me.”

“Then am I a changeling?”

“No, you’re not a changeling. Your Auntie Twilight was very interested in you because you had a changeling sire, so she studied you most thoroughly, and you’re definitely a pegasus. However, a changeling’s ability to transform is a form of natural magic, and now it’s obvious that it’s able to be transferred to ponies too.”

“But if you’re a changeling and Mom isn’t, how did you have foals? I thought that wasn’t possible?”

“It isn’t normally. That’s how Twilight became your honorary auntie. She created a magical artefact that… umm….” Cogs turned to his younger daughter and asked, “How much do you know about… umm… procreation?”

Lavender was heard to snort in amusement as Fern rolled her eyes and replied, “I know where foals come from, Dad. Mom made sure we had sex education.”

Cogs gave a sigh of relief. “Thank Luna for that. However, your conceptions were slightly more complicated than that, and Twilight’s artefact was instrumental in making it possible for you to be my true children. Each of you got a little bit of me in you. We’ve always thought until now that it was just a matter of some minor thing such as Dandelion’s eye colour and Fern’s mane colours, but now it seems that you may have gained far more than that. Fern – you said that you can feel emotions. Changelings actually taste them. It’s because we consume them that it’s related to our sense of taste, but you’re not a changeling, so I suppose the ability works differently for you.”

“But can I transform like Dandelion did?” Fern asked again.

“I… don’t know. If I am to guess though, I’d say no. Twilight said that that some aspect of mine would be transferred, not everything that a changeling could do.”

“How was that supposed to work?” Dandelion asked.

Cogs gestured for Lavender to come close to him, and he put a wing lovingly around her. “Your mother and I very much wanted children. After she found out that I was a changeling, she knew the difficulty of that, but still was determined, and I was prepared to make her happy. We were very fortunate that Twilight Sparkle was able to come up with something that helped us both.” Along with Lavender, Cogs gave their daughters a detailed description of what it took for a male changeling to sire children, leaving out only the identities of the donor stallions. Lavender fetched the magical device that Cogs wore during conception, and they described how it was created and its exact function. Then they told them about how Twilight studied them, got emotionally involved, and became their godmother and honorary aunt. “So that’s everything that we know for a fact. The rest is speculation, and I’m sure Twilight is going to be super excited about this new development.”

“Okay, if I got your transformation ability, how did I manage to use it? Why didn’t I do it before?”

Lavender said, “Let me take a guess at the latter. It sometimes happens that pony talents manifest during puberty, which is exactly what you’re going through right now. This is just the first time that the conditions were right for your ability to manifest.”

Cogs added, “And as for how you triggered it, remember what you said just before you changed? You said that you wanted to be just like me. You were so focused on me that you triggered the changeling transformation and replicated me.”

“But how?”

“It’s partially instinctive, so I really can’t give you a 100% accurate description, but basically you scan the target and focus on changing to match that pattern.”

“Not very helpful, Dad.”

“Sorry, honey. Perhaps it would be better if you actually try to transform. Let’s try your mother this time. Concentrate on her and make a mental image of her. Then think of being just like her.”

Dandelion stared at Lavender for a long moment, and then closed her eyes to concentrate on putting that image on herself. Abruptly there was a flare of green magic, and Dandelion was replaced by a second Lavender.

“You did it, Dandy. Look at yourself,” Cogs said proudly.

Dandelion opened her eyes and looked at herself. “Oh wow! It worked!” she exclaimed in her mother’s voice.

“Congratulations, Dandelion,” Lavender said. “It’s a bit odd looking at myself this way though.”

“Did I get anything wrong?”

“No, you didn’t,” Cogs reassured her. “The way the ability works, it replicates even the tiniest detail.”

Dandelion walked over to stand side by side with her mother. “Then if you closed your eyes and we shuffled about, could you tell us apart?”

Cogs laughed. “Sorry, hon, but you can’t fool me that way. I can taste emotions, remember? I can instantly tell the difference that way. However, as long as you don’t make a mistake, you could probably fool anypony else.”

“Don’t let me catch you trying though!” Lavender said sternly.

“Yes, Mom,” Dandelion replied meekly, reverting to her normal self. “What about transforming into an original form, like you do with Mystery Mare? How do I do that?”

“That comes with more practice with transformations. Once you have done enough of them, you start learning how to influence them to make something different from the original. With time, you will be able to make a unique identity. When I was able to create my own totally original pegasus identity, I was ready to go out and be an emotion harvester, but I needed to practice for a while before I got it down pat. Now it’s second nature to me.”

“I see. Dad, can I see you in your natural form?”

Cogs was genuinely surprised. “Huh? Dandy, as far as I’m concerned, this is my natural form. I’ve been a pegasus for around half my life. This is my self-image, and how I identify myself. I am a pegasus in all but birth.”

“I understand that, but I would really like to see you as a changeling. It would help me understand my feelings about this.”

Suddenly Cogs realised that he had been tasting her confusion, but misunderstanding its source. It was not the ability to change that was the crux of the problem, but her sense of self-identity that was taking a beating. “Okay, Dandy,” he said gently, and transformed into his changeling form.

Dandelion looked him over intensely. Cogs waited until she was done before he softly asked, “Am I still your father, Dandy?”

Dandelion seemed to come to a decision and hugged him fiercely. “Always, Daddy.”

She was joined by Fern, then Lavender wrapped her forelegs around all three and they shared a long family hug.

When they finally broke apart, Cogs resumed his pegasus form. “Whew! I always feel weird when I’m not like this. My self-identity is too strongly bound with this form now.”

“Sorry to pressure you, Dad.”

“No, don’t apologise, dear. You needed to know and understand, and it’s my job as your father to help you.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“You’re welcome, Dandy.” Then he noticed Fern staring at him. “What are you doing, Fern?”

“Trying to change like Dandelion did, of course!”

Lavender said, “One shape-changing daughter is enough, thank you! Remember what your father said – it’s unlikely that you can do it too. If you can sense emotions, that will probably be the only thing that you inherit from him.”

“Rats!” Fern replied, disappointment virtually pouring out of her.

“It never bothered you for a moment that I’m a changeling?” Cogs asked her.

“Nope. I think it’s cool. I suppose I can’t tell my friends though?”

“No, it’s something we don’t want to tell anyone. Nowadays changelings are treated pretty decently, but no pony likes to be fooled, and I think that some of them would not appreciate finding out that I’ve been a changeling all this time. Besides, except for my need to consume emotions, love especially, and needing more animal protein in my diet, I’m not really different from a real pegasus. That’s what I am. That’s what I want to be.”

“Except you can’t do weather magic,” Dandelion pointed out. “That’s why Uncle Blue Arc says you’re hopeless at it. I can though, and that proves that I’m not a changeling.”

“Exactly. Changelings can fly and walk on clouds, so I can do those things just like pegasi, but we don’t have weather magic. At best I’m a cloud pusher.”

“But you’re the best mechanic in Equestria, and I’m going to be your apprentice!” Dandelion proudly proclaimed.

“Heh! When you’re right, you’re right,” Cogs agreed with a grin.

* * *

Later that evening as Cogs and Lavender prepared to go to bed, he said, “That was quite a surprise we all had today, but it worked out well in the end.”

“Do you think so?” Lavender replied with a skeptical smile. “Dandelion is satisfied for the moment, but remember that we’re dealing with a pubescent filly who has just discovered that she can do something remarkable. And think how Twilight is going to react to this news. I believe we haven’t even begun to feel the repercussions.”

Cogs sighed and wished that for just once, he could understand all the ramifications of being a pony.

* * *

Cogs sent a telegram to Twilight Sparkle just as soon as the office was open. Because it was Sunday, that was not very early, so he had a chance to have breakfast first. Normally he would not be up that early either, but this latest development had to be addressed as soon as possible. Besides, he knew Twilight would never forgive him if he delayed telling her by even a minute. Heck! He was taking a chance on choosing not to wing it over to Ponyville last night!

He was not sure how long it would take the Ponyville office to get the telegram to Twilight, and even then she probably was sleeping in also. Nevertheless he hastened home and made preparations for her arrival. It came as no surprise whatsoever to him then when she teleported into their living room shortly.

“Cogs! What’s the emergency? What’s happened to Dandelion?” she demanded as soon as she laid eyes on him.

“Calm down, Twilight! I said it was a matter of great urgency, not an emergency.”

Twilight held up a piece of paper and Cogs recognized it as a telegram. He read what it said. ‘… … MATTER OF GREAT EMERGENCY…’ Cogs sighed. “That old duffer at the office is going deaf. I definitely said ‘urgency’ when I dictated the telegram. Anyway, you probably would have wanted to come immediately if I’d been able to openly tell you what happened last night.”

“So something has happened to my goddaughter? Where is she?” Twilight asked with scarcely lessened concern.

“Yes, something totally unexpected happened while we were having her family birthday party. She’s currently still in bed; it was a big day for her after all.”

“Are you going to tell me what happened, or am I going to have to go ask her myself?”

“She's a shape-changer.”

Twilight just stood there stunned for several long moments. Eventually she said, “This isn't some kind of joke on me to make up for not being here for her birthday party, is it?”

“That would be a whole lot more amusing than the real situation, I admit, but no, I’m not joking. Last night, quite unintentionally, she turned into me. After she got over the shock, she deliberately tried to shape-change, and she did so without any real problem. The only answer is that she inherited that ability from me. You said that your amulet would impress some physical trait on the foals, such as eye colour, not something major like this!”

“The amulet was not designed to pass on magical traits, only physical ones. I need to think about this.”

“Would you like some tea and scones while you ponder? I have some ready,” Cogs offered.

“Thanks, yes. I haven’t had any breakfast yet,” Twilight admitted.

Cogs made mugs of tea for both of them, and brought out a plate of scones along with some strawberry jam and whipped cream. “Devonshire tea is served, Your Highness!” Cogs said in a faux snobby voice.

That brought Twilight out of her introspection and she snorted in amusement. “You need a fancy butler outfit to pull that one off, Cogs. This is most appreciated anyway.”

Twilight took a sip of the steaming hot tea before spreading some jam and cream on a scone and consuming it hungrily.

“So, any thoughts yet, Twilight?”

“A couple of hypotheses,” she mumbled around a mouthful. Swallowing first, she continued, “First – the spell on the amulet was far more effective than it was designed for. However, that seems unlikely due to the sophistication of the spell and the specificity of its nature. Second – and this is a quite exciting discovery – your shape-changing ability is not a purely magical trait, but instead a physical one that is only powered by magic. It might sound like the same thing, but makes a world of difference in several areas, obviously including genetic inheritance. Of course this will need testing, but my best guess says that this is the case. Dandelion has inherited the changeling ability to shape-changing, only it’s powered by her natural pegasus magic instead. Do you realise the implications of this?”

“Shape-changing grandfoals?”

“Well, yes, but think what other abilities might be passed on, and how they will affect pony society with regards to changelings.”

“Er… speaking of other abilities, Fern can sense emotions. She says she doesn’t taste them like I do, but feels them instead.”

“And when did you find that out?” Twilight asked with a frown.

“Last night also. It came out when I started explaining how Dandelion could shape-change.”

Twilight pondered the new revelation, then said, “That’s an interesting datum. The fact that she says she doesn’t taste them like changelings do implies that it’s not tied to the ability to consume them to provide vital energy such as you need. However, again it seems to be a physical trait that can be passed on to your children. I wonder what else can be inherited? Has Forest Breeze exhibited any changeling ability yet?”

“Not that we have noticed, or that he’s admitted to having,” Cogs replied. “I suppose we should start looking for anything unusual.”

“That would be a good idea… oh, hi, Lavender.”

Just then, Lavender had walked into the room wearing her night robe, yawning, her mane still dishevelled. Her eyes widened when she realised that they had a guest. “Eep! When I asked Cogs last night to let you know what happened, I did not expect him to do so quite this early.”

“Sorry, Lavender, but I came as soon as I got his message. I didn’t realise that you were still in bed.”

“Not your fault, Twilight. I did say to do so as soon as possible. He’s very literal at times, even after all these years.”

Cogs just kept his mouth closed. He was the designated fall guy to cover up his wife’s embarrassment at being caught out like this, and that was fine by him.

Lavender left to freshen up and comb her bed-mane into order, and Twilight took the opportunity to help herself to some more of the scones. Cogs prepared some breakfast for his wife and had it ready for her when Lavender returned. As she ate, Cogs and Twilight updated her on what had been discussed so far.

“So what’s the next step? And how will this affect Dandelion and Fern?” Lavender asked Twilight.

“First of all, testing to get more data, and then a reappraisal of my aspect transfer spell in light of that data. Maybe then I can make an informed assessment.”

“I meant something more immediate,” Lavender said.

“Oh. I suggest you keep the shape-changing to yourselves for now, but otherwise don’t be concerned. It’s a natural trait, after all, even if acquired unexpectedly. Maybe encourage her to have fun with it? Above all, don’t make Dandelion think that she’s a freak or something silly like that. As for Fern, if she’s only just now bothered to tell you about her ability to sense emotions, I would have to say that she’s already adjusted to it. I’ll be testing her also, but Dandelion will be my priority. I dare say a filly of her age doesn’t need anything more stirring up her life right now.”

Cogs fervently agreed with that.

In the absence of either daughter, there was not much else Twilight could do for the moment, so she took the unexpected visit as an opportunity to socialise and catch up with news. She also passed on an invitation from Applejack to an upcoming event at Sweet Apple Acres. It was not for another hour and a half before Dandelion showed up.

“Auntie Twilight!” Dandelion cried as she rushed up to give the alicorn a hug.

Twilight returned the hug warmly as she said, “How are you doing, Dandelion?”

“Better after a sleep in,” Dandelion replied. “No need to ask why you’re here though.”

Twilight smiled. “You know me – always concerned for my goddaughter, especially when she starts taking after her father.”

“I gotta say that was one heck of a birthday surprise. Two surprises actually. I think I’m more spun out by the fact that Dad’s a changeling than my shape-changing.”

“Oh?” Cogs said with a raised eyebrow. “Which one caused you to scream and faint?”

“Dad! You didn’t have to tell her that!”

Twilight tried to hide a smile before saying, “Well, if it doesn’t bother you, I’d like to see a demonstration – unless you’d rather have your breakfast first, of course.”

“Breakfast can wait a bit. Let me try now.” Dandelion concentrated as she had done so the previous night, and with a flare of green magic, she transformed.

Twilight faced a duplicate of herself. “Good heavens – that’s amazing. You make me feel like I’m looking in a mirror.” Then a thought struck her. “I dread to ask this, but does that horn work?”

Dandelion went cross-eyed a little as she tried to focus on her cranial appendage. “I don’t think so. I can feel its weight up there, but nothing else. I never thought about that when I changed into Mom last night. Let me try something….”

Her brow furrowed as she concentrated on a mug on the table, trying to lift it telekinetically as her mother did. There wasn't even the slightest of glows from the horn. “I guess that answers that question,” Dandelion said with a touch of disappointment.

Twilight sighed in relief. “Thank Celestia for that. I could imagine the howls of outrage from ponies if they learned that pony-changeling hybrids could turn themselves into real alicorns at will. Anyway, it seems that you have the same limitations as do changelings – you can emulate anything, but only really use an ability that you’re born with. So although you look like me, you’re just a winged unicorn, or more accurately a horned pegasus, and not an alicorn.”

“That’s kind of a relief,” Dandelion admitted, changing back to her normal form. “I’m having a hard enough time dealing with this without having to deal with that too, and I don’t think I’m cut out to be a princess either.”

“Tell me about it,” Twilight agreed. “It took me years to get comfortable with my ascension, and I still prefer to restrict royal protocol to official occasions. However, this isn’t about me today. I suggest that you have your breakfast now. We’re going to be busy for a while.”

“More tests?” Dandelion asked.

“How well do you know me, Dandelion?” Twilight asked with a smile.

Dandelion nodded. “Lots of tests. I can’t say I’m surprised.”

“It might pay to wake up Fern and get her to have breakfast now too. I might as well test them both at the same time,” Twilight told Cogs and Lavender.

“What about Forest?” Lavender asked.

“I’ll want to test him too, but if he still doesn't know your secret and you don’t want to tell him yet, then it would be simpler to do him later. Without knowing if he even has a special ability inherited from Cogs, it makes it hard to test him anyway. If I learn something significant from the girls, I’ll use that to look at him more closely when I do one of my regular checks on him. That way he won’t be suspicious.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Lavender agreed.

* * *

Twilight ended up teleporting Dandelion and Fern back to her basement laboratory in Ponyville. To make up for the time she spent testing them, she treated them at Sugarcube Corner before returning them home.

“So, do you have anything to report yet, Twilight?” Cogs asked.

“I have a large amount of data to process before I can come to any definite conclusions, but I do have some strong leads. First of all, both Dandelion and Fern’s abilities seem to be true and complete versions of changeling abilities transferred onto the pony genome. Interestingly, it shows how your ability to change is actually a mixture of talents. Dandelion, could you please demonstrate your duplication of Shady Oak for your father?”

Shady Oak was a shire type earth pony mare who had a farm outside of the village. The mare tended to stand out in the market day crowd due to her size, much as Set Square – Cogs’ business partner – compared to Cogs. Dandelion transformed as requested.

Cogs was surprised. “She looks exactly like Shady Oak, except for her size. She’s still the same size as she started.”

“Exactly!” Twilight declared. “It’s what you call a same-mass or same-size transformation. When you do a larger one, the change is bolstered or replaced by illusion. However, Dandelion has no ability to do so as far as I can determine. That shows that the ability to produce an illusion, while working in conjunction with your true shape-changing, is in fact a separate ability.”

Cogs looked thoughtful. “I suppose you’re right. While I don’t usually think consciously about it much when I do a big transformation, I do have to think about two things for it work properly. Anything else you've learned?”

“I believe that I seriously underestimated the compatibility quotient between changelings and ponies when I crafted the emulation impression spell for the amulet. That has made it far more effective than I originally intended, or even imagined. That is good news in regards to the eventual crafting of a full compatibility spell for your species, although that will only shorten the development period by a few years, so that’s still a long way off. What it does mean for you right now though is that your children were and are far more likely to gain some less minor trait of yours. Frankly you may have been lucky not to have sired a foal with changeling wings or eyes. As for Forest, keep a close eye on him because I’ll be extremely surprised if he doesn’t end up displaying some sort of changeling trait also.”

“So is it even safe to continue using the amulet?” Cogs wondered.

“Safe? Of course, it’s always been safe. It’s just that the results might be not quite what we originally expected. That’s the trouble with brand new spells – you don’t always find the bugs in them until you've used them a few times.” Twilight looked at Cogs quizzically. “Were you planning to have another foal?”

Cogs shook his head. “Not really. Three is enough for us. But just in case Lavender changed her mind, I thought I’d better ask.”

“I might have some better answers for you by then, I hope.”

“What about us, Auntie?” Dandelion asked.

“You two have very special talents, both of which can be misused, but also can be very beneficial. Dandelion, I can’t see why you can’t have some harmless fun with your ability. Maybe you can even figure out some way of using it to further your life goals. You have an amazing future ahead of you.”

“Further my life goals? I think you may be right,” Dandelion replied with a sly smile.

* * * * * * * * * * *

 
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